WWF Prime Time Wrestling: January 5, 1987

WWF Prime Time Wrestling
– January 5, 1987

Hosts: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Lord Alfred Hayes, Ken Resnick, Vince McMahon, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bruno Sammartino and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

In studio, Gorilla and “The Brain” discuss the matches on tap while bantering with each other as was customary. Two nights before, Saturday Night’s Main Event IX had aired on NBC but there’s no mention of that at the top of the broadcast. All of the matches were pre-taped on these shows, yet long before the Internet existed, it didn’t matter. No one knew anything and these Monday night’s reeked of pure awesomeness. Up first, we get tag-team action! Howard Finkel, aka “The Fink” handles the ring introductions.

The Dream Team [Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine] (w/ “Luscious” Johnny V.)
-VS-
The Islanders [Haku and Tama]

Result/Analysis: The Dream Team via pinfall (14:15 aired) when Valentine pins Tama after Tama had been crotched across the top rope by Beefcake with Johnny V also running interference. The match takes place at Madison Square Garden but it’s anyones guess as to when, late in 1986 I’d surmise, that it did. Monsoon and Hayes dissect the tag-team ranks and surmise the winning team of this bout would be thrust into the number one contenders spot. That held no truth but Gorilla had a way of making you believe the inner workings of the World Wrestling Federation in those days. Johnny V drops by to discuss his Dream Team on commentary before he assumes his managerial duties and he lays claim to MSG being the home of The Dream Team saying things here won’t go as badly for Beefcake and Valentine as they did at WrestleMania 2. At a minimum, that was 6 months prior to this match, but Valient and The Dream Team never did get over losing the tag-team titles to The British Bulldogs there so bringing up their defeat, be it from Valient or any of the announcers, was highly relevant in an era of limited television and/or pay-per-view exposure. The Islanders were a newly formed tag-team, though Haku (as King Tonga) and Tama (as Tonga Kid), had been in the WWF since 1983. The Islanders were a face team, something I hadn’t recalled them as being. Hammer and Haku do the heavy lifting early in the match while Beefcake takes up space on the ring apron for The Dream Team. Tama was the high-flyer for The Islanders and he shows off his arsenal
with a nice vertical splash. Beefcake stinks up the joint when he comes in so Valentine tags himself back in to rescue the match, executing a tombstone-like piledriver on Tama. A while later, Tama, who was the face in peril, cradles Valentine for a near fall as a counter to Hammer attempting the figure-four on him. Haku gets the hot tag and cleans house but Johnny V hops on the apron to distract the incompetent referee. Valentine discards Haku as Beefcake crotches Tama on the top rope. Tama sells his discomfort by not being able to kick out of Valentine’s cover and gets pinned. There isn’t much to see in this one but the match has length and I can listen to Monsoon, even with His Lordship with him, commentate all day.

Rating: **

Back in the studio, Monsoon tells Heenan that during 1987, WWF President Jack Tunney, his good friend, is going to do an extended investigation into the conduct of ringside managers. LOL. Bobby, meanwhile, is working on his list of New Year’s resolutions.

Next, Monsoon segues into a highlight package for the reigning WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan for the just completed 1986. Heenan doth protest too much the airing of the montage but to no avail. Hahahaha! Hogan’s long-running feud with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff is nicely spotlighted within along with Hulk running roughshod over Beefcake and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, among others, in individual battles. Monsoon gives it to Heenan after the package concludes noting the video showcased a lot of The Brain’s own stable coming up on the short end of those matches. Heenan reminds Monsoon his men dominated for 15-20 minutes of those matches but the viewers don’t get to see that. Classic.

Up next, it’s more wrestling action from The Summit in Houston, Texas as Prime Time Wrestling circles the country.

Tito Santana -VS- Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: 20:00 time limit draw. Yep, there’s no winner here but in the 1980’s era of the WWF, the occasional draw was still seen. Santana was a floating mid card babyface here since his days as Intercontinental Champion had ended. Roberts, meanwhile, wrestles as a heel yet the popularity of the DDT was drawing him face reactions from crowds in arenas throughout the country. Vince McMahon would take notice. The DDT coupled with seeing Damien taken out of the snake bag got Jake over immensely. It got to next level. Roberts had finished off a summer feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in 1986 and he was inbetween storylines himself. I’d call him a tweener more by late ‘86 when this match happens than an outright heel. Tito was the more accomplished wrestler of the two but Jake’s mind games and psychological tactics evened the playing field. Santana carries the match throughout with Jake escaping defeat numerous times to set up himself up for possibly executing the DDT. Monsoon references the 20-minute time limit a few times over and it becomes clear as you watch the match that’s the likely outcome. Why would either of these guys do the job for the other at this point in time? Santana counters Jake’s attempt at the DDT by locking in the figure-four leg lock off a back drop but Jake doesn’t submit to it and he reaches the bottom rope. He grabs the snake bag out of desperation but referee Dave Hebner stops him just as the ring bell sounds. The match is announced as a draw with Roberts not having submitted. Jake takes Damien out off the bag to slither around the ring as Tito flees. Hebner, meanwhile, shows bravery by holding the bag open for Jake to put Damien back inside but Roberts instead chases Hebner out of the ring with Damien. Ha! The match is hard fought and refreshingly old school as I watch it in June 2022. Tito vs. Jake had the ingredients to be something special had the WWF ran with it but an average level was the median reached here. It’s a house show quality match that just happened to air on television.

Rating: **1/4

In the studio, Heenan answers Monsoon’s question on what The King, Harley Race, is looking for in 1987. According to Bobby, The King is looking for the recognition he deserves for twice winning the King of the Ring Tournament and for the people to get down on one knee to him. LOL!

Sivi Afi -VS- “The King of Wrestling” Harley Race (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)

Result/Analysis: Race via pinfall (:38) following a cradle suplex. The match was carried over from
“Superstars of Wrestling” with Afi doing the quickest of jobs to “The King.” I hadn’t recollected Afi all of these years later so I looked him up and learned he was initially brought into the WWF to be the replacement for “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and he was billed as Snuka’s cousin. That character attempt totally flopped but it’s good trivia nonetheless. Race was already in a feud with The Junkyard Dog and JYD has pre-recorded comments here as the 38 second match unfolds stating he’s never had a King and he won’t bow down to one. Following the match back in the studio, Heenan questions Monsoon, who was just returning to his seat, where he was during the match as it had come and gone and it was one of the greatest matches ever. So funny! Bobby and Gorilla had perfect chemistry together. It was natural and I bet they didn’t have to rehearse much of anything.

Rating: DUD

Ken Resnick interviews The Hart Foundation, the newly named number one contenders for the World Tag-Team Titles held by The British Bulldogs. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, notably the mouthpiece of the team, walks like an Egyptian as he does a play on words, as he affirms the status of The Foundation after their non-title victory over The Bulldogs that had recently occured. Bret “Hitman” Hart affirms Neidhart’s words and says The Hart’s will be the new champions while The Bulldogs return home to England to sip their lemon chanties and listen to their Wham records. Bret was so green and unnatural on the mic. He might never have made it without “The Anvil” and the lengthy run of tag-team success that The Hart Foundation would have over a five-year run.

Gorilla segues Prime Time Wrestling back to 1986 to focus on the two titles that changed hands during the banner year. Hey, it was a different time. First up, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, thanks to rogue referee “Dangerous” Danny Davis, unseated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship at the famed Boston Garden (2/8/86). Then, at WrestleMania 2 (4/7/86), The British Bulldogs ended the championship reign of The Dream Team by capturing the Tag-Team Titles at the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago. At least one could say that decades now later, that these title changes carried historic weight and are much remarked upon by pro wrestling historians and fans of that era, of which, I am one. It’s my childhood. The nostaglia in these five-plus minutes is just phenomenal to re-watch all these years later. Phenomenal.

Gorilla and Bobby argue over the outcome of each title change with Heenan rightfully pointing out The Dynamite Kid was illegally perched on the second rope when Greg Valentine was thrown into him leading to “The Hammer” being pinned by Davey Boy Smith as The Dream Team lost the belts. As for Savage, Heenan says he missed there being any nefarious means by which he defeated “Chico” Santana. Gorilla plays the incredulous one letting Bobby sink himself in the argument. LOL!

Finally, to cap the “year in review” Captain Louis Albano pinned Johnny V to win a six-man tag-team match for his retirement bout while teaming with The British Bulldogs, whom he managed, against The Dream Team, whom Johnny V managed. Monsoon points out Albano managed 16 teams that won the Tag-Team Championship. Gorilla points that while Albano did that much in his career, Heenan, his co-host, managed a full year where none of his men captured any gold. HaHaHaHa. Gorilla asks Heenan what he has done? Bobby says, “I’ve kept you working.” Pure GOLD!!!

Six-Man Tag-Team Match:

The Hart Foundation [Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart] and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis
(w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart)
-VS-
S.D. Jones and The U.S. Express [Mike Rotunda & “The Golden Boy” Danny Spivey]

Result/Analysis: The Hart Foundation and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis via submission (3:35) when Adonis puts S.D. Jones to sleep with Goodnight, Irene. The match is from “Wrestling Challenge” and there’s nothing to see here. Resident jobber S.D. Jones delivers a loss for the babyface trio with Spivey doing little and Rotunda giving nothing more than arm drags. The Hart’s don’t stand out much and Adonis earns the fall. Had the match gone longer, maybe it’s something? Pointless here.

Rating: 1/2*

Bobby’s New Year’s resolutions: to manage the WWF Tag Team Champions, to manage the WWF Intercontinental Champion, to become Manager of the Year, again (Gorilla says, “You didn’t win it the last time.”), to manage the WWF Champion, to make more money than ever and to win Commentator of the Year.

Hillbilly Jim -VS- The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji)

Result/Analysis: Hillbilly Jim via DQ (7:58) when Fuji interferes and strikes him with his cane. The match is terrible. Just terrible. Muraco was inbetween a feud with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and relevancy as a heel as 1986 ended and 1987 began. He had two notable years, though. Hillbilly was a pure novelty act and he wasn’t all that popular despite being a babyface that usually opposed the monster heels of the era. The best thing Hillbilly had going for himwas his entrance song “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy,” and it’s for that, his later managerial tenure in the mid-1990’s, and being in the upcoming WrestleMania III Six-Man Tag-Team Match with his two midget partners opposite King Kong Bundy and his two midget partners, that got Hillbilly into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018. Muraco had more impact, yet his upper body build and later babyface run with Superstar Billy Graham as his manager carried his later career. After his 1983 feud with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka ended, Muraco was a marquee name but he didn’t partake in any great matches nor feuds really. The match here has too much stalling (by Muraco) and it’s fought at a slow pace with little wrestling of consequence. Fuji, the devious one, involves himself for Muraco to cause a disqualification once Hillbilly gets his bearhug submission on. Hillbilly rarely won any match clean unless he wrestled someone lesser than he, a true rarity. A bad, bad, BAD “Main Event” / feature.

Result: DUD

The Verdict: Prime Time Wrestling is such a feel good 90 minutes (without commercials) that the matches being terrible or merely average mattered not. The feeling one had when watching wrestling back in 1987 was completely organic. Nearly everything put forth was embraced and it all still reeks from nostaglia a generation or nearly two generations later. I could watch these episodes all day and every day. The banter between Monsoon and Heenan remains classic. Their on-screen chemistry was absolute perfection. The matches on this first episode of the new year circle back to the end of 1986. There’s zero storyline advancement or discussion of any of the current happenings within the World Wrestling Federation. And so what? These days, I’d love to see this kind of programming. It worked. Perhaps next week, more will come out as to the direction of the WWF and the ongoing feuds will get highlighted. Who wouldn’t time travel back to this era?

WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event IX

WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event IX – January 3, 1987 (taped December 14, 1986)
Hartford Civic Center – Hartford, CT

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Thirty-Five years ago, the World Wrestling Federation was in its “Golden Age” and the year that would give us WrestleMania III began with a noteworthy “Saturday Night’s Main Event.” The five-match pre-taped card was highlighted by a huge blow-off to end the long-running feud (approximately 6 months) between adversaries Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Heavyweight Champion, and his former buddy, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Hogan and Orndorff had been feuding with each other throughout the summer and fall months of 1986 with no clean outcomes in any of their matches. It was decided upon they’d finally settle the score within the confines of a steel cage where there could not be a count-out or a disqualification, only a winner. During the feud Orndorff came to the ring using Hogan’s entrance music as his own, “Real American.” Hulk Jr., Orndorff was out to prove himself NOT to be once and for all. Adrian Adonis had successfully planted that belief into Orndorff’s mind during the summer months of 1986 with Orndorff previously teaming with Hogan in tag-team bouts. The brainwashing by Adonis led to Orndorff’s heel turn against Hogan and Heenan becoming his manager.

In Orndorff’s pre-match interview with “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Heenan acknowledges that he’s taken out an insurance policy on Orndorff’s title belt once he defeats Hogan to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Orndorff refuses to answer any questions from Okerlund himself.

Hogan’s pre-match remarks, meanwhile, center on the steel cage match being the end of the road for him and Orndorff, calling it a “DEAD END” for “Mr. Wonderful.” Okerlund asks Hogan why he didn’t end things with Orndorff earlier on? Hogan calls the cage the most brutal arena of human competition and it is the match of last resort. Hogan was SO hyper juiced on anabolic steroids in 1986-87 that it carried into his promos.

Steel Cage Match for the WWF Heavyweight Championship:
“Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. Hulk Hogan (c)

Result/Analysis: Hogan via escape (13:05) retaining the WWF Heavyweight Championship. The match is famous for the controversy 6 1/2 minutes in where Hogan and Orndorff both escape the cage with their feet simultaneously touching the floor. Hogan’s feet, based off several replays, appear to land first, though Ventura protests the ruling of a tie based on the knee bend in Hogan’s legs, crediting Orndorff as three hundreths of second quicker. LOL. Marella sides with Hogan while “Dangerous” Danny Davis sides with Orndorff, naturally. Before the re-start, Hogan takes out Davis, actually, Orndorff does, when he attacks Hogan from behind with Hulk celebrating his would-be victory. That leaves Marella in charge. Davis was the entrenched heel referee of the WWF who had previously helped Randy Savage become Intercontinental Champion and The Hart Foundation unseat The British Bulldogs for the Tag-Team Championship, so him aiding and abetting Orndorff, and Heenan, by proxy, was an added wrinkle for this match especially for Ventura and McMahon to fight over on commentary throughout. It’s hilarious! Orndorff becoming WWF Heavyweight Champion was never in the plans but his six-month feud with Hogan sold out countless arenas and drew a lot of money to get Hulk onto his next feud with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III. Orndorff deserves credit for that. Hogan dominates the resumption of the match, abusing Orndorff by utilizing the cage and choking him out with his bandana to show how he’s a cheap artist. Heenan interjects himself to save Orndorff from defeat only he, too, is tossed around and left in the dust. Orndorff takes the Hogan leg drop and Hulk escapes to retain the title. In its proper context, being the blow-off match to end their feud, and, comparing the cage match here to Hogan’s versus King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania 2 in 1986, this match also being a first of its kind on national television, it’s an entertaining conclusion to the feud and it gave Ventura more Hogan ammo to work with as he could claim Orndorff was the rightful winner and champion. 35 years later, an eon of time since past, Ventura’s anti-Hogan schtick still holds. Orndorff would disappear from television for a while following this match only to return in the summer months to feud with Heenan, “The Heenan Family,” and Heenan’s newest protégé “Ravishing” Rick Rude.

Rating: ***

Okerlund recaps the long-running feud between George “The Animal” Steele and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Steele fell hard for Elizabeth in 1986. Call it a “Beauty and The Beast” story. Anyway, Savage went beserk and defeated Steele at WrestleMania 2 in a match where he defended the Intercontinental Title. Okerlund asks Elizabeth in Savage’s pre-match interview if Steele’s promised “surprise” tonight might be for her? Savage shuts Elizabeth up from talking, though, since he’s the champion and the one people want to hear from, telling Elizabeth, “I’m the champion and no one cares about you!” Savage threatens Okerlund and orders Elizabeth to walk him to the ring. You see, Savage had anger management issues long before he had anger managememt issues. Okerlund ascertains that Steele and his promised “surprise” have gotten to “The Macho Man.”

Upon Savage’s entrance, Ventura speculates that perhaps Steele is bringing one of his relatives out with him as a surprise, one of his first cousins – an orangutan. LOL.

Steele gives no further clue as to what his “surprise” is when Okerlund asks him in his pre-match interview. It turns out the “surprise” may just be a gift to Elizabeth of himself as a figurine action figure. Nah …

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship:
Randy “Macho Man” Savage (c) w/ Elizabeth vs. George “The Animal” Steele

Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (8:08) after using the ring bell with the referee down. Steele kidnaps Elizabeth during the match as his real surprise (for Savage) appears: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Steele characterized the 1980’s WWF if there ever was someone. You could argue no one wrestler portrayed his gimmick any better, especially as Steele’s was as unorthodox as it got. Between beating up the referee or biting into the turnbuckle pad(s) – in every match, then using the turnbuckle stuffing as a weapon, Steele didn’t apply a single wrestling hold to his opponent, yet in his era, he was SO “over.” Steamboat was returning to set himself up as the challenger to Savage for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania III with a revenge storyline in play as Macho had given Steamboat a crushed larynx (kayfabe) a few months earlier on WWF SuperStars. Steele’s infatuation with Elizabeth, and thereby lengthy feud with Savage, had dragged on for nine months since WrestleMania 2 in April 1986 and the matches were all the same. Savage would win (he’d cheat to do so) but he’d get beaten up and roughhoused throughout leaving each match with a completely disheveled look. Savage was “selling” and he did so to every part of Steele’s gimmick. CLASSIC!!! You’d remember little about the Savage/Steele feud save for the Elizabeth bits, the wackiness of their many matches, and Steele later being intererwoven into the Steamboat/Savage all-time classic at WrestleMania III.

Rating: * (a theatric masterpiece and Savage’s bumping leads to * in the history books)

Okerlund interviews “King” Harley Race with Heenan present as Race’s manager. Race had become King by winning the non-televised house show-only King of the Ring Tournament on July 14, 1986. You’d be hard pressed to find video footage from that event in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Race tells Okerlund he is The King. The King of ALL wrestling. And everyone shall bow to him in servanthood. Race tries forcing Okerlund to bow for starters. LOL. Heenan chimes in that The JYD, that miserable mut, will be on all fours bow-wowing to “The King.” Gene thinks we’ll see the fur fly tonight as The Junkyard Dog is a proud warrior.

JYD talks to Okerlund following Race’s ring entrance. Dog says this country has never had no Queen and it’s never had no King and the only one his mom and daught taught him to bow down to was the good Lord above. “Handsome Harley Race, Dog says, Who in the he** do you think you’re dealing with”? This same interview clip was used in the pre-match package for JYD versus Race at the upcoming WrestleMania III but their feud began here. Gene ponders that the King may have sat upon the throne for too long.

“King” Harley Race w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan vs. The Junkyard Dog

Result/Analysis: The Junkyard Dog via DQ (4:38) due to outside interference from Heenan. This was yet another match on this SNME card that served as a precursor to a WrestleMania III bout, one in which the loser would have to bow to his victor. Race slugs JYD down in the early going and drops his patented knee. Race, known for his headbutt, tries one on JYD but that’s a mistake since JYD has the thickest cranium around, three inches thick according to Ventura. Dog crowns Race and sends him outside the ring. He then takes upon himself to declare himself The King, donning Race’s robe and crown. Heenan protests this display and he pays the price as JYD beats him up. Race returns to the ring to drop a viscious elbow off the top rope but the match is tossed out with referee Danny Davis even ruling for the JYD on a disqualification. Heenan tries forcing the JYD to bow to Race but that winds up with Dog sticking his ASS in Race’s direction. The segment ends with JYD clearing the ring, Davis included. Vince and Jesse took sides throughout. Hilarious.

Rating: *1/2

Prior to a commercial break, Adrian Adonis gives pre-recorded comments where he tells “Rowdy” Roddy Piper he’s back and Piper is about to live his worst nightmare.

Meanwhile, Orndorff is upset over his loss to Hogan and thus being denied the WWF Heavyweight Championship. Heenan attempts to calm down Orndorff by claiming that he’s the champion of the world as the video footage will prove. Bobby says he’ll go directly to World Wrestling Federation President Jack Tunney and the outcome will be overturned in one month or less even. Okerlund chimes in that Hogan won the match and Heenan knows it.

Adonis and Jimmy Hart are with Okerlund next. “The Adorable One” says he returned from injury (alleged separated shoulder) – – – after Piper had crushed his arm with a crutch on a previous SNNE – – – because he’s not a mortal man. Hart says Adrian is all heart and he couldn’t be kept out of the ring even for one million bucks.

Piper tells Okerlund he’s not fighting for money but he’s fighting for pride. Adonis humiliated him and made him, and wrestling by proxy, look like a prostitute. That was the imfamous three-on-one Adonis, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Magnificent Muraco assault on Piper during his return “Piper’s Pit” segment following a five-month hiatus after WrestleMania 2 in 1986, and his subsequent face turn.

“The Adorable” Adrian Adonis (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Result/Analysis: Adonis via count-out (3:49). Piper unleashes a blitzkrieg on Adonis from the opening bell, a pre-cursor for what lay ahead for their match at WrestleMania III in two+ months. Adonis takes the beating and bumps all over the ring in a classic sell job while Ventura rags on McMahon for the bias in his commentary all throughout the night. Piper gets caught in Adonis’ sleeper hold, “Goodnight, Irene,” but that takes them both outside the ring. Adonis sprays Piper in his eyes with his perfume bottle and Piper becomes blinded too much to beat referee Joey Marella’s ten count and Adonis picks up the cheap win. Storyline advancement again here.

