Vintage Vault Reposts are Pay-Per-View recaps with Justin and Scott’s commentary, including star ratings. Please note, these were written in the past and may have dated references.
On May 2, The Rock will be celebrating his 42nd birthday. As a tribute to The Great One, we head back to Survivor Series 1996 when he made his WWF PPV debut! Enjoy the trip back in time!
Also, be sure to click the play button below to listen to Kevin Kelly discuss The Rock’s early days in the WWF and the work they did together. Kevin also discusses the infamous Brian Pillman gun incident plus other happenings in the fall of 1996.
November 17, 1996
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
Buy Rate: .58
FREE FOR ALL:
1) Jesse James (Brian James), Aldo Montoya (PJ Polaco), Bob Holly (Robert Howard) and Bart Gunn (Mike Plotcheck) defeated Sultan (Solofa Fatu), Justin Bradshaw (John Layfield), Salvatore Sincere (Tom Brandi) and Billy Gunn (Monte Sop)
Sultan forced Aldo Montoya to submit at 3:55
Bart Gunn pins Salvatore Sincere in 6:53
Justin Bradshaw pins Bob Holly in 8:34
Jesse Jammes pins Justin Bradshaw in 8:45
Jesse Jammes pins Sultan in 9:46
Billy Gunn pins Jesse Jammes in 9:56
Bart Gunn pins Billy Gunn in 10:44
1) Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, Henry Godwinn & Phineas Godwinn defeat Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy
Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon
Henry Godwinn beat Marty Jannetty at 8:11
Owen Hart pins Henry Godwinn at 8:18
British Bulldog beat Phineas at 9:04
Phil Lafon pinned Leif Cassidy at 13:43
Phil Lafon beat British Bulldog at 17:22
Doug Furnas beat Owen Hart at 20:41
Fun Fact: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon were a pretty dominant team in Japan in the early 90s (where Lafon went under the name Dan Kroffat). Furnas had a cup of coffee in WCW in the early 90s but nothing ever materialized from it. Lafon saw singles success in both Japan and Canada. Lafon used the name Dan Kroffat as a tribute from a Canadian wrestler by the same name in the 70s.
Scott: A pretty good opening match involving one great heel team, one stale heel team, one stagnant face team, and one new face team. Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon are a brand new team with a lot of experience. I’ve seen Furnas’ name in some Memphis and Florida shows from the early 80s. They were big in Japan before coming here, and they impress the Garden crowd with some smooth moves. Lafon’s suplex off the top rope to pin Cassidy was something to behold. The Godwinns were already getting stale, but they wouldn’t turn heel for another few months. The New Rockers would toil as heels for a few months, but really they’ve been nothing more than jobbers. Owen and Bulldog are still the champs, but this new team would get the better of them on this night, the start of a very good night of wrestling. The crowd is rabid, as this is the first PPV at the Garden since the gem that was WrestleMania X. The night gets better from here. Grade: 2.5
Justin: A very good opener with some sweet wrestling from Bulldog, Owen, Cassidy, Furnas and Lafon, including some stiff shit from Furnas and Lafon. I think Jannetty messed up his knee early on, because he is pinned and limps off into the sunset. I am pretty sure he is never seen in the WWF until 2005, but he would pop up in WCW for a brief stint shortly after this. It was nice to see a new team inject some life into the very stale tag team division, so Furnas and Lafon were a very welcome addition at this time, as were Bulldog and Owen as an official team. I am not sure why they never really caught on and had that huge push, but I guess they were just too bland for the changing landscape of the WWF. Either way it was refreshing to see some rock solid in ring action and a hot crowd for a tag division match. The Godwinns continue to putt around and play to the crowds with their family friendly hillbilly shtick, but a major injury and an attitude change would jump start them in the New Year. This was a big win for a debuting team and a hot start to a great show. Grade: 3
2) Undertaker defeats Mankind with a Tombstone at 14:50
