May 172020
 

In watching this past week’s episode of NXT, we were informed by Triple H, Shawn Michaels & the Road Dogg that we were about to celebrate the 25ᵗʰ anniversary of the first WWF In Your House pay per view, so in it’s honor, the next TakeOver event would be named NXT TakeOver: In Your House! So to help jog the memory of those who watched and even those who maybe weren’t watching wrestling back in the spring of 1995, I’m here now to look back on that memorable night in 1995 and pay tribute to it!

The date was May 14ᵗʰ, 1995, your commentators were Vince McMahon & Dok Hendrix (a.k.a. Michael P.S. Hayes) and your ring announcer was the voice of all voices in the WWF, Howard Finkel. Also on the broadcast were Todd Pettengill (of NYC’s 95.5FM morning show fame) who used to host the Saturday morning program on the USA Network called WWF Mania along with his co-host, Stephanie Wiand as interviewers. We were live from the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York, and along with all of the action in store for us tonight, another theme of the show was that the WWF was actually going to give away to one lucky fan, A HOUSE!

Now I’m not sure of the actual specifics of the number of rooms, square footage, address or anything like that of the actual house that was given away…what I do know is that a young fan of 11 years old named Matthew Pomposelli from Henderson, Nevada had won the house, which was located in Orlando, Florida and 6 months later, flipped it for around $175,000! Now that might not sound like much today for a house, but back in 1995…that was a pretty good price! To give you a little prospective, $175k in 1995 is valued at just over $300k in 2020. So not bad for free money!

A few things to note on our venue for this show though…I’m sure that unless you’re from somewhere near Syracuse, NY, you’ve probably never heard of the Onondaga County War Memorial, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It’s one of the smaller arenas that the WWF was running back in those days as their attendance was generally down. The building only seats about 8000 people, and with the entrance way, ring and production equipment, the attendance that night was in the 7000 range. Of note though, is that this arena has had a few shows put on there over it’s history: it hosted Raw during WWF’s Attitude Era heyday back in April of 1998 and also on April 26ᵗʰ, 2000, it hosted a now-infamous night in the history of professional wrestling, when Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling put on an extremely memorable night of WCW Thunder, where actor David Arquette won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship!

The WWF pay per view schedule back in those days was MUCH different than we know it to be today! Obviously, we had the big four shows: WrestleMania, Summer Slam, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series. Then in 1993, they added the King of the Ring in June and ran with those 5 pay per views for a couple of years. As WCW started running more & more pay per view events (by 1995, WCW was running about 10 per year), Vince started seeing the writing on the wall and realized that there was a market for monthly big events, and this was his first venture into filling the gaps between his big five shows. He marketed them all as In Your House at a discounted rate of $14.95 per month, and instead of having the show go the normal 3 hours of his other pay per views, these were only 2 hour shows.

As a fan, it was great to have more action…plus, the reduced rate made it easier to sell to Mom & Dad (who didn’t love wrestling in the first place)! Many of the matches were continuations of the storylines from the previous month’s WrestleMania XI.

To start off, Bret Hart defeated Hakushi (Jinsei Shinzaki) via rollup in a fairly decent singles match between two very talented competitors. Now I know what you’re gonna say here: Bret Hart was curtain jerking on the first In Your House pay per view?!? And indeed, you’re right in your amazement here, considering that at this point, he was already a former 2-time WWF Champion, but this was his first of two matches this night!

Following defeating Bob Backlund at WrestleMania XI in an “I Quit” match, his long running feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler picked back up again. After receiving an award from WWF Magazine, and thanking his fans, Lawler interjected himself into Bret’s speech, stating that Japanese votes had been excluded in the vote and that Bret was a racist, and also convinced Hakushi that Bret was racist against Japanese people. Yes folks, this storyline was as stupid as it sounds while I type this, so please just bear with me here and we can get through this lead-up to the match. So this angers Hakushi, who apparently believed every word Lawler said, and we had ourselves a match here! Unfortunately, Hakushi –like many other Japanese wrestlers– never found a good footing in the WWF and was largely a forgettable character there for a fairly short period of time. It should also be noted that Bret appeared to tweak his knee while exiting the ring here, which will play into his second match with Lawler later in the night…

You’ll begin to learn that for the times that Bret wasn’t WWF Champion, he largely wasn’t used well within the WWF. For one, he had a never-ending feud with Jerry Lawler seemingly only because Bret had won the 1993 King Of The Ring tournament, thus becoming a King in the WWF, which stepped on Lawler’s toes since that was his gimmick. Another one of Bret’s many silly feuds revolved around a stolen leather jacket (that was made specifically for him by his mother, Helen Hart) with the pirate, Jean-Pierre LaFitte. It certainly wasn’t always easy being a Bret Hart fan…Bret could have good matches with just about anyone, and McMahon always tried to test that statement!

