Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: In Your House #5


*** 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 #5: Hershey Highway to Hell

December 17, 1995
Hershey Park Arena
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Attendance: 7,289

Dark Matches

1) Savio Vega beat Bob Backlund

2) Goldust beat Duke Droese

3) Smokin’ Gunns, Hakushi and Barry Horowitz defeated the Body Donnas, Yokozuna and Isaac Yankem

Pay Per View

1) Razor Ramon & Marty Jannetty defeat 1-2-3 Kid & Sid after Ramon pinned Sid with a second-rope bulldog at 12:20

Fun Fact: As rumor has it, Sid and the Kid were set to win the Tag Titles from the Smokin’ Gunns at the Royal Rumble but Sid left the company a couple of weeks after this show. The match was announced in WWF Magazine. Sid would be back, but disappears early in the New Year. In a shoot interview with RF Video, Sid indicated that he injured his neck in a cage match months earlier by Kevin Nash which resulted in him leaving the company in what he thought was his retirement from wrestling.

Scott: This is the next chapter of the year long storyline between 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon. Razor has the upper hand as the IC Champion but the Kid in his first PPV as a heel was the sole survivor in the match at Survivor Series, thanks to outside interference from fellow Corporation member Sycho Sid. Sid has really fallen down the ladder after the two abysmal title matches with Diesel at the first two IYH shows. Jannetty was the recipient of the Corporate interference, thus his teaming with Razor in this encounter. Good heel work early by Kid, begging off Razor (even though he had no problem facing him when they were both faces) but then the blind tag to Sid leads to a big clothesline. It’s nice to see the “other” Rocker get into the swing of things and get a multi-month storyline. Sadly it’s his own demons that keep him from consistent employment. The Hershey crowd is a little quiet during the match but for the TV crowd the distraction is with Todd who’s interviewing Goldust, who let’s say is “impressed” with the Bad Guy. Here is when Vince decides to take the next step in the Bizarre One’s character development. This is fairly cutting edge for 1995 wrestling. Many alluded to Johnny B. Badd’s character in WCW but there wasn’t any overt storylines pertaining to it. This is very different and very unique. As the weeks progress it gets even more risqué and controversial. The match itself is ok and the crowd does spike at times but for an old school WWF hotbed it’s fairly timid. The match picks up late, and Razor doesn’t try the Edge on Sid, so he bulldogs him off the top rope for the victory. The battle between Kid and Razor still goes on but now a wild card has been thrown in: Goldust. Grade: **