Scott: The fourth installment of what is becoming an unforgettable feud involves Paul Bearer suspended above the ring in a cage. If Taker wins, he gets five minutes with his former manager. This match, like all the others is unbelievably stiff, with major shots in and out of the ring. Taker makes his biggest change cosmetically, as he is now decked out in leather. He also tied his hair back so it’s not always in his face when he’s wrestling, plus he comes down from the ceiling with bat wings on. Many find most of Taker’s histrionics cheesy. I think they’re very cool, and add to his character. Taker drops the tombstone for his second straight win over Mankind, putting the series of matches between them at two apiece. He goes after Paul Bearer in the cage, but for the second straight month the Executioner (again Terry Gordy) breaks it up and saves PB from the Deadman. The next chapter of this saga is at our next PPV outing. These two have unmatched chemistry in the ring, and their careers have been saved by each other. Undertaker’s days of trolling around with bums like King Kong Bundy and Mabel are over. Mick Foley’s days of making minimum wage while putting his body through unspeakable punishment is…well not over. But at least it’s not for minimum wage. Grade: 3
Justin: A surprisingly good, non-stipulation match here, proving that these two guys could go anywhere at any time and have a good bout. This match often gets forgotten and overshadowed by the previous three, but is just as good as those were. Taker finally debuts that new look he was supposed to get after SummerSlam and it definitely adds a tad more realism to the character, which was needed now that he was stepping out of the early-90s monster feuds and into more important, Main Event storylines. Kind of surprising to see a clean finish here, but for all intents and purposes, this would end Phase 1 of the actual Undertaker/Mankind feud. It would spill over into December in a different way, but these two would lay off each other for a little while after this. It looked like Taker would finally get his revenge on the man who betrayed him but the Executioner is there to make the save once again and Paul is able to escape the clutches of the Deadman. The battle after the match would set up an interesting and quite pedestrian matchup next month. Grade: 3
3) Marc Mero, The Stalker, Rocky Maivia & Jake Roberts defeat Crush, Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst-Helmsley & Goldust
Jake Roberts pinned Jerry Lawler in 10:00
Goldust pins the Stalker in 12:43
Marc Mero pins Hunter Hearst-Helmsley in 19:19
Crush pins Marc Mero in 20:33
Crush pins Jake Roberts in 20:53
Rocky Maivia beats Crush in 23:11
Rocky Maivia pins Goldust in 23:42
Fun Fact: Sunny fills in for Jerry Lawler on commentary for this match and hints at a feud with Sable that never really materialized.
Fun Fact II: Rocky Maivia is the son of WWF legend Rocky Johnson and the grandson of another legend, Chief Peter Maivia. He was a standout lineman at the University of Miami, and played some pro football in Canada, but eventually went into wrestling. He started his career in Memphis training and working under the name Flex Kavana. He was hyped heavily in the weeks leading up to this show as a can’t miss prospect and the first “Third Generation Wrestler” and the “Blue Chipper.”
Fun Fact III: The last time Crush was at Madison Square Garden at PPV, he was hog-tied to scaffolding by Randy Savage at WrestleMania X. This is his first PPV appearance since the 1995 Royal Rumble. This an even longer stretch for Barry Windham, who is technically making his first appearance on a major card/PPV at the Garden since taking a cane shot from the Iron Sheik at the first WrestleMania. Since then he’s won a bevy of titles in the NWA and WCW, including the World Title, the US Title, the Tag straps and a stint with the Four Horsemen.
Fun Fact IV: Jake Roberts would be in the 1997 Royal Rumble, but since this is his last regular match, we will run his all time PPV record. Overall, his record was 9-17-1. He was 0-7 at the Royal Rumble, actually participating in the Rumble match each time, 3-4-1 at WrestleMania, 1-1 at King of the Ring, 2-1 at SummerSlam, 3-2 at Survivor Series and 0-2 at other Pay per View events.
