Anatomy of a Disaster: Diesel vs. British Bulldog (In Your House)
By Jabroniville on 6th October 2023
ANATOMY OF A DISASTER: DIESEL vs. THE BRITISH BULLDOG:
-It’s time for another Anatomy of a Disaster! Like a couple of other examples in this column, rather than a shitty TV match or some embarrassing house show botchfest or something involving completely unready performers… this is a Pay-Per-View MAIN EVENT. Featuring the World Champion and an experienced, capable worker as his opponent! This is the infamous In Your House match between Diesel and the British Bulldog that allegedly was the beginning of the end of Diesel’s WWF Title run, leaving Vince McMahon himself furious on commentary.
THE STAGE: WWF In Your House 4 (Oct. 22nd 1995)
Diesel: Kevin Nash, a monstrous “7 footer” (okay 6’10” is CLOSE), was in his mid-30s and was only five years into his wrestling career at this point, having struggled in the disaster that was early ’90s WCW with gimmicks like “The Great & Terrible Oz” and Vinnie Vegas. He admits he was a little green back then, but the first gimmick in particular was horrendous. He went to the WWF as “Diesel”, quickly befriending Shawn Michaels and becoming his bodyguard, and he got increasingly over thanks to things like his famous run through a bunch of geeks at the Royal Rumble, culminating in him becoming the WWF Champion in a shocker victory over recently-crowned Bob Backlund at the end of 1994, just after turning on Shawn.
What we got next was “The New Generation” era, as the snarling bad-ass Diesel that got over was quickly shifted to this dorky smiling guy who got shown up by Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania and had a bunch of terrible matches with Psycho Sid and King Mabel, doing general dogshit feuds during a particularly rough period for the WWF. That Nash himself wasn’t that great a worker (with an infamously small moveset and a body that was a bit too big to be really athletic) didn’t help, but more or less the reign was infamously horrible and didn’t take advantage of most of the good things about Nash. So by the end of 1995, things were kind of falling apart, and the WWF was resorting to packing the B-Show PPV “In Your House” shows (which were half the price of regular PPVs and only two hours long) with main events against guys like British Bulldog, who were 100% never going to win the World Title and everyone knew it.
“The British Bulldog” Davey-Boy Smith: Davey-Boy Smith was a semi-big star by this point- he followed his cousin the Dynamite Kid to tremendous success as the British Bulldogs in the 1980s (the lesser of the two workers but still quite good and a VERY believable powerhouse with his roided physique and legitimately ridiculous feats of strength). When Dynamite went down via injuries and their relationship disintegrated, Smith went onto singles success, rejoining the WWF as “The British Bulldog” and becoming a solid midcard guy, sometimes teasing at hitting the upper-mid region. He largely only really did the big Warlord feud before suddenly getting the PPV Main Event at SummerSlam against Bret Hart, winning the Intercontinental Title on home turf in a ***** match. But he was nabbed for steroids only a short time later and lost the IC belt to Shawn Michaels very, very quickly on a Saturday Night’s Main Event and that was that. He went to WCW for a spell as Sting’s buddy and a semi-top guy, then returned to the WWF, first as a babyface and eventually turning heel. By this point, he was in “Camp Cornette” (Jim Cornette’s stable) and pushed as a threat to Bret, Diesel and others. His push was strong and his in-ring work was still solid, but he was in no way credible as a full challenger, having never gotten the big wins (the Bret he beat was IC Champ, not the World Champ he became).
That August, the Bulldog & Diesel had teamed up face Men on a Mission on a Monday Night RAW Main Event. Bulldog, 100% a babyface for his entire WWF career, suddenly turned on Diesel, leaving him for dead. Bulldog & Yokozuna teamed up to take on Diesel & Shawn Michaels at the following PPV (In Your House 3), then shortly after Bulldog pinned Diesel in a 6-man tag match to earn this title shot. So it’s your basic “You turned on me, now I’m gonna kill you!” match.
WWF WORLD TITLE:
DIESEL vs. “THE BRITISH BULLDOG” DAVEY-BOY SMITH (w/ Jim Cornette):
* Bulldog’s with his short-haired look and the long tights, and Diesel’s in the usual. Man it’s Tasselmania in here- both dudes have them all along the sides of their gear. The crowd is cheering, but notably quite un-rabid. Importantly, Bret Hart is on commentary.
