Thursday, November 9, 2017

WWF Survivor Series 1997

This PPV took place twenty years ago and apparently features an incident of some importance in the professional wrestling/sports entertainment context. And this trivial event apparently merits a revisit for whatever reason.

I live in Montreal. I was born in dee Montreal. I spend my living years on this planet in dee Montreal. However, I didn't see this show live, as I didn't start following WWF until mid-98ish. And because I wasn't following the product at the time, I was oblivious to the whole Bret Hart fiasco - though I can recall some rumblings about Bret jumping ship, I never gave it much thought. When I did get around to watching this show, it was on VHS thanks to a rental from the local video store and it was mostly due to wanting to watch the rematch between Stone Cold and Owen Hart; the first such match between the two since the Summerslam encounter and the piledriver that almost ended a career.

Even watching the show, the whole controversy eluded me until I eventually saw the Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows documentary on A&E, where the significance of the event became more apparent. Naturally, it's something that gets discussed and talked about over the years and while some feelings were mended and more things are put out in the open, this is something that has its place in wrestling lore, for better or worse. And as much as we want to trivialize this event, it really did have a hand in planting the seeds to the rise of WWF and the slow, sad decent of Bret Hart's career.

So here we are; twenty years later and watching this show again for the first time since... well, that one time I rented the VHS tape from the local video store. The WWE Network seems to have the whole show in one piece, so we might

Two things worth noting; Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are your announce team for this PPV and would continue to be that until the mid-2000s. Up until this point, it was the team of JR, King, and Vince... but obviously Vince isn't here because he had more important things to do.

The other thing worth noting - and this is a cool little thing that they don't do anymore - is that because this is in le province de Quebec, they actually had a French-speaking ring announcer introducing the matches and the wrestlers en fran├žais. The guy's name is Albert DeFrusia and other than this one event, there's not much else on the guy.  I don't know if this was something WWF thought of for the sake of the Montreal audience or if this was a Bill 101 thing that forced them to do this, but I thought it was a nice little touch that they never do anymore. It gave that show something somewhat unique.

Survivor Series Match #1
New Age Outlaws (though not called that yet) and the Goddwinns defeated the Headbangers (a couple bald guys in facepaint and skirts) and the New Blackjacks (comprising a young JBL and a rather husky Barry Windham) in a match that went on for too long and not much else happened. The Outlaws are the sole survivors of this contest, for anybody who cares... because I sure as hell don't. Goddwinns wouldn't last very long - they'd get repackaged the following year - Bradshaw and Husky Barry would part ways, the Headbangers would hang around for a little bit longer, and the Outlaws... well, they'd do alright for themselves, I guess.

Survivor Series Match #2
The Truth Commission comprises Jackyl (better known as Cyrus from ECW, New Japan, and that Town Killing Podcast), Interrogator (better known as the monster Kurgan), and two other guys who don't matter. They beat the Disciples of Apocalypse (a bunch of biker guys) in ten minutes, with Kurgan being the sole survivor. Fun fact: Jackyl spends most of his time on commentary before getting around to doing some mild action; not quite Announcing Ace, but that's what ECW was for. This was pretty worthless, otherwise; only serving to showcase Kurgan as the next big monster... which never really happened because apparently some moron doesn't know how to write big monsters properly. But, hey, at least Kurgan's keeping himself busy these days with movies and stuff, so good on him.

Survivor Series Match #3
Team Canada (comprising the British Bulldog, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil Lafon) defeated Team U.S.A. (comprising Vader, Steve Blackman in his debut match, Sable's ex-husband Marc Mero, and Goldust in that weird phase in his career.) Fun fact: Of the four members comprising Team Can, the only actual Canadian on the team is Phil Lafon, which defeats the whole purpose of having a TEAM CANADA, YOU MORONS. Regardless, Team "Canada" wins for the sake of giving the people watching this a feel-good moment... a feel-good moment that would've been more heartfelt if the sole Canadian on the team was able to survive until the end, but I guess we'll settle with Bulldog instead. The only standout moment was Vader reaching for a tag from Goldust and Goldust refusing to tag because... sure, why not? Like I said, this is a weird phase in Goldust's career.

Kane defeated Mankind in a match where power went out in the arena and we're left with this really bright red light being the only source of illumination. All we needed here was spooky ambient sound playing on a loop and we have a match in Hell. Instead, we got two guys in a match we can barely see because the red lighting sucks and thank god they dropped that gimmick down the line because that would've been really stupid. (They did try the gimmick lights with the original Sin Cara later down the road, though that probably didn't help that guy either... nor did his botches, but I digress.)

Survivor Series Match #4
Team LOD (comprising WWF Tag Champs the Road Warriors for some reason, Ken Shamrock, and Ahmed Johnson) defeated the Nation of DOmination (Rocky Maivia, Ron Simmons, Kama, and D'Lo). The end boiled down to Shamrock and Rocky facing off; a prelude to their bitter rivalry that would play out through out the first half of 98. This was fun to watch in some respects; both in terms of watching the early days of some future top talent as well as the last days of some older talent who probably should've quit while they were ahead, but didn't and... well, maybe that isn't so fun.

Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Intercontinental champion Owen Hart to win the title in a less than stellar match that lasted less than five minutes. The end result is almost a given here even if you were watching at the time - setting aside all the controversies going on. In its own world, it is the only finish that makes sense and that probably removes all the potential drama. Also, this is Stone Cold's first match since the piledriver that almost ended his run before it truly began, and so the match we have here is less a technical affair and more of a quick brawl, with Owen teasing another piledriver and Austin countering. One wonders if the short match time was due to WWF officials not sure if Austin can hang in there for the long term or if it's due to Austin no longer trusting Owen to keep him protected due to that one piledriver, but WYSIWYG and all that jazz.

And then there's THE match.

A lot has been said about the screwjob and the incident and all that stuff over the years that there's really no point in trying to add in my two cents on the matter, but in any event, before THAT piece of business took place, we had the makings of what would've been a classic match between two veterans of the sport who know and compliment each other rather well. In fact, given how much is known about their disdain for each other at the time, it amazes me that they were content in trying to put together a well-fought contest rather than try to go ugly and take things to a needlessly brutal level. Hell, it's entirely possible they might have.

But in any event, everyone knew Bret was leaving so there were some resentment. Fortunately, here comes HBK to blow his nose on the Maple Leaf and hump the flag to get people to hate him and cheer Bret. I would imagine this being in Quebec, people would actually be cheering HBK for picking his nose at the whole Nationalism thing, but I guess the separatists stayed home that night.

I'm sorry. I'm getting a TAD political here. I'll stop.

Anyway, the brawl outside was good. The match inside the ring once the bell rung was good... and then the screws were in place before the match could get really good and so... yeah.

Survivor Series 97 may be best known for the main event that birthed a screwjob and planted the seeds of Attitude... and that's probably for the best as the rest of the show is pretty forgettable and just plain bad. Kane's debut match vs Mankind would've been fine without the spooky red lights, the Survivor Series contests were pretty much worthless endeavors, and Stone Cold winning the IC title was short and academic. All the appeal of this show lies within the main event and the controversy surrounding it and that's pretty much the only reason to give this show a watch.

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