by Solie's UK correspondent Tom Mayne
The first UK only pay-per-view was held September 20, 1997 and took place at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, and was entitled "One Nite Only". What was fascinating about this whole card was that it happened in the middle of the Hart family's anti-America storyline - undoubtedly the English fans would be on Davey Boy Smith's side, despite his American heel status, but how would they react to the Harts? The original line up of Bret Hart v Austin, Undertaker v Ahmed Johnson, Owen Hart v HHH was changed due to the neck injury Austin suffered at Summerslam 97. Ken Shamrock was also injured at this time. The set wasn't overly impressive, and for some reason two beefeaters were stationed in the aisle. In Birmingham? - that's like having a model of the Statue of Liberty in a Texas arena...
After a half-hour 'Free for All' (the only UK PPV so far to have one), Mick Foley as Dude Love started things off with Helmsley (at this time his entrance music was 'Ode to Joy') in an entertaining match, which contained some comedy, with HHH having a Flairesque pushing match with the referee. In the end, Chyna draped Helmsley's foot over the rope after a Foley double arm DDT. The distraction was enough for Helmsley to get the Pedigree and the win.
Next came a disappointing 'filler' match as Tiger Ali Singh, a face at this time, boasting to be drug-free and "the true messiah" (he got booed), beat Leif Cassidy (Al Snow) with a top rope bulldog in under five minutes. The only interest stemmed from the fact that at this time Leif was going crazy after each loss - his reappearance in ECW as Al Snow, and then in the WWF as part of the Job Squad, kept this storyline going.
After a textbook encounter between the then tag-champs, The Headbangers, and Los Boriquas, which Mosh won with a top rope vertical splash on Miguel, it was time for The Patriot v Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio). A mismatch on paper seeing that The Patriot had just featured in a title match against Bret Hart 13 days before at IYH XVII: Ground Zero, but the interest again stemmed from the crowd reaction. I remember that Jim Duggan easily used to get a "USA" chant even out of a British crowd whenever he wrestled in this country but because nationalism played an important part in crowd response at this time, The Patriot was heavily booed. Wilkes looked totally bemused by the fan response, but got the win after raising his knees to a Flash Funk moonsault and catching him with his 'Uncle Slam'.
LOD then beat the Godwinns with their special move on Phineas in one of their usual mediocre encounters.
Bret Hart conducted a live interview on the video screens, again intriguing because of fan reaction and unscripted comments by both Bret and Vince McMahon who was conducting commentary at ringside with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. Bret said his match was just like wrestling at home to which Vince replied, 'I don't think you're hearing what we're hearing. I don't think they like you here.' Bret was caught off-guard somewhat by this (the fans were actually both booing and cheering him), and mentioned that we only get to see American TV, but finished by saying that it did matter to him what the fans in the UK thought of him. In the audience some Canadian flags could be seen, though there were the occasional anti-Canadian, as well as anti-American signs too.
Despite having been seen defending Old Glory's honour with The Patriot in America in the weeks leading up to this event, Vader was given a positive response by the crowd, though Owen Hart, set up as a face in the UK, got a bigger pop, though with a few boos mixed in. (On a side note, the picture of Owen which was used as the opening frame of his Raw tribute video, with him holding the Canadian flag, giving a thumbs up to the fans comes from this event. It's a good picture - as well as Owen's Canadian flag, in the background can be seen the American flag and the Union Jack). Before the action started, Owen pointed the finger at Vince for his pointed comments directed earlier to his brother. The match itself was a littleman-bigman storytelling encounter which was done extremely well. Owen executed a hurricurana on Vader, before the bigger man overwhelmed him with power. Owen took a beating, somehow managing to kick out of a second buckle splash - with his leg hooked. Owen then came back and managed to slam Vader and even get the sharpshooter on him, but Vader made it to the ropes. The end came when a Hart cross body block was changed into a Vader powerslam for the 1-2-3.
