*** Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***
In Your House #6: From the Depths of Hell
February 18, 1996
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Buy Rate: .77
Ahmed Johnson beat Isaac Yankem
The Godwinns beat The Bodydonnas
Coliseum Video Exclusive
Undertaker beat Goldust
Free For All Match
Jake Roberts beat Tatanka
Pay Per View
1) Razor Ramon defeats 1-2-3 Kid in a Cry Baby match with the Razor’s Edge at 12:01
Fun Fact: This is the Kid’s final WWF PPV match until 1998. He stuck around until late April, but once Diesel and Razor Ramon left, he became expendable and was cut loose. He made his last appearance on the May 20th Raw (taped 4/29) where he lost to Savio Vega. He would be in WCW as the Syxxth member of the NWO by August.
Fun Fact II: This match would be the finale of a feud that dates back to the summer of 1995. At the Rumble, 1-2-3 Kid had cost Razor Ramon the IC title. Following the event, Kid started calling Razor a crybaby. To go along with this, on the 2/3 episode of Superstars, he attacked Razor with a baby stroller during a match with Jeff Jarrett. Following the DQ, Kid and Jarrett continued to double team Razor until the save was made by Ahmed Johnson. The match with the cry baby stipulation was set where the loser would have to wear a diaper and drink from a baby bottle.
Scott: Our opener is clearly the finale of an angle that started way back in 1993. From the moment the Kid upset the heel Razor Ramon in May 1993 on Raw, these two have been linked together from one storyline to the next. Of course as founding members of the Clique that’s really no surprise. By mid-1995 the writing was on the wall that a heel turn from Kid was coming. He defeated Ramon a second time on TV and then after turning heel would interfere in everything Ramon was involved in, including last month’s Royal Rumble when he cost Razor the IC Title to Goldust. So now it was time to truly put this rivalry to rest. Did the alliance with Ted DiBiase help Kid at all? Maybe a little but really this was Razor’s feud to win. The match was fun though as these two always had good chemistry and the Louisville crowd was pretty hot top to bottom. Kid delivered a great match and Razor is a great face in peril, taking all of Kid’s offense and DiBiase’s interference. This is the first time we actually have a bridge show to WrestleMania, and now all 12 months are covered. This match doesn’t really affect WrestleMania because and we will get into that in our next review. The Kid doesn’t last too much longer in the WWF and Razor takes a strange turn in his WWF career as well. The match is fun and finally ends what has been an almost two year connection between two guys. Grade: **
Justin: With our sixth In Your House installment, we have now officially had a WWF PPV in every month of the calendar. For the first time in company history, we have a true PPV offering to set us up directly for WrestleMania. Coming out of the Royal Rumble, the company continued to drive into a new, more realistic and edgier direction. The changes continue to seep in as well and we will cover those as we move along. Sadly, Jerry Lawler and his ever growing mullet is back in the booth in place of Mr. Perfect, but we will make due. Our opener brings us to the big blowoff a very long running feud. Back in the fall, the 1-2-3 Kid turned on his pal Razor Ramon, leading to lots of interference from both that eventually cost the Bad Guy his IC Title. Of course, this feud dates back even further, all the way back to May 1993 when the Kid upset Ramon on a memorable edition of Raw. Since Kid had been positioned as a baby and a whiner, the stipulation here called for the closer to be wrapped in a diaper and have a bottle shoved in their mouth. That pretty much telegraphed this one. Kid would wheel out a stroller and he and DiBiase did what they could to make him feel like a legit threat, but it really screamed mismatch, as much as it had back in 1993. Off the bell they traded slaps but Ramon took control, peppering Kid with right hands that drove him to the floor to regroup. Kid slung himself back in and caught Ramon with a clothesline, giving him the chance to drill the Bad Guy with fists, elbows and kicks. Ramon’s power advantage kicked in, as he caught Kid and chucked him across the ring with ease before burying him with a clothesline in the corner followed by a fallaway slam. The Kid was rattled but able to avoid the Razor’s Edge by bailing to the floor. On the outside, DiBiase ambled over and chucked a handful of baby power in Ramon’s eyes, setting up Kid for a missile dropkick and control of the bout. He worked a quick pace, staying aggressive and getting a near fall on a big splash off the top rope. I like how Kid knows he has to stay right on Ramon, not giving the Bad Guy a chance to catch his breath at all. Ramon would break free of a sleeper attempt, leading to a sloppy reversal and eventually