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WWF In Your House: Ground Zero '97
Review by Alex Carnevale

Vince and J.R. and Lawler are your hosts.

This is the first 3-hour In Your House and the last one with the set featuring an actual house.

I wish I could say that this was some kind of motherfucking huge show for the WWF that epitomizes everything the WWF could have or should have or would have been, but the truth is it's a tiny show on a tiny card with an awesome main event. I didn't watch the WWF at this time, and I just wanted to see some of the post Summerslam '97 stuff that led to Shawn's heel turn and all.

Buildup to the Goldust-Pillman rematch is aired. Oh man, the old Brian Pillman is one of my favorite wrestlers ever. The guy just had charisma, period, and it's a horrible, horrible thing that his career went the way it did. Goldust's character at this point had been homogenized to the point of absurdity as he featured Marlena as his wife. Pillman cut the best promo while wearing a dress I may have ever seen on the RAW after their match at Summerslam. Goldust was the kind of exaggerated character that a better wrestler and performer could have turned into a superstar. Dustin Runnels was not that wrestler. Pillman himself looks two steps from the grave here. Actually, he looks okay, it's clear his ankle is fucked and he shouldn't be doing the things he does on it. Still, this would be his last PPV match before his death.

1. Goldust vs. Brian Pillman This match is notable for a lot of chops. PILLMAN BLEEDS HARDWAY FROM HIS ELBOW! PILLMAN BLEEDS HARDWAY FROM HIS ELBOW! They invent the suplex on the steel rampway spot as Pillman takes 47 to 49 ballshots, to the extent where it's a point of psychology. Both men miss bulldogs and sell like they're dead. Tremendous. What's cool about Pillman is that he does the same offense against Goldust that he would against Liger. He also sells the same. Hu-age 'Pillman sucks!' chants ring out as if Sean Waltman was in the ring. Pillman's balls must be aching by now as he takes more crotchshots than the Nasty Boys in a Steiner Bros match. Pillman bumps around like a pinball even though he's clearly half-disabled. Pillman fights out of superplex but misses the dropkick. Curtain Call, but the ref is out. Pillman gets Marlena's purse and decks Goldust with it. 1, 2, 3, and Pillman wins his last WWF PPV match in 11:04. **3/4 Match picked up near the end and was an extremely decent opener, all thanks to Pillman, believe me.

Pillman wrangles Marlena away post-match and takes her away. Yippe-ki-yay motherhubber. Lawler shows that there was a brick in Marlena's purse. Slut.

2. Too Sexy Brian Christopher v. Scott Putski The angle for this is that the King denies that he is Brian's son, but everyone knows that he is. Putski is green, but the match is shockingly and convincingly good in its opening minutes. Too Sexy seems to have his working shoes on, hitting a forward Russian legsweep and a German suplex in short order. I know. Match ends as Brian tries a plancha and Putski blows out his knee because he's on steroids. Did I speak too soon? Anyway, this blew Brian Christopher and Scott Putski's careers in the WWF in one fell swoop. **1/4 Putski never reappeared in the World Wrestling Federation to my knowledge, although he would wrestle in WCW. Christopher would end up jobbing to TAKA to let him get the LHW title and went nowhere, then a brief run of popularity with Scott Taylor, then nowhere again.

The next match is from Russo's Gang Wars angle. This was an angle I was not privy to, nor did I want to be.

3. Crush vs. Savio Vega vs. Faarooq I know that y'all hate triple threat matches nowadays, but I don't mind them as long as the workers suck. All three of these guys, do, in fact, suck. When you have three good workers, it doesn't make any sense to put them in a match that will disguise their individual weaknesses. Paul Heyman started doing the matches to do exactly that. He had a lot of bad, out of shape workers who liked to work spot-to-spot and so it made sense. In the WWF today, with the kind of workers they have, it makes no sense.

Crush comes out UT-style with a motorcycle. Believe me, anyone who comes out on that thing is still over. Big brawl to start. Who'd have thunk it? J.R. - "Almost like a three man battle royal." You know, it is almost like that. CRUSH BREAKS OUT THE DOUBLE NOGGIN' KNOCKER! THIS CROWD IS HOT! The match itself is bordering on blowing hard all the time. JR badmouths the need for Crush to use a resthold in this match. Faarooq comes off the top to break up the submission hold. Crush gives Rooq the second electric chair-plex of the night. The phasing in of restholds in a triple threat match is definitely unique. Savio Vega and Rooq blow a swinging neckbreaker. It can only get better

The guys seem to have no idea what to do in there past the seven minute mark. Crush and Faarooq settle on teaming up and the double-suplex and double-pinfall don't sit well with the ref. Match is being actively booed at this point. Vega takes eight to ten bumps to the outside from being tossed. Good god, let the match end. Spike piledriver on Faarooq and Crush turns on Vega afterwards and goes for the heart punch. But Savio Vega hits the spinning heel kick for the fluke pinfall in 11:43. Started out bad, got real worse quick. * Match blew in sixty different directions.

