Review for WWF One Night Only, September 20, 1997, Birmingham, England.
This was the first ever WWF UK only PPV, and one of the first shows I ever saw way back when I first started watching wrestling, though it was the video tape 2 hour release, which omitted the WWF title match. I got my hands on the full PPV later through nefarious means but I haven't seen this show in at least a decade. Thankfully the full PPV is available on the network for easy access. I remember this being one of the better shows of 1997, but let's see if it still holds up.
Hosted by Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Dude Love
Dude Love cuts an Austin Powers like promo before the match. Dude struts and controls early with his intentionally terrible looking offense and knocks Hunter to the floor. Back body drop and Hunter begs off. Dude dumps him on his head and Hunter goes for the eyes. Dude slugs away, clothesline and Hunter bails and gets knocked off the apron. Back in, Dude works on the arm. Hunter escapes and slugs away, he tries for a drop toe hold, but Dude simply hops over him and hits his own (that was a really cool counter I've never seen before). He works off an Indian deathlock and punds away. Whips hunter and ties him into the tree of woe. He points the knee and cues up for some Sweet Shin Music, Hunter bails and runs, Dude chases and gets levelled by Chyna. Back in, Hunter drops his neck on the top rope and takes control. Chyna nails Dude with the referee distracted, that gets 2. Dude fights back, puts his head down and Hunter uses the knee. He locks in an abdominal stretch, and uses the ropes for the unfair advantage. The ref busts him and they argue with Hunter bails after losing the argument. Back in, Dude bulldogs him for 2. Hunter hits a neckbreaker and bows. Pedigree attempt is reversed into a catapult and both guys are down. Dude comes back and bashes his head into the turnbuckle, clothesline in the corner, he tries it again in the other corner but HHH counters. Hunter goes up but Dude armdrags him off. Sweet Shin Music looks to finish, but Chyna puts Hunters foot on the rope, Dude argues and the pedigree finishes things at 12:51.
These guys wrestled a lot in 1997 and the match quality was all over the place, this was one of their best (they actually had an even better match 2 nights later on Raw with the WWF debut of Cactus Jack). They worked hard and the crowd was hot, definitely adding to it. Foley was always excellent, and this was when Hunter was really starting to improve. Chyna was also great here in the role perfect for her. (****)
Tiger Ali Singh vs Leif Cassidy
Leif is Al Snow in case you'd forgotten. Sunny is your special guest ring announcer for this one and good lord is she looking fine. Singh cuts a promo before the match that has to be one of the most obnoxious babyface promos I've ever heard, declaring himself the new messiah and encouraging all the kids to stay drug free. And he gets booed for it as you'd expect. The announcers tell up he's beloved in all of Asia, somehow I don't believe it. Leif attacks but gets pounded. Belly to belly suplex and Singh stomps away. Leif comes back with a leg lariat for 2. Singh screws up a rollup spot and gets 2 off it. Leif tries to set him up a superplex, but Singh screws that up too and doesn't get his feet in the right position. Singh knocks him off and finishes with a bulldog (which they called a Tiger Bomb) at 4:02.
Awful match with Singh blowing basic spots. Leif tried but Singh was just too awful to get anything watchable out of (and he never improved either). It's sad they didn't see anything in Al Snow until he was past his prime, they spent most of 1996 and 1997 jobbing him out to experiments like this guy. (DUD)
WWF TAG TEAM TITLES: The Headbangers vs Los Boriuas (Savio & Miguel)
Big pop for the Headbangers here. Boricuas attack but Headbangers take over and control early. Mosh avalaches Miguel and grabs an armbar. Double clothesline from the Headbangers and they double hip toss Savio. Thrasher gets a headlock but takes a cheapshot. Leg lariat sends him out and Miguel pounds away. Back in, Mosh gets drawn in allowing the Boricuas to double team. Thrasher comes back with a body press for 2, but Savio spin kicks him down. Miguel with a corkscrew senton and into a chinlock. Suplex for 2, but Mosh saves and again we get more double teaming. False tag and more double teaming follows. Savio comes off the top but misses. Hot tag is cut off, more double teaming follows and Mosh tries to come in again. Miguel goes back to the chinlock but gets sunset flipped for 2. Savio misses a charge and gets suplexed. Hot tag to Mosh and the crowd is on fire. He dumps Savio and gets a top rope rana on Miguel for 2. Powerslam for another 2. Miguel powerbombs Thrasher, but Mosh comes off the top with a modified Thesz Press and picks up the win at 13:33.