Scott: A very substandard match with a mish-mosh of faces and heels. The big thing here is the debut of the fourth of the quartet that will change the face of wrestling. Rocky Maivia, son of Rocky Johnson, grandson of Chief Peter Maivia, makes his debut here, and looks like a total schmuck. Complete with a ridiculous blue costume and a floppy semi-afro, he does impress with some nice moves, and is the sole survivor. Rocky would have a rough first few months of his career, but does pull off a major upset on Raw in the coming year, but more on that in upcoming reviews. Other points of note: Jake Roberts makes one of his final PPV appearances ever in the WWF in this match. This 1996 run had its ups and downs. He looked out of shape and has not been consistently on camera. Behind the scenes however, Jake was a valuable asset to the creative and booking team. His knack for getting intensity and psychology out of a storyline is legendary. He probably was the one who put a lot into the Undertake/Mankind feud, which was why it was so great. Another point is the fact that Helmsley and Goldust are on the same team, but in two months would be involved in a bitter, nasty match at the Royal Rumble. Seeing Hunter and Maivia in the ring at the same time is eerie, considering they would be part of the most lucrative time in WWF history just a couple of years later. JR actually calls him “Rock” at one point. Yes, very eerie. Sunny’s commentating is funny, bickering with Jim Ross and cat-calling Sable. Damn, she’s hot. A decent match, but a good one that keeps us energized for the pure magic that is coming up next. Grade: 2.5
Justin: A pretty long and boring match that is more historic for the debut of the Rock than it is for the wrestling. Rocky was touted as a can’t miss “blue chipper” for weeks and actually gets a big ovation from the Garden crowd. Those cheers wouldn’t last long however, and by early 1997 Rocky looked like a lost cause. Two other veterans returned on the scene in this match as well. Crush had returned in October sporting an ex-convict gimmick, as he really had served jail time since he had left in 1995, and was under the management of Clarence Mason. Barry Windham had returned in late-Summer under camouflage as the Stalker, although everyone could easily tell his true identity. In fact, he was outed during his debut by Steve Austin, who happened to be doing commentary for the match. He would end up hanging around for a while, but the Stalker gimmick would end up being very short lived. The Mero/Helmsley issue is still simmering here as well, with Mero picking up a clean pin on the Champ, setting up their final PPV battle in December. Another historical fact of this match is that it is Goldust’s final PPV as a heel. He would show up at It’s Time as a sort of tweener, but would be full blown face by the Rumble. The King continues to get in the ring on PPV in 1996, but as usual, he comes up with the short end of the purse money. Jake pins Lawler and brought some closure to the embarrassing loss at SummerSlam. Jake shows up at the Rumble and then vanishes to the Independent circuit for the rest of his in-ring career. All in all, this was an uneventful match in the ring, but a memorable one for all the extra-curricular activities that surrounded it. Grade: 2
4) Bret Hart defeats Steve Austin with a sleeper reversal at 28:32
Fun Fact: One of the early moments that solidified Steve Austin and Brian Pillman as legends was the memorable 11/4 edition of Raw. After snapping Brian Pillman’s ankle two weeks before, Pillman was resting in his Kentucky home. Austin had said the week before he was going to Pillman’s house and finish the job. Pillman responded by sitting on his couch with a Glock. Austin gets to the house and beats the crap out of two hamhocks outside, including hysterically hitting them with a kid’s wagon and throwing one guy into a kiddie pool after throwing his head into the hood of a truck. Austin gets inside the house and Pillman starts screaming, raising the gun, and the feed cuts out. It returns after the break with yelling and chaos. Kevin Kelly was at site and says “We heard an explosion”…puzzling since he was there and he should know. Since this was the first RAW that USA aired at 8pm they were obviously not happy about this. For two best friends from the Hollywood Blondes days they probably had a blast, no pun intended.
