WWF Monday Night Raw – January 8, 1996
Newark, Delaware (taped 12/18/95)
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
Match #1 Hakushi vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
Result/Analysis: Jarrett via submission (5:51 shown) with the figure-four leg lock. Double J was just starting a feud with Ahmed Johnson, with the two paired up one-on-one at the upcoming Royal Rumble. No one gave a shit about that entanglement, however. Hakushi’s usefulness had run out by 1996. It’s too bad; he was pretty good. Jarrett is noticeably pudgie here. He was also wearing those striped full-body tights which wasn’t a good look. The match is OK but it belonged on a “House Show.” In truth, it was since Raw was pre-taped in these days due to budget constraints. Two months later, Hakushi left the WWF. Jarrett departed around the same time due to a contract dispute.
Jim Ross with The Royal Rumble Slam Jam as more Royal Rumble participants are named. The Vader promo package is shown again – the same as last week. Man, all that hype for a nothing run!
Match #2: Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Brettler
Result/Analysis: Ahmed Johnson via pinfall (1:32) following the pearl river plunge. Jarrett tries to attack after the match ends with a guitar shot but misses. Johnson destroys the guitar. Jobber matches served a purpose: squash!
The Brother Love Show w/ The “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. DiBiase has finally found the heir apparent to be “Million-Dollar Champion” … The Ringmaster! Yes, Steve Austin makes his WWF debut!!! The rest, is, of course, history. Brother Love comically goes apeshit over the pronouncement and calls Austin “Brother Ringmaster!!!” Austin’s mic skills weren’t bad, hell, he had plenty of work in WCW. The funny part is the WWF crowd was clueless as to who he was or what they all had. Imagine had Austin, as The Ringmaster, won the Royal Rumble right off and drawn Bret Hart at WrestleMania? He probably wasn’t quite ready for that, but in retrospect, it could have played. Especially knowing the unreal chemistry and mutual respect both Austin and Hart shared.
Match #3: “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya vs. Goldust
Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (2:17) following the curtain call. Montoya was a nothing and a jobber despite his gimmick. Goldust was feuding with Razor Ramon and the Intercontinental Title would be at stake come the Royal Rumble. The entrance for Goldust lasted longer than the match.
Shawn Michaels’ “press conference” whereby “The Heartbreak Kid” announces his return as a participant in the Royal Rumble Match. Michaels had been teasing his retirement prior to this following a storyline concussion in a match with Owen Hart. WWF SuperStars such as Diesel, Razor Ramon, and Hart comment on Michaels’ announcement. Yawn.
Match #4: In Your House V: Seasons Greetings Replay – WWF Heavyweight Championship
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim Cornette & Diana Smith vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: Hart vis pinfall (21:10) with a cradle. The odd finish at least mimmicks the SummerSlam ‘92 result at Wembley Stadium when The British Bulldog went over. The match is a forgotten gem in time but it’s not an all-out classic. The anti-climatic finish hurts. Still, it’s an excellent championship match and one of Davey Boy Smith’s best matches, superceded of course, by his win over Bret for the Intercontinental Title three years prior. These two really knew how to tell a great story in their matches and worked to put each other over while doing so. That’s been a lost art in professional wrestling for a long time now. Hart has a Great Muta-like blade job halfway in and that adds to the drama and brute style the match was contested under. It was a no-brainer Hart would retain the belt but having Diana intertwined as the spouse of Davey Boy and sister of Bret always added something extra to their matches. Superb wrestling on a pay-per-view not remembered.
The Undertaker, who will challenge Hart for the WWF Championship at The Royal Rumble, is with Paul Bearer, and vows to win the belt for “the creatures of the night.”
Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ War Room with The Huckster and The Nacho Man
The Verdict: Pre-taped episodes of Raw always seemed to lack. That’s especially true when the best parts were The Brother Love Show – historical significance of Steve Austin’s debut and a replay of a match from pay-per-view. The storyline build-up just wasn’t there to juice the upcoming Royal Rumble. Was Michaels’ announcement supposed to do it or Jim Ross’ Royal Rumble Slam Jam’s? Week #2 of 1996 was better than Week #1. Next week, The Ringmaster makes his in-ring debut, Owen Hart wrestles Marty Jannetty and The Undertaker faces Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.