PPV REVIEW: WWF - King of the Ring 1997

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Event poster June 8, 1997
Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island

Since it was first established as its own Pay Per View event, King of the Ring had gone on to become the one event where new stars were born or, at the very least, elevated to a whole new level among the WWF Hierarchy.

Owen Hart's big win in 1994 helped solidify his status as one of the company's top stars, and even King Mabel, as atrocious as he may have been, enjoyed a brief main event run on the back of his 1995 King of the Ring victory.

Then there was Stone Cold Steve Austin,  who used his victory to usher in the dawning of a new era and propel himself to pro wrestling immortality.

Tonight, four new competitors would get the opportunity to take that big step towards the main event scene.

Which one of them would be crowned king? Let's head to Providence, Rhode Island to find out.

A Night of Firsts 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Jim Ross & Vince McMahon Our opening video told us that tonight was going to be a night of firsts; the first time reigning tag team champions had fought one another (not sure if that's technically true, but hey ho), the first time any of the men in tonight's King of the Ring final had the chance to win it, and potentially the first time that we could have an African American WWF Champion.

From there, we got all the usual fireworks and hoopla before Vince McMahon welcomed us to the show and his broadcast colleague Jim Ross declared that the excitement in the air was akin to the Super Bowl.

Vince introduced us to the international commentary teams, and with that, it was on to our opening match.

King of the Ring Semi Final 1
Ahmed Johnson vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Ahmed Johnson - "These Assholes Can't Spell My Name" And so it begins.

This was a passable opening match, but a far cry from the kind of full-on epics that WCW were starting their pay per view with at the time.

After a few minutes of fairly forgettable action, Ahmed Johnson went for the Pearl River Plunge, only for Chyna to get up on the apron and distract him.

That was enough for Hunter Hearst Helmsley to attack and Pedigree his way into the final.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

Prior to taking on Jerry 'The King' Lawler in our next match, Mankind took to the microphone to call out Paul Bearer for abandoning him in favour of obsessing with bribing The Undertaker (this was around the start of Bearer teasing the arrival of Kane).

From there, Mankind, who was fast becoming a solid babyface thanks to his series of sit-down interviews with Jim Ross, turned his attentions to Jerry Lawler in a promo that was as entertaining as it was compelling.

The King Arrives

Backstage, Todd Pettengill reminded The King of how he cheated his way into the match by beating Goldust with his foot on the ropes, only to have The Golden One send Lawler rolling down the Raw is War ramp in comical fashion.

Irate, The King snatched the microphone and made his way to ringside with it, insulting Lawler, the fans, and Mankind en route.

King of the Ring Semi Final
Mankind vs. Jerry 'The King' Lawler 

The match itself was surprisingly good.

I say surprisingly because the majority of Lawler's WWF matches up to this point has largely been played for comic relief, but here he went after Mankind in what proved to be an entertaining contest.

Alas, it wasn't to be Lawler's day. Mankind shoved his fingers down The King's throat and advanced to the final.
Your Winner: Mankind 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Ahmed Johnson - Todd Pettengill interviews Brian Pillman
Out in the back, Todd Pettengill interviewed Brian Pillman, asking him whether or not he felt responsible for Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels winding up in a match against one another.

Pillman began taking credit for the whole thing until Austin snuck up behind him and attacked him, dragging him into the men's room and flushing his head down the toilet.

This was all good stuff, except for the fact that when they went into the toilet cubicle there just happened to be a camera pointing down directly at the bowl.

Talk about making suspension of disbelief difficult.

Crush (w/ The Nation of Domination) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena) 

Goldust and Marlena were over huge here, again thanks to a series of sit down Interviews which attempted to add a sense of realism to Goldie's bizarre character.

Unfortunately, his huge popularity did little to help this match which, despite not being terrible, wasn't exactly good.

After several minutes of fairly nondescript action, Goldust picked up the inevitable win over Crush.
Your Winner: Goldust 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Doc Hendrix interviews Sid & The Legion of Doom
Out in the back, Doc Hendrix interviewed The Legion of Doom and Sid about their upcoming match with The Hart Foundation.

Hawk and Animal were ready to extract some revenge but were not sure they could trust Sid.

In response, Sid claimed that there was no reason to worry because he was the master and ruler of the world, which seems like as good a reason as any.

Offering a retort, The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart told Tod Pettengill that they were not afraid of their opponents and were more than ready to whoop some booty.

The Hart Foundation (WWF European Champion The British Bulldog, WWF Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart, and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart vs. Sid & The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) 

If I'm not mistaken, this was Jim Neidhart's first WWF PPV appearance since the 1995 Survivor Series.

Here, he teamed with brothers-in-law Owen Hart and The British Bulldog to take on The Legion of Doom and by far the most over man in the match, Sid.

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Todd Pettengill interviews British Bulldog, Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart and Owen Hart
Throughout 1996 and 1997, Sid was easily the most popular man on any PPV he appeared at, and this one was no different.

So it actually made a lot of sense to keep him on the apron for the majority of this mediocre contest.

That way, after Hawk and Animal had finished working with all three members of The Hart Foundation, Sid was able to get the hot tag and make the live crowd absolutely blow the roof off in the process.

Alas, it was the former two-time champion that lost the match for his team, botching a sunset flip from Owen Hart before being pinned by the Intercontinental Champion.
Your Winners: The Hart Foundation 

Whilst that match was going on, Vince and JR told us about next month's In Your House: Canadian Stampede, which just happens to be one of my favourite PPVs of all time.

We were then shown an awesome video package reminding us about how Steve Austin's career had taken off since winning the 1996 King of the Ring.

Mankind Can't Wait to be King 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Todd Pettengill interviews Mankind
King of the Ring finalist Mankind told Todd Pettengill that he didn't feel that great following his match with Jerry Lawler earlier, but that he was more than ready to beat Hunter and -stealing a line directly from The Lion King- just couldn't wait to be king.

It was another solid effort on the microphone from Foley, and another perfect example of why he fit so easily into the company's main event scene at the height of the Attitude Era.

King of the Ring 1997 Final
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

This was certainly not the best match these two would ever have but it was, despite a slow start, a good effort which served to give us one of the 1997's most memorable feuds.

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Hunter Hearst Helmsley
The action only really got really good towards the finish, when Hunter Pedigreed Mankind through the announce table, after which Chyna battered the former Cactus Jack with the sceptre meant for the King of the Ring Winner.

Back inside, a second Pedigree earned Helmsley the crown.
Your Winner and 1997  King of the Ring: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

For the first time since King of the Ring became its own pay per view, there was no throne for the victor to sit on and no special coronation area.

Instead, Todd Pettengill gave Hunter his crown and cape in the ring.

Hunter then used the crown to beat on Mankind some more, a move designed to guarantee that we would see a lot more from these two over the coming months.

The Hart Foundation Issue A Challenge 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - The Hart Foundation issued a challenge
Prior to our next match, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart led The Hart Foundation down to the ring, where he cut a fantastic promo about his impending return to action following a recent knee surgery.

Infinitely better on the mic as a heel than he ever was as a babyface, The Hitman put over the unbreakable bond he had with his Hart Foundation family (which by now also included Brian Pillman) and challenged any five wrestlers from the World Wrestling Federation to challenge them at what Bret first called In Your Hase.

He quickly corrected himself, referring to next month's event as In Your House, and setting up a huge ten man tag that I can not wait to review.

After that, Bret insisted he was going to do colour commentary on the next match, but Dave Hebner and Jerry Briscoe ushered him and his crew backstage.

Steve Austin Won't Cripple Shawn Michaels

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Doc Hendrix interviews Stone Cold Steve Austin
Speaking to Doc Hendrix, Steve Austin claimed that he wasn't going out to injure Shawn Michaels, preferring to keep him around since he would make more money as a Tag Team Champion with Shawn on his side.

