It changed the WWE landscape forever when they increased their pay-per-view model from five to twelve times a year. But where the matches any good? That's what I'm hoping to find out by re-visiting the matches that make up the three disc set, The Best of WWE In Your House.
And as is the custom with these things, let's start right at the beginning with.....
May 14th, 1995
It's the very first show, and the very first match, as Japanese sensation Hakushi, accompanied by his manager Shinja, took on Bret Hart, in what was actually the first of two matches for the Hitman on this show. Waiting for him later in the evening was his old rival Jerry Lawler.
This is only the second time I've seen this match (when I reviewed the first IYH show a while back, check my site for more), and it still sends shivers down my spine to see these two against each other. Hakushi was like a breath of fresh air back then with his unique offence, and I remember being a bit p'oed off because these events weren't shown in Britain for quite a while.
The match itself is a great piece of work. Hakushi and the Hitman were a perfect match-up, and it reminded me of the recent Hitman/Tiger Mask II match I reviewed recently, but at a much faster pace. There was plenty of great sequences and regular moments of interference from Shinja at ringside, one of which almost cost Hart the match.
The Hitman managed to survive this dual assault though, countering Hakushi's suplex attempt with a roll-up for the pin. Hart would later go on to enjoy several more World title reigns, while Hakushi ended up as Barry Horrowitz's comic sidekick. Oh the shame.
July 23rd, 1995
It's the first title match of the collection with Shawn Michaels challenging Jeff Jarrett, accompanied here by his Roadie, for the Intercontinental title.
Double J had quite a busy night here. Earlier in the evening he'd "performed" his new single "With My Baby Tonight". Of course we all know now that it was actually the future Road Dogg doing the vocals, with Jarrett invoking the spirit of Milli Vanilli during his performance.
This is one of the matches I've never seen in full before, and it's pretty good. Jarrett and Michaels matched up together really well, and with the Dogg...I mean the Roadie running interference for his boss on quite a few occasions it became the proverbial two-on-one affair, and even more so when the referee took forty winks.
But in the end the Roadie's deeds came back to haunt him. Towards the end as both men ran the ropes he accidentally hooked Jarrett's ankle instead of Michaels', tripping him up, and when Double J went to chastise him he found himself on the receiving end of a Michaels superkick. A three count later and Michaels was crowned Intercontinental Champion for the third time.
October 22nd, 1995
With Shawn Michaels having to forfeit the Intercontinental title because of injury (no, this isn't the one where he lost his smile), new champion Dean Douglas is forced into a quick title defence against Razor Ramon.
In hindsight this is a rather interesting match, especially given Douglas' intense dislike for the Kliq back then. Ramon dominated the majority of the action, and Douglas' best moment of offence came when he countered the Razor's edge attempt by back dropping his man over the top rope.
The ending wasn't without controversy. After Ramon took Douglas down with a back suplex he draped his right arm over the fallen Dean, and as the referee made his count Douglas put his leg under the bottom rope. The referee failed to spot this though and finished his count, and after a brief discussion with the ring announcer Ramon was declared the new champion.
As for Douglas, the tensions with the Kliq led to him leaving shortly afterwards.
December 17th, 1995
With Hillbilly Jim as the special referee Henry O. Godwinn takes on a certain Hunter Hearst Helmsley in an Arkansas Hog Pen match.
Now for those of you who have only followed WWE for a few years back then country types like Hillbilly Jim and Henry Godwinn were nothing more than good old fashioned boys who liked nothing more than a spot of barn dancing when they weren't looking after their pigs. Unlike today where country types are crazy lunatics in sheep masks who like nothing more than a spot of kidnapping and brain washing.
This was also the time where class warfare ruled, which is why the working class pig farmer Godwinn was a natural adversary for the pompous upper class Helmsley.
The stipulation for this one was quite simple, to win you had to get your opponent into a hog pen at ringside, so what we had here was a lot of brawling, a bit of slop throwing, and two guys trying to throw each other into a pile of pig you know what. It was okay I suppose, but it certainly won't go down as one of the greatest battles in the long career of the King of Kings.
