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The VHS Memoirs Volume 3: WWF Live — November 14, 1997

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So far, this concept of “The VHS memoirs,” a collection of more personal stories, has received a positive response, which somewhat surprised me because I didn’t know if readers would care about retrospective articles of my adventures as a wrestling fan. I want to sincerely thank everyone that takes the time to read anything I write and I truly appreciate it. Part of the reason I enjoy writing this collection of stories is that it’s a chance to reflect on a simpler time of the wrestling business, before social media catered to many jaded fans.

This edition will go back almost two decades to November 14, 1997 for a WWF house show event that took place less than a week after the infamous Montreal incident that had a profound effect on the industry in the years that followed. My family is very working class, something that I think provided a good example as I grew up because I always knew the value of a dollar and appreciated the events I had the chance to attend when I was younger. Through the years, I attended a few shows, but it was a rare opportunity to see these larger than life characters live.

This particular time, I was actually surprised with the tickets. I specifically remember getting home from elementary school that day and my parents showed me an envelope that had the tickets. I was 8 years old and thrilled to get to go to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena to see a WWF show. Keep in mind, at that age, the realization that “titles don’t change hands at non-televised shows” wasn’t a factor and it was nice to believe that anything could happen.

A somewhat comical story from when we arrived at the Civic Arena, the venue that later became the Mellon Arena before it closed a few years ago for the opening of the city’s new hockey venue, was the merchandise stand. The “Attitude Era” was just starting to boom and Stone Cold Steve Austin had become the company’s top merchandise seller with the original “Austin 3:16” t-shirt earlier that year. As mentioned, I was always very aware of the cost of things so when my parents asked me if I’d like to get a shirt for the show, I initially said no, I didn’t need a new t-shirt. An usher showed us to our seats, B-level, not exactly front row, but still provided a good view of the ring.

Any time I had the chance to attend a live show in my younger years, I always had a rush of excitement when I went through the arena corridor and had the first glimpse of the ring that night. As I beamed with excitement to see the WWF ring in person, my mom snuck back to the souvenir stand to get me something to commemorate attending the show. As I said, Stone Cold was setting merchandise records and in 1997, the first of many follow-ups to Austin 3:16 was a Terminator-inspired t-shirt that had an Austin/robot face design on the back, which is what my mom saw when she bought it. She didn’t realize until after she purchased this new WWF apparel that the front of it read, “Other side Jacka**.” Adding to this unintended vulgarity, since Austin was my favorite, she bought a Stone Cold foam finger, natively assuming that it was a #1 finger similar to what Hogan fans had in the audience for years. The foam novelty item was in plastic and after getting back to the seats, my mom realized it was the middle finger that Austin so famously displayed during his WWF career. I enthusiastically put the new shirt on and was told that I wasn’t allowed to wear it to school, and only allowed to display the foam finger “at wrestling.”

As far as the actual show, forgive me for not remembering every match since it was 20 years ago, but there are a few specific moments that I remember even today. Dude Love wrestled Savio Vega in a no DQ match that consisted of a variety of weapons, including a giant bag of popcorn that Mick put over his shoulder like a Santa sack before he smashed Savio with it, sending the snack flying everywhere. At one point, the Puerto Rican star choked Dude with the mic cord and delivered a forearm to the back, which prompted amplified screams from Foley that were picked up by the mic. At the time, I justified Mick’s reaction by explaining to my dad that Dude Love’s back was still hurt from when Kane choke slammed him on the ramp on Raw the previous week. The other vivid memory I have from the show was the main event, Shawn Michaels defended the WWF championship against The Undertaker.

As I said, this was at a time when “anything could happen” at a WWF show and I was eager to see if The Undertaker could win the championship. It’s interesting to note that since this was before the tragic events of September 11, lighters were allowed in the building and the collective small flames from the audience illuminated the arena as Undertaker made his way to the ring. This same concept was replaced by cell phone screens and remains an interactive part of the show for Bray Wyatt’s entrance today. As was the case with many house show events, the heel champion retained after getting intentionally disqualified just as the “good guy” almost had a victory. During the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels bout, Chyna interfered in the match, causing the DQ, but would later get choke slammed for revenge.

While this finish was common at house shows at the time, it’s nice to reflect on an event where there was still the belief that anything could happen. The internet has helped and hindered professional wrestling in different ways. One of the good things is that it allows for more wrestlers to be discovered and provides a platform for them to make a name for themselves. At the same time, the argument could be made that watching the shows might be more fun if possible surprise angles weren’t reported prior to an event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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