But, insisted Stone Cold, if HBK brought the violence tonight, Austin would have no problem in taking Shawn out once and for all.

Austin then walked through the backstage area as Vince McMahon, foreshadowing their big feud, claimed that he was genuinely puzzled as to why fans liked Austin because he was a cheater and said bad words.

Austin then nearly came to blows with The Hart Foundation before confronting McMahon at ringside.

Shawn Michaels is Confused

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Doc Hendrix interviews Shawn Michaels
In response to Austin's promo, his opponent and tag team partner Shawn Michaels told Doc Hendrix that he and Austin were not going to give The Hart Foundation what they wanted, which was to see the two of them tear each other apart.

Still, Shawn claimed -not altogether convincingly- that he was a little conflicted between focusing on Austin as an opponent and Austin as a partner.

WWF Tag Team Champion Shawn Michaels vs. WWF Tag Team Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

Making his first PPV appearance since the 1997 Royal Rumble, Shawn Michaels sauntered to the ring looking for all the world like he couldn't give a damn about being there.

I don't mean that was part of his gimmick either, the Heartbreak Kid looked as though he'd just gotten out of bed and didn't want to be wrestling tonight.

Thankfully, Michaels changed his tune once the bell rung, and went on to deliver an absolute stormer with Austin.

The two battles back and forth multiple times in a match which was good not only when compared to the rest of the dross on this show, but legitimately awesome in its own right.

Towards the finish, referee Tim White took a bump. Austin hit Michaels with the stunner, then when White was unable to make the count, Austin got frustrated, picked him up and gave him a stunner too.

This gave HBK the chance to recover and hit Austin with the Sweet Chin Music. He made the cover and a second referee ran out, only to ignore the pin attempt and focus on Tim White.

Annoyed, Michaels superkicked that referee, prompting Earl Hebner to come out and disqualify both men.
Double DQ

The crowd hated that result, and so too did Michaels and Austin, who argued about it all the way to the back.

Farooq Issues a Warning 

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Todd Pettengill interviews Farooq
Interviewed by Todd Pettengill, Farooq said:

'Undertaker, don't worry about Paul Bearer's blackmail, worry about this black male.' 

Which I suppose was kind of clever.

Paul Bearer Yells at The Undertaker 

Backstage, Doc Hendrix told The Undertaker that whatever terrible secret Paul Bearer was using to manipulate the WWF Champion it didn't matter because everybody still loved him.

Angry, Paul Bearer -who was now completely free of the corpse paint, was fatter than ever, and had ginger hair- snatched the mic and told both Doc and The Undertaker that he could make The Dead Man do whatever he said.

Looking despondent, The Undertaker slopes off, ready to compete.

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Farooq (w/ The Nation of Domination)

WWE / WWF - King of the Ring 1997 - Doc Hendrix interviews The Undertaker & Paul Bearer
I've watched this match several times now, each time hoping that I'll see it in a new light and find something positive to say about it.

My hopes failed to materialize. Instead, every time I watch this match I hate it -and myself- a little more.

Honestly, this was an appalling, tedious mess that should be avoided at all costs.

The Undertaker won. Everybody who ever saw this match lost.
Your Winner and still WWF Champion: The Undertaker

I used to own this event on VHS tape, but every time I watched it, I would literally fall asleep. That was over a decade ago. 

When I sat down to watch and review this event just recently, I was convinced that it can't have been as bland and boring as I remembered it, but alas, it was. 

Sure, the Austin/Michaels match was great, and Hunter vs. Mankind had its moments, but outside of that, and a surprisingly entertaining Mankind/Lawler encounter, everything else fell flat. 

Watch for the Austin/Michaels match, and if you're interested in the evolution of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, but otherwise, avoid.

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
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
  9. WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell
  10. WCW - Slamboree 1997
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  1. Tag champs Owen and Bulldog had just wrestled to be the first ever European Champion in March of 1997. Jim Ross was so full of shit. lok