JT: For the second time in WWF PPV history, we are closing out the year with a December PPV. Coming off an exciting Survivor Series and with a new torchbearer atop the company, fans were starting to get a bit more fired up for the WWF product. The fall had seen a rougher edged product seep in as the weeks went on, as the tepid, milquetoast, friendlier product was seeing its lines blurred just a bit. The in ring action had become more athletic and hard hitting and it seemed like the tide was starting to turn. This show will be a good test of whether those changes were fleeting or here to stay. In our opener, Ted DiBiase walks out his lone, remaining members of his dwindling Corporation: 1-2-3 Kid and Sid. I still believe Kid needed more of a makeover to make this heel turn really effective, but it wasn’t in the cards. Pairing him with Sid was a cool touch though, because it easily set Sid back into his effective bodyguard/muscle role and Kid could play the slimy, sneaky, diminutive heel douche. Jerry Lawler even notes that DiBiase is rebuilding his Corporation around these guys. They are squaring off with the perpetually over Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon and Marty Jannetty, who were both sporting leather jackets in a sign of some unity. I am surprised they didn’t have Savio Vega here with Ramon, but I guess they had Jannetty in there to look for revenge on Kid and Sid from Survivor Series. As they made their way out, we saw Goldust prowling through the crowd, seemingly applauding the Bad Guy. He would have a seat on a golden couch alongside his usher as the match got underway. Jannetty got off to a hot start on the Kid but when he tried to tag in Ramon, the Kid squirmed away and regrouped in his corner, clearly wanting no part of his old friend. The former tag team champs kept churning away, with Jannetty continuously trying to get Razor in there while Kid kept wiggling free and preventing it. Jannetty was finally able to pull it off and Kid landed a smack across Ramon’s face before quickly tagging out to Sid, who crushed the Bad Guy from behind. Kid would now come into the ring, picking his spots and landing a few shots, but left the heavy lifting to Sid. A double clothesline would leave both men wiped out and eventually both tagged to their partners. Jannetty picked up where he left off, landing a nice powerslam for a two count. As Jannetty ground Kid down, Todd Pettengil caught up with Goldust, who took some time to lust over Ramon, quoting The Graduate along the way. This is certainly an interesting direction. Marty’s momentum was quelled when Sid cracked him from the apron and Kid slammed into him with a spin kick. Goldust would hand Todd a golden envelope to present to Ramon as we headed back to the ring. Marty made a brief comeback, but Sid caught him coming off the top rope and hit a powerslam for a near fall. Kid and Sid worked pretty well together, both slithering over and slapping Ramon to bait him in the ring so they could double team. They kept tagging in and out and did a solid job wearing down the Rocker. This was a shrewd idea to salvage Sid, as they could pair him with a superior worker, let him hang on the apron and come in for the heat segments and big power spots. It was certainly better than having him lumber around for long singles main events. The crowd popped for the hot tag and Ramon came in slugging away, nailing both men before sending Kid to the floor with a fallaway slam. Sid would block the Razor’s Edge but missed a big legdrop, giving control right back to the Bad Guy. A moment later, Ramon hit a bulldog off the middle rope for the win. Well, that was an anticlimactic finish. After the bell, Ramon tried to load Kid up for the Edge, but Sid yanked him to safety. I am fine with keeping Kid strong for the singles match, but I can’t believe how easily they had Sid lose. Ramon barely even had much of a comeback segment before just finishing it off. The match was just OK, but I expected more considering the talent involved. Ramon and Jannetty get the win, but we only got a taste of Ramon and Kid, a feud that is still boiling hot. Grade: **

***Jeff Jarrett makes his surprise return to the promotion before our next match and discussed his “With My Baby Tonight” gold record with Jerry Lawler and stayed ringside during the bout. He was never scheduled to wrestle. The match was supposed to be Dean Douglas vs. Ahmed Johnson however, Douglas was injured and also on his way out the door, so he claimed that he had his “graduate student” Buddy Landel ready to take his place. Trying to take a shot at Ric Flair, Landel comes out with a Flair-esque robe and even has Flair’s old WWF Entrance theme playing him to the ring. After the match, Jarrett attacks Ahmed for no reason but it sets up their upcoming Royal Rumble match. ***

2) Ahmed Johnson defeats Buddy Landel with the Pearl River Plunge at :41

Fun Fact: This would be the swan song for Shane “Dean” Douglas in the WWF as he would leave the Federation after this match. His WWF PPV record was 1-2. The backstage politics of the Kliq prevented any upward mobility for the former NWA world champion and was a major reason for his departure. He would quickly be back in the title picture when he returned to ECW in early 1996.

Fun Fact II: A little more background on the “faux Nature Boy.” Buddy Landel has been floating around from promotion to promotion since debuting against “Cowboy” Bob Orton in 1979. Among the federations he’s been in are WWC, NWA Mid-American (TN), Mid-South, NWA Georgia, Continental, USWA, Smoky Mountain, IWA, and IPWA and those were only the promotions he won titles in! He also dabbled in AWA and WCW. With Smokey Mountain Wrestling going under, Landel was one of a handful of competitors drafted up to the WWF. After this show, he would wrestle a couple of RAW matches then leave after injuring his knee after slipping on ice after a show. He’d return to the WWF in 1999 and lose to the Godfather in a dark match. After losing to HHH on TV, he’d leave the WWF again. He retired from active competition in 2001 and would pass away in 2015. His final WWF PPV record is 0-1. For an in depth review of Landel’s career, be sure to check out the Exile on Badstreet episode dedicated to his life.