Although the future Game did manage to get the win here. After they brawled around the pen for a while Godwinn charged at Helmsley, only for the farmer to be back dropped into the pen, giving Helmsley the win. However, Helmsley was none too pleased when Hillbilly had the audacity to touch him when he raised his hand in victory. A brief shoving match followed until Godwinn grabbed hold of Helmsley and press-slammed him into the dirt, and as the pigs gathered around him Godwinn slammed him again, before leaving him to flail around in the brown stuff.
Later in the evening it's on to the family feud as Jim Cornette guy Davey Boy Smith challenges Bret Hart for the WWF title.
While many will rightfully say that their match at Summerslam '92 was a classic this one wasn't far behind it in that respect. It was also a rather unique match for the family-friendly WWF of 1995.
With Smith's wife and Hart's sister Diana sitting at ringside offering encouraging words such as "come on Davey" (actually that was the only thing she said whenever there was a close-up of her), the Hitman and the Bulldog put on a very intriguing contest. Both of the protagonists put on great performances throughout.
But the rather unique thing about this match was the blood. Back then blood was a distinct no-no for the WWF, so it was somewhat surprising to see Hart bleeding after Smith had rammed his head into the ring steps. It wasn't done the hard way, because if you pay close attention you can see Hart perform the deed as it were, and when it became apparent what had happened a few fans wearing ECW shirts at ringside began shouting "we want blood!". A few moments later commentator Vince McMahon told his cameramen to forget the close-ups and to keep the Hitman on a wide view. Attitude was still a while away at that point.
As far as the rest of the match was concerned they didn't really make much of the cut apart from a couple of Bulldog headbutts, and the action moved along nicely, with Smith coming close to getting the win a few times until the Hitman tied him in knots and rolled him up for the winning pin.
April 28th, 1996
Having achieved his boyhood dream, Shawn Michaels now defends his WWF title against his former buddy Diesel in a no holds barred match at Good Friends, Better Enemies, the first In Your House show to be given a subtitle name.
Those of you who have been fans for a while will now that this was one of Kevin Nash's last hurrahs before he and Scott Hall headed for the greener pastures of the NWO, and for a min-nineties WWF match it had quite a few unique moments.
This was a well played out encounter with both guys putting in good performances, although it won't go down as one of their best matches. The no holds barred stipulation added a bit of drama to the proceedings as these two did things which were a bit shocking for some fans at the time. For instance one of Michaels' first offensive moves was grabbing the boot of one of the Spanish announcers so he could clobber Diesel in the head with it.
There were some nice "ordinary" back and forth exchanges, and every now and then something else "shocking" would happen, such as when Diesel briefly choked out the referee so he could steal his belt to whip Michaels with.
The most shocking moments came a few minutes later when Diesel powerbombed Michaels through the announcer's table, which was unheard of in the WWF back then. Diesel even topped that a few moments later after Michaels made a brief comeback. Local resident and wrestling legend Mad Dog Vachon was sitting in the front row, so Diesel attacked him and removed his false leg, intent on using it as a weapon. He didn't get the chance though because Michaels made his final comeback, used the leg himself, and then sealed the deal with sweet chin music.
September 22nd, 1996
It's the favourite match of Mick Foley's career as Paul Bearer leads Mankind into battle to challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWF title at Mind Games.
I've heard this described as one of the most unique WWF title matches ever, and for me it's certainly one of the best. Although these two didn't have a long running storyline going into this one it was filled with drama and tension throughout, and it was a perfect piece of storytelling.
These two beat the proverbial out of each other for nearly thirty minutes. Mrs. Foley's baby boy was at his psychotic best, while Michaels, to the surprise of many, matched him in almost every department in what was probably his most aggressive performance ever.
Everything about this match was just perfect, the twists and turns, the exchanges, everything, right down to the Joey Styles oh my gawd moment when both men jockeyed for position on the top rope before crashing through the Spanish announcers table below.
And after everything that happened the finish seemed just right as well, because when it looked like this war would go on all night Michaels' other main rival came down to the ring to attack the champion. The referee called for the bell immediately, given Michaels the disqualification win, and after Michaels sent Vader running for cover Paul Bearer clobbered him from behind with his trusty old urn.
Sycho Sid then made a brief cameo as he stopped Vader from attacking Michaels again, and after Mankind finally applied the mandible claw to Michaels the Undertaker mysteriously appeared in Mankind's coffin, sending him running for cover.
