Welcome back to Retro Wrestling. On this edition, we look back at the first ever February PPV in WWF history, Rage in the Cage. Rage in the Cage was the sixth installment of WWF’s In Your House PPV series. This PPV was about six weeks away from WrestleMania XI, so a lot of pieces for the WrestleMania puzzle are going to fall into place. In the Main Event, Bret Hart defends the WWF Championship inside of a Steel Cage, the winner will go on to main event WrestleMania as the Champion. So, let’s get started.
WWF In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage 2/18/1996
Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler are our announcers for this event. They welcome us to the show and then get us set up for our first match of the night. Razor Ramon will be taking on the 1-2-3 Kid in a Crybaby Match. Kid and Razor used to be the best of friends but Kid cost Razor the Intercontinental Championship at the Royal Rumble. The loser of this match would be forced to wear a diaper.
Crybaby Match- Razor Ramon beat The 1-2-3 Kid (**1/2)
Solid match from two guys that knew each other very well. They set a fast pace in the early part of the bout with Razor using his power and Kid using his speed. Ramon looked to put Kid away early by going for the Razor’s Edge but Kid’s manager, Ted DiBiase threw baby powder in Ramon’s eyes allowing kid to take control of the match.
This is where the match died a slow death. Kid held onto a Sleeper Hold for way longer than he should have. There was a point where it looked like Ramon was going to fight out of it but they botched the sequence and Kid went right back to the Sleeper. This really killed what was a fun match. Ramon would find his way out of the Sleeper and begin his comeback. It was after a Fallaway Slam from the top that Razor felt he had Kid right where he wanted him. DiBiase sensed danger for his client so he distracted the referee allowing Kid to grab the dreaded baby powder. This time Ramon was onto them and kicked the powder in Kid’s face and then hit two Razor’s Edges to put an end to this match at the twelve minute mark.
The match was over and it was time for the big payoff. Ramon fed Kid a bottle, powdered and diapered him. Ramon left and Kid cried all the way to WCW in September. He didn’t leave WWF until May but clearly he was never looked at the same way as he spent his final months losing to Savio Vega. It’s tough to come back from being diapered on PPV.
This was a PPV filled with Grudge Matches and we are getting set for another. Hunter Hearst Helmsley in his blue blood days will take on Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. This feud came about after Hunter lost to Droese at the Royal Rumble in a match in which the winner would be the number 30 entrant and the loser, number one. Hunter lost the match and then got his revenge on Droese a few weeks later by assaulting him with a garbage can and then cutting his hair.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley pinned Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (**)
The match wasn’t that bad. It would pass as a solid TV match on RAW today. Duke controlled much of the match while Jerry Lawler sat and made terribly bad garbage jokes. It seems Lawler was only good as an announcer when he was with Jim Ross. He was terrible with his over the top heel jokes when he was teamed with Vince McMahon and he’s been awful since being paired with Michael Cole on RAW and the babyface color guy. I’m getting side tracked though. Droese hit his finisher on Hunter, The Trash Compacter which was a tilt-a-whirl into a body slam. Instead of going for the pin he went outside to get his trash can. He threw it and the lid to it in the ring. The referee threw the can out of the ring and the Dumpster was arguing with him as to why he did that. The lid was still in the ring and as Duke turned around, and seconds before the referee did, Hunter smashed the lid in Duke’s face and covered him for the win after ten minutes.
Since this match, Hunter has gone on to be a Hall of Famer and COO of WWE and Duke now illegally sells Oxycodone to undercover cops. Talk about going in different directions.
Yokozuna beat The British Bulldog via Disqualification (*)
The match wasn’t as bad as the rating would make it seem. The hit some big power spots to keep it entertaining. It was just very short. It was around five minutes which was to be expected as Yoko’s weight had gotten really out of control by this point.
Yokozuna was a freshly turned babyface after being dumped from Jim Cornette’s faction that aside from Bulldog featured Owen Hart and Vader. Bulldog was the one pegged to do the fighting for his manager but it wasn’t going his way. After a massive Samoan Drop and a belly to belly suplex, Yoko looked to finish off Bulldog with the Bonzai Drop but before he could hit it, Cornette jumped in the ring a whacked Yoko with his tennis racket causing the DQ.
The tennis racket shots did little to deter Yoko and he went after Cornette. Before he could get his hands on his former manager, Vader came to Cornette’s aid. Yoko and Vader slugged it out and then Bulldog got involved making it two on one but Yoko held his own so Vader handcuffed Yoko to the top rope. Then a one armed Yoko proceeded to hang in there against Vader and Bulldog. The whole thing went on way too long and finally Yoko gave way to the numbers game. This could have been an effective beatdown segment but it was just too long and lost its meaning.
Now, it is time for our co-main event. WWF didn’t call it that but I am. You see, this PPV was almost like a mini tournament of sorts to see who would headline WrestleMania XII in the WWF Championship Match. We know that the winner of the Main Event between Diesel and Bret Hart will be the Champion, but who will be the challenger? It will either be Shawn Michaels or Owen Hart. In October of 1995, Michaels was attacked outside a nightclub and was forced to vacate the Intercontinental Championship. Upon returning to the ring, it was Owen Hart that kicked HBK in the head during a match on RAW causing him to miss more time away from the ring. Michaels returned to win the 1996 Royal Rumble and aside from the WWF Championship, he had his sights set on gaining a measure of revenge against Owen Hart. Hart, being the cunning opportunist that he is agreed to the match only in HBK would put his WrestleMania title shot on the line here. Michaels agreed and here we are.
WrestleMania XII WWF Title Shot on the Line- Shawn Michaels pinned Owen Hart (***1/4)
You knew if these two had more than ten minutes they could put on a good match and that’s what they did. It’s not a memorable match in anyway but still a quality bout from two of WWF’s best at the time.
Michaels showed why he was so special in this match. He could fly around the ring and have enough technical ability to have good matches against anyone. Owen was always underrated in my eyes. Whenever he was given a big match he always came through.
Michaels used his speed and highflying ability early on to gain the advantage with a beautiful reverse cross body off the top rope to the floor. Michaels went to the well once too often though as Hart caught him in midair air after he attempted another high risk move to the floor and body slammed him on the floor. That was a very nicely done spot. The big spot they were building toward in the match was Owen’s enziguri to HBK. That was the moved that knocked out Shawn in their RAW match and you knew it was coming in this one. When it did HBK sold it like a champ and fell to the arena floor. Michaels looked done and Owen could have had the easy count out win. Instead he chose to roll HBK back in the ring and go for the pin but HBK kicked out at two. After the kick out, Michaels got his second wind and began his comeback. He hit all of his signature moves and set up for Sweet Chin Music. Owen ducked it and set Michaels up for another enziguri but this time HBK avoided it and was able to hit Sweet Chin Music and gain the victory and lock up his WrestleMania title match after 14 minutes of action.
It’s now time for the Main Event. There’s a whole lot going on here so let us try and recap it. Back in November, Diesel lost the WWF Championship to Bret Hart at the Survivor Series. Diesel snapped after the loss and attacked Hart. Diesel became even more enraged when he was passed over twice for title opportunities against Hart even going as far as interfering in The Undertaker’s title match at the Royal Rumble costing the Deadman his chance at the title. Needless to say, he angered the Undertaker and WWF President Roddy Piper made this match a Cage Match to ensure there would be no outside interference.
Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship- Champion Bret Hart defeated Diesel to retain the Championship (**)
You wouldn’t think a Cage Match to blowoff Hart and Diesel’s feud would be boring but this match was. I’m not even kidding that I fell asleep once, probably twice during the course of this 19 minute title tilt. Hart spent his time punching and kicking the knee of Diesel. He hardly showed his excellence of execution in this match. Diesel had the “highlight” of the match when he had Bret pinned up against the cage on the top rope and delivered his patented corner knee strikes.
Diesel did find himself in trouble when Bret hit an elbow drop from the top rope and tried to escape the cage. When Bret had gotten to the top rope however, Diesel was already up and lowblowed The Hitman and as Bret fell he crotched himself on the top rope. This was Diesel’s chance to escape the cage. Big Daddy Cool crawled towards the door but the Champion lunged at him in a desperation attempt to save his title. Diesel kicked Bret in the face freeing him of Bret’s grasp. It looked like Diesel was going to win the title when The Undertaker broke through the mat and sucked Diesel into the depths of hell. With Diesel in another dimension, Bret was free to climb out of the cage and retain his title. While this wasn’t a great match by any stretch the Undertaker visual of coming up from the ring and pulling Diesel down was a great visual that really saved this match from being a real disaster.
After Bret escaped white smoke bellowed from the hole in the ring and out came a freaked out Diesel with his pant leg ripped. Following Diesel was The Undertaker but Diesel wanted no part of the Deadman and climbed out of the cage. The PPV ended with Undertaker atop the cage staring down Big Daddy Cool.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that In Your House 6 was a great PPV because it wasn’t. It was however a success in my eyes. How many times in WWF/E history has every match on the card meant something? I’m not talking about thrown together title matches but the culmination of stories that were going on for more than just a few weeks? WWF did a great job of building a PPV that meant something to the viewers. If you wanted to see how all these stories were going to finish then you had to buy this show. Every single match was a Grudge Match to finish a feud. It was a well booked PPV. Sadly the in-ring action didn’t match the booking. The matches weren’t bad per say, they just weren’t anything memorable. The HBK/Owen match was the only match to reach three stars. The undercard matches did their job but the Main Event left a lot to be desired from two guys that you know could have done better. The Undertaker visual really helped save that match.
In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage isn’t a PPV you need to see if you haven’t yet. You will enjoy it for the aspect of how WWF payed off their story lines heading into WrestleMania though. I’ll give the show a 5.5/10 mostly for the booking and a good Michaels/Owen match.