Scott: This was supposed to be Dean Douglas’ spot but he was nursing a sore back, although it really didn’t matter since Douglas was on the way out anyway. So in comes career territory guy Buddy Landell, coming out to Ric Flair’s 1992 music, which makes sense since Landell called himself “Nature Boy”. The Pearl River Powerhouse is definitely on the way up since he immediately was attached to Shawn Michaels. Jeff Jarrett is at ringside with Lawler and Vince. Lawler’s rat tail mullet is terrible. Ahmed wins this match in no time at all and afterwards tries to get into Lawler’s face but Jarrett whacks him with his gold record that Lawler gave him earlier for “With my Baby Tonight”. The rest of the segment was worth more than the nothing match and Buddy Landell toe dip in the WWF pool ends unceremoniously. Ahmed’s promo skills are…let’s just say a little rough. There’s really not much more to say here, other than the feud continues after the post-match beatdown. Grade: DUD

JT: Well this was a bit of a mess. First, ring announcer Manny Garcia announces “Buddy Rydell” to echoes of silence. Then Jerry Lawler hops in the ring and presents the returning Jeff Jarrett with a gold record for “With My Baby Tonight”. Jarrett then heads to the announce booth and Dean Douglas is introduced. He would gingerly walk to the ring and after ranting a bit, he bows out of his match with Ahmed Johnson due to injury. Then we get the official introduction for his “graduate student” Buddy Landel. Landel was a long time veteran that had carved out a really good career across the country, in various territories as well as a run in JCP. He had been having a good year in SMW before they closed up shop, so on the surface it was a nice pickup by Vince as he had a quality hand to help bolster his midcard. Unfortunately, poor Buddy tore up his knee by slipping on ice and the injury effectively ended his WWF career before it even got started. So, back to where we started, Garcia introducing “Rydell” before this all went down was even more of a messy mixup. Just give us the Fink! Garcia has had his run and not really impressed much at all. Finally, Ahmed Johnson would power walk to the ring. After getting smacked by a quickly retreating Douglas, Ahmed went right to work chucking Landel around the ring before crushing him with a spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge for the quick win. Welcome to the WWF, Buddy. After the bout, Ahmed slid to the floor and smacked Douglas with his paddle, chasing the Dean to the back and out of the WWF forever. Lawler would then interview Johnson, but while they traded barbs, Jarrett jumped Johnson and smacked him with the gold record, triggering a feud for the New Year. Grade: DUD

*** Todd Pettengil chats with Razor Ramon about his big match with Yokozuna the next night on Raw. As he leaves, Pettengil gives Ramon the golden envelope, which Ramon reads before walking away disgusted. ***

3) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley defeats Henry Godwinn in a Hog Pen Match when he backdrops Godwin into the pen at 9:32

Fun Fact: Hillbilly Jim is the guest referee for this match and would end up staying around as Godwinn’s manager. He would keep that role for the next year and a half.

Fun Fact II: Helmsley and Godwinn had been locked in a feud since late summer, with the aristocrat Helmsley being disgusted by Godwinn and the slop bucket he would bring to the ring. On house shows through November and December, the two would battle in “slop bucket” matches where the loser (more often than not, Godwinn) would get slopped by the winner. The feud culminates here in the hog pen.

Scott: Talk about paying dues. Helmsley has slowly moved up the ladder with a couple of PPV wins and storyline development on RAW, including this feud with the Arkansas hog farmer. I really feel sorry for those who paid tickets in Hershey for this show. Walking around Hershey the air smells like delectable chocolate. Come into the arena on this night and you smell some other brown stuff. Ugh, how horrid. The point of the match is to be the first dumped into the pen, but before that the match is a lot of fun, as both men brawl in the ring and on the floor which you don’t see often in that time period of WWF history.  Helmsley’s back is cut from being whipped into the metal pen gate, but he backdrops Godwinn into the pen to win the match. Of course to send the fans home happy Godwinn and special referee Hillbilly Jim dumps the Greenwich Blueblood into the pen. Helmsley would need a tetanus shot for having infected cuts on his back from the slop. The entire package was fun and it served its two purposes: Give Helmsley another PPV win and give the crowd something to cheer about. Grade: **1/2