This was an excellent old school tag match with the heels using every dirty trick in the book. This is like a lesson in tag team heel psychology and the crowd seemed ready to riot by the time the hot tag came. Ending was a little anti-climactic, but that doesn't take anything away from it. This would have to have been the Headbangers best match ever too. (***1/2)
Flash Funk vs The Patriot
Patriot comes up with the US flag and that makes him a huge heel over in England. Back and forth mat wrestling early. They work a wristlock and Patriot overpowers him, crowd does not like The Patriot at all. Funk hits a dropkick but gets clothelined. Patriot takes over with a chinlock. Headbutt gets 2. Charge misses and Funk goes up and gets a cross body for 2. Funk hits a chinlock. JR calls is the styles divergent to explain why the match is no good. Patriot no sells some chops. Backdrop suplex for 2. Back the chinlock but Funk reverses into a weird looking surfboard, spin kick for 2. Patriot hits back with a powerslam for 2. Funk goes up for a splash 2. Funk goes back up and misses a moonsault. Patriot comes back with Uncle Slam and picks up the pin at 8:50
Crowd were hating on The Patriot as you might expect. This really wasn't much good, they didn't work well together and it showed. Patriot looked lost when the crowd were booing him also. Innoffensive but very dull match. Good finish, though. (*3/4)
The Godwinns vs The Legion of Doom
Henry and Animal start, they lock up and stall a bit and then slug it out. Animals hits a shoulderblock and Henry bails out. Hawk and Phineas tag in, Hawk pounds away but misses a charge and posts himself, Phineas takes over and locks in a chinlock. Henry in and misses and elbow and Hawk takes over and pounds away. Animal in and he goes for a chinlock, Henry gets up and whips him as Phineas takes a cheap shot and Henry dumps him. Phineas in and double teaming follows and Phineas hits a fujiwara armbar (wow, didn't expect that). He continues to work on the arm. Animal fights his way out and gets the hot tag to Hawk who cleans house. Neckbreaker on Phineas for 2. Henry tosses Animal and hits a slop drop on Hawk for 2. Godwinns work Animal over and Phineas goes back to armbar. Henry tags in and drops and elbow for 2. More double teaming follow but Hawk double clotheslines. Hot tag to Animal, dropkick, powerslam. Godwinns try to double team but Animal hits another double clothelines, Henry gets dumped and the doomsday device finishes at 10:45
Usual lazy LOD match that wasn't much good, Godwinns seemed to be working harder than usual, but the armbars were done to death and it felt like it went forever. It could've done with a few minutes shaved off it. (*1/2)
Ken Shamrock comes out for an interview with JR. He said he was diagnosed punctured lung and can't wrestle. Rockabilly comes down and tells Shamrock to complain that the worlds most dangerous man had some doctor write him a note because he has a stomach ache. So Shamrock takes him down and makes him tap in the ankle lock. Well that was pointless. Did they actually fly Billy all the way over there for this?
