WWF: King of the Ring
June 8, 1997
The current WWF champs were as follows:
World Champion: The Undertaker (3/23/1997)
Intercontinental Champion: Owen Hart (4/28/1997)
European Champion: Davey Boy Smith (3/3/1997)
World Tag Team Champions: Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin (5/26/1997)
Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jim Ross.
- Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Ahmed Johnson – KOTR Semifinals
Should I even explain how HHH is still in this tournament? Alright, I will. He loses via DQ to Ahmed with the excuse that he didn’t know he could be eliminated that way. Then he gets put in another match with Crush and beats him to get to this match. It’s all rather ridiculous. Ahmed stares at HHH from the corner as though Hunter just went Old South on him. He totally overpowers Helmsley to start and puts him on the floor with a press slam. Back inside, he misses the elbow drop off the ropes and he just CANNOT recover. HHH dumps him out for a ride into the steps. Double sledge back inside gets two. Crowd gets behind Ahmed as he rallies back with his version of an Ax Kick, sucka. Spinebuster and the PEARL RIVER PLUNGE, but Chyna appears on the apron. Ahmed pushes HHH aside and blasts him with a High Knee to set up the PEDIGREE for the win. (7:42) HHH and Chyna hightails it backstage as Ahmed gives chase. Nothing special. Moving on! ¾*
- Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler – KOTR Semifinals
As they try to humanize Mankind from being a bizarre freak to a likeable weirdo, Vince tries to convince us that he’s getting a big pop for his entrance. At least for tonight, reality says otherwise. There is plenty of King Mankind signs though. Mankind gets on the stick and tells us that even though Uncle Paul is busy with the Undertaker and not out there to support him, he’s not going to let that stop him from becoming the King of the Ring. He engages the crowd asking them what kind of a king would they like Mrs. Foley’s baby boy to be. In the back, Todd Pettingell tries to interview Jerry Lawler by bringing up his embarrassing moments from last week’s Raw, to which Lawler responds by taking the microphone and walking down the aisle berating the people of Providence and of course Mankind. HE GOT JOKES! Mankind finally has enough and beats Lawler all around the ring. No more of those mild “Burger King” chants, only “Lawler sucks”. That’s when you KNOW your audience is growing up. Lawler pulls something out of his trunks to punch Mankind and send him reeling. Punching and biting follows to pile on the sympathy for Mankind. He takes a bump into the steps and then the obligatory backwards bump where he bounces his head off the guardrail in disgusting fashion. PILEDRIVER on the floor doesn’t give Lawler the countout victory he was hoping for. Back inside, Lawler gives him a PILEDRIVER for 1-2-NO! Back into the tights for more buffoonery. Mankind fires back anyway with the running knee in the corner. It gets a little messy though as Lawler hits the FLYING FIST DROP. Lawler calls for the finish as he goes for another PILEDRIVER, but Mankind backdrops him over. Lawler wants a sunset flip, but Mankind blocks as he has Lawler primed and ready in position for the MANDIBLE CLAW for the win. (10:22) Whoever thought Lawler could fill 7-8 minutes of what he does was asking too much. This ain’t Memphis. *
In one of the more classic moments from this show, Brian Pillman talks to Todd Pettingell backstage basically to hype the next night’s Raw is War when he faces Steve Austin, who he can’t wait to see get beat up real bad by Shawn Michaels. Next thing he knows, Steve Austin is walking by and beats Pillman into the bathroom for a swirly. Lucky for us and unfortunate for anyone who uses that toilet, there’s a convenient video camera right over top of them so we don’t miss a second of it! Check out Austin at the end trying not to laugh.
- Goldust (w/Marlena) vs. Crush (w/the NOD)
Anyone know why this match is happening? Not even JR can give us some vague C-show altercation of any kind. Oh well. It could just be another chance to humanize Goldust just like they had been doing with Mankind. Big brawl to start. Goldust tries to get the win early, but Crush whips him hard into the corner to start working the back. It’s as exciting as it sounds as JR makes Dusty Rhodes references all throughout this thing. Goldust looks to make a comeback, but Crush shuts him off with a press slam into a gutbuster. Here he comes again as he channels the spirit of Dusty. Meanwhile, D’Lo Brown and Clarence Mason surround Marlena. Goldust hits Crush with the BULLDOG and goes to help her when Crush nails him from behind. Back in, Goldust hits a DDT anyway and gets the 1-2-3. (9:57) Just real boring stuff. Three matches down and NOTHING over a single snowflake. ½*
Backstage, Dok Hendrix talks to LOD and Psycho Sid. Can wrestling’s longest running tag team today trust the man who rules the world? They all hate the Hart Foundation, so there should be no problems. Elsewhere, Owen tells us that it takes more than wearing makeup to beat the Hart Foundation. Well, I would sure hope so.
- Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith & Jim Neidhart vs. The Legion of Doom & Psycho Sid
LOD and Sid get separate entrances. Seems like unity to me! Animal and Owen start the match. It’s exactly what everybody wants to see: Owen get thrown around. Sid wants a test of strength and just when Owen looks like he’s willing to go for it, he tags in Davey Boy. Of course, Davey Boy kicks him instead. Hourglass Suplex, but Sid NO-SELLS and clotheslines everybody. Now we get Hawk and Neidhart. Flying clothesline gets two. Neidhart gets stuck on the wrong side of town while Owen and Bulldog come inside the ring. Eventually, there’s a blind tag to Owen and he nails Animal with the Spinning Heel Kick, who you HAD to know would be your face in peril for this one. Neidhart runs Animal into the steps and hits him with a chair across the back. They cut the ring in half and do a little bit of cheating. While Animal has Owen on his back with a sleeper hold applied, he stands up and tags Hawk. He misses a flying clothesline on Bulldog, but ducks a double clothesline and returns the favor on Owen and Neidhart. There’s the REAL hot tag to Sid. He cleans house on Owen and looks to finish off Bulldog with the POWERBOMB, but Owen flies in to break it up with a flying sunset flip for the odd 1-2-3. (13:38) Dang, Sid is 0-3 on PPV in 1997. No wonder he got the heck out of there. Sadly, this is so far the best match of the night. *½
- Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Mankind – KOTR Finals
This would be considered the beginning of their feud that lasted through 2000. Being ever the “student of the game”, HHH goes right for Mankind’s head to start working off what Lawler did earlier in the night. Mankind will have none of that and punches Helmsley all around. Once they make it to the corner, Hunter drops him face-first on the top turnbuckle and goes back to do more damage to the head. Just as Chyna cheats with a forearm smash, Mankind’s trick knee acts up all into HHH’s balls. He tries the Cactus Clothesline, but Hunter ducks and Mankind gets his head caught in the ropes. VINTAGE FOLEY! Once Mankind gets loose, HHH bounces his head off the steps. After a pair of Harley Race knee drops inside, Mankind catches Hunter for a hotshot. Mankind gives him one more, but only gets two. Running knee in the corner is followed up with a Ray Stevens bump in the corner. Since he’s caught in the tree of woe anyway, Mankind runs over and drops an elbow on his face. To the floor, Helmsley takes a backdrop on the concrete to set him up for the Cactus Elbow. Back inside, Mankind hits the DOUBLE-ARM DDT which looks to finish, but Chyna appears on the apron. Delayed count gets two. Out of nowhere, Helmsley tries the PEDIGREE, but Mankind backdrops him over and applies the MANDIBLE CLAW just like he did to Lawler. Unfortunately for Lawler, he didn’t have a muscly-armed lady friend there to pull Mankind out through the ropes to break the hold like Hunter does here. Back in, Helmsley yanks off the mask and heads up top. He gets caught in the MANDIBLE CLAW on the top turnbuckle, but goes to the eyes. However, Mankind comes back with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline for two. He finally gets the Cactus Clothesline and then attempts to dive onto Hunter from the apron, but Chyna pulls HHH out of the way and Mankind takes a nasty bump on the guardrail as you can imagine. While the ref gets onto Chyna about her interference, Helmsley whips Mankind into the steps and sets up the announce table to PEDIGREE MANKIND THROUGH THE TABLE! Instead of the table safely imploding like it does now, it looked much more legitimately painful to go through. Mankind manages somehow to make it back onto the ring apron to avoid being counted out when Chyna grabs the KOTR scepter and breaks it over Mankind’s back. Even then, Mankind stands up on the apron and takes a High Knee back first onto a photographer. HHH slides Mankind back inside and pins him with one hand for 1-2-NO! Hunter says F THIS NOISE and drops him with the PEDIGREE to pick up the win to become the 1997 KOTR. (19:27) Have to give them credit for turning what’s usually looked upon as a positive thing by fans seeing Mankind take those incredible life-shortening and brain cell-killing bumps to actually getting sympathy for doing them. HHH was just the opponent here, but Mankind left looking great at least in the eyes of the fans. I’m sure he was gonna need more than just a few ice packs to get over this night. These two would continue to improve their match chemistry as the year progresses. **½
Pettingell awards HHH with the KOTR cape and crown. He would have gave him the scepter too, but it’s no longer with us. Once HHH and Chyna leave, Mankind walks up the aisle on his hands and knees.
- Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin
Before the match, the Hart Foundation head down. Bret Hart issues a challenge to any five wrestlers who want to show up to the Canadian Stampede PPV on July 6 to take on his Hart Foundation. Bret was apparently supposed to do color commentary, but they don’t have three headsets, so “security” rids the ringside area of the Hart Foundation. Pillman is awesome here just screwing around with everybody. Austin walks by the crew on his way to the tunnel and flips them the bird. It takes a while for this one to get going as a Special Olympics kid gets over the railing. When Shawn goes to make sure he’s okay, Austin comes by and beats him back into the ring. HA! Michaels armdrags Austin and slugs him down before flipping him the double bird. Apparently a big Shawn fan, HBK makes sure the kid gets safely escorted elsewhere. I don’t think this is what they meant when they say “anything can happen in the WWF!” Okay, back to wrestling. Shawn works a headlock and Austin fires back with elbows. He tries again, so Austin escapes and drills Shawn with an inverted atomic drop only to follow up by clotheslining HBK to the floor. A suplex inside is countered and a rollup gets two. They go through a test of strength and the tide turns both ways. Shawn tries an armbar, but Austin breaks free and hits the Lou Thesz Press. There’s a rollup sequence and then Austin pitches HBK to the floor. Austin beats him on the apron and then shoves him off onto the guardrail. Now the ringside mats get peeled back. Austin brings him over to the exposed concrete and once HBK starts throwing punches, instead Austin just heaves him into the steps. Just for fun, Austin presses Shawn up and drops him on the concrete.
Back inside, Austin ducks the Flying Forearm attempt and Shawn falls to the floor. Back in again, Austin hits the flying vertical elbow drop for 1-2-NO! Now he grabs a chinlock and cheats using the ropes. The ref catches him, but he doesn’t care. This time Shawn pitches Austin over the top rope and drills him with a baseball slide. Austin counters a suplex back inside, but HBK fires back with the Flying Forearm. KIP UP! Just as all things look good for Shawn, he misses a corner charge and goes shoulder-first into the post. He tries a crossbody out of the corner, but Austin rolls through and gets 1-2-NO! HBK winds up whipping Austin into the ref. Austin catches SWEET CHIN MUSIC and spins him around for the STONE COLD STUNNER! Fans remember it best as the WrestleMania 14 finish. No referee though, of course. When ref Tim White doesn’t wake up, Austin makes sure he doesn’t wake up for a while longer with a Stunner. As Austin turns back around, he walks into SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Another ref Mike Chioda runs down. Instead of counting, he’s checking on Timmy. Shawn is not a fan of his actions, so he wipes Chioda out with Sweet Chin Music. Finally, the original ref Tim White counts as Shawn covers for 1-2-NO! Apparently that was the last bit of energy left in Tim White’s body because then he just lays face down on the mat. Out comes the SENIOR ref Earl Hebner to throw the whole match out because of all the ref abuse. (23:00) To put this in more modern terms let’s say the ‘Summer of Punk’ in relation to crowd heat, this was like CM Punk and John Cena. Kids and women were cheering Shawn, and males who hit puberty cheer Austin. Just a real hot WRESTLING match, but it needed a much better finish. ****¼
- WWF Champion The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Faarooq (w/the NOD)
Is this really even a feud? It’s not like you can call Undertaker out as a racist. Faarooq has just all of a sudden decided to be the WWF champ. Taker delivers soupbones and big boots. After Faarooq hits a powerslam, Crush and Savio Vega pound away on Taker. That results in Undertaker bailing on Old Skool and falling down on top of them. Back inside, he goes for Old Skool again and gets crotched. More interference from the NOD. Faarooq comes at Taker with the steps, but he gets them booted back in his face. Back inside, Faarooq surprises Taker with a piledriver. That gets two. He slaps on the chinlock and cheats a little bit. Taker fights out with a jawbreaker and backdrops away another piledriver. He catches Faarooq coming off the second rope for a powerslam. Jumping Lariat misses as Paul Bearer yells to Taker to get up. Speaking of yelling, sounds like somebody thinks this match is boring! While D’Lo Brown distracts Earl Hebner, Crush and Savio get into a little fight as there is dissension in the ranks. Faarooq comes over asking what is going on, but turns back around into the TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER for the retain the title. (13:44) So much for being the first black WWF champion. Afterwards, Undertaker takes out Savio and Crush with Chokeslams. That’s not enough for Paul Bearer though. He demands Taker Chokeslam Faarooq like FIVE TIMES simply because he can to exercise his control over the Deadman. He wouldn’t want Bearer to spill the beans on that dark secret of his. Eventually, Ahmed Johnson comes down to get Undertaker to stop, but no one can understand what this guy says. Ever. Taker finally tries to slug him one good time, but Ahmed ducks and gives Taker the PEARL RIVER PLUNGE! Once he makes it through the tunnel, Taker sits up and backs Paul Bearer out of the arena to close out the show. Hardly an entertaining match, but the ending certainly leaves you wondering why Ahmed would care what happens to Faarooq. ½*
Final Thoughts: This card had certainly taken its share of bumps and bruises over the last several weeks. However, I think no matter how it changed, we were at least guaranteed one MOTYC and a bunch of other average matches. I’m not really a ‘one-great-match-saved-the-PPV’ type guy, so you can’t say 20-something minutes makes up for a three hour show. Without it though, this would be hitting worst PPV ever territory. Slight thumbs down for the King of the Ring 1997. If you want to seek out HBK v. Austin when tag champs collide, it’s on the Legacy of Stone Cold (2007) and the Best of the KOTR (2011) DVD sets.