We start off with Diesel shoving Bulldog off, then slugging him down and slamming him twice when Davey attempts a cross-body, establishing some power dominance. Bulldog bails to the floor, but gets run into the post trying to crotch Diesel against it. A pretty vicious-looking corner clothesline has Diesel looking good, but he slows it down with some elbows, and gets caught when Cornette distracts him. Bulldog can’t get a rollup but dropkicks him to the floor, but when Bret tries to steady Diesel, he gets piefaced and stares Diesel down, letting Bulldog score a weak chop-block. Bulldog promptly slows it WAY down with leg stuff while Bret just blows it off (“I don’t mind a little adrenaline here playing a factor, but uh…”) and calms right down and goes back to his scholarly analysis of the match, lol. This goes on FOREVER, Davey-Boy throwing on a leg-lace of sorts that looks like he just fucked up the Sharpshooter (“that’s a different way to put in on…”- Bret), Bret quickly blowing it off as “not doing any kind of serious damage”. Diesel elbows free but ends up on the floor, where Cornette actually DOES AN ELBOWDROP and keeps doing drive-bys to his injured leg.
Bulldog with a half-crab then a Boston crab and my GOD this is dull for a PPV Main Event- doing all the slow restholds in the opening third is pretty common for long-ish matches but still- this shoulda been brawling & slams for quite a while before slowing it down. Bret puts over how Diesel’s so big he can make the ropes from nearly everywhere, then Diesel’s brute strength in flipping Davey out of the crab, but Davey’s back with stomps and a high-angle crab. A weird legdrop with Diesel’s arms over his face (so there’s a danger of a leg cracking a wrist or something) gets two. And we’re back to just “holding the leg” oh my god. haha I think that big guy in the front row is asleep… oh no wait, he moved his head. Diesel fights up to come ba– oh fuck’s sake Davey trips him AGAIN, haha. IT’S BEEN NINE GODDAMN MINUTES OF THIS! Diesel gets the “counter a sit-out on the knee by booting him over the top” spot but they screw it up so Davey slides off his foot and awkwardly side-rolls over the top. Davey… just crawls back into the ring and dodges a desperation elbow to of course continue grapevining the leg- the world’s laziest submission hold.
Diesel’s selling is at least okay (he limps manically when he gets a chance to stand) but he doesn’t have much to deal with here. He’s grimacing in pain but it’s not like a leg grapevine should have him scrambling for the ropes. He finally drops a leg repeatedly to get out of the resthold and reverses the suplex to his own. It’s a double-down, and Diesel ducks a shot to hit a backdrop suplex (Davey over-shoots him so even that’s awkward). Bret nonchalantly pipes up for the first time in ages, calling out Bulldog using up a lot of energy while Diesel’s building back his endurance, but Bulldog just decides to throw some overhands for a two-count. REALLY? You eat two suplexes and you just come back with punches for a pin attempt? And then he calls out Bret and puts on the single worst Sharpshooter I have ever seen in my life, immediately falling on his ass and having to reposition and my god you don’t do that when Bret’s on commentary, lol. Bret: “Well he should learn to put it on right”. You can hear the amused smirk in his voice. Davey-Boy is literally on his knees trying to pull it on (Bret: “Lemme tell ya, he’s got it on pretty sloppy but he’s still got it on”) but Diesel flips him out of it.
Davey falls back on a slam attempt, getting two, but scoops up Diesel for the Running Powerslam but Diesel pushes him off the ropes and hits the Big Boot for his big comeback. He gets to his feet, then flips Cornette in for some good comedy bumps (Bulldog nails Cornette, who flips around and cartoon-rolls out of the ring), and does his running sit-out while Davey’s in the ropes, actually still selling the leg so he slowly limps over. Diesel hits the floor and yelps in pain from his leg, then tries to push Davey into the post, leading to an awkward stall where Davey shoves him into it… and then paintbrushes Bret on commentary, leading to Bret immediately whipping his headset off and beating Davey’s ass in the ring, and it’s a PPV DQ FINISH at (18:14), shockingly ending this dreadful match with the all-time kind of Fuck Finish. Diesel is pissed and pulls Bret off for a slugfest, leading to the guys in the back (ah, how I’ve missed that floppy-ass blond mane of Rene Goulet’s).
