Thursday, 15 March 2012

We Said No Holds Barred, but We Didn't Expect This!

Shawn Michaels v Diesel (WWF In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies, 4/28/96)

Man, I fucking love this match. Shawn Michaels launching Marty Jannetty through a window while a dude with hedge clippers and horrendous pants stood in awe was what made me a wrestling fan for life. I wouldn't say I'm a massive Michaels fan anymore (though tag worker Michaels is still awesome), but he was my favourite wrestler for a good while growing up, and no matter how many Butch Reeds or Fuerza Guerreras or Volk Hans bump and stooge and tricked-out-matwork their way into my heart, I'll probably always have a soft spot for him. So I will probably always fucking love this match.

He gets bumped and ragdolled around like crazy here. It's interesting to see how Michaels worked with Nash in comparison to how Bret worked with him. Bret seemed to try and get him to work into Bret's 'Bret Hart v Big Man' formula -- he tried to "work with" him as opposed to "work around" him. When Nash was game I thought that turned out pretty great, and he'd do things working opposite Bret that he never would working opposite anyone else (and I don't think Nash was utter dogshit or anything, anyway...although he could stink it up with the worst of them when he wanted to). To say Michaels is going out here and just working around Diesel isn't really fair, since Nash's character is a big reason why this is so good, but Michaels is definitely in full on pinball mode.

Nash is a pretty wonderful scumbag in this, by far the best "character performance" of his career (that I've seen, at least. If there's one better that I've missed I'd be stunned, though). He throws his leather jacket at Vince before the match, trash talks all the way through it, and above all else beats the shit out of Michaels. When he rips Mad Dog Vachon's prosthetic leg off so he can use it as a weapon, even Lawler on commentary can't advocate that shit. "Oh my God...Oh my" (then he goes back to cheering him on 30 seconds later). Offensively he busts out a gigantic sidewalk slam, cracks Shawn right in the spine with a chair, chokes him with Hebnar's belt and hangs him over the top rope (Michaels really HANGS there, and when he's getting choked he doesn't bother using his fingers for any sort of separation. He looked like Justin Roberts that time Daniel Bryan choked him with his own tie on RAW and got fired for it), and in one of my favourite spots of the match he takes the tape off his wrist and just starts choking the ref' (so he can steal his belt).

Michaels' performance is pretty great as well. He ditches the dancing and male stripper routine at the start and actually looks like he's ready for a fight. He even steals one of the announcer's boots and waffles Nash in the head with it. His whole run of offence at the start seemed really fired up, then he takes his upside down bump in the corner, and as Nash clubs him off the apron he goes flying into the railing with an insane Brian Pillman throat bump. The powerbomb through the table spot is probably what this is most remembered for, and it really is a spectacular looking table spot. They don't start clearing the table of monitors and headsets before it, so you don't know it's coming until Nash lifts him up and turns towards it. When Shawn goes through it one of the monitors almost bounces up and hits Vince right in the face. Michaels lies there covered in debris and it looks like a car wreck while Diesel struts around the ring with the WWF title (he even asks Hebnar to put it on him).

The nip up spot is definitely problematic. Vince shouting "JUST LET IT BE OVER!" as Shawn tries to crawl out from under the rubble and drag himself back into the ring is a cool moment, but after everything up to that point...man, if you've just been hurled through a table, whipped and hanged with a belt, taken a ludicrous bump into a guardrail, blasted with a chair, etc., you probably shouldn't be nipping up and bouncing around quite so easily. I've never thought it killed the match or anything, and the nip up spot doesn't bother me a great deal in general, but this was one of the more egregious ones he's ever done.

Still, they don't head to the finish after the big comeback, and Nash blocking the first SCM attempt and mowing him down with a clothesline is one of the best spots of the match, so you take the good with the bad. A little later we also get a great payback spot with Michaels hitting Diesel low as he's about to drill him with Vachon's leg (Diesel hit a low blow earlier on as Michaels was about to smack him with a chair, which was actually a really great cut off spot that I never mentioned).

Every time I watch this I go in thinking I'll like it a little less than before. Then it ends and I wind up liking it a little MORE than before. By far my favourite Nash match ever. Probably one of my top 5 favourite Michaels matches ever. If Shawn had thrown up after he realised he was holding a dude's leg it would've been top 1.

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