Scott: Now everyone knows that Stone Cold and the Hitman’s upcoming match at WrestleMania XIII is five star quality. Many however, forget that their first encounter here at the Garden was just as good, and maybe even better. Bret Hart had been off camera from his loss to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII till coming on Raw on October 21. The vacation was well-deserved but meanwhile, Steve Austin was skyrocketing to the top of the heel ladder, and cut a hysterical promo with Owen Hart and Brian Pillman at Mind Games, challenging Bret Hart to come back. well, he did. Many thought Bret would be a little rusty, considering this was his first real time off since coming to the Federation in 1985. Once the bell rang, you can throw that theory out the window. These two put on a wrestling clinic. The psychology and workrate here is off the charts, as every move is thought out and crisply executed. It really sucks what happened to Stone Cold’s body, because in the first year and a half of his WWF career, he was absolutely fantastic in the ring. After the SummerSlam 97 injury, he just wasn’t the same. Not that he became a lousy wrestler, but Austin would adjust his style of fighting. After 28 minutes of non-stop action, Austin slaps the Million Dollar Dream on the Hitman. Bret climbs the ropes, falls back, and pins Austin to the mat for the three count in a brilliant ending to an unbelievable match. Bret adds another notch to his brilliant career, but Austin is officially in the superstar stratosphere. The best part is we’ll get more in the future. With the win, Hart gets a title shot at next month’s PPV. These two take a breather from each other, but outside forces and other issues will bring these two together in a few months. This match is definitely an underappreciated gem in the history of PPV, and probably in the top three in the history of Survivor Series. Grade: 5
Justin: Just a flat out awesome match. Great back and forth chain wrestling that has great pacing and a great air of excitement surrounding it. The Garden was psyched to see Bret make his big return and rabid to see Austin get his due. This match really solidified Austin as a superstar and officially kicked his mega-push into overdrive. This event would mark the beginning of the end for Bret, as his WWF career would last exactly one more year, and it would be a tumultuous, yet entertaining 1997 for the “Hitman.” This is a must see for all fans on every level. The characters are well defined, the crowd is hot and the action is off the hook. This match is definitely a reminder of how great Austin was in the ring before he broke his neck. Austin hadn’t stopped calling out Bret since September and Bret finally answered the call the night after Buried Alive. The build up to this match was great and the video packages detailing the feud were top of the line. One of them featured the now classic black and white image of Austin standing in an empty warehouse and breaking an egg in his hand. This is a clear example of what a true wrestling match should be, and may be the last great pure wrestling match in the WWF until the Attitude Era comes to an end, so go watch it. Grade: 5
5) Faarooq, Razor Ramon, Diesel & Vader vs. Savio Vega, Yokozuna, Flash Funk & Jimmy Snuka ends in a no-contest
Diesel pins Savio Vega in 8:31
Jimmy Snuka pins Razor Ramon in 9:27
Faarooq, Diesel, Vader, Jimmy Snuka, Yokozuna, and Flash Funk are all disqualified at 9:48
Fun Fact: This is Yokozuna’s final WWF PPV appearance, and it ends up being his final WWF appearance overall. His final PPV record stands at 10-13-2. He was 2-1 at the Rumble, including 1 Rumble win in 1993, 3-3 at WrestleMania, as he went 1-1 at WM IX and 1-1 at WM X, as he was the first and only wrestler to be in two World Title Matches at back to back WrestleManias, 1-2 at King of the Ring, 0-2 at SummerSlam, 1-3-1 at Survivor Series and 3-2-1 at In Your House events. Yoko bounced around the Indy circuit and waited for that call from Vince that never came, although it was rumored many times that he was coming back. There was also a rumor that Hulk Hogan wanted him in WCW so he could get his win back from the 1993 KOTR. Vince had to cut him loose because he was such a health risk in the ring and just could not lose weight. Yoko passed away in October of 2000. He was a very underrated and underappreciated wrestler, and he had a great, albeit unexpected, heel run from 1992-1994. He always drew great heat and was pretty good in the ring despite his size.
Fun Fact II: This is the PPV debut of Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio). Scorpio was in both WCW and ECW, including a solid run as ECW Television Champion. JR takes a chance to say a shoot comment while Funk is dancing, saying “the Yellow and Red never looked so good at the Garden.”
Fun Fact III: Faarooq had been off TV since being “injured” at the hands of Ahmed Johnson at Buried Alive. He made an appearance on episode of WWF Livewire, where he alludes to his “Nation of Domination.” He returned to in ring action here, without Sunny or his Gladiator regalia, and is flanked by his previously mentioned Nation of Domination. The original group included Clarence Mason, a few random black guys and USWA-mainstays PG-13 as their rap intro singers. Soon after this, Crush would join and then the membership would grow as 1997 rolled on.
Fun Fact IV: This is Jimmy Snuka’s first PPV match since the 1992 Royal Rumble.