October 20th, 1996
It's the first of two matches from Buried Alive, beginning with a battle of future champions between Steve Austin and Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
This certainly proved to be an interesting battle. Trips had come in as a late replacement for Austin's long-time rival Savio Vega, making this a heel versus heel battle. There were also some interesting happenings at the commentary table as well with Jim Ross, in the midst of his heel turn, having trouble with his microphone and accusing Vince McMahon of trying to silence him.
As for the match it proved to be an interesting battle between two guys on the verge of big turning points as far as their careers were concerned. Their performances were solid enough during their back and forth exchanges, but the crowd did seem a little withdrawn, and they didn't really heat up until Trips' rival Mr. Perfect appeared on the scene. Perfect had been due to face Trips the following night on Raw, and he came down to the ring to pick up Trips' young lady. A brief confrontation with Austin followed in which Stone Cole threw a cup of water in his face.
Moments later Trips took the upper hand, but when he was about to put Austin away with the pedigree he stopped and saw Perfect walking away with his girl. He bolted from the ring, only to be attacked by Austin from behind, and after a suplex and a slingshot into the post at ringside Austin took the pin after taking Trips out with the stunner.
Later in the evening it was on to the Buried Alive match itself, with Paul Bearer's Mankind and the Undertaker renewing their storied rivalry.
The first ever match of this kind was definitely a unique affair back then. It was a great way of continuing the rivalry these two had built up over the previous months, and a fitting sequel to the boiler room brawl at Summerslam. Most of it was spent with the two combatants beating the proverbial out of each other in and around the ring, and when Mankind began using a spike that his Uncle Paul had given him commentator Vince McMahon acted like it was the most heinous thing he'd ever seen. Well, the Attitude Era was still a few months away by this point, so you can imagine how he reacted when Mankind hit Taker in the head with a chair and when the Dead Man pounded his man with the metal ring steps.
After several back and forth trips between the ring and the grave they eventually made one last trip to the grave. Taker soon won out when he chokeslammed Mankind into the grave, and when he'd put a few inches of soil onto Mankind's prone form the referee called for the bell, giving the Undertaker the win.
Although the match was won the Undertaker continued to shovel soil onto the fallen Mankind, and he only stopped when Bearer's newest recruit, the masked Executioner, attacked the dead man from behind with a shovel. He then helped Mankind out of the grave before putting the Undertaker in it, and as Bearer's men began to fill the grave with soil they were soon joined by Goldust, Crush, Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Justin Bradshaw as they buried the Undertaker alive.
Or so they thought. The sound of lightning sent Bearer's hired hands running for cover, and after Paul and his boys had finished the job and celebrated a bolt crashed down from the heavens and hit the grave before the Undertaker's had emerged from the soil.
February 16th, 1997
With Shawn Michaels having lost his smile Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Paul Bearer guy Vader and the Undertaker fight it out for the vacant WWF title at Final Four.
This wasn't like the four way elimination matches we see today. Although fought under battle royal rules eliminations could also come via pinfall or submission, with the last man remaining winning the title.
For want of a better term this was just one big fight with a few wrestling holds mixed in for good measure, and a damn entertaining one at that. All four men went at it as soon as the bell sounded, and as they began brawling in and around the ring, and it was during one exchange there that the Undertaker busted Vader open when he kicked a chair into his face.
Unlike the Hitman/Bulldog match quite a bit was made of Vader's injury as the big man put on one of the best performances of his WWF career. He looked like the monster of old as he beat the hell out of everyone else, and I have to admit I kind of marked out a little during his brawls with Austin.
All four men pulled out all the stops here, and despite the stipulations all of the eliminations came via the battle royal method, with Hart eliminating Austin and Taker taking care of Vader. Austin's elimination didn't stop him from coming back to cause more damage, and as the officials tried to stop him he stopped the Undertaker from taking the Hitman down with a tombstone, and after the dead man had finally knocked Stone Cold down from the ring apron Hart clotheslined him over the top rope to win the title.
July 6th, 1997
It's a massive ten man tag match as Goldust, Ken Shamrock, Hawk & Animal of the Legion of Doom & Steve Austin take on the combined might of the Hart Foundation, Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, European Champion Davey Boy Smith, Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart & Bret Hart at Canadian Stampede.
When I think about this pay per view two things come to mind, the first is that I can't for the life of me remember what the undercard was like, and the second is that this match was both crazy and fantastic at the same time.
