#WF157 – Winter Combat ’96
Arnold Furious: Over in the UK, In Your House 4 and 5 were released as separate tapes, but in the US Vince figured they wouldn’t sell and instead cobbled them together into one release. Seeing as I have IYH4 and IYH5 anyway, I’ll include bonus reviews of matches on those PPV’s that don’t appear on Winter Combat.
Host in the studio is Dok Hendrix. Thankfully he doesn’t commentate on any matches. IYH4 was from Winnipeg, Canada. IYH5 was from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hosts for IYH4 were Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Ross did not commentate on IYH5.
Diesel (c) vs. British Bulldog
This is the main event of In Your House 4 but oddly enough the opening match on Winter Combat. Bret Hart comes out to commentate as he’s got a title shot at the winner, at Survivor Series. He runs Jerry Lawler off to get the commentary team down to a babyface trio. Bulldog turned on Diesel, which gives this a little heat, but their lack of history hurts matters. They also have almost no chemistry. They’re both power guys but Bulldog is much smaller. Normally Bulldog vs. big guy isn’t a good match because he gets so focused on matching the power. Against smaller guys he relaxes and has great matches. Bret’s commentary is subtle but essentially a criticism of Bulldog’s stupid tactics. Both participants get into a spot of verbal with the Hitman, allowing Davey to take the leg. Davey attempts something vaguely like the Sharpshooter, which gets him razzed by both JR and Bret, albeit politely. Jim Cornette figures this one is sucking and decides to work over Diesel himself, which is the best wrestling in the match. The crowd actually chant “Bulldog” and you feel that Diesel’s title run has lost a bit of steam without Michaels knocking around. Bret’s commentary adds a vital aspect; common sense. In that he decries Bulldog’s turn and yet isn’t that bothered by it because he didn’t turn on the Hitman, showing us that not all heels come off as bad people to all babyfaces, which is how it should be. Booking, in general, forgets personal issues should come above bad man vs. good man, which is why this match has no heat while Diesel-Shawn had loads. Although Bulldog’s extended work on the knee doesn’t help, or that the WWF decided to give the main event nearly 20-minutes. It’s a boring, boring match. Diesel’s motivation isn’t where it had been earlier in the year and Bulldog doesn’t work well when he has to lead. He’s an awesome follower, as evidenced by SummerSlam ’92, easy to carry, but only ever as good as his opponent, which is probably why he never won the WWF title. Not even in 1995 when business was the pits. Davey calls for the Sharpshooter and it sucks. Bret? “He should learn to put it on right”. BURRRRRRN! Diesel slips out of the powerslam and hits the big boot but his leg gives out in the process. Bulldog steps outside to slap Bret, baiting his brother-in-law into the ring and that causes a DQ. Bulldog wins but Diesel retains his title. Diesel takes exception and goes after Bret Hart to set up Survivor Series. The match is really dull, almost painfully slow and Bulldog was inept when it came to running heat on a bigger babyface. Believe it or not, Diesel carried the match with his selling. Bret would face both guys on the next two PPV’s and have excellent matches with both, which goes to show sometimes two wrestlers just don’t click. Diesel and Bulldog didn’t click.
