It’s time for a New Generation (though we are actually heading towards the end of that whole era here). It’s the 20th October 1996 and we’re in the Market Square Arena of Indianapolis, Indiana for WWF’s In Your House 11: Buried Alive! Your main event tonight: The Undertaker vs Mankind in a Buried Alive Match! But of course!
Ah, late 1996. Shawn Michaels was champion, WCW was dominating the ratings and WWF’s response was to imply that Steve Austin murdered Brian Pillman. But that was to come. The 11th in the “In Your House” brand of minor PPV’s, Buried Alive came at the start of a transitional time for the WWF, ahead of the top title jumping around a bit and the beginning of what would come to be called “Attitude”, or “stealing from ECW” depending on your perspective. The In Your House shows could be good and bad, but at least had the benefit of being of a manageable length: tonight in 110 minutes we have five matches, including two titles on the line, so I have reasonably high expectations.
“Revolutionary Force” opening, and then we have Taker telling us that his whole life is dedicated to “the destruction of Mankind”. He and Mankind wax lyrically about the sensation of being buried alive, and Taker closes by saying that Mankind has been “sentenced to Eternal Damnation”. Jeez, that’s a bit harsh.
In Your House: Buried Alive is brought to you by that new-fangled Playstation, and man does that make me feel old. Now those were the days. Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler and Jim Ross on commentary, with JR, in the middle of an ill-fated heel turn, complaining about a non-functioning mike. Before he can say his piece, it’s our opening contest, and it is a doozy in terms of “Before they were mega famous”
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Steve Austin
Fun fact: the first PPV I ever watched was No Way Out 2001, which had that awesome 2-out-of-3 falls match between these two. Only two years into Triple H’s career here, well into his “Connecticut Blueblood” gimmick. Out with an unnamed female companion here. Austin, sans, “Stone Cold”, a few months beyond winning the King Of The Ring, and maybe a year or so from ascending into the stratosphere. His “Breaking Glass” music debuts here, after he gives a brief backstage interview with Kevin Kelly where he expresses a lack of care for his opponent, who is a stand-in for an injured Savio Vega, or for people who complain about bad language. The whole intro and entrances, JR’s mike keeps not working, and he keeps complaining, alleging a conspiracy to silence him. Oh boy, this is going to get old.
Lock-up, HHH sends Austin back, and plie’s as a form of mockery. Austin takes a powder, and we’re reminded that both of these guys are technically heel. HHH goes outside to jaw with the crowd briefly, then we are back in. Odd start to this one, mixed with the commentary “problems”. Lock-up, Austin throws Helmsley back, and gives him the double bird. Another lock-up, and Austin gets in a head-lock for a bit. Eventually Helmsley takes a powder too. Not a great beginning.
Eventually back in, another lock-up, HHH with a shoulder charge, then Austin back with a brutal looking clothesline. Knees to the head, Austin gets two. Standing armbar, knees to the shoulder, then an elbow lock. Helmsley gets in an eye gouge as we move to a picture in picture with the commentary desk, just in case you weren’t following along with the drama over there. Austin with another armbar, HHH back with a knee to the midsection to floor Austin, as JR opinions on Connecticut being an “overpriced hellhole” to McMahon’s amusement.
Helmsley and Austin trading blows in the corner, and Helmsley gets in a back body-drop. Suplex, knee-drop, two. Reverse suplex, two, and into a resthold. This match is just backdrop to the JR drama at ringside, and it is unimaginably bad in terms of entertainment, as he keeps complaining. Austin coming back with shoulder charges, before dueling sleepers. Austin hits was looks very much like a Stunner to counter the last sleeper, but gets two. Only after is it identified as “A stone cold…stone cold stunner”. Stun Gun laws HHH out, second rope knee drop, but Helmsley out at two.
