It’s time for another journey through the archives of the WWE Network — this week we Throwback exactly 20 years today to Ground Zero, the first 3 hour In Your House event!
It goes without saying that this period of time in the World Wrestling Federation was tumultuous. With talk of downsizing in the air the WWF set about producing as compelling and engaging a product as it could. The result was a string of TV and PPV events that still rank as some of the best the WWF has ever produced. Though the numbers weren’t reflecting it, the WWF was beginning to hit their stride.
There are a few minor edits to the show but nothing that takes away from the event.
If you’re looking for context, it’s all here. All previous editions of Monday Night RAW as well as all prior PPVs are available for you to enjoy right now!
WWF Ground Zero: In Your House 17 (WATCH)
Date: September 7, 1997 – Location: Louisville Gardens, Louisville, Kentucky
Attendance: 4,693 – PPV Buys: 0.45 (>160,000 homes)
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, & Jerry Lawler – Interviews: Dok Hendrix, Michael Cole, Sunny, Jim Ross, & Vince McMahon
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Stone Cold Steve Austin
WWF European Championship: “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Stone Cold Steve Austin & Dude Love
The event opens by highlighting the epic Shawn Michaels/Undertaker story, pushing the first-time meeting as one of the biggest in WWF history. After the pyro Vince welcomes us to the show and talks about the card with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Next up we see highlights of the Goldust/Marlena feud. The vignette, with excellent pacing and music, is one of the best of the night and a great way to draw the viewer into the show from the start.
— “Grudge Match” – “Indecent Proposal Match” (WATCH – 3:27)
Goldust w/Marlena vs. “The Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman
So the catch in this one is that if Goldust loses Pillman is done “forever” in the WWF and if Pillman wins Marlena becomes Pillman’s assistant for 30-days. This match, Brian Pillman’s final PPV match, is little more than a fight. The interesting “reailty-wrestling” the WWF was pushing at the time is on full display here. Goldust is “Dustin” and the pre-WWF past of all involved is the meat of the entire story. This match is as entertaining as any opener on any WWF PPV full of great, physical spots and realistic psychology that matches the personal, over-the-top commentary. In the end with the referee down, Marlena tries to interfere. Pillman blocks Marlena’s attempt, however, steals her loaded purse, and dims Goldust’s running lights with it to score the pinfall, and Marlena, at 11:09. After the match Marlena tends to Goldust until Pillman grabs her and drags her to the back. Meanwhile Jerry Lawler grabs Marlena’s purse and opens it to reveal half of a brick inside, dropping it loudly on the table for emphasis.
WINNER is “The Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman (Pin, 11:09)
In the back we see Pillman pushing Marlena into HIS car and driving away as Marlena fights and Goldust arrives a moment too late. At ringside Vince, J.R., and Lawler talk about how terrible the situation is for the Runnels and their 3-year-old daughter while, in the back, Goldust trashes his locker room.
As Scott Putski makes his way to the ring we see footage from the July 19, 1997 edition of Shotgun Saturday Night (a series currently unavailable on the Network) of Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher putting the hurt on Scott Putski.
As Brian Christopher comes to the ring Jerry Lawler attempts to prove by facial structure alone that he is not Chistopher’s father but Vince and JR aren’t convinced. Neither are the fans, who chant “Jerry’s kid”, a reference (for you young whippersnappers) to the late Jerry Lewis’ “Jerry’s Kids”.
— “Light Heavyweight Division Grudge Match” (WATCH – 22:52)
Scott Putski vs. Brian Christopher
This one isn’t bad for as long as it lasts but the match grinds to a halt when Christopher lands a plancha on Putski and blows out Putski’s left knee. Unable to move or continue the match the referee calls for the bell at 4:41. After the match Jerry Lawler gets in the ring and raises Brian Christopher’s hand. As the officials check on Putski Lawler cuts a promo on the injured Putski. This match turned out to be Scott Putski’s final match in the WWF as he never returned upon recovery.
WINNER is Brian Christopher (Referee stoppage, injury, 4:41)
After stretchering Putski out of the arena we see a video package highlighting the “faction action”, as JR calls it, between the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas, and the Disciples of Apocalypse.
— “Triple Threat Grudge Match” (WATCH – 32:33)
Savio Vega vs. Faarooq vs. Crush
The interesting thing with this one was that all three of these guys were in the original Nation of Domination when the faction first formed, illustrating just how well WWF developed characters and established identities during this era. The match itself is a solid, believable “triple threat” with little to none of the usual two-in, one-out routine we see so frequently today and employing solid psychology for the few times the match is one-on-one. In the end Crush tosses Savio Vega from the ring and hits the dreaded heart punch on Faarooq. Vega runs in, though, hits Crush with a spinning heel kick, and picks up the pin at 11:40.
