Will Faarooq become the first African-American WWF champion? What will be the outcome when tag team champions collide? Who will wear the crown this year?
For those that care, the Headbangers defeated Bart Gunn and Jesse James during the Free for All.
Match 1 (KOTR semifinal): Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) versus Ahmed Johnson
Both Johnson and Helmsley lost on last week's RAW is WAR so neither had momentum coming into this match.
After Johnson reversed a cross corner whip, he gorilla-press-slammed Helmsley.
Speaking of Helmsley, he gave Johnson a cross corner whip but ate a clothesline.
Johnson then slammed him but missed an elbow drop.
When Helmsley tossed him outside the ring, he joined and whipped Johnson into the steps.
Johnson then tried to return to the ring, but Helmsley used a baseball slide to deny him.
Go away, Pete. You need to wait until Wrestlemania XIV to be relevant in the WWF.
As Helmsley mounted the top turnbuckle, he delivered an elbow smash for 2.
He then reversed an Irish whip but ate a scissors kick while the Providence faithful chanted "Ah-med."
After a back drop, Johnson hit a spinebuster.
He then attempted the Pearl River Plunge, but Chyna got up on the apron.
While Chyna distracted Johnson, Helmsley put a knee into Johnson's back.
He then hooked the Pedigree.
Summary: You've got to be kidding me. They put this jabronie over meal ticket Johnson? Perhaps Johnson's stock isn't as high as it once was. Why would you put Johnson's face on the poster and job him in the opening match?
Prior to the next match, we revisit last week's RAW is WAR when Mankind yanked Lawler from the broadcast table. To a babyface reaction, Mankind asks "where oh where has my Uncle Paul gone?" He then uses king metaphors and a "bang, bang" to help maintain that response.
Backstage, Todd Pettengill interviews Lawler as we revisit Lawler's path to the semifinals. Lawler then steals the microphone and insults the audience on his way to the ring.
Match 2 (KOTR semifinal): Mankind (w/o Paul Bearer) versus Jerry "The King" Lawler
The match began on the floor as Mankind rammed Lawler face-first into the broadcast table.
When the match moved to the ring, Mankind delivered a back elbow.
Lawler then pulled a foreign object out of his tights and nailed Mankind.
After he gave Mankind a bulldog, Lawler tossed him out of the ring and nailed him with the foreign object.
Shortly after, Mankind made Lawler taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the Luna Reuben at Murphy's Pub.
He then made Lawler taste it a second time. Um, waiter, could you give the over-the-hill loudmouth a PBBBQ please?
While Lawler leaned against the steps, Mankind charged but devoured them himself.
Lawler then rammed the back of Mankind's head into the steel railing. OUCH!
As he gave Mankind a piledriver on the floor, Lawler dropkicked Mankind when he got up on the apron. Holy flying former AWA World champions, Batman!
Upon Mankind's return to the ring, Lawler piledrove him again.
GET OUT THE SPATULA!
Oh, wait, it only got 2.
He then nailed Mankind with the foreign object again as Ross scoffed at the phrase "international object" that he was forced to use in WCW.
After Mankind came back with a leg drop, he gave Lawler a cross corner whip followed by a back drop.
Lawler then botched a swinging neckbreaker yet mounted the second turnbuckle.
When he delivered a fist drop, Lawler attempted a third piledriver but received another back drop instead.
Lawler then attempted a sunset flip, but Mankind hooked the Mandible claw.
Mankind won by submission and advanced.
Summary: It's 1997. Did you really think Lawler would advance? On the other hand, Lawler did a good job of putting Mankind over.
Backstage, Pettengill interviews Pillman who cuts a promo on Austin. Speaking of Austin, he sneaks up behind Pillman, rams him into a folding gate, and gives him a swirlie in the bathroom stall.
Match 3: Goldust (w/ Marlena) versus Crush (w/ the Nation of Domination)
As D'Lo Brown distracted referee JIm Korderas, Goldust rammed Crush face-first into the steps.