Kid climbing the Bad Guy’s back for a second crack at the sleeper. After nearly fading, Ramon battled to his feet, hoisted Kid up and dumped him on to the top rope. Razor again punched his way back into control, including another seemingly botched spot where Kid sold a right hand that never connected. It may have been a comedy spot where Kid was faked out, but it wasn’t portrayed that way. Kid stayed alive with a kick for a near fall but Razor responded with a top rope fallaway slam. DiBiase would run interference and Kid tried with the powder again, but Ramon turned and kicked it into his face and then hit a Razor’s Edge. Ramon covered, but picked Kid up at two, looking to levy more damage for the months of torment. Ramon would hit another Edge before finally putting Kid out of his misery. After the bout, Ramon powdered and diapered Kid, shoved the bottle in his mouth and strutted off. Kid covered in powder and crying like a bitch with that saggy diaper on was kind of sad and gross in ways. The match was fine and pretty paint-by-numbers but the crowd dug it, mainly thanks to Ramon. Kid did all he could to come off as believable out there, but again he just never felt like a threat and between that and the stipulation, it sucked some drama from the affair. Grade: **1/2
*** Ray Rougeau and Sunny are running the Superstar Line interviews as the transition of Sunny from more than just a manager continues. ***
2) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley defeats Duke Droese after hitting him with a trash can lid at 9:37
Fun Fact: This is Duke Droese’s final PPV match. He would hang around the Federation until the summer, as his last match is against Leif Cassidy at a house show in Providence, RI on July 7. His last TV appearance was on the 7/13 Superstars (taped 6/25) when he suffered a loss to the wrestling plumber T.L. Hopper. Hopper rammed his plunger into Droese’s throat after the match, putting him on the sidelines for good. Droese would bounce around the Indy scene in Florida before retiring altogether.
Fun Fact II: After Duke Droese handed Hunter Hearst-Helmsley a loss at the Royal Rumble resulting in Helmsley having to enter the Rumble at #1, the feud between the two intensified. On the January 27 episode of Superstars, Helmsley attacked Droese and cut his hair. This leads to our match here.
Scott: This stems from the Royal Rumble when Helmsley lost a match that stuck him at #1 in the Royal Rumble match while Droese got to be #30. Neither mattered in the outcome although Helmsley did last for over 40 minutes. Now we get a straight up PPV match to promptly finish this storyline off. Helmsley has been a solid mid-card heel who has great TV matches and has slowly but surely worked his way into monthly PPV appearances. Helmsley has been bringing gorgeous women to the ring but this time the beautiful blonde is at ringside for Lawler to ogle over and when she talks it’s evident she’s never been on TV before as she’s very nervous and out of it. The match is good enough as Helmsley slowly is taking control of his matches as a solid heel and he works well with Droese. Droese actually looks better with his cut hair than before and not only that he’s really not a horrible worker, at least in these few matches with Helmsley. The gimmick is pretty dumb and as the year progresses and the bookers start to stray away from the cheesy Federation Era gimmicks The Dumpster seems very much out of place but they maybe could have turned him heel and changed things up a bit. In any event Helmsley cheats to win and that’s fine as his character is more important long term. I liked this match and the crowd was into it. Grade: **1/2
Justin: As Hunter Hearst-Helmsley continues to hone his gimmick and climb the ladder, he has added a new weapon to his repertoire: being escorted to the ring by a different dolled up, attractive female before every match. They were always decked out in elegant dresses and meshed with Hunter’s debonair piano entrance theme it added a nice air of regality to the proceedings. I also liked how Vince always knew the names of the ladies. This match came about because Hunter had attacked Duke Droese on Superstars, crunching him with the trash can and then shearing off his long locks. Droese actually cut a good fired up promo before the match and you could tell he knew this was possibly his only chance to earn a semblance of a push, something that had been severely lacking since his early 1994 debut. Droese hustled to the ring, jumping Hunter as the bell sounded and pummeling him in the corner. Duke definitely looked way better and more legit with the short hair. Toss a new look and name on him and maybe he could have been something. Droese fired Hunter hard into the corner and then spiked him with a press slam, sending the Blueblood cowering in the corner. Duke gave him a shot with his belt and pasted him with a big boot to the face and the propped