Wednesday, 10 March 2010

WWF 1997 Ramblings

Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin v Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith (RAW, 5/26/97)

Awesome match. I watched just about everything that had led up to this a couple weeks ago - and indeed would've watched the match itself afterwards were it not for unforeseen disc issues (ie. it's fucked) - and this is about as perfect a "blow off" as I could hoping for. Owen and Davey are the tag champs, have been for a while, and are without question a formidable cohesive unit. Shawn and Austin, however, don't like each other one bit and have only found themselves in the position of having to tag with one another since they share the same BURNING HATRED for the Hart Foundation. Their hatred for their partner can be put on hold, even just for a little while, so they can stick it to their enemies by taking their gold belts.

Match is total southern tag formula with the babyfaces coming out the traps on fire, burning the heels (GEDDIT?!) at every turn. Austin's like a balder, drunker, meaner sociopathic Robert Gibson and Michaels is like a prettier Ricky Morton with a better haircut and cooler wrestling tights that makes the ladies shriek the shriek of THE HORN. The Beer 'N' Queer Express.

Michaels is a guy that, as a singles worker, people either tend to love or hate. No point going on about the pros and cons of Shawn Michaels in a singles environment because it's been done, done, done again and then done a couple more times, but as a tag worker I'd still say the guy's pretty exceptional. He's usually the go-to guy for the face-in-peril segment, and the heat segment on him here is really good. It comes after a short Austin-in-peril segment, but the work over on Michaels lasts much longer and in turn gives him more opportunities to eat Owen and the Bulldog's offence. Michaels working hope spots and selling a beatdown as the FIP during a tag match is perhaps where Michaels is at his best, and this is one of his best performances in that role. In terms of "singles star Shawn Michaels working a tag match", it's probably his best.

That said, Austin might be the best guy in the match. As 'Stone Cold', Austin was always so animated and seemed to be doing something to keep the crowd amped up at all times. This is a great example of him using his character to do a bunch of stuff that the crowd gladly eat up. The way he'll storm the ring, throw punches at Owen and Bulldog and then flip the ref' the bird before getting back onto the apron and yelling at Shawn to get his pretty boy ass in gear gets a massive reaction. He even makes the "phantom tag that the referee doesn't see because the heels have him distracted" spot look great, because it actually looks like he's trying to get a hold of Owen and Davey, as opposed to waltzing over to them and waiting for the ref' to stop him and throw him back out again like you see so often. Hebnar grabs a hold of him just as he's ready to rifle off a huge haymaker, and you get the sense he was legit ready to decapitate a fool, which he probably would've had he not been shut down because of a measly technicality. My favourite spot of the match might be Austin's reaction to the transition that kicks off Michaels' FIP section -- Davey hoists Shawn up and goes to crotch him along the top rope with that "gorilla press and walk backwards before dropping him on his grapes" spot they liked to do, and Austin's standing on the apron with his hands on his head and a look of dread on his face, which leads to him burying his face in his hands because his partner was just emasculated and probably cost him the tag belts as a result. It was great. The general aura of chaos he exudes has people going batshit all the time, too. You can buy the fact insanity just follows this guy around and any time he's on the scene there's the propensity for sheer motherfucking havoc to be wreaked.

Probably sounds like I'm talking this up as some kind of babyface carry-job, but it's not. Davey and Owen are good in their roles, working cut-off and distraction spots, but on the whole, this is a terrific performance from the babyfaces.

Post-match is a blast as well, with the Foundation hitting the ring and gang raping Shawn while Austin leaves them to it in favour of jumping Bret, who's been left all alone atop the ramp.

****

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