He then gave Crush a cross corner whip followed by the ten-punch count-along.
Upon hitting a lariat, Goldust got 2.
Crush then reversed an Irish whip but received a swinging neckbreaker for another 2.
Next, Crush reversed a cross corner whip injuring Goldust's back.
He then whipped Goldust into the corner and delivered a belly-to-belly suplex.
When Goldust attempted a slam, Crush landed on top for 2.
He then gave Goldust a backbreaker for another 2.
Shortly after, Crush reversed an Irish whip and delivered a military-press gutbuster. Impressive!
Unfortunately, it only got 2.
Crush then gave Goldust a back elbow but ate a second lariat.
As Goldust delivered the Flip, Flop, and Fly, he hit the bulldog.
He then confronted and nailed Brown who had sauntered after Marlena.
Back in the ring, Goldust hit the DDT.
Summary: The shoot interview has helped Goldust achieve a modest babyface response, and his babyface comebacks made this match watchable. Crush's psychology helped the rating too.
Back in the locker room, Dok Hendrix interviews the Road Warriors and Sid.
Backstage, Pettengill interviews the Hart Foundation.
Match 4 (six-man): Sycho Sid & the Road Warriors versus the Hart Foundation
When Owen attempted a cross body block, Animal caught and slammed him.
He then reversed a cross corner whip and gave Owen a flapjack.
Next, he powerslammed Owen for 2.
Sid tagged in, mounted the second turnbuckle, and lowered the boom on Owen.
As Smith tagged in, he gave Sid a delayed vertical suplex.
However, Sid no-sold it and nailed both Owen and Neidhart in the heel corner.
Hawk tagged in, but Neidhart did as well.
After Neidhart gave Hawk a cross corner whip, he ate boot on his follow-through.
Hawk then mounted the top turnbuckle and hit a flying clothesline for 2.
As the Providence faithful chanted "L-O-D," Smith distracted referee Earl Hebner while the babyfaces triple-teamed Neidhart.
Hawk tagged in and delivered a standing dropkick to Neidhart.
When Smith tagged in, he piledrove Hawk who no-sold it and clotheslined Smith for 2.
Animal tagged in, and Owen delivered a spinning heel kick.
While Smith distracted Hebner, Neidhart rammed Animal into the steps.
Neidhart then WALLOPED Animal in the back with a steel chair. Nefarious!
Back in the ring, Owen executed a snap suplex for 2.
Neidhart tagged in, and Owen slingshot him into Animal for another 2.
As Animal attempted a sunset flip on Neidhart, Smith distracted Hebner again. SNEAKY!
Owen tagged in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and hit a missile dropkick for 2.
After Smith tagged in, he and Owen gave Animal a double clothesline.
Smith then slammed Animal, mounted the second turnbuckle, leaped, but got caught.
When Animal slammed him, he mounted the top turnbuckle but got caught as well.
Smith then joined and superplexed Animal for another 2. Woohoo!
As Neidhart tagged in, he gave Animal a cross corner whip.
He then whipped Owen into Animal.
After a hangman's neckbreaker, Owen got 2.
Vince then shilled In Your House XVI: Canadian Stampede on 7/6.
When Owen hooked a sleeper, Animal made the tag to Hawk.
As Hawk slammed Owen, he mounted the top turnbuckle but missed a splash.
Smith tagged in, slammed Hawk, but missed a leg drop.
After Owen tagged in, he and Smith broke the wishbone on Hawk. OUCH!
Neidhart tagged in, but Hawk double-clotheslined Owen and him simultaneously.
Hot tag Sid.
All six wrestlers were in the ring while Sid gave Owen a big boot.
When Sid gave Smith a chokeslam, he attempted a powerbomb.
Conversely, Owen mounted the top turnbuckle and hooked a sunset flip on Sid.
The Hart Foundation won.
Summary: Nifty six-man tag with a finish that kept the Hart Foundation strong. I mentioned stocks in the opening match, and Sid's has PLUMMETED!
Next, we revisit King of the Ring '96 when Austin gave his famous speech.
Afterward, Pettengill interviews Mankind backstage who cuts a promo on Helmsley and finishes with "have a nice day."
Match 5 (KOTR final): Mankind (w/o Paul Bearer) versus Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna)
Mankind gave Helmsley a back elbow while Ross shilled part four of the Mankind interview tomorrow night on RAW Is WAR.
Next, Mankind made Helmsley taste the steel railing. It must have tasted like the Stuffie at the Hot Club.
When Mankind attempted the ten-punch count-along, Helmsley countered with Snake Eyes.
He then gave Mankind a cross corner whip followed by a swinging neckbreaker.
After a clothesline, Helmsley distracted referee MIke Chioda.
In the meantime, Chyna HAMMERED Mankind. How dastardly!
Mankind's trick knee then acted up, but he twisted his head in the ropes.
When he attempted to return to the ring, Helmsley gave him a baseball slide.
He then joined and rammed Mankind face-first into the steps.
Back in the ring, Helmsley delivered a pair of knee drops to Mankind's head.
As the Providence faithful chanted "BORING," Mankind came back with a stungun for 2.
He then gave Helmsley a second stungun and got another 2.
When he tried a third time, Helmsley countered with a modified DDT.
Mankind then gave Helmsley a cross corner whip which resulted in a Helmsley flip.
With Helmsley on the floor, Mankind attempted a baseball slide but missed.
He then backdropped Helmsley on the concrete floor. OUCH!
From the apron, Mankind hit the Cactus elbow. BANG, BANG!
He then hit a double-arm DDT but couldn't get the pin due to Chyna's distraction of Chioda.
When Helmsley attempted the Pedigree, Mankind countered with a back drop.
Helmsley then attempted a sunset flip, but Mankind countered with the Mandible claw.
Since they were close to the ropes, Chyna pulled Mankind out of the ring before Helmsley could submit.
With Mankind on the apron, Helmsley delivered a hangman's neckbreaker. Innovative!
Helmsley then removed Mankind's mask.
As Helmsley mounted the top turnbuckle, Mankind caught him with the Mandible claw.
Helmsley escaped but received an inverted atomic drop.
After a clothesline, Mankind got 2.
He then hit the Cactus clothesline sending both wrestlers to the floor.
When Mankind got up on the apron, he attempted a back elbow but hit the steel railing instead of Helmsley.
Helmsley then rammed Mankind into the steps as Helmsley cleaned off the broadcast table.
Following that, he gave Mankind a Pedigree upon it.
While Helmsley distracted Chioda, Chyna DEMOLISHED the royal scepter across Mankind's head. OUCH!
Helmsley then put a knee into Mankind sending him into photographer Bob Buchanon on the floor. LOOK OUT BELOW!
After Helmsley rolled Mankind back into the ring, he only got 2.
He then delivered the Pedigree.
Helmsley became the 1997 King of the Ring.
Summary: Oh. My. Lord. I cannot believe the WWF gave this ham'n'egger the King of the Ring accolade. He has midcard charisma, midcard talent, and needs Chyna to generate heat. This is absolutely absurd!
After the match, Pettengill brings the King of the Ring garb into the ring only to be attacked by Chyna. With Mankind still almost lifeless on the mat, a timid Pettengill gives Helmsley the royal robe and crown. Helmsley then uses the crown as a weapon and nails Mankind repeatedly. WWF politics, folks.
We then get an elongated retrospective on the pseudo-bond between Michaels and Austin created for the destruction of the Hart Foundation.
Speaking of the Hart Foundation, they come to the ring to be interviewed by Pettengill. Incredibly, Pillman has survived the swirlie to stand behind Bret. While Bret shills In Your House XVI: Canadian Stampede, he challenges "any five wrestlers" to face the Hart Foundation in his hometown.
Back in the locker room, Hendrix interviews Austin who claims to be the "captain" of the team. Austin then litters on his way to the ring. How criminal! He then encounters and flips off the Hart Foundation on his way to the ring. Methinks this guy is getting over.
We then revisit the swirlie from earlier in the show. What is this? RAW is WAR? C'mon Vince! It's not like there's another wrestling PPV opposite this show on another channel.
Backstage, Hendrix interviews Michaels.
Match 6: Stone Cold Steve Austin versus the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
Bret joined the broadcast table for this match replacing Vince. However, Gerald Brisco ejected him and the rest of the Hart Foundation instead. In the meantime, Pillman's antics were hysterical.
As Austin made his entrance, his pop grew louder than previous matches.
When the match began, a kid with special needs came to ringside only to be intercepted by security and a concerned Michaels.
Austin then joined him on the floor to brawl with Michaels.
After a brief exchange with Austin in the ring, MIchaels helped to escort the kid from ringside. I smell what's going on here. Make an extremely benevolent effort to keep fans from booing the head case.
As Ross mentioned the phenomenal sales of the "Austin 3:16" shirts, Austin gave Michaels a back elbow.
After a leapfrog, Michaels attempted a Thesz press, but Austin countered with an inverted atomic drop.
He then clotheslined MIchaels over the top rope to the floor.
As he joined Michaels, Austin rammed him face-first into the apron.
Michaels then escaped a suplex from the apron and rolled up Austin for 2.
He then gave Austin a back drop for another 2.
When Austin came off the ropes, he bumped the cameraman off the apron to the floor in a neat visual.
He then gave Michaels a Thesz press and pounded Michaels like a butcher on Saturday morning.
Not THAT butcher!
When Austin tried a secondary pounding, Michaels hooked a sunset flip for 2.
After a pinfall reversal sequence, Michaels bridged into a backslide attempt.
Austin then launched Michaels over the top rope to the floor.
As Michaels got up on the apron, Austin guillotined him using the top rope.
He then sent Michaels from the apron to the steel railing.
When Austin joined him on the floor, he exposed the concrete floor and guillotined Michaels using the steel railing.
He then rammed Michaels into the steps.
Next, he gave Michaels a flapjack on the concrete floor. OUCH!
Back in the ring, Michaels attempted a cross body block but came up empty. In fact, he ended up on the floor again.
As Austin attempted a slam, Michaels hooked an inside cradle for 2.
Austin then clotheslined Michaels for 2.
Upon mounting the second turnbuckle, he hit an elbow smash for another 2.
Austin then hooked a rope-assisted rear chinlock until referee Tim White caught him. SNEAKY!
Afterward, Austin tried to toss Michaels over the top rope again, but Michaels beat him to the punch.
Michaels then followed with a baseball slide, but Austin escaped a suplex from the apron.
When Michaels hit the flying forearm, he nipped up and backdropped Austin.
He then delivered an inverted atomic drop, gave Austin a cross corner whip, but came up empty on his follow-through.
As Austin gave him a cross corner whip, Michaels leaped to the second turnbuckle and hit a cross body block.
However, Austin used momentum to land on top for 2.
He then clotheslined Michaels for another 2.
After another cross corner whip by Austin resulted in a Michaels flip, Michaels reversed yet another whip sending Austin directly into White.
White was OUT COLD.
When Michaels attempted Sweet Chin Music, Austin caught the boot and hit the Stone Cold Stunner.
Austin then made the cover but earned a false pin due to White's condition.
To show contempt for White, Austin gave him a Stunner. That will NOT earn him a free beer at the Friendly Tap.
Nevertheless, Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music and earned his own false pin.
Suddenly, Chioda ran to the ring and checked on White instead of counting the pinfall attempt. A frustrated Michaels then gave him Sweet Chin Music.
Michaels then got 2 as White recovered.
When Hebner entered the ring, he threw the match out.