4. El Torito vs. Max Mini Why they give PPV time to the midgets when you have one match with half the roster on it is beyond me. JR puts over Max Mini. Man, he can get anything over. Match is relatively awesome as midget matches go, which Mini breaking out all sorts of ranas and nailing a Space Flying Tiger Drop on El Torito. Hearing Vince put this over is kind of scary. Match degenerates into a comedy match, with Mini biting Jack Doane on the ass, running away to ringside and stealing the King's crown. Crowd chants "Jerry's Kid." Awesome. El Torito had more charisma than a good 99% percent of the roster and is drawing more heat as a result. Rana for two, but Torito jacknifes him for two. Sunset flip for two. Abdominal stretch roll-up for two. Armdrags abound, and then Mini hits a Asai moonsault to the outside. Flying rana, and a sunset flip finishes it for Max Mini at 9:20. I don't feel comfortable rating this, but it was pointless. Midgets would get one more shot at Badd Blood in a tag match but it went big fat nowhere after that.

5. Stone Cold relinquishes his title to Sgt Slaughter They show the Stone Cold-Owen blown piledriver spot too many times for comfort. Commissioner Slaughter makes Austin forfeit the tag team championship tonight, I guess. Slaughter is in the ring with J.R. to explain. Slaughter- "Being the commissioner has not been an easy task." JR- "YOU SAID IT!" Dude Love comes out. Hu-age pop for that. The Dude turned into the Dude at Summerslam '97 after the cage match with 3H. Foley calls JR Jimmy, among other things. Dude gives up the belt. For people that say Austin's pop was only due to the glass breaking, I think they forget that at the beginning of his monstrous popularity his music didn't even have that. Too over to not be the WWF champion.

JR- "Uh, Stone Cold..." SCSA- "I want you to blow it out your ass." JR- "Ookay." SCSA (to Slaughter after dropping his belt on the ground)- "I want you to bend down and get the belt." Slaughter- "What?" SCSA- "You make me sick, so sick I want to throw up all over you." He calls JR a fatass and the fans pop like mad. He stunners JR to a huge pop. How times have changed. How times have changed. After all of this, the crowd chants, "SLAUGHTER SUCKS." Oh my god. Vince must have been smelling money at this point.

Owen and Bulldog are backstage. Owen- "Jim Ross and I have broke bread together." Anyone who thinks Owen was overrated should eat their own shit. I loved that guy. He even calls Austin "son." Bulldog shows that he's as stupid as Dynamite Kid makes him out to be in his book. Vince cuts a promo on Stone Cold Steve Austin from ringside that foreshadows all that was to come. It would take Survivor Series to set up the Austin-McMahon feud in one fell swoop. Headbangers come out. Shit, they aren't even advertised on the box. Bloomp, this will likely suck to all hell.

6. Headbangers vs. Legion of Doom vs. Godwinns vs. New Foundation Big fat loads of nothing happen in this match. Legion of Doom is first to be eliminated (by DQ). Interesting booking decision. God forbid they should put someone over. Crowd interest goes pfff after that one. Headbangers pin the Godwinns, and they face off against the Bulldogs. The match after this point is slightly better but still useless. Bulldog and Thrasher go to a double KO, hot tag blah blah blah. Bulldog blows a spot, and Owen sets up for the Sharpshooter but Austin hits the Stunner to a hu-age pop and the Headbangers win the tag team titles in 17:23. Oompa-loompa-doompa-dee-do, this match sucked. 3/4* Match was too long. I chose that rating because it's far more insulting than DUD. Suffice to say it wasn't any good.

Headbangers never really got a shot during their tag title run and would lose the titles shortly thereafter, never to regain them.