Rating: 3/4*

Meanwhile, Hogan is “getting off” on his victory over Orndorff tonight despite “Mr. Wonderful” and Bobby Heenan crying foul and claiming they’ll present WWF President Jack Tunney with the video proof showing Hogan actually lost. Yes, Hulk said he’d be getting off. Maybe not like that but …

“The Battle for Texas”
Jimmy Jack Funk vs. Blackjack Mulligan

Result/Analysis: Mulligan via pinfall (2:33) with a running back elbow. The match is a total squash and time filler. Utterly pointless this was, yet good for trivia purposes as having happened on the card. Neither guy made any substantial impact during this time period in wrestling so it’s an out of place match. There is a female referee whom I didn’t recognize.

Rating: DUD

The Verdict: Hogan and Orndorff saw their feud end, albeit in controversy. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat returned to set-up WrestleMania III versus Randy “Macho Man” Savage as George “The Animal” Steele kept on with his Miss Elizabeth infatuation. JYD/Harley Race previewed their Mania bout. Hot Rod only had a further score to settle with Adrian Adonis. 90 minutes of free wrestling on a Saturday Night when the product was in high demand and not over saturated. 1987 began here for the WWF and the stage only grew “Bigger, Badder and Better” within two months time come The Pontiac Silverdome. Historically speaking, the ninth SNME was impactful.

WWF In Your House 9: International Incident

WWF In Your House 9: International Incident
July 21
General Motors Place – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Non-Title Tag-Team Match:
The Smoking Gunns [Billy & Bart] (c) (w/ Sunny) vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip]

Result/Analysis: The Bodydonnas via pinfall (13:06) when Zip pins Bart following a missile dropkick by Skip which negated The Gunns executing their sidewinder finishing move. Billy was sidetracked with Sunny anyway. That became a running theme. Of course, this being a non-title match, the tag-team titles still remain with The Smoking Gunns despite their defeat. How stupid. Why have a non-title match on a PPV? And, especially in this case, since The Bodydonnas were former champions. Lame. Cloudy (Kloudi?) had been dismissed by The Bodydonnas as their hand-picked replacement manager for Sunny. That idiotic Vince last ditch effort to get The Bodydonnas over flopped almost immediately, though, the basis for The Gunns feud with The Bodydonnas here – really Sunny’s beef with them – was over the introduction of Cloudy. The Bodydonnas win this match to set up for the obvious tag-team titles match at SummerSlam, right? Wrong! The Godwinns will be the challengers then. The tag-team division was downright horrific in 1996. This match isn’t too bad but the non-title stipulation takes any care away. At least you could see the beginnings of Billy breaking apart from Bart. It’s amazing The Gunns tagged for four years considering their overall impact.
Rating: **

Meanwhile, Camp Cornette is huddled together in their locker room as Mr. Perfect gets commentary. Jim Cornette says he’s guaranteeing victory tonight in the main event six-man tag-team match otherwise, he’s promising to refund everyone in attendance or at home watching in TV land and that will cost him millions of dollars. Cornette promises Vader will get his hands on Shawn Michaels and no one will be able to stop him. The British Bulldog, meanwhile, promises a match that’s so gruesome even Diana will have to remain in the locker room for it. Owen Hart has his sights set on knocking out Sycho Sid with his cast, just like he did to Ahmed Johnson on RAW, and to Michaels, albeit differently, previously. Without a doubt, Ahmed, Shawn and Sid need to lose.

Mankind vs. Henry O. Godwinn (w/ Hillbilly Jim)

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (6:54) with the Mandible Claw. The advertised Mankind versus Jake “The Snake” Roberts match was scrubbed either due to Jake’s legit rib injuries from wrestling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at King of the Ring or Jake just flat no-showing for the event, the true story never came out. Oh well. That’s why they say “Card Subject To Change.” Godwinn, as I look at the WWF roster for this date, was really the only logical replacement for a babyface against Mankind as anyone else had their own match. Jake would have stumbled all over himself had he wrestled and given Lawler more of a chance at delivering wise cracks on his substance abuse problems, though, he does still anyway. Mankind went about things with reckless abandon as surely Mick Foley knew nothing different. The exposed concrete under the outside mats comes into play here, first with Mankind hitting a swinging neckbreaker, and later Godwinn slamming Mankind off the apron onto it. Ouch! Godwinn attempts the slop drop but Mankind hooks the ropes to block. The Mandible Claw is applied and back then, no one, not even The Undertaker, escaped that. Speaking of The Undertaker, he’s wrestling Goldust later on but he and Mankind were heavily embroiled in their feud with SummerSlam and a “Boiler Room Brawl” ahead of them there.
Rating: **

On the WWF SuperStar line, Brian Pillman has The Bodydonnas with him. Pillman chastises Skip and Zip for what they’re telling the fans was their motivation tonight. Pillman believes only their hormones and thoughts of T&A were on their minds, i.e., Sunny. The Gunns and Sunny were on the other side with Ray Rougeau making excuses for their loss. Who called the WWF SuperStar line other than kids without receiving their parents permission anyway? Pillman might just give shoot comments so if I got him on the telephone, I’d call in!

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. “The Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Austin via pinfall (10:50) following The Stone Cold Stunner. The match is good but it falls well short of their King of the Ring battle, which is a forgotten classic for many. Given IYH was a five match card, I expected 15-20 minutes here but no dice. Austin was more over as a heel than Mero was as a face. I’m sure Vince took note. At KOR, Mero inadvertently kicked Austin in the mouth leading to blood gushing from Austin and stitches for him post-match. Austin, in that match, wrestled calculated and methodical. Mero’s attack then was far more psychological. Austin losing the return bout wasn’t going to happen so with the outcome predictable, it’s hard to be as into them wrestling again. Austin suckers Mero into a trap here, feigning another facial injury only to cheap shot Mero to take control. Austin wrestles more his customary roughhouse style – catapulting Mero into the ring post and pushing him into the railing off the apron. Mero forges a comeback when he ranas Austin outside the ring, hits a somersault dive and a standing moonsault. Mero tosses Austin back in the ring, hits a springboard splash and a springboard leg drop. Austin kicks out at two each time. Austin clips Mero in the knee and immediately hits the stunner for the abrupt end. I wanted more. Marlena and her usher make an appearance to stalk Sable.
Rating: **3/4

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via DQ (12:08) as a result of outside interference from Mankind. The Goldust “feud” with The Undertaker and the unneccessary mileage it got merely existed to advance the Mankind/Undertaker feud in 1996 that was going on through it all. It was very strange. Mankind involves himself here by popping thru the mat to prevent Taker from defeating Goldust following the tombstone piledriver. The match is incredibly dull and the Mankind involvement doesn’t help how you feel. There’s mucho stalling early on and Taker dominates throughout except for scant instances of control by Goldust. Mankind drags Taker under the ring with him by applying the mandible claw. He reappears in the ring only for the hole in the mat to fill with smoke as the lights flicker on and off for a minute or two. Taker then pops up thru a hole he makes in the mat on the other side of the ring and fights off Mankind. Their actual one-on-one match at KOR was decent enough to warrant the sequel, especially given how it ended controversially with Paul Bearer’s involvement. Having Mankind interfere again for a lame DQ in another Goldust match with Taker didn’t further what they had going. Goldust had become irrelevant to be used as filler for their feud.
Rating: *1/2

The SummerSlam promo airs.

Vince and JR discuss the Main Event and the Joe Namath-like guarantee of victory by Jim Cornette. Who was dying to see Camp Cornette against Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson and Sycho Sid? The match has zero appeal barring Ahmed and/or Sid turning on Shawn. Neither one does.

Meanwhile, cameras catch Mankind and The Undertaker brawling in a boiler room. At SummerSlam, that’s where their match will be. No one can see what’s going on with the cameraman taken out. Mankind is heard grunting at least.

JR cues up a video package to highlight just how tonight’s Main Event came about.

Handsome Dok Hendrix interviews Michaels, Ahmed and Sid. Shawn promises the six-man tag-team match will be gang warfare as Camp Cornette has promised. Ahmed says the time for talking is done. “It’s time to talk it like you walk it, Cornette.” Sid says he’ll be the master out there in the ring while he’s backed up by his friends.

Six-Man Tag-Team Match:
[“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels [WWF Champion] (w/ José Lothario),
Ahmed Johnson [WWF Intercontinental Champion] & Sycho Sid] “The People’s Posse”
vs.
“Camp Cornette” [The British Bulldog, Owen Hart & Vader] (w/ Jim Cornette)

Result/Analysis: “Camp Cornette” via pinfall (24:33) when Vader pins Michaels following the Vaderbomb. A fantastic match! All six guys look great here and Michaels does a superhuman job with the heavy lifting in the match while putting Vader “over” clean to set-up SummerSlam. Ahmed and Sid are properly used with short bursts of offense with both guys looking impenetrable and strong. Sid receives a massive pop and clotheslines the daylights of all three members of Camp Cornette. Ahmed powerslams Vader and hits his Pearl River Plunge finishing move on Bulldog. Owen and Shawn rekindle their rivalry in spots by putting on a wrestlin clinic of moves, counter moves and pin attempts. So good! Bulldog impressively suplexes Sid, showing off his incredible strength while later nearly defeating Michaels following his running powerslam finisher. Shawn also gets caught in a backbreaker and Samoan drop after he tried a crucifix. Michaels’ effort is excellent. Vader pummels him from pillar to post for the most part but Shawn wins their early bit with aerial moves. Ahmed in short bursts in this match gives you the feeling of just what Vince saw in him. He was over but could do high impact moves, such as a spinebuster (like the one on Bulldog here) or German suplexes in succession (he does this to all members of Camp Cornette). Sid back in the fold was addition by subtraction in that he was replacing the outgoing Ultimate Warrior and he was an overall better fit for the WWF in 1996 anyway. Michaels is in the ring against Camp Cornette for a solid 10-15 minutes, 10 coming in the crux of the match as “face in peril.” Shawn making the hot tag is teased several times before he eventually succeeds in reaching Sid as the drama builds. Sid chokeslams Owen, Bulldog and Vader! Damn!!! Sid and Ahmed double clothesline Vader next. Sid tags Shawn and launches him onto Vader from the top rope. Shawn and Vader are legal as the other four fight outside the ring. Cornette tosses Vader his tennis raquet but Michaels ducks and drops Vader by using the raquet on him. Shawn tunes up the band for sweet chin music but Cornette grabs his leg to stop him. Vader recovers and launches himself onto Michaels in the corner. Shawn drops as Vader positions him for the Vaderbomb. Lothario and Cornette scuffle. Vader connects with the Vaderbomb and Michaels is pinned! After the match, Sid and Ahmed attack with Sid hitting Bulldog and Owen with powerbombs. Vader is pulled out of the ring to avoid the same fate only Michaels dives over the top rope onto Vader to save face. The People’s Posse lose the match but the crowd is sent home happy. Minus a shocking heel turn by Sid on Michaels, Vader winning to set the stage for SummerSlam and challenging Shawn for the WWF Title, was the correct booking. What’s impressive about this match is the effort by everyone and how on point they all were. Michaels was carrying the company.
Rating: ****

The Verdict: Few people watched the event at the time as the PPV has the second-worst buy rate in the history of the company, but retrospectively, International Incident is OK . The Main Event is terrific. The SummerSlam card had its top two matches in place. Austin was a budding star. Most importantly, heads didn’t appear to be down. WCW was generating all of the buzz and headlines because of the n.W.o. but from pure work rate standpoint, in-ring storytelling, and wrestling, the WWF, at the top rung, was as good. I, admittedly at 15 years old was all-in for WCW, too, with mostly Hulk Hogan being a heel and the n.W.o. thing fresh with no one knoeing its direction as my reasons. The WWF at this time wasn’t a bad product given who they had. I’d take this period over anything the company is putting forth today as “entertainment.” That’s quite terrible. Mankind/Undertaker was a hot feud and could Vader be the one to unseat Michaels as Champ? SummerSlam had juice.

WCW Monday Nitro – July 15, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – July 15, 1996
Disney-MGM Studios – Orlando, FL

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss the appearance of The Outsiders and Hulk Hogan coming later on tonight as The New World Order makes their first public appearance together 8 days following the Bash at the Beach PPV. Larry is convinced the n.W.o. is about to recruit another member, possibly someone within WCW. The actual PPV footage of Hogan’s betrayal is shown. At the time, seeing it all play out on an endless loop was the hottest thing to watch. Back in 1996, it took a week + to get the millions of hits that today something would generate in mere minutes with Smartphones on everyone’s fingertips at all points of a day or night. Hulk Hogan as a heel. He was instantly fresh again.

Fire and Ice [Scott “Flash” Norton & Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (7:30 shown) when Rick pins Ice Train off a belly-to-back suplex. The friction between Norton and Ice Train had been going on as Norton was growing tiresome of carrying his dead weight partner. The Steiner’s don’t care. They just do their thing. Scott was a suplex machine while no one could do an overhead powerslam like Rick could. Impressive. These teams wrestled a bunch and The Steiner’s won damn near every time. It’s no wonder Norton wanted to smack Ice Train around. Teddy Long came to ringside to scout Fire and Ice. Ice Train splashes Norton on a double team and proceeds to lose the match from there. All four guys were sweating profusely in the outdoor heat. This could not have been enjoyable for anyone.
Rating: **

“The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan, Jimmy Hart and Big Bubba are standing by with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Sullivan says The Dungeon of Doom has come up with a new plan to eradicate Hogan before he can destroy WCW. Hart, though, discusses eliminating The Four Horsemen instead. Huh? Wasn’t he listening to Sullivan? Big Bubba promises he’ll put Lex Luger to sleep permanently tonight whether Lex has a concussion still or not. The Faces of Fear [Barbarian and Meng] come late to the interview. What were they doing? Sullivan has a message for Benoit: “You got too personal at the PPV.” Gene mentions the dissension between Fire and Ice as Nitro enters a commercial break.

Meanwhile, Dean Malenko wants his Cruiserweight Title back. Tonight, he says, Billy Kidman picked the wrong night to step in the ring with him, “The Man of 1,000 Holds.”

Another Glacier promo. Our world is about to change. Except, it already did with the n.W.o.

Teddy Long tries to play peacemaker between heel Norton and babyface Ice Train but to no avail. Fire and Ice break up after only a few months of teaming together. No one cries any tears. They of course feud because well, that’s what ex tag-team partners do.

Billy Kidman vs. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko

Result/Analysis: Malenko via submission (5:15) with the Texas Cloverleaf. This match is a clinic with Kidman scoring on only a couple of moves. Zbyszko correctly summarizes the match as Malenko wiping the floor with Kidman, and in a five-minute match, while wrestling angry after dropping the Cruiserweight Title the previous week, Malenko puts on a master class on how to beat a guy with much less experience. Kidman misses the Shooting Star Press in his lone attempt to win the match and that leads to Malenko hitting these moves in succession: a brain buster, a powerbomb and a butterly sit-out powerbomb that’s turned into the Texas Cloverleaf. Hot damn! Malenko will wrestle Chris Benoit at Hog Wild. That’s a tremendous mid-card PPV bout. Kidman looks a lot like Ralph Macchio here aka Daniel-San from The Karate Kid. Kidman needed a Mr. Miyagi to show him how to wax-on and wax-off. He had the goods but he was in line to be punked out a lot.
Rating: ***

Kevin Greene is at Nitro. Shouldn’t he be at training camp with the Carolina Panthers? Greene tells Okerlund he’s one of the millions of betrayed Hulk-A-Maniacs all over the world. Still, Greene says, he’s here tonight to get his hands on Steve “Mongo” McMichael. As if the Panthers would allow Greene to have any non-football contact! Gene promises to alert Greene if he sees Mongo tonight.

Meanwhile, WCW World Tag-Team Champions Harlem Heat talk smack to the tag-team of Rough & Ready (Dick Slater and Mike Enos). They’ll get on next on Nitro.

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
Rough & Ready [“Dirty” Dick Slater and Mike Enos] (w/ Col. Robert Parker)
vs. Harlem Heat [Booker T. and Stevie Ray] (c) (w/ Sister Sherri)

Result/Analysis: Harlem Heat via pinfall (7:41) when Booker pins Slater with a roll-up after Sherri had kissed Slater. That’s wacky booking for a World Tag-Team Titles match, but then again, WCW was notorious for wacky booking so. The tag-team of Rough & Ready was Col. Parker’s latest mishmash of forgotten heels though nothing he did ever came close to being good after The Stud Stable was disbanded. Parker was the “promoter” for Harlem Heat, meanwhile, as he was supposedly working wth Sister Sherri in their on-again/off-again romance. The match is full of brawling with Enos and Booker trying to hit some wrestling moves inbetween. I appreciate WCW recycling anyone and everyone – no company ever did that better – but this was a pointless exercise with the Parker and Sherri lovey-dovey/bickering stuff never really going anywhere.
Rating: *1/4

A Rey Mysterio Jr. video package is shown highlighting the NEW Cruiserweight Champion. Mysterio was already revolutionizing professional wrestling in two months that was for certain.

Meanwhile, Meng and Jimmy Hart say they’ll make Arn Anderson the next victim of The Dungeon of Doom tonight. Hart had to talk because Meng couldn’t speak anything intelligible.

Kevin Greene interrupts Okerlund again as he’s still looking for Mongo. Gene tells Greene that Mongo is obviously ducking him like the plague. Greene says he’s got to catch a plane to get himself to training camp on time but he’ll be back in February to get Mongo. By then, the shelf life for that “feud” had expired.

Malia Hosaka vs. Madusa

Result/Analysis: Madusa via pinfall (4:09) following a German suplex. Pointless match and pretty awful. If you’re into mid-1990’s female wrestling, though, maybe this match tickles your fancy. The move on repeat here? A hair pull toss takeover. Women’s wrestling has come so far in 25 years. Madusa is actually on the Hog Wild PPV card coming up on August 10th in Sturgus, S.D. as she opposes old nemeisis Bull Nakano in a “Destroy The Bike Match.” I wish I was joking.
Rating: 1/2*

Hour 2:

The Outsiders cover up the WCW letters with NWO letters to signify who’s really in charge. Eric Bischoff, of course, plays dumb to this next part of The Outsiders hostile takeover. Bobby Heenan, however, warns of more things still to come, most importantly, another member or two or …

Meng (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson

Result/Analysis: Meng via pinfall (8:33 shown) following a karate thrust kick. Wow! Double A is dominated in this match. To see Anderson lose clean to Meng isn’t a result anyone could have expected. Meng looks good doing his martial arts stuff but it’s hard to concentrate on the match with the crowd, and Bischoff/Heenan, paying no mind to it with The Outsiders perched high above watching. There’s also random fireworks that go off – hey, it’s Disney, after all – so that’s another distraction not needed. The Dungeon of Doom was all about dismantling The Four Horsemen but they were the only ones focused on that. The Barbarian joins Jimmy Hart at ringside and assists Meng in picking up the upset win. I always liked The Faces of Fear.
Rating: *1/2

After the commercial break, Mongo and Debra show up to spout off to Okerlund about Kevin Greene. Mongo says he’ll fight Greene if Greene can get his name on the dotted line, see, Mongo is a professional now, he says. Debra disses Greene for playing football for a farm team, the second-year Carolina Panthers, while rattling off the career stats of her husband to contrast the two gridiron greats. What a waste of time. Mongo and Greene should have fought at Bash at the Beach off Mongo joining The Four Horsemen and backstabbing Greene at The Great American Bash. Pfft.

“The Crippler” Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

Result/Analysis: Guerrero via count-out (9:38) following outside interference by Malenko. Jimmy Hart no doubt got his message across to Malenko: attack Benoit. That business arrangement would last into the Hog Wild PPV with Hart being in Malenko’s corner for his match with Benoit. Guerrero fights the good fight here as he tries to survive as Benoit pummels him. Even Benoit’s chops hit the mark. It’s clear he was taking pointers from Flair on how to inflict those effectively. Everything Benoit would do in his matches was purposeful and he started to define himself this way. I loved it. Benoit was already a top notch tactical wrestler but this ruggedness gave him that extra feel. Guerrero perserveres thru the beating he takes and hits a superplex off the top rope to turn the tide. With Benoit staggering at the ropes, Guerrero does a hurricanrana and, as a result, they both wind up outside. Benoit decks Guerrero first but Malenko shows up and posts Benoit. Guerrero recovers before referee Jimmy Jett counts both out and sneaks back into the ring with Benoit the loser. And just think, the careers in WCW for Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko would intertwine so much that 3 1/2 years later, they all defected up North for greener pastures as The Radicalz.
Rating: ***

Big Bubba and Jimmy Hart warn Luger again what’s in store for him tonight as Nitro heads to break.

Glacier promo #1000. You know the rest.

WCW World Television Championship:
Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: Luger via DQ (7:35 shown) following outside interference by The Outsiders. The match is a good effort and a physical encounter. With Luger going on last, however, the match is mere window dressing for the first n.W.o. beatdown of a WCW guy since their formation. Luger gets blasted by The Outsiders as “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan appears from the black limousine parked out back and he’s dressed in all black for the first time. Bischoff calls Hogan “The scourge of the wrestling world” as he plays up his disgust on behalf of all the Hulk-A-Maniacs that are no longer. Heenan points out that Hogan is void of the red and yellow colors and he’s dressed entirely in black. Hogan cheerleads for Hall and Nash as they double team Nash’s jackknife powerbomb on Luger, who takes a sick bump to his head off the mat. The n.W.o. high five each before Hogan stands over Lex and smacks each side of his face. Oh, the humiliation! Bischoff continues to play up everyone’s disgust with the new Hogan. LOL. Hall shoves Luger out of the ring with his boot, treating Lex like yesterday’s garbage. Bubba gets to his feet and sees Hogan. The n.W.o. tease Bubba that he can join them. And Bubba falls for it by shaking Hogan’s hand. That backfires immediately as Hogan turns away as The Outsiders turn on Bubba. Hall and Nash make quick work in discarding Bubba as Heenan correctly points out how the n.W.o. is setting out to destroy the entire foundation of WCW. Bischoff goes one further, saying, “Sting, Savage, Flair, Giant … put your personal crap aside and get here quick.”

