A Blast from the Past

A Blast from the Past: Summerslam 1997, Starrcade 1985 and Over the Edge 1998

A look at three matches from three different shows. The first is a steel cage match featuring Triple H vs. Mankind from Summerslam 1997. The 2nd is another cage match but this time from Starrcade 1985 featuring Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard. The last match is from Over The Edge 1998 featuring Steve Austin vs. Mick Foley…

– WWF Summerslam 1997

Steel Cage Match: Triple H w/ Chyna vs. Mankind

Mankind and Triple H had been feuding on and off since Triple H defeated him in the finals of that years King of the Ring. Triple H was of course allegedly originally supposed to win the King of the Ring and get a major singles push the year before until the infamous ‘Curtain Call’ happened. They couldn’t punish Nash and Hall for obvious reasons, Shawn Michaels was the Champion and Vince’s boy toy (allegedly, just in case Vince’s legal team are reading) so Triple H got it in the ass and his push was delayed. His replacement as 1996 King of the Ring winner? Some guy called Stonecold Steve Austin. Austin would cut probably the most famous promo in wrestling history, they’d put ‘Austin 3:16’ on a t-shirt, sell a billion squillion of them and Vince McMahon laughed all the way to the bank. History may just have been a little bit different had Hunter Hearst friggin’ Helmsley won the King of the Ring in 1996. Anyway Mankind vs. Triple H, steel cage, Summerslam 1997. This was pre Degeneration X and nobody gives a flying fart about Triple H at this stage (in the 9 years since this that hasn’t changed for me). From what I can remember, the WWF started airing the videos of Foley as Dude Love when he was a teenager a month or so prior to Summerslam and the result was 1997 being the Summer of Love. Rules are the crappy WWF version where you have to escape the cage to win.

Triple H is with Chyna who is at his/her/it’s vivacious, beautiful best. She/he/it got me through some testosterone charged, experimental early teen years. Pamela Anderson, Jet from ‘Gladiators’, Kelly from ‘Saved by the Bell’, Sunny and Chyna.

There was nothing like growing up in the 1990s. Trips does his bow. Flowing locks and a bow were pretty much the only things he had going for himself. He doesn’t do the bow anymore and his locks aren’t quite as luxurious. So that leaves…nah, I got nothing. Mankind is pretty over mainly due to the cult figure status of Dude Love.

Triple H runs for the door when the bell rings but doesn’t escape or it wouldn’t be much of a match. Mankind beats the Lord Steven Regal out of him and gives a Cactus Jack ‘Bang, Bang’ (Cactus Jack would show up in the Garden a month or so after this match). Chyna climbs the cage and chokes Mankind which is something I’d pay money to have done to me. I become entranced by her/his/it’s powerful, glistening back (Triple H saw a lot of Chyna from this angle by all accounts). Foley was comfortable enough in his manhood to take an absolute ass whooping from Chyna during this feud, bumping around for her/him/it like she/he/it was Big Van Vader or someone. Of course the esteemed Ahmed Johnson balked at the idea of getting beat up by a woman/man/something with the immortal words (and I quote): ‘Ain’t gonna let no bitch hit me’ (or however the words were deciphered when they were put through the Ahmed Johnson Translator).

Mankind does the Spinning Clothesline thing that DDP shamelessly stole, Chyna forearms him in the balls and Mankind gets Superplexed hard from the top of the cage. Triple H rams him into the cage and when steel meets flesh, steel bah Gawd wins. Always weird to hear Vince talk in his normal voice on commentary back in the day as opposed to the insane, self parodying, evil super villain voice he does these days. Crowd is dead as ditch water when Triple H is on offense but wakes up when Mankind takes a Back Body Drop into the cage. Triple H lands on his love spuds on the top rope as Chyna looks concerned about her/his/it’s backdoor loving later. Chyna murders Mankind (not literally) by swinging the big, blue door onto Foley’s head. I think Foley mentions in his book that was one of his most painful moments and for a guy that wipes his ass with broken glass and sand paper, that’s saying something. Chyna throws a chair in, Trips goes for the Pedigree, Mankind catapults him into my sweet, sweet Chyna who goes flying off the cage into the barricade. Double Arm DDT on the chair. Mankind climbs the cage to the outside…or does he? Well no, no he doesn’t. Mankind takes off the mask, climbs to the top of the cage and does his Superfly Snuka tribute before dropping the Elbow on Triple H. Mankind climbs back up and out for the win. Mankind is laid out on the outside but like spinach for Pop Eye and cocaine for Roddy Piper, the power of Love compels him and he starts tapping his toe to the top tappingly fantastic Dude Love music.