This was at the height of the USA/Canada rivalry, and the Calgary crowd was absolutely electric. They cheered everything the Harts did, no matter how heinous it was, and soundly jeered everything the Americans did, especially when Austin was in the ring.
The match itself didn't have any real standout performances. Everyone looked solid, although Shamrock looked a little lost a times. The most dramatic moments came when Austin clobbered Owen's knee with a chair, putting him out of the match for a while, before Bret returned the favour and clobbered Austin's knee with a fire extinguisher before locking in the ring post-assisted figure four, which put Austin out for a while.
Eventually Austin and Owen limped back into the match and played a pivotal role in it's ending. As they brawled at ringside Owen's brother Bruce threw a fizzy beverage at Stone Cold from the front row. Austin then grabbed old man Stu, and one of the numerous mass brawls erupted as some of the Harts jumped the guardrail and tried to lend a hand. While all this was going on Austin and Owen had made their way back to the ring where Owen rolled the Rattlesnake up for the winning pin.
The brawling continued after the bell as more Hart brothers joined the fray, and eventually security arrived on the scene to separate the factions, with the Americans returning backstage. But as the Harts celebrated Austin returned to the ring with a chair in hand. The Harts swarmed on him like a pack of dogs until security came back and took Stone Cold away in handcuffs before the entire Hart clan joined their triumphant heroes.
September 7th, 1997
Having lost the WWF title to Bret Hart at Summerslam, the Undertaker now faces the special referee who cost him the win, Shawn Michaels, at Ground Zero.
For me this was the perfect example of how chaos can make for compelling viewing. It was one wild and crazy affair with referees flying everywhere and two guys doing anything they could to be the proverbial out of each other. But perhaps what's most interesting about this is that it's an example of the early work of a certain group of D-Generates.
The storytelling was perfect in it's simplicity. The Dead Man basically wanted to beat the crap out of Michaels, and nothing was going to stand in his way, so the first thing he did was deck the referee with a big right hand, and this one action made you realise just what kind of match you were going to get.
It was also a great way of putting over Michaels as the cocky and cowardly heel. After the first ref went he wanted no part of the Dead Man, and after getting the wood shed treatment the disdain for authority was never more apparent when he attacked the referees himself and received aid from his insurance policy Rick Rude and his new running buddies Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna.
But with everything that was going on and both wrestlers attacking the referees as much as they attacked each other there was only one possible outcome. A fourth official came down and called for the bell, waving the match off. That didn't stop the craziness though as that referee was soon sent flying and other officials took a pasting, and it was only when the locker room emptied that any form of order was restored. although the Undertaker soon took them all out when he flew over the top rope and crashed onto them at ringside.
And all of that was the perfect set up for the first ever trip to Satan's playground.
February 15th, 1998
It's back to tag team action, this time of the anything goes variety as Tag Team Champions Road Dogg and Billy Gunn of the New Age Outlaws, D-Generation X's Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Savio Vega of Los Boricuas (a late replacement for WWF Champion Shawn Michaels) take on European Champion Owen Hart, Cactus Jack, Chainsaw Charlie and Steve Austin at No Way Out of Texas.
To describe this match as wild and crazy would probably be an understatement, because this was wild and crazy times 10. These two teams beat the proverbial out of each other with anything they could get their hands on, tables, chairs, rubbish bins, barbed wire, anything, and it was the perfect set up for the big matches at Wrestlemania.
It began with a wild brawl as Cactus shared out the toys he'd brought to the ring in a great big dumpster, and from there the chair shots and the like were probably heard for miles around. Eventually the referee managed to turn this into a normal tag match, although order definitely wasn't restored. They still found weapons to use, and there were low blows aplenty as Triple H and his boys kept control.
The nearest thing to a Joey Styles "oh my gawd" moment came when Vega wrapped Cactus up in barbed wire, but when he managed to get the tag to Austin all hell broke loose for the umpteenth time until Austin took Road Dogg out with a stunner for the three count.
Stone Cold then went on to take Gunn out with another stunner before a right hand sent Trips flying from the ring apron onto the announcer’s table. It was then that Chyna got into the ring and went nose to nose with Austin. At first Austin wasn't interested and started to leave the ring, until Chyna flipped him a couple of fingers. That was enough for the Rattlesnake as he took her out with a stunner as well.