him in the corner and smacked him hard. Droese is showing real nice fire here. As Hunter found a slight opening and landed a big kick to the gut, Lawler caught up with Hunter’s valet, who didn’t have much to say. Duke shook that attack off and planted Helmsley with a clothesline. And just when this looked like a rout, Duke charged wildly and got dumped hard to the floor. Hunter would run Duke into the steps and then pitch him back into the ring as Vince wondered if Droese would cut Hunter’s hair if he won the match. Back inside, Hunter hit a high knee to the face as King kept harping on how dumb Duke is. Duke battled back and both guys wiped each other out with clotheslines . When they recovered, Duke snapped Hunter down with a spinebuster but was too tired to cover. Duke clubbed away, firing back up and hitting a nice powerslam and the trash compactor, but instead of covering he slid outside and grabbed his trash can. The referee grabbed it and argued with Duke, allowing Hunter to mash the Dumpster with the trash can lid for the win. Well I enjoyed that spirited little affair. Duke really controlled almost all of the match and I liked his fired up offense. Hunter sold well throughout before stealing the win late in a sneaky manner, which I love. It shows how resourceful he is a heel as he just has to stay alive until he can cheat his way to a victory. The more aggressive nature of 1996 and utilization of young, hungry competitors seeped through here as we took what would have been a middling mid card match in past years and had some hard hitting offense and good pacing and awareness twist it into a nice little card filler. Helmsley keeps rolling and Droese heads back to the dump. Grade: **
3) Yokozuna defeats British Bulldog by disqualification at 5:02
Fun Fact: Yokozuna speaks extensively for the first time in the pre-match interview.
Fun Fact II: Vader attacked Gorilla Monsoon the night after the Royal Rumble, putting him out of commission for three months. Roddy Piper was named interim President and Vader was suspended as a result of the assault. In reality, Vader needed time off for shoulder surgery, which was agreed upon prior to the WWF signing him.
Fun Fact III: On the 2/5 Raw, Shawn Michaels and Diesel faced Yokozuna and British Bulldog in a tag match. As Bulldog was about to break up a pin count, Michaels got out of the way and Bulldog accidentally leg dropped Yoko. Soon after that mishap occurred, Michaels superkicked Yoko out of the ring which knocked him cold. Bulldog and Owen couldn’t get him back in the ring and he was counted out. The following week Cornette berated Yoko and chewed him out, and Yoko responded by shoving Cornette to the floor and beating on him, officially leaving Camp Cornette.
Scott: Yokozuna is a babyface for the first time in his career and before the match, he talks for the first time in his career. With Vader out due to a suspension (in reality due to to injury) the Bulldog takes his spot here to face the massive Samoan. With Vader in Camp Cornette there really wasn’t any need to have to massive guys in the group at the same time, on top of the fact that Yoko was getting very unhealthy in his weight, topping out at well over 600 pounds by this point, so he needed to e put on the backburner. Yoko’s win here was to strengthen his face turn for the eventual battle with the Mastodon when he returns from injury. The match is short and effective as it’s really the aftermath that’s important. After the disqualification, Yoko corners Cornette in the ring but in comes Vader in street clothes to attack his former stablemate. Then he and Bulldog handcuff Yoko to the ropes and do a 2-1 beatdown, including continuous shots to the back with the tennis racket. This is really meant to keep Vader strong while he can’t actually wrestle in the ring and to build Yokozuna’s face heat for the future. Otherwise this match wasn’t much. Grade: **
Justin: Since the Royal Rumble, we have seen a major change in attitude from a longtime heel stalwart. The first cracks in the Yokozuna/Jim Cornette relationship came back at the Royal Rumble, when the former WWF Champion slugged it out with stablemate Vader, leading to both getting tossed form the match. In the weeks following, Cornette let his temper flare and he started to berate the suddenly out of favor sumo warrior. Yoko had enough of the browbeating and beat his longtime spokesman down, surprisingly turning face for the first time in his WWF career. It was certainly worth a stab to spin him this way and see if he got over as a respected former champion out to eliminate the hated Camp Cornette. His first draw in this role is a battle with now ex-stablemate British Bulldog, who was back to drifting after his dalliance in the main event picture to close 1995. He was still a well presented competitor, but was clearly without a defined role at this point. Yoko showed a lot of passion and excitement during