WWF Monday Night Raw – February 26, 1996
Cincinnati, OH (taped 2/19/96)
Will The Undertaker have a planned response to Diesel after his casket destruction last week? Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels will be face-to-face with WrestleMania XII now just 33 days away.
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
Match 1: Isaac Yankem D.D.S. vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts w/ “Revelations”
Result/Analysis: Roberts via pinfall (3:33) following a DDT. Yankem controls this snoozer as Snake has no offense save for a hip toss and an attempt at a short-armed clothesline. Roberts was brought back because he still received a crowd pop and had turned his life around – – – he became a born-again Christian. At least Snake was booked correctly as an “underdog” during this second stint. Yankem was being used as enhancement talent only by this point but Lawler still talked up his “dentistry” nonetheless. McMahon was highly desperate for anyone with a following, thus Roberts.
Speaking of desperation … young WWF fans are dubbed into a video package for The Ultimate Warrior asking for Acting President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to bring him back. They’d get their wish.
Match 2: Bob “Spark Plug” Holly vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel
Result/Analysis: Diesel via pinfall (3:13 shown) following a jackknife powerbomb (a sloppy one). Paranoia and distraction have “Big Daddy Cool” anything but relaxed and sure of himself as the whereabouts of The Undertaker are on his mind. Holly, thus, is allowed a puncher’s chance … well, not really. Diesel unnerved will be the focal point on The Road to WrestleMania. Upon Diesel exiting the ring, the bell tolls and the lights go out, with The Undertaker appearing in the ring when the lights come back on. Diesel begins walking toward The Undertaker when the bell tolls for a second time with the lights going out. Diesel stands alone in the ring when the lights return. The Undertaker appears on the video wall to remind Diesel he’s the master of playing mind games.
Bret Hart vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Shawn Michaels vs. The 1-2-3 Kid are scheduled matches for Raw next week as The Road to WrestleMania trudges on. That’s a whole lot of Kliq there!
Match 3: Shinobi vs. Ahmed Johnson
Result/Analysis: Johnson via pinfall (1:51) following the pearl river plunge. Shinjobi is Al Snow in a martial arts/ninja gimmick that lasted all of two weeks. How many gimmicks did Snow have before working just as Al Snow? Johnson is greased to the max and he gets worse by the match. He’s so bad that Goldust “calls into Raw” to recite a poem he wrote to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Razor Ramon has been suspended, of course there’s no mention of that, so Goldust and Piper were about to commence their feud for WrestleMania with Goldust having Piper be “the object of his affection.”
The latest vignette from Mankind has him talking to “George” his oversized pet rat, discussing his “mommy” as we see the scars on his arms. Someone leave the light on for Mankind!
Vince McMahon introduces Shawn Michaels to the ring as it’s interview time and damn if Vinnie Mac wasn’t the secret member of the Kliq based on his reaction. Lawler, for his part on commentary, compares the crowd reaction for Michaels to that of The Beatles. Say what?!? Half the people in attendance don’t even stand up! Michaels hugs McMahon to make the fix for WrestleMania all the more obvious. Anyway, with vigor and gusto, Vince introduces Bret Hart. Well, he is the reigning champ! Hart’s crowd reaction appears lukewarm, too, as Michaels claps on as head cheerleader. Comical. Lawler, meanwhile, hopes they beat each other’s brains out calling them two of the biggest ego’s in WWF history. I can’t argue. Naturally, the interview is all about mutual respect and that makes me want to vomit even more knowing these two never cared for each other and that’s well before Montreal and 1997. Michaels admits Bret is “The Best There Was.” He even agrees, “The Hit Man” could go down as “The Best There Ever Will Be.” But, he can’t think, in these current times, Hart can call himself “The Best There Is” as HBK believes that of himself. That’s nicely constructed, actually. Hart says he thinks Michaels is one of the most talented SuperStars he’s ever seen but he welcomes the opportunity at proving why HE is “The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be” to which a chorus of boos follows. Well, damn! Hart doesn’t acknowledge the boos choosing to remind Michaels it’s not his job to beat him as champion but Michaels’ job to do so as the challenger. Michaels, in turn, brags about his conditioning and lauds his own recent accomplishments. Hart attributes his conditioning to that of “The Energizer Bunny.” At last, Piper walks out. He immediately lectures the patrons for booing each man. It’s unreal he has to. Piper then gets to why he’s come out. At WrestleMania, he says, the most falls taken will win the and it’s a 60-minute match. The crowd cheers at this, oddly. Vince, now back with Lawler, is quick to coin “The Iron Man Match.” Hart and Michaels shake hands for the first, and last time, to wrap the segment.
Match 4: 2-on-1 Handicap Match
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog w/ Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna
Result/Analysis: Yokozuna via DQ (4:06 shown) following outside interference from Vader. Eh. Yoko dominates early. Owen and Bulldog double-team to get an advantage. Vader comes out only to be held back by Cornette with Yoko struggling. Yoko takes control, however, so Vader is unleashed to draw the DQ. Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts even the sides which sets in motion the six-man tag-team switcheroo for WrestleMania away from the Vader/Yokozuna singles match. A later angle was done where Vader kayfabe breaks Yokozuna’s leg so that should have happened at WrestleMania with a one-on-one encounter as originally planned. I guess Snake and Ahmed wanted their WrestleMania bonuses and what to do with Owen and Bulldog? That could have been a straight up tag-team match, no?
Larry Fling Live with The Huckster and The Nacho Man. The segment is satire against the two has-beens who sold out to Billionaire Ted as neither could keep up with the WWF SuperStars of The New Generation. There’s references to recent WCW storylines, with a Liz mention, and the subtlety-placed high heel shoe that’s on set. Ha! Over-the-top, yes, but desperate times were at hand.
The Verdict: I can’t remember a more dull Raw in its now 28-year history. The roster was barren. These tapings also hurt since wrestlers rarely worked consecutive weeks as three shows at a time were done at one venue on the same night. The mutual respect interview with Hart and Michaels is nauseating knowing that even in 1996, pre-Montreal some 21 months later, there was no love lost between the two. The boos each got was telling. If only Mankind was ready-made for a feud going into WrestleMania and other would-be stars like HHH and Steve Austin were ready to deliver. Timing is everything. The WWF had the short end of the stick for a long time yet to come. The Road to WrestleMania pushes onward nonetheless. Next week, HBK and “The Hit Man” try to upstage.