WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog (1 & 2)

WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog
May 26
Florence, South Carolina

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Vince narrates a video montage that’s centered on Shawn Michaels. Did Michaels try to sully Diana Smith? Is he a homewrecker? Is Shawn simply a victim of an elaborate character assassination? And, can “The Heartbreak Kid” retain the WWF Championship against the bark and bite of his challenger, The British Bulldog? Welcome to In Your House: Beware of Dog.

On the Free-for-All prior to the PPV, the returning Smoking Gunns defeated The Godwinns to regain the WWF Tag-Team Championship. This was Billy Gunn’s first match back from neck surgery and he locks lips with Sunny, who had aligned herself with The Godwinns only to toy with the emotions of Phineas after the hog farmers had won the titles from Sunny’s Bodydonnas a week earlier. Recants of the match say it’s terrible in quality but alas, The Smoking Gunns are back, they get the belts, they’ll soon have Sunny’s managerial services, and they’ll be heels. So, there’s that.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (16:24) after HHH is slung into the ringpost off a catapult. A fantastic wrestling match and a forgetten gem in a PPV that’s marred by a satellite outage and thus, gets broken off into two parts. HHH has his best WWF match to date, which is ironic considering the timing (the now famous MSG Kliq Curtain Call happened one week earlier and Vince was set on punishing HHH for his part). Despite that, HHH dominates the match, systematically and methodically working over Mero’s left arm and shoulder using a variety of holds and punishing ram or torque shots using the ring post, turnbuckle pad and ring ropes. His approach is entirely old-school and you will find yourself digging the strategy as you watch. What’s more, Mero does a full and complete sell job from beginning to end. What a pro. This is storytelling 101: A Master Class. Mero was on point with his offense, too, what small amount he had to go with as Helmsley controls 95 percent of the match. This bout is anything but your standard curtain jerker. It’s really good.
Rating: ***3/4

Meanwhile, Camp Cornette is backstage with Mr. Perfect. Where’s handsome Dok Hendrix? Cornette teases dropping THE bombshell about Shawn Michaels but says by night’s end it shall be revealed. As for tonight, as he’s a little pre-occupied with Vader taking on Yokozuna, Cornette says he went to the South Carolina athletic commission earlier and procured Owen Hart a manager’s license so that he could second The British Bulldog and be in his corner. Diana is pleased.

And … on the original PPV broadcast the satellite truck loses its feed at this juncture some 20 minutes into the event. The remaining undercard matches took place in the darkened arena for the live crowd only but the blackout due to thunderstorms precipitated the WWF to re-air those two nights later for “Beware of Dog 2.” It wasn’t the WWF’s fault by any means that a LIVE PPV was severely hampered but WCW had to be enjoying the rotten luck.

The satellite feed does conveniently return in time for the WWF Championship Match to air, however, so there’s that. Vince had to be some kind of agitated at this “Act of God.”

Prior to the match, and after the introductions, Attorney Clarence Mason has Michaels served a summons as a defendant charged with “alienation of affections” untoward Diana. Mason says justice will be swift and hard when Shawn has to appear before a judge in a court of law. LOL.

WWF Championship:
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w/ Diana Hart-Smith & “The King of Hart’s” Owen Hart)
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Draw (17:24). Michaels executes a German suplex on Bulldog but replacement referee Mike Chioda recognizes Davey Boy as the winner. Earl Hebner, who had taken the late match ref bump, and is the assigned official, had come to in the meantime and he recognizes Shawn as the winner. Whatever. Both mens shoulders were in fact on the mat, however. Diana parades around ringside with the WWF Title belt after Bulldog is initially ruled the winner but WWF President Gorilla Monsoon comes out to consult with both referees and takes the belt from Diana on his way by. The draw ruling comes from the discussions. Shawn retains but there shall be a re-match. I’d think this angle/storyline involving Diana and Michaels’ other transgressions, however made up they are, continue with the blow-off match to come at next month’s King of the Ring. All of that aside, and with the booking changed no doubt on the fly due to the satellite outage and time constraints with the PPV window, it’s logical that 15-20 minutes was abbreviated from an expected 25-30. Given the slower pace it was going, I’m not sure if either Shawn or Davey Boy were aware going in they’d get cut short. Regardless, a 17+ minute match is plenty. There’s a lot of rest holds that drag on to echo my point but Bulldog does some nice things as he seems the more motivated of the two. Shawn (a) hated the storyline or (b) is checked out at the circumstances that limit his spotlight or (c) is just irked he’s not to go over clean against a guy that two months ago was in a tag-team with Owen Hart, who’s a manager outside the ring. Whatever the case, if you analyze Michaels in this match, he’s just OK and he definitely goes through the motions and even improvises. Even still, it’s a solid match and I’m fine with the continuance. The Federation is bereft of credible talent so stretching out the feud makes sense.
Rating: ***

WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog 2
May 28
Charleston, SC

Commentators: Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect

Caribbean Strap Match:
* If Savio Vega loses, he must be the personal chaffeur for Ted DiBiase. *
** If “Stone Cold” Steve Austin loses, DiBiase will forfeit his career and leave the WWF. **