The live crowd is in full riot mode minutes into all of this as Okerlund enters the ring cautiously for remarks from Hogan. Heenan adds, “Look at the disgust in Gene Okerlund’s face.” Okerlund addresses Hogan and The Outsiders with the reality of it all, saying, “You have led us down the primrose path.” Hogan responds that he should have done all of this two years ago. Ha! But together, with The Outsiders, The New World Order is taking over professional wrestling. Gene references the millions of calls and letters received by WCW since he backstabbed everyone and says, including himself, everyone is disgusted with him. Hogan echoes back to his Bash comments saying he led all the kids down the right path yet the people had the gall to boo him so they can all stick it, brother. Hulk badmouths Sting for being a skinny little bodybuilder 10 years ago when they first met in Venice Beach. He then says “Macho Man” failed in his marriage, blamed him for three years over it, yet Macho failed all because he couldn’t “rise to the occasion.” OMG! At this point, people are littering the ring and throwing their garbage at Hogan. Hulk says he is professional wrestling, he made professional wrestling, and with The Outsiders, they’ll now rule professional wrestling! Gene asks about the n.W.o. and where it’s all headed. Hulk alludes that The Outsiders are the foundation of The New World Order but as he builds his empire, there will be more followers. He states there’s always been a double loyalty in the biz, one to the promoters that pay the bills and another to Hulk Hogan … for where he goes, so goes professional wrestling. Gene points to the trash in the ring and tells Hogan it’s a pretty good example of how his life is going to go from here on out. Hogan says he’s done with the kids. He laid out the path for them but they didn’t want to follow it. Hogan finishes up by calling out The Giant for Hog Wild. He’s not wasting his time on Sting and/or Macho. He’ll take the WCW belt, make it the n.W.o. belt, and after that, the n.W.o. will rule professional wrestling. Okerlund calls Hogan a mad man who’s out of his mind as he exits the ring. The n.W.o. clears the ring of the garbage as Bischoffs pleads for help from the WCW stalwarts M.I.A. tonight. The locker room empties as friends and foe unite to stand up for WCW in an act of solidarity. Nitro concludes with a stand-off as more things are thrown toward the ring.

The Verdict: Until Hogan made his appearance, Nitro on this night was an overly good “WCW Saturday Night.” Malenko, Benoit and Guerrero starred in the ring while everything else was filler for two hours. Hogan was knocking his heel persona out of the park and proving WCW geniuses for finally going rogue with him. The n.W.o. had taken over. For WCW, the wrestlers, it hadn’t sunk in yet. All the eyes in professional wrestling were glued to this new and unfolding saga. It was all so refreshing. Wrestling’s second big boon had begun.

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 15, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 15, 1996
Green Bay, WI (taped 6/24/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Earlier tonight, WWF Intercontinental Champion Ahmed Johnson and WWF Champion Shawn Michaels were greeted by a welcoming committee that included WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, and, all the members of Camp Cornette. There’ll be fireworks on RAW!

WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Bart Gunn [WWF Tag-Team Champion] (w/ Sunny) vs. Ahmed Johnson (c)

Result/Analysis: Johnson via pinfall (11:30 shown) following the Pearl River Plunge. A non-title match would have sufficed since there was no way Bart Gunn was winning the Intercontinental Title. The booking was either Ahmed going over clean, as he did, or Camp Cornette interfering and Ahmed still winnning by disqualification. Pretty stupid. Why not Owen Hart as Ahmed’s opponent here? Owen is a legitimate threat to winning the belt and you’d have had heat for the match, plus it would have furthered the IYH Six-Man Tag-Team Main Event. Bart works on Ahmed’s shoulder, which is nice, but him doing so is the bulk of the match. Ahmed pinning Owen with the Pearl River Plunge sans outside interference would have been the match of my choice. Instead, an OK match with the completely obvious result is what is given to us loyal WWF fans. Ho hum.
Rating: **

Michaels gives his customary promo for having a target on his back as the reigning WWF Champion. Furthermore, HBK feels he can trust Sycho Sid at International Incident in what will be gang warfare against Camp Cornette. The WWF wouldn’t book it this way, but Sycho Sid needed to double-cross Michaels and turn heel. Michaels versus Sid at SummerSlam could have been hot! Vader’s monster push had stalled out and it needed to be jumpstarted again with Vader wreaking havoc on the WWF until Survivor Series in November when he and Shawn should have matched up for the WWF Championship at Madison Square Garden. Sid could have joined Camp Cornette and that stable could have been feared. The history between Shawn and Sid, with Sid acting as Shawn’s bodyguard up thru the day following WrestleMania XI in April 1995 was still fresh enough in fans minds to return back to. All in all, while logical to me, the WWF brain trust, really Vinnie-Mac, couldn’t see the Sycho Sid/Shawn Michaels match as an immediate draw. Pfft.

“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. TL Hopper

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (8:30 shown) following a KO punch. Hopper brought his tested plunger to the ring named “Betsy” and proceeded to clear Mero’s drains. Hopper’s pants were purposely loose meaning they kept needing to be yanked up or his ass crack would be clearly visible. Lawler makes the obligatory PSA that Hopper is advocating no drug use because watching him wrestle has you going “say no to crack.” This was the fourth RAW taping of the night in Green Bay, WI and the live crowd is dead silent throughout. Hopper works in too much offense in order to fill time for this taped episode, otherwise, Mero does his thing: firemans carry slams, flying headscissors and the usual punching. Mero is wrestling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin again at IYH even though Goldust and Marlena had started a three-way love triangle thing with Sable. It was initially supposed to be a lesbian angle with Marlena going after Sable until Vince got cold feet and switched it to Goldust being the one with lustful intent and where the gifts to Sable came from. TL Hopper was shortlived though he had defeated Duke “The Dumpster” Droese in a “Home Improvement Match” around this time on WWF SuperStars. July 1996 was the lowest of low points.
Rating: *1/2

Jim Cornette, surrounded by his charges, does more to promote the six-man tag at IYH more than anyone could. He frames International Incident as the two warring factions fought between two countries. Vader was American, though, and Bulldog was from the U.K. so Cornette was stretching the truth. Cornette notes that they took out The Ultimate Warrior to level the first shot. Michaels and Johnson answered by bringing back Sycho Sid from whatever asylum he’d been held up in. At IYH, Camp Cornette will fire the last shot. I already gave you what should have happened …

Following Camp Cornette, and to kill further time, a lengthy Undertaker video package of all his career highlights is shown. Just think, in 1996 he’d been around for six years, yet 24 more awaited.
As for this time period, The Undertaker and Goldust were set to do battle once more at IYH.

WWF Championship:
Billy Gunn [WWF Tag-Team Champion] (w/ Sunny)
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (11:31 shown) following Sweet Chin Music. Shawn engages in foreplay with Sunny to entertain the crowd. Little did anyone know, however, there was foreplay and a whole lot more going on between those two off-camera. Ahem. Billy Gunn received his first true singles match and unlike Bart, who had zero personality, Billy showcases some potential. He’s more Rockabilly here than Mr. Ass of his D-X days, but at least he was someone to do something with before The Smoking Gunns tag-team ran its course. Shawn controls most of the match with Billy’s lone highlight being that he broke out the fame-ass-er here which Vince calls the Rocker Dropper. Shawn does his usual moveset and defeats Billy without even the hint of losing the match.
Rating: **1/2

Afterward, as Shawn and Ahmed are set to do an interview backstage, Cornette instead baits them into a chase which leads them running outside the building into an overdubbed bit where Sycho Sid drives his car in to chase off Camp Cornette from a three-on-two beatdown. Given that Sid couldn’t have been at the initial taping on June 24 in Green Bay since The Ultimate Warrior hadn’t yet been suspended, the WWF no doubt taped this bit at a recent house show. RAW goes off the air with this unfolding drama and as a fan, we’re supposed to buy IYH to see the match. Laughable.

The Verdict: The Main Event booking had become Camp Cornette trying to vanquish Shawn Michaels. Only Vader represented a real threat to the WWF Championship and Shawn made sure to squash those prospects with Vince by ass-kissing. In Your House: International Incident at least builds to SummerSlam one month later, though, no one was excited about the WWF product or watching their shows too closely given the ongoings at WCW with the n.W.o.

WCW Monday Nitro – July 8, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – July 8, 1996
Disney-MGM Studios – Orlando, FL

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss the backstabbing to WCW by Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach one night earlier. It was too disgusting for Larry to divulge his personal feelings on, however, so more on that later. Instead, the classic match between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psychosis is looked back upon. Mysterio won the high-flying encounter and he’ll square off against “The Iceman” Dean Malenko, whom overcame The Disco Inferno to retain the Cruiserweight Championship, in Nitro’s opening contest, and with that gold belt at stake.

WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Mysterio via pinfall (9:36 shown) following a frankensteiner counter. I could sense the title change was forthcoming here just by how referee Nick Patrick held up the belt prior to the bell. Malenko staves off Mysterio’s hot start by grounding him with precision moves. Malenko was so on point technically with all he did an argument can be made for him at this juncture that no wrestler working anywhere was more technically sound. Between a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, a viscious brainbuster on the floor, and later on, a gutbuster coming off the top rope, tell me any wrestler that could hit those moves as perfectly? Mysterio looks dead after each but perserveres. Despite getting his ass handed to him, though, lightning-quick Mysterio flies around and counters off Malenko with rana’s and moonsaults. Malenko begins to take certain victory for granted late in the match when he pulls off on successive two counts. Larry speculates Dean must have a personal vendetta against Mysterio but it’s only mere stupidity as Mysterio counters a Malenko backbreaker into a frankensteiner, which lands with him cradling Dean’s legs for the crowd pleasing three count and his first North American championship. I’d have kept Malenko as champion until Hog Wild in Sturgis, South Dakota in August but WCW was capitalizing on Mysterio off his classic match with Psychosis from the night before. The Cruiserweight Division, now led by Mysterio, was so hot.
Rating: ***3/4

Backstage, “Mean” Gene Okerlund has The Steiner Brothers and The Nasty Boys with him. They’ll meet tonight in a number one contender’s match to see who faces Harlem Heat for the WCW Tag-Team Titles at Hog Wild. The interview can be summarized as this: four low IQ guys jawing at each other. Scott Steiner respects The Nasties wrestling ability. What ability was that exactly?

Our world is about to change. Enter the realm: blood runs cold. In each of us burns the fury of a warrior. Glacier. The debut that kept on being delayed is still delayed. But, he’s coming to WCW.

Hugh Morrus & Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. The Blue Bloods [“Lord” Steven Regal & “Squire” David Taylor] (accompanied by Jeeves) (w/ “Earl” Robert Eaton)

Result/Analysis: The Blue Bloods via pinfall (3:02) when Taylor pins Morrus following a double back suplex. Both tag-teams are heels. Thus, there’s no rooting interest for the live crowd. It’s a pointless match The Blue Bloods dominate long enough for John Tenta to run interference in and brawl with Big Bubba to continue their never-ending feud.
Rating: DUD

Eddie Guerrero vs. Psychosis

Result/Analysis: Guerrero via pinfall (8:34) following the frog splash. Psychosis was making his Nitro debut here after losing to Mysterio at Bash at the Beach the night before. Guerrero was more of a household name and set to receive more of a push. Psychosis works on Eddie’s right shoulder for a while after he lands on it with a corkscrew moonsault outside the ring. This psychology is unexpected. Guerrero makes the comeback by catching Psychosis with a hurricanrana and inverted atomic drop as Psychosis came off the top rope. Psychosis returns the favor with his own rana off the top rope, followed by a sunset flip. Both times, though, Guerrero kicks out at two. The next time up, Guerrero hits a superplex. That leads into the frog splash with Psychosis falling victim to. Unlike Mysterio, Psychosis never got the same push and he became just one of the uber-talented cruiserweights.
Rating: ***

Meanwhile, Okerlund is standing by with The Giant and “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan. They were victorious last night over Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit. Jimmy Hart is there, too, and he’s at a loss for words over Hulk Hogan’s betrayal. Sullivan says he spent a year-and-a-half trying to end Hulk-A-Mania yet Hulk Hogan destroyed it himself. Sullivan worries over this New World Order, though, The Giant says, so long as he’s the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, nothing can go wrong. The Giant, for one, is in baby face mode here. The Dungeon of Doom, he says, are the elite group and they won the war at the PPV and therefore, he doesn’t have to wrestle tonight (defend the title).

No. #1 Contender’s Match:
The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (6:09) when Scott pins Sags following botched outside interference by Col. Robert Parker and Sister Sherri on behalf of Harlem Heat. The match is terrible and has no heat to it other than the Disney-goers sweating their asses off in the July heat of a summer night in Orlando. The Nasties brawl, as per usual, while The Steiner’s, Scott, in particular, toss The Nasties around the ring like two rag dolls. You’re talking about damn near 300 pounds respectively for Knobbs and Sags. The outside interference of Col. Parker and Sister Sherri goes awry so Harlem Heat draws The Steiner’s at Hog Wild as their opponents for the Tag-Team Titles.
Rating: 3/4*

After the match, The Nasty Boys speak about change, with Knobbs even going so far as to say that while he doesn’t condone what Hulk Hogan did, he doesn’t have a problem with it either. The Nasties basically tease joining up with the n.W.o. but that never came to pass. Good decision WCW.

WCW United States Championship:
Jim Powers vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) (w/ Miss Elizabeth, Debra McMichael & Woman)

Result/Analysis: Flair via submission (5:40) with the figure-four leg lock plus leverage from Woman. Powers dominates the match with Flair on the defensive until he hits the turnbuckle off a charge and Flair clips his knee. The figure-four came next and even the anabolic steroids Powers was taking couldn’t prevent him from tapping out. At least Flair took a step back in his career to rescue the U.S. Title from Konnan and restore some credibility to the belt. Flair should have defeated Powers in half the time. For someone with his credentials, even the lesser names worked him over before ultimately losing.
Rating: *1/2

After the match, The Four Horsemen hold court with Okerlund and communicate their personal feelings on Hogan’s betrayal to WCW and to the people around the world he backstabbed in the process. Arn Anderson is the Horsemen who’s most pointed in his commentary, saying he wanted to puke over what Hogan did, saying further, Hogan was supposed to stand for something and by leaving like a thief in the night like he did, stomping on the hearts of people on the way out, he’ll get what’s coming to him when those same people bite him back and do so real hard. Steve “Mongo” McMichael affirms Four Horsemen supremacy as to the apocalypse going on at WCW. Flair doubles down and puts The Giant on notice. As always, these interview segments rocked.

After a commercial break, Bischoff and Heenan discuss the cavalry WCW has to go to war with and how the war has just begun. Lex Luger was supposed to wrestle Chris Benoit tonight but his condition is unknown after being knocked out early on in the hostile takeover match.

Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman (w/ Teddy Long) vs. “The Crippler” Chris Benoit

Result/Analysis: Benoit via submission (2:33) with the Crippler Crossface. This is the debut match for Benoit’s signature submission hold, one that led to him becoming World Champion years later. Pittman didn’t tap out as Teddy Long made the decision to quit for him. This is a decisive win for Benoit. Pittman was roster filler and nothing more. WCW was pushing Benoit full bore. Of course, being a Horsemen greatly aided in that effort.
Rating: 3/4*

“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson vs. Sting

Result/Analysis: Sting via submission (9:37 shown) with the scorpion death lock. The Outsiders walk out after pulling up in a black limousine so the match was merely a distraction to their arrival. Arn works a better match than Sting does under the circumstances but it’s just kind of there. As The Outsiders are held back by security, and Randy Savage comes out to back AA and Sting, Arn tries to DDT Sting for the win but Sting blocks the move and immediately applies the scorpion for the win while staring at Scott Hall and Kevin Nash for the dramatic effect.
Rating: *3/4

After the match, while being interviewed by Okerlund, Sting completely undresses Hogan for the fraud he is and pretended to be. Quite honestly, this is Sting’s best promo of his career. He tells Hulk to stick in response to Hogan telling the kids to stick after his heel turn. Savage, meanwhile, has his own message for “Hollywood” Hogan but he can’t say what he wants to or what he plans on doing to him especially here at Disney. Basically, what he’s thinking about doing to Hulk is to infinity and beyond or some gibberish we’re all supposed to get. Noteworthy is, Savage coins Hogan as “Hollywood” which became his n.W.o. moniker.

Back from a commercial break now, and “Mean” Gene has caught up with The Outsiders outside of their limo. Nash reiterates The New World Order is here to stay and that WCW’s problems have only just begun. He says The Hulkster will be at Nitro next week to give the people more of his mind. Hall comments on the jealousy Macho Man must have toward “Hollywood” Hogan and that Luger didn’t get hurt, he fainted at the sight of The Outsiders.

Bischoff and Heenan end Nitro by showing the still photos of Hogan’s betrayal of WCW at Bash at the Beach and joining up with The Outsiders. It was then, it still is today, the single-most perfectly executed heel turn with the biggest impact to the “sport” in the history of professional wrestling.

The Verdict: Hogan wasn’t able to appear so the events of Bash at the Beach simmered in people’s minds a while longer before the next chapter unfolds. There’s nothing wrong with that given the shock to the system going on with wrestling fans and even non-wrestling people that knew the name Hulk Hogan. Business was still accomplished here, most notably Rey Mysterio Jr. becomingthe new Cruiserweight Champion. Sting’s comments on Hogan were spot on as he undressed Hogan and helped make him a larger heel if that was even possible. The outdoors setting made you feel how elevated Nitro had become. The next PPV, Hog Wild, on August 10, will also be outside at the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota. Hogan shows up next week dressed in black. That’s a sight to behold.

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 8, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 8, 1996
Green Bay, WI (taped 6/24/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

At the top of the show, figure-head on-screen WWF President Gorilla Monsoon announces an indefinite suspension has been levied against The Ultimate Warrior for his failure to appear at recent house shows. In reality, Vince McMahon had terminated Warrior’s contract and he was no longer employed. But, since RAW had been pre-taped, The Ultimate Warrior will appear tonight to wrestle Owen Hart as scheduled per Monsoon. The Internet was still relatively new so the WWF got away with airing the pre-taped match despite Warrior being fired in actuality one week prior. So cute. And so embarrassing in retrospect. Apparently, Warrior could have stuck around had he posted his “appearance bond” money, ensuring he will appear as advertised at future events. Warrior going AWOL/off the grid was more his priority. His estranged father had died around this time period and that sent him spiraling. Thus, Warrior’s 1996 return flames out.

“The King of Harts” Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: The Ultimate Warrior via DQ (8:50 shown) following outside interference by The British Bulldog. Lame but on June 24 when this match occurred, Warrior was at least in the plans for In Your House: International Incident or SummerSlam so having Camp Cornette take him out, capped by a Vaderbomb from Vader, Warrior being completely written off wasn’t etched in stone. Still, what a mess. Poor Owen, ever the soldier, bumps all over the ring as Warrior makes mincemeat of him, until Owen, after five minutes, is allowed to take over and elevate the match. The original commentary for the match is no doubt scrubbed as Vince and King talk in relative terms about The Warrior and his uncertain future. Also dubbed in from WWF Studios, is a taped bit with Ahmed Johnson and Shawn Michaels announcing they’ve found a new partner for IYH, as they’ll tell us shortly. Owen controls the match for a while before Warrior makes his comeback. Bulldog walks out to watch but he gets in the ring to prevent Owen from losing as referee Earl Hebner calls for a disqualification. The beat-down follows which apparently was to lead to Bulldog versus Warrior at SummerSlam but alas it was his last-ever WWF appearance as an in-ring competitor. His return never caught fire. Warrior was a name only. His brand was all he had. His desire had flamed out.
Rating: **1/4

Meanwhile, Shawn says their third man is on his way. Ahmed speaks gibberish. Their third man LOL.

Back “live,” Brian “Effin” Pillman tries to attack Savio Vega with his crutch upon Vega’s ring introduction but he’s held back. Vince once again tells us that Pillman is a ticking time bomb. Yet, Vince, himself, knowingly hired Pillman anyway. Go figure.

Savio Vega vs. Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/ Zebekiah)

Result/Analysis: Vega via pinfall (12:35 shown) following a spinning heel kick off an inadvertent Zebekiah trip up of Bradshaw. In actuality, a commercial break included, this match stretches north of the 15-minute mark. PPV length time for Bradshaw versus Vega, really? Man, was the WWF desperate to fill its airwaves? Vince speculates on just “who” Michaels’ and Ahmed’s partner will be even more here, thinking it could be the mighty Yokozuna or even Mr. Perfect. No and no. King, meanwhile, continues to rip off drunk jokes on Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Lawler held nothing back. To further speculate, is Who going to tag up with Shawn and Ahmed? You know Who? Jim Neidhart, Who! Ridiculous. Bradshaw and Vega wrestle a total snoozer and mess up a few spots. Zebekiah botches the finish so Vega has to improvise on the fly to end the match. To summarize, the match is OK but it’s far too long. Neither Bradshaw or Vega was in any demand at the time. Bradshaw, in fact, had just lost a match to jobber extraordinaire, Freddie Joe Floyd, on WWF SuperStars so his push had clearly stalled out. Even so, Bradshaw, with the help of Zebekiah, brandishes Vega after his loss. They’d warm up the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada crowd in a dark match before IYH a few weeks later. What a feud.
Rating: **

Dragging the announcement out further, Shawn and Ahmed stall for time to again tell us their tag-team partner is on his way. Meanwhile, over on WCW Monday Nitro LIVE on TNT, there’s this new group called the n.W.o. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Next week on RAW, however, Michaels is in action when he defends his WWF Championship against Billy Gunn, a future degenerate whom HBK calls “The Drugstore Cowboy.” LOL. Ahmed, yeah, he’s also on tap for another pre-taped episode with Bart Gunn his challenger for the Intercontinental Title. I won’t miss those bouts!