7. Bret Hart vs. The Patriot The best opponent they could find for Bret was DEL WILKES!?!?! Good god. I would have knocked out Vince's teeth just for that. Why didn't they have Foley wrestle Bret...have Mick and Bret ever had a match? If you know of it, let me know. That would have made for a better match, and a history making moment. Anyway, hindsight is 20/10, or something like that. Sad thought: Vince pushed Del Wilkes more than Benoit and Jericho during their push. What a fuckin' blow to the face for Bret to be second from the top with the WWF Title. Oh shit, Patriot has Kurt Angle's music. I forgot about that. The match itself? Hart starts with some stalling to get the crowd riled up, because they don't seem to be too into the Patriot. Wilkes puts on an armbar roughly on par with mine. Patriot seems really sensitive to pissing Bret off here. He's working looser than Sunny!!! Boo-ya! Excuse me. Did I mention that the Patriot is clearly on steroids? Bret starts going after the leg like a sadist. You can see where this is going but it's still magnificent. He works the boy's quads over like a young Dean Malenko. Patriot tries to comes back, but Bret works over the leg again with an eye rake that Wilkes sells like a gunshot.

Bret whips out the figure-four in the ringpost spot in all its glorious brutality. How come no one uses that anymore? Bret jaws with Vince at ringside. Then Bret starts going for the back, murdering it with headbutts. Russian legsweep for two. Davey Boy comes down to ringside. Backbreaker sets up a vertical suplex, reversal! He kicks at Bret with the injured knee. Is Jericho under the mask? Sunset flip for two. DDT for two. Second rope whatever doesn't really work out for Bret. Clothesline! He tries another but Davey Boy pulls him out. Roll-up off the ropes for two, no. Patriot rolls Bret up, 1, 2, no. Uncle Slam, and Davey Boy pulls Bret out. Vader comes down to ringside and brutalizes Bret and the ref still won't call for a DQ. I don't get it.

Big boot, and Wilkes goes for the Patriot Missile off the top-it's a flying shoulderblock for two. Atomic drop- then into a back suplex for two. Bret gives Patriot the ole stungun. Bulldog for two, taken like Kane takes the Diamond Cutter. Second-rope elbow for two. Bret goes for Uncle Slam, but it's reversed. UNCLE SLAM! REF IS FUCKIN' OUT! HE COUNTS...1, 2, Bret's foot is on the rope! Bret small packages for two, reversed for two. Bret takes an AWESOME Bret Hart bump (no coincidence) into the turnbuckle and goes for the Sharpshooter, putting it on Bret. Bret reverses it...Wilkes fights it...he doesn't tap out but the ref rings the bell at 19:15. ***1/4 Sweet match, hurt by the fact that no matter how well Bret bumped for him, Patriot wasn't going to win the title. It was also a bit disjointed and by-the-numbers and also had a shitty finish, but good by any stretch of the imagination. This match set up Bret & Davey Boy v. Vader & The Patriot at In Your House: Badd Blood, a match that further jobbed Bret for no reason. They really fucked up his last title reign as bad as his first.

Finally, to go through it quickly

Shawn hit Undertaker with a chair at Summerslam to allow Bret Hart to win his 5th WWF title. He turned heel on the Undertaker and drew heat in globs. Shawn basically went psycho on The Undertaker, busted him open and ran to set this match up after the Summerslam fiasco. Vince hypes this as the first ever match between Michaels and The Undertaker.

8. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker Shawn runs behind the official to start, so Taker decks the ref. Shawn goes to the outside. Shawn even checks on the ref, and decides to retreat to the lockerroom. Slaughter stops him and orders him into the ring. Taker takes a Hebner and throws him onto Shawn on the outside! Whoa. Shawn is on the steps of the set house and he rings the doorbell. Hilarious. Military press onto the steel rampway! Holy fucking shit. Taker throws him into the bushes and continues the savagery. Shawn sells ONE PUNCH from the entranceway all the way to the ring. Amazing.

Shawn stumbles around and goes into the steps. Shawn gets choked out by telephone cord and tries to ring the bell himself! Shawn goes into the rail dead-on balls accurate. Taker punches Shawn onto the Spanish announce table. He punches him again and Shawn goes into the railing. Best Sell-Job Ever. Shawn begs off, but Taker smashes Shawn into the turnbuckle and takes a clothesline and an elbowdrop. Cover, no ref. Hey Taker, you threw him out of the ring, remember? It's been ALL Taker so far. Shawn takes the Shawn bump out of the ring at full speed and another Hebner comes out. Michaels pleads with Hebner- "Disqualify me!" Shawn gets in the ring when Taker's back is turned and chop-blocks the leg. They ring the bell and Shawn's offense has no effect on The Undertaker. Taker no-sells everything and tosses Shawn.

Shawn breaks out the sunset flip but Taker picks him up and Miracle Ecstasy Bombs him. European uppercut, and Shawn bumps his way onto the top turnbuckle. Taker crotches Shawn on the top and takes a clothesline. What a beating. 1, 2, no. They talk to each other as Taker works the arm. Shawn sells it like he's dying. Taker tries to walk the ropes and Michaels crotches him. He kicks Taker outside of the ring, and follows with a baseball slide. Plancha, but Taker catches him and takes him into the ringpost. Again. Taker punches Shawn in the balls Keith Hackney-style. Taker works over the back for no real reason. Huge back-body drop for two. Michaels tries to leave but shows his ass instead. Taker pulled down his pants. Taker focuses on the arm. Shawn hits a swinging neckbreaker out of nowhere. UT sits up. Shawn rolls out and gets a chair. Big boot stops the chairshot. Taker has the chair, but Hebner stops him from using it. Shawn hits a dropkick and a running clothesline. Flying elbow, but Shawn just goes up for another one. He hits that one two, and rouses the ref. 1, 2, and UT pushes Shawn off into another ref bump. Rick Rude comes down to ringside and tosses Shawn the knux. He decks Taker. Another ref comes-1, 2, no! Hunter and Chyna come out and deck the third ref.

Shawn pounds on the Undertaker, and tosses him to HHH. Chyna and HHH toss Taker knee-first into the steps. Hebner wakes up, and Shawn tosses *him* into the top turnbuckle. Shawn and Taker talk to each other as Shawn works over Taker's neck to set up the superkick, I guess. A slugfest won by Taker, but Shawn clotheslines him out of the ring onto his feet. HHH and Chyna swarm, but Taker grabs HHH. Shawn comes off the second rope with a flying axehandle. HHH is all "Suck it Taker" and Shawn is bleeding hardway and Taker rolls into the ring and Taker tries the tombstone and Shawn tries Sweet Chin music, no, and Taker goes for the chokeslam, no, and Taker takes the knux out of Shawn's tights. Oof, Shawn is down. He crawls over, but the ref-here we go. 1, 2, ooha-Shawn kicks out. Taker chokeslams Hebner straight to hell. Taker flying clothesline! Tim White comes in and throws the whole thing out in 21:58 as Taker chokeslams HHH from the ring apron ONTO Shawn inside the ring. Shawn hits Sweet Chin Music and ties Taker up in the ropes. They bring the chair in and set Taker up for the chairshot. But he kicks the chair away and cleans house. Shawn is up for the tombstone but HHH stops it. Patterson and Brisco come out to break it up. Taker gives HHH a tombstone and checks on him, cause it was uglier than Judgment Day '00. The whole roster comes out to break up the fight, but runs away and does the supertope that he broke out on Smackdown. Incredible. DX runs away and Taker is left in the ring. ****3/4 The greatest match that no one's ever seen. This match isn't even on a lot of the WWF's top twenty matches list-and it should be. It got overshadowed by its big brother, but the whole Shawn v. Undertaker series had a lot of influence on where WWF main events would go. By comparison, this match is better than Austin v. Dude Love, any Ladder match, the '92 Rumble, etc. Take your pick, but this match does not get enough credit.

THE AFTERMATH: This show was better than WWF King of the Ring 2001 (which people certainly seemed to think was good-as I remember Scaia told me I was stupid if I called it a thumbs down), and showed that the WWF was able to have a decent card with a limited roster. The show is really fun-not quite as fun as Summerslam '97 which I also recommend, but just extremely relaxing. The main event is superb, nothing is over-Russoed just yet, and the main guys don't feel overexposed like the main event guys are now.

I recommend this show. But don't think of this as the good old days. Wrestling in 199-fuckin'-7 is nothing like it is now. There was only RAW. There was only so much ass-bustin' in the ring to do. The business wasn't near as big as it was now. So it's not the same. It's better now. But just as because something is old don't make it better, something older and more different isn't that much worse. So, this was the template. Things are still being stolen from Shawn and Bret today. They were never able to shine at the WWF's peak, but there would be no peak without them.

Oh, and of all the active performers in Ground Zero, only two are still wrestling:

The Undertaker and Faarooq. Kind of sad. And everyone in that awful tag match is completely gone from wrestling.

That is all.

Alex Carnevale
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