Soon to be patented high knee puts Helmsley back in charge, he drops a knee from the second rope and he also gets two. Very samey feel to this. Both men clothesline each other, and the crowd comes alive as Mr Perfect makes an appearance, ahead of a match with Helmsley on Raw the night after this. Helmsley out to confront Perfect, and gets ambushed by Austin, who also jaws a bit with Perfect. Austin throws a handy glass of water in Perfect’s face, flees to the ring, and gets ambushed in turn by Helmsley. Perfect walks off with Helmsley’s unnamed valet. In the ring, Helmsley going for the Pedigree, but distracted by the retreating Perfect/valet. More ambushing, ringside brawling, and Helmsley gets in a suplex on Austin.
Both slowly back to their feet, and man this one feels long. Helmsley looking for the Pedigree on the outside, but Austin counters it into a catapult into the ring post. Back in, Austin hits the Stunner, and that’s it in just around 15-and-a-half.
Winner: Not quite Stone Cold Steve Austin
Verdict: A perfectly average match completely ruined by the mess occurring on the commentary desk.
We get thrown to a video recap of the Smoking Gunns’ recent history. Billy has been getting distracted with a relationship with Sunny, and as a result the Gunns lost their titles to Owen Hart and the Bulldog. Sunny quit as their manager, and now they get a re-match, with “the Gunns after the titles, and Billy after the girl”. OK then.
The Gunns are backstage ahead of their match. Billy says once he gets the tag titles, Sunny will be back. Bart tells him to forget about Sunny. You can see where this one is going.
Owen Hart & the British Bulldog (c) w/Clarence Mason vs the Smoking Gunns (Bart & Billy) (WWF Tag Team Championships)
Another heel-vs-heel affair. The mike problems are ongoing, you will be delighted to hear. Davey Boy looking in decent shape here, but I know he would undergo a fairly rapid deterioration in the next few years. First time on the series for one Owen Hart, so looking forward to this.
Billy and Owen to start. Lock-up, head-scissors, hip toss chains. Back and forth on the headlocks, before Billy nails a clothesline. To the top, gets a gut shot off a top-rope nothing. Double clothesline from the champs, then a combined drop toe-hold/leg-drop. Bulldog taking over, but Billy back with shots, then Bart in to hit a stiff looking clothesline. Meanwhile, Sunny is watching from backstage in that wonky “Angled away from the TV” way.
Bulldog knocking Bart down a few times, but then walks into a powerslam. Bart to the top, but Bulldog dodges a crossbody. Bulldog with his own crossbody for two, then Hart in to hit a missile drop-kick for two. Beat down mode for these heels now with a few rapid tags. Bulldog whipping Bart back and forth, while McMahon and Ross argue the toss on commentary. Bart firmly the face-in-peril now, despite the Gunns being sort-of heels, and we get a misunderstanding spot where Bart accidentally knocks Billy off the apron. Bart able to hang Owen up, and Billy in for a double Russian legsweep. Only two though.
Billy able to drop an elbow, then a neckbreaker. Bart in, shots to Owen, another neckbreaker and I suppose Hart is the face-in-peril now. Billy in, shots, Bart in, and an assisted corner splash. A very odd spot where Bart has Owen in place for a Sidewinder from Billy, but Bulldog comes in to sneak up to Bart and grab his jeans: he takes an age and so Billy has to wait to go for it, and then Bulldog pulls Bart back. It’s a mess. Owen hits his spin kick and that’s it in just under nine-and-a-half.
Winners (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): Hart and Bulldog, continuing on a lengthy enough run as I recall?
Verdict: It was fine, but a bit short for a PPV title match.
The Gunns are frustrated with each other in the aftermath, but they both storm off without any confrontation. We get a plug for the Superstar Line, which currently has HHH on it. Rest assured there are no problems with Ross’ mike when he talks about that.
Oh here we go. JR leaves commentary and hits the ring. He has to explain to the live audience what’s happening of course, which makes this super awkward. Announces that Bret Hart will be on Raw tomorrow night, no thanks to McMahon, whom JR sort of semi-acknowledges as the boss here, which isn’t officially kayfabe just yet. JR says that since his mike isn’t working, Vince can have his, and he’ll see him on Raw. McMahon catches the mike and says “Good catch Vince” to himself. Yeesh. Dreadful segment, and they would drop this heel turn pretty quick as I recall, it was connected to the disastrous “Fake Ramon” and “Fake Diesel” idea.