Vince shows highlights from weekend house show action. Missing in action: The Ultimate Warrior.

The British Bulldog & Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas] (w/ Hillbilly Jim)

Result/Analysis: The British Bulldog & Vader via pinfall (12:34 shown) when Bulldog pins Phineas after a powerslam. The fact The Godwinns were ever in a RAW main event does make for a good trivia question. Bulldog and Vader mostly dominate the fact with the live crowd completely dead. Cornette joins King and Vince for commentary so that alone entertains the television audience. Cornette belongs in the WWE Hall of Fame. It’s a crime he’s not. Camp Cornette caps their big night with a victory after taking out the outgoing Ultimate Warrior earlier in the night. There’s nothing to see here other than Cornette’s near apoplexy from The Godwinn’s near falls or just plain referee incompetence. I can’t believe this match was ever a RAW main event.
Rating: **1/2

Cornette is on a split camera with Shawn/Amed and he states Michaels and Johnson have no partner. They’re bluffing. Shawn and Ahmed then reveal Sycho Sid standing behind them. Sid cuts a promo on Cornette like he was just released from an insane asylum. Cornette loses his mind. Funny.

The Verdict: Sid offers more juice to the six-man tag-team main event at IYH than Warrior so there’s that. Nothing else of consequence resulted from this RAW. The WWF was stuck in quicksand and they needed a rope tossed their way and fast! Literally no one was watching the product.

WCW Bash at the Beach 1996

WCW Bash At The Beach 1996
July 7
Ocean Center – Daytona Beach, FL

The Hostile Takeover video package gets the PPV started. It’s set to the instrumentals of “Crazy” by Seal without the words. Seeing the snippets of the lead-up to this event gives one the goosebumps.

Announcers: Tony Schiavone, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

At the top of the broadcast Tony, Dusty and Bobby discuss the monumental Main Event to come as speculation continues to swirl on who the third man will be joining The Outsiders in the six-man tag-team match against Team WCW. Everyone in the back is talking but no one knows. Eric Bischoff’s whereabouts are also a mystery to begin the evening. Dusty wonders if he’s being held hostage? In the next three hours everyone will find out who the third man is. Bobby says, “Let’s go. Let’s get this over with.” Mike Tenay, wrestling insider, joins the team for the opening bout.

Psychosis vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.

Result/Analysis: Mysterio via pinfall (15:19) after countering Psychosis’ attempt at Splash Mountain into a hurricanrana/frankensteiner from off the top rope. The match was an instant classic and is technically one of the few flawless wrestling matches from start-to-finish that’s ever been seen. Mysterio’s legend came from here and his career just took off like a rocketship. Equally impressive is Psychosis, known to Mexico for his in-ring prowess, and to Mysterio, as their feud had been longstanding in AAA Wrestling. The moves seen here are ones only the professor himself, “Iron” Mike Tenay can properly call. No one had seen anything like this. Your jaw dropped as the match happened live and it will again when you watch it now. After a brief mat wrestling display at the beginning with submission holds the focus, Psychosis and Mysterio throw caution to the wind and electrify the crowd. By night’s end, everyone was talking about the big happening coming out of the Main Event, but lest we not forget how incredible this match is, even today, 25 years since. Psychosis initiates the 12+ minutes of insanity with a suicide tope dive onto Mysterio over the top rope that nearly crushes his neck. He follows that up with a guillotine leg drop, a move Bobby hadn’t heard of, yet Mysterio escapes defeat. A running clothesline sends Rey twirling but that nets a two count, also. With Rey on the apron laid-out, Psychosis comes at him only for Rey to catapult Psychosis into the ring post and follow up with a running hurricanrana onto the floor. Another rana has Mysterio getting a two count before Psychosis clotheslines Rey onto the ropes with the momentum carrying him out onto the floor. From there, Psychosis gets literally psycho and hits a flying seaton senton squarely onto Mysterio’s chest on the floor. OMG. Again Mysterio shows his resiliency though and he hits some springboard combinations, featuring a primo dropkick off the ring apron. Rey follows that up with a springboard asai moonsault which lands his knee into the security railing and the crowd realizes they’re witnessing two men who are experts at their craft. Rey tries a springboard rana off the top rope with Psychosis already back inside the ring but Psychosis counters it mid-air into a powerbomb. OMG again! The finish comes after that. Mysterio is flung into the corner hard and positioned on the top turnbuckle. Psychosis attempts Splash Mountain (a Razor’s Edge variation to create the issue of landing on ones neck) but Mysterio counters into rana and gets the pin. An absolute masterpiece. I can’t say one thing critical in my analysis. Mesmerizing.
Rating: *****

“Mean” Gene Okerlund interviews U.S. Heavyweight Champion Konan. Gene notes the confidence of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Konan pulls no punches and he makes no excuses. He promises to be ready for Flair, The Horsemen and the women. Konan says he’ll leave tonight with the belt. I hope not. Konan has been the most blah U.S. Champion in WCW history.

Carson City Silver Dollars Match:
Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via pinfall (8:54). The silver dollars hang in a sock strapped to a pole 20 feet high above the ring. Despite their attempts, neither Bubba or Tenta can reach the sock, let alone, scale the pole. Bubba has Hart do the retrieving for him once he has Tenta compromised but Tenta attacks Bubba and powerslams him unbeknownst to Hart. That allows Tenta to take the sock from Hart once he’s down the pole and knock Bubba out to win the match. The crowd backed Tenta to get his revenge so they cheer for the predictable finish. Bubba carries the match, choking and whipping Tenta with his leather belt, uses athletic tape to tie Tenta to the ropes, and actually does a few wrestling moves that stand out. I remembered this match being far worse than it is, which, I’d still classify as entertaining crap. The pole being as high as it was I’m sure was intentional so Hart would factor in. Given that Psychosis and Mysterio set the arena on fire, throwing this match on second, wasn’t going to kill the energy. The face, Tenta, wins to avenge the hair trimming and beard shaving Bubba had done to him over the previous month. As feuds go, however, this one was bad!
Rating: *

Tony, Dusty and Bobby again discuss the main event. Bischoff’s whereabouts remain unknown. No one knows who the third guy is and no one is talking. Tony, to his credit, and he did so cleverly for weeks, kept dropping subtle hints. His latest: “By ten o’clock Eastern Time tonight we will have found out, in the history of our sport, as we know it, for many, many years, may have changed.”

Okerlund interviews Team WCW. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Lex Luger are wearing face paint like Sting. They’d all been doing this for weeks. Savage tells Gene he doesn’t care who the third man is. That person will get hurt just like The Outsiders will and together they’ll all be taken out. Luger talks the talk and he’s ready to walk the walk representing WCW to the best of his ability. Sting mocks the unknown quantity of this hostile takeover and he’s confident WCW will prevail.

Taped Fist Match for The Lord of The Ring:
Diamond Dallas Page vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (5:41) following The Diamond Cutter. Duggan winning was far-fetched. He made for a good contrast to Page wrestling in a drunken stupor while he oversells everything. Page ties Duggan’s feet to the ring post early on which then allows him to cut off Duggan’s wrist tape with the referee freeing Hacksaw. That’s a smart strategy by Dallas. Duggan slugs back as Page falls all over himself. Pure comedy. Duggan chants USA and hoooooo’s like it’s 1988. Page is so winning the match rendering this exercise pointless. Sure enough, Duggan’s pursuit of DDP around the ring ends with him getting crotched into the ropes to blindly fall into The Diamond Cutter. Duggan tapes his fist post-match to knock out Dallas. What a sore loser. This is your typical filler match. Duggan wrestling on a PPV card in 1996 just felt wrong.
Rating: *1/2

Meanwhile, “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan, The Giant and Jimmy Hart are with Okerlund. Gene suggests Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit may strategize in the tag-team grudge match to keep Sullivan in the ring thinking he’s the weakest link. Sullivan scoffs at that notion. Daytona is his home turf, after all. The Giant affirms The Taskmaster isn’t the weak link as has been suggested but instead, he’s the backbone of The Dungeon of Doom. The Giant credits Sullivan for bringing him into WCW so he could restore his birthright and become the World Heavyweight Champion and end Hulk-A-Mania. The Giant says The Dungeon of Doom are elite. He’s the World Champion and always will be. He says, “The Horsemen will be horse stew when the night is through.”

Lee Marshall has Anderson and Benoit with him for their retort. AA speaks on The Outsiders first, though, and says if they’re lucky enough to survive tonight against Sting, Luger and Savage then maybe they can try The Horsemen on for size. Arn says he and Benoit will take care of Sullivan and chop The Giant in half. They’ll earn that World Title shot and bring the Championship back to where it belongs within The Four Horsemen. Benoit says he’s silent but violent and will leave Sullivan for dead. Well, um, no comment there. Once they win, and take back the World Title, The Four Horsemen will again reign supreme in WCW. Benoit does the slit throat motion to emphasize.

Four-Man Double Chain Dog Collar Tag-Team Match:
Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge] vs. Nasty Boys [Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags]

Result/Analysis: The Nasty Boys via pinfall (11:27) when Sags pins Rock. The Bash At The Beach, both literally and figuratively, is seen here. Both teams bring the plunder, and then some. The makeshift beach becomes the setting for most of the brawl. Sags is chained to Rock. Knobs is chained to Grunge. The guys fight until no one can stand. They make use of the beach paraphernalia, be it the sand, a surfboard, the lifeguard stand or a rubber shark to inflict harm. Tables, chairs and garbage cans are the plunder. It’s hard to critique an aimless fight so I won’t attempt to. If there’s ever a Hall of Fame wing for garbage tag teams, both Public Enemy and The Nasty Boys will be inducted. That’s all they were but they served a purpose even so. Listening to Tony, Dusty and Bobby call the match as they make up new words is as entertaining as the action itself. I didn’t hate this but it goes on for far too long. I’m not sure the feud ever really ended, either. Public Enemy puts Sags through a table after the match. That’s the only table that breaks. The crowd was ambivalent. I’d have rather seen Harlem Heat defend the Tag-Team Titles against The Steiner’s.
Rating: **

Okerlund is standing outside the locker room of The Outsiders protected by armed security personnel. He was hoping to speak with one of The Outsiders and get a gauge on their third man but that’s not to be the case. Gene threatens immediate legal action, however, if he’s at all touched. He emphasizes how everyone watching is part of history tonight for witnessing The Hostile Takeover Match. “The electricity is so thick, he says, you can literally cut it with a knife,” There we go!

WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
The Disco Inferno vs. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via submission (12:04) with the Texas Cloverleaf. Disco was all song and dance to this point in his young career until he stepped into the ring with Malenko, “The Iceman” and his perserverance, fight, and skill level shows. Malenko mostly kicks Disco’s ass and he shows a visciousness while dishing out the beating. Malenko’s greatness as an in-ring tactition is undeniable. You cant watch a match of his without coming away being really impressed. He’s purposeful in everything he does. Historically, Malenko is underappreciated for how great he was. Anyhow, for the purposes of this match, Dean focuses on every area of Disco that would wreck a man: legs, back and head. Dean hits a brain buster done to perfection. Disco kicks out, somehow. Next, a snapmare coupled with a dropkick to the head results in another two count. He works the STF to force a submission but it’s purely toying with Disco. Dean can beat Disco at any time and he’s making that clear here. Disco forges a comeback to give the fans a match, and well, because wrestling is scripted that’s a nice change of pace. Disco nearly pins Dean several times only he remembers who he is first and dances and/or checks his hair before making a cover. SMH. That’s a no-no against Malenko, son! I hadn’t seen a Rude Awakening in forever but Disco hits that. The swinging neckbreaker Dean kicks out of, with Disco wasting away precious seconds before covering. Still, Disco reverses Malenko’s initial attempt at the Texas Cloverleaf into a small package as he continues to battle. They trade clotheslines after that before Malenko grounds Disco with a double underhoook powerbomb. The end is near. The Texas Cloverleaf is slapped on successfully with the second try and Disco taps. Disco fought courageously but Malenko was on another level. Dean retains the Cruiserweight Championship in a match that’s far better than I’d have thought.
Rating: ***1/2

“The Desperado” Joe Gomez vs. Steve “Mongo” McMichael (w/ Debra)

Result/Analysis: McMichael via pinfall (6:46) following a tombstone piledriver. Who knew Mongo had a finishing move in him? Anyway, this was a fight broke out at Chicago Bears training camp on a hot summer day with McMichael initiating a rookie to the rigors and hard knocks off the NFL. Gomez had a puncher’s chance and that’s all. Mongo hadn’t yet had a singles match, at least one broadcast, and he’s naturally green in the ring. Without a moveset, McMichael wasn’t to be taken seriously in the ring yet he made for a good henchman in The Four Horsemen picking on underlings such as “The Desperado.” The match is on par with Bubba/Tenta and DDP/Duggan.
Rating: *1/4

Flair, flanked by Liz and Woman, gives a long-winded interview to “Mean” Gene. He talks trash to Konan ahead of their U.S. Title match and discusses having both that belt and the World Title by the end of tomorrow night on Nitro once AA and Benoit take care of The Taskmaster and The Giant. Naitch breaks out in tune since he’s in such a good mood, “La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha.” Gene, meanwhile, the lech he is, allows Woman to put the moves on him. She promises a private party to cap the evening. Gene’s intrigued. Liz intends to spend her extra money hosting the after-party.

WCW United States Heavyweight Championship:
Konnan (c) vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Woman & Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (15:50) after Woman hits Konnan with her high heel shoe. It’s the sixth and final U.S. Title reign for Flair in his career, and his first in nearly 16 years, with his previous title win coming over Greg Valentine in November 1980. Konnan controls most of the match with Flair wrestling in pure survival mode against someone that’s half his age. There’s HEAVY involvement from Woman, in particular, and Miss Elizabeth as the self-professed “Dirtiest Player In The Game” utilizes his harem to aid his cause. Flair respects Konnan given his pre-match handshake, as he somewhat breaks character. Konnan mixes in mat wrestling with higher impact moves to have Flair reeling both inside and outside the ring. Woman first involves herself by kicking Konnan square in his nuts as Flair had referee Nick Patrick distracted. That was beautiful! She got him good!!! Konnan had Flair in a bow-and-arrow submission hold in the early going and later, he slaps the figure-four on but Naitch makes it to the ropes. Flair bumps all over to make Konnan look like a worthy competitor and champion. Konnan had truthfully looked like total SHIT since arriving at WCW, and for sure, throughout his U.S. Title reign. In the end, with Liz distracting Patrick for an eternity, Woman knocks out Konnan with her size seven and Flair uses the ring ropes on the pin to get the three count. Heenan, of course, goes wild with delight. Thank God Konnan lost the belt.
Rating: **3/4

Meanwhile, Okerlund says he’s been eavesdropping outside the locker room of The Outsiders. Gene breaks the news that their third man is in fact inside with them. The voice of this man, Gebe says, is recognizable to yet the voice is muffled and he can’t make out who it is, though, it’s someone we’ve seen before and the voice he’s heard continues to ring in his sub-conscious. Heenan asks Gene to just bribe the police officers for the intel. LOL. Gene scoffs and says he’s not going there. The Hostile Takeover Match will soon be upon us.

Tag-Team Grudge Match:
* Should Anderson and Benoit win a member of The Four Horsemen will earn a World Heavyweight Championship Match versus The Giant on WCW Monday Nitro. *
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Crippler” Chris Benoit vs. “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan
& The Giant [WCW World Heavyweight Champion] (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: Sullivan & The Giant via pinfall (8:03) when The Giant pins Anderson following a chokeslam. The pre-match stipulation is nullified in a rare instance of reverse booking. The Horsemen completely corner off Sullivan in this match knowing full well that if it’s The Giant they must defeat they’re in a bind. That strategy nearly works. Mongo hits The Giant with the briefcase as the match begins in the aisle. The Giant chases after Mongo which leaves Sullivan at the mercy of AA and Benoit. That lasts a while despite The Giant’s efforts to prevent the loss. I catch myself dozing off as the battery of Sullivan continues. Arn gets Sullivan in position for a spike piledriver only Sullivan gets free and catapults AA into Benoit on the rooes. The Giant is tagged in and Arn is mincemeat. Benoit and Sullivan pair-off to continue their personal vendetta and their fighting winds up back at the broadcast position. The Giant chokeslams Arn for the pin while that’s going on. Benoit dives at Sullivan off the platform landing them in the sand. The Giant has departed victorious and Arn remains in the ring. Benoit takes Sullivan back to the ring to continue his assault. He’s really whipping him! Woman comes out, she of course, Sullivan’s real life spouse, to beg Benoit to back off. She screams, Chris stop! You’re going to hurt him.” The announcers don’t break kayfabe but introducing Nancy (Woman) to the feud, a feud involving her husband and future husband, was being rolled out. Had “bookerman” Sullivan not invented this sub plot, furthering introducing Nancy and Benoit, having them live their on-screen roles off-screen, who knows, the lives of all three likely turn out differently. But who could foresee any of what the future held? The Giant was getting a face reaction at this point so feuding with The Horsemen succeeded in that regard and had him positioned for his next challenger … a “Voodoo Child” I’d call him.
Rating: *1/2

Now, is the time. It’s without question the biggest match in WCW’s history. The Hostile Takeover attempt. Michael Buffer is here. “Are you ready? For the thousands in attendance here at ringside and the millions watching around the world on television, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!” Chills. Yes, I have chills!

The Hostile Takeover Match (2-on-3):
The Outsiders [Scott Hall & Kevin Nash] vs. Lex Luger, Sting & “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Result/Analysis: The Outsiders via pinfall (17:48 / though not official) with mystery partner Hulk Hogan pinning Savage after three leg drops. The single-most shocking heel turn in wrestling history coming from the biggest star, known the world over; the man that preached to little kids about saying your prayers and eating your vitamins … yeah, he spit it all back in their faces. Hogan’s heel turn to form the n.W.o., The New World Order, changed the trajectory of professional wrestling for the next two years and made watching wrestling on Monday Nights must-see TV. Hell, Monday Night Football mattered not. If you had a pulse, it was wrestling from 8–10 or beyond. The heel turn also saved Hogan’s career. It jumpstarted what had become a stale act. There’s just no denying Hulk-A-Mania had run its course. Go watch WCW from earlier in 1996 thru Uncensored in March and Hogan’s crowd reaction was lukewarm to the point of audible boos. WCW acted swiftly and with the mega signings of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, pillaging both from Vince McMahon and the arch rival WWF, WCW had the necessary evils, the components to make Hogan’s heel turn work and come off as truly epic. There was nearly two months lead time on this with Hall debuting in late May and Nash in early June. Hogan had been on sabattical since early April. WCW had teased his return in vignettes brilliantly. They kept his name fresh. Everyone speculated on who the third man would be. There’s no one that could find out or those that knew who gave it away. The aftermath of Hogan’s betrayal, since re-watching the match you know what’s to come, is what stands up a quarter of a century now later. His post-match comments to “Mean” Gene Okerlund as fans litter the ring with garbage thrown from every angle, is a sight out of The Twilight Zone. It’s all just gold. The match itself rates a **1/2, it’s purely The Outsiders whooping Sting, predominantly, while Savage stands on the apron in his deranged state. Luger is taken out of the match early from a Stinger Splash gone awry. That evened the odds at two men apiece and was really good booking for when Hogan walked out because who’s side was he on? Schiavone and Dusty, of course, think Heenan is nuts asking the question, but it plays itself out. The ***** nature of the entire PPV comes from the interview with Okerlund. Here’s the entirety of it:

Gene: “Hulk Hogan, excuse me, excuse me, what in the world are you thinking”?

Hogan: “Mean Gene, the first thing you need to do is to tell these people to SHUT UP if you wanna hear what I got to say!”

Gene: “I have been with you for so many years…for you to join up with these two men absolutely makes me sick! And I think that these people here and a lot of other people around the world have had just about enough of this man here [Hall] and this man here [Nash] and you want to put yourself with this group? You’ve gotta be…kidding me.”

Hogan: “The first thing you gotta realize, brother, is this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this the New World Order of wrestling, brother! These two men here came from a great big organziation up north, and everybody was wondering who the third man was, well who knows more about that organization than me, brother?”

Gene: “I’ve been there, I’ve done that…and you have made the wrong decision, in my opinion.”

Hogan: “Well lemme tell you something…I made that organization a monster…I made the people rich up there…and when it all came to pass, the name Hulk Hogan, the man Hulk Hogan, got bigger than the whole organization, brother. And then Billionaire Ted, he wanted to talk turkey with Hulk Hogan, amigo. Well, you know, Ted promised me movies, brother, Billionaire Ted promised me millions of dollars, Billionaire Ted promised me world calibar matches! Well, as far as Billionaire Ted goes, Eric Bischoff and the whole WCW goes, I’m bored, brother. That’s why these two guys here, the so-called Outsiders, these are the men that I want as my friends, they’re the new blood of professional wrestling, and not only are we gonna take over the wretling business with Hulk Hogan and new blood, the monsters with me, we will destroy everything in our path, Mean Gene.”

Gene: “Look at all the crap in this ring! That’s whats in the future for you if you want to hang around with this man Hall and this man Nash.”

Hogan: “As far as I’m concerned, all this crap in the ring represents these fans out here. For two years, brother, for two years I held my head high, I did everything for the charities, I did everything for the kids, and the reception I got when I came out here, you fans can STICK IT, brother, because if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan you people wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff would still be selling meat from a truck in Minneapolis. If it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, all thse Johnny come lately’s you see wrestling wouldn’t be here. I was selling out the world, brother, while they were bumming gas to put in their car to get to high school. So the way it is, with Hulk Hogan and the New World Organization of wrestling, brother, and the new blood by my side, whatcha gonna do when the New World Organization runs wild on you? WHATCHA GONNA DO?”

Tony Schiavone summarizes what we’ve withessed. He says, “All right, we have seen the end of Hulk-A-Mania. For Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, for Dusty Rhodes…I don’t know. I’m Tony Schiavone. Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell. We’re outta here. Straight to hell. [slams down headset].

