WWF Monday Night Raw – April 15, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 15, 1996
San Bernardino, CA (taped 4/1/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Tonight, Bret “Hitman” Hart will break his two week silence since losing the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XII to Shawn Michaels in the Iron Man Match. We won’t believe what “The Hitman” has to say while on a WWF Live Tour in Germany. Here’s a clue … he’s pissed off and feels betrayed.

Vince and King run down the card. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin faces Bart Gunn, Vader has an interview segment and the Intercontinental Title is on-the-line as Goldust defends against Savio Vega. But first, it’s Leif Cassidy of The New Rockers against “Wildman” Marc Mero.

Leif Cassidy (w/ Marty Jannetty) vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (6:48 shown) with top rope sunset flip. What’s notable here is Sable debuting as Mero’s valet. Sable, of course, at the time, was married to Mero in real life. Marty Jannetty is Cassidy’s sidekick, and again, he was the weak link in The Rockers or The New Rockers to be correct. Cassidy went on to have more success and fanfare as Al Snow but he was a better wrestler at this juncture. The WWF had him wrestle Michaels on Raw before WrestleMania so they had faith in his abilities. Cassidy and Mero wrestle a good TV match. Mero had trimmed down in a hurry from his final days in WCW and Sable was an upgrade over Kimberly, aka The Diamond Doll, whom he was paired with before. This is a back-and-forth match with Mero overcoming Jannetty’s shenanigans and Cassidy’s goofing off (side note: Cassidy LOVES being a Rocker!). Mero specialized in the arm drag, flying headscissors and somersault dive over the top rope onto his opponents for signature moves at the start of his “Wildman” run. The top rope sunset flip, however, as I said before, was a weak finishing move. Mero, of course, later added the shooting star press as his finishing maneuver under different connotations. I’d have like to seen The New Rockers work a match or two with The Bodydonnas just for Sunny to put the moves on Cassidy and Jannetty. Then again, Sunny made the rounds in the locker room so who’s to say she didn’t anyway?
Rating: **1/2

Diesel “calls in” from Germany to discuss his actions toward Michaels with “The King” and Vince. Big D says Shawn just needs to be taught a lesson or two. Besides, the people come to see him, Big D, and this Kliq thing is so overhyped. Diesel says the WWF Championship Match with HBK at In Your House will be “No Holds Barred” because, of course, he’s the smartest man in the business today.

Bart Gunn vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase)

Result/Analysis: Austin via submission (8:50 shown) with the million-dollar dream. Austin actually debuts a modified “Stone Cold” stunner in the match as a counter move but you could classify it as a jawbreaker. Anyway, Austin was honing his repertoire by the match and every hold or move was executed with purpose. That’s old-school wrestling and I LOVE it. Today’s wrestlers don’t have a clue about how to do that. The slow ascension of Austin in his newfound “Stone Cold” persona is fascinating. The fans by and large, because Austin worked as a heel, weren’t into him. Seeing this play out early and in retrospect makes one laugh as one of the all-time greats was in front of thousands of people yet they paid him no mind. I liked Austin in WCW so the fact the WWF picked him up off the scrap heap … along with HHH … along with Mick Foley (Mankind), is unthinkable. Austin needed to move past his feud with Savio Vega. Vega was a good worker but no rabid fan took him for anyone serious. Bart Gunn, meanwhile, appears here as a reminder The Smoking Gunns still existed and that Billy would return soon. The match drags but Austin’s work was quietly good. His feud with Vega does last a while longer.
Rating: **1/2

Jim Ross voices over a Diesel/Michaels promo for IYH 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies.

James E. Cornette and “The Man They Call” Vader join McMahon. Cornette handles the segment himself and it’s a reminder of just how GREAT he was. Cornette illustrates the path of destruction thus far for Vader in the WWF. Gorilla Monsoon, the President of the WWF, yeah he’ll never be the same after a “two month” hospital stay. Yokozuna? The man who once tore through the WWF under his guidance may never walk upright again after what Vader did to him last week. And now, “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon has signed a contract to face Vader at the upcoming IYH, “Well ‘Chico,’” Cornette says, You’ve made some awfully bad career choices of late (a shot at him signing on with WCW) to sign a contract with the most powerful force that’s ever been unleashed on the World Wrestling Federation. And I promise you this Razor Ramon, you’re never going to forget April 28th, you’re never going to forget In Your House, you’re never going to forget that the World Wrestling Federation assigned you ‘The Man They Call’ Vader because my the time he’s finished with you, ‘The Bad Guy,’ oozing machismo, … the man I own, bred and manipulate but even I can’t fully control him, there’s only one thing that remains to be answered. What time is it”? Vader time!

It’s not Vader time but Sunny time! This falls into the so-Nineties category with the music video to end all music videos “I know you want me!” Yeah, those burgeoning puberty stricken teenage boys.

WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Savio Vega vs. Goldust (c) (w/ Marlena)

Result/Analysis: No Contest (11:25 shown). Vega uses the IC Title belt, which Goldust was handed from Marlena, with referee Earl Hebner was knocked silly. Vega pins Goldust, only a second referee, referee Tim White, sees Vega use the belt and he raises the hand of Goldust for victory via DQ. Vega celebrates as the NEW champion only for Gorilla Monsoon to intervene and usurp his authority as President and rule something totally opposite as he strips Goldust of the IC Title and orders a re-match next week on Raw to decide the champion. Huh?!? This finish was straight out of the mid-1980’s. Goldust is Goldust: various machinations, psychological warfare, and a smidegen of wrestling. I thought Vega received the title match as a substitute for Razor Ramon who remained on suspension. Vega was feuding with Austin, however, and Goldust had begun a thing with The Ultimate Warrior making this side angle over the IC Title both strange and ill-timed. They could have had these matches with the herky-jerky finishes on the house show circuit and no one would have known otherwise. The WWF half-pushed Vega steadily in ‘95 and ‘96 and teased him as a star. He was “over,” but it was wise never to go full throttle by giving him a legit title reign. I guess that gives away Goldust winning the re-match. My apologies. This is a decent match and that’s all.
Rating: **1/4

Raw concludes with a pre-recorded interview with Bret Hart from Bonn, Germany. Bret comments on the conclusion of the Iron Man Match with Michaels at WrestleMania, he refutes leaving the WWF for “another” wrestling organization that’s throwing lots of money around, and he discusses his future plans or really a lack thereof for the time being. Yeah, Hart was on sabbatical for a while, and this let everyone know that. Full disclosure.

The Verdict: It’s a throwaway Raw. WCW had a lackluster Nitro, too, so April 15, 1996 isn’t noteworthy for anything in pro wrestling history. My favorite part of the show was Jim Cornette. As a mouthpiece, he was just SO DAMN GOOD. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Diesel didn’t appear, but his “call in” bit also registered. The WWF undersold Kevin Nash – backstage politics aside – and they’d pay the price for letting him walk soon enough. Austin was refining his in-ring work. It was his later mic work which established him, forever, as “Stone Cold” and that was months away.

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