JT: Up next is a classic feud of snobbery vs. slop. The elite Hunter Hearst-Helmsley has had his issues with the hog farmer Henry Godwinn, so it was set up for them to clash in a gimmick match here. The stipulation stated that the first person tossed into the hog pen would be deemed the loser. In a nice touch, Hillbilly Jim was brought back into the fold as the special guest referee, which was quite fitting. Helmsley was clearly on the rise as he was given an actual feud here after spending his first six months working through the lower midcard. Before the match, Godwinn tried to slop Hunter but accidentally doused the timekeeper. Back inside, Godwinn took over with strikes and a back body drop that sent the Blueblood to the floor in pain. Godwinn would eventually get Hunter tangled in the ropes and then slammed a handful of slop in his face. Hunter broke free and went to work on the big HOG, hammering away in the corner with good aggression. The match would spill to the floor and the two traded control as they stumbled to the hog pen. They have worked pretty snugly here, which is always fun to see. Hunter would whip Godwinn hard into the pen gate as the crowd started to rally HOG. In a great tease, Hunter tried for the Pedigree, but Henry blocked and back dropped Hunter, who kept his balance and stayed on the fence. In the spot of the match, he shoved Godwinn down and hit a nice elbow drop off the fence. Good on these guys to work so hard in a a gimmick match that was so goofy. Back in the ring, Godwinn hit a nice inverted wheelbarrow powerbomb as Vince questioned whether Hillbilly was unbiased out there. Godwinn dragged Hunter back to the pen, where he snapped off the Slop Drop on the mat, but both men landed hard and HOG couldn’t take advantage. As both men got back up, Henry charged hard, but Hunter ducked him and dumped Godwinn into the pen for the win. After the match, Hunter got into a shoving match with Hillbilly that ended with Godwinn press slamming Hunter into the slop. And the reason that was even nastier is that we saw that Hunter had a huge gash across his back, meaning that he was now rolling around in mud and pig shit. Infection city. Poor bastard. He sure stooged it up once he was in the slop, though, so again good on him. These two worked really hard and stiff here and hit a couple of big moves leading to the finish. They could have been lazy and mailed this one in, but they showed up and got it done. And I enjoyed it much more than I expected. Grade: **1/2

4) Owen Hart defeats Diesel by disqualification at 4:34

Fun Fact: Diesel wanted to take out Owen Hart because Owen put Shawn Michaels on the shelf with his Enzuigiri in November. The night after losing the title at Survivor Series, Diesel dropped the Mr. Nice Guy act and began playing the tweener role. He ripped on Vince McMahon, refused to apologize and told McMahon that he was tired of kissing babies and being the corporate champion that he was forced to be. Basically, he became a face with attitude and began to resemble the Diesel of 1994 that became an underground favorite. He also vowed to only support his fans that sported his trademark black gloves.

Scott: After his loss at Survivor Series, the former WWF Champion has had a bit of a chip on his shoulder and for many it’s a welcome change. He’s beaten up faces and heels but he’s still technically a babyface. He takes on Owen Hart, who is taking credit for the head injury Shawn Michaels suffered on Raw. That situation is the continuing of the Syracuse bar fight that cost Michaels his Intercontinental Title. So Diesel is defending his best friend by literally bullying and beating Owen down for four and a half straight minutes. This new attitude of Diesel’s is really the way he should have acted for all of 1995 during his World Title reign, instead of a leather-clad Hulk Hogan. He gets disqualified when he had the win in hand after a Jackknife. Not satisfied with one finisher, he drops a few more on Owen and gets disqualified for it. This new Diesel is such a breath of fresh air and continues a trend on this show of things we haven’t seen in this era of professional wrestling. Brawls on the floor, angry babyfaces with attitude, androgynous wrestlers? The match was a glorified squash but it does show that maybe the WWF audience can handle babyfaces with a slight edge to them and not just giggling goofs like in the Federation Era. Grade: **

