October 5, 1997
St. Louis, Missouri
Commentators: Vince McMahon (for the last time), The King and JR
With Hell in a Cell coming up tomorrow I thought it was only appropriate to go back to very first incarnation of this match to see how much it has changed. Spoiler alert, it changed a lot.
This is a very historical show for both good and bad reasons. The good is obviously how successful that the Cell concept has been for the company. The bad was of course, that this was the night where we learned of the passing of Brian Pillman. I still remember sitting in stunned silence during the pre-show as Vince made the announcement. A really tragic event and it still makes me sad thinking about it now. Well, enough of the depressing stuff, let’s make some jokes or something. It’s the Attitude Era…it shouldn’t be that hard (that’s what she said).
- I really miss the old “Worldwide Leader in Sports Entertainment” intros, it always hyped me up.
- Brought to you by Playstation…the first one…wow, I”m old.
- Vince mentions Pillman before we get started.
Match 1: 3 on 2 Handicap
Nation of Domination (Rocky Maivia, Kama Mustafa and D-Lo Brown) vs The Legion of Doom
Notes and Opinion: Ken Shamrock was supposed to be involved in this, but got “internal injuries” off one of Faarooq’s weakest spinebusters. I’ve seen him kill guys with it and he did NOT do that to Ken. The LOD decided to go it alone anyway. Vince kinda surprises me by calling them the Road Warriors a few times, never realized he did that. This wasn’t bad for what it was. I kinda remembered the LOD being dog shit at this point of 97 but they looked alright. The crowd was all about Rocky though. They hated that guy so much that Vince had to be thinking of building a Scrooge McDuck vault for all the money he would make off him. This match wasn’t terrible, so that’s a good start.
Winner: The Nation got the win after a Faarooq distraction caused Hawk to be kicked in the back of the head by Kama. After that it took just one (yet unnamed) Rock Bottom to get the three.
- We go to Sunny (1997 version, wow) and Dok who shill the WWF Superstar line. Nothing of note is said.
- Vince takes a second to talk about Pillman. Sad situation and they replace the match that he was scheduled with Minis…OK.
Match 2: Tag Team
Mosaic and Tarantula vs Max Mini and Nova
Notes and Opinion: Well at least this was (sorry) short. They flew around and missed a bunch of shit. Poor Max got Gorilla Press Slammed by Tarantula on the table in front of the King. Jerry was just firing off short jokes in this unsurprisingly. This match as a thing that happened… but it didn’t need to.
Winner: Max got the pin on Tarantula via a shitty looking crucifix. Moving on.
- Austin 3:16 t-shirt commercial. They STILL sells those things at live events. Here they were $25 + shipping and handling. I don’t mind the shipping but I would prefer less handling.
- Vince announces the attendance at 21,151. I’m sure Dave Meltzer immediately tried to disprove it.
- Sunny is out as the guest ring announcer for the next match.
Match 3: WWF Tag Team Championships
The Godwins (with Uncle Cletus) vs (C) The Headbangers
Notes and Opinion: This was decent when the champs were in control, sadly that was very little of the match. The Godwins just weren’t very good, but they looked scary. The best worker on that side of the ring was Uncle Cletus. Poor Tony Anthony never did get a good shake in the WWF. To tell you the match quality, the highlight of the entire contest was the guys spitting into the air and catching it in their mouths. Gross, but still not worse than the rest of the match.
Winner: The Godwins got the pin after Phineas caught Mosh with a powerbomb out of a Stage Dive attempt. Cletus held Thrashers foot and we had new tag champs.
- The Godwins continue to lay waste to the Bangers after the match until the ref does the old “reverse the decision” deals. If the Godwins did as well in the ring as they did looking scary then this would have been fine.
- We get a recap of the entire Steve Austin bad neck saga. Vince’s Stunner sell was the worst.
- Michael Cole is talking about Austin backstage when Owen shows up. I love Owen, you love Owen, everybody loved Owen and it was sad that he died but never forget how god awful he was at promos. The guy couldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful.
- We honor the St. Louis wrestling legends with JR as the host. The guy was excited as hell to be there obviously. He looked like a kid at Christmas. We got Gene Kininski, Jack Brisco, Dory Funk Jr. (surprised he and Jack didn’t duke it out), Harley Race (of course), Terry Funk (with Vince saying ECW), Sam Muschnick and Lou Thesz. All of them getting nice video tributes.
