Saturday, October 29, 2016

WWF Badd Blood 1997

Badd Blood, a WWF In Your House PPV show that aired on October 5, 1997, is known for a few things. It's the day where Brian Pillman was found dead in his hotel room. It's the show where Owen Hart won the Intercontinental championship in a tournament final to set-up the long-awaited rematch against Stone Cold Steve Austin, whose neck he nearly broke with a botched piledriver in a prior match. It's that one show where they did the showcase of all the old NWA legends that Kevin Dunn (allegedly) didn't want to do.

But more than anything, if there is but one thing that Badd Blood is known for... it's Hell In A Cell. This is the show where it all began, kids. And since tomorrow we're having a Hell In A Cell PPV event, I figure I might as well give some quick musings on the show.

Our first match is the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors, Hawk & Animal, the LOD (or as some would call them around this time, the OLD) taking on the Nation of Domination (comprising Rocky Maivia, D'Lo Brown, and Kama, the future Godfather) in a handicap match. Apparently, Shamrock was supposed to take part, but he was injured and so it's a handicap match. One could argue that it would've been a handicap match even if Shamrock were around because good lord... I suppose the crowd was into it and that made the match a bit bearable, but I almost had to hit the fast forward button to make it appear the LOD were moving at a decent speed.

Anyway, for those who care, Rocky beats Hawk with the Rock Bottom, otherwise known as a "DEVASTATING MANEUVER" according to Vince McMahon.

Speaking of Vince, he informs the audience that they were supposed to be getting a match between Dude Love and Brian Pillman, but since Pillman was found, you know, dead earlier that day, they had to find a replacement match to fill the void.

Instead, we get the "Minis" match... or the midget match... or the little people match. Basically a bunch of little people in colored costumes and masks. If you want names, it's Max Mini and Nova vs. Tarantula and Mosaic... and that's all I know. As such, I had a hard time keeping track of who's who, but watching little people bounce around a ring for a few minutes is good harmless fun, I suppose.

Next up, the WWF Tag-Team champions the Headbangers (punk rock enthusiasts, I suppose) face off against the Goddwins (pig farmers, basically).

The next night on RAW, the Road Warriors would beat the Godwins for the titles... oops.

There's a video package showcasing Steve Austin's rampage on WWF officials; starting with Jim Ross, then Sgt. Slaughter, then Jerry Lawler, and finally Vince McMahon. We get a clip of RAW where Vince gives Austin three options; stay home until he gets better, sign a contract that dissolves the WWF of any further responsibility for what happens to him in future matches, or best of luck in his future endeavors. It's actually a pretty nice little video package that clearly outlines the story so far without being lost in melodrama and I often wonder why they can't make video packages like this anymore.

And then we get the NWA Legends bit... the one you hear Jim Cornette talk about that Kevin Dunn didn't want to do because he figured nobody would know who these old-timers were. And you know what? When I bought the VHS tape way back when, I only had an inkling of who some of these guys were through the few wrestling magazines I picked up that would bring these names up every so often. Aside from that, I never knew much about the exploits of guys like Jack Brisco, Gene Kiniski, Harley Race, Lou Thesz, or all those guys.

But despite that, I actually dug this bit. They brought out the legends and gave them commemorative plaques as well as a brief video package detailing each guy's career highlights in a nutshell. It was a really well-done segment that was classy and informative. It's nice to see the WWF not only acknowledge the existence of another wrestling promotion, but also get a bit of history on some of the more notable names in the business.

It's the finals of the Intercontinental championship tournament; vacated by Steve Austin under protest because he couldn't compete due to that injury. Owen Hart, sporting an Owen 3:16 shirt to taunt Austin, looks to be out of the loop and you can't really blame him. He's up against Farooq, who is better known to younger fans by his real name, DAMN!

The match may be for the title, but it's secondary to Austin stirring up all kinds of shit at ringside. He hijacks the announce teams; going from the usual gang of idiots, to the Spanish announce team, and even the French announce team, where Austin gets a quick plug in for Survivor Series the following month. While the ringside antics distract from the match (which appears to be fine, but nothing special), this is one instance where it works because Austin oozes much personality and charisma here that you're more interested in what he's doing rather than the action in the ring.

Anyway, I spoiled the match at the beginning of the write-up; Owen beats Farooq to win the title. This is achieved when Austin plants a belt shot on poor Ron's head, allowing Owen to get the pinfall win. Odd at first, but then Austin would reveal he wants to beat Owen for the belt and no one else. The following month, Austin would win the IC title for the second time. The month after that, he'd vacate the title once more and toss the belt into a river. Ouch.

There's another match between Savio Vega and some Spanish guys facing off against some biker dudes... whatever, I don't care. Hey, if you want a critical analysis and result breakdowns of an eight-man tag team match from twenty years ago featuring guys no one in their right mind would care about back in 1997, let alone 2016, there are plenty of other guys that can fill that void. There's a reason why I call these Wrestling Musings, not Wrestling Reviews.

Ahem... sorry about that.

The flag match between the team of Bret Hart/British Bulldog against Vader/The Patriot Del Wilkes... the guy who had Kurt Angle's music before it became known as Kurt Angle's music and the thing that people sing You Suck along with the beat... the whole idea behind the flag match is whoever captures the enemy flag wins, but this match also allows for pinfall and submission victories... which defeats the whole purpose of a flag match. Imagine a FPS where you're playing Capture The Flag, but you don't need to capture the flag to win a match, but rather just get X number of kills. It kills the gimmick dead.

Anyway, Bret Hart pins Patriot with a hand full of tights. Patriot would be gone from the WWF after this match, Vader would chug along a little longer, and as for Bret and Bulldog? Well, you know...

And so it comes down to this... Hell In A Cell. The first one ever.

The Cell in its infancy is not the polished, slick cage you see in today's sanitized WWE PPVs. It is a much cruder form, looking every bit like a flimsy steel cage, but surrounding a portion of the ringside area. It's not the first time a cage of this size has been ever been seen; WCW and some other organizations have been known to show off similar Cage styles, but the sell job on the Cell (no pun intended) gives the impression that this is death's door.

Shawn Michaels is the reigning European champion, but his title is not on the line. It's entirely possible that it was mentioned the winner of this match would go on to face the reigning WWF champion at the time. But titles was secondary to the main story that had been developing since Summerslam, when Shawn Michaels laid Undertaker out with a steel chair to cost him the World title to Bret. Both Shawn and Taker would have a match at last month's In Your House PPV that ended in a no-contest when DX and a whole buncha guys showed up to interfere. So the whole concept behind the Cell was to keep people out.

Unfortunately, what the Cell couldn't do is keep people in. And when Shawn kicked a cameramen, medical crews had to get in the cage and that's when the action gets outside and all the famous shots take place. Fighting on top of the Cell, Taker slamming Shawn into the cage and giving him that nasty crimson mask, Shawn taking a mild fall off the side of the cage onto the table... even years later, that gives me goosebumps.

Eventually, we get into the Cell. Taker smacks Shawn with a couple chairs and signals for the Tombstone. Then the arena goes dark. Red light illuminates the entrance. In comes Paul Bearer, former estranged manager of the Undertaker and with him comes a figure in red slowly and methodically making his way towards the Cell as Vince McMahon (he did commentary at the time) loudly proclaimed "DAT'S GOTTA BE KANE!"

Kane shows up, rips the Cell door open, does his signature fire out of the posts bit, then tombstones Undertaker. And while everyone is paying attention to Kane walking out in the distance, a bloodied, barely conscious HBK limps his arm over Taker's lifeless body and scores the winning pinfall. Shawn Michaels may have won the match... but there was no victory lap to be had... at least not until the following night.

While most people remember the Cell match where Foley fell off (and through) the top of the Cell and earned him tons of respect for going farther than necessary for the sake of the art, this was perhaps the better match. In essence, it was the end of one storyline (or at least a break, as they'd have one last match at the Rumble) and planting the seeds of another, it introduced a new character that would have lasting repercussions (and a long in the tooth tenure), and perhaps most importantly, it sold the Cell as this dangerous structure where all bets were off, nothing was off-limits, anything could and would happen, and there were no winners, only survivors.

At the end of the day, Badd Blood's only notable contribution is the only reason to be watching this show and given that you can find this match on virtually any DVD compilation worth a damn in the past decade or so, there's really no reason to go back and revisit this show beyond one or two minor bits that you can probably find on Youtube anyway. All in all, memorable for one match and that's about it.

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