Final Rating: *½
Marty Jannetty vs. Goldust
It irks me that they skip over two good matches from In Your House 4 to bring us this pile of shit. What’s worse is this even appears on the WWF’s “In Your House Greatest Matches” tape. What a joke! Jannetty is fresh from another spell out of the company and this is the point where the WWF officially gives up on him as a viable long-term star. He’s virtually a jobber during this run and it’s his last meaningful run in any major company. Two years before this he was not only the IC champion but also neck-and-neck with Shawn Michaels, who’s pretty much the companies go-to guy now. Goldust is a phenomenal gimmick and one of the first to really push the boundaries. This match immediately suffers from two major issues, number one: Goldust’s character does a load of stalling, which is fine if you’ve got an investment in the character but here he’s just a weirdo wearing all gold. Number two: Jannetty treats this like any other day at the office. He isn’t weirded out by Goldust’s antics, demeanour or appearance. It’s like treating the Undertaker as a random babyface. Not that Jannetty is a good choice to wrestle Goldust in the first place. Goldust did all his best work with the likes of Ahmed and Razor Ramon. Guys who looked like they hated fags. Jannetty looks like he’ll hang out with anybody as long as they’ve got drugs or booze. So all he really brings is bumps, which are generic and unsuitable. The match ends up as a clash of styles with Jannetty trying hard to get Goldust over without actually understanding the gimmick. He’s not reacting to Goldust’s attitude, he’s just taking spots. The result is a heatless, pointless match that probably had Vince getting twitchy over the whole push he’d got Goldust lined up for. Jannetty is all over the place. When he hits the Rocker Dropper he thinks about pinning, but then remembers it’s his finisher so goes up top. Goldust moves and Jannetty just stands there and eventually figures he should probably drop an elbow or something. Oh, Marty, lay off the drugs, pal. Goldust kicks him in the face, not the balls just yet, and finishes with the Gourdbuster. Why on Earth did they give this more than ten minutes? Jannetty probably thought he did well here, but he wrecked the entire match. It wasn’t until Goldust had showcased himself a few times that the boys “got” it and were able to wrestle his match, which was a lot easier than this mess.
Final Rating: ½*
Here we switch over to IYH5 and the absolute worst match on that card.
The Undertaker vs. King Mabel
Yes, it’s ANOTHER Undertaker casket match against another heel who sucks at everything. Once again a heel has stolen the urn, which is still in bling form from the last time a heel stole the urn and melted it down. This match is marginally better than the Kama matches for one reason; it’s much shorter. Therefore they have less time to get terrible spots in and Mabel can’t get tired. They even make sense. Mabel legdrops Taker, which is how he broke his face, but the protective mask saves him. Mabel is too lazy to even put Taker in the casket so Mo does it. They don’t bother closing the lid because they’re both idiots, instead opting to stand around celebrating and shit. There is a line between heel confidence and heel stupidity. Mabel and the booking is miles over that line here. Just close the lid first. Are you guys retarded or what? Scratch that. Anyone who was mentally retarded would still want to win. Mabel gets tossed into the casket and Mo has to save as Taker understands the concept of the match involves WINNING. Mabel is too fat to escape so Taker chokeslams Mo and throws him in too. Taker briefly stops to reclaim the urn before slamming the casket shut. They should have nailed the box shut and shipped it back to Memphis. Luckily Men on a Mission were done thanks to a continued run of horrid matches. This was their symbolic burial.
Final Rating: DUD
Back to In Your House 4.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Dean Douglas
This was the beginning of an excellent storyline. Shawn took a kicking from a few Marines outside a nightclub resulting in a concussion. Nothing surprising about that. The only thing that shocks me about the New Generation era is that nobody else gave Shawn a major shoeing. The WWF were forced into turning a shoot into a work. Here Shawn forfeits the title and it transitions to the number one contender; Dean Douglas. Right afterwards the WWF ran an angle where Owen Hart hit Shawn with an enzuigiri and Michaels collapsed in the ring. They played it off as something akin to post concussion syndrome and hinted that Shawn would be forced to retire. Meanwhile Owen was running around taking credit for Shawn being out of action and claimed he’d ended HBK’s career. That was until Shawn gave us a press conference announcing he was going to compete in the Royal Rumble and pursue his boyhood dream of becoming WWF champion. They did a great job of bringing the emotion and playing on Shawn’s ability to sell an angle.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Dean Douglas (c) vs. Razor Ramon
Razor is looking for his fourth IC title. This is a semi-famous match because Razor’s treatment of Douglas is considered by some a low point for the Kliq’s control of the WWF politically. Razor does a lot of the same stuff that degraded Shane at the previous IYH, like outwrestling him and paintbrushing the back of his head. Then Razor gets an armbar and kneels on Douglas’ head. More paintbrushing. Douglas takes a different tack and decides to kill time so Hall can’t embarrass him anymore. This involves laying around on the floor and generally doing nothing. Oh, it’s a big psychological battle alright. The battle to see who can make who look worse. You’d think the legitimate dislike these two men had for each other would make the match MORE interesting, not less so. But hey, that’s what happened. Razor’s asshole behaviour is highlighted by him pouring a bottle of water over Douglas’ head, like an absolute dick. It’s just embarrassing. All he’s doing is bullying Shane Douglas. Not that I even like Douglas, but a little professionalism here would have gone a long way. Razor even deliberately starts messing up his own offensive moves to make it look like Douglas can’t time his bumps. Douglas decides that enough is enough and first clocks Razor with an errant elbow before dropkicking him square in the face. They even have a terrible finish. Razor hits a shitty back suplex near the ropes and just barely puts his arm across for the pin. Douglas has his leg under the ropes but who cares? It’s not like he has a future in this company. Vince refuses to acknowledge the leg was out of the ring until the second replay and then quickly dismisses it. Buried on PPV, Dean? Douglas would last a couple of months afterwards but this humiliation was his last major outing for the WWF.