WINNER is Savio Vega (Pin, 11:40)
Next we see a promo for one of the all-time great WWF Home Videos in ‘Cause Stone Cold Said So. A tape I must have watched three hundred times in 1997 alone.
— “Mini-Estrellas Match” (WATCH – 51:24)
El Torito vs. Max Mini
This is just a fun match to watch. The crowd is into the match, which features a number of good spots, including the referee being bitten on the bum and Max Mini sitting on Lawler’s lap to another “Jerry’s Kid” chant. Eventually Max Mini hits a sunset flip for the 1-2-3 at 9:21.
WINNER is Max Mini (Pin, 9:21)
Next up we see footage from SummerSlam ’97 of Owen Hart injuring Stone Cold Steve Austin’s neck followed by the August 29, 1997 announcement on Friday Night’s Main Event by WWF Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter suspending Stone Cold from wrestling and forcing Austin to forfeit “his half” of the WWF Tag Team Championship at the Ground Zero PPV.
In the ring Jim Ross talks with Commissioner Slaughter about his decision to vacate the Tag Team titles, which is met with a “Slaughter sucks” chant. Dude Love comes out with his Tag Team title and says that Austin was his “race horse who brought me to the dance” before Love forfeits the title to Sgt. Slaughter.
Stone Cold comes out and begins by telling everyone off for showing footage of his injury at SummerSlam. Austin drops the Tag Team title at Slaughter’s feet and demands he pick up or get his ass whipped. As Slaughter leaves Austin turns on JR, who wishes Austin a speedy recovery. Out of nowhere Austin delivers a Stunner on JR. Afterwards everyone freaks out and officials come in to help JR to the back.
In the back Dok Hendrix interviews Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith about their upcoming match. Owen says that JR didn’t deserve “that crap”, that Ross is “a very special friend of mine”, and that he’ll push for Austin to be jailed for his actions. At ringside Vince McMahon calls Austin a “jackass” who is being protected from himself.
As the teams come to the ring for the next match we get pre-taped promos from The Headbangers and The Godwinns before a live interview with The Legion of Doom about winning the Tag Team titles and doing things with the Godwinn’s slop bucket.
— Vacant WWF World Tag Team Championship – “Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match” (WATCH – 1:13:42)
Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) (sub. for Dude Love & Stone Cold Steve Austin) vs. The Godwinns (Henry & Phinneas) vs. The Hart Foundation (Owen Hart & WWF European Champion “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith) vs. The Legion of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk)
This match starts out at a snails pace with it looking like somebody forgot their spots. Things get better once Owen Hart and Bulldog get into the match but it remains an entertaining clusterflub for the most part! The LOD are the first to go at 9:55 after being DQ’d for beating the bejabbers out of The Godwinns with their slop bucket. It’s all Headbangers/Godwinns after LOD are eliminated. Eventually The Godwinns go for a double back body drop when Thrasher hits a sunset flip on Henry for the pin at 12:44. Owen and Davey Boy go to town on Thrasher using excellent tag team psychology. Owen and Davey block The Headbangers Stage Dive finisher and Owen looks to take control with the Sharpshooter when Stone Cold Steve Austin runs in and, with the referee distracted with Davey and Thrasher on the outside, hits Owen with a picture perfect Stone Cold Stunner. Mosh makes the cover for the final elimination at 17:18. This marked the Headbangers first and only WWF World Tag Team Championship win. After the match The Headbangers celebrate with the fans in the crowd.
WINNERS and NEW WWF World Tag Team Champions, The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) (Pin, 17:18)
We see another promo for the ‘Cause Stone Cold Said So VHS. Afterwards we see The Headbangers celebrating at a concession stand and tossing food to the fans.
In the back WWF Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter is chatting with JR, who has a big bag of ice on his neck. JR tells Slaughter that Austin can’t be trusted and that something needs to be done about him. “They can kiss my 3:16 ass, is what they can do, and so can Stone Cold Steve Austin. And I’ll tell ya somethin’ else,” JR says, “you need to tell Vince that if this sh*t happens again my ass ain’t gonna be around here. ‘Cause I ain’t—I didn’t come to get whipped—beat up.”
At the announcer’s desk Lawler and McMahon talk about the WWF title match forthcoming before tossing to a vignette (one of the very last narrated by Todd Pettengill) that details Del Wilkes football career and work in All Japan (including a cameo from Sabu) before covering the events that have led to the showdown between The Patriot and WWF Champion Bret Hart.
Following the vignette Sunny (who is just terrible in this role) interviews The Patriot who says he’s beaten Bret once and he can do it again.
Michael Cole interviews Bret Hart, who says he may be going in against “a guy that everybody loves, but that’s fine, because everything I do in this match I do to the fans themselves.” Bret says he’s going to “give one shot” to each fan who turned their backs on him. “I’m gonna kick the crap outta this guy,” Bret says, “and I’m gonna enjoy doin’ it!”
— WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:42:32)
The Patriot vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart(c)
Patriot comes out to what would become Kurt Angle’s theme to a lukewarm reaction while Bret Hart comes out to a wall of jeers and boos. This match isn’t all that bad it just feels more like a TV main event. “Bulldog” comes down to the ring halfway through and nearly costs Bret Hart the title. When Patriot hits Bret with Uncle Slam it’s Davey Boy who makes the save. Soon Vader is at ringside taking on both Bret and “Bulldog” until officials come and break it up. Patriot hits all his big moves and the match becomes a solid back-and-forth battle until Patriot locks the Sharpshooter on Bret who quickly reverses it and gets the submission win at 19:18 to retain the WWF World title. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we see this finish.
WINNER and STILL WWF World Heavyweight Champion, Bret “Hitman” Hart (Submission, 19:18)
After the match Bret continues to beat on Patriot, breaking the American flag in half and choking Patriot with what’s left of it as officials try to pull Hart off of Patriot. After Bret goes backstage there’s a great moment between Lawler and McMahon where Lawler tries equating Vietnam to The Patriot’s defeat. McMahon’s reaction is just incredible.
Backstage Michael Cole tracks down Bret Hart and Davey Boy. Bret says that Americans are nothing but losers. “Steve Austin, loser; Undertaker, loser; Shawn Michaels, loser; add Patriot to the list,” Bret Hart says. “All the losers in the world are in the World Wrestling Federation and they’re all Americans, figure that one out!” Davey says that Canada and the United Kingdom will be the real winners of the war.
Up next is an excellent vignette that tells the story of Undertaker’s reinvention and the story of the hellacious Shawn Michaels/Undertaker feud.
Next Vince McMahon interviews Shawn Michaels about everyone in Kentucky wanting to see HBK get his “rear end kicked by The Undertaker”. Michaels says he doesn’t rest in peace for anybody and that he’s going to put an end to the mystique of the Undertaker because “I can, for God’s sake!”
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:14:52)
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
Shawn is at his most obnoxious here, mimicking enthusiastic oral sex and wanking off when the pyro doesn’t fire on time. Undertaker takes out the referee before the match can start and HBK refuses to get in the ring until Commissioner Slaughter comes out and demands HBK return to the ring where Undertaker beats HBK from pillar to post. Eventually Commissioner Slaughter brings Earl Hebner to the ring and Michaels tries to beg his way out of the match, but the bell rings and the fight is on. This match is one of the truly epic classics of the era. Everything these two do has a purpose; every bump, every movement. Rick Rude makes his way to the ring and tosses HBK a pair of brass knuckles which Michaels blasts Undertaker with. Soon Triple H and Chyna are at ringside beating on Undertaker and referees begin dropping like flies. At every turn Undertaker is cut down by Triple H and HBK until Undertaker blocks Sweet Chin Music, blasts HBK with the brass knucks, and waffles Triple H. After another slow two-count Undertaker chokeslams the referee and wipes out HBK with the flying clothesline as Tim White rushes in and calls a halt to the match at 16:04, ruling it a no contest.
NO WINNER declared (No contest, 16:04)
After the match Undertaker chokeslams Triple H into HBK before getting caught with Sweet Chin Music and getting tied up in the ropes. After kicking a chair into HBK’s face Undertaker gets free, and it’s an all-out war as one official after another tries to break it up and one official after another gets wiped out. Superstars from the back try to break it up to no avail. Suddenly Undertaker takes off and lands a highlight reel dive over the top rope onto the heels on the floor. After officials drag Undertaker and HBK apart Undertaker stands tall in the ring, steel chair in hand. We see a replay of Undertaker’s insane dive over the top rope before cutting back to Undertaker kneeling in the ring as the show goes dark.
Featuring the first-ever meeting between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in an instant classic and what turned out to be Bret Hart’s penultimate WWF Championship title defense on an international WWF PPV, Ground Zero feels like an edition of RAW on steroids in the best of ways!
Aside from the Putski/Christopher match every match on this card delivers and still holds up today, including the Max Mini/El Torito affair. Ground Zero: In Your House 17 is required viewing for any fan, young or old, who calls themselves a WWF/E fan.
If you’re already subscribed to the WWE Network, what are you waiting for? Go re-live this classic WWF PPV now or see it for the very first time! Don’t forget to let us know what you think below.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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I think I need to give this PPV a re-watch. The first time I saw it I remember feeling that ‘Taker and HBK ending in a non-finish fell flat, but given the pandemonium that takes place afterwards, maybe I was wrong. Not big on the Pillman / Marlena stuff as it’s just not what I want out of wrestling. It’s interesting how reviews like this can really highlight what was good about a show that you previously didn’t think much of though; like I say, I will definitely give this another watch.
Sorry – meant to say thanks for the review, also!