Next up, Razor Ramon had been feuding with Jeff Jarrett over the Intercontinental Championship for a number of months now going back to when Ramon had lost the title to Jarrett at the 1995 Royal Rumble. Ramon had been counted out of that match after the Roadie (“Road Dogg” Jesse James) had clipped his knee at ringside and was unable to make it back into the ring by the count of 10. With Jarrett heckling Ramon to get back into the ring to restart the match, verbally attacking Ramon’s “machismo”, Razor re-entered the ring, demanding the match be restarted, and lost the title by getting pinned in a small package when his knee buckled while having Jarrett up for the Razor’s Edge. Ramon, while victorious in his rematch at WrestleMania, was unsuccessful in regaining his title when the Roadie caused the disqualification by interfering. Ramon, now knowing full well that Double J’s Roadie would continue to be a problem for him, even with his buddy, the 1-2-3 Kid (X-pac) in his corner, challenged Jarrett & Roadie to a tag team match at In Your House.

By the time In Your House had come along, the 1-2-3 Kid had been neutralized and the match was turned into a handicap match, pitting Razor Ramon against Jeff Jarrett and the Roadie. While Ramon won the match –which was not for the Intercontinental Championship– following his victory, Ramon again was attacked by the heel duo. Although another of Ramon’s friends, “The Portuguese Man O’War” Aldo Montoya (Justin Credible under a mask) would attempt to come to his aid, but would be nullified quickly by Jarrett & Roadie. It was then that an unknown man would run in from the crowd to attack and finally clear the ring of Jarret & Roadie. This man would later be known as Savio Vega. Vega would get a bit of a push early on, as he would reach the finals of the following month’s King Of The Ring tournament, eventually losing to Men On A Mission’s Mabel (Viscera).

Which gives me the perfect segue into our next match here, which saw Men On A Mission’s Mabel defeat Adam Bomb (who later wrestled as Kronik’s Bryan Clark in WCW) in a King Of The Ring qualifying match. Boy, nothing underscores the importance of a pay per view by having a qualifying match for the following month’s pay per view occupying the card! This one was very one-sided as it only lasted about two minutes! There’s really nothing to write home about in this one aside from the fact that this really was the beginning of a push for Mabel that would rocket him into the main event picture in the WWF and give us some truly awful interactions between him, Diesel & the Undertaker.

Following the Mabel/Bomb match (and yeah, that match was kind of a bomb), Jerry Lawler in all his heel glory, came out to state that he demanded that his match with Bret still happen despite Bret’s knee injury! It should be noted that Jerry Lawler was always a great heel back in the day…he always knew just the right things to say and just when to say them to get the maximum effect!

Up next was Owen Hart & Yokozuna successfully defending their WWF Tag Team Titles against the Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn). Going back to the 1995 Royal Rumble, the Tag Team Titles were declared vacant after the breakup of “Two Dudes With Attitudes” Shawn Michaels & Diesel at the ’94 Survivor Series, so a tournament was held to determine new champions, with the final taking place at the Royal Rumble between the two finalist teams of the 1-2-3 Kid & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly and Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka, representing Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Bigelow lost the match for his team & was ridiculed by the live crowd, which prompted him to shove a member of the crowd –that being former NFL Hall of Fame linebacker for the New York Giants, Lawrence Taylor! This resulted in the WrestleMania XI main event of Bigelow vs. Taylor.

The 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly didn’t last long as tag champs as they lost the titles to the Smoking Gunns the following night on Monday Night Raw, when it was explained that the Gunns hadn’t had a shot at being in the tournament due to an injury, so they wanted a title shot, got it and took the titles.

Leading up to WrestleMania XI, Owen Hart wanted a shot at the titles, but didn’t have a partner, so when a match was booked for the show, it was Owen & a mystery partner to take on the Smoking Gunns. That night, Owen came out with a rather large chip on his shoulder as he proclaimed he had secured a partner who had done what he was unable to accomplish himself…beat his brother for the WWF Championship! Out came the mammoth Yokozuna to be Owen’s partner in a match for the Tag Team Championship. Once Yokozuna was tagged in, the match was over…Yokozuna delivered a Bonsai Drop to Billy Gunn, Owen tagged in, teased applying a Sharpshooter, and rolled up the prone Billy Gunn for the easy victory.

Now that we’re all caught up on the title lineage & how we got here, chapter 2 of Owen Hart & Yokozuna vs. Billy & Bart Gunn was much like the first chapter. Owen & Yoko defeated the Gunns in fairly short order, this time taking just over 5 minutes to get the job done. Owen & Yoko were quite the formidable tag team if for no other reason, Yokozuna’s sheer girth! Between Yokozuna’s power moves and Owen Hart’s in-ring finesse and their managers’ –yes, plural as Yokozuna always brought his manager, Mr. Fuji and his “American Spokesperson”, Jim Cornette with him wherever he went– influence outside the ring, they were quite the unstoppable duo!

Before the next match began, Jerry Lawler came back out to introduce us all to his mother, who was sitting in the crowd to watch her son wrestle that night…seeing as how it was Mother’s Day & all, he wanted to pay tribute to her and dedicate his match with Bret to her. However, as you can see in the picture to the left, this clearly wasn’t his mother at all as she was easily 20 years younger than him. Again, Lawler saying just the right stuff at just the right time. This is a segment that has stuck with me throughout the years that I remember vividly since I laughed so hard at it!

