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WWF's monthly pay per views rolled on, rarely stopping for breath as October represented 18 straight months of pay per views since In Your House came into play. Still, despite flagging ratings these two hour shows presented about 70% of what they were capable of on pay per view, in this case with Shawn Michaels rotated out of the main event picture to make way for the main event. Shawn, as he'd struggled with for most of the year, was without a reliable long term foe so this made sense.
In his place, as the name of the show suggested, was a Buried Alive match, a concept that promised a lot of intrigue, even if they didn't quite take the time to explain how it would work in the weeks leading up to the show. In this case, that may not have been a bad thing, with the ambiguity selling something perhaps a bit more colourful that what we ended up receiving.
The Mankind/Undertaker program had been rolling ever since Mankind had arrived on the scene six months earlier, people look back on the program as a real turning point in Undertaker's career. And they'd be right, ever since we'd covered Undertaker in the middle of 1993, his character was so different from anything else on television it was hard to find anything compelling for him to do. In Mankind they had not only the character but more crucially the performer to do the job. Their feud leading up to the show had been a series of effective vignettes of each (separately) by a gravesite warning what else they were going to do.
Elsewhere the main story on WWF Television after In Your House: Mind Games was the "return" of Razor Ramon and Diesel. Of course, in this case, it would Rick Bognor and Glenn Jacobs – with Nash and Hall still firmly on the WCW roster. That whole angle was busy dying a death, thankfully too busy to make this show. Beyond storyline "audio issues" that Jim Ross was having on commentary in the first two matches before he walked off.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Yeah... don't get that excited. Although this is, I believe, the debut of Austin's famous glass shattering music (it's so weird hearing that and not getting a massive reaction). The first half of this match was almost nothing, with the action taking a backseat to Jim Ross' audio issues. This match featured two heels, so fans were perhaps understandably flat until Mr Perfect came out and once again walked away with HHH's woman.
The match, thankfully, picked up after that. The pair brawled around ringside and up the aisle way with a suplex onto the concrete. Hunter goes for a pedigree on the floor, but Austin countered that sending him into the ring post. We got into the ring, Austin went for a running leg drop with Hunter draped in the ropes, he missed but flipped the bird at the fans before resetting and hitting the stunner for a three. Not bad at all, but I suspect history might look back on this one with a tad too much fondness. Still, if you want to plot a point in the upswing in Austin's character, this isn't a bad place to start. The Raw eight days later is probably the real genesis for the Austin that became the megastar.
The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart) vs Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (w/ Clarence Mason) for the WWF Tag Team Titles
Second month in a row they've tried this match, second month in a row it didn't work. I mean... all four of these guys are decent, no doubt, but... eh. Sunny is watching backstage, because she's not capable of saving the Gunns at all. The match finishes with the Gunns setting for a double team sidewalk slam/leg drop from the top – Bulldog hangs behind Bart and (after waiting for ages) pulls him over at the appropriate moment. Owen hits a spin kick and they win the match. Yikes...
Jim Ross gets on the mic and says Bret Hart is coming back tomorrow, and he's got a shovel that he's going to bury people with (let's be clear – 1996 was a quite shoot heavy year for the WWF!). He's pissed off at his mic issues on commentary, so he walks off. Mr Perfect walks out to replace him.
Goldust (w/ Marlene) vs "Wildman" Mark Mero (w/ Sable) for the WWF Intercontinental Title
Goldust was subbing in for Farooq, who had a hamstring problem, which is probably an improvement on what we would have had otherwise. This is every Goldust/Mero match we've seen in 1996 – e.g. one you feel that would've been significantly better in 1994 when both men were in WCW. Goldust grabs the mic and threatens to kiss everyone in the crowd, Mr Perfect comes out and is followed by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, although that doesn't really lead anywhere. Mero wins it with the "Wild Thing" (shooting star press) which looks really nice.
Sid vs Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) - the winner faces Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series
Michaels comes out to commentate, he looks almost odd in a suit jacket. I reckon if you went in with low expectations of this match you might still be disappointed; less that it was bad and more that it just felt... there. A big match with big consequences but the two just couldn't combine for a good match. They billed the match at the battle of the powerbombs but clearly bothn men were too big to take one. In the end Sid hits a chokeslam on Vader and wins the match. Vader loses, again. Still, Sid is over.
Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) vs The Undertaker in a Buried Alive Match
All things considered, this went about as well as they could've expected. The action, when it wasn't near the gravesite, was generally pretty compelling and, bizarelly, Mankind didn't once try to kill himself – which you'd figured would've been a pre-requisite in a Buried Alive match. Does bear thinking about that Cactus has taken sickening bumps onto exposed concrete in the second match on a WCW pay per view with Kevin Sullivan previously.
If anything, the guy doing the more dangerous stuff was actually Undertaker. Coming off the top with a clothesline to Mankind on the floor, along with a running one through a section of fans over the guardrial. At one point Bearer gives Mankind what could probably only be described as a weapon like a prison shank.
But, as with most matches like this, the action only really developed when they got to the gravesite. Fair play, they did a good job constructing the mound and both guys did a good job brawling around it. Mankind locks in the mandible claw on the Undertaker, but he escapes and does a decent grave-chokeslam before apparently covering Mankind with the pre-requisit amount of dirt to the win the match.
That didn't last long, as a masked assailiant came out and attacked Undertaker and pulled Mankind out of the grave. The man was Terry Gordy who, if it's an good indicator as to how fast insider news like this traveled in 1996, received a mild "Rest in Peace" chant in ECW the next weekend. They put Undertaker into the grave, who quickly slides out of a trapdoor as Mankind, Gordy and a host of lower card talent fill the grave with dirt. It takes a while but fair play, they get it done. They walk off and the show goes off the air with some thundery sound effects and Undertaker's hand sticking up in front of the gravestone. He is not dead.
Score Rating: 6/10
Go Back and Watch: The first bang average WWF pay per view in a long time. Main event is noteworthy for the stip, and you'll get some nostalgia from the opener. But... eh?