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase) vs. Savio Vega

Result/Analysis: Savio Vega (21:25). Both guys are tied by their left wrists to the leather strap and to win you have to touch all four turnbuckle corners in succession. The added stipulations create the drama, especially with DiBiase’s long WWF tenure on the hook. He was quite possibly the most despised villian of his time, certainly he was as a wrestler, and that’s a credit to him. As for the match, and I’ve seen many a Strap Match, this one rates out as one of the best. The strap is weaponized, for sure, but it’s fully incorporated into the match in unique and innovative ways. Austin was building his in-ring Résumé and Vega was continually trying to prove his worth and sustain a credible place on the roster. To accomplish that, both guys took hold of the opportunity at hand to produce a long forgotten gem. Motivation = art in pro wrestling. The strap keeps Austin and Vega within arm’s length yet it’s used as a means of setting up moves or to prevent them. There’s plenty of attempts to touch all four corners but none of them are fruitless tries as either Austin or Vega are neutralized by a series of moves or hogtied in some capacity to make them logical. The high points are Savio executing a superplex off the top rope, a tombstone piledriver reversal sequence with neither man able to do it and Austin taking DiBiase’s counsel by going for one piledriver too many instead of listening to his gut instincts and hitting the four corners for the win. At the end, Austin locks in the Million Dollar Dream though Savio is alert enough while in the hold to touch each corner after Austin does. Drama. There’s then a final struggle over the fourth corner as a tug-of-war with the strap ensues before Austin whips Savio into the turnbuckle to unknowingly, yet knowingly, lose the match. DiBiase realizes his fate is sealed and he bereates Austin after the bell. Stone Cold walks off in haste and leaves DiBiase alone with Savio. The crowd and Savio serenade DiBiase off camera in a chorus of “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.” Cheezy, but it’s a fitting send-off for “The Million-Dollar Man.” As for Austin … yeah, he’d do OK!
Rating: ****

Vader (w/ James E. Cornette) vs. Yokozuna

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (8:55) following a Vaderbomb. This was Yokozuna’s return/retribution match against Vader after his leg was broken (kayfabe) by Vader some 7 weeks earlier. The injury angle was meant for Yokozuna to take time off for weight loss. That didn’t happen. By this point, Yokozuna was a shell of his former self weighing in at approx. 660 pounds!!! He really couldn’t move. He is gassed only minutes in. His strategy is sumo style and executing pancake moves to flatten Vader. It’s sad to watch. The booking here features mucho stalling and Yokozuna using his immense girth to ground Vader, plus the added wrinkle of psychology with weakening Vader’s leg. Cornette gets involved to add something leading to a spot where Yokozuna attempts a banzai drop on his former manager. Vader pulls Cornette to safety as Yokozuna crashes down onto the canvas with Vader finishing him off. Yokozuna won the match held in the blackout two nights earlier if you’re into unofficial results. Vader was soon transitioned into a feud with Michaels to challenge for the WWF Championship. Yokozuna hung around for two more years – – – stunningly so – – – before his lights were turned out for good. Truthfully, his career blackout happens on this night.
Rating: *1/2

JR and Perfect discuss the upcoming King of the Ring spectacular. The semi-finals and finals of the tournament will be held at the pay-per-view on June 23. Shawn Michaels will once again defend the WWF Championship against The British Bulldog. The Godwinns will challenge The Smoking Gunns for the Tag-Team Titles. And, just added to the card, Jerry “The King” Lawler will be facing The Ultimate Warrior. There’s time to kill so Ross and Perfect discuss the KOR Tournament pairings. It’s a rather bloated field but here’s how the bracket stacks itself out:

Ultimate Warrior/Goldust (double countout; both guys eliminated)
Ahmed Johnson/Vader (Vader; earns a second round/quarterfinals bye)

Henry O. Godwinn/Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw
Jake “The Snake” Roberts/Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Bob “Spark Plug” Holly/“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Savio Vega/Marty Jannetty

Yokozuna/Owen Hart
Bodydonna Skip/“Wildman” Marc Mero

If my memory serves me correctly, at the PPV, Vader draws Roberts and Austin opposes Mero.

Casket Match for WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Goldust (c) (w/ Marlena) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: Goldust (12:36) with Mankind assistance. Shame on you if you expected any differently. Mankind had involved himself before in this Undertaker side feud and again, the WWF was incrementally delving into Taker’s longstanding battles with Mankind. Also, the only way to win a Casket Match is by putting your opponent inside and closing the lid. Knowing The Undertaker never won the Intercontinental Title in his career kind of crimps this bout in another way. In its context, however, this one-time contest is decent despite the predictability. Taker dominates early as he tosses Goldust around the casket and into the steel steps all while no-selling any of Goldust’s moves. Goldust comes back with clotheslines, a powerslam and even a tombstone piledriver but none of it has Taker out enough for him not to escape the casket in time. A sleeper hold comes next but that, too, can’t end Taker’s night. Goldust hits a flying clothesline minutes later but stupidly tries a pin in a match without pinfalls. Taker comes back again, hitting his own flying clothesline followed by his tombstone so you suspect it’s curtains for Goldust. When the lid to the casket opens this time within lies Mankind, who pops out and chokes The Undertaker out quickly with the mandible claw. He must have been underneath the ring and the casket rigged by a trap door contraption. Mankind locks Taker inside the casket and Goldust prevails. Shocker. After Paul Bearer has his freak out session, the lights flicker and the casket is opened up to smoke with The Undertaker vanished. Even in 1996, this was vintage Undertaker in these types of matches he’d so seldom lose. For nostaglia purposes and the context that you judge a match in, this was all fine. When will Undertaker resurface again? Until then, who can Mankind prey upon? What wretch of humanity is next?
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: It took two nights to complete but In Your House: Beware of Dog, has to be considered a success. With the WWF roster hemorrhaging, both the booking and the willingness to work compelling matches was a must. Three out of the five matches came through. Mankind furthered things with The Undertaker. Bulldog and Michaels were headed for a re-match. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on his own to begin a career ascent unparrelled. Each match feautured the proper winner. The Caribbean Strap Match and Helmsley/Mero were both terrific. The Federation was in the back seat for the first time since before the mid-1980’s so work rate had to be their calling card for eyeballs fixated on the happenings elsewhere, notably with a New World Order materializing.

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