his turn and Vince proclaimed that Cornette had awoken the monster, which was another cool way to go with it. It was also great how they had Yoko finally break his silence and speak aloud and made a big deal about it. Yoko just about power walked to the ring too, I mean as fast as he was able to. Bulldog looked punch early but Yoko slugged him down and racked him with clotheslines and a body slam. Yoko missed an elbow and Bulldog went to work, eventually putting the big man down with a clothesline. Yoko eventually shrugged it off and squished Bulldog in the corner, put him down with a clothesline and then dragged him to the corner to set up for the Banzai Drop. Before he could fully ascend, Cornette yanked Bulldog to the floor. Yoko followed him out and and slung him into the post but whiffed on a charge and ate the steel himself. Back inside, Bulldog hit a double sledge off the top rope for a near fall but Yoko caught him coming off a second time. Yoko fired up and shook off a series of clotheslines then dropped Bulldog with a Samoan drop to a big pop. This may be the hardest Yoko has worked in a while, considering he hasn’t gone to any rest holds and has been on offense for much of the bout. The big man spiked Bulldog with a belly-to-belly but before he could set him up for the Banzai Drop, Cornette slipped in the ring and pelted Yoko with a few tennis racket shots. Yoko no sold them and cornered Cornette in the corner but Vader ran down and hammered Yoko from behind. Yoko tried to fire back but Bulldog got in the mix as well and the numbers were too much. They would eventually handcuff Yoko to the rope and work him over with right hands. Yoko fought back best he could but he absorbed a lot of punishment from Cornette’s crew. Cornette even got some big shots in, cracking Yoko over and over with his racket. The officials finally broke things up with an assist from Cornette’s lawyer Clarance Mason. Not too much of a match, but like I said, they kept chugging along and it never really dragged. Still, it was mainly strikes and clotheslines with a few big moves blended in. The finish was weak but expected as you didn’t want Yoko to lose after the turn and while Bulldog could have lost, he needed to keep some momentum too. The post match beatdown was pretty good and adds good heat to a future Yoko/Vader match as well. Grade: *
4) Shawn Michaels defeats Owen Hart with a Superkick at 15:55
Fun Fact: The night after Survivor Series 95, Owen Hart put Shawn Michaels on the shelf with an enziguri kick. There was even talk at the time that Michaels might have to retire. Owen was quite the braggart about putting Michaels out, so after Michaels came back and won the Rumble he was looking for a measure of revenge. However, Owen (though manager Jim Cornette) said he would only get in the ring with him if the WrestleMania title shot were on the line, which Michaels agreed to.
Scott: Our first of the co-main event finally uses the Royal Rumble win as an angle. With the birth of the February PPV this year, it makes sense to use Shawn Michaels’ win in Fresno as an angle for a match here. To make it even easier, might as well give the opportunity to the guy he was in the ring with when he collapsed back in November, the King of Harts. Owen hasn’t really sniffed anything involving the World Title since the fall of 1994 when the feud with his brother Bret cooled off. However this makes perfect sense considering what the other main event is tonight. Could there be a rematch of two years ago where Bret Hart and Owen Hart tangle at WrestleMania, this time for the WWF Title? Or if Michaels wins will we get a rematch from last year and have Shawn take on his best friends Big Daddy Cool Diesel? So really there is more drama to this match than expected. Of course it seems like Shawn Michaels’ road to Anaheim and the much-coveted WWF Championship should really have no road blocks here. But if there is going to be a yearly PPV in February you need to create some kind of drama or else these buyrates could be pretty dreadful. One thing you can definitely expect from this match is that it’s going to be great since both men are expert workers in the ring and sure enough it delivered as Owen really amped up the psychology of kicking Shawn in the head and ending his career with one move. Great work by Vince and Lawler on commentary splitting the face/heel dynamic with Lawler saying Owen was the true gem of the Hart Family. Vince pretty much is acknowledging that Shawn is his guy and once he hits Sweet Chin Music and gets the three count the win Vince puts the childhood dream story into overdrive and we will hear that for the next six weeks. What a great match with back and forth strikes and storytelling as well as a hot crowd and great commentary. A yeoman’s job by Owen to put Shawn over and give a great match. Shawn Michaels is heading to WrestleMania but is it against his best friend, or his biggest rival? Grade: ****