Next was the WWF Title match, Bret v The Undertaker, the best match of the evening despite the ending, surpassing their match at Summerslam 97, in fact beating anything that Austin has ever done with 'The Phenom'. The match played to great heat, both men receiving boos when they were ahead, though The Undertaker probably just scraped it in terms of creating a positive response. Hart had said in his interview that he was going to do whatever it takes and did use various heel manoeuvres such as exposing the steel turnbuckle, though this backfired when he was whipped into it. Both men at one point attempted to use the ring bell. Hart employed his usual leg attack strategy, using a ring-post figure four, and then a normal figure four. 'The Phenom' could hardly stand. UT made a grave mistake when dropping a between-the-legs leg drop on The Hitman - Bret turned it into the Sharpshooter, reminiscent of his first IC title win against Curt Hennig back in 91. But somehow the Undertaker powered out with his legs, throwing Bret forward. The end came when Bret fell back when attempting a slam. The Undertaker landed on his legs and set up for the Tombstone. But Bret grabbed the ropes and when UT let go, Bret's head was trapped between the top two strands. UT, however, refused to back off, laying into the Hitman with punches to the head. The referee called for the bell and the disqualification victory at 28:34. Later UT took his frustration out on the referee and Gerald Brisco.
So it was time for Michaels v Smith for the latter's European title. It was set up perfectly; Smith dedicated this match to his sister who was suffering from cancer (and I believe she has since passed on from the disease) and many of his relatives, including his wife, Diana Hart, and his mother were there also. I just presumed a Smith victory - in the early nineties the final match was an almost guaranteed face win; usually if the WWF title match was earlier in the card it meant a heel win or DQ finish for that match, the pay off being the night's final match. But this was 1997. Apart from the teenage girls who cheered for Shawn, the crowd was strongly behind Davey Boy, as predicted. Michaels was in a particularly buoyant mood this evening, but fell foul of Smith's usual series of power moves, and found his crucifix and hurricurana both countered. Rick Rude was Michaels' 'insurance man' at that time, and strolled leisurely down to ringside. Immediately he made his presence felt - pushing the Bulldog back, reversing a roll-up, and later tripping him. As Michaels held on with a short arm scissors, Smith picked him up with one arm before slamming him, a move he did in their first IC match back in 92. Then HHH and Chyna also came to ringside. The turning point came when Smith lifted Michaels up for the running powerslam outside the ring, only for his leg to slip off the side of the raised platform between the guard railing and the main stage. As Rude distracted the referee, Michaels hit Smith with the superkick and Helmsley got in his special move on the arena floor. Back in the ring, Michaels took off Smith's leg brace and threw it at Diana Hart. He applied the figure four. HHH and Chyna gave Michaels the extra leverage, while Rude punched Smith as he tried to reverse the hold. After 3 minutes Earl Hebner called for the bell for the shocking ending. Michaels had won the title via stoppage in 22:53 (and completed the 'grand slam' of having held all 4 then active titles). The ring filled up with litter and soft drink cups.
After the match Michaels again applied the figure four which prompted Diana to come to her husband's aid. Chyna held her back. Bret and Owen (rather late) made the save. So perhaps the marks weren't happy with the lack of face wins on the card, but with the dramatic title matches I thought it was a great event. Sure, some matches were replays of earlier PPV battles, but they contained different action and endings. Singh v Cassidy was the only match which perhaps wouldn't appear on an American PPV card. Perhaps next time the WWF could match this effort or even go one better.
They didn't... (to be continued...)
Tom Mayne is a 20 year old student from Manchester, England, who is studying Russian and Czech at Oxford university. He became interested in wrestling when he was about 12, taping WCW's weekly show which was used then as a late-night filler on England's ITV channel.
Thunder is pre-recorded this week. We go straight to an extended Hogan/Nash promo video - about ten minutes worth. Cut to another commercial.
Ernest Miller (w/Sonny Oono) vs. my appetite - I liked what Rick at Online Onslaught had to say this week about types of heels. He said the best kind are the ones you hate so you want to see them get beat. The worst are the kind you hate so you want to turn off the TV when they come on. Miller belongs in the latter catagory... The Cat comes on and says he's "about to shake up the world" then predicts that he's going to beat "this next chump" in less then 5 minutes. Barry Darsow is this week's victim. I guess it's pretty hard to kill Darsow's heat - since he doesn't have any... Darsow does have a vast experience advantage over the Cat and shows it in the early going. He grabs a foot on the upswing and uses a back trip to put Miller down then stays one step ahead until the Cat gets an uppercut in during an unprotected moment. So much for Darsow's opening offense. Miller is relentless as the clock ticks toward the 2 1/2 minute mark. Then Darsow maks a comeback for a moment or two before Oono puts the red shoe where Miller can get it. The rest is history. Four minutes, thirty-three seconds with a spinning round kick. Cut to the Goldberg/MegaDeth video then to commercial.
