’97 King of the Ring Review: June 8

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King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Ahmed Johnson
The commentators make note of how these two are from completely opposite worlds. Chyna comes on the apron to distract Ahmed and they exchange words which leads to Ahmed turning into a Pedigree and Hunter moving on to the King of the Ring finals.

King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Mankind def. Jerry “the King” Lawler
Mankind receives another positive ovation and cuts a babyface promo prior to the match so it looks like the turn is in full effect now. Mankind uses the Mandible Claw for the win and will meet Hunter in the Finals; a first of many encounters between the two.

Pillman is backstage talking about his upcoming match with Austin the following night on RAW when he is attacked by Austin. Austin shoves his face in the toilet and flushes it.

Goldust def. Crush

The Hart Foundation (Owen, Davey Boy & the Anvil) def. Sycho Sid & LOD
LOD and Sid cut a very early 90s style promo but remain very over with the crowd. Hart Foundation win with a bit of botched sunset flip into a pin by Owen on Sid.

Highlights of last year’s KOTR with the Austin 3:16 speech.

King of the Ring Final
Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Mankind
One of the great rivalries in it’s infancy here as these two square off. There were boring chants to begin with but this match was paced methodically and told a great story. There is a great ovation as Mankind applies the Mandible claw on Helmsley. Chyna gets involved numerous times. She nails Mankind with the KOTR scepter and even moves Hunter out of harm’s way as Mankind goes head first into the steel barricade. Hunter at one points rips off the mask of Mankind. He also hits a Pedigree driving Mankind through the announce table. Mankind attempts to get back in the ring after this but while on the apron, Helmsley hits a high knee sending Mankind into a camera man. Mankind, wrestling a great babyface style valiantly keeps getting back up and has the crowed solidly behind him as the story plays out. There’s a great reaction as Mankind kicks out after a close nearfall. Hunter hits another Pedigree and it does the job as Hunter Hearst Helmsley is your 1997 King of the Ring! Chyna (presumably now the Queen) aggressively brings Todd Pettengil in the ring for the coronation. Hunter dawns the robe but uses the crown (which he apparently hated) and nails Mankind in the back of the head as he stands over him, the new King. Commentary continue to praise Mankind as he eventually gets to his feet and makes his way to the back.

Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation comes out prior to the Austin-HBK match. Bret was supposed to remain ring side but ends up in the back but not before challenging 5 American wrestlers to a 10-Man Tag at the next pay-per-view; the Canadian Stampede!

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels ends in a Double DQ
I thought match of the night so definitely one to check out. Austin inadvertently hits the referee knocking him out and when he covered Michaels, the ref couldn’t make the 3-count. Austin ends up stunning the referee which the crowd enjoyed. Another referee comes in to check on the fallen ref despite Michaels now covering Austin. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music on this referee and a THIRD referee comes in to disqualify both men. The finish made sense as it protected both men and kept them both at equal footing.

WWE Championship
Undertaker (c) def. Faarooq
The story of this match was that we may see the first African-American champion. 20 years later we have had only the Rock as WWE Champion and Booker T and Mark Henry as World Heavyweight Champions. A cool spot happens when the Undertaker looks to walk the ropes and hit “Old School” (which I guess was just “school” at this point). Undertaker ends up diving onto the Nation who were outside the ring and takes them all out. At the end of the match, Faarooq is distracted by the dysfunction he sees among the Nation members. Faarooq turns around and the Undertaker hits the Tombstone for the win! Post-match, Paul Bearer orders the Undertaker to chokeslam Faarooq multiple times. Ahmed Johnson comes down and asks why the Undertaker is listening to Bearer and doing this. Ahmed hits the Pearl River Plunge on the Undertaker, perhaps also as retribution for the chokeslam the Undertaker hit Johnson with last week on RAW. There was no apparent alliance between Faarooq and Ahmed.

I thought overall a good show. I enjoyed the King of the Ring Final more than I thought I would and both men left that match better than when they went in so that was a plus! The Shawn Michaels-Steve Austin match was really good. There was a bit of a disruption early on with a fan with special needs falling over the barricade, but Michaels looked to ensure he made it back to his seat safely which made Shawn all the more endearing to his fans. I thought the main event was fine, I knew it couldn’t surpass the HBK/Stone Cold match but it was passeable. For all the great promo work Faarooq had done it was a bit of a shame that there really wasn’t a huge payoff and that this title program was essentially one and done.

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