Fun Fact V: Razor Ramon and Diesel have been on the scene since September. Prior to Mind Games, Jim Ross mentioned that he had worked a deal to bring Razor and Diesel back to the WWF. Rumors began flying on the internet and among insiders that Vince was able to buy out Nash and Hall’s WCW contracts by mortgaging Titan Towers. Of course, Hall and Nash were in the middle of the red hot NWO storyline and would have been dumb to jump back, but it was still a crazy month or so. JR ended up cutting a scathing promo on Vince McMahon the night after Mind Games, essentially turning heel. He yelled at Vince for firing him twice, once because of his Bell’s palsy, but crawling back to him twice. He said he delivered a younger and more athletic Razor Ramon and Diesel and that the fans should be thanking him. JR actually made a pretty fun heel, but I think the whole idea was about a year too early as the crowds stayed apathetic and were upset at being teased with a possible return of Hall and Nash. “Diesel” was portrayed by Glen Jacobs, who formerly was in the Federation as Isaac Yankem, DDS and would take on an even more important role in 1997. “Razor Ramon” was portrayed by Rick Bognar, also known as Big Titan. He had an extensive run in Japan and then was briefly in ECW before donning the Razor Ramon tights. After his run in the big time ended, he was sent to USWA for a while, where he continued the “Fake Outsiders” angle with Glen Jacobs as both were part of Vince McMahon’s alliance to invade USWA, which gave everyone in Memphis and early glimpse at the Mr. McMahon character. After that he returned to Japan where he joined up with the NWO’s Japanese branch and eventually retired in 2001.
Scott: After the absolute classic we just watched, we are entertained by this complete clusterfuck. First the big surprise entrant, the fourth man on the face team was Jimmy Snuka. The silhouette everyone saw for weeks looked like Randy Savage. Alas, we were teased, and then screwed. Vince thought he could get the NYC pop from one of their favorites. The pop was decent, but Snuka was obviously not in ring shape, having been inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame the night before. Not exactly the response he expected. Other bums in this match: Razor Ramon and Diesel. Well, not really, but very cheap knockoffs. Jim Ross’ heel run during this time was based on the return of these guys. I don’t know why Vince needed to ruin the legacies of the characters by throwing these two ham and eggers in the mix. When JR re-faces out, they are pretty much an afterthought. I guess due to time constraints they had to shorten things up. That’s OK; I wanted this match to get over with, to prepare for the much anticipated main event. Grade: .5
Justin: Quite the mess here, as they were running short on time and needed a good chunk of time for the Main Event. The crowd is killed early on, as the “Mystery Partner” turned out to be the Superfly. I think they should have announced that ahead of time, instead of getting everyone excited for a huge surprise. Rumors were flying for weeks that Randy Savage was headed back North, as his WCW contract had expired. The silhouette of the “mystery man” on TV and on the WWF AOL site sure looked like Savage, but the Macho Man was nowhere to be seen and would be back on WCW TV in 1997. Ramon and Diesel also make their PPV debuts here. I always felt bad for these two, because they were pretty good wrestlers and were entertaining, as Glen Jacobs would go on to prove, they were just stuck with a stupid gimmick and angle. Faarooq finally ditched his old costume and took on a more realistic persona, as was the new trend as we enter 1997, and is finally on the right track to legitimacy. I have said all I wanted to about Yoko, but it is sad to see him here as he is just huge and so badly out of shape. One more note: Vader’s ankle is messed up here at the hands of Yoko and he was forced out of action, ironically missing the “It’s Time” PPV that had seemingly been named for him. That injury led to the first WWF Steve Austin/Mick Foley match-up the next night on Raw. Vader was supposed to face Austin in a “Tough Man Match” the next night but was replaced by Mankind. Anyway, let us move on from this mess. Grade: .5
6) Sycho Sid defeats Shawn Michaels to win WWF World Title with a Powerbomb at 20:01
Fun Fact: After years of being touted as “can’t miss” and the “heir to Hulk Hogan,” Sid wins his first World Title.