Justin: Shawn Michaels’ quest for the WWF Championship is fully underway. He earned his title shot at the Royal Rumble but has one last roadblock to bust through before he gets to Anaheim. Back in November, Owen Hart put Michaels on the shelf with an enziguri on Raw. Michaels made it back into the ring and wanted revenge on his assailant. In order to get the match, he had to put his title shot on the line, meaning both his health and dream were hanging in the balance here in Louisville. Michaels had a pretty cool entrance here, swinging down off the house set on a rope and the crowd ate it all up. Michaels slid into the ring and hammered Owen, knocking him to the floor and then finishing his dancing and stripping until the match started proper. Michaels went comedy early, frustrating Owen and Cornette and playing to his fans, even kissing a fan at ringside. Owen would ape Michaels and slide outside looking for high fives but came up empty. As he sauntered back towards the ring, Michaels flew off the top rope with a moonsault to a huge pop. Back inside, Michaels grabbed a headlock and continued to mess and goof with Owen in between latching on the hold. Michaels had a counter for every attempt of offense by Owen until the Rocket was able to snap him over with a belly-to-belly and go to work on the back and neck. Owen landed a neckbreaker and hammered on the targeted area with strikes and submission holds, including a camel clutch. Shawn fought to his feet but Owen buried a knee in his gut and went to a chinlock as the crowd tried to rally Michaels. Shawn again battled up and tried to hit the ropes, but he ran right into a sharp spin heel kick that knocked him outside. Owen would try to supelx him back in, but Shawn blocked it and dumped Hart to the floor. Shawn tried to leap off the apron but Owen caught him and took him to the floor hard with a powerslam. Owen kept pouring it on in the ring cutting off another comeback with a hard whip into the buckles followed by a great leaping clothesline. With Shawn hurting, Owen turned him into the Sharpshooter to pay off the back work and trap Michaels in the middle of the ring. It also added some foreshadowing for Michaels’ potential Mania match with Bret Hart. Shawn was able to crawl to the ropes and force the break but Owen didn’t stop and went right to the back yet again.
Michaels stole a near fall with a roll up but as he popped back up, Owen nailed him with the enziguri, sending Shawn to floor, where he looked to be unconscious. Shrewd booking there as Owen can claim he took Michaels out but an unlucky bounce knocked him from the ring. Owen didn’t take the countout and dragged Shawn back in, but Michaels kicked free and a moment later Owen missed a charge in the corner. Michaels mounted his comeback, running through his usual offense and drilling the top rope elbow before knocking Cornette to the floor. After one more enziguri tease, Michaels cracked Hart with Sweet Chin Music and picked up the win, solidifying his trip to Anaheim. That was a really damn good match. The opening portion was almost like an exhibition, slowly building through some comedy and playing to the crowd, almost like a house show. Once Owen took over, he zeroed in and and really picked apart the back well, with some top notch selling and comeback attempts from Michaels tossed in. I loved how Owen was protected with the enziguri and the second tease at the end was well done too. Michaels would dance and celebrate with a young fan and with his ticket officially punched for WrestleMania he seems to be hitting his peak. Grade: ***1/2
*** Acting President Roddy Piper comes out to chat with Todd Pettengil. He would congratulate Shawn Michaels on his win, warns him to be ready and also emphasizes “There will be a winner” in the World Title match at WrestleMania. He then tells Yokozuna he doesn’t feel bad about the beating he received earlier because he is a 600 pound beast and if he is going to be dumb, they have to work on his mindset. He is here to cure Vader’s malfunctions and calls him inbred while mocking his mask. He says it was the Board of Directors that suspended Vader last time, but since he is in power, he won’t make the same mistake. Instead, he announces that Yokozuna and Vader will face off at WrestleMania.That brought out Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason and after a back-and-forth, Cornette says that whatever happens at Mania is on Piper’s head. Piper retaliates by saying Cornette may find himself cheeck-to-cheek with Yoko at Mania if Vader were to lose. ***
5) Bret Hart defeats Diesel in a steel cage match to retain WWF World Title when Bret climbs out of the cage at 19:11
Fun Fact: This is the first World Title PPV cage match since Bret Hart beat Owen Hart at Summerslam 1994. It is also the fourth and last time Bret Hart and Diesel would square off on a WWF PPV. Bret won the series 2-1-1.
