Wednesday, July 22, 2020

WWF In Your House #17 - Ground Zero (September 1997)

We're skipping three PPVs because I've already covered them and there's not much else I could add to the musings, so check those out yourself.

So this is a pretty historic PPV in the history of In Your House for two significant reasons. The first reason being that it was the final WWF PPV to use that In Your House set, as subsequent PPVs would feature their own set-ups down the road and the In Your House name would be a less emphasize moniker that would eventually be phased out in a couple years. The second reason that Ground Zero is significant is because it's the first time an In Your House branded show would be roughly three hours.

In any event, a couple noteworthy events going into this one, mostly building to future story fodder that will set the tone for the next few years of WWF television whether anyone admitted or not. I got this on VHS tape.

Brian Pillman defeated Goldust via "botched" interference from Marlena when Pillman "steals" her loaded and hits Goldust with it for the pin. As per match stipulations, Marlena had to join with Pillman... and then Pillman would be found dead a month later. The match was fine, but the morbid aftermath dampens it somewhat.

Brian Christopher defeated Scott Putzki via countout in a short match when Putzki hurt his knee (for real, as it turned out) and was counted out. I'd imagine if not for the knee, the match would've been longer, but I'm not sure if it'd be any better in the long run. They were trying to do a light heavyweight style to counter the Cruiserweights over at WCW, except the WWF's take was to do the same thing they always did, but with smaller dudes. It doesn't quite work that way and Putski probably wasn't suited to doing the high-flyng style that made those other guys great and fun to watch.

Savio Vega defeated Crush and Farooq in a triple threat match so awful I'm not even going to talk about it. In fact, it's so bad that I'm not doing my usual Farooq gimmick that I do with these names. Fuck this match. You should be ashamed.

Max Mini defeated El Torito in a brief Little People match. This did nothing for me and I don't get why this was a thing in the WWF for a while, but I'll give some credit; the Little People had a better shot of countering the Cruiserweights than the division designed to counter the Cruiserweights. How about that?

Next is a pretty big segment. So Steve Austin won the title from Owen Hart at Summerslam via roll-up after a nasty piledriver damn near broke his neck. Because of this, Austin was out of action, but never off television. Despite this, it was clear that Austin was gonna be out for a while, so he had to vacate his titles. See, Austin was not only IC champ, but he was also tag champs with Dude Love. So out comes Sgt. Commissioner Slaughter to collect the belts. Dude does so willingly, but Austin pokes fun of Slaughter for a bit before making him pick up the belt off the ground. After Slaughter walks off, Jim Ross offers some well-wishes to Austin before getting the KICK WHAM STUNNER for his troubles. This begins a long side story of Austin stunning random officials before we get to the big one himself, planting the seeds for the eventual Austin/McMahon rivalry that would dominate the WWF in some form or fashion for the next five years or so.

Headbangers defeated the Legion Of Doom (eliminated via DQ when Animal started hitting people with the slop bucket), the Godwinns, and Owen Hart/British Bulldog thanks to a timely shot from Austin to Owen to win the vacant tag titles. Match was a whole lot of nothing.

(Funny thing about the VHS tape; it advertises the four-way match for the tag titles and one of the teams was then-champs Austin and Dude. Back in the day, VHS tapes of the PPVs hit the market Months after the show aired, so the fact that they never changed the card on the back of the box is pure carny shit right there.)

We recap that one RAW match where masked man The Patriot (Del Wilkes) pinned Bret Hart and this somehow earned him a WWF title match on this here show. They prop up Patroit as kind of a big deal in order to fool people into thinking that he might actually have a chance of winning. It's a trick they do where someone with no hope of winning pins the champ in a non-title match before losing in the actual title bout. It doesn't quite work, because the reality was that even in 1997, outside of Pittsburgh where you'd stick the hose if you wanted to give America an enema, nobody gave a shit about the Patriot.

And yes, let's get it out of the way. WWF Champion Bret Hart retains the title by defeating the Patriot via Sharpshooter submission. And it's a perfectly fine match; Bret Hart is excellent as always and Patriot ain't too shabby, either. But when the winner is plainly obvious, does it really matter whether the match was good?

The match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker ended in a double disqualification after both guys beat up a bunch of refs who were just doing their jobs in trying to restore order. And then a whole bunc of run-ins happen and then you have that one shot of Undertaker leaping over the top rope and diving onto a whole bunch of dudes in the world's greatest trust fall ever. The match leading up to that finish was excellent stuff, but clearly they needed something more to contain the action... they needed something to contain hell...

Perhaps a cell would do.

Ground Zero has a couple good matches to its credit, along with a rather noteworthy moment. Getting to the really good stuff was a bit of a struggle and for that reason, I wouldn't quite call it one of the better PPV outings of WWF circa 1997. All the good stuff could probably be found elsewhere, so maybe don't bother with this one.

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