The In Your House name is coming back to WWE.
This past week, WWE announced that NXT’s next TakeOver event will be NXT TakeOver: In Your House.
Complete with a throwback logo, WWE dragged up a lot of In Your House memories with that announcement.
Believe it or not, there was a time when WWE didn’t put on a pay-per-view every single month. There was just the Big Four: Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series. Big Five if you count King Of The Ring.
The IYH events filled in the gaps. They were a reaction to WCW’s then-revolutionary 12-PPV calendar. Most IYH shows were throwaway events. A means to get from point A to point B. But in the course of those shows, there were some genuinely great matches.
These are the five best WWE: In Your House matches.
WWE Championship Match – Shawn Michaels (C) Vs. Mankind, In Your House: Mind Games
The first title run of Shawn Michaels in 1996 was legendarily disastrous.
HBK rose to the top just as two of WWE’s top stars (and Shawn’s Kliq buddies), Diesel and Razor Ramon, headed to WCW.
Steve Austin hadn’t reached world title contender status yet. Bret Hart was on hiatus. And the attempt to build a major program between Vader and Michaels at SummerSlam 1996 didn’t exactly pan out. Jake Roberts may have been too strong in recent comments when he said Michaels never drew a dime as champion. But you can’t deny that the credibility of Michaels, the championship, and WWE itself was hanging by a thread in ’96.
Enter Mick Foley and WWE In Your House: Mind Games.
Michaels needed an opponent to push him into unfamiliar territory. And there was, at the time, no character more diametrically opposed to the fun-loving, carefree Heartbreak Kid than Mankind. Hell, in this match alone, there’s a spot when an injured Mankind starts stabbing himself in the leg just to get the feeling back.
It was a brilliant combination of mat wrestling, high spots, and brutal brawling. For the longest time, Foley himself considered his contest with HBK at In Your House: Mind Games the best match of his career.
Final Four Match For The WWE Championship – Bret Hart Vs. Steve Austin Vs. Vader Vs. The Undertaker, In Your House: Final Four
You know how kids these days enjoy the .gifs? Even if you know nothing of wrestling, you’ve seen the one of Austin checking his watch.
It comes from Royal Rumble 1997, the show that led directly to this match. Bret Hart thought he had the ’97 Rumble sewn up. Unfortunately, the referees didn’t see him eliminate Austin. As the Hitman stood alone in the ring, Austin snuck back in and eliminated him.
A few weeks later, Shawn Michaels cut the infamous “lost my smile” promo and vacated the WWE Championship. So to make things right, the main event of In Your House: Final Four pitted the final four entrants of the Rumble against each other for the vacant title.
It was Hart taking on Austin, Vader, and the Undertaker. With a pair of literal giants in the form of Vader and Taker and a guy who absolutely hated his guts in Austin, Hart’s back was against the wall.
Which made it all the more satisfying when Hart emerged from In Your House: Final Four with his fourth WWE Championship. It was a great match, and it was Hart’s last WWE pay-per-view contest as a babyface.
WWE Championship Match – Bret Hart (C) Vs. British Bulldog, In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings
Bret Hart didn’t do a lot of bleeding in his career. He got opened up pretty good against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII.
When you look at his classics at WrestleMania, SummerSlam, any of the Big Four/Five shows, you just don’t see Bret Hart’s blood that often. But his blood is all over WWE In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings.
Hart’s first defense after winning his third WWE Championship a month earlier was a rematch from his SummerSlam 1992 classic with the British Bulldog. And after watching this match, there can be no doubt that nobody made the Bulldog look better than Bret.
But what’s interesting about this In Your House match is that Hart takes a beating without seeming like he’s lucky to come away with a win. The Hitman picks up a hard-earned win. He didn’t simply survive the match.
At this time in 1995, WWE was on track to a WrestleMania XII main event between Hart and Michaels. This battle between the Hitman and the Bulldog didn’t need to be anything other than filler. But these guys made this In Your House match so much more.
WWE Championship Match – Shawn Michaels (C) Vs. Diesel, In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies
Are you noticing a pair of common threads with all these In Your House matches?
In a lot of ways, this match is the polar opposite of Hart vs. Bulldog. And it’s a big magnifying glass on how the influence of Michaels and the Kliq was a bad, bad, bad thing for WWE in 1996.
Traditionally in wrestling, when a top star is on the way out of your company, you use him to put over the people staying as hard as you possibly can. You don’t do what they did here. Which is have Michaels sell every last bit of Diesel’s offense as if he’s been shot by a cannon.
But we can argue the intricacies of the booking another time. Taken solely on face value, this In Your House match is awesome. Shawn Michaels takes the absolute beating of a lifetime and makes Diesel look like a bona fide monster. When this match is over, and Michaels’s hand is raised, you breathe a sigh of relief. “Phew. Our guy made it through!”
It’s a tremendous performance by HBK, and a solid outing from Diesel. So solid that WCW audiences had no difficulty believing he was a murder machine when he arrived as Kevin Nash on WCW Monday Nitro a couple months later.
Hell In A Cell: Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker, Badd Blood: In Your House
Speaking of Shawn Michaels surviving beatings at In Your House shows.
By the way, at some point we’ll have to do a deep dive into why WWE insisted on spelling, of all words, “bad” incorrectly.
This match was the ultimate fallout from SummerSlam 1997, where Michaels (as the guest referee) cost Undertaker the WWE title against Bret Hart. For all intents and purposes, this match is the blueprint for every tentpole match WWE has held ever since.
Without this match, there’s no such thing as TLC. No Money In The Bank. The hardcore-style main event as we know it today simply does not happen without the main event of Badd Blood: In Your House. The Undertaker spends close to half an hour beating Shawn Michaels from pillar to post.
He throws Michaels into the cage, around the cage, and off-the-cage until HBK is a bloody mess. Bloody courtesy of the greatest blade job of all time. Seriously, go frame-by-frame on that sucker. It’s almost imperceptible to the naked eye.
And to top of the cornucopia of violence that is the first-ever Hell In A Cell match, we get the debut of Kane. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the winner of this match got a WWE title shot. The next month. At Survivor Series. In Montreal.
Of all the great matches in the history of the In Your House name, this one is the bloodiest, the most exciting, and the most historically-significant. A definite watershed moment in WWE history.
Let’s be honest. There’s no way NXT TakeOver: In Your House isn’t going to be good. It’s NXT, and it’s TakeOver. It’s going to be a killer show.
But something about it just won’t be the same.
There was an excitement to the IYH pay-per-views that just doesn’t exist anymore. That sense of, “Can you believe SummerSlam is still three months away, but we’re STILL gonna get a big wrestling pay-per-view?!” that you just can’t get back.
Sure, In Your House was born in a particularly cheesy era of WWE history.
But without In Your House and the matches that made it, WWE doesn’t get to where it is today.
All images courtesy of WWE.