Fun Fact II: On RAW the night after the Royal Rumble, Bret issued the challenge to Diesel for his title rematch. In order to prevent interference like what happened at the Rumble, Bret wanted the match inside of a steel cage. Bret also let the Undertaker know he would get a rematch as well. That rematch was on the 2/5 RAW and Diesel interfered in that match.
Scott: The final match of the quadrilogy that is the Hitman vs. Big Daddy Cool. Varying levels of their career, varying stories to tell and levels of psychology but this is the last chapter. In 1994 Bret was the established Champion and Diesel the up and coming star. In 1995 both were on equal footing but this time there is a line drawn in the sand. Even with both as babyfaces, Diesel is definitely showing some heel tendencies. The connection between these two? The Undertaker. He wanted a WWF Title shot as well and he got two over a few weeks span, both at the Royal Rumble and again on Raw a couple weeks later. Now Diesel gets his title shot he never received after losing to Bret back at Survivor Series. As much as I have been a mark for cage matches since I first became a fan, these mid-90s cage matches were hit or miss because the violence level was very much amped down from the 80s, including no blood. Now, at SummerSlam 1994, the psychology between Bret and Owen didn’t need those gimmicks, but here it probably could have used some clean violence, particularly from Diesel who’s coming into this match with a very different attitude than in either of the 1995 matches with Bret. The prevailing urban legend during this time was that Bret was unhappy being a transition champion to Shawn Michaels heading into WrestleMania so he apparently “dogs” these two matches at the beginning of 1996 with Taker and Diesel. The match with Taker was not as good as it could have been but that was more Taker not being accustomed to facing a smaller guy who could actually help him out in a match. However it’s clear in this match that the Hitman is really working his ass off with Diesel to make this cage match as good as it can be while sticking to the WWF’s boundaries on blood and violence. The crowd is a bit disappointing as they are very quiet during most of this match. In the earlier bout I mentioned about drama at this show and the different possibilities of what the WWF Title match would be at WrestleMania. Well Shawn Michaels is locked in as the #1 contender on March 31 but before that there could have been an outside chance that Diesel/Undertaker could have been a possibility for a WWF Title match. I’m probably thinking way too far outside the box but if there was any way for the WWF to give this February PPV some drama to get some buyrates they’re going to do it. The match is methodical which for Diesel is fine and in a cage fits the psychology but again the crowd seems to not be feeling it. There was a pretty strong “DIESEL” chant going out late in the match, perhaps the first example of fans somewhat digging a cool heel, or a babyface that has an edgier side to him. I wouldn’t say the fans turned on Bret or anything but it definitely wasn’t a definitive face/heel dynamic here. In the climax Diesel crotches Bret as the Hitman is trying to climb the cage, then both men are on the canvas. Diesel starts crawling towards the door and seems to have the match won when suddenly the canvas opens up and the Undertaker comes out and drags Diesel under the ring as Bret climbs the wall and escapes to retain his World Title. Diesel crawls back out completely stunned. So right now we probably have two matches booked: Bret vs. Shawn and Diesel vs. Undertaker. The match wasn’t as bad as I remembered and the WrestleMania card may be taking shape. Grade: **1/2
Justin: With Shawn Michaels ready to go, it was time to determine the second half of the WrestleMania main event equation. Diesel has been heavily involved in the world title picture since the end of 1994 and his quest to regain his gold brings him here, inside a steel cage with Bret Hart. He has been yearning for his rematch after being passed over by British Bulldog and Undertaker, but gets his crack here and it is set up to prevent all interference, specifically from the Deadman who may be looking for revenge from the Royal Rumble. Bret Hart was feeling a bit overlooked and was determined to do what he could to take the win here and look strong going into WrestleMania. Just like he did in all of their previous bouts, Hart went right for the knees but Diesel punched him off and had the champ reeling in the corner. An aggressive Diesel shouted in Bret’s face that it was going to be a long night as he buried heavy knees in his gut. Hart stopped Big Daddy Cool cold by running him into the cage twice and as he did it seemed like the crowd may have actually been more behind the challenger, booing the Hitman as he took control. Hart tried to escape, but Diesel met him up top and buried some more knees in. The cage seemed a bit shoddily put together here, as it squeaked and really gave every time they banged into it. It actually added a cool feel to the match, almost like they were fight at a playground. Diesel hoisted Hart up and slammed him into the steel back first a number of times. He tried to exit via the door but Hart caught him and slugged away. The Hitman went right back to the leg, dragging Diesel from the door and stretching it out. Diesel fought up and landed a stiff clothesline followed by a sidewalk slam. Hart recovered and started to scale the cage but had to hop down and abort when Diesel neared the door. I like strategy of Hart here, breaking down Diesel’s legs forces him to crawl for the door and eliminating escaping over the top as an option. Diesel pulled himself up to block a Hart climb, slamming him down to the mat off the ropes. The two traded offense and escape attempts from there, with neither able to pull away long enough to make it out.