JT: Following his year long reign coming to a crashing halt at Survivor Series, Diesel finally decided to let loose and unload all the feelings he had been burying since 1995 dawned. The next night on Raw, he spewed a good amount of venom and vowed to return to the ass kicker with attitude that he was prior to winning the strap. And his first target was Owen Hart. Hart had put his buddy Shawn Michaels on the shelf on that same Raw, smacking his recently concussed head with an enziguri that sent him to the hospital. With Michaels’ future unknown, Diesel wanted revenge on his assailant. The angle was really well done and Michaels even took a trip to the hospital to sell it further. It also helped reheat Hart, who had been sagging since he and Yokozuna dropped the tag straps in September. Owen was cautious right away, knowing Diesel was out for blood. As I watch this I immediately wonder why this couldn’t have been a feud during Diesel’s reign instead, but I digress. With the pyro smoke billowing throughout the tiny arena, Diesel rattled Owen with a sidewalk slam and then shoved him hard to the mat when Owen tried to mount him in the corner. Big Daddy Cool would clothesline the Rocket to the floor and then fetch him and pitch him right back inside. Hart mounted a comeback with a kick to the face and a missile dropkick off the top rope. He would go to work on the legs, trying to keep Diesel grounded while setting him up for the Sharpshooter. Diesel fought back to his feet but Owen took him down with the enziguri for a near fall. Odd that they had him kick out of that move, but I guess there was no concussion to go with it, Diesel kicked Owen off into the corner and then dropped him with snake eyes before slamming hard on his back as he was draped across the middle rope. Diesel followed with a big boot as the partisan crowd got loud. A moment later, Owen ate a Jackknife but Diesel gave up his pin at two. After shoving the referee and drawing a DQ, he hit a second Jackknife and then gestured that he wanted his title back. This was really weirdly booked. I don’t mind the revenge story, but with Diesel dispatching Owen so easily, it almost feels like it takes away the interest when Shawn would assumedly try for it. On the other hand, you can’t have Diesel lose as he gets rebuilt as a badass wrecking ball. So, why not keep them apart? Keep Owen hot for Michaels and let Diesel squash someone else instead. It looked good on paper and was a fun beating, but in the end it kind of hurt both guys. Grade: *1/2

*** Ted DiBiase comes out and harasses Savio Vega during a segment where Santa Claus and Savio were handing out gifts at ringside. As Vega reaffirms his belief in Santa at the behest of DiBiase, Claus turns on his friend and beats Vega down. DiBiase and Santa would leave together and it was later revealed that he was actually an evil version of the jolly fat man named Xanta Klaus. Xanta was portrayed by John Rechner, a Smokey Mountain Wrestling mainstay that competed as Boo Bradley and the man who would eventually become Balls Mahoney in ECW. He would wrestle a few time on Superstars, but would be gone as quickly as he came. ***

5) Undertaker defeats Mabel in a casket match when Undertaker puts Mabel in the casket at 6:10

Fun Fact: During a post match attack by Mabel and Yokozuna in early October, the Undertaker suffered an injury to his orbital bone. This resulted in him wearing a Phantom of the Opera style mask for a few months to protect the injury. This also played up in storyline to this match.

Scott: This match stems from Mabel’s legdrop that crushed Taker’s face and broke his orbital bone. Of all the creative/booking failures that have taken place in the annals of the WWF, elevating Mabel is probably ranked near the top of the list. He is a career tag team wrestler whose lone attribute was being really fat and can rap a little. However needing big powerhouse heels to face WWF Champion Diesel, Mabel wins the worst King of the Ring tournament ever, and then gets a WWF Title shot at SummerSlam that is quite forgettable. So finally he’s being shunted down the card and during this time the final nail in your push (no pun intended) is losing to the Deadman in a feud. In what has been a dreadful year for the Deadman, having to pick apart Ted DiBiase’s Corporation AGAIN (just like in 1994) he finishes it off by taking on ANOTHER big sloth that he can barely get two stars out of. The match is all Mabel so far and Mo even dumps the Deadman into the casket. However he forgets to close the casket and instead hands Mabel his crown for extra insult. Well the extra time gives the Deadman the chance to escape and the match continues. Taker’s Phantom of the Opera mask is extremely cool and does add to his costume, even if his feuds are not cool and quite terrible. Eventually Taker grabs that stupid chain that Kama melted the urn into earlier in the year, dumps Mabel into the casket and ends this debacle once and for all. I’m sure Undertaker was getting frustrated that he wasn’t getting any real respect from the company and was nothing more than mid-card fill for all the talentless hacks on the heel side. Rumors were he was ready to quit the company if he wasn’t saved from this creative black hole. The Deadman makes a gesture that he wants a WWF Title shot, and next month he gets a crumb thrown at him, so we will see what goes from there. This is (with most Mabel matches) quite forgettable. Grade: *1/2