More video - the Macho Man's confrontation with Medusa and Mona on Nitro including the appearance of Dennis Rodman and Gorgeous George's kidnapping. Cut to commercial.
Eric "I don't have my pop around to push me" Watts vs. Buff "I don't need my mom to win" Bagwell - Buff's career, with a recent pinfall over Ric Flair, is definitely on the upswing. Currently he is trying to lend Ernest Miller some of his heat. The two competitors start out with a little pose down - no contest there - then get into the match...unfortunately for Watts, no contest there either. He gets some good offense in the early going by shoving his superior weight around. Bagwell does his best to make his opponent look good. For his part, Watt's is all clumsy moves and forced bravado. He is still in control as we cut to commercial.
Watt's is holding onto a reverse chinlock and looking like the cat who swallowed the canary as we return. Bagwell escapes but Watt's shoots a knee to the mid-section to recapture his opponent. Back to the chinlock. Bagwell keeps escaping but not having enough left to follow up until Watt's drops his head and gets kicked in the chest. Bagwell's initiative is short lived as Watt's comes back one last time then Bagwell thwarts a splash by raising his knees. Moments later he gets the Blockbuster and the pin just before Ernest Miller runs in and accidently hits Watt's. Buff retreats from the ring and catches Oono in a clothesline as he goes up the aisle. Cut to commercial.
Goldberg vs. Curt Hennig - this is a replay of the match from Nitro (see Issue #488)
Booker T vs. Bam Bam Bigalow (w/the Triad) - this could be a great match if the others will just stay out of it. Booker starts out fast but gets short circuited by Bigalow's bulk. Bigalow moves as well as any big man in the business and has a vast store of experience to back up his size. In this case, of course, he also has his companions to lend a hand. It doesn't look good for the Booker man. Bigalow misses a rush to the corner and then gets pancaked just as we head into a commercial.
The Triad swarm into the ring just as we return and Booker is in trouble for a moment. The Stevie Ray shows up with two chairs and tosses one to Booker as the Tag Champs bail. Stevie challenges the Triad to face him and Booker three on two. He turns to Booker and asks for his hand. Booker answers that he wants Stevie to doff the nWo shirt first. Stevie complies and Booker agrees. The two brothers are reunited. Interestingly, that last little scene was a replay of an identical one that took place after the cameras turned away a couple of weeks ago on Nitro. Cut to commercial.
More recap video - Hogan/Sting/Nash/Steiner/Sid/Goldberg... yatta, yatta... I noticed something just now that didn't occur to me Monday. When Hogan was asked if he could be trusted not to screw Sting, he said, "I promise not to stab you in the back tonight..." - hmmmmmm... Cut to commercial.
Tonight's main event is a 6 man tag team match.
Dean Malenko/Saturn/Chris Benoit vs. Ric Flair (w/Aysha)/Diamond Dallas Page/Kanyon (w/Bam Bam Bigalow) - you can tell this progam is on tape because Flair is currently in Japan. I expect to see Shane Douglas show up to even the odds during the melee that will surely end this match. All six guys start the fight in a donnybrook which sees the bad guys bail almost immediately. It settles out to Kanyon vs. Saturn. Saturn wins the first eschange thn tags in Benoit who also makes mincemeat out of Kanyon. DDP has to save him from being pinned within moments. Malenko comes in and Kanyon is being isolated. Malenko hauls him into his own corner and Kanyon is creamed by all three of the good guys for a moment. He finally gets a tag to Flair and now it's the Nature Boy who is getting his head handed to him. Kanyon comes back in illegally to turn the tables as we cut to commercial.
Page is in with Saturn and seems to be in charge as we return. Kanyon comes in and it is confirmed that the worm has turned during the break. Page is back in in a flash and tries for a pinfall without success. Saturn struggles to get to his corner but Flair runs in to distract the referee and spoils that gambit. Saturn is being isolated now until Page goes for a splash in the corner and misses. Saturn and Page tag out simultaneously bringing in Benoit and Flair. Benoit is a house afire as all three of the other team try him on for size. A melee breaks out during which Bam Bam drops a headbutt on Benoit giving Kanyon the pinfall. The bad guys split and Shane Douglas shows up after the action is over... Douglas, as the only one not out of breath., makes a speech saying his plane was delayed (he seems to hint that Flair and company ha something to do with that).
Eh..? I'll see you on Monday. Until then...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions