I was recently approached about contributing some reviews of older shows available on the WWE network, and I jumped at the chance because I love my old wrestling. Oddly enough, the show I’m going to talk about today—In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies, from April of 1996— took place when I was not watching wrestling at all. In the early 90’s my favorites were Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, and I had my Ted DiBiase wrestling buddy, but by the mid 90’s I was into sports, and wrestling fell by the wayside until late 1996 with the emergence of Sycho Sid and Steve Austin, as well as the NWO.
Due to this, I have no fondness or nostalgia for the era of Razor Ramon, Diesel, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels. It isn’t necessarily a blind spot, as I have gone back and watched the RAWs and Pay Per Views, but I find it considerably underwhelming as an era over all. However, I do find the period fascinating, especially this show, because it is pretty much a line of demarcation in the WWE’s history. After this show, Scott Hall (Ramon) and Kevin Nash (Diesel) went to WCW and kicked off one of the greatest wrestling angles of all time with the NWO, while Shawn Michaels was left to helm the WWF and fail miserably business-wise with fantastic matches and a terrible top babyface character.
Honestly, this show is probably the last of its kind, with the stench of the New Generation all over it, as the middle of 1996 was a transitional period before the end of the year brought us Austin vs. Bret Hart, Pillman’s got a gun, the Nation of Domination, heel Jim Ross, tweener versions of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, the transformation of the Undertaker from a zombie to a mortal man, and the debuts of Rocky Maivia and Furnas & LaFond. All while this is happening, Hall, Nash, and 1-2-3 Kid (future X-Pac) all leave the company while the likes of Yokozuna and the Smoking Gunns are phased out and replaced by fresher acts like Ahmed Johnson, Vader, Marc Mero, and Faarooq, cartoonish occupational gimmicks are given only to jobber characters like TL Hopper and the Goon, and women on the roster (Sable, Marlena, and Sunny) become sexy eye candy rather than just valets for their wrestlers.
I figure the winds of change make for interesting shows, and Good Friends, Better Enemies, lost in a gray era of New Generation and Attitude seemed like a fun show to review, especially since I’ve only seen it once, and that was years ago.
Before we get into the review, itself, I’d like to pull the curtain back on my review style. If you’re looking for Dave Meltzer/Scott Keith star ratings based solely on work rate, you’re going to hate this. I’m going to evaluate these matches, and shows, on entertainment value. For instance, a match can be technically sound and clean, but boring as hell. I will not rate only it’s competency and technicality, but rather how entertaining the whole package is, including crowd reactions, promos, work rate, novel situations, character work, booking, and outside influences like managers and the commentary team. Hell, even a Jeff Jarrett/Steve Blackman match on Shotgun Saturday night could be 3 minutes long and not have a lot of meaning behind it, but if it’s fast paced, makes both guys look good, and has some good moments I’m going to give it a decent rating. NOT EVERY MATCH SHOULD BE GRADED ON A FIVE STAR SCALE. To think a Mabel/Yokozuna match or “Iron” Mike Sharpe/Koko B. Ware match that curtain jerks a show should be measured on the same scale as a 25 minute-long main event, we’re just going to have to disagree about ratings.
In Your House 7: GOOD FRIENDS, BETTER ENEMIES
The show kicks off with the vintage Vince McMahon call of “Welcome Everyone!!!” in his guttural, excited voice, and I already feel at home. Yes, I’m a mark for Vince as a commentator.
Davey Boy Smith/Owen Hart vs. Ahmed Johnson/Jake Roberts
This match was supposed to be a singles match between Bulldog and Roberts, but Jim Cornette’s lawyer, Clarence Mason, did some lawyer stuff to ban Jake’s snake, so Jake goes backstage and grabs Ahmed, and we have a tag team match. Yes, before the age of Teddy Long we had impromptu tag team matches.
The match itself is essentially a house show match, but HOLY SHIT is Ahmed Johnson over. Like, insane for anybody in early 1996 over. Amazing what a guy with charisma, power moves, and a push can accomplish. You’re not missing much here; the work is solid, Owen and Bulldog are a great heel team, and Ahmed is a fantastic hot tag, but Jake is worn down by life here and very sad to watch. Just a good opener. Bulldog uses Cornette’s racket on Jake’s knee and then applies a kneebar for the submission victory.