Owen Hart vs Vader
Huge face pop for Owen. Lock up to start and Vader overpowers him early and that's enough to turn him heel. Avalache and Owen bails. Back in Owen quickens the pace and hits a rana. Owen with a bodypress gets 2. Sharpshooter is blocked, Vader tries to suplex and Owen counters with a rollup for 2. Another Sharpshooter attempt but Vader gets the ropes. Crucifix is countered for 2. Vader goes to the second rope with a splash for 2. Vader sends Owen to the turnbuckles. Vader pummels away, hits a clothesline and then a chinlock. Avalanche in the corner and Vader locks in an armbar. He misses a charge and Owen tries for a slam, it doesn't work and Vader pounds him down. Vader knocks him down and puts him in a half Boston crab. Owen hammers his way out of it but Vader gets the better of it and splashes him for 2. Vader tries a powerbomb but Owen counters. Enzuigiri gets a huge pop and Owen finally gets the sharpshooter, but Vader gets the ropes. Owen tries to slam again and hits it this time for a huge pop. vader whiped into the corner but avalanches Owen out of it. He misses the Vaderbomb. Owen gets a missile dropkick for 2. Leg Lariat for 2. He goes up to the top again, but Vader catches him with a powerslam for the pin at 12:14.
Owen looked so at home in the babyface role, it's a pity he didn't do more often, although he was such an entertaining heel it's hard to complain. Vader looked like a badass bully, as he should and played to his strengths. The crowd were again, super hot for this and it made it even better. Excellent little match here, and probably the last really good match Vader had in the WWF. (***3/4)
WWF TITLE MATCH: Bret 'Hitman' Hart vs The Undertaker
The rematch from Summerslam 97. The crowd is hot but very divided here. Bret ducks and attacks from the bell but Taker takes over quickly, he whips him into the corner and chokelifts him, back in the corner he pounds away. As Taker chases off the ref Bret pulls the turnbuckle pad off but is cut off before he can do anything with it. Whip into the other corner and Bret gets hit feet up and takes over. Taker clotheslines him for 2. Bret clotheslines him back and hammers away, then dumps him outside. Taker lands on his feet and eats a baseball slide. Bret tries goes out but gets caught into a bearhug and rammed into the steel post. They brawl up the ramp , Taker hits a slam. Taker takes Bret back in the ring. He continues pounding away but Bret counters with a DDT. Legdrop and elbow drop keep and Taker sits up. Bret hammers away and chokes him but gets whipped chest first into the turnbuckle he exposed. Taker hits a heart punch in a good bit of psychology. He drops from elbows for 2. Into a surfboard and he turns it into the pinning combo for 2. Bret into the corner and desperately starts kicking the knee. Crowd heat is crazy here. Taker swats him down and hits a backbreaker for 2. Bret goes for the knee again but charge misses. Taker with a 2 and tries his own charge but misses and slams his knee into the top turnbuckle. Bret goes after the knee again and takes over completely working over Takers leg. He drags him to the ring-posts and locks in the ring-posts figure post figure four. Back in Bret hammers away at the knee and gets a figure four in the ring. After a few near falls Taker counters but Bret makes the ropes. Taker pounds him to come back but Bret ducks a bit boot and nails the bad knee. Bret goes back to the knee and starts working on the back to set up the sharpshooter. Some near falls off a legsweep and suplex. Second rope elbow is countered with a boot. They both clotheline each other and they're both down, Taker sits up and hits a leg drop for 2. Low legdrop is blocked into the sharpshooter. Taker powers out of it. Bret tries again but gets caught in a chokeslam attempt. Bret counters that by the kicking the knee. Taker pounds him and leg drop gets 2. Bret bails and grabs the ring bell but Taker boots him to knock it away. Taker grabs the bell but the ref grabs it and Bret chop blocks him. Taker shoves him over the top and Bret takes out a cameraman. Whip into the stairs and they head back in. Taker hammers away and whips him into the ring-post, he goes for the rope walk but Bret armdrags him down. Tombstone into a rollup for 2. Bret tries a tombstone but Taker reverses and they tumble to the ropes and Bret gets tied up in the ropes. Taker pounds away and the ref calls for the DQ at 28:36. Taker takes out the ref and some officials and gets booed out of the building.
