PPV REVIEW: WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge Of The Taker

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
April 20, 1997
Rochester Community War Memorial, Rochester, New York

It was the dawning of a new era in the World Wrestling Federation, an era of darkness, ushered in by new WWF Champion The Undertaker and his first proper title reign. 

Yes, The Phenom had enjoyed all but the briefest of stints with the title back when he beat Hulk Hogan for the title at Survivor Series 1991 then promptly lost it a week later at This Tuesday in Texas, but this was the first time The Undertaker had been given the ball to run with for any length of time.

Tonight, he rekindled one of his most violent rivalries, putting the title up for the first time against Mankind.

What was the WWF like during The Dead Man's reign of darkness? Let's head down to ringside to find out.

Revenge of the Taker 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker
After the classic WWF signature, we kicked things off with one of the World Wrestling Federation's awesome video packages, this one reminding us that Mankind had constantly got the better of The Undertaker throughout the previous year, including that big win in the Boiler Room Brawl back at Summerslam 1996.

Tonight though, with the World Wrestling Federation Championship around his waist, The Phenom would finally get his revenge against his most fierce rival.

That fantastic opening video led us to Vince McMahon's impassioned welcome to the show.

Tonight, McMahon would be joined by Jerry 'The King' Lawler and Jim Ross, who only spoke once we got into our opening match.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & WWF European Champion The British Bulldog vs. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Owen Hart & British Bulldog faced The Legion of Doom
The last time Hawk and Animal won the WWF Tag Team Titles, it was back at Summerslam 1991 in a match against the Nasty Boys.

Tonight, they looked set to repeat that moment of glory in a terrific opening contest against Owen Hart and The British Bulldog.

There have been better opening matches in the history of wrestling sure, and even better tag team matches, but if the only purpose of the opening match is to get the crowd pumped for the show, then this one certainly did its job well.

The action itself was enjoyable, but it was the plot twists that really made this match riveting.

At one point, The LOD pinned The British Bulldog and celebrated with the titles, only for a second referee to inform the match official that, actually, it had been Owen Hart who was the legal man.

The legendary Howard Finkle then told us that the match would continue, but Owen and Bulldog wanted none of that.

After coming to blows on a recent episode of Raw, the Tag Champions had healed their rift thanks to Bret Hart and now, as members of The Hart Foundation, were squarely on the same page.

Together, all they wanted was to get their belts back and go home, but the ref insisted that if they didn't hit the ring by the count of ten, they would lose their titles.

The match continued, with a title win for The Road Warriors seeming almost inevitable until The Hitman himself ran in to cause the DQ.
Your Winners Via Disqualification: The Legion of Doom (Owen & Bulldog retain the titles)

Afterwards, Doc Hendrix caught up with the tag champs backstage and called them lucky to still have the gold around their waist. Naturally, both Owen and Davey Bot refuted this and were quite content to brag about their title reign until Hendrix told them that Stone Cold Steve Austin had arrived in the building.

The two were surprised, and a little bit in denial.

"Are you sure it was him?" Asked Owen. "There's a lot of bald guys walking around." 

I can't tell you why, but that made me laugh my ass off.

Sunny and Brian Pillman Grope Each Other 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Sunny and Brian Pillman
Up next, Sunny and Brian Pillman tried to convince us to call the WWF superstar line by basically fondling each other for the camera.

I'm serious. The two were all over each other as they told us that we could get all kinds of juicy gossip just by picking up the phone.

This was all kinds of disturbing, but probably a better way to shill a hotline than Mean Gene Okerlund's usual efforts over in WCW.

Rocky is Ready 

Backstage, Doc Hendrix stood by for an interview with reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia.

In one of those goofy babyface promos that hadn't really been seen on WWF TV since the 1980s, Rocky gave it the old 'I'm going to go out there and give it my best' routine, as he talked about his rivalry with Savio Vega and The Nation of Domination.

This was a far cry from the ultra-charismatic ass-kicker that Dwayne Johnson's character would become by the end of 1997.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia vs. Savio Vega (w/ Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, and PG13. 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Rocky Maivia defended the Intercontinental title against Savio Vega
I kinda liked Savio in his Nation of Domination run; he was cooler during this period than at any other time in his WWF career.

Recently on Raw, Vega had beaten Rocky Maivia in a non-title match, after which the entire Nation had jumped on the man who would one day be their leader.

That set up tonight's match, which was decent for what it was, even though it seemed only to serve as something to put in the background so that Farooq could come out to do guest commentary and issue a challenge to his long-time rival, Ahmed Johnson.

With more focus on him than the match itself, Farooq challenged Ahmed to face him, Savio, and Crush in a gauntlet match.

Speaking of Crush, it was the former Demolition member who brought about this match's end.

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Savio Vega challenged Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental title
In the ring, Savio had control of the match and sent his opponent hurtling to the outside, where he accidentally knocked into Crush.

That enraged the man from Hawaii so much that he picked up the Champion and nailed him with the heart punch.

Rocky could not get back into the ring before the count of ten, and thus this one was over.
Your Winner Via Countout: Savio Vega (Rocky Maivia retains the title)

Post match, Savio was visibly and understandably upset about the match ending that way as it meant he was unable to win the title.

He and Crush almost came to blows until Farooq stepped in and United his Nation in a good ol' fashioned beat-down of Rocky.

Ahmed Johnson then ran down in his pyjamas to save the day and accepted Farooq's challenge. This was a decent ending to an otherwise weird finish, especially since Rocky just kind of loitered around whilst Ahmed was on the mic, seemingly unsure of what to do with himself.

Marc Mero and Doc Hendrix Hang Around Outside The Men's Room 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - Marc Mero & Sable
A brief clip aired next which showed Ken Shamrock and some computer geek talking to fans via America Online, complete with McMahon telling us that Shamrock was going to issue a challenge to Mike Tyson -McGregor/Mayweather this would not be.

From there, we went to Doc Hendrix, who chose the outside of a men's bathroom to interview Marc Mero and Sable.

Mero had been out of action with a knee injury, but told Doc that he was planning to be back by the summer, and was looking forward to getting back into the ring.

As Mero's promo continued, the randomness of conducting an interview outside of a toilet turned out to be a huge coincidence, as cameras were able to catch Stone Cold marching in there.

A bunch of commotion was heard behind the closed door, after which Owen Hart and British Bulldog came out clutching weapons. When they realised there was a camera there, they looked at it sheepishly then ran off like mischievous cartoon characters.

It was way funnier than it was probably supposed to be.

Jesse James vs. Rockabilly 

There was a time in early 1997 when The Honky Tonk Man was scouting the WWF roster in search of a new protege.

He had offered the position to Jesse James, formerly The Roadie, who had returned to reveal that he was the one singing Jeff Jarret's hit 'With My Baby Tonight' back at In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks.

James had refused, but had agreed to a match tonight against whomever Honky has picked.

It turned out that the former Intercontinental Champion had picked Billy Gunn, despite Gunn also refusing and punching out Honky on a recent WWF show.

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Rockabilly Billy Gunn faced Jesse James
According to HTM, Billy Gunn was now known as Rockabilly, and here tonight to whoop Jesse James' butt.

Thus we had our match tonight and the start of one of the most popular tag teams of the modern age.

The match itself was fun, but, watching it back years later, it's the knowledge of what was to become of Jesse James and Rockabilly that really makes this one seem special 20 years later.

After an enjoyable but immediately forgettable match, James got the win via a quick roll up to give us our first actual pin fall victory of the night.
Your Winner: Jesse James 

Afterwards, HTM went to hit James with a guitar, but the former marine ducked out of harms way and went to the back.

Next, Doc Hendrix tries to sell us some really evil looking Undertaker thing that he promised us all kids would love to have on their door.

I'm a grown man and having that on my door even today would creep me out no end.

Gorilla Monsoon Gives Steve Austin More Time 

OK, here's a thing:

There once was a time when the WWF was a friendly place where clowns ran free, Bret Hart was a good guy, and nobody swore.

Then, Gorilla Monsoon takes over as WWF President and all of a sudden we've got people like Steve Austin bleeding all over the ring, cursing like a sailor and generally causing chaos all over the place.

If this were any other business, I'd be thinking 'damn, that company really went to hell when Monsoon took over.' 