We get thrown to an “Earlier tonight” segment, as Kevin Kelly interviews Faarooq backstage. Faarooq, pre-NOD, is dressed up like an American Gladiator, and I don’t remember that. He’s after Ahmed Johnson, who was also interviewed. McMahon and Lawler talk over the interviews, which is very dumb. Some time later Johnson laid Faarooq out backstage. This is all building to something we will not see tonight. Faarooq was meant to take on Marc Mero for the IC belt tonight, and will not have to be replaced, this being cover for a legit leg injury.
Mr Perfect’s music hits, and out he comes, after a word from JR on the ramp. He heads to commentary to replace Ross. “People know why I’m out here” he confidently declares. “I don’t” deadpans Lawler, and that did get a genuine laugh from me. Time for the next title match.
Marc Mero (c) w/Sable vs Goldust w/Marlina (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
If you thought JR departing would be the end of that nonsense, too bad, as Perfect now becomes his mouthpiece. He’s drek on commentary regardless. Lawler gives Mero a brief interview, where they jaw at each other ineffectively. This already feels like a slog, and guys like Mero and Goldust are too big in terms of their characters to play second fiddle to the commentary desk.
Lock-up, Goldust gets thrown back, and repeat. “Taking exception to some of the histrionics of Billdust” says McMahon, showing how much attention he is paying. Mero able to hit a series of arm drags, and into an elbow lock. More elaborate arm drags, and back into an elbow lock. McMahon describes Sable as “a classy lady”, and don’t know how much longer that would last. Goldust getting on top now with shots in the corner. The camera focuses a bit on the two valets, and when we’re back Mero is back on top, with takedowns, shots, an awkward rana, a back body-drop and a big clothesline. Goldust heads outside, and eats a somersault tope.
Back in, Mero with a springboard leg drop for two. Mero to the top, but grabbed and slammed down by a suddenly recovered Goldust. Mero dumped out, and then into the ring steps. Mero slowly back in, and eats a big clothesline for two. Resthold, and after Goldust maintains the beatdown. Hard to concentrate between Perfect’s pontificating and Lawler misogyny. Another resthold. Yawn.
Mero able to rally back, and after some charges the two land duel crossbody’s where Mero gets a two. Goldust with another stiff looking clothesline, and then suddenly gets a mike from ringside. He tells the crowd to shut up, and threatens to stick his tongue into all of their mouths. Nice, very random mid-match promo. Mero able to hit a reverse suplex off this distraction, then to the top to hit a moonsault to a standing Goldust for two. Goldust back into it, looking for the Final Curtain but Mero counters into a roll-up for two. Not many good moments in this one.
Mero knocked outside, Goldust after him to lay in some shots. Perfect has had enough with the ref for some reason, and leaves commentary to check on Mero. Helmsley suddenly out, and man this got overbooked fast. Helmsley and Perfect jawing at each other, Goldust sneaking up behind, but Perfect turns and wallops him. Perfect pursues Helmsley, back inside Mero hits a Samoan Drop, to the top, hits the “Wild Thing” – a Shooting Star in other words – and that’s it in just over 11-and-a-half.
Winner (and still WWF Intercontinental Champion): Marc Mero. Amazing how quickly things turned for him over the next few years.
Verdict: Felt real thrown together and lacked much of a spark.
Perfect, Sable and Mero celebrate in the aftermath. Backstage, the Superstar Line is being manned by JR, “Razor Ramon” and “Diesel”, aka the fake versions. What an amazing idea that was.
Video package for the next match, the “Battle of the Powerbombs”. Yes, Vader and Sycho Sid have been feuding over who has the best powerbomb, aided by the big ol’ mouth of Jim Cornette. Shawn Michaels has taken both powerbombs, and says they are equally powerful. Helpful. The winner gets Michaels at Survivor Series.
Sycho Sid vs Vader w/Jim Cornette (WWF Championship #1 Contenders Match)
Sid gets a huge reception in fairness to him, despite the generally negative perception of his role in this era. Vader not exactly hated either. Before the bell rings, out comes HBK himself, because we couldn’t go one match without having a distraction on commentary, though he takes a detour to kick Cornette up the hole. Trading shots, and Sid takes Vader down with a clothesline and follows up with a leg drop for two. Elevated punches in the corner, but Vader blocks a Scoop Slam attempt, and comes rallying back with strikes of his own. We have a hoss fight.
