102. The British Bulldog (c) vs Shawn Michaels (European Championship Match, WWE One Night Only 1997)

Finally, WWE PPVs (sorry, PLEs) are coming back to Britain! It’s been a long time coming, and tomorrow’s ‘Clash at the Castle’ is being treated as a big event by the WWE. Drew McIntyre was just on ITV News, for the love of God! We all talk about Summerslam 1992, but the first real PPV was 1997‘s One Night Only in Birmingham, England. Like Summerslam 1992, it was headlined by the British Bulldog. He was defending the European Championship against Shawn Michaels. They’d had some bangers in the past. Was this one more banger? Ermmmm…

By late 1997, the original D-Generation X had been formed: HBK, HHH, Chyna and ‘insurance policy’ Rick Rude were the first quartet to tell people to ‘suck it’! The European Championship had also debuted in 1997, with the British Bulldog being the first wrestler to hold it (after defeating Owen Hart in a cracker. Definitely a match to seek out). Put against the right opponent, the Bulldog could have a cracking match. HBK rarely had a bad match. And these two put on quite the main event…

But, just like HBK vs Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997, the in-ring action was subsumed by the finish/post-match shenanigans. I don’t like to go into spoiler territory here (I might do later on, with SPOILER WARNINGS) and ruin the finish of the match, but suffice to say, even after watching this match twice, I cannot focus on anything but the finish.

Even HBK’s entrance stands out more than the match itself. He enters to a highly mixed reaction, and proceeds to kiss girls in the front row! Some of them look barely 16 as well…it’s quite disturbing to watch it now. He hugs them, appears to have his hands all over them…and this is constrasted by a sign that says ‘SHAWN IS A F****T’. You definitely wouldn’t get that happening today, and for good reason.  And that offensive word isn’t even blanked out on the WWE Network presentation. Oh, and a fan faux-assaults HBK with a Bulldog plastic figure. HBK then proceeds to snatch the figure and drop it down his pants, never to be seen again…

Of course, the Bulldog enters to a hero’s reaction. Most of his family are at ringside (his wife, whom the camera focuses on a lot). He’s accompanied to the ring by his sister, who had just beaten cancer for the second time (and whom Bulldog dedicated his future victory to earlier on in the PPV). But, as always, the shadow of mid-90s HBK darkens everything.

The two start out really well, for the first ten minutes at least. The despicable heel HBK has to use all the dirty tricks in the book to overcome the mighty Bulldog. HBK bumps like crazy, and Bulldog hurls Michaels around like he is a bag of flour. It’s a very promising start…

But then ‘insurance policy’ Rick Rude comes down to the ring, distracts Bulldog a few times, and the match almost slows to a stop as HBK applies chinlocks and armbars for the middle portion. Yes, it is a classic heel tactic to build the babyface’s comeback…but it lasts too long, and Bulldog’s eventual comeback is muted. Oh, and at some point HHH comes down to the ring to help HBK even further (with Earl Hebner taking a laughable blind eye to the interference. Most of it takes place right in front of his face, yet he does nothing!).

And then the finish…which also drags on and on, almost becoming unwatchable at one point. It’s a shame, as the bout starts out very promising. Then the middle section becomes a bore, and the finish…well, the finish is just obscene. Not an awful main event by any measure…just a deflating and exasperating experience.

Hammy’s Rating: ** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.