By Jason Powell
Surely you have heard the old saying “he’s forgotten more about (fill in the blank) than most people will ever know.” If anyone ever makes that statement about me, it will probably be meant as an insult. It’s no secret that I have a poor memory. I remember plenty of things from my first decade as a pro wrestling viewer, but so many things I’ve watched since then just haven’t stuck with me. I still remember many of the classic moments from every era that I have lived through, but there are so many matches and angles are just a blur.
For instance, the only thing I remember about WWE’s Punjabi Prison matches is that I felt they were both terrible. In the interest of fairness (and to help reeducate myself to the rules of this mess of a match), I am watching the two previous Punjabi Prison matches and providing real-time commentary. Let’s start with the first ever Punjabi Prison match today and I will be back tomorrow with a rundown of the second version of the match.
ECW Champion Big Show vs. Undertaker in a non-title match at Great American Bash 2006. Believe it or not, Great Khali did not work the first Punjabi Prison match. Although the match was designed for him, he was pulled from the show when WWE’s medical staff went on an elevated liver enzymes kick. Bobby Lashley and Super Crazy were also pulled from the show due to the same issue.
The outer portion of the structure lowered halfway while music played and Michael Cole told viewers that it is an awe inspiring structure. Cole, whose mustache and soul patch made him look like a heavier version of Gomez Addams, stood up at ringside and explained the rules of the match to viewers and the live crowd. The goal is to escape the first cage while one of the four doors is open for 60 seconds, then climb over the outer structure.
Big Show came out looking fearful of the structure. JBL freaked out and said animals should be put in the structure, not human beings. Cole said over one mile of material was used to construct the cages. He pointed out the “razor-like” spikes at the top of the cages. JBL expressed sympathy for Big Show, who was sweating before the match, which actually helped sell the idea that he was fearful about taking part in the match. JBL freaked as the camera showed a bunch of odd weapons on the table at ringside between the structure. Taker was still in “Sara” tattoo mode, so this is before his now ex-wife ran off with Dallas Page and became a Diamond Doll (no, not really, my memory isn’t that bad).
Taker entered through one of the doors and Show attacked him to start the match. The first thing that stands out are that the gaps in the cage are big enough that it looks like Taker could fit through them. Heck, Big Show might event fit through the squares if he slathered himself in Crisco (you’re welcome for planting that mental image). Taker quickly regrouped and put the boots to Show. Taker tried to climb the structure to escape. Cole pointed out the “razor sharp spikes” that Taker unsuccessfully tried to nock off the structure. Show cut off Taker and got him back inside the ring. Show knocked Taker down and delivered a horrible elbow drop.
Cole’s explanation for Khali’s absence is that he set off some type of trap and was suspended by Teddy Long (zero memory of that angle). Taker ended up performing a couple of running strikes on Show, which knocked him into the wobbly cage. Show caught him as he attempted it a third time. Show went for a chokeslam, but Taker DDT’d him instead.
Taker made the first attempt to escape through a door that was manned by referee Charles Robinson. Big Show pulled a strap off the side of the structure and attacked Taker with it. Neither man left through the door after 60 seconds, so a gong sounded (so appropriate) and the door was closed. Cole said that if all four doors closed, the wrestlers would have to escape over the top of the inner structure.
Big Show removed a turnbuckle pad. Referee Nick Patrick was working one of the doors and had a steel chain over his shoulder for some reason. Cole outright said he wanted Taker to win the match. JBL scolded him for being biased. Taker went for Old School. Show pulled him off the ropes. Show called for Patrick’s door to open. Taker kicked him from behind and tried to leave, but Show pulled him back inside. Taker kicked himself free. Show chokeslammed Taker and tried to escape through the door, but it closed before he could escape. Patrick used the aforementioned chain to lock the door shut.
JBL tried to sell the idea that Taker’s career could be buried forever inside Punjabi Prison. Show slammed Taker’s head into the exposed turnbuckle and then threw repeated headbutts. Taker bladed. Cole spoke about Show being part of “The New Breed Unleashed” which WWE used to market their horrible version of ECW. Big Show climbed the ropes for God knows what reason. Taker followed and punched Show in the balls. Cole pointed out that it was completely legal in the Punjabi Prison match.
Taker superplexed Show for the biggest pop thus far. Taker escaped through a door while a referee adjusted his earpiece. Taker looked up at the structure. Cole pointed out that the spikes are also on the outside of the structure. The gong sounded and Show was padlocked inside. However, he simply called for the fourth door to open and then quickly escaped the first structure and pulled Taker down from the outer structure.
Show grabbed a table and set it up against the structure. The table fell over, but Show set it up again and then ran Taker into it. Show put Taker back inside the ring through the door he escaped. The gong sounded and the fourth door was closed. JBL proclaimed victory for Show, but Cole quickly pointed out that he still had to escape the second structure.
Show climbed the outer structure while Taker looked on from the inside. Taker quickly climbed over the inner cage and miraculously avoided the “razor sharp” spikes. Taker stretched from the outside of the inner cage and onto the outside cage. Taker cut off Show and then they both ended up on the floor in between the cages. Taker leg-dropped Show through one of the tables. Show bladed as well.
Great Khali, his elevated liver enzymes, and Shawn Daivari walked out. Taker climbed up the inner structure and performed a cross body block onto Show, causing both men to crash through the outer cage. Taker was named the winner. Khali and Daivari climbed to the top of the structure, so Khali’s enzymes were elevated in a different manner. The heel duo yelled, and Taker gave them the throat slashing gesture before heading backstage, presumably to yell at someone about this idiotic match concept. Meanwhile, a bloody Big Show showed frustration over losing the match.
Powell’s POV: Yep, that was terrible. The crowd was excited to see Undertaker, but it didn’t help the cause of the wrestlers that the company had to pull Khali from the match and replace him with Big Show. This match may work better for Khali, who needed the gimmick crutch that a Punjabi Prison match provides, whereas Taker and Show would have been better off without it.
Coming up on Saturday, Great Khali makes his Punjabi Prison match debut against Batista.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...