- Dok is backstage with the Nation. Faarooq doesn’t like Stone Cold’s name being brought up.
- Another update on Pillman, possible drug overdose. Not sure why the hell that needed to be brought up. Of course the handling of the situation would only get worse from there.
Match 4: Intercontinental Championship Tournament Final
Faarooq vs Owen Hart
Notes and Opinion: This was all story and very little match. Austin was at ringside to hand over the Intercontinental title to the winner and was the focus of the entire match. He jumped on every announce team talking trash and was hilarious. My favorite bit was him calling the Owen 3:16 shit “cheap heat at it’s finest” while Vince looked pissed. Like I said, not much to the actual match. Faarooq did try a a second rope legdrop which was cool but other than that these two were just going through the motions until the finish.
Winner: Owen got the pin after Neidhart distracted the ref and Austin nailed Faarooq with the belt. Austin then threw the championship at Owen. The announce team and Owen seemed confused but they were the only ones. He wanted to beat Owen for the belt geniuses.
- We get a recap of the Hart Foundation attacking The Patriot and Vader.
Match 5: 8-man Tag
Disciples of Apocalypse vs Los Boricuas
Notes and Opinion: It was an 8-man tag that was mostly a reverse chinlock. I wish I had more to say about it than that. How are you going to do an entire rest hold match when there are that many guys on the apron. Boring as shit.
Winner: DOA got the win after a Crush Tilt-a-Whirl backbreaker. Garbage ass match…
- Cole is with Bret and Davey. America sucks. Well then.
- Dok with the Patriot and Vader. Vader ruled.
Match 6: Flag Match (Pin,Submission or capture the Flag)
Bret Hart and The British Bulldog vs The Patriot and Vader
Notes and Opinion: I kinda forgot that Angle got the Patriots old music and was excited for a second. They have a pretty good little brawl on the floor when we start before settling in for a regular tag match. This was pretty good and the crowd was into it. I’m certain that the fact that every other match was kinda blah helped this one. Bret was in full on dickhead heel mode here. 1997 Bret was underappreciated as far as being a jerk. Some dumb fan tried to get involved in the action but got murdered by Bulldog and the ref before he got too far. As far as the Americans went I’m pretty sure we should have sent some better wrestlers to fight for us. Vader is fine but the Patriot is watching paint dry with half the excitement. This was good enough for government work and not much more.
Winner: Bret pinned The patriot after reversing a rollup.
- The Americans act like sore losers even though they lost fair and square. Weren’t we supposed to have the good guys in this?
- We get a commercial for Survivor Series in Montreal, I bet nothing important happens there.
- The announcers hype HIAC for a minute.
- Dok is with Shawn and his not quite yet named stable of HHH, Chyna and Rude. He cuts a great asshole promo and even now I want him punched in his smug face. That’s good stuff. Another funny thing is they cut the camera right as HHH is ready to talk. Now you can be beheaded for that.
- We get a video recap of Shawn turning into the asshole he apparently was off screen, on screen.
Match 7: Hell In A Cell (Number 1 Contender for WWF Championship)
European Champion “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker
Notes and Opinion: Here we go. Over 20 years later and tons of going back to the well on this gimmick match and not once has anything topped it. This is about as perfect example of a heel getting what was coming to him as you are going to see. This match was quite simply one of the greatest things that the WWE has ever pulled off. Shawn Michaels performance was off the charts and the Undertaker wasn’t too far behind. There are simply not enough superlatives in the English language for me to tell you how great this was. I’ve seen every Hell in a Cell since and they simply have not been able to touch the intensity or story that this first one had. I’m not a match rating guy but if this wasn’t ***** then nothing is.
Winner: Shawn got the pin after one of the most shocking and impressive debuts in history, when Kane arrived and Tombstoned the Undertaker.
- Shawn being carried out as a bloody mess by his friends is an image that will live on forever in WWE programming. The scumbag won but he sure as hell didn’t look like a winner. Amazing.
Overall Thoughts: The first two and a half hours (minus the legends tribute) was pretty forgettable stuff. Then you have the main event. Hell in a Cell is a PPV every year because of this match. The Foley match gets a lot of hype but this is the one that every HIAC since has tried (and failed) to live up to. Quite simply it was a damn near perfect cage match and saved the hell out of this boring show. All hail 1997 Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker’s big John Wayne ass for trying to kill him for our amusement.
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