Final Rating: *¼
IYH5 again for the following contests.
Arkansas Hogpen Match
Henry Godwinn vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
The loser is the first man to be deposited into a hog pen, which has actual pigs in it. Special referee is Hillbilly Jim, due to his experience with swine. Triple H makes this match with his facial reactions. He finds Godwinn disgusting enough, but the pigs send his nose even higher into the air. You did NOT want to be ringside for this. Godwinn’s first move is accidentally slopping the front row. On my videotape there’s a huge sign in the crowd BLURRED out. I can only assume it said “Hogan” or “WCW” or something. Henry rubs slop into HHH’s face, which gets the blue blood all pissed off. The great thing about an angry HHH is how focused he is. You can see his dander is up but unlike most wrestlers he doesn’t throw wild punches, he throws vicious ones. Godwinn bulldogs HHH into the ring steps and heads towards the hog pen. HHH lines up for an insanely stupid Pedigree right next to the pen. He wouldn’t even have been able to execute that, which is a logic flaw on H’s part. Naturally he’s backdropped BUT he lands on the fence. Lawler starts stealing Jeff Foxworthy’s material to make fun of the hicks out there. Having teased the pen they go back into the ring with Godwinn dumping HHH face-first with a wheelbarrow. Or “whatamanoeuvre” if you’d rather. HHH does a great job of grabbing the rail to block a Slop Drop on the floor. You can see him feeling for it. He’s run into the side of the pen though and the Slop Drop connects. Another logic flaw occurs as Godwinn spends longer selling his finisher than HHH. He charges in and HHH backdrops him into the pen to win. The match had issues stemming from how daft it was, but HHH sold it superbly. Hunter gets thrown into the pen anyway after the match and does an awesome job of falling around in the mud and the blood and the beer. Vince loved taking a snooty guy and humiliating him. Hell, Vince loved taking *any* guy and humiliating him.
Final Rating: **½
Diesel vs. Owen Hart
Two great storylines to lead into this match. Diesel hates everybody after losing his WWF title, which has turned him into a bit of a tweener. He especially hates Owen though as they’ve just run the concussion storyline, where Hart’s repeated head shots to Shawn Michaels caused him to collapse in the ring. This would lead to Shawn’s super-babyface comeback but on the flip side you’ve got Diesel, who’s changed from the fan-friendly puppet champion to renegade badass. It’s a pity Owen has to job to both guys, but he’s at that point in his career where he’s rubbing shoulders with main events because he’s talented, but counting lights because they think he won’t draw. Owen takes several sickening bumps in the early going including an enormous back bump onto his neck out of the corner. Owen has to stick and move and he has a fun match with Diesel based on that. He wrestles a lot like Bret did at Survivor Series and works the knee. The closest he gets to winning a power kick-out comes from an enzuigiri. Diesel is all out for revenge for Shawn Michaels, which is also a pity as Shawn should have gotten his own revenge. Jacknife would finish, but Diesel decides he wants another one. Timmy White warns Diesel about being mean, so Nash shoves the ref over and hits another powerbomb. Owen wins on DQ but gets destroyed in the process. The match was a great showcase for Diesel because it was quick and he got a ton of power moves in. Shame it resulted in Owen getting buried. I never got this match, because Owen was capable of so much more and this took the heat out of the Shawn-Owen bout in February ’96.