Lawler complaining about Michaels hair like it’s the 50’s as Vader delivers a corner charge that leaves Sid outside. Vader distracts the ref while Cornette gets in a shot with the tennis racket, to surprisingly little heat, maybe the crowd can’t see him. Sid just about makes it back to the ring for a count of nine, tries a Sunset Flip off the ropes, but Vader just sits down. Clothesline that look very stiff, even for Vader, then Sid reverses a headlock into a reverse suplex. Not too bad so far.
“Sycho Sid” chants as Vader lays in the punches, but Sid back with a kick to the chest, twice. Sid to the top, looking for a crossbody but caught and slammed. Vader looking a bit gassed at this point, so he settles for a splash to follow up, getting two. Positions Sid, to the second rope, nails another splash, then pulls Sid up at two. Another pin, Vader lets go again. I guess they are trying to protect Vader a bit with this, but seems silly. Goes for the Vader Bomb, but Sid gets the knees up. Clothelines, Scoop Slam, and the crowd is calling for it. Michaels is a metronome: “Finish him, finish him, finish him”. Vader in position, Cornette to the apron, and Sid crotches him good.
Vader with shots, but Sid has him back in powerbomb position, before a low blow with Cornette distracting the ref. Vader looking for the powerbomb now, but nothing doing. Goes back to shots, Sid grabs Vader by the throat and hits a lame looking chokeslam where it looked like Vader was sandbagging, and that’s enough in around eight.
Winner (and new #1 contender to the WWF Championship): Crazy Sidney
Verdict: Was actually quite good as hoss fights go.
Michaels hits the ring to confront Sid, they jaw, and shake hands as fireworks go off for some reason. It’s not even the main event! To the shock of many Sid would actually win the belt at Survivor Series.
Ad for the upcoming Hall of Fame ceremony. Captain Lou, Superfly Snuka (oops), Killer Kowalski, Pat Patterson and Vince Sr were among the inductees that year as I recall. Backstage, Doc Hendricks is with Sid, but gets interrupted by JR who is sick of “McMahon’s softball questions”. Asks if Sid will do whatever it takes to win the title, which seems fairly softball. Sid responds in the positive in a really iffy spit-flecked promo.
Time for the main event, as the camera focuses in on the grave by the titantron. A video package recaps the feud. Mankind, still very much in the “Genuinely crazy” portion of the character, has been messing with Taker for a while, and now has Paul Bearer on his side, along with the famous urn. We’ve had surprise appearances from caskets, Mankind appearing from under the middle of the ring, Taker returning the favour and hooded acolytes. They had a Boiler Room Brawl at Summerslam, a near half-hour brawl that Mankind won, and this is follow-up, the very first Buried Alive match.
The Undertaker vs Mankind w/Paul Bearer (Buried Alive Match)
The rules are pretty simple. For the uninitiated, you win by putting your opponent in the grave and filling it with the conveniently placed dirt. However in this, the very first example of this concept, they make a mistake on that last part that is a problem. We’ll get to it. Taker gets a big reception, with Mankind getting surprisingly little heat really. Hard to believe this is just preamble to their King Of The Ring 1998 encounter. The smoke from his entrance hasn’t even cleared before they are going at it.
Trading blows, corner smashes, and the crowd pops whenever the Undertaker is on top. A series of punches sends Mankind out, and Taker follows up by smashing him into the barricade. Taker to the top to crash onto Mankind, looked a bit ugly. Fighting up the ramp, and onto the dirt. Taker grabs a shovel, but before he can do anything with it Mankind grabs the butt of it and puts it into Taker’s face. Mankind setting Taker up for a suplex into the grave, Taker counters into a sort of small package manoeuvre, and hilariously they both tumble down the hill.