Diesel landed the next big blow, taking Hart over with a back suplex but again he couldn’t crawl out fast enough. The challenger missed a charge in the corner and Bret again started assaulting the leg but Diesel stopped that cold with a vicious Irish whip into the corner. Diesel punished the back, easily tossing Hart into the corner and hammering him with knees and elbows. The pace here certainly is more deliberate than any of their other encounters but it also makes a lot of sense given the story they have told. Hart escaped the corner and made a mad dash, actually getting over the top and to the outside, but Diesel caught him by the hair and dragged him back in. Diesel shot Hart hard into the corner again and debated going for the door, but he stopped short and decided to inflict a little more punishment. Just like Survivor Series, that hesitation cost him as Hart slipped out of a snake eyes and ran Diesel hard into the cage. The challenger blocked a Sharpshooter attempt but Hart rattled off his closing series of moves. He again tried to scale the cage but Diesel caught him with a solid low blow, leaving both men prone on the mat. Diesel used the ropes and dragged himself to the door but Hart made a lunging save. The challenger kicked Hart off again but before he could escape, the Undertaker tore a hole through the mat and yanked Diesel down under the ring as smoke billowed into the air. As that went down, Hart climbed out and escaped to retain. That was a great finish and really well executed and a nice way to have Taker pay Diesel back for the Rumble. It has been reported since that Hart was not a fan of the finish because it made him look weak, but watching it unfold here I disagree. It was a real back and forth contest and it wasn’t exactly clear that Diesel definitely would have escaped before Taker showed up. I liked this much better this time around and while it doesn’t hold up to their first three matches, it was really solid thanks to strong psychology and limb work mixed in with the escape attempts. They worked in a style that screamed they had battled multiple times before and knew each other well, both focusing on a specific region and doing their damnedest to incapacitate the other long enough to sneak out of the cage. It also sets up two big WrestleMania matches in one fell swoop. Also, any previous notions that Hart was mailing this in out of anger were disproved for me here as he worked hard and the match made perfect sense. The Hitman is headed to Mania to battle Shawn Michaels in one of the most anticipated Mania main events in quite some time. Grade: ***
*** After the match, Dok Hendrix interviews Roddy Piper, who announces Undertaker will face Diesel at WrestleMania. ***
Scott:The first WrestleMania bridge show in history and it did have it’s strong points. Both a WWF Title match and Shawn Michaels’ Mania title shot up for grabs made for some drama, even if the drama was transparent. Diesel continues his rogue babyface style while Michaels jumps his final hurdle towards a showdown at WrestleMania for the WWF Title. Bret Hart has a much better match with Diesel than he did with Undertaker at the Royal Rumble, dispelling the rumor that Bret tanked these “transition” title defenses and it was just Undertaker he struggled with. The undercard was alright as Razor Ramon finally dispatches the pesky Kid and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley continues his slow rise up the card. It’s an average show with some bright spots, and we are heading non-stop to Anaheim. Final Grade: C
Justin: For a two hour filler PPV heading into WrestleMania, this was decent enough. We had some big ramifications on the line and they were executed well enough to make you wonder the outcomes even though going in they were fairly obvious. The undercard ranged from perfectly acceptable to disjointed, but like we have discussed since the fall, the air of change in the company is palpable. The paring down of the roster has led to the wrestlers working harder and bringing a more aggressive style to the table. There are significantly less restholds and much more brawling and aerial assaults than we saw in 1995. It is clear that these guys knew there were holes all over the card that needed to be filled and that the opportunities were right in front of them. The show finished strong with a really good Michaels/Hart battle and rock solid cage main event between Diesel and Bret Hart. The path to WrestleMania has become much more clear and it will be a pivotal show as the company continues to recover and set themselves up for longterm success with a new crop of top stars. Final Grade: C+