WWF Monday Night Raw – April 8, 1996
San Bernardino, CA (taped 4/1/96)
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect
Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette)
Result/Analysis: Vader via referee stoppage (3:44). This match, of course, is the one where Vader kayfabe “breaks” Yokozuna’s leg and Yoko had to be taken away from ringside on a forklift. The injury angle had the intent of prolonging the feud while also giving Yoko a brief sabbatical to lose weight. He’d return in May to wrestle Vader at In Your House 8. After the initial splash to cause the “break,” Vader follows up with successive Vaderbombs as he went all Cobra Kai in showing “No Mercy!” You’d have thought Vader would have been immediately thrust into the main event and a feud with Shawn Michaels but that didn’t come until the summer. Diesel had to get his outgoing WWF Title match with Michaels first, which, in retrospect, was silly as Vader was the hot heel of the moment AND the one actually under contract. By SummerSlam, when Vader wrestled Michaels, the moment had passed. As for Yoko and Vader, how good would a match have been in 1993?
It’s interviw time as Vince introduces the returning Ultimate Warrior! The San Bernardino crowd goes apeshit because they’ve never been privileged to feel ANY electricity in their lives before that moment. Warrior talks gibberish about the places he’s been for the last 3 1/2 years but says there’s one thing that would not die: the voices/spirit of The Warriors who spoke in unison to him. Suddenly, I feel like we’ve been time warped back oh 5, 6, or 7 years into our childhoods. And apparently our lives had become so mundane that we wanted and needed to bask in him one last time. Vince asks Warrior about facing the “New Generation” SuperStars. Warrior gives a rambling answer about meeting those new challenges and raising the understanding of those who come before him. Goldust (w/ Marlena) walks out. Isn’t this an interesting contrast? Vince announces Warrior and Goldust will face each other at IYH 7 on April 28th. Goldust gets in Warrior’s face and asks him to “come out” and play, even to his house, where they’ll be alone. Perhaps, Goldust says, they can play super heroes and Warrior can be “Superman.” Warrior pounds his chest in response. Goldust, taking that as a yes answer, goes further and asks Warrior if he can climb on his back so they can fly off together into the sunset. LOL. Warrior calls Goldust a freak. He says, “Whatever you’re trying to pull from those you ‘screw’ with, and whatever those choose to do with what you dish out, let me make it perfectly clear what “is,” is. And whatever you’re into, I don’t give a shit!” Bleep. Vince looks taken aback with the expletive. Goldust takes it further and tries to touch Warrior but he’s pushed off. Warrior again, “Brother, if you’re looking for a full-linked action packed adventure, I’ve got a full-linked movie for you. Me kicking your ass from beginning-to-end!” Warrior clotheslines Goldust. Big pop. He pounds his chest as his music plays. The crowd was into this. I like the pairing. Mr. Perfect, on commentary, announces the Intercontinental Title will be on-the-line at IYH. Warrior’s return was meant to spark ratings and there was so much potential there …
Back from a commercial, and Yokozuna, in complete agony, is being moved toward an awaiting ambulance. Vader appears with a steel chair in hand, however, and smashes it on Yoko’s leg repeatedly! What a bad ass!!! Vince calls him a monster. No kidding. Again, Michaels/Vader stat! What a big mistake not rushing that match. If King of the Ring, and not a pair of IYH ppv’s came next, maybe the WWF could have jumped into that feud. Ugh. Yoko is tended to by various officials.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese
Result/Analysis: Helmsley via pinfall (4:37 shown) following the pedigree. The on-again/off-again feud that ‘twas HHH and “The Dumpster” in 1996 was thrown out one last time. Droese controls much of the encounter from the bell as Hunter is reeling. Helmsley had to weigh between 240 and 260 lbs. at this point as he was quite trim. He had another unnamed valet with him, too. Marc Mero has pre-recorded comments air as he promises Hunter things will get “Wild” next week on Raw. Droese gets Hunter up in his trash compactor finishing move but Hunter escapes and hits the pedigree. Helmsley was in line for a major push … that is, until “The Curtain Call” incident at Madison Square Garden on May 19th when he broke character in the final WWF appearances for Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, as Helmsley was a member of The Kliq backstage with Michaels, Hall, Nash and Sean Waltman (The 1-2-3 Kid). His rumored KOR crowning went by the wayside as a punishment. Droese’s days were numbered as he was growing burnt out from the vigorous road schedule the WWF had. The trash man gimmick was stupid though Droese had talent.
Vince recaps what transpired at the end of Raw last week with Mankind’s attack on The Undertaker.
Yokozuna is at last loaded into the ambulance. Mr. Perfect calls him “Free Willy.” Ha! Cruel, but true.
Arm Wrestling Challenge:
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w/ “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart) vs. Ahmed Johnson
Result/Analysis: Ahmed Johnson victorious. Billed as the two strongest men in the WWF, this arm wrestling challenge kickstarted a mini-feud. Owen Hart is fabulous here as the boy who cries wolf before referee Jack Doan has him ejected for repeated injerjections. Owen correctly points out how oiled up Johnson is and that his hands being greased give him an unfair leverage advantage. True. And he notes Johnson’s elbow placement on the table isn’t where it should be. True. God Owen was GOLD. I’ve always missed that bastard something fierce. Anyway, with Owen removed, the challenge commences as Diana Hart-Smith, Davey Boy’s wife, looks on at ringside. Johnson overpowers Bulldog to quickly win but he pays for it dearly. Bulldog twice rams Johnson into the table only it doesn’t break. Instead Bulldog flips the table over in disgust, stomps on it, and uses a steel chair to wail away. You’d have thought a one-on-one match would result come IYH but no, Bulldog and Owen tag against Ahmed and Jake “The Snake” Roberts in a WrestleMania redux
Next week on Raw, Savio Vega challenges Goldust for the Intercontinental Title. What’s Nitro got?
Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels [WWF Champion]
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (8:38) following sweet chin music. Diesel joins McMahon and Mr. Perfect for commentary. Heel Diesel was the shit. Lawler wrestles an old-school 1980’s match trying to cheat at every turn. Michaels sells all of it. Lawler hits the piledriver but Michaels kicks out. A short while later it was curtains for King as Michaels hits sweet chin music moments after jawing with Diesel. After the match, Diesel enters the ring to exchange blows with Michaels but gets an assist from Perfect who tosses him the title belt which he uses to lay out Shawn. Diesel wore a Shawn Michaels t-shirt here but said while he used to be in The Kliq he’s not anymore since Michaels began patronizing to everyone in attendance. LOL. HBK had not beaten Diesel before. Thus, why not conclude their 2-year run together with the blowoff match at IYH?
The Verdict: As one hour Raw’s went, this one had a juicy feel to it. Yokozuna was sent packing with Vader looking bad ass in the process. Goldust ruffled the feathers of homophobe Jim Hellwig, aka The Ultimate Warrior, in a hot interview segment. Helmsley and Mero were just getting started. The British Bulldog went on the attack to leave Ahmed Johnson licking his wounds. Finally, Diesel put Michaels in a backseat position as Michaels became a WWF Champion already in peril one week into his title reign. The creative direction was world’s better than it had been for a long time.