Anyway, that aside, here Monsoon stood by as Austin himself told Kevin Kelly that he didn't care about getting beaten up earlier and was still going to compete.

Monsoon then told Kelly that he had given Austin more time by switching the card around and making Mankind/Undertaker our next match.

In other words, Hart/Austin III was to be our main event tonight.

Who The F*** Is This Guy? 

News of Monsoon's ruling got back to Bret Hart by way of some kid with a microphone called Lance Wright.

I've been watching wrestling for 25 years and I have legitimately never heard of this guy before tonight.

I don't mean that I forgot about him, or that I knew him better as another character, I mean literally never heard of him.

So, as he caught up with Bret, Owen, and Davey Boy in the locker room, I spent the whole time trying to figure out who he was.

It turned out he'd been in ECW for the briefest of periods and had enjoyed the proverbial cup of coffee with the WWF as a general microphone holder.

It's Time For Our Title Match 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Mankind & Paul Bearer
Prior to The Undertaker's first defence of the title he won back at Wrestlemania 13, we got an insanely good video package highlighting the dark, scary nature of his rivalry with Mankind.

From there, our buddy Doc Hendrix caught up with the challenger and his increasingly overweight manager, Paul Bearer.

I mean seriously, the split from The Undertaker did nothing to help Bearer's figure. He looked larger than ever here.

Still, appearances aren't everything, and what really counts here is what was said.

Predictably, what was said was that Mankind was going to beat The Undertaker just like he had done many times before, and was going to become our new World Wrestling Federation Champion.

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer)  

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Mankind
Sandwiched between their earlier classics in 1996 and the infamous Hell in a Cell the following year in 1998, this 1997 world title match between The Undertaker and Mankind often goes overlooked.

On the one hand, there's probably a reason for that:

This wasn't the best match these two ever had together.

On the other hand, it was still very, very good.

Both champ and challenger absolutely destroyed each other, first in the ring and then, inevitably, outside of it.

The highlight came as Mankind was stood on the ring apron. The Undertaker ran at him from inside the ring and drilled him with the ring steps that the challenger has brought in earlier.

This sent Mankind flying head-first through one of the announce tables in what had to be one of the sickest bumps of the entire year.

Yet that still wasn't enough to put away Mankind, nor was a choke slam, so The Undertaker hit the Tombstone Piledriver and made his first successful WWF title defence.
Your Winner: The Undertaker 

Afterwards, The Undertaker went to attack Paul Bearer, only for Mankind to wake up and follow the two of them around the ring, clearly holding something in his hand.

The defeated wrestler was trying to set a fireball off in The Undertaker's face, but it was obvious -and I mean *glaringly* obvious that the lighter wasn't working.

In the end, The Undertaker got hold of both the lighter and the flash paper, decided to hell with any sense of illusion, and held both up to the camera before setting the fire off in Paul Bearer's face.

Bret Hart is Ready For War 

Flanked by Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, Bret Hart told Doc Hendrix that he was ready to go to war with Steve Austin and would kick his ass all over the arena.

That match was next.

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
As The Hitman made his way to the ring, officials had to interject to stop Owen and The Bulldog from following him.

The two were sent packing, only to return -somewhat inevitably- for the finish.

In between, we got another solid outing from Austin and Hart that suffered for the same reason as the earlier Mankind/Undertaker match.

Yes, it was a great match, but simply not up to the level of high drama and intensity as the all-time classic that was their Wrestlemania 13 submission match.

After a wild, lengthy brawl, Austin got Bret in the Sharpshooter, only for Davey Boy to hit him with a chair and cause the DQ.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Stone Cold Steve Austin 

Afterwards, Bret went to attack Austin with the ring bell, only for Stone Cold to land a chair shot of his own and reapply the Sharpshooter until Pat Paterson and a gaggle of referees came to The Hitman's aid.

Despite some lacklustre performances on the undercard, this was a reasonably entertaining show that was so different from what the WWF had been putting out even six months before.

By this point, they were starting to develop the style and format that would be such a big part of the Attitude Era, and this is the first real example of that kind of show.

For that reason alone, In Your House: Revenge of The Taker is worth watching.

1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
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  1. Undertaker vs Mankind should have closed the show.