The Verdict: July 7, 1996. It’s a date etched into the consciousness of everyone with a consciousness. Bash at the Beach was solid enough and had an instant classic at the top with Psychosis and Rey Mysterio. Flair won the U.S. Title. Other feuds continued. Hulk Hogan is the story. He always was the story when he was around. WCW had become #1 in the ratings war with the WWF based on the weakness of the WWF product more than anything creatively they had done … until here. Hogan as a monster heel, loathed the world over instead of beloved, opened up a pandora’s box of possibilities. The n.W.o. Their slogan became 4-Life. Even today, the n.W.o. is discussed, seen in t-shirts being worn for nostaglia purposes, and recognized as the pinnacle for WCW. I haven’t re-lived a lot of the n.W.o. era. I feel like I’m 15/16 years old again and Hogan going rogue, wreacking havoc with Hall and Nash, others joining the fold, is something I’m excited to watch unfold. WCW was headed for a vanilla year creatively before plans changed. Monday Night’s couldn’t come around soon enough.

WCW Bash at the Beach – July 1, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – July 1, 1996
Landover, MD

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

At the top of the broadcast, Tony and Larry discuss Bash at the Beach being just six days away as The Outsiders attempt at a hostile take over of WCW reaches its crescendo. DDP interrupts them because he’s lost his (Lord of the) ring and demands the entire arena to be strip searched until it’s found. LOL. Back to business, Tony and Larry review the end of Monday Nitro last week when The Outsiders interrupted the triangle match that resulted in Harlem Heat regaining the World Tag-Team Titles. Of course, no one knows still who their third guy but Larry sees into the future to predict a New World Order this Sunday. Oh, no! He didn’t just say that!!! It’s stunning he was allowed to. Tony says it’s rumored The Outsiders are at the arena tonight so perhaps everyone will finally find out the identity of who their third man is.

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott] vs. Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] (c)

Result/Analysis: Harlem Heat via pinfall (8:06 shown) when Booker pins Rick after outside interference from Col. Robert Parker. High-impact opening bout here with Scott and Booker carrying their respective teams. This match feels more like Harlem Heat regaining the Tag-Team Titles than the secondary nature to them winning the belts in the triangle match the week before did. In July 1996, The Steiner’s and Harlem Heat were the top tag-teams going – – – in any promotion – – – so a good match was going to result. With three guys going strong, even Stevie Ray couldn’t screw up enough to hurt the quality. The Steiner’s are teased the winners when Scott hits the frankensteiner on Ray, before he’s not the legal man, and therefore, can’t be the one to pin. Rick follows with a bulldog on Booker but when he and Scott try for a second one, Col. Parker whacks Rick with his walking stick. Booker gets dropped on his back by Scott as this happens but that puts him in position to pin Rick as Harlem Heat retains. The crowd was super hot for the match and both teams brought it. There’ll be more title matches to come. More importantly, Col. Parker, which likely signifies the return of Sister Sherri, too, has come into business with Harlem Heat. I approve.
Rating: ***

The Four Horsemen, and the ladies, are at their VIP table enjoying hors d’oeuvres and sipping champage. Competition awaits in an eight-man tag-team match in hour two, but first, “Mean” Gene Okerlund checks in. Debra speaks highly of Mongo like any wife should of her husband and admits she may be high-maintenance. Elizabeth is enjoying the evening as usual as it’s paid for with Randy’s money, and there’s plenty more of that lying around. Arn Anderson promises heads are going to roll with The Horsemen at full strength. AA says they run the professional wrestling world. Well, they do for six more days anyway. Benoit says he’s the man, “The Crippler, silent but violent. Mongo affirms his decision joining The Horsemen because you know, money makes the monkey dance. Flair, well, he’s is in a jubiliant mood at Macho’s expense. Wooo! Joe Gomez, The Renegade and The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express provide the opposition in the ring tonight. Heads will indeed roll.

Blood Runs Cold Promo. Glacier. He’s coming. Sometime before the new millenium.

The Disco Inferno vs. Kurasawa

Result/Analysis: The Disco Inferno via pinfall (3:45) after hitting Kurasawa in the back with the disco ball. Disco’s schtick hasn’t aged well, though, he was a comedy act and nothing more. Kurasawa dominates until Disco’s music hits and an Elvis Impersonator walks toward the ring. The disco ball drops down from the ceiling and with referee Randy Anderson distracted, Disco uses it on an equally distracted Kurasawa. Just bad. Disco challenges Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship at Bash at the Beach.
Rating: DUD

Scotty Riggs vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (5:42) following The Diamond Cutter. Riggs is the kind of wrestler who had a name but was above jobber status. That’s the perfect opponent for DDP to hone his skills on. Week-by-week Page was improving by leaps and bounds. He’s so old-school, he’d have been a perfect foil in the mid-1980’s with the way he cheats. I love it. Riggs gets in only a smidgen of offense here as Page does his dirty work. The Diamond Cutter was coming along as a finishing move, though, there had yet to be the proper set-up to it. Page mouths off to the camera after the match claiming his ring was stolen because no one could beat him for it. LOL. Okerlund speaks to DDP in the aisle and Page says it’s quite obvious that everyone in WCW is jealous of him. Gene asks Page about facing “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan in a Taped Fist Match at Bash at the Beach but DDP doesn’t care about that right now; he only cares about finding his ring, so he frisks Gene for it. Okerlund scoffs. Ha! Page was being booked expertly at this point.
Rating: **1/4

Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (5:17) following the flying elbow drop. Back from obscurity is Greg “The Hammer” Valentine to wrestle an old foe. I had visions of Savage defeating Valentine at WrestleMania IV in my head as I watched this, but I also had longings for Jimmy Hart in Valentine’s corner. Tony and Larry speculate Valentine could be “the third man” joining The Outsiders. Yeah, never. It’s a typical Savage match. He gets the short end but still manages to pull off the win. Valentine doesn’t fit on the roster but he looks decent here. I can think of worse talent employed. Savage pins Valentine at exactly the second hour marker so that timing was pre-planned.
Rating: *1/2

Hour #2:

Eric Bischoff is back alongside Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Bischoff addresses “Nash” personally saying he didn’t impress anybody by doing what he did. The Outsiders walk out within the crowd as ticket holders bringing with them popcorn and cokes and take front row seats at ringside. Nash tells WCW Head of Security Doug Dellinger they came to see “The Big Boys.” Heenan is concerned for his safety. Eric wants The Outsiders out of there but as paying customers, the U.S.A. being a free country, they’ll be allowed to stay.

Another Blood Runs Cold promo … “within each of us lies the fury of a Warrior.”

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
John Tenta vs. The Giant (c) (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (6:38) following a choke slam. The match is one-sided, and rightfully so, but it drags on for far too long! The Outsiders eat their entire popcorn bags as Eric and Bobby whine about not finding out who their third man is. The Giant pounds away, cornering Tenta, as Hart sounds off on the megaphone like he’s calling an Earthquake (Tenta) match from 1990. Funny. Tenta makes a spirited comeback, which succeeds in getting The Giant off his feet after an impressive standing dropkick. Impressive in that Tenta weighs 400+ pounds. Kevin Sullivan and Big Bubba come out to sidetrack Tenta, though, which allows The Giant the opening for the chokeslam of death as the ring shakes from the impact. Afterward, Bubba, having already shaved off half of Tenta’s head, shaves off half of his beard. Tenta, per Heenan, has been mounted, he’s been deep-fried and filleted. “That fish is over with.” Well, Bobby, he’s at least ready for Halloween early.
Rating: 3/4*

At Bash at the Beach, though, get ready because it’s Bubba versus Tenta in a “Carson City Silver Dollars On A Pole Match.” You read that right. The Carson City Silver Dollars On A Pole Match. WTF! The Giant tells Okerlund in the post-match interview, Tenta made the fatal mistake of leaving The Dungeon of Doom and paid for doing so with a choke slam. He’s the World Champion now and he always will be, calling his title reign a legacy. The Giant reminds Sullivan he told him never to trust a “horse.” Come Sunday, The Four Horsemen will leave Bash at the Beach as four geldings (castrated male horses) with The Dungeon of Doom standing alone as the elite force. Gene says the tag-team match will feature no disqualifications, no count-outs, and their must be a winner. Sullivan attempts to speak on Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit but he walks off without finishing his thought. As for The Outsiders, panning the camera back to them, they look unimpressed. Popcorn re-fill?

WCW Saturday Night Promo: The American Males vs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, DDP in singles competition, Chris Benoit wrestles The Cobra and Savage, Sting and Lex Luger prep for Bash at the Beach in a six-man tag-team match.

A Rey Mysterio Jr. video package is shown. Psicosis is Mysterio’s opponent at the PPV. The video, highlighting Mysterio’s match with Dean Malenko from The Great American Bash, is stopped when The Outsiders get a mic and start walking toward Bischoff. Security heads them off as Nash mocks Bischoff for the frequent flier miles he got for his last ride as Donny Osmond. Team WCW comes out in the aisle to back up Bischoff and Heenan. The rest of the locker room empties as well as Savage charges toward The Outsiders like a wild man. Bischoff says, “You don’t want none of this.” The Outsiders leave as Nash shouts “Attica, Attica, Attica.” Wild.

Duggan, meanwhile, tells Gene he found DDP’s ring while relieving himself on the toilet. Okerlund calls the ring “King of the Ring.” Duggan said he wears a man’s ring, however, so the feminine ring he found can’t be THE missing ring. Duggan promises to return it to DDP because he’s a good scout. The interview drags on before DDP barges in to call Duggan a thief. Duggan tosses the ring on the ground for DDP to pick up which has him taping his fist to sucker punch Page when Page stands back up. Old-School here. Bischoff clarifies afterward, for clarification, DDP had won “The Lord of the Ring.” Eric didn’t want another lawsuit pending from the WWF lol.

Eight-Man Tag-Team Match:
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express [Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson], Joe Gomez and Renegade
vs. The Four Horsemen [“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “The Crippler” Chris Benoit, “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & Steve “Mongo” McMichael] (w/ Woman, Miss Elizabeth, and Debra)

Result/Analysis: The Four Horsemen via submission (11:51) when Renegade submits to Flair while in the figure-four. Eight-Man tag matches are fun. The Rock ‘N’ Roll take turns beating up Flair and AA at the start of the match as The Horsemen are reeling. Desperado Joe Gomez tags in, so the tide turns as each Horsemen, most notably, Benoit makes him his bitch. Gomez takes a pounding at for a solid 7/8 minutes with Mongo getting his cup of coffee as he’s carried by the other three. Woman shrieking when Flair takes a shot or when he’s almost pinned is just classic. Arn hits a spinebuster on Gomez but Rock ‘N’ Roll break it up. After Gomez nearly pins Benoit and Flair despite being on the receiving end of further punishment, he eventually tags in Renegade. That leads to a rush of energy but things quickly get out of hand. Renegade goes to the rope for a flying whatever just as Mongo tosses the briefcase at him (and he misses completely!) allowing Flair to lock-in the figure-four for the tap out. The Horsemen taking individual turns to make Gomez their personal whipping boy is what’s to like from this match.
Rating: **1/2

“Mean” Gene interviews The Horsemen to wrap-up. Mongo responds to a question about his former head coach Mike Ditka saying he doesn’t care what Ditka thinks, or Chicago for that matter. The Horsemen are his team now and he’ll do whatever it takes, at every level. Arn seconds the fire Benoit is now illiciting, courtesy of Sullivan lighting his fire, and reaffirms his prior comments that heads are going to roll now that The Horsemen are at full strength. He says, “The body count starts now.” Flair puts Konan on notice for the PPV as he’ll be winning the U.S. Title one more time. Woooo! Woman puts the moves on Gene. Liz promises to keep spending Savage’s money with Debra enjoying the lavish lifestyle she’s not afforded. Classic.

Eric and Bobby discuss Bash at the Beach as the seconds wind down on the night. The Outsiders cause a further ruckus as they’re escorted to their getaway car.

The Verdict: The go home Nitro before the biggest PPV in WCW’s history gets the juices flowing. The third guy joining The Outsiders is still a mystery. Given the pay-off, that’s wise. The two other factions have strong nights. The Giant continues to dominate and stand front-and-center for The Dungeon of Doom. The Four Horsemen roughed it up on their opponents inside the ring and continued to do their talking outside the ring. DDP is coming on. Harlem Heat is back on top.

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 1, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – July 1, 1996
Green Bay, WI (taped 6/24/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Non-Title Match:
Marty Jannetty (w/ Leif Cassidy and James E. Cornette)
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels [WWF Champion] (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (14:58 shown) following Sweet Chin Music. Ahh, nostaglia. The original Rockers always had excellent matches in the years post their break-up and their latest – – – perhaps also their last? – – – bout is no different. Shawn knew Marty and Marty knew Shawn. Thus, this match, like there others, is your classic tit-for-tat, one-upmanship, I can do better than you can style of match that’s back-and-forth with the forgotten Jannetty hanging with the WWF Champion. Watch the match; you’ll be into it! Michaels’ win notwithstanding, why not dredge up the nostaglia to generate a good match? Marty is into it. Shawn is into it. Leif Cassidy, Cornette and Lothario hardly figure in, save for Cassidy helping Marty avoid the superkick early on. Jannetty frustrates Michaels somewhat yet Shawn is happy to trade moves in a match he’s going to win. RAW needed a good match for a change and Shawn, at least, motivated Marty to make it something to talked about. Marty hits the Rocker Dropper on Shawn but Michaels escapes defeat when Marty misses the fist drop off the top rope. That sequence followed a series of near falls that has the crowd going. Shawn hits a piledriver and a flying elbow drop before he finishes Marty off with Sweet Chin Music. The WWF Championship wasn’t at stake. If Michaels was winning anyway, then why not? The WWF blew it by not giving The New Rockers the Tag-Team Titles in 1996. The tag-team division was in ruins and unless copyright enfringement was at stake with the defunct AWA, Cornette could have become the full-time manager and The Midnight Rockers tag-team moniker could have/should have been brought back. Shawn and Marty broke into the pro wrestling consciousness together as The Midnight Rockers in the mid-1980’s in the AWA. Go check out those matches on Peacock! Cassidy eats Sweet Chin Music after the match while Lothario super socks Cornette with a punch. Shawn came to ring doing the Kliq Cam nonsense but his camera missed the end credits. Shucks. Vince continues to wet himself any time Michaels does his thing. No wonder Bret Hart went home.
Rating: ***1/2

Meanwhile on WWF SuperStars from the weekend, Sunny pours her heart out to Phineas Godwinn, calling him “baby,” as she tries to apologize for her recent double-cross which cost The Godwinns the Tag-Team Championship versus The Smoking Gunns. Sunny is merely deceiving Phineas’ low I.Q. once again and Phineas falls into the trap telling Sunny he loves her. Sunny has Phineas close his eyes and pucker up for a big kiss. Phineas obliges but he gets slapped instead. HaHa. Phineas cries as Sunny berates him for being an idiot. Sunny is showing plenty of her cleavage here. That poor Hillbilly Hog-Farmer! The Smoking Gunns attack at Sunny’s direction. Henry and Hillbilly Jim then come out to clear the ring. Sunny remains in the ring alone so she tries to flee. She’s met on her escape routes by Henry and Hillbilly. Cornered, Sunny gets on the ring steps as Phineas approaches her with the slop bucket. Phineas has second thoughts about slopping her but Sunny blows him a kiss which prompts him to slop Sunny after all much to the delight of the live crowd. The Godwinns wouldn’t get their return match with The Smoking Gunns for the Tag-Team Titles until SummerSlam as The Bodydonnas would receive a non-title match with The Gunns at IYH in July. The riveting Kloudi as the she-male Sunny manager replacement was just too hard to pass up.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts joins Vince and King for commentary now. Jake, Vince says, is to face Mankind at IYH. Only that match doesn’t happen. Anyway, here comes Mankind to wrestle Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. How is Droese not actually portraying his gimmick in real life yet?

Duke “The Dumpster” Droese vs. Mankind

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (4:17 shown) with the Mandible Claw. Droese hits a ni”spinbuster and works a sleeper hold but the match is otherwise a squash. On commentary, Lawler berates Jake the entire match about his past alocohol abuse as he spouts off every drunk joke he can think of to humiliate him. Jake and King get into a shouting match between Vince ending with King smacking Jake twice across the face! Jake retaliates with a choke, but Mankind comes over after he defeats Droese, to put the Mandible Claw on as King grinds his boot into Jake’s head. WWF officials help Jake to his feet as Lawler keeps badmouthing him about his drinking. King tells Jake he better hurry up or he’ll miss “last call.” This got personal really quick despite being on script. Of course, this altercation was just the start. They’d go one-on-one at SummerSlam.
Rating: 1/2*

Meanwhile, call the WWF SuperStar line – – – except you can’t because the phone number is no longer active – – – to find out why The Ultimate Warrior is in the doghouse. Well, in truth, Warrior had his contract terminated for missing house show appearances. Warrior claimed years later McMahon had breached his contract by selling his merchandise without giving him a percentage, though at the time, Warrior’s excuse, per Vince, was that he was grieving his father’s death. Vince disputed that reason as Warrior hadn’t seen his father in 10 years and he had no relationship with him. Warrior’s merchandise claim seems far more plausible. The agreement between Warrior and Vince was doomed to fail from the start in this ill-fated comeback. With RAW pre-taped, Warrior wrestles next week on the 7/8/96 broadcast even though he was terminated 9 days earlier. Embarrassing.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin joins Vince and King for commentary. Goldust and “Wildman” Marc Mero is tonight’s capper. Austin and Mero are signed for IYH; a return match from King of the Ring. Goldust will again face The Undertaker. Last week, Goldust furthered that along by throwing glitter in Taker’s eyes during Austin’s match with The Phenom. Austin freshened up quick here since his match with The Undertaker in actuality, was an hour beforehand. These pre-taped RAW’s smh …

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (12:23 shown) following The Curtain Call. There’s no heat whatsoever between Mero and Goldust yet, though Marlena eyeing Sable starts here for the planned lesbian love angle that ultimately got nixed. Pre-Attitude Era juiciness that we were robbed of! It’s a decent match as Mero loses a second straight decision after being undefeated in the WWF prior to King of the Ring. Austin jaws with Vince about how he’s now beaten everyone in the Federation by winning King of the Ring save for Davey Boy Smith and Shawn Michaels who weren’t in the tournament. Austin also doesn’t take kindly to Vince putting over other SuperStars as an announcer and he tells him so. That’s just so great. Mero and Goldust take turns being in control and swap near falls. The crowd is dead after Michaels’ win over Jannetty so that’s what these long TV tapings do. Marlena puffs cigar smoke in Sable’s face after she encroaches on her space. Mero has the match won but he gets naturally distracted. Goldust recovers from taking a running knee lift to catch Mero with The Curtain Call to win the match. Austin revels in Mero’s defeat.
Rating: **1/4

Next week, The British Bulldog and Vader square off with The Godwinn’s. Also, The Ultimate Warrior, who’s already onto his future endeavors, goes one-on-one with Owen Hart.

The Verdict: Michaels and Jannetty close the book on their rivalry with a good match. They always produced against each post-Rockers. The remainder of the show offers little. Sunny gets slopped but everyone had seen that transpire two days earlier. Mankind will wrestle Henry Godwinn at IYH with Jake “The Snake” Roberts unable to go, which renders Jake and Mankind’s bit a meaningless exercise. Lawler’s wise cracks about Jake’s alcoholism are really funny on the surface but were quite low if you think about it. Goldust was to feud with Mero long-term as Marlena and Sable had a side piece lesbian thing but that wasn’t ultimately seen through. Damnit Vince for chickening out! The product was in disarray with IYH: International Incident being changed weekly on the fly.

WCW Monday Nitro – June 24, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – June 24, 1996
Charlotte, NC

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Tony Schiavone & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry start Nitro by showing the footage again from The Great American Bash with Eric Bischoff attacked by The Outsiders after WAR had been accepted by WCW for Bash at the Beach. Seeing Bischoff powerbombed off the stage never gets old.

Meanwhile, standing by with “Mean” Gene Okerlund is the WCW team for Bash at the Beach: “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Total Package” Lex Luger and Sting. Silliness abounds as both Luger and Savage are wearing face paint along with Sting … it’s war paint, I presume. Savage talks up a united front but says they’ll divide and conquer tonight. Macho exits after invoking “Mongo” McMichael so they’re probably having a match. Sting is fired up for Bash at the Beach but asks what’s the deal about The Outsiders not naming their tag-team partner. He sounds completely whiny. Luger also tows the company line to echo Savage’s call for solidarity. The Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat interrupt the interview to spout off over tonight’s triangle match as Luger and Sting defend the tag-team titles and hopefully drop the belts.

The Blue Bloods [“Lord” Steven Regal & “Squire” David Taylor] (w/ “Earl Robert Eaton)
vs. Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge]

Result/Analysis: Public Enemy via pinfall (5:50) when Grunge pins Taylor after hitting him with the cast on his wrist. Utterly stupid. I never understood the fascination with Public Enemy or why they were pushed. Pure garbage is what they were as the screw-ups in this match attest to. Regal fights Sting at The Great American Bash in an upper card match … granted he lost … and one week later is jerking the curtain teaming with The Squire as The Blue Bloods flounder. His Lordship was so misused and a career re-set in the WWF a lot sooner for him could have led to so many great years. And get this, since the match completely sucks meaning I bypass discussing the details, Public Enemy will again have a PPV encounter versus The Nasty Boys. This time WCW thought up a “Double Dog Collar Chain” stipulation. Their feud was neverending, tiresome and tedious.
Rating: DUD

Harlem Heat want the tag-team titles back, SUCKA! Those comments air prior to a commercial.