JT: The feud that keeps on giving arrives just in time for the holidays. Of course, it was Mabel that defeated Undertaker at King of the Ring and also busted his eye socket in a massive beatdown on Raw. At Survivor Series, Taker’s team picked up a clean sweep win when Mabel ran away. The King vowed he wasn’t afraid but all the evidence pointed to the contrary. Mabel was still carried down on his sedan as Sir Mo wheeled a casket down out in front of him. Mabel was still rocking the massive mohawk and swank golden parachute pants but it didn’t matter as he was about cooked. Undertaker’s entrance was great as it chilled the Hershey Arena and got the fans fired up. The Phantom face mask absolutely helped add to the chilly feelings he brought with him as well. Mabel tried to jump Taker off the bell but the Deadman shrugged him off and poured it on in the corner. Mabel caught him with a sidewalk slam and clothesline but Taker sat right up both times. He also sat up right as Mabel came flying off the middle rope with a splash attempt. Taker landed a couple of clotheslines but Mabel squished him with a belly-to-belly and then dropped a leg across his chest. Taker tried to sit up, as he was willed by the fans, but he couldn’t do it. Mabel followed with a splash and I am actually digging the heavy impact offense in this one. For some reason, Mabel’s usual spots seem a lot rougher this go around. Mo would get involved, picking Taker up on his shoulder and dumping him in the casket, but instead of slamming the door, he instead brought Mabel his crown. Mabel finally strutted over but by the time he got there, Taker got his hand up and blocked the door. Weird that they basically gave Mabel a visual win there. Taker came right at Mabel, dropping him with a chokeslam and then chucking him in the casket. Mo made the save, but Taker ran right through him, dropping him with a chokeslam and tossing him into the box as well. He would then reach in and retrieve Mo’s golden chain (which had been created from the remnants of his urn), slam the door, win the match and officially bury Mabel’s push once and for all. The match actually had some energy behind it and Taker is undoubtedly ready for something much bigger after another year navigating the midcard waters. He was over and they needed another high level star at the top of the card. It was time to reestablish the Deadman. Grade: *1/2

6) Bret Hart defeats British Bulldog to retain WWF World Title with a La Magistral at 21:04

Fun Fact: During the match Vince said he was handed a note stating that the Undertaker would face the winner of this match for the title at the Royal Rumble. After the match in the locker room, Gorilla Monsoon confirmed that it will indeed be Bret Hart defending the World Title against Undertaker. This would piss off Diesel and make him even angrier and out for more revenge.

Fun Fact II: Bret Hart purposely broke company policy by blading in this match. He would later convince Vince McMahon and others that it was accidental from when he hit the ring steps, but it was later revealed to be from a blade. It was the first blade job on WWF PPV since 1992.