RATING: 2 stars
Backstage, we see “Wildman” Marc Mero (or as Vince refers to him, WILDMANMARCMERO!) and the 1-2-3 Kid on the superstar line. They wrestled in the Free 4 All match up, and Mero won via DQ when Hunter Hearst Helmsley interfered. Lawler, in the days before he was a dirty old man, stays true to his heel persona and basically says Sable is unappealing. Certainly strange to hear these days.
Intercontinental Title Match
Goldust (c) vs. Ultimate Warrior
This might be some of the most divisive stuff I ever post, but I enjoyed this segment, and a segment is all it is because Goldust came into the match with a knee injury and couldn’t work. Therefore, we get Goldust and Marlena, flanked by a bodyguard who appears to be a gangster taken straight from the 1931 film “Little Caesar”, stalling for a few minutes and being chased and taunted by Warrior.
What I enjoyed about this was that the WWF gave us two of the most unique and bombastic gimmicks of all-time going head to head in a segment that featured Warrior smoking Marlena’s cigar and burning Goldust’s hand with it, and then clotheslining him out of his director’s chair before Goldust and his director scurry to the back for good and Warrior destroys the bodyguard (who it turns out was actually Mantaur). We also got Vince yelling “Unbelievable”, “Woah hohohohoho”, and “TORO!” as only he can.
Personally, after watching this and some of the stuff from RAWs of the era, I don’t think Ultimate Warrior would have been too out of place in the burgeoning Attitude era, as he tweaked his character from an alien or whatever the hell he was, and he presented himself as more of a mortal badass. That, along with prime Goldust, made for an entertaining 10-15 minutes, even without the promised IC Title match.
RATING: 3.75 stars
Backstage, Dok Hendrix is reporting that British Bulldog is trying to get into Shawn Michaels’s locker room. This is the beginning of the upcoming Bulldog/Shawn Michaels feud over Bulldog’s wife. Also, Dok Hendrix is such a loser that he makes Mike Adamle seem subtle.
Razor Ramon vs. Vader
Listening to Vince on commentary as he tries to get “The Mastodon” over as Vader’s alias is so ridiculous that it’s hilarious and a great drinking game.
This is a match I was expecting to be a squash, due to Vader being new and pushed as a top heel, and Ramon making on his way out of the company, but we get something like 14-15 minutes of a decent match, if not a little boring. I really don’t know what to say here, other than that it seems like this was an early example of the WWF not knowing how in the hell to book and handle Vader. Hot ending, though as Vader gets the clean pin. It was good.
RATING: 2 stars
Here we get an ad for WWF golf shirts and baseball hats, voiced by Todd Pettengill. Holy shit, him and Dok on one show is rough.
WWF Tag Team Title Match
Bodydonnas (c) vs. The Godwins
I don’t even want to talk about this, it was heatless, boring, and represents the absolute nadir of WWF tag team wrestling, to me.
RATING: ¼ *, just because they tried hard.
Backstage, Dok interviews Mero who rips into Helmsley, as they would feud straight through December.
WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Diesel
Pretty decent promo package before the match, especially considering the time. This is a no-holds-barred match, and Vince and Lawler bring their A-game, though it will always suck seeing Jose Lothario. Another great thing is that this match takes place during the period of time between Survivor Series ‘95 and his exit from the company, when Kevin Nash eschewed all the bullshit of 1995 Diesel (well except for the music that sounded like the intro to Roseanne), and became the killer tweener/heel that would light business on fire in WCW a few months later. He is legitimately great here, even to the point that we can here Diesel chants from the crowd at certain points.
This match… well, if you’ve never seen it, get after it. It is a great match by Shawn, probably Kevin Nash’s greatest effort and performance EVER, and a match that is just wonderful to watch. It sets a sort of proto-attitude era template for the chaotic main events, featuring table bumps, chairshots, and a fire extinguisher. Also, we see what Shawn Michaels would become great at for the next two years—getting his ass kicked by a bigger guy, while making realistic and believable comebacks, and making the offense of his opponents look lethal. Add in the amazing spot with Maurice Vachon at ringside and you have an all-time, under the radar classic.
RATING: 4.5 stars
The ‘Lo Down
Well, this is a quintessential 1996 WWF Pay Per View. You get some meandering mid-card stuff, some fun characters, a great main event, and Vince McMahon desperately trying to get everything over as he finds himself embroiled in the early days of the Monday Night Wars. The main event is must-see, the Warrior/Goldust segment is a fun curiosity, the 2 hour run time of most In Your House shows is a breeze, and the Omaha crowd brought some energy to a middling show, thus making it much more palatable to watch in 2018.