Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WWF King Of The Ring 1996

WWF King Of The Ring 1996 was the event where Austin 3:16 was born. The End.

Okay, maybe not.

I suppose, if nothing else, that's the main talking point of this PPV and perhaps the only memorable thing about this show. And as much as WWE and Steve Austin will have you believe, this one promo didn't set the world on fire from the get-go... especially when WCW was in the midsts of starting their own wildfire thanks to two former WWF'ers messing things up, as it were. But the promo planted the seeds to a future superstar in the making. But there are other noteworthy moments on hand here... so let's check them out together.

We open with the first match in the KOTR semi-finals between Wildman Mero and that Austin fellow... the one that turned out to be something of a big deal. This match was something of an eye-opener for me the first time watching it because, being that I really started following this thing in 98, I sorta missed the period in time when Steve Austin was something of a decent wrestler in his own right. After that botched piledriver that gave him a bad neck at Summerslam 97, the guy had to change his style to more of a brawling type, so there's a distinct difference in styles between then-Austin and... well, now-Austin.

Next up is the other semi-final match between Vader and Jake The Snake, during his "born again" phase in his career... which meant little since this was a couple years before his infamous masturbating snake phase at the much-reviled Heroes Of Wrestling show, but that's then. This is now... or still then... whatever. Anyway Jake DDTs Vader, but Vader drags the ref down with him and that draws the DQ, which causes Vader to beat on Jake a little more.

There's the tag-team match between the Smoking Gunns and the Godwinns. Because there's no Women's division (or even a Divas division) in 1996, this was the closest thing to a piss break as you could've gotten here. Anyways, I think the Gunns might have won it. I don't know.

Ultimate Warrior defeated Jerry "The King" Lawler in a nothing match... I've been looking back at Warrior's run in 1996 WWF and I keep asking myself what the point of having him there was. He had a few squashes here and there, but beyond that... what was the point? Were there plans to have Warrior feud with Shawn for the title at some point? Was he there to give people a rub? I honestly didn't get the point of this run... We'll never know, I guess, since Warrior would disappear shortly afterwards.

Mankind defeated the Undertaker in the first of many matches they would have with each other. Compared to some of their later encounters, this match feels pretty tame, but is still a great brawl that gave off the impression that Undertaker finally met his match in this crazy man. (I was going to go with "wild man" but that name is taken.)

Ahmed Johnson defeated Goldust to win the Intercontinental title. There's a great visual where Ahmed just bursts through the doors, knocking the doormen down, and zipping on straight to Goldust. This probably would've been better if it had been shorter, but it wasn't too bad and it was enough to give Ahmed that big push to a higher plain. Looking at this match, you had a feeling that Ahmed would be on the verge of being kind of a big deal, but he was gone by 1998-ish and would be out of sight until about a year later, when he'd feud with Booker T over the letter T in WCW... yes, I am serious.

And then we have the finals of the KOTR, which is almost academic at this point. And then we got Austin 3:16. Again, nuff said.

Well, not quite. Despite a money-making promo, Austin sorta chugged along here and there. He was becoming something of a big deal, but not quite there yet. Then Bret Hart came along and... well, that's another story.

WWF Champion Shawn Michaels beats British Bulldog to retain the title. Mr. Pefect was supposed to referee the match, but in a bait-and-switch moment, he's been relegated to outside referee duties (wtf?) and replaced with Earl Hebner. I wonder if Vince Russo drew inspiration from this match when writing Wrestlemania XV. Anyway, this was a typical Shawn match. He does his stuff, Bulldog does his stuff. End result is a pretty solid showing.

King Of The Ring 1996 was a show that got stuck in a shitty proposition, as it was basically sandwiched between two big WCW shows that would change the wrestling landscape for years to come. And while this show didn't make as much of an impact as those shows, it did plant the seeds for an eventual renaisance in the WWF. Most everyone remembers Austin 3:16, but then you had the first encounter between Undertaker and Mankind in a series of many further encounters that would see them brawl in boiler rooms, bury the other alive, fight for championship gold, and eventually dueling out within the confines of a cell made in hell.

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