By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Smoking Gunns © vs Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith 9/22/96
WWF World Tag Team Title Match
There was a time between 1994 and 1996 where the WWF tag team division only felt legitimate when Owen Hart was one half of the team holding the title. From thrown together tag teams to Men on a Mission and the Headshrinkers, the tag teams of the New Generation Era of the WWF just weren’t up to the quality of the halcyon days of the division that would see ten decent to excellent teams competing in Survivor Series matches two years in a row.
However, when Owen Hart held the gold, all felt right with the world. For the Smoking Gunns, Hart was the perennial thorn in the side. One of the few teams to come out of this era with any credibility, the Gunns would twice lose the gold to Hart-helmed partnerships. The utilisation of Yokozuna as Hart’s muscle was a stroke of genius for the increasingly limited Samoan, with them stopping the Gunns in 1995. Though Billy and Bart would manage to regain the titles off of Hart and Yokozuna later that year, it would be Davey Boy Smith who would be in his brother-in-law’s corner this time.
Things had changed in the world of the Smoking Gunns by this point. Sunny, the female Captain Lou Albano when it came to sniffing around the tag team champions, had hitched her wagon from the Bodydonnas to the Godwinns and then to the Gunns as soon as the title changed hands. The blonde bombshell proved to turn the head of Billy, with his focus not always entirely on the matches anymore. With Hart and Smith both proven tag team experts, the Gunns firing at anything less than their best were always going to be in trouble.
In a sophomoric entrance moment, Sunny’s enormous photo that would drop from the rafters had been drawn on by Hart and Smith, leading to Billy comforting her with a cuddle and some hair strokes in the middle of the ring as Bart continued to try and get his partner to focus on the task ahead. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross debated whether this moment might at least give the challengers the psychological advantage, with Sunny spending a moment or two pouting on the ring apron. With Jim Cornette losing to Jose Lothario the match before, Clarence Mason would come down to ringside as the match begun to try and alleviate the effect of Sunny’s presence on the heel team.
As if to highlight Billy’s changing nature, the heel Hart would get the best of the first exchange with two armdrags and a small package for a two count. A tag into Smith shortly afterwards would receive a cheer from the crowd, further emphasising the effect Sunny’s involvement with the Gunns was having on the fans (or that the fans just preferred Hart and Smith, if being less charitable). A Hart chop block to the back of Bart’s knee would allow the challengers to cut the ring in half and begin to work the injured leg as quick tags kept the fresh man in.
Smith in particular seemed to forget that he was playing the de facto heel, posing after his vertical suplex and throwing in a forward flip to more cheers from the crowd. A hopeful small package earned Bart a two count, only for him to get up and get blasted with an enziguri. It took Billy attacking from the apron to distract Smith, following up with a whip into the ringsteps, for the tag champions to gather some momentum. Within moments, they had landed the Sidewinder, but with Mason distracting the official, Hart broke up the pinfall with a flying elbow off of the top rope.
Billy would kick out of the resulting pinfall and angrily stomp on Smith for good measure. A couple of quick tags later, Bart would be sent into Billy (who was looking at Sunny) by Smith escaping a powerslam attempt. Out of nowhere, a shove from Billy saw Bart sent into Smith’s waiting arms and a running powerslam, a Hart spinning heel kick stopping Billy from breaking the pinfall.
Not only did the Gunns lose the tag team gold, but Sunny would walk out on them post-match. Inevitably, Billy would turn heel on Bart following the loss. As for the tag champions, their affiliation with Bret Hart and their constant working in and around the main event made the titles feel important once again. Not much more you can ask for from your champions.