WWF Monday Night Raw – March 4, 1996
Cincinnati, OH (taped 2/19/96)
As “The Road to WrestleMania” continues, there is news on The Utimate Warrior and his WWF anticipated return. Goldust stars on “Piper’s Pit” though not what you may think. Plus, both Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart will be in action as their 60-Minute “Iron Man” Match is now 27 days away.
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
Match 1: 1-2-3 Kid w/ “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (10:06 shown) following sweet chin music. With Bret Hart watching on a monitor backstage, Michaels showcases his wares while also needing to mount a comeback just to defeat The 1-2-3 Kid. Two members of The Kliq, of course unbeknownst to many, put on an excellent TV match. Raw was so lacking in these that I almost thought I was watching a different time and place but nope, it’s March 1996. It’s too bad The Kid’s best years in the biz came later on after he discovered various substances because I enjoyed him as a worker in his youth, such as in matches like this where it’s obvious he was doing the job. It was natural for Michaels to battle through in any match as his focus was supposed to be on Hart and WrestleMania. The script is drawn up right. Now, can “The Hit Man” upstage HBK with a win over Hunter Hearst Helmsley?
We segue next into “A Shattered Dreams Production” that’s brought to us by Marlena as Goldust recreates “Piper’s Pit,” the original set from the 1980’s and the works (he’s wearing a kilt). Goldust spills into tales of his teenage ecstasy from watching “Hot Rod” on “Piper’s Pit” saying he hung on every word. Goldust recounts the coconut exploding over the head of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka as he, himself, erupted with pleasure. He continues on talking about the rise he felt while watching Piper in his movie roles. Ha! Goldust says someday he’ll reach even greater Hollywood success. He closes the segment by playing the bagpipes. OK, so he’s awful doing that. Piper responds by phone call after the commercial break says McMahon. You see, Razor Ramon got himself suspended for failing a drug test and the planned “Miami Street Fight” between he and Goldust for WrestleMania had to scrapped so Piper, as the would-be stand-in was actually seamless to book since Goldust had a hard-on for everyone, especially authority figures. And, from a Street Fight to a Hollywood Back Lot Brawl so, in essence, it was all the same logistically.
Vince announces the return of The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania in his old-school “Ultimate Challenge” / WrestleMania intro days voice over. That always gave me chills and I was juiced up!!!
Next week, The Undertaker and Yokozuna team up to face Owen Hart and The British Bulldog.
Match 2: Hakushi vs. Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw w/ Zebekiah
Result/Analysis: Bradshaw via pinfall (4:12) following the clothesline from hell. Before he was JBL or simply Bradshaw in The New Blackjacks or The APA, an unsuspecting future WWE Champion worked a gimmick as a Texas cowboy, in essence, a Stan Hansen-like throwback from the old WWWF or AWA. Bradshaw was given an initial sustained undefeated push in this character and he’d have Zebekiah brand his opponent “JB” following a victory, with the guy hogtied by the feet. In retrospect, given the lengthy career he’d go on to have, I’d have liked to see an even larger push for Bradshaw in this role. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, with the silly Ringmaster thing discarded, drew Savio Vega at WrestleMania but Vega would have been a logical victim for Bradshaw instead. The WWF roster was bereft of babyface talent so had that been the case just whom to pair a heel Austin against? The options were limited. Had Vader vs. Yokozuna not been changed to a six-man tag-team match, Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts would have been open for Austin. Oh well, revisionist history can’t change the past. Piper “calls in” during this match making it hard to concentrate on the squash at hand. Piper says he’ll be in San Antonio next week on Raw to confront Goldust and announce the WrestleMania opponent for The Ultimate Warrior. Pay your dues HHH.
Meanwhile, speaking of newcomers, the mentally deranged Mankind says, in his latest vignette, the time is at hand for all the perpetrators responsible for his disfigurement over this last millenium to be held responsible. “Have a nice day!”
Match 3: Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Emerald Hart vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart [WWF Champion]
Result/Analysis: Hart via submission (10:25 shown) with the sharpshooter. With Michaels looking on … with a ringside seat … it’s a classic Bret Hart style match. We see early elements, too, of the later on and more polished HHH. I’m sure they wrestled after this, the next year during the D-X early days and The Hart Foundation reboot but it’s a rare occurrence of the two Hall of Famers wrestling each other that I’m aware of. Hart could elevate anyone and Helmsley’s modus operandi was upped as a result. Michaels sitting in a chair just outside the ring added a wrinkle as Hart saw, talked to, and sensed the eyeballs fixated on him. Michaels cheerleads which furthers the mutual respect angle the storyline had leading into WrestleMania. Imagine if Hart was around by 2000 when HHH became the WWF’s top dog? They could have had some killer matches! A good bout here.
Teevee Trivia starring Billionaire Ted and a blonde bimbo named Candi answer questions pertaining to pompous quotes. The answer for all is “Billionaire Ted.” The Nacho Man was in attendance but The Huckster was shown still tied to the ring ropes in handcuffs to play off how WCW Monday Nitro ended a week earlier. With all this attention, The Huckster versus The Nacho Man should have made the WrestleMania XII card not the “Free-For-All.” 🙄
The Verdict: The best Raw of 1996 to this point and WCW was pre-empted. Go figure. It was smart to have Michaels and Hart go tit-for-tat in competing matches and really, the formula should have been followed the next three Monday Night’s to milk the impending WrestleMania encounter. Alas, other matches needed build, especially the thrown together Goldust/Piper feud out of necessity. It’s novel to look back 25 years on the WWF brand as stalwarts of their later success were present but mere underlings whom you’d never have guessed would be the ones to turn the tide in “The Monday Night Wars.” Raw is actually live the next week in Michaels’ hometown of San Antonio.