Ring announcer Howard Finkel declared the match a double-disqualification.
Summary: Exciting match with an extremely shitty finish. For crying out loud, Michaels, do a job for the next big thing. After all, this is PPV.
After the match, Austin retrieves the tag belts, mounts the second turnbuckle, but eats a right from Michaels. The champs then argue as they leave ringside.
Backstage, Pettengill interviews Faarooq with the NoD. We then revisit the aftermath of Undertaker's victory over Sid from last Monday. Following that, Faarooq declares tonight's match will be history.
As the NoD makes its entrance, Hendrix interviews Undertaker with Bearer backstage. Bearer then calls Hendrix "Mr. Microphone" and exercises his control over Undertaker.
Match 7 for the WWF title: Undertaker (champion w/ Paul Bearer) versus Faarooq (w/ the Nation of Domination)
As Undertaker handed the belt to Hebner, Faarooq attacked him from behind.
He then gave Undertaker a cross corner whip, but the latter grabbed him and tossed him into the corner for some punishment.
After Faarooq reversed a cross corner whip, he ate a clothesline.
Undertaker then missed an elbow drop but hit a big boot for 2.
When Faarooq reversed an Irish whip, he delivered a powerslam for 2.
D'Lo Brown then got up on the apron to distract referee Earl Hebner. Meanwhile, Savio Vega and Crush gave Undertaker the business.
As Faarooq gave Undertaker a cross corner whip, he ate boot on his follow-through.
Undertaker then attempted the ropewalk shoulder smash but delivered a cross body block to Brown, Vega, and Crush instead.
When he fought off the NoD, Undertaker got up on the apron and guillotined Faarooq using the top rope.
He then made a second attempt of the ropewalk shoulder smash, but Brown crotched him with the top rope. Concurrently, Crush distracted Hebner.
After Faarooq delivered a vertical suplex, he got 2.
Undertaker came back with a clothesline, but Faarooq took Undertaker down the path to Newport for another 2.
While Faarooq distracted Hebner, Vega and Brown continued to pummel Undertaker.
Faarooq then tossed him outside the ring, joined him, and dislodged the top step.
As he charged, Undertaker kicked it back into his face. OUCH!
Back in the ring, Faarooq delivered a piledriver for 2.
When the Providence faithful chanted "rest in peace," Faarooq applied a rear chinlock while putting his feet on the ropes. Contemptible!
Undertaker came back with a jawbreaker but ate knees on a splash attempt.
While Faarooq attempted a second piledriver, Undertaker countered with a back drop.
He then missed a leg drop, reversed a cross corner whip, but ate knee on his follow-through.
As Faarooq mounted the second turnbuckle, Undertaker caught and powerslammed him.
Faarooq then reversed an Irish whip, but Undertaker missed a flying clothesline.
Afterward, the members of the NoD argued at ringside when Faarooq slammed Undertaker.
He then chastised his stablemates until Undertaker grabbed and gave him the tombstone.
Summary: While the idea of a faction leader facing the WWF champion looks good on paper for a big 5 PPV, the execution fell flat here.
After the match, Vega enters the ring only to get chokeslammed by Undertaker. Crush then suffers the same fate. When Bearer berates him, Undertaker chokeslams Faarooq. Upon further threats, Undertaker delivers a second chokeslam. Next, Bearer continues his manipulation causing Undertaker to give Faarooq a third chokeslam.
Suddenly, Ahmed Johnson hits the ring and vehemently questions Undertaker's actions. When Undertaker tries to nail him, Johnson delivers the Pearl River Plunge. WE HAVE A HEEL TURN! Now I understand Johnson's presence on the poster.
Conclusion: Despite the crappy main event, the Michaels-Austin and six-man matches keep this show from circling the drain. While history scores this show as the "coming-out party" for Helmsley, it would take a lot more to take him to the next level.
If you've never seen the first encounter between Michaels and Austin, watch this show for that reason; otherwise, skip it.