Welcome to what I hope will become a new feature right here at the Camel Clutch Blog (Thumbs up, cheap pop). I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and before you laugh, I don’t mind it. Sure the winter can be downright murderous and the summer can be brutal, but nothing beats spring and autumn. Plus, we have some burger joints (Kopps, Mazos, AJ Bombers, Nite Owl, Solbermans, Dr. Dawg) and some damn good pizza joints (Zaffiro’s, Maria’s, Ned’s to name a few) among others.
The WWE would finally bring a PPV to my hometown with the 1996 King of the Ring. I had seen a house show at the Milwaukee Arena before and while it was cool to see the ring for the first time, when I saw King of the Ring, everything blew me away. There was a blimp for cripes sakes (The S.S. Jewel Staite getting my contractual Firefly reference out of the way) flying throughout the arena, lighting rig that looked like a crown and even a set!
To me, this was like seeing my first movie at a theater for the first time (Mortal Kombat). The 1996 King of the Ring might be one of the best WWE PPVs of 1996 in my opinion. It may sound biased because I was there, but you have some great matches: Austin/Mero, Mankind/Undertaker, and Michaels/Bulldog. It was also the first wrestling PPV that I ever attended, my brother got lucky and attended Superbrawl II as a card and saw an awesome card. I was rooting so badly for Jake Roberts to win it all because I grew up watching him and I was angry when he lost. When Austin cut that promo and swore, seven year old me became an Austin fan. It’s still a killer promo and it more or less launched Austin as a legitimate star.
While the WWE would return to Milwaukee a few more times, I never thought we’d get a PPV or even a Raw for that matter. I’d be blessed with a house show every now and then and I wasn’t mad at all. Hey, I know my town isn’t high on the pecking order for the WWE. Then, I saw the commercial on Raw. The WWE would be returning to Milwaukee for a PPV none the less…and the conquering hero Stone Cold Steve Austin would come back home to the birthplace of Austin 3:16.
My brother and I began to bug my mom and stepdad to get tickets for days and eventually they relented. Our seats weren’t great but it didn’t matter, we’d see Austin! The Undertaker! Foley! DX! Kane! All the names from we were watching were going to be there and we couldn’t wait, heck we got the day off from the school. I remember there being a huge buzz in town for the card, wrestlers doing autograph signings, meet and greets and heck I got to meet the Headbangers. Yeah, it sounds lame now but meeting actual WWE wrestlers as a kid was awesome.
That was until the storm from hell hit Milwaukee: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=OP2qWFMeUpEC&dat=19980601&printsec=frontpage
I remember waking up the next day and wondering why our television was off and why the electricity wasn’t working. I was told that the power had gone out after the storm had hit and my mom decided to visit her in-laws to see if they were alright. I remember seeing pieces of trees all over the place, debris everywhere, the local Taco Bell had a frigging tree through the roof and just damage all around. It was an eye opener seeing the aftermath of this storm that I slept through like a baby. Luckily, the local grocery store still had power and was letting people us their phones to call loved ones to make sure they were OK. Now, nine year old Robert wasn’t thinking of that…I was thinking if I was going to see Austin beat Dude Love.
With there being no power, we didn’t know so we hopped in the car and drove down to the Milwaukee Arena to see if the show was still on. When we drove by the Milwaukee arena and saw the line going out the door, I actually jumped for joy. We settled in…and then sat through a largely forgettable show. The only highlight of the undercard was me having the genius idea of screaming “DICK” as loud as I could after the Rocky sucks chants. My mom glared at me, my brother laugh and I high fived some drunk dudes who found it funny. Truly the apex of my wrestling event career until Mark Henry accused me of calling him fat…despite wearing a Mark Henry shirt. The opening video package was awesome and I actually think it’s the best opening video package of all time. It gave the legitimate feeling the McMahon had finally stacked the deck against Austin.
The quality of the card didn’t matter; even my mom who was anti-Attitude Era was enjoying herself. After all that stress of the storm and having to empty the fridge and freezer out (Rich, we were not), it was a nice escape from reality. And, isn’t that what wrestling and most forms of entertainment are? When the main event came, I seriously thought that Austin didn’t have a chance in hell of winning. Going against Dude Love was bad enough, but Vince as the ref and the stooges as ring announcer and timekeeper? The odds, they needed an overcoming by Austin. Finkel’s introduction of Patterson was great and Patterson introducing everybody in the main event was great. It got us angry and Patterson refusing to introduce Austin was great and added more heat.
Anticipation was building and while on television it felt like a few moments, at the even it felt like an eternity waiting for the sound of glass shattering. Then, the glass shattered and the fans including myself lost it. Then, Austin came out and we lost it even more and even though they were bigger pops nothing will rival hearing that in my mind. Still, the odds were against Austin and there was nobody there to back him up since Austin had no friends. That is what happens when you’re a beer swilling redneck that beats everybody up I guess. Right when we thought the match was going to happen…the bell tolled and the lights went out and the lighters came out. The Undertaker was coming to back Austin up and make sure Vince was going to call the match fairly.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.