Fighting back down the ramp, Mankind put into the ring steps. Into the ring, but Mankind goes out again straight away as Lawler amuses himself passing comment on the women at ringside. Taker takes a mike cable and chokes Mankind with it, and that’ll get you fired these days, right Daniel Bryan? Mankind dumped into the crowd, Taker follows, so you know what that means. In fairness the crowd brawling doesn’t last that long as Mankind gets whipped back to ringside, then takes a big clothesline.
Back into the ring properly, headbutt to Mankind, another, Undertaker looking for an Old School, but crotched by Bearer before he can do so. Mankind lays on a few chokes, but Taker back with shots and a big uppercut. Bearer throws in a spike to Mankind, and that’s used to clean Taker’s clock. The spike then used to rake Taker’s face a few times. “Rest In Piece” chants, and Taker rallying back with an elbow, then uses the spike on Mankind a few times. Leg drop, and Taker leaves the ring to confront Bearer. Mankind uses the break to grab a chair, but is clearly a bit late to take a shot as the camera angles linger on Taker’s back too long. Taker avoids the shot, has the spike up, and then gets a hard chair shot to the head, ugh.
Up the ramp again, onto the mound, and the Undertaker is kicked into the grave. Mankind grabs a shovel to do some literal burying, but Taker stops him with a choke. Shots back-and-forth, Mankind trying to hip-toss Taker into the grave, but Taker counters and sends Mankind down the hill. Back to the ring for some reason, Mankind hits the Double Arm DDT and then goes for a pin. Not sure if botch or intended, what with Mankind being crazy and all. Taker back with shots, but nobody home on a leg-drop. Mankind grabs a chair and delivers another Double Arm DDT onto it. Mankind grabs the urn, as he rocks with it Taker sits up, and now he gives Mankind a back shot with the chair. Chair set-up on the face, and a leg drop delivered, to Lawler’s horror.
Mankind to the apron, and able to hang Taker up on the ropes, not feeling too bad after the chair-assisted leg-drop. Outside, Mankind exposes some concrete. Looking for a piledriver maybe, but reversed into a kind of reverse-piledriver I think. Ring steps thrown into the ring, both guys back in. Mankind eats the steps a few times. Tombstone delivered, Taker points to the grave, and the crowd is popping big. Taker fireman carry’s Mankind to the grave, but then Mankind is able to lock in the Mandible Claw. Mankind grabs the urn, but cutoff before he can use it. Taker chokeslams Mankind into the grave to a huge reaction, and starts shoveling. Crowd dies a little bit as they realise how long they have to wait for Mankind to be buried, but eventually the ref calls it in 18-and-a-half.
Winner: The Undertaker, but of course.
Verdict: It was fine, these kinds of gimmick matches tend to be a bit lacking in substance.
Hebner tries to stop the Undertaker continuing the burial, but gets thrown down the hill. A masked figure suddenly appears, really Terry Gordy’s Executioner making his debut, nails Taker with a shovel, and proceeds to dig Mankind out of the grave. Taker is rolled in, and he’s then buried. The lights flicker and thunder rumbles, I presume a cover for Taker pulling a Houdini. All of the heels that wrestled tonight are suddenly out to help with the burial, including, hilariously, Helmsely, though his shovel is not golden. Crowd not happy about this, and a few things are thrown. Bearer tries to fill the time by hamming it up with the “Bury him!” shouts, but he only eats a few seconds. They keep shoveling dirt for a few minutes, and no wonder they needed to get five other guys out here for this, it kills the crowd dead. More thunder and lightning effects, and the heels scatter, having spent at least eight minutes shoveling dirt. And then the Undertaker sticks a hand up out of the grave while McMahon starts screaming “He’s alive!” like this is a Frankenstein movie. And that is how it ends. Oh boy.
Best Match: I guess Sid/Vader, that was a decent hoss fight.
Best Wrestler: The Undertaker can tell a story in the ring, even with a not great gimmick match to work with.
Worst Match: Mero and Goldust was lacking something, and both men are capable of better.
Worst Wrestler: Bart Gunn wasn’t up to much, let me tell you.
Overall Verdict: Not a great show, with throwaway title matches, an average opener and a main event whose aftermath was almost half as long as the actual match. WWF was struggling at the time, and this event is evidence as to how.
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