Pretty unspectacular, average cage match. Outside of Foley’s Elbow Drop, there is absolutely nothing you’ll remember about this match 3 seconds after you’ve finished watching it. Foley of course took his usual bumps but other than that nothing to write home about. The ‘escape to win’ stipulation on WWF cage matches always annoyed me too. The cage match was designed to be a feud ending match which locked two enemies inside to ensure that neither could escape and we got a good clean finish. It was also supposed to mean that no one else could interfere in the match. The stipulation that you can win by escaping over the top or through the door, whilst providing some moments of drama, is ridiculous because basically you’re winning by being a coward and running away from your opponent.

I was going to do a couple more Summerslam matches but then I didn’t. Now for a REAL steel cage match.

– NWA Starrcade 1985

‘I Quit’ Cage Match for the US Title: Magnum TA w/ moustache vs. Tully Blanchard (c) w/ Baby Doll.

This is a famous match and one of the best matches in wrestling history. Backstory to the match is they hate each others guts. There you go. Lock them in a cage and let them beat seven colours of excrement out of each other. Tully and Magnum had great chemistry and were magnificent foils for each other. Tully was the slimy, smarmy heel that everyone wanted to see finally get his. He was a guy that would buy and sell your ass before breakfast, crack your skull with a tire iron before dinner and celebrate with some champagne, caviar and a $1000 prostitute before supper. He would step on his own Grandmother to get to the top, would jump you from behind, stomp on your face with $500 shoes and then back off like a biatch when confronted one on one.

Magnum TA was the polar opposite, cowboy boots and jeans, meat and potatoes for dinner, 12 beers at night. He was a man’s man that liked NASCAR, dirt bikes and baseball. Bad to the bone, All American, ass kicking SOB. Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him. These two were never going to get along, lock them in a cage, throw in an ‘I Quit’ stipulation and expect fireworks.

YOUR commentators are Tony Schvovneoneneosnenene back when he was good and the always good Bob Caudle and YOUR referee is Earl Hebner. Great visual to start the match as the arena is in darkness with a spotlight shining down on Magnum TA giving him a glow like a Jack Daniels drinking Jesus. Magnum punches his stinkin’ lights out to start as Tully already backs off circling the ring. On the mat Tully rakes his eyes and they trade shots as you can feel the sheer, unadulterated hatred. Tully beats the red out of his neck and launches his blue collar ass into the cage. Magnum is busted open/bleeding like a stuck pig/wearing the crimson mask/all of the above but manages to Press Slam Tully onto the top rope. Tully later eats steel (not literally) and blades his damn arm just because he can. He won’t quit so Magnum works over the bloody arm as Tully screams. Back and forth with some intense action as Tully is all ‘NNNNNOOOOOOO, AHHHHHHHH’, Magnum is all ‘SAY IT’ then Tully is all ‘SAY IT YOU STINKING HAM AND EGGER’, Magnum is all ‘KISS MY ASS’ so Tully launches Hebner and gets tossed a wooden chair by the Perfect Ten. He smashes it and makes a spike before trying to make Magnum ugly. Magnum manages to fight it off, gets the spike and drives it into Tully’s head. You better believe Tully gave up.