Final Rating: *
Bret Hart (c) vs. British Bulldog
Jim Cornette cuts a phenomenal backstage promo where he reminds Bret about their history, how Bulldog won at Wembley in 1992 and how he married Bret’s sister Diana. Cornette helps the angle immensely because he can talk up a storm and Davey can’t. Bret outwrestles Davey, but Bulldog uses shortcuts to get back into it. Vince somewhat breaks character by pointing out that Bret “gets the best out of his opponents” as if to justify his choice of world champion. Another logic flaw as Davey gets Bret on his shoulder and instead of hitting his finisher, he hooks Bret up on the Tree of Woe. The crowd aren’t into it to begin with and there’s even an “ECW” chant and it’s LOUD. That was the wrestling masses declaring how unhappy they were with the WWF’s product at the time. It’s a shame they waited until now to voice their displeasure; during the best match of the night. It doesn’t help that Bulldog’s reaction is go to a chinlock. That was NOT the part of SummerSlam ’92 that people liked, mate. The problem with Davey being the heel is he’s supposed to control the pace and he’s not good at that. Bret’s timing on his comebacks is exemplary and generally Bret’s bits are better than Davey’s. Bret runs through his Five Moves of Doom until Davey blocks the superplex by throwing Bret off onto the ropes. Groin first, people. I felt that. Bret takes a header into the ring steps and gets in a sneaky bladejob, which wasn’t the first time he got one past Vince. The WWF was a bloodless world in 1995, but Bret figured this match needed colour to get extra heat on it. The crowd get a nice “he’s hardcore” chant going as Bret bleeds a gusher all over the ringside area. Bulldog gets a receipt on the piledriver and there’s a moment where he glances at Bret’s blood all over his arm. It’s a wonderful moment of storytelling. Vince is having kittens on commentary, ordering the camera’s to stay long and urging the referee to end the match. Bret gets a great counter out of the Oriental Crossbow into the Sharpshooter, but Davey is still too strong and kicks him off. Bulldog’s power helps the story a great deal as he can run through Bret and knock him down with ease. Bret is a terrific technician and great at baiting heels into position for sneak attacks, which is evident as he slips in a German suplex on the unsuspecting Davey. The crowd are totally into it by this point and chanting “let’s go Bret”. Davey hits the running powerslam on the floor, which amps up the violence and the crowd are buying into it. Bulldog takes a bump straight onto his noggin back inside. It’s the upside down corner bump he does. It always scared me because he has zero control over how he lands. Having weakened him, Bret can now hit the superplex. Even Vince is into it now as they start the slick countering and the blood is less of an issue. They run some near falls but Bret has an ace up his sleeve; La Majistral. Bulldog can’t figure out how to get a shoulder up and loses the match. The match started out a bit slow, but everything after the bladejob is fantastic. Bret Hart was on a tear at the time. Next for him is The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. Backstage they get words with Taker, only for Diesel to barge in and accuse the Dead Man of dodging him and the WWF of denying him his rightful rematch for the title.
Final Rating: ****½
Summary: IYH5 is one of the better early numbered In Your House shows. Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith stole the show with an outstanding main event, but the undercard is brief and mostly fun. Even when the show dipped into offensively bad territory (Taker-Mabel) at least they didn’t spend long on it. The match only lasted 6-minutes, compared to some of Taker’s more painfully long casket matches. At least this marks the end of the Mabel experiment. They have a bunch of talent involved in good storylines. Ahmed-Jarrett, HHH is building a reputation, Goldust-Razor, Taker-Diesel, Shawn-Owen, Bret Hart is the fighting champion. The company seems to have long term and mid-term goals. The run-on booking makes sense and despite the abuse that 1995 gets, it ends on a high with this show. IYH4 is less worthwhile, but most of it ended up on the cutting room floor so it’s no big deal.