July 26th, 1998
It's a title defence for the Tag Team Champions as Paul Bearer's Mankind and Kane face the challenge of WWF Champion Steve Austin and the Undertaker at Fully Loaded.
This one had quite a bit of back story to it. Rumours had persisted for weeks that the Undertaker was actually in cahoots with his brother Kane. He was also due to challenge Austin for the title at Summerslam a few weeks later, which meant that relationship was somewhat rocky as well.
As for the match it played the perfect part in the situation between WWF Champion and challenger. Both men seemed almost reluctant to tag each other early on while their monstrous opponents looked like a well oiled machine in comparison as they used the dead man and then Stone Cold for target practice.
The conspiracy theory looked to be true when Austin went for the hot tag. Once again Taker seemed reluctant to tag in until he extended his arm to get into the match. He proceeded to clean house before taking Kane out with a tombstone for the title winning pin.
But that didn't mean everything was rosy for the new champions. As soon as the match ended Taker grabbed both belts and walked back down the aisle, much to the annoyance of his partner.
October 18th, 1998
It's another title match for Mankind as he challenges Ken Shamrock for the Intercontinental title at Judgement Day.
On paper these two looked like a complete mis-match style wise. If you'd never seen this match you'd wonder how two guys like these could actually match up. The answer to that question would be pretty well.
Now while this isn't the best match on this collection it's still pretty entertaining. Shamrock, who'd only won the title a few days before during a one night tournament on Raw, put in his usual solid performance, while Mrs. Foley's baby boy was transitioning well back into the world of baby faces (although he'd soon be making a quick return journey to heeldom), and his brawling style was quite the unique contrast to Shamrock's technical expertise.
The ending was quite unique, because while Shamrock applied his patented ankle lock Mankind did everything he could to take his mind off the pain, including pulling his hair out and hitting himself in the face. He then resorted to using the mandible claw on himself, and when he passed out the referee called for the bell to give Shamrock the submission win.
Shamrock then snapped when he found out that it wasn't his ankle lock that had taken him to victory, and after he attacked the referee Mankind had recovered enough to finally apply a Mr. Socko-assisted mandible to Shamrock.
February 14th, 1999
It's the final match of the collection as the Rock challenges Mankind for the WWF title in a last man standing match at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
These two had one of the best feuds of the late '90s. It may have been just to keep the Rock busy while Steve Austin awaited him at Wrestlemania, but it provided some great moments, and this match was one of them.
It was the proverbial slobber knocker as they beat the hell out of each other. They used tables, chairs (no ladders though), and Mankind took some crazy bumps here, particularly when he tried to put Rock through the announcer's table. Rock countered with a back drop that saw Mankind flying over and cracking his head on the table and his legs on the timekeeper's table.
Rock even found the time to do a spot of commentary and singing. He also found the time to take a snooze, because when they both got their hands on a chair they clobbered each other at the same time, knocking each other out. The referee began his count, and by the time he reached the magic number both men were still out of it, which meant that the match had been declared a draw, with Mankind retaining the title, and both men being carted away on stretchers.
In conclusion - so after over seven hours of viewing and nearly 4,500 words we've finally reached the end. It's been a long ride, but it was definitely worth it.
The In Your House shows may not have been the biggest or most remembered events in WWE history but they certainly produced some great matches, many of which didn't get the recognition they deserve, until the release of this compilation that is.
There's definitely some sleeping giants here, as well as some matches that became folklore over the years. I still remember the rabid Calgary crowd during that ten man match at the Canadian Stampede, and it still brings a smile to my face almost twenty years later.
The other things I liked about this set was that you get to physically see how the WWE changed from the family friendly atmosphere in 1995 where blood and weapons were frowned upon right to the early days of the Attitude Era and beyond, where men could say the word "ass", get wrapped up in barbed wire, and a match could end when a guy was hit in the head with a chair.
Then there was the choice of host. For some reason seeing Todd Pettengill again brought back warm fuzzy memories. Apart from the hair and the beard he was just the same as he was back in the day, and he definitely was a better presenter than the likes of Jonathan Coachman.
But warm fuzzy memories aside, this collection is perfect for those of you who were around back then. It's certainly an interesting piece of history filled with great unheralded matches, and that's why I'm giving this the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. The Best of WWE In Your House can be purchased online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.