This match was so much better than I remembered it being, great psychology and selling - anyone who thinks Taker didn't sell back then needs to look no further than this match. The finish was a crime for a match so good and in hindsight, Vince probably should've just switched it back to Taker here and onto Shawn at Badd Blood. The crowd were pretty divided, but into every minute of it. Bret's last great match (outside of the Owen tribute match with Benoit) and quite possibly Takers best match that didn't involve Shawn Michaels. (****3/4)
EUROPEAN TITLE MATCH: British Bulldog vs Shawn Michaels
The ladies are all over Shawn in his entrance, Bulldog gets a monster pop as you'd expect. He has his cancer stricken sister Tracy at ringside, who he dedicated the match to, so you'd think he's winning right? Shawn stalls to start, Bulldog wins a shoving match and Shawn throws a mini tantrum. Shawn walks the ropes during a lockup and gets overpowered again. Bulldog hits a bearhug and dumps him out and Shawn takes a walk. He jumps on the apron and rakes the eyes, he pounds away but Bulldog rams him into turnbuckle. Inverted suplex gets Shawn back in. Military press and Bulldog tries throwing him out but the ref stops him. He drops him in the ring and hits an abdominal stretch. Shawn counters and stomps away but Bulldog tosses him out. On the apron and Bulldog slingshots him back in and works on the arm. Shawn reverses but takes a slam. A couple of collisions and Shawn pokes the eye and goes for a rana but gets smoked with a powerbomb for 2. Back the arm, Shawn reverses but Bulldog hits a surfboard, his shoulders are down however and it gets 2. Bulldog isn't happy about it and yells at the ref sllowing Shawn to get a cheapshot in. Bulldog hits a suplex and Rick Rude comes down. He immediately gets involved reversing a rollup for 2. He trips Bulldog and Shawn tosses allowing Rude to ram him into the ringpost. Shawn nails him off the top and pounds away. Back in, Shawn drops an elbow and locks in a sleeper. Bulldog eventually counters with a suplex to get out of that for 2. Shawn whips him and hits a hiptoss and locks in a short arm scissors and Bulldog powers out of that. Criss cross collision and both guys are down. Now Hunter and Chyna are coming down. Bulldog with a big back body drop and a catapult for 2. Charge and Bulldog misses and gets posted. Shawn goes up and drops a pair of elbows, he warms up the band. Bulldog ducks up the sweet chin music and goes for a running powerslam but Rude grabs his ankle. Shawn gets dumped and they brawl on the outside. Bulldog goes for the running powerslam on the outside but he slips off the platform. Shawn hits a sweet chin music and goes back in and distracts the ref. Hunter, Chyna and Rude ram the barricade into Bulldogs leg and Hunter hits a pedigree. They toss him back in and Shawn pulls off Bulldogs knee brace. He tosses it at Bulldogs family and locks in a figure four, using the ropes and Hunters hands. Bulldog counters but Rude nails him and he eventually blacks out and the ref stops it at 22:54. The crowd are ready to riot over that one and Shawn grabs a mic dedicating the match the Hart family and telling Diana the win was all for her, pissing the crowd off even more as they fill the ring with garbage. They continue the figure four on Bulldog until the Harts come down and stop it.
This was the death of the European title and you could probably say the death of the Bulldogs career, undoubtedly his last good match and the last time he was relevant. I can see why this finish was done - WWF had another UK only PPV coming up in Bulldogs hometown in April 98 (which ended up being Mayhem in Manchester), a heartbreaking loss at the hands of four people would've made for a hot rematch to go back to. Given what happened later a lot of people believe this was entirely political and done to humiliate the Harts on the way out. Maybe there's something to that, don't the Harts look like idiots for not coming down to even the odds are Michaels had 3 people out there with him? Anyway, whatever the case, we never got the rematch and it's a pretty sad and unpleasant end to the show that doesn't leave a great taste in my mouth. Nonetheless the match was excellent in it's own right. (****1/4)
Holy shit this show is great. I remembered the last 3 matches and the opener but all of them were actually better than I remembered and I was surprised with how good the tag title match was too. The crowd are worth mentioning here, I feel like I said it too many times they were so great and really added to things, easily the 2nd best crowd of the year (with the best of course being at Canadian Stampede). Bret v Taker takes match of the night, and is an absolute classic that no one really talks about. Huge thumbs up here.