This match represents everything that wrestling should be and everything that is great about wrestling sometimes. Finish itself is pretty famous and is the perfect ending to what is a great, hate filled, intense, bloody brawl between two guys that wanted to end it all. Magnum stands above his beaten rival with the stake in hand as Tully screams for his life, Magnum proving himself to be the better man gives Tully this really great disgusted sneer, throws the stake away and gets his arm raised as Blanchard wallows in his own cowardly failure. Magnum slings his belt over his shoulder and rides off into the sunset. Less than 15 minutes of hatred. Just a great match that told a great story. The guy everyone hates finally gets his comeuppance as the babyface proves in more ways than one that he is the better man. Magnum TA’s career unfortunately was ended less than a year after this match which was a shame because by all accounts he was destined to be a future NWA World Champion and a much bigger star than he was.

– WWF Over the Edge 1998

WWF Title: Dude Love vs. Stonecold Steve Austin (c)

Foley as Cactus Jack had done a great promo a couple of weeks after Wrestlemania 14 chastising the fans for chanting Austin’s name after he and Funk were laid out in the cage and promised that it’d be a long time before they saw Cactus Jack again. In the Raw that finally ended Nitro’s long unbeaten streak in the ratings, Dude Love interrupted the planned Austin vs. McMahon showdown, put the Mandible Claw on Austin and officially became the hand picked Corporate challenger for Austin’s title. The result was a match at Unforgiven and this one at Over the Edge.

Pat Patterson the guest ring announcer, Gerald Brisco is guest timekeeper and Vince McMahon is special guest referee. Can Stonecold possibly beat those odds? What the hell do you think? Dude Love has some new dentures, a suit jacket and slicked back hair, see because he’s Corporate. Patterson refuses to introduce a ‘bum’ like Steve Austin. Austin was the absolute biggest thing in wrestling at this time and blows the roof off the arena when the glass breaks. You just don’t get these kinds of reactions for anybody anymore. Austin was HUGE and they were pretty much selling PPVs based on him being in the main event. Seriously, off the top of your head can you name one other match on this card? Vince is about to call for the bell when The Undertaker comes out to another big pop to even the odds at ringside. Vince is less than pleased. Austin flips him off to another big pop and gets an ‘Austin’ chant to start.

They trade Headlock Takeovers as Vince gets a ‘Vince is gay’ chant. Maybe they know something we don’t. JR tries to claim they’re chanting ‘Vince is dead’. Yeah he wishes. Austin stomps a mudhole in Dude Love’s new teeth as JR gets in a good line about Love losing his smile. Oh ZING or BURN or whatever the hell it is the kids say these days. Jim Ross reminds us it’s not a No DQ match and it has no special stipulations. Stay tuned for further developments on that. Austin hangs Foley on the ropes in the spot that lost him an ear. Outside Dude Love tosses him onto the announce table as Patterson reminds us that the match is No Disqualification. See they’re SWERVING us. Foley takes his usual crazy, career shortening bump off the barricade onto the concrete after an Austin Clothesline. They work their way up the aisle as Patterson gives us a helpful reminder that falls count anywhere. Is there a conspiracy? Well what do you think folks?

Austin takes a Back Drop onto a car for a Dude Love 2 count before Love gets hot shotted face first into another car. Dude Love however kicks his ass but misses an Elbow from one of the cars. Back in the ring, Patterson trips up Austin and hands Foley a chair. Is he an unbiased official? What do you think folks? Austin murders him (not literally) with the chair but Vince refuses to count so Austin gets all up in his grill. Dude Love inadvertently kills Vince (possibly literally) with the damndest chairshot and Vince is out cold. Austin gets a bah Gawd Stunner, another ref in for…2. Patterson pulls the ref out. Mandible on Austin, Patterson and Brisco both try to count pinfalls but Undertaker Chokeslams them both through the announce tables. Austin with another Stunner, this time with some stink on it, counts the pinfall with Vince’s arm and wins to a huge pop. STONECOLD! STONECOLD! STONECOLD! STONE BAH GAWD COLD!

Overbooked, Russo era, sports entertainment madness at it’s very best. Just a crazy, fun brawl that seemed to fly through. Russo would try this formula many times again but it never worked quite as well this, sometimes he got all the overbooking right (Survivor Series 98 and Foley’s first title win) and most of the time he screwed it all up (all of his WCW run) but this is easily one of the best main events the WWF did in the 1990s and was pretty much the template for a number of their main events in the years following this.