Kip Abee vs. “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: Abee via DQ (time unknown) after Sullivan took upon himself to take Abee, enhancement talent by hire, out of the ring, through the crowd and into the concessions area reminiscent of his Falls Count Anywhere Match with Chris Benoit from The Great American Bash. Utterly stupid booking #2 on the night. Afterward, Sullivan returns to the ring to speak with Okerlund with anti-Horsemen rhetoric on his mind. Nitro is in Charlotte so it’s Horsemen Country all the way as Sullivan gets booed. Coming up at Bash at the Beach, Sullivan teams with The Giant against Arn Anderson and Benoit. If The Horsemen win, any member gets a World Title shot versus The Giant. Sullivan promises that won’t happen with an evil laugh thrown in. Gene notes how Sullivan is a sick individual.
Rating: N/A

Blood Runs Cold promo #1,000. Glacier is coming in July. No he isn’t.

Non-Title Match:
“Hardwork” Bobby Walker vs. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko [Cruiserweight Champion]

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (4:59) with a northern lights suplex. The match is non-title and rightfully so as Walker hardly earned a shot at the belt. The Disco Inferno is getting a title shot, however, coming up at the PPV, and he interrupts here just as the boring chants break out from the restless fans to dance IN THE RING during the match! Only in WCW, folks. Malenko and Walker keep on wrestling as this ridiculousness goes on but Walker is too perturbed and he stumbles into Disco dancing on the ropes allowing Malenko to finish him off. Malenko tried but just terrible booking he couldn’t overcome. They say hard work pays off … unless your Bobby Walker. That guy had no future in the business. Disco interrupts Malenko’s post-match interview with Okerlund to spout off about his shake your booty tour. So dumb. Malenko rebuffs that while he is the man of one thousand holds, it will only one take one to beat Disco at Bash at the Beach. Odd pairing. WCW was still throwing darts at the way for their matchmaking. There’s no interest in that match. NONE.
Rating: 3/4*

The Barbarian vs. Eddie Guerrero

Result/Analysis: Guerrero via pinfall (5:38) after reversing a Barbarian superplex attempt mid-air. The contrast in wrestling styles of these two men make you scratch your head and ask why are we seeing this match? No clue. I will say The Barbarian was looking somewhat impressive at this point in his career but I still preferred him tagging with Meng as The Faces of Fear. Eddie was still establishing himself as a would-be player and he had mastered the art of bumping excessively. The Barbarian controls the match and surprisingly gets a lot of crowd support. Eddie sells the heck out of the move but The Barbarian’s overhead suplex from the top rope looks viscious. Guerrero gets the win which logically makes sense. WCW had plans for him but it would be a while longer. Eddie was in the wrong promotion at this point in his career to be honest. He belonged up North. I’m thinking Marc Mero as an adversary. Gene catches up with Guerrero after the match to gauge his feelings on the U.S. Title match with Konan three months back at Uncensored. Really now? Eddie is humble about how that championship opportunity turned out but thinks he deserves another shot.
Rating: *1/2

Hour Two:

“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Crippler” Chris Benoit (w/ Steve “Mongo” McMichael)
vs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express [Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson]

Result/Analysis: Anderson and Benoit via pinfall (6:04) when Benoit pins Gibson after Mongo hits him with the halliburton briefcase. This is the logical booking, of course. Tony and Bobby pontificate about Bash at the Beach throughout most of the match so given that, you knew you weren’t going to see a throwback classic from years gone by. Rock ‘N’ Roll look OK but if not wrestling The Horsemen in these tag-team bouts, what really is their usefulness to WCW? I can’t think of anything else. Charlotte, NC is Flair country which makes it The Horsemen’s home base, too, as AA and Benoit are cheered for. Mongo does the dirty work here to further cement his burgeoning Horsemen impact. After the match, Mr. Desperado himself, Joe Gomez, hits the ring to aid Rock ‘N’ Roll. Gomez is immediately met by the briefcase for his troubles and he’s slapped around by Mongo for being a punk that stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong. Good. Mongo and Gomez will square off at Bash at the Beach. That’s must-see! Savage and Kevin Greene run out to force The Horsemen to flee the ring. Greene, I’m sure, will have interview time before Nitro ends tonight.
Rating: *3/4

Meanwhile, in a secure location backstage and under guard of security to protect from Savage, Flair and the girls celebrate the win as Gene does his weekly Horsemen interview spot. AA, Benoit and Mongo soon join and it’s more of the same. Woooo! Flair, it’s announced, will challenge Konan for the U.S. Heavyweight Title at Bash at the Beach. Konan has been a total DUD as champion.

Tony and Bobby kill time discussing The Outsiders and Bash at the Beach. Heenan smartly points out The Outsiders have the advantage because WCW doesn’t know who their third guy is. Tony thinks WCW has the advantage because they want to win badly. LOL.

Lord of the Ring Match:
“Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (4:12) following the Diamond Cutter. It’s your standard Page match circa 1996 as he oversells and overembellishes damn near everything. Wright carries Dallas in the ring but the circus-like behavior of Page all together keeps you zoned in. The match is short with Wright trying to do too much thereby allowing DDP the opening he needs for the Diamond Cutter. I don’t understand the logic behind DDP putting his Battle Bowl-won Lord of the Ring up each week. I guess it was WCW legitimizing the accomplishment? Page will again put the ring at stake at Bash at the Beach when he goes one-on-one with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan in a “Taped Fist Match.” Yes, I’m serious. WCW certaintly had all manners of match types in their day and even their middling talent get PPV time. Afterward, Okerlund catches with DDP in the ring. Page has a great line as he says, “If I get the Diamond Cutter on anyone they have the life expectancy of a house fly.” LOL. Dallas is perturbed he’s been placed against Duggan in a Taped Fists Match. He believes it’s a conspiracy among the promotors to hold him down. Well, he did get his World Title Match stripped after Slamboree so I side with DDP here. If Duggan becomes Lord of the Ring it will be a travesty.
Rating: *1/2

As Nitro heads to its next commercial break, Savage cuts a promo stating he’s NOT “The Nacho Man” just “The Macho Man” and only he is taking over WCW. Savage is up next. Ooh Yeah!

“In each of us burns the fury of a warrior.” Blood Runs Cold: Glacier

Kevin Greene is with Okerlund following the break. Greene promises payback for Mongo McMichael only first he’s got an NFL season ahead of him and The Carolina Panthers are going to surprise some people. Well, they would reach the NFC Championship Game. After the season, however, Greene says he’s going “Mongo Hunting” and himself, Macho Man and two other super powers from WCW will get their revenge (on The Four Horsemen).

V.K. Wallstreet vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/ Kevin Greene)

Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (4:37) following the flying elbow drop. Tony and Bobby ignore the match to discuss Bash at the Beach and The Hostile Takeover. Tony knew the deal so his job as lead announcer was increase the PPV buy rate.,There’s little to talk about for Savage and Wallstreet. It’s also completely random Kevin Greene is at ringside, though he does post Wallstreet for a cheap pop. Savage is calmer than his usual self. Truly nothing of note happens before Savage wins. If any wrestler looked worse wearing face paint than Savage, except Luger, who wrestles next, find him.
Rating: 3/4*

Triangle Match for the WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]
vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger – World Television Champion (c)

Result/Analysis: Harlem Heat via pinfall (9:20 shown) when Booker T. rolls up Luger. The pin happens while The Outsiders appear from the crowd wielding baseball bats with Sting and The Steiner’s turning to face them as local law enforcement joins them in the ring for dramatic effect. After a six month reign, the tag titles are lost by Sting and Luger yet there’s zero care by the former champions or any reaction to Harlem Heat winning the belts – – – by anyone – – – as everything is fixated on The Outsiders with aluminum baseball bats and them being held at bay. WCW really played up the heightened security for Kevin Nash and Scott Hall during the lead-up to Bash at the Beach. It’s one of the reasons The Hostile Takeover became everything to their programming. Viewers tuned into Monday Nitro just to see the next chapter in the angle. Even a tag-team titles switch, normally the lead story, is completely buried. All personnel, the wrestlers of WCW most importantly, we’re all-in to accomplish something so huge that it would be talked about forever.
You can’t even watch this match and not think The Outsiders won’t intervene. They were the story, nothing that happens in the match is.
Rating: *1/2

The Verdict: The wrestling on this night was blah. None of the matches hit the mark. The star of Nitro was Tony Schiavone on the television broadcast. Schiavone wouldn’t stop promoting or discussing Bash at the Beach on July 7 as a PPV you didn’t want to miss. He says over-and-over again that professional wrestling would change forever. He wasn’t kidding. The best angle WCW pulled off or ANY wrestling promotion pulled off, was nearing its day. No wrestling fan with a pulse missed WCW programming. July 7th had a countdown to it like WrestleMania’s from the Golden Age for the WWF. Even if you couldn’t watch the PPV, you found a way to get the results ASAP.

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 24, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 24, 1996
Green Bay, WI

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Non-Title Match:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Ahmed Johnson [WWF Intercontinental Champion]

Result/Analysis: Johnson via pinfall (10:27 shown) following the Pearl River Plunge. Hunter continues jobbing as his punishment continues. Ahmed goes over clean the night after he became the Intercontinental Champion. Goldust, who’s interviewed during the match, says he will request a rematch with Ahmed but next time, he won’t again make the mistake of saving Ahmed’s life. This is a standard Ahmed match. He starts off hot, the heel takes control, and Ahmed makes his comeback to win. HHH does the heavy lifting and takes bumps to elevate Ahmed’s offensive prowess. Afterward, Dok Hendrix interviews Ahmed (who calls Dok “Michael”) and informs him he’s the first-ever African-American Intercontinental Champion in WWF history. That’s true. Pedro Morales is of Puerto Rican descent and can’t be classified as African-American. Ahmed appreciates the noteworthiness aspect of his accomplishment but says he’ll be a champion for ALL people as he represents people of all races and backgrounds. There were just such high hopes for Ahmed … It’s funny, the wrestler with a Hall of Fame career (HHH) was nothing more than a piss ant here.
Rating: **

A King of the Ring highlights package is shown. It was a very good (surprisingly) PPV! Check it out on PEACOCK, the exclusive home of The WWE Network or track down a bootleg copy for free.

Sunny joins King and Vince for commentary as The Bodydonnas compete in tag-team action. Vince announces The Bodydonnas will wrestle The Smoking Gunns at In Your House in a non-title match. Sunny is asked why is it a non-title match? She says The Bodydonnas can have the match but they have to prove they’re worthy of a title shot. All decisions go thru her after all. That’s not the only thing that does …

The Brooklyn Brawler & Jerry Fox vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] (w/ Kloudy)

Result/Analysis: The Bodydonnas via pinfall (3:58) when Zip pins Fox following a cannonball splash from the top rope. There’s nothing to see here. Kloudy, the he-she manager is grotesque. Fans were supposed to be backing The Bodydonnas following Sunny’s betrayal but she was the reason they received any attention before as heels. There are no words to describe the stupidity. Kloudy chases Sunny away following the match so there’s at least some bouncing going on. There’s that.
Rating: 1/2*

Next week, Marty Jannetty will wrestle Shawn Michaels in a non-title match as the former Rockers new their rivalry. Vince recaps their history, most of it ancient history by 1996. Yawn.

Meanwhile, Kloudy creeps out Lawler by her presence so he hops the railing to flee. Commercial.

Six-Man Tag-Team Match:
Savio Vega, “The Portuguese Man o’ War” Aldo Montoya & Barry Horowitz
vs. The British Bulldog, “The King of Harts” Owen Hart & Vader (w/ Diana and Jim Cornette]

Result/Analysis: Camp Cornette via submission (4:19) when Montoya taps out to the sharpshooter applied by Owen Hart. It’s a glorified squash of three stiffs and nothing more. Camp Cornette readies itself for the six-man tag-team Main Event at IYH: International Incident. Michaels, Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior will be the babyface trio.
Rating: *1/4

The King of the Ring highlights get a second go-around as this show stalls.

Brian Effin Pillman hobbles out on crutches. The Loose Cannon is on commentary for the Main Event? Meanwhile, “Unleash The Warrior Inside of You” … a stupid Warrior promo airs.

Pillman confronts Vince about getting paid. He wants his effin money already. Hysterical

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via DQ (11:17 shown) due to outside interference by Goldust. This would be the first match between Austin and The Undertaker so there’s a footnote to that. Goldust will again face The Undertaker at an IYH PPV so that explains his involvement. The match here is long, boring and generally pointless. The spotlight was on Paul Bearer and what happened at King of the Ring involving Mankind and Bearer costing The Undertaker to lose when the urn hit him. Austin 3:16 is put on ice for the night. He’s just the guy opposite The Undertaker while Lawler attempts to procure an explanation from Bearer with nothing significant happening in the match. Goldust doing the bidding for Mankind at least was an interesting wrinkle, I suppose. Bearer’s heel turn is forthcoming so there’s that development.
Rating: *

The Verdict: So much for the momentum off a solid King of the Ring PPV as RAW follows up with a complete DUD. IYH: International Incident appears like it will be an international disgrace. Summer had just begun but the WWF was in for a cruel one. Hey, I like Bananarama so laugh at me.

WWF King of the Ring 1996

WWF King of the Ring 1996
June 23
The MECCA Arena – Milwaukee, WI

Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and “The King of Harts” Owen Hart

Semi-Final Match in the King of the Ring Tournament:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w-Sable)

Result/Analysis: Austin via pinfall (16:50) following the Stone Cold Stunner. Mero loses his first match in the WWF in a borderline classic! Austin’s big night is underway, though he exits the match with a bloody mouth courtesy of a jawbreaker on Mero gone awry. JR calls Austin’s approach to attacking Mero calculated and methodical. It sure is that. Austin’s prime years to come would overshadow how technically sound a worker he was as this bout with Mero showcases. It also helped that Austin and Mero had a previous history with each other, wrestling many times in WCW. Mero mixes in his aerial high-flying, high-risk maneuveurs around Austin beating the literal snot out of him with a particular psychological focus on Mero’s lower back. Austin first attacks Mero’s back outside the ring slamming him onto the exposed concrete with the padding pulled up. From there, Austin works the lower back with various blows before settling in on a Boston Crab twice over. Mero hangs in long enough to make his comeback after Austin becomes bloodied from his mouth off the jawbreaker. Mero gets Austin reeling and nearly defeats him with inventive cradle pin attempts and a frankensteiner executed to perfection as Austin is in a seated position on the top turnbuckle. The crowd really gets into the match as it goes along and Austin’s support is noticeable for the first time. Austin gets Mero up for what appears to be a powerbomb but he instead tosses Mero over his shoulders and onto the ropes in a stun gun variation. That gets Austin a two count. Instead of messing around further, Austin hits the stunner and Mero sells the move in agony. 1-2-3! Austin wins!!! Having JR on the call makes the match feel extra special as you associate him with Austin’s career. Owen’s commentary is full of levity but also expertise. He’d have made a brilliant color analyst. No joke. This is a very good match to begin the PPV.
Rating: ****

Meanwhile, the sentimental favorite amongst the fans anyway, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, delivers pre-match comments to handsome Dox Hendrix. Jake speaks in biblical proverbs to motivate himself. He has to defeat the 450-pound mastodon Vader to advance to the finals versus Austin.

Semi-Final Match in the King of the Ring Tournament:
Vader (w-James E. Cornette) vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: Roberts via DQ (3:29). Vader shoves referee Mike Chioda down as Jake simultaneously goes for the DDT and Chioda disqualifies Vader. SMH. Jake advances to the KOR finals. The match is entirely Vader controlled with Jake unable to muster any offense. Jake winning clean wasn’t a possibility going in but him going over to face Austin was bound to happen. Vader is incensed at being disqualified so he ambushes Jake after the match with corner splashes and damages Jake’s ribs with a Vaderbomb to leave him laid out and assisted backstage by WWF personnel. Jake should be slim pickings for Stone Cold later on. Vader’s push needs a re-boot.
Rating: 1/2*

Dok Hendrix has Sunny and The Smoking Gunns pulled aside prior to their Tag-Team Titles defense against The Godwinns. Sunny is humiliated and weirded out by Cloudi, the new manager of The Bodydonnas, who’s a he dressed as a she to model Sunny. Turning to The Godwinns, Sunny says Phineas won’t be able to concentrate tonight given what she’s wearing (a brand new cowgirl outfit). Billy Gunn tries to back up Sunny’s displayed confidence but he trips all over his words. Well this match ought to suck! It would be a while before the WWF Tag-Team Titles had any legitimacy.

WWF Tag-Team Championship:
The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas] (w-Hillbilly Jim) vs. The Smoking Gunns [Billy & Bart] (c) (w-Sunny)

Result/Analysis: The Smoking Gunns via pinfall (10:12) when Billy pins Phineas. Seeing Billy and Bart as heels took getting used to. Bart was shitty in the ring and he wasn’t naturally a dick-head like Billy to pull it off. To that end, The Gunns are more aggressive as Owen astutely points out on commentary. Henry is face in peril for the bulk of the match leaving Phineas on the apron gawking at Sunny. Owen credits Henry for being the smarter Godwinn and calls Phineas an imbecile. Did I mention how great Owen is as an announcer? His snark analysis allows this heatless match able to be watched to its conclusion. Phineas eventually gets the hot tag. The crowd anticipates the end. Thank God. Billy and Phineas are legal but Bart and Henry make it a pier-six brawl. That only allows for referee confusion and a quick ending as Bart hits Phineas with his boot allowing Billy to get the pin. The Godwinns go all sore afterward as Owen points out their poor sportsmanship. A Sunny chant breaks out at ringside as The Gunns stagger away still the champs. Sunny flaunts the belts.
Rating: ** (mostly thanks to Owen)

Backstage, Dok Hendrix is with The British Bulldog, Diana, Cornette, and Clarence Mason. Cornette is busting with confidence that tonight Shawn Michaels’ first class ride as WWF Champion will end. After all, there won’t be any wishy washy referee this time. Mr. Perfect, tonight’s special referee, walks in to finish getting himself dressed. Yeah, Perfect seems like he’s on the up and up. With Diana gleeing looking on behind him, The Bulldog tells us he’s going to join the triple-header club tonight when he becomes the WWF Champion, reminding everyone he previously was an Intercontinental and Tag-Team Champion.

Jerry “The King” Lawler is introduced for his match with The Ultimate Warrior. King stops by the stage to inspect the throne, crown, robe and sceptor. He’s been there and done that. Ha! King insults the people of Milwaukee and calls them losers just like the Brewers, the city’s baseball team. He says the team’s name, Brewers, says it all. They’re drunk! The insults continue as King walks to the ring as he points out the fat guys who get soused up to then find entertainment seeing the farm animals. LOL. Even the kids take on the verbal abuse. Wow … that’s going low! An unkept, unattractive overweight blonde takes the brunt of another Lawler crack as he says she’s at least off the streets asserting the strip club is closed tonight. OMG. Yet, it gets better as two teenage girls are insulted for their facial appearance with King telling them it’s their kind that turn other men into people like Goldust. Unreal. Lawler finally makes it to the ring and says the crowd is full of pathetic losers who don’t deserve to see royalty and that they should all be down on their hands and knees kissing his royal feet. King finishes his tirade on The Warrior. He says Warrior has overstayed his welcome. King references the painting he made as a peace offering but which he framed on The Warrior after being insulted. King promises to hang his framed painting tonight (The Warrior in actuality) just like a Picasso Painting. HaHaHaHa! Cue The Warrior’s music!!!

Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: The Ultimate Warrior via pinfall (3:51) following a flying shoulder tackle. No gorilla press slam. No flying body press. Warrior’s offense consists of three clotheslines and the flying shoulder tackle and that’s after he completely no-sells the piledriver, Lawler’s finishing move. The King uses every dirty trick in the book for three minutes to draw the ire of the crowd and control the match-up. He first uses the sceptor as a weapon and choking device. Next it’s the tape on his wrist he pulls off which is used for more choking. Of course Lawler uses an illegal foreign object from out of his tights, too. The King makes this match, though it’s nothing more than a side show. Warrior’s crowd reaction was meager in comparison to the old days. It’s sad Warrior was using the WWF for money and Vince was utilizing him as a ratings grab when he could no longer draw. Time filler match. The King’s long-winded pre-match dissing of the crowd provides the entertainment fix here.
Warrior celebrates with the fans but he’s got a check to cash and a plane to catch so it’s brief.
Rating: 1/2*

WWF President Gorilla Monsoon is with Dok Hendrix as Jake “The Snake” Roberts is getting his ribs taped. Gorilla says he’ll allow Jake to compete in the KOR finals because only Jake knows how badly he’s hurt, and with Jake being 41 years old, quite frankly, how many more chances is he going to have at a major accomplishment. Still, Gorilla says he’ll be watching closely and if he has to stop the match to protect Jake then he will. Owen gives Jake credit for wanting to wrestle but he calls him stupid given he’s 88 or 90 years old. Owen says this with a straight face. I loved that man!

Mankind vs. The Undertaker (w-Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (18:20) with the mandible claw after Bearer inadvertently, or so it seems, strikes The Undertaker with the urn. Mankind had accosted the urn to use on The Undertaker but Bearer wrestles it away from his clutches. The Undertaker goes to throw Mankind into the corner but Mankind reverses the exchange and Bearer hits The Undertaker squarely. Mankind applies the mandible claw and The Undertaker passes out. I call this a pre-Attitude Era match as the bending of the rules and the allowance of extra-curricular strategy is allowed, in alot of ways, for the first time. Mankind isn’t just a deranged or mentally disturbed individual here, but he’s more resemblant of a hyena tearing into his prey or the wounded animal that can’t be killed which squeals on repeat. The first-ever match between these two sets the tone for the countless battles to come. No one before Mankind had ever taken The Undertaker to the max and stayed on the attack as much. Despite the long, slow and tedious pace, Mick Foley, as Mankind, completely sells his gimmick in a big spot, and, after he toiled around fighting lackluster competition for 2+ years, save for a brief feud with Diesel prior to, The Undertaker finally met his equal in the ring in terms of ability, playing a character to perfection, and crafting a larger narrative beyond a match.
Rating: ***

Dok Hendrix questions Mr. Perfect about officiating tonight’s WWF Title match. Michaels interrupts to give Perfect his two cents wanting the match called fair and square. Perfect says he’ll call the match right down the middle but questions Dok, once Michaels walks away, if Shawn seems nervous to him. Perfect says he’d be nervous facing The British Bulldog.

WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Goldust (c) (w-Marlena) vs. Ahmed Johnson

Result/Analysis: Johnson via pinfall (15:35) following the Pearl River Plunge. Ahmed wins the Inercontinental Championship on his very first try and at the height of his career popularity. Vince McMahon always had a great feel for when to capitalize on the stardom of his talent and this was the time to go with the hot guy. Ahmed would prove to be a flash in the pan over his career though Goldust being Goldust helps his cause here. The match resulted after Goldust on his own accord gave Ahmed mouth-to-mouth on RAW after Ahmed had been rendered unconscious from Owen Hart’s cast during a match with Vader. Ahmed went beserk afterward and Goldust continued his mind games and his proclivity for “chocolate” leading into the PPV. Ahmed attacks Goldust upon his introduction and Goldust is on the defensive for the first 2/3 minutes. Goldust uses the ring steps to ground Ahmed and take over. He uses wear down holds as the pace really stalls out after the frenzied start by Ahmed. Goldust plays mind games and more then once he fondles Ahmed as Owen is even put off by the histrionics yet he still sides with Goldust as the heel voice on commentary. Goldust works a sleeper hold and that puts Ahmed out cold on the mat. Goldust chooses against pinning Ahmed, however, instead deciding to rekindle his passions and again resuscitate him with mouth-to-mouth. After two lengthy go arounds, Ahmed comes alive and he snaps. Goldust takes a spinebuster. The crowd anticipates the title change. The Pearl River Plunge follows and Ahmed is legitimized as an upper-echelon babyface by capturing the IC Title. Goldust, meanwhile, would have a lesser role going forward as the character transformed for Dustin Rhodes.
Rating: **1/2

In Your House 9: International Incident is the WWF’s July pay-per-view offering and a cheezy promo airs. Vancouver, British Columbia is the host city in Western Canada.

Ahmed celebrates his title victory in the good guys locker room. Michaels is there to hug Johnson.

The newly signed Brian Pillman hobbles to ringside on crutches as he still recovers from the automobile accident which nearly took his life. Pillman is in full character here as he turns to insult the fans as he makes his way over to JR for an interview. Prepare for The Loose Cannon and fasten your seat belts. Pillman asks JR how the family is doing but admits he doesn’t give a DAMN about his own family. Furthermore, he says, “And I think even less of this sewer of human waste that sits before me! It’s easy to see why Jeffrey Dahmer tried to consume this whole state from head-to-toe. Haha.” JR doesn’t think that’s funny. He asks Pillman how he thinks he’ll measure up to the level of competition that’s in the WWF. Pillman scoffs and calls JR a stupid SOB. Vince has to apologize. It’s a good thing most every RAW is taped I might add. Pillman goes off, as he continues, “What I’d like to know is how do you feel being one of the members of the wretched refuse sitting paralyzed with fear while Brian effin Pillman does, says, whatever he wants. (chuckle) We’re going to find out real soon if one of your so-called WWF SuperStars has the guts to stop me. HaHaHAHa. Now take a good look, I’m the brightest star that’s ever stepped foot on God’s green Earth. While you crown a new King of the Ring, the leader of a new revolution ascends to his throne. I’m gonna rape, pillage and plunder this entire Federation! HaHaHaHaHa.” Owen’s response to Vince … “There’s no doubt he’s a little demented. Vince answers, “Uh, Yes.” Vince chimed in during Pillman’s comments that he’s a time bomb if there ever was. The WWF truly did get “RAW” with the Pillman signing.

King of the Ring Tournament Finals:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: Austin via pinfall (4:38) following the Stone Cold Stunner. Jake’s legit injured ribs prevent him from putting up a fight or any resistance. Austin attacks Jake right away with a focused assault on the bandaged ribs. He’s relentless in his beating that Gorilla Monsoon comes out to stop the match on Jake’s behalf. Jake begs off and convinces Monsoon not to stop the match so Austin just inflicts further punishment before he ends the match with the Stone Cold Stunner to become King of the Ring for 1996. Austin resembles a total bad ass in the moment as his career arc would reach no limits beyond this night. Jake’s next feud, meanwhile, is with Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Rating: *

Dok Hendrix interviews Austin on the stage near the entrance where the throne, robe and crown is. Austin’s first decree as King is asking for that piece of crap (Roberts) to be removed from his ring … not just the ring, but out of the WWF! Austin says he proved without a shadow of a doubt Jake doesn’t have what it takes anymore. Austin mocks Jake’s recital of the biblical passage John 3:16 by saying, “You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16, Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” Hello!!! “The Attitude Era” has begun! More importantly, the single greatest catchphrase in WWF/WWE history was just uttered for the first time. Stone Cold, as a heel, is instantly “OVER.” Austin finishes his victory speech saying he doesn’t give a damn about the other WWF SuperStars – – – their time will come – – – nor does he care about the Championship Match, for whether it’s Davey Boy Smith or Shawn Michaels, “Steve Austin’s time has come and when I get the shot, you’re looking at the next WWF Chanpion and that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so!”

WWF Championship:
*Special Outside Enforcer/Referee: Mr. Perfect*
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w-Diana and James E. Cornette)
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (c) (w-José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (26:25) following Sweet Chin Music. Davey Boy Smith brought it for this match as he often did when being in the Main Event. It’s his career second-best match next to SummerSlam ‘92 when he defeated Bret Hart at Wembley Stadium to win the Intercontinental Championship. Shawn was so phenomenal at this point that anybody he was wrestling he could elevate to their next level to match his. Admittedly in June 1996, being 15 years old going on 16, I had much on my mind and I was absent from the WWF scene particularly. I’d seen this match just once previously and only recalled Michaels winning to retain the title. The match begins with at least a minimum of 30 minutes left. Thus, the initial pace is slow as Michaels counters every move Bulldog tries and the side headlock is settled upon to kill clock. I sense an Iron Man feel. Owen is pro-Bulldog on commentary and he doesn’t try to hide it. Superb. Shawn electrifies his Kliq by diving at Bulldog off the apron before he poaches Cornette of his tennis raquet and gives him a good ole spanking. Owen is beside himself. Back inside, Bulldog uses his power and weight to gain leverage but Michaels loosens another side headlock and counters with a cross armbreaker. Nice. Shawn works in a sleeper but Bulldog powers free. Shawn hits a flying double axehandle but Bulldog wins the next exchange catching him with a press slam that ends with Michaels dropped outside the ring. Shawn looks dead! Perfect keeps Lothario at bay as the old codger shows concern. Bulldog stays on the attack and suplexes Shawn on the mat. He press slams Michaels back inside as Owen touts Shawn as a gutless coward that intended to get himself counted out so he can retain the title. Bulldog gets a two count, followed by other near falls that Owen thinks should be three counts off a backdrop and legdrop. Vince touts Michaels resiliency and credits The Kliq for giving him added strength. Owen says that talk is nonsensical and untrue as true winners win matches based on their ability alone. By God, Owen is good. He could have retired, lived more importantly and become even greater than Jesse “The Body” Ventura or Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as an announcer should he wanted to. Anyway … Bulldog stays on Michaels with a clothesline and chinlock. Both guys are sweating profusely as the match builds. Shawn does a nice crucifix into a pin for a two count but Bulldog regroups and clotheslines Shawn into a 360 twirl. Again, Shawn is dead. Bulldog adds a piledriver but neglects a pin. Instead he goes up top for a high-risk maneuveur which is a diving headbutt that he misses connecting with Shawn on. Owen points out Bulldog slipped, naturally. Better yet, since no one else saw it, Owen speculates and accuses Lothario of pulling the ropes down. Ha! Bulldog is still in better condition so he catches Shawn scaling the top turnbuckle allowing to execute a superplex which lands Michaels halfway across the ring! Bulldog tries for another but Michaels this time counters into a body press, which results in a two count. The end is near as the pace quickens. Michaels tries a hurricanrana but Bulldog counters with a sit-out powerbomb. Somehow that only nets two for Davey Boy. I should add that Diana’s facial expressions throughout are just classic. She played the part of the concerned wife/cheerleader and someone that felt what she was watching was real-life. Earl Hebner gets bumped as Bulldog slams Michaels and you think Perfect will have to take over. That’s only teased, though, as Michaels does a kip up with both he and Bulldog grounded. Flying elbow drop. Sweet Chin Music! Earl Hebner counts, Mr. Perfect does, too. 1-2 (Owen pulls Perfect out?) and 3! Great match!
Owen and Bulldog fight with Michaels post-match and get him down to where Ahmed Johnson runs in to aid Shawn. Vader arrives next as Camp Cornette has a 3-on-2. Vader goes to attempt a moonsault on Shawn in the corner but out comes The Ultimate Warrior to clean house! Shawn, Ahmed and Warrior stand tall as Camp Cornette flees with Vince announcing to the PPV audience the six men will compete in the Main Event next month for In Your House: International Incident in a six-man tag-team match. The match construction here is excellent. Bulldog equaled Shawn’s brilliance for one night. What results is a forgotten classic, a match seemingly lost in the consciousness of time and betwixt major events happening in WCW. Seeing the match again, however, I won’t let leave my wrestling brain. Having Michaels as the top dog, the one to carry the flagship, despite his own personal troubles, was the one advantage the WWF still had. That Stone Cold fellow … yeah, he’s about to change the landscape, too. WCW had the eyeballs but the WWF had the hang time as 1996 in the short-term proved. Work rate always trumps angles.
Rating: ****1/2

The Verdict: Austin 3:16. Brian Effin Pillman. A classic WWF Championship Match! Owen Hart a Slammy Award-winning commentator on his first night. Mankind and The Undertaker getting acquainted in their first-ever match. Old-School Jerry Lawler running down the peasants. A NEW Intercontinental Champion. Work rate, work rate, work rate!!! Such little garbage can be found on this PPV. The Federation may have fallen to #2 in the TV ratings war on Monday Night’s but KOR 1996 is a show to come back to over-and-over-and-over again! Check it out.

WCW Monday Nitro – June 17, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – June 17, 1996
Richmond, VA

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Tony Schiavone & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss the attack on Eric Bischoff at The Great American Bash one night earlier by the two Outsiders who’ve declared WAR on WCW. Larry calls Kevin Nash and Scott Hall rogues who didn’t impress him by throwing Bischoff off a stage. He says the Outsiders aren’t welcome or wanted here in WCW calling WCW the premiere wrestling organization in the world. From there, Tony and Larry dissect the results from the Pay-Per-View ad nauseum. Talk about overboard. Anyway, of note is that Rey Mysterio Jr. and Dean Malenko will wreste in a return match for the Cruiserweight Championship on this very Monday Nitro. Returning to Bischoff oncd more, exclusive footage is shown of Hall and Nash with him at the PPV all until Bischoff is powerbombed thru a table off the stage. That’s to be shown later on apparently. Tony informs the TV audience that a drawing will take place to determine which three men will represent WCW at Bash at the Beach on July 7 versus The Outsiders and their mystery third man/partner. Finally, it’s off to the ring for action.

Stevie Ray vs. Rick Steiner

Result/Analysis: Steiner via pinfall (2:17) following a Steinerline. This was short and to the point. Booker T comes out afterwards as Harlem Heat together beats on Rick. Booker goes to the top rope for supposedly the Harlem Hangover only Scott Steiner gets to the ring in time to sacrifice himself for his brother and take the blow instead. It appears The Steiner’s and Harlem Heat will be feuding.
Rating: 3/4*

The American Males cut a pre-commercial promo to tell everyone they’re coming for Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit tonight. Scotty Riggs will be taking the loss in that tag-team match assuredly.

Before the next match, Tony says Hulk Hogan telephoned in last night in relation to the hostile takeover of WCW to state he wanted to be a part of the WCW team for Bash at the Beach. That’s some clever foreshadowing completely glossed over in commentary prior to the bell ringing for …

The Disco Inferno vs. Joe Gomez

Result/Analysis: Gomez via pinfall (3:33) with a roll-up. Disco only cares about two things: dancing and his hair. Gomez, dubbed “Desperado” resembles some baffoon found on the outskirts of some reservation. And while I don’t remember him, Gomez had wrestled in WCW before from 1990-91 before he toiled the independent circuit. This match belongs on the indy circuit, perhaps in some gymnasium in the Southwestern quadrant of the country. Disco isn’t allowed to dance so we don’t get the experience of his gyrating hips or his music. In other words, this was completely lame.
Rating: 1/2*

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is in the locker room with “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair along with Miss Elizabeth, Woman and his new centerpiece – Debra McMichael. Okerlund asks Debra the simple question of why. Why did she join up with The Horsemen? Debra answers she had to because of the money, of course. Flair, meanwhile, goes off about his expanded entourage resembling the cover of Vogue Magazine while telling us that he’ll stand his ground tonight against the reinstated “Macho Man” Randy Savage promising to beat him up real bad as he styles and profiles. Woooo!!!

“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson” & “The Crippler” Chris Benoit
vs. The American Males [Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Scotty Riggs]

Result/Analysis: Anderson & Benoit via pinfall (5:50) when Benoit pins Riggs (I told you) following a snap suplex over the top rope. To say The Horsemen are OVER in Richmond, Virginia is putting it mildly. The comparison might well be Jesus Christ returning to The Holy Land. Their POP is enormous. WCW fans rarely get credited for cheering the awesome so I’ll give them a shout out here. Arn decks Bagwell off the ring apron to start the match and toys with Riggs. Bagwell gets in and showcases his skills with Benoit, who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of The Taskmaster from The Great American Bash, falling prey to the fast-paced offense. The Males dictate things for a while before Arn takes over and Benoit returns. Benoit hits a backdrop suplex and delivers the diving headbutt yet Bagwell survives to tag Riggs. That proves unwise as Benoit finishes him off quickly.
Rating: **

Arn and Benoit get interviewed by Okerlund after the match. Arn gives a babyface promo that plays up to the crowd support while dissing his business deal with Kevin Sullivan that went south. It’s sooo good! AA understood ALL THINGS and he adapted to any situation in the moment. Benoit, meanwhile, has a pointed message for Sullivan. He says, “Sullivan, every action has a reaction and your quest and your goal and your desire to nullify The Horsemen, to separate us … well, most of America watched the reaction last night. YOU felt it. The Horsemen are about guts, glamour and glory.” Benoit was a PERFECT Horsemen. He and Arn were deserving of a tag-team titles reign.

Great American Bash Return Match:
Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via pinfall (4:42) following a pair of powerslams. Well, this match was an improvement from the PPV encounter anyway. Tenta is characterized by Zbyszko as rivaling the size of the national debt and Larry says it took Tenta six weeks to decide he wasn’t a fish. Tony calls Tenta one of the most successful big men in our sport. Larry retorts, half his head is shaved off. Tony says, “Well, those things happen.” Jimmy Hart hits Tenta with the megaphone to squelch Tenta’s comeback but he gets an atomic drop out of the ring for his troubles. Bubba then takes the powerslams and the loss. Afterward, Tenta chases Hart around the ring but Hart tosses Bubba a loaded sock full of silver dollars and Tenta gets wailed upon as Bubba regains his heat. Okerlund interviews Bubba since Tenta is indisposed and Bubba claims victory for the second night in a row even though he lost both matches and had his beard clipped the night before. Gene says Bubba and Hart have their facts twisted. This feud feels longer than the movie “Free Willy” back in the day.
Rating: *

Savage returns to the ring next as hour 2 begins following a commercial break to pay the bills.

Okerlund talks with Macho before he heads out to the ring. Savage says he’ll take his time in the ring tonight with Flair as he plans to be calculated. Gene asks Macho if he sought out professional help while he was on suspension. Savage said he did and the woman psychologist said he was O.C.D. – One Cool Dude. Macho says he plans to be in WCW forever.

Savage chases Heenan away from joining Tony and Larry on the broadcast as the pyro goes off to signify hour two. Heenan winds up in the ring cornered but escapes over the top rope to circle back to his escapes from years ago. Poor Brain. Savage is a nut.

Flair cuts a promo on Savage before he enters the ring saying, “Macho! Macho! Every man in life must, at some point in time, experience the agony and the pain of defeat. In your case, you are experiencing the pain of agony, defeat and divorce. And look who’s in Richmond tonight with all the girls! (Keep your mouth shut, punk! Keep your mouth shut, punk.) Woo!”

“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Woman, Debra & Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (8:35 shown) following outside interference from Steve “Mongo” McMichael. Savage hits Flair with successive flying elbow drops, the second one attempted despite the girls plea to stop him. The Horsemen then hit the ring one-by-one. Benoit takes a piledriver. Arn gets knocked silly and he’s tossed out. Mongo comes out with the briefcase in tow, however, and he hits Savage with it twice to allow Flair to pick up the tainted victory. The Horsemen put the boots to Savage afterward. The match is a wild melee from start-to-finish with Savage going about his calculated game plan like a crazed lunatic. Flair is reeling and on the defensive. Macho makes use of Flair’s VIP table as Flair gets a face full of the vegetable tray with Savage dousing him with the champagne that was on ice. These two could do no wrong. Flair nearly wins later on after using a foreign object but Savage kicks out at two, delivers a low blow and referee Randy Anderson takes a bump to lead to the crazy finish. Like always, the live crowd ate everything up. The Four Horsemen stand tall as a strong, complete, and powerful force. Savage is again left in ruins.
Rating: ***1/4

Meanwhile, Kevin Sulivan isn’t happy with Arn Anderson after what happened last night at The Great Anerican Bash. It’s a WAR! The Giant is present as Okerlund also gets his take on the recent Horsemen reunification. The Giant reiterates The Dungeon of Doom are the most dominant force in WCW and it’s because of him being the World Heavyweight Champion. He dares and implores ALL Horsemen to get in the ring with him. He says, they’ll all fall down and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses won’t be able to put them back together again. The Giant will be challenged tonight by Scott Steiner so long as Steiner can recover from Harlem Heat earlier. Okerlund says the drawing for WCW’s three-man team for Bash at the Beach is upcoming tonight as WCW defends itself against the hostile takeover. Sullivan breaks character and throws his support behind WCW.

Blood Runs Cold promo. Glacier is coming to WCW in July. His was the most delayed debut.

Tony and Bobby recap The GAB. Nash powerbombs Bischoff off the stage thru a table after WAR was accepted. Mongo joins The Four Horsemen while backstabbing Kevin Greene. Benoit and The Taskmaster fight all over the arena in their Falls Count Anywhere Match. Order the Encore Presentation. Please fans! Call your local cable operator and do it now!!!

Rey Mysterio Jr. is stopped by Okerlund on his way to the ring. Mysterio says he respects Dean Malenko as a professional but he wants that Cruiserweight Title.

Great American Bash Return Match for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (8:42) following a reverse DDT. Their PPV match was better but that had twice as much time to percolate. Here, Mysterio shows his resiliency as he survives defeat from a brainbuster, electric chair, powerbomb and an overhead throw. Like the PPV, Mysterio makes a spirited comeback with mid-air counter reversals into pin attempts that nearly captures him the title. Since Mysterio was new on the scene, to hot shot the belt onto him so early on would have been a mistake. Instead, WCW introduced Mysterio for a while before he took the reigns of the Cruiserweight division and re-invented wrestling. Malenko was technically on point with everything he did and could take Rey’s moves and accentuate the gasp of the crowd by how he helped make them look. Mysterio would only electrify further as the weeks and months rolled on. Terrific match.
Rating: ***1/2

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
Scott Steiner vs. The Giant (c) (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (8:23 shown) following a chokeslam. Fee-fi-fo-fum. What you have is a glorified squash until Steiner shows off his super-human strength thanks to ‘roids by suplexing The Giant and breaking him nearly in half! Scott being juiced or not (juiced), just being able to suplex The Giant was incredible. Steiner gets a two count off the move but then decides to break a wooden chair over The Giant’s head to win the match. The chair shot would surely effect a mortal man but not The Giant, who no sells any pain and finishes Scotty with the chokeslam. The first 6/7 minutes are purely The Giant working over Steiner’s bandaged ribs, which we are to attribute to Harlem Heat from earlier on. The Giant is tearing through WCW. Who’s next?
Rating: *1/2

Blood Runs Cold Promo #2. And yet Glacier’s arrival/WCW debut slated for July again got delayed.

Okerlund has the mic and the floor to close Nitro. He has the three men who will challenge The Outsiders (the first time they were given a characterization). The drawing consisted of the six men in WCW with the best Win/Loss record (and other considerations). The possibilities were Hulk Hogan, The Giant, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “The Total Package” Lex Luger, Sting, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Hmm. The Outsiders are rogue heels. That disqualifies The Giant and Flair. Hogan is on sabbatical yet he wants “in.” Still, WCW has drawn the names of Luger, Sting and Savage to go to WAR with and thereby prevent the hostile takeover from succeeding. Now, just whom is the third man joining The Outsiders as their tag-team partner. At the time, speculation was ablaze on the Internet … for those of us (I was one) who had access to it. There were many rumors. None of those panned out. Hmm.

The Verdict: The Outsiders didn’t appear one night after wrecking Bischoff at the PPV. WCW rallied the troops so to speak against the hostile takeover attempt. Still, old feuds persisted like the latest chapter of Flair and Savage. That never got old. The Four Horsemen star as Mongo again makes an impact. Mysterio loses to Malenko for the second time but he’s the new sensation. There was other junk to fill the two hour broadcast but WCW had the eyeballs and the fixation on Monday Nights.