Scott: Getting back to the bookers, anything involving the Hart Family is easy storytelling and we return to a feud dating back three years. At SummerSlam 1992, British Bulldog defeated Bret Hart to win the Intercontinental Title. Back then there was some tension involved but in the end there were hugs and kisses. Besides Bret would win the WWF Title a month and a half later anyway. Fast forward three years and things are very different. Bret is now WWF Champion after the epic win last month over Diesel but Bulldog is a full blown heel, managed by Jim Cornette, who feels he was screwed out of the title two months earlier at IYH #4 against Diesel. That was a tough match to watch but this time you know there will be great chemistry and energy it will be ten times better than most of Diesel’s title defenses. The match is a basic formula that is executed perfectly; Bulldog delivers a combination of power moves (ones he couldn’t do to Diesel) and grinding grappling moves like headlocks that Bret will sell and attempt to squirm out of. I like that Bulldog is wearing his SummerSlam 1992 tights, which was pointed out by rat tail Lawler. Bret is a fantastic seller and Bulldog is pummeling him throughout the first half of the match, and he even blades after a shot to the ring post. That apparently was not allowed but Bret wanted to make this a big time title match so he tells Vince it was a “hardway” bust. See, Bret can pull some cards when he needs to. Vince wants Bret to quit or for the referee to stop the match. These two guys know how to work well together and tell the story, as Bret just sells better than Diesel does which was one of Big Daddy Cool’s liabilities during his title run. Bret’s bloody face is selling this beating perfectly and the fact Bulldog isn’t as jacked and bloated as he was in 1992 makes this to me better than that first match at Wembley. Many give that match five stars, but it’s not better than this match. Bret had to do pretty much all the heavy lifting in that match, whereas Bulldog and Bret are doing pretty much equal work here. Bret’s bleeding adds another aspect of the business we haven’t seen in a while as the area around the ring is full of Bret’s blood. Even with the No-DQ matches and cage matches we’ve had in the past few years we haven’t had any blood in any of them. The last five minutes is a back and forth battle with strike after strike and blood staining everything, including a Bulldog powerslam on the floor, until Bret wins with a roll up after a boot to the face. This was an incredible back and forth battle with blood and great announcing by Vince and Lawler and the crowd was hot, after not being so for most of the show. Vince announces that Bret will face the Undertaker for the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble (going back to Taker’s gesture in the previous match). After the match we go backstage with Todd interviewing Taker until Diesel comes in saying he’s next in line for the title shot. The two big men go nose to nose as we go off the air. It looks like we have some fresh feuds brewing in the WWF as 1995 comes to an end. Grade: ****1/2

JT: If you think of the last three months of 1995 as a round robin tournament, then the two undefeated members still remain here, facing off in one last battle for the WWF Title. The Bulldog beat Diesel by DQ at IYH4 and Bret Hart knocked off Big Daddy Cool for the strap at Survivor Series. Now, the two brothers-in-law square off to close things out. Before the match, we hear from Diana Smith, who makes it clear that she is not torn now like she was back in 1992. This time, she is firmly behind her husband in his quest to become champion. Hart was desperate to have a good match with Bulldog to prove the WWF brass made the right decision and also do something Diesel couldn’t do back in October. Right away, Lawler notes that Bulldog is wearing the same trunks he wore in Wembley Stadium when he bested the Hitman for the IC title. They would trade holds early, with Hart going to work on the arm. Diana rooted her husband on from ringside as Bulldog buried a knee into Hart’s gut and then hooked him in the Tree of Woe. After stomping away at him, Bulldog hooked in a chinlock to regroup before squashing Hart with a crucifx slam. The crowd actually started a brief “ECW” chant but it quickly died off. While Bulldog worked the hold a second time, McMahon informed the viewers that Gorilla Monsoon deemed the Undertaker would face the WWF Champion at the Royal Rumble. There ya go! Hart started to make a comeback but Bulldog shot him hard into the corner sternum-first for a near fall. Bulldog again went to a hold, this time the side headlock, as the crowd tried to rally the champ. Hart broke free and rallied, rapidly attacking the midsection of Smith before riding him down with a bulldog for a two count. He followed that with a super stiff piledriver for another near fall. That looked like it hurt. Ouch. Hart kept pouring it on and it looked like he was closing in on a successful title defense when he set up for a superplex, but Bulldog blocked it and crotched the Hitman hard across the top rope. Hart bounced to the floor and Smith followed him out, knocking him hard into the ring steps. And now, as the saying goes, business picked up. When Bulldog yanked Hart up, he was gushing blood from a cut atop his head, the first blade job since WrestleMania VIII.