As King was waiting for an injured Bret to come to the ring so he could beat him quickly, Bret informed us that he had in fact, faked the knee injury to sucker Lawler to get in the ring with him to get what he had coming to him! Their history together had shown that Lawler would always find a way to weasel his way out of matches with Bret.

Back at their match at Summer Slam in 1993 to determine the “Undisputed King of the WWF” due to Hart’s winning the King Of The Ring & Lawler believing himself to be the “one true King of the WWF”, Lawler arrived to the ring using crutches, citing a car accident and substituted his “Court Jester”, Doink the Clown in his place. During that match, Lawler would attack Bret with a crutch, forcing a disqualification and awarding the match to Bret, but then “WWF President” Jack Tunney (storyline figurehead) intervened, restarting the match with the proper combatants, which Bret won after a lot of brawling by making King submit to the Sharpshooter. When Bret didn’t release the Sharpshooter for THREE AND A HALF MINUTES after the referee initially called for the bell, the decision was reversed.

So by the time Bret was to face the King this time around, he clearly had a good idea of what kind of shenanigans to expect and was a step ahead of Lawler this time around. Unfortunately for Bret, when the referee became tied up in the ropes, Hakushi landed a diving headbutt on Hart behind the referee’s back, and Lawler rolled up Hart for the victory this time.

Finally, we’re on to our Main Event of the evening! This one was headlined by Diesel defending his WWF Championship against Sycho Sid, who at this point, was a part of the Million Dollar Corporation and managed by Ted DiBiase. Some backstory: following the breakup of Two Dudes With Attitudes at the 1994 Survivor Series, Diesel faced WWF Champion, Bob Backlund 3 days after Backlund had won the title at the Survivor Series from Bret Hart, when Owen had convinced their mother, Helen to throw in the towel while Bret was locked in the Cross-face Chickenwing –Bob’s signature submission hold. Bob’s title defense against Diesel didn’t exactly go as planned as a kick to the gut, followed by a Jackknife Powerbomb was all she wrote, and Diesel walked out of Madison Square Garden with the gold.

After attempting to defend the title against Bret Hart at the 1995 Royal Rumble, which ended in a draw when Bob Backlund & Owen Hart interfered to attack Bret and Shawn Michaels interfered to attack Diesel, the match was thrown out. Bret did get his revenge later in the night as he attacked both Owen & Backlund each on their way to the ring to enter the Rumble match, which Michaels would eventually win. Diesel also successfully defended his WWF Championship at WrestleMania XI where he entered with Pamela Anderson on his arm, as he defeated his former friend & tag team partner, Shawn Michaels, who entered with Jenny McCarthy on his arm and his new bodyguard, Sycho Sid. Sid inadvertently cost Michaels the match when Diesel had been knocked out while the referee was unconscious outside the ring and Sid couldn’t get the referee (who he had knocked out) back in the ring to make the count.

The following night on Raw, Diesel had suggested that maybe Shawn fight him one-on-one in their next encounter, to which Shawn decided to give Sid “the night off”. Sid reacted just as you’d expect he would…he turned on Michaels and left him laying after Powerbombing him three times before Diesel came to Shawn’s aid.

In the following weeks leading up to the first In Your House, it was explained to us that it was initially Ted DiBiase who had put it in Shawn’s head that he needed a new bodyguard and to hire Sid. Now, with Sid free to join the Million Dollar Corporation, off we went to Diesel vs. Sid while Shawn was on the sidelines. This match, however was hardly what many people would call entertaining. It was two big stiffs trading brawling shots, not much actual wrestling involved as you’d expect considering the two guys in the match. The decision came when after Diesel successfully Jackknife Powerbombed Sid, Tatanka (part of the Million Dollar Corporation) ran in to stop the pin. After Sid had made it back to his feet, it was his turn to Powerbomb Diesel, but that attempt was thwarted when Bam Bam Bigelow made the save for Diesel to close out the show.

This was about midway through Diesel’s WWF Championship reign, which is largely considered a failure. Not that he was 100% to blame as they didn’t necessarily do him a lot of favors while he was champ. The quality of his matches was mostly dependent on his opponent’s abilities and during his run as champion. During his run, he was mostly wrestling guys like King Mabel (Viscera), Bam Bam Bigelow & Sycho Sid. It was only in his matches with the premier workhorses of the day like Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart when Diesel would shine.

However, leading up to his WWF Championship victory over Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden, Diesel had a real edge to him, he was a bad ass who beat up everyone & looked mean in doing it. Following his title victory, that all changed. He morphed into one of the many of people we currently see today who smile far too much, who are “just happy to be here”, he was trying too hard to be the top babyface, trying to be his own generation’s Hulk Hogan…which was clearly what McMahon had been searching for ever since Hogan left, so it’s not all on Nash, but this change in persona did him no favors. The bad ass was gone, and all that was left was a seven foot tall goofball who paraded around as WWF Champion who wasn’t a particularly good wrestler who had lost his edge that made fans want to see him in the first place

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of my Looking Back series. Definitely expect more of these to come! This one was fun, thanks for reading!