WWF Monday Night Raw – March 11, 1996
San Antonio, TX
With WrestleMania XII now just 20 days away, The Undertaker and Yokozuna will put aside their past differences and compete as a tag-team versus Owen Hart and The British Bulldog. Also, Acting WWF President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper will announce the WrestleMania opponent for The Ultimate Warrior. And, there will be a special inside look at the training for the Iron Man Match from Bret Hart, inside “The Dungeon” with father Stu Hart, and Shawn Michaels with his mentor José Lothario.
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
Match 1: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. Savio Vega
Result/Analysis: Double Countout (6:20 shown). The Ringmaster days were thankfully short-lived as “Stone Cold” began on this night in a tryout / “let’s see how the crowd reacts” match. Both guys bring forth a solid effort. Austin returns to his roots, i.e., no more submission holds, as he displays the brute, rough and tough aura that later defined him. Vega, an underrated worker, and talent, is seasoned and meshes well with Austin’s style. The countout keeps both guys strong and they brawl after the bell to further stamp the unfinished business. I see why the suits went with this pairing just from this one bout, though I’m certain they wrestled more on the house show circuit heading into WrestleMania. What didn’t fit, not that it had from the beginning, was DiBiase as Austin’s manager.
Meanwhile, earlier tonight, before Raw went “live,” “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry press slammed Jerry “The King” Lawler in an interview. Henry, before his WWF career, was in attendance but in training for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I’m not sure why this was plugged?
As for the Tag-Team Tournament, with The Smoking Gunns having to vacate the titles due to Billy Gunn needing neck surgery, Vega and Razor Ramon … isn’t he suspended? … defeat Tatanka and the 1-2-3 Kid on WWF SuperStars (obviously taped prior to Ramon going out). The first round concludes with The Bodydonnas versus The Bushwhackers next week. Terrible.
Goldust and Marlena come out, jumping the curtain on “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and his time slot. Piper is announced after the commercial by McMahon as Vince will oversee this boiling confrontation. Piper calls Goldust a fruitcake, creampuff and transvestite! He points out how he once took care of Adrian Adonis and beat him half to death with a baseball bat. He promises he’ll do the same with Goldust as his mind games aren’t fooling him. In classic style, Piper goes off on an epic rant to accentuate this feud born from phone calls and Goldust’s “Piper’s Pit” reenactment. Piper says Goldust is trying to gain attention with his theatrics and embarrass him (as President). Goldust creeps around the ring and goes through his machinations to give Piper the creeps. He finally talks and invites Piper to his “back lot”, while crawling around on his knees at Piper’s waist line, even going as far as lifting up Piper’s kilt. That bold act doesn’t end well as Piper smacks the wig off of Goldust’s head and promises to make a man out of him in the “back lot.” We have ourselves a new WrestleMania match! The fan reaction struck a fervor. Good segment!
Match 2: Alex Pourteau & Jerry Meade vs. The Godwinns [Henry O. & Phineas I.] w/ Hillbilly Jim
Result/Analysis: The Godwins via pinfall (1:41) when Henry O. pins Pourteau following the slop drop. The Monday Night Raw tag-team jobber special squash match is this. At least the pooch, “Hank” didn’t have an accident in the two minutes it took for this to start and end.
McMahon and Lawler discuss the burgeoning WrestleMania XII card, at least Shawn vs. Bret
Jim Ross voices over a training package of Shawn Michaels. We’re introduced to Shawn’s mentor and long-time trainer José Lothario. The boyhood dream tale …
Bret Hart’s training regimen is chronicled next. Stu Hart. The Dungeon. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. You’ve seen and heard about it. Bret says Shawn is very good but he’ll never be “The Best.”
McMahon announces The Ultimate Warrior will face Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania in his return match. Can you imagine if it happened during both men’s prime? Yeah, that’s not what we get. Although Vince plays it up that this WrestleMania could be “The Ultimate WrestleMania.”
Match 3: Vin Grier vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Michelle Snickler
Result/Analysis: Helmsley via pinfall (1:54) following the pedigree. Zero resistance from Vin Grier, another resident jobber. Helmsley ran thru his playbook and it was game, set and match.
Geriatric Match Report with “Scheme” Gene. The WWF will give away the match for free prior to WrestleMania on the Free-for-All because they can’t figure out a way to make a buck off it. LOL. And this just in: “no handcuffs or ladies shoes will be allowed at ringside.” Scheme Gene asserts that stipulation will handicap the intrigue. The training regiments are shown. The Huckster needs his oxygen tank just for a few sit-ups while The Nacho Man is all about his receding hairline so he applies miracle grow. As for Billionaire Ted, he’s been assigned as “Special Referee.” Most importantly, “Scheme” Gene says don’t forget to call the hotline at 1-900-Lying Baldy.
Next week, Bret Hart battles “Native American” Tatanka in his WrestleMania tune-up match.
Match 4: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith & “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart w/ Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna & The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Result/Analysis: Yokozuna & The Undertaker via DQ (3:30 shown) due to outside interference by Vader. Diesel lures The Undertaker away from ringside 90 seconds in after he blasts Paul Bearer. Yokozuna is left in a handicap match. That leads to Vader’s involvement. Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts arrive in hot pursuit and mass chaos ensues as a pier six brawl erupts. The six-man tag-team bout at WrestleMania provides more juice than a straight up Vader/Yokozuna match so the altered plan, at least it seems like a change in course, is the right call. This was a tornado tag while it lasted. Raw goes off the air before there’s any follow up with Diesel and The Undertaker.
The Verdict: It wasn’t easy in the budget constraint years of the WWF to build toward WrestleMania like in future years or even in past years when the roster was deeper and the match options were plentiful, but retrospect has me giving Titan Towers some retroactive credit. The cupboard was nearly bare and it only got worse before it got better. Still, if I was in present day, there was enough juice on the card to at least peak your interest for WrestleMania. To properly critique the product, it’s important to put yourself in the proper context. One or two hours of weekly programming, if you count SuperStars, wasn’t a lot to work with. This Raw is nothing but filler but the WrestleMania feel and anticipation is there and that was an improvement over the previous year with a weak WM card.