Scott: The run is over. After months of great main events and temper tantrums, Shawn Michaels’ first World Title reign comes to an end. He loses to a man who you least expected to actually be World Champion. Sid’s resume isn’t sparkling, but he is one of the most unique fan favorites in wrestling history. In 1995 he had to play a coward heel, something he normally doesn’t do. I think he knew the fans wanted him over that sloth Diesel. Anyway 1995 is a distant memory. Sid comes into the Garden to an unbelievable pop. Shawn Michaels comes in to, well, a 45-55% pop. Over history, Madison Square Garden was not one of Shawn Michaels’ favorite places. Sure, he wrestled Razor Ramon in one of WrestleMania’s greatest matches in 1994, but for the most part, up until this point, NYC fans were not HBK fans. The back and forth action is great, and the crowd, trained to root heavily for Shawn, now shouting “Let’s Go Sid.” This is a great match with a lot of psychology as well as top notch selling of Sid’s power offense. The turning point of the match is a spot that was stolen from ECW’s November to Remember show the night before. Sid grabs one of the TV cameras, and whacks Jose Lothario with it. Lothario collapses to the mat, and Shawn Michaels runs to Lothario, who looks like he’s having a heart attack. In a sick way, the crowd loves this. Well it is MSG, so all bets are out the window. Shawn hits the SCM, but instead of going for the pin he runs out of the ring. The ref gets bumped when Shawn missed a Plancha, which gives Sid a chance to whack him with the camera. Then down comes the powerbomb, and The Man is your new WWF Champion. Holy shit, this was a great match. At least as great as Sid could deliver, as this was such a different quality from those slow, sweaty slothfests with Diesel just one year earlier. The NY crowd is off the hook for Sid winning, which probably pissed Shawn off. We see an attitude change in HBK over the next few weeks, while Sid finally is the flag bearer of the WWF. Who would have thought that? I was marking out, as I feel Sid is vindicated for being involved in Hogan’s political games in 1992 and that absolute debacle of storylines in 1995. Now, he truly is The Man, and I couldn’t be happier. Grade: 4
Justin: What a difference a year makes. At Survivor Series 1995, Sid was a lackluster part of the “Wild Card Match” and was on his way out the door. A year later, he stands in the middle of Madison Square Garden with the WWF Championship on his shoulder, basking in the cheers of the crowd. The fans were rabid for Sid and cheer emphatically for him to just murder Shawn and Jose Lothario. This was another great match, as Shawn busts his ass and goes all out, surprisingly enough considering he was jobbing, and Sid is right there with him. Shawn, playing off the crowd, actually turned quasi-heel following the show, but they were afraid to pull the trigger and kept him face and turned Sid heel although, he would still get cheered as well, for the Rumble rematch instead. This was a pretty big surprise at the time, and I definitely did not expect Sid to walk out as Champ. It was a nice change of pace and solidified Survivor Series 1996 as a very memorable show. Grade: 4
Scott: Wow. That was a much better show than I ever remember it being. Except for maybe SummerSlam 1988, was there ever a bad PPV at Madison Square Garden? Sure, the wrestling quality of the first WrestleMania wasn’t the best, but since that is the granddaddy of them all, that show is off limits. This show was a turning point. Shawn Michaels first World Title run is over. Match quality was great, temper tantrums were at a premium, but buy rates and revenue bit the big one. Sid is way over with the fans, forgiving him for the dogs of main events in 1995, obviously due to the attitude change he needed to have and the lousy opponent. Bret Hart is back, and Steve Austin has taken another step towards greatness. That match was a surprise gem and amps the grade of this show considerably. The survivor matches were ok, but at least they opened up the door for some newcomers (Rocky) and some character changes (Faarooq). One more show, and the transition year that is 1996 is over. Final Grade: B+
Justin: What an awesome show that had it all: new, fresh faces in Furnas, Lafon, Scorpio and Rocky, the return of Bret Hart, excellent wrestling, great storytelling and a big show feeling with a hot crowd in wrestling’s Mecca. You can’t ask for much more. As 1996 comes to a close, a lot of changes were on the horizon. The fans began embracing heel actions (Austin, Sid) and turning on the goody-goody faces (Rocky, Bret, and Shawn). We were seeing more and more legitimate characters with shades of gray instead of straight up goofy characters and strict face-heel wrestlers. WWF was finally stepping up and making changes, and with the help and support of the USA Network, they finally would get back in the hunt in mid-1997. The ship is still rocky for a few months, but this show proved how great things could be and was an impending harbinger of things to come. Final Grade: A-