And it was a nasty one. As the juice poured from Hart’s skull, Bulldog rattled him with a headbut and slug him hard into the buckles again. Bulldog then dragged him and crumpled him with a nasty piledriver of his own. Stiff city. As Bulldog hit a suplex and slam for a pair of near falls, Vince implored the cameramen to stay away from any closeups and wondered if the match should be stopped. Bulldog flipped Hart into a surfboard, but Hart was almost able to reverse it to the Sharpshooter, leading to a compete break. A beat later, Bulldog shoulderblocked Hart hard to the floor but when he tried to suplex the Hitman back inside, Hart floated over and got a German suplex for a near fall. Diana continued to look on as the two men wrecked each other with simultaneous clotheslines. The crowd cheer Hart on as both men slowly climbed to their feet. Bulldog got up first and tried to charge, but Hart ducked him and sent him up and over to the floor hard. The champ followed with a place and then hammered away at his brother-in-law with hard right hands. He tried to follow up with a springboard splash, but Bulldog caught him and planted him hard on the floor with his powerslam. This match is so stiff, it is glorious. Bulldog would try a suplex on the exposed part of the floor, but Hart blocked it and crotched him on the guard rail. Back inside, where the mat was stained brownish-red, Hart drilled a backbreaker for a close two count. He topped that with a hard superplex that popped the crowd and led to another two count. Hart continued to dish out tight right hands and then kicked Bulldog hard on the face to block a charge. A moment later, he rolled Bulldog over with a La Magistral cradle and picked up the three count to win the bout and retain his strap. What a battle. While it lacked the raucous atmosphere from Wembley, this bout definitely matched its predecessor when it came to pure in-ring action. It was hard hitting, bloody and as stiff as it gets for this time period in the WWF. Both men went all out and from the first piledriver through the end of the bout, it really rocked and hooked the crowd in. It easily lapped the Diesel/Bulldog match and nearly rivaled Diesel/Hart. For this night at least, it looks like the WWF made the right move with the World Title. Grade: ****

*** We head backstage for the In Your House Extra, where Todd Pettengil talks to Undertaker and Paul Bearer about their Royal Rumble title match. Diesel interferes and is upset that he doesn’t get the next shot and claims the champion is ducking him. The show ends with the two standing face-to-face. ***

Final Analysis

Scott: This is an interesting show because as much as most of the card was quite forgettable (except for the title match and maybe the hog pen match) there was certain changes in the booking and development of characters that made me think that the company seemed to be turning a corner in some ways. Small corners but corners. We have an androgynous wrestler (and that word was used by Vince more than once for Goldust) making overtures towards another male wrestler. We have a stipulation match that required both men to brawl on the floor, and even thought the hog pen was a bit silly the brawling was different. We have Diesel who now is angry but still acts like a babyface, bringing a cooler demeanor to him that he really could have used during his WWF Title run instead of acting like a leather clad Federation Era guy. Then in the main event we saw blood and brawling and a much different dynamic than Bret and Bulldog’s first match three years earlier. Other than the main event this show is pretty forgettable, but there some interesting nuances that show the WWF was slowly turning the corner to updating the product. Vince wanted baby steps, but as 1996 will show another entity will step forward and make him have to jump into the deep end of the creative pool. Final Grade: C

JT: We close out the 1995 PPV year with a one match show. Sure, the undercard had some interest and fun mixed in, but match quality wise, it was sagging quite a bit. The main event, though, more than made up for it. We also saw the continuation of a more hard hitting, aggressive style in the ring and a more series presentation (at times, anyway). We still had some goofiness, but it was more balanced out than it had been in the past. Plus, with Hart on top of the card, we are more likely to receive a high quality main event than we were for most of 1995. The booking of Diesel/Owen was confounding and the opener was certainly disappointing, but the hog pen match exceeded expectations and even the casket match was more energetic than you would expect. You can tell the pieces are there more than they were just six months ago, the question surrounding the company was whether or not they could get them assembled in time. A year ago, Diesel stood atop the promotion with all the promise in the world. Twelve months later, he is arguably in that same spot thanks to his change in attitude, but the company as a whole is in a much worse position due to his soft title reign and the sagging midcard below it. A new year is upon us, and the promise of WrestleMania season is beginning. Can the WWF finally turn it around and sustain continuous momentum? Or will we continue to ebb and flow in frustration? Bring on 1996. Final Grade: C-