OH MY GOD WHO AGENTED THIS?!? This was completely horrible, and a ten-minute chunk of the match is just Davey-Boy methodically putting on legholds to extend the match’s length and “build heat” that never comes because it’s all boring stuff that shows zero urgency and we don’t even get a proper comeback or end-run. Part of the issue is Davey-Boy’s lack of technical acumen. He can chain-wrestle with the Harts with the best of them, but with a non-technical guy he’s kinda lost. Look at him just drop elbows and randomly tie up the leg with restholds for like six minutes for lack of anything else to do. Doing the knee work in the VERY early portion of the match was not a great call, as you leave your superheavyweight World Champion lying around on the mat and selling instead of having a match that would potentially be exciting. Like, a match that works to both dudes’ strengths would be to start it off with long bombs, whipping each other around, or Davey wowing everyone with the Delayed Suplex on an opponent so huge. A big bump or two, THEN work the leg stuff. But because it’s 18 minutes long and Bulldog is clearly calling the match, it ends up being Restholdamania.
And then, even worse, you have Diesel’s big comeback be him limping around, hitting weak-ass set-up moves, and never ONCE going for the big Powerbomb finish, and even being hurt on the floor at match’s end, so he just looks incredibly weak and pathetic. Like, at least have him go for it, Davey be wise and desperately counter out- SOMETHING. And what’s with all the lazy “casually stomp the leg and then grapevine it” garbage? Smash the knee into the post! Throw a chair into it behind the ref’s back! SOMETHING! You’re a superstrong heel!
Rating: *1/4 (completely the wrong kind of match for either guy- slow and boring from Davey-Boy, and no real comeback from Diesel)
The Fallout: hoo boy. Vince allegedly tore his headset off in disgust, showing “Horrible- fucking horrible!” and chewed both guys out at ringside, then ripped Bruce Prichard (the producer) a new one backstage. Diesel says he knew his World Title run was finished then and there, and sure enough, he loses the belt to Bret Hart at the next PPV (Survivor Series), then does a heel turn and feud with Shawn Michaels & Undertaker leading to him leaving the company for WCW. I’ve heard this match credited with starting the Attitude Era, though that’s a bit early- it just leads to the end of the Diesel Era, and Shawn Michaels taking over. It does, however, indirectly lead to the “nWo Era”, as Nash isn’t long for the WWF and gives WCW a huge influx of bad-ass “cool” and a huge star, and diminishing returns for the WWF, which ends up getting so desperate that Vince Russo is given booking power circa 1997 or whenever, and THAT’S the Attitude Era. So a shitload of dominoes were set in motion- not entirely from this night but in part because the Diesel reign was such a dud.
Davey-Boy apparently apologized to the agents for the shitty match as soon as he got back there, realizing something was off about it (this is on Wikipedia! They don’t just let ANYONE edit that, you know!). He was NOT punished, however, as he would not only continue on as a featured act, but would get MORE pay-per-view Main Events out of this, being booked against World Champion Shawn Michaels the next year! You’d think he’d take a heap of shit for how bad this match was (considering he’s clearly calling it- you can see him giving spots to Diesel at some points and he controlled 95% of the offense), but as Vince was growing increasingly desperate and WCW gaining steam, he wasn’t exactly gonna throw one of his biggest remaining stars under the bus.
Mitigating Factors: None, really. This was a PAY-PER-VIEW MAIN EVENT and you have this slack-ass, boring weardown-hold match with Diesel lying on the mat and selling for 14 minutes while Davey just throws on leg grapevines and half-crabs, then stomps the knee occasionally? At best you could say it was poorly agented. But Diesel didn’t look hungry, nor get a single big comeback, nor even look like he ever even had the match won.
Overall: It’s a pretty infamous match, and rightly so- Davey calls the worst match possible, guaranteed to take advantage of none of Kevin Nash’s strengths as a performer… which is really the encapsulation of his entire WWF Title reign, isn’t it? Dude was a charismatic, snarky, funny bad-ass power wrestler and they stuck him with flashy guys and technical guys who could show him up on one end, then awful slugs on the other, and made him wrestle like a weak dork who struggled to maintain offense. The match is just an unacceptable batch of weaksauce restholds.