On the latest episode of the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross spoke about the infamous “Curtain Call” that happened in May of 1996, which was Scott Hall and Kevin Nash’s last appearance in WWE before they left for WCW. Of course on that night, Shawn Michaels and Triple H, along with Hall and Nash, embraced in the middle of the ring at Madison Square Garden, breaking kayfabe in front of fans and infuriating wrestlers and officials backstage.
Scott Hall recently joined the 83 Weeks Podcast and shared that Vince McMahon knew about the “Curtain Call” ahead of time as he remembers being in Vince’s office when Michaels came in to ask him about it. As someone who was heavily involved in the backstage dealings of the company as an announcer and later as Head of Talent Relations, Ross said the situation upset him and that resulted in Triple H being removed as the scheduled winner of the 1996 King of the Ring. The AEW commentator said it was ridiculous what “The Kliq” did that night and said Vince shares some of the blame for what happened because he knew about it.
“There was some punishment involved in it I guess,” Ross said. “I think not to put Jake [Roberts] over, I think it was the fact that Hunter was going to win. That had been planned and is a natural step in his maturation creatively. That got taken off those guys going into business for themselves. Hey, everybody looks at things differently but I thought it was a lack of institutional control quite frankly. The guys shouldn’t have done it, in my point of view. But they loved each other so much, they had to say goodbye, it was [Madison Square] Garden, it was b------t. That’s what it was. ‘Oh, the hardcores thought it was cool.’ What, all eight of them? Come on.
“They are so indebted to each other and such great friends, I wonder how often they talk now? My point is, was it really that big of a deal? Or was it just for them to show their defiance and that they could do what they wanted when they wanted because of who they were. You have to blame Vince for a lot of it because he let a lot of that s--t slip by.”
Ross talked about whether he would have had the authority to stop the situation at the time as he became Head of Talent Relations shortly after. JR mentioned how Stone Cold Steve Austin was the major beneficiary of the situation, being appointed the new King of the Ring and debuting “Austin 3:16” in a promo after defeating Jake Roberts 25 years ago today.
“I don’t think so, no, but I could’ve stopped it if I was his right hand or left hand man, his ambidextrous man,” Ross said. “That’s what [The Kliq] wanted to do and Vince was going to support those guys. Sometimes bookers, owners, can be too gracious in their quest to be talent friendly. I thought that was an example of that. After all these years, 25 years, the only thing that keeps that alive is people like you and me. Certainly was the catalyst for the change in creative direction.
“By a stroke of luck, we backed into a good one and Stone Cold was the winner. It worked and it worked everlastingly long term wise, good launch, good awareness for Stone Cold and there we went. The stars seemed to realign as the night went along.”
On a previous podcast, Ross spoke about Michaels and Vince’s relationship, saying Vince saw a lot of himself in Shawn. Ross continued to mention how the two had legendary arguments over the years and what the backstage reaction was after the curtain call.
“As I’ve said before, Vince and Shawn have always had that strong bond,” Ross said. “It’s bonded together with the fact that Vince saw a little bit of himself [in Shawn] as far as being defiant, attitudinal, that type thing with Shawn. They were connected in that respect even though they had great arguments, they had significant arguments. I just think Vince for whatever reason just had a special affinity for Shawn Michaels and it just might have been the fact that he was arguably number one or number two worker in the world at the time.
“We had built so much around Shawn and rightfully so, god dang he was great. I’m glad he’s still there in the company, he can help a lot of people and I’m sure he does. I thought that that thing in the Garden was kind of selfish, we’re going to defy tradition. We’re going to turn our back on kayfabe in the world’s most famous arena because we want to and we can. A lot of the other guys that I heard from, were not happy about it. They would say because of their defiance and independence, the fact that they made a lot of money and mailbox money, they just had a belief that they could get away with anything.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.