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 17, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 17, 1996
Fayettville, NC (taped 5/27/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

King of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinal Match:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega

Result/Analysis: Austin via pinfall (8:03 shown) following the Stone Cold Stunner (in its first usage). These two had been feuding more more than three months so the baseline was already established on how they worked a match. Austin tries to roughhouse and take out Savio’s vertical base only it’s he who meets that same fate as Savio successfully grounds him. Austin is on the defensive throughout as Savio methodically weakens the legs. Vega had been the King of the Ring runner-up a year earlier, losing to Mabel in the finals, so a repeat performance was unlikely. Austin’s push came about from Hunter Hearst Helmsley being punished for his role in the MSG Curtain Call Incident back in May for it was HHH who was the decided upon King in 1996 until that happened. Austin became Plan B, though, even in winning these tournament matches, you don’t necessarily sense big things are upon him. At least without Ted DiBiase, Austin could spread his wings and forge his own path. It’s all quite amazing how his eventual stardom is birthed from ground zero. Austin debuts the Stone Cold Stunner as his finishing move on this night, without Vince giving it a name and without any set-up for it as Austin backed into the move. Austin advances on to the semi-finals of the King of the Ring Tournament to be held at the Pay-Per-View in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’ll wrestle the winner of Owen Hart and “Wildman” Marc Mero that’s still to come on RAW.
Rating: **1/4

Vince recaps Mankind and The Undertaker from the past several months. At KOR, they’ll have their first-ever match. In pre-recorded comments, The Undertaker promises to make Mankind pay for his sins as he’ll take Mankind’s tormented soul and plunge it into the darkness for which he is master.

The Sega Saturn Slam of the Week: Jake “The Snake” Roberts DDT’s Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw on WWF SuperStars to advance on in the King of the Ring Tournament to meet Vader in the semi-finals this Sunday. Jake’s unlikely underdog comeback fairytale story continues …

In Memoriam: “Dirty” Dick Murdoch (1946-1996)

King of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinal Match:
“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. “The King of Harts” Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (9:43 shown) with a roll-up. Predictable. Austin stuck around for color commentary for part of the match as his insight and personality is showcased. Finally. Owen plays up his injured arm in complaints to the referee to draw heat. Mero keeps trying to establish “The Wildman” gimmick to the fans but no one was buying in except for Vince. It’s a decent match but mostly thanks to Owen’s skill set as he pulls out a Boston Crab and executes a PerfectPlex. Owen misses a flying splash off the top rope allowing Mero to make the comeback and gets the pin off a roll-up. Mero had been around for three months and he still lacked a finishing move. WTH? Austin and Mero will meet in the KOR semi-finals at the PPV. After the matcg, Owen attacks Mero with his cast before he leaves and knocks Mero out with it. Owen was a master at generating heat.
Rating: **

Meanwhile, Jim Ross is at a “LIVE” WWF event to interview The British Bulldog. LIVE! Keep in mind this RAW had been taped weeks beforehand as the WWF scheduled their RAW tapings four weeks at a time in one location in these days due to budget constraints. Times were tough. Bulldog tells JR he’s extremely confident he’ll become the WWF Champion at KOR. He promises Shawn Michaels he’ll take his most prized possession – – – the title – – – unlike Michaels attempt at stealing Diana, as Davey Boy calls her his most prized possession. Diana is standing in the ring with Bulldog dressed in all white nodding her head at every word like the budding tulip she is. Bulldog promises he’ll chew Shawn up, spit him out and bury him like an old dog bone. Ross alerts Bulldog that Michaels is here at the arena. Bulldog doesn’t care and he calls Shawn out. Michaels soon obliges and runs out from the back catching Bulldog by surprise. He wails on Bulldog as various WWF officials, Barry Horowitz and another jobber try to break up the fight. Diana looks on in horror. The WWF SuperStars banner is hanging above the ring so it’s hard to believe this segment is airing from a LIVE event after all. Pfft.

Dok Hendrix wants all WWF fans to call the WWF SuperStar line to find out who the five new SuperStars are that will debut soon in the WWF. Do TL Hopper, The Goon, Salvatore Sincere and two other jobbers make you want to dial that 1-900 phone number? There’s no need to ask your parents permission before calling kids. Now had it been the return of Strike Force, that being the tag-team of Rick Martel and Tito Santana, that would be worth a phone call. They were available …

Vince and Lawler discuss The King’s KOR match with The Ultimate Warrior. Lawler is tired of hearing about The Warrior and all of his self beliefs, though, so he ditches McMahon to go in the ring so he can make his own statement by attacking Aldo Montoya. Lawler snaps and hits his signature piledriver on Montoya who Vince says was to face HHH. Jake “The Snake” Roberts comes out for his match with Goldust so Lawler scurries back to the broadcast table to continue spouting off. Classic.

Earlier in the day, Brian Pillman officially signed a guaranteed contract to join the WWF. This announcement/press conference came two months after Pillman was in a car accident that nearly ended his life. He had briefly wrestled for ECW following his abrupt WCW departure earlier in 1996. Pillman expresses gratitude and thanks for the opportunity to compete in the WWF calling it a dream come true that few athletes get to experience.

Non-Title Match:
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Goldust [WWF Intercontinental Champion] (w/ Marlena)

Result/Analysis: Roberts via reversed decision (11:51 shown). Marlena had given Goldust a handul of glitter which Goldust throws in Jake’s eyes. Goldust gets the pin only for referee Harvey Wipeman, yes the ex-manager, to reverse his decision once he notices Jake blinded. Stupid. The match is nothing despite its length. Goldust stalls and stalls and stalls. Jake uses the bag with his snake in it to psych out Goldust. Jake’s face meets the ring post later on and Goldust gets his many feels in because that’s what he does. Jake comes back following a Goldust kiss with the short clothesline before the glitter finish ensues. After the reversed decision, a blinded Jake staggers to his feet as Goldust threatens more foreplay only it’s WrestleMania VII all over again as Snake hits a DDT that cues up his music. But, enough of that.
Rating: 1/2*

Mr. Perfect is standing by with Cornette to close out RAW. Perfect tells Vince he’s been told by Cornette just who the special referee will be for the Bulldog/Michaels WWF Championship Match at King of the Ring. Cornette goes over his list of qualifications and only one man could be the “Perfect” referee: Mr. Perfect. Perfect says, of course, he’ll call the match right down the middle just like his previous referee assignment at a past WrestleMania. LOL

The Verdict: Two yawner KOR Tournament matches produce obvious winners. The Main Event takes up time. Lawler makes an example out of scrub Aldo Montoya. Brian Pillman signs with the WWF only he’s far away from being able to wrestle. Bulldog and Michaels have no juice for their re-match and Mr. Perfect announced as the special referee wasn’t going to give it a jumpstart. I admittedly had turned away from WWF programming at this point in 1996. I didn’t miss much really.

WCW Great American Bash 1996 – June 16, 1996

WCW Great American Bash 1996
June 16
The Baltimore Arena – Baltimore, MD

The PPV broadcast starts with WCW ripping off the WWF by using the old Saturday Night’s Main Event intro concept with various wrestlers giving pre-recorded commentary.

Commentators: Tony Schiavone and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
* Plus, Mike Tenay joins for the Cruiserweight Title Match *

Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman presents The American Flag as The National Anthem plays.

Tony and Dusty pontificate the high profile matches: The Horsemen versus Kevin Greene & Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Lex Luger challenging The Giant for the World Heavyweight Title. They mention the “War” that’s started. Dusty says The Outsiders can bring it on. OK. Tony also notes the death of “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, who passed away a day earlier at the age of 49 from a heart attack.

“There Must Be A Winner”
Fire & Ice [Scott “Flash” Norton and Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (10:30) when Scott pins Norton following a frankensteiner. It’s a really awful frankensteiner Scott does as Norton fails to do his part on the move. “Flash” is terrible in the match but Ice Train is worse. The Steiner’s do ALL the work, including selling the shitty power moves of Fire and Ice. Norton does execute a pair of shoulderbreakers on Scott that are nice in fairness. The stipulation is code for Number One Contender’s Match btw. Sloppy but physical is how this bout can be depicted. Norton and Ice Train don’t believe in selling so they give no care at trying. Scott nearly paralyzes Norton on a backdrop suplex and for a second you think maybe there’s a legit injury. The final sequence is good. Rick takes the finishing move of Fire and Ice – a powerbomb / splash combo – only for Scott to break up the pin. The Steiner’s counter with Rick doing the top rope bulldog of Norton off Scott’s shoulders only Ice Train prevents the three count. Rick and Ice Train quickly pair-off which allows Scott the franksteiner on Norton that looks horrible but which gets him the pin and The Steiner’s the win.
Rating: **1/4

“Mean” Gene Okerlund interviews “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan with Jimmy Hart present. Sullivan runs down Chris Benoit. He says tonight he’ll prove that Benoit, while he’s no quitter like Brian Pillman was, is also not Horsemen-material. The Taskmaster says he made Arn Anderson and Ric Flair a handshake deal and he intends to keep his word. You see, Sullivan became the henchman on his own accord to root out The Horsemen. WCW bookers, of which Sullivan was one, could have just had him become the fourth Horsemen with Pillman out and AA order a match wherein the loser would be kicked out after the bad blood between the two created a distraction. Woman (married to Sullivan in real life) could have gotten involved sooner instead of how she would later on. The Taskmaster being the leader of The Dungeon of Doom and doing the dirty work for AA just because Hulk Hogan wasn’t around to torment, just felt like a stretch to me.

WCW United States Championship:
El Gato (Pat Tanaka) vs. Konan (c)

Result/Analysis: Konan via pinfall (6:03) with a bridge roll-up, countering a headscissors attempt into modified powerrbomb. I don’t know how else to describe it. Anyway, this one’s dull with a completely obvious result. El Gato is Pat Tanaka under a mask. Some international SuperStar, huh? Tanaka came to fame as one-half of The Orient Express tag-team in the WWF from 1990-1992 ICYMI. Konan’s reign as U.S. Champion was as dull as this match is. No one cared about the belt, that Konan possessed it, or, when he defended it. The World Television Title had more prestige with Luger as the champion. Tanaka controls in the early stages with armdrags and side kicks. The crowd is dead. Konan does weird, mat-based submission holds that look like they wouldn’t harm a toddler that then suck up time. Eventually, in the only notable spot there is, Konan sunset flips over the top rope with Tanaka standing on the ring apron and hits a powerbomb to the floor. Tanaka lands hard. The finish comes right after thankfully. I never liked Konan. You can argue his best work in The States was under the guise of Max Moon in 1993. Other than that his contribution to wrestling in North America were the stars from AAA in Mexico he helped bring in to WCW and nothing more.
Rating: *

Sting has interview time with Okerlund. He characterizes “Lord” Steven Regal as a little iffy and maybe a prissy and/or a sissy. Yup, that’s the jist of it. Gene sets him up for such talk though. Sting is sporting pink and black face paint and his hair is fully grown out by this point.

Lord of the Ring Match:
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (9:40) following the diamond cutter. Page was done in dirty by WCW after winning BattleBowl in May for he was as The Lord of the Ring to be the one challenging The Giant for the World Heavyweight Title. WCW rightfully decided that match wasn’t a money maker so Luger was given DDP’s spot the day after Slamboree. Page was rapidly improving, enhancing his move set, most notably, while nearly perfecting his schtick between his self high five and coming to the ring smoking a stogie. He was overly adept at selling his own moves and over-selling his opponents, too. Page had transitioned from a carnival joke to a potential player for WCW. It was quite the reclamation project truthfully and most of it coming from Page’s own self-belief and work ethic. Bagwell, meanwhile, was nearing a full solo career with The American Males tag-team he was in with Scotty Riggs flaming itself out. Before he became “Buff,” Bagwell was somewhat of a high-flyer. Then again, in these days he was also a leaner wrestler. Once he became “The Stuff,” however, those leaping moves would go. Page wins to defend his Lord of the Ring as WCW peppered that achievement after pulling the carpet out on his World Title opportunity. It’s a solid match with a good work rate so there’s no complaints from me.
Rating: **1/2

The Giant is next for an interview with “Mean” Gene. He forecasts Luger’s thoughts of putting him in the torture rack as a pure fantasy. Instead, Luger’s reality will be the chokeslam. Brief and on point.

WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. “The Man of One Thousand Holds” Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (17:51) following a powerbomb and with his feet on the ropes. Yes, this is Rey Mysterio’s coming out party to an American wrestling audience but it’s also a match where Malenko puts on a clinic in both mat wrestling and ring psychology. Malenko finds close to one thousand ways to work over Rey Jr.’s arm and hyperextend his elbow. He does so after Mysterio screams out in pain after a previous hold involving the left arm. Malenko combines mat-based submission holds to weaken Mysterio’s arm with various combinations of slams and suplexes with the arm hammerlocked to take the brunt of each move. Brilliant. This exquisite and masterful work lasts the bulk of the match as Malenko gets the rightful platform to display his excellence. Mysterio’s high flying is on display here in fits and starts as he soldiers on despite the beating he’s taking. Mysterio looks like such a baby here as you forget how slight of body he was at the onset of his career. Rey showcases springboard dropkicks, mid air reversal counters into pinning roll-ups and a signature somersault tope onto Malenko from over the top rope and onto the floor. For all of that, this unappreciative crowd comes alive. The American wrestling fan had yet to be conditioned for the skill set, the lightning quick aerial moves Mysterio had in his repertoire. That would quickly change. The back-and-forth nature, trading near falls and countering each other’s moves in the last 3/4 minutes, elevates this from really good bout to a borderline classic. The match doesn’t quite reach that level given that it’s fought at Malenko’s pace and style for 90 percent of the duration, but, if you appreciate the work rate, you’ll be into the match from bell-to-bell. Up until this point in 1996, this had become WCW’s Match of the Year. The Cruiserweights would mostly dominate that list.
Rating: ****

Luger talks up The Giant as the dominant force in WCW yet also as someone who’s still a human being that will make mistakes. Lex tells Okerlund he’ll capitalize on each and every one of those mistakes and leave The Great American Bash tonight as the new World Heavyweight Champion. Luger, in victory, would hold three titles at the same time as he’s currently the reigning World Television Champion and one half of the World Tag-Team Champions with Sting.

Special Grudge Match:
Big Bubba (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via pinfall (5:25) with a powerslam. As grudge matches go this is pretty bad. Bubba had shaved off half of Tenta’s hair on Monday Nitro a few weeks before this to boot Tenta – – – Shark – – – out of The Dungeon of Doom. Bubba’s reasoning was Tenta signing on for a World Title Match versus The Giant, who, of course, was a prominent member of The Dungeon of Doom. What a STUPID angle. Bubba and Tenta were both has-beens long past their usefulness by mid-1996 and no one cared for either. WCW threw this garbage match on the card instead of having someone as immensely talented like Eddie Guerrero wrestle. That confounds logic to me.
Rating: DUD

Steve “Mongo” McMichael, with his wife Debra, and Kevin Greene, with his wife Tara, give pre-match comments to Okerlund. As for “Macho Man” Randy Savage, or “Coach” for tonight, he has been reinstated in WCW. Mongo dismisses that he and Greene have a game plan and says he and Greene are coming to get Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. That’s prophetic. Greene, meanwhile says he’s coming hard and heavy, promising to not give up an inch while playing tough goal line defense. That’s so clichéd. Savage pops in to pump both up for the goal line stand they’ll make. The only thing missing here are Slim Jims. I can’t wait for the pay-off that’s about to come …

Falls Count Anywhere Match:
“The Crippler” Chris Benoit vs. The Taskmaster (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (10:02) following a superplex off a table that cradles the top rope. Epic fight!!! These two guys legit did not like each other it or they just sold the SH** out of appearing they didn’t. As far as scripted brawls in wrestling go, including the 25 years since, you won’t find a match fought stiffer, with a truer attempt at realism, and a downright visciousness to it. There’s zero wasted time or energy. The crowd is lit/jacked/electrified from bell-to-bell and even after the bell … but, I’ll get to that. Immediately, the match goes beyond the security railing and into the crowd as both men trade chops on each other, chops so rattling they make Flair’s seem amateurish by comparison. The fight continues into the crowd as Benoit and Sullivan battle for control up the aisleway steps. From there, the fight spills into the men’s restroom where Sullivan brutalizes Benoit in each and every bathroom stall as fans fill in around the melee to a loud chorus of noise. Tony and Dusty are going bonkers calling the action and rightfully so as the match is the damnedest melee fans have seen. Tony has a great line as Sullivan goes to dunk Benoit head first into one of the urinals when he says, “HEAD FIRST TO THE COMMODE!” Dusty keeps referencing the plunder being used all the while but he soon loses it also as he catches a glimpse of this … “There’s a lady! There’s a lady in the men’s bathroom!” Oh my. That line will never die! The fight leaves the restroom without any resolution and heads back inside the arena bowl. Benoit takes a nasty spill on the steps as Sullivan shows no guilt or remorse. Back at ringside, nut region shots and railing treatment is exchanged. Benoit locates a table underneath the ring, meanwhile, and positions it inside the ring. There’s another exchange with the table only WCW used tables that didn’t break. Ouch. The finish comes when Sullivan backdrops Benoit onto the table, which now cradles the top rope. Benoit wins a struggle and superplex Sullivan off! The crowd loses it! Benoit picks up the three count and flashes four fingers to signify Four Horsemen supremacy. Benoit puts the boots to Sullivan after the bell and gets on top pounding away “Rabid Wolverine” style! AA runs out. All along he had seemingly aligned himself with Sullivan keep in mind. Arn shoves Benoit off to signify he may still does .. only no! AA flips on Sullivan and puts the boots to him with Benoit joining in. The Baltimore crowd wets itself in all of its Horseman glory! Oh man, this was so epic and the match has stood the test of time. The Horsemen’s BIG night was only just beginning …
Rating: ****1/4

Back in the locker room, Okerlund is with Woman and Miss Elizabeth. AA and Benoit, soon followed by Flair and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan also join. Arn says that what we just saw out there was the head of the snake being severed as Benoit earned his stripes as a Horsemen. AA points out how Sullivan/Taskmaster, whatever he wants to call himself, had tried to poison the most elite group in professional wrestling but failed. Now, if Sullivan looks around, he’ll see The Horsemen are loaded for bear and that the war (referencing the war between The Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom and not that other “War”) has only just begun. Benoit says he put Sullivan in his place once and for all after warning him not to mess with The Horsemen to begin with. Arn adds a cautionary warning for the football players that they just got a visual aid of what’s to come to them. Flair cuts a promo on Greene and McMichael referencing his two All-Pros – Arn and Benoit, while pointing out the girls and the mind behind it all (Heenan). Bobby assures everyone, including the skeptical “Mean” Gene, he’s not worried at all. Heenan is in classic form. It’s like he never stepped away from managing.

Special Challenge Match:
“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. Sting [WCW World Tag-Team Champion]

Result/Analysis: Sting via submission (16:31) with the scorpion death lock. The Franchise, as Regal referred to Sting, perserveres and overcomes as His Lordship controls 85-90 percent of the duration. Regal was at the height of his character in WCW and you really see his greatness here albeit in a losing effort. Sting takes the punishment after flustering Regal and throwing him off in the early stages. Regal is not just good but he’s an exceptional heel wrestler in this period. He plays to the crowd and makes snide remarks as he’s beating the tar out of Sting with brute force and wear-down submission holds – showcasing the Regal Stretch even. Regal wrestles extra stiff, which I love and only a few wrestlers had the ability to pull that off without injuring their opponent. His facial expressions are classic, too. I mean, in his later WWE run, while his character was certaintly top notch, mostly as Commissioner, Regal was still never as great as he was in WCW. Sting takes a methodic pulverizing knowing he would go over for the win and look strong as he makes the babyface comeback. I’d kill to see a wrestling match nowadays worked this good between two guys that understood storytelling and showmanship. I love this match.
Rating: ***1/2

Bash at the Beach segue. Yeah, so um, that would be a history-making event …

The GAB is two hours down with one hour, give or take, left to go. That means the Double Main Event is ready to commence as Michael Buffer takes over as the ring announcer. Are you ready???

Tag-Team Grudge Match: The Legends of Professional Wrestling vs. The Legends of the Gridiron
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair
(w/ Miss Elizabeth, Woman and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)
vs.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael & “Mean” Kevin Greene
(w/ Debra McMichael, Tara Greene and “Macho Man” Randy Savage)

Result/Analysis: Anderson & Flair via pinfall (20:53) when Flair pins Greene after McMichael turns on Greene hitting him with with a haliburton briefcase loaded with money to join The Four Horsemen. YES!!! Greene wrestles better than Mongo but the threatrics by Flair, the cheat tactics, sucker punches, Heenan’s involvement, etc., elevate the experience of the match far before the McMichael swerve happens. The crowd is in a frenzied fever pitch the entire time. Really, forget star ratings, the ambience, the feeling you get when watching the match, seeing the storyline unfold, capped off by a swerve that’s pretty unexpected, is what gives one the feels here. I expected a train wreck out of Greene and Mongo but they acquit themselves adequately and let The Horsemen handle the fine details of working the crowd and generating heat. Savage provides juice as “Coach” as he levels the playing field chasing down Heenan numerous times while also getting into it with Anderson and Flair outside the ring. Greene and Mongo put The Horsemen in separate figure fours simultaneously at one point and the crowd loves that spot. Later on, Woman and Liz chase off Debra and Tara which you knew wasn’t just pointless. Greene and Flair do extended work in the latter stages with Greene initially cleaning house on Naitch before The Horsemen double up on him to take over. Mongo is getting antsy on the apron, meanwhile, waiting for a tag. Arn and Savage scuffle outside the ring so Benoit runs out for a Horsemen-style beat down on Macho. Woman and Liz return but with them is Debra, now dressed in an evening gown and carrying a briefcase. Uh oh. Debra approaches Mongo with the briefcase. He opens it to find a Four Horsemen XXL inside along with stacks of money. Debra tells him to take the money and sell out. Mongo obliges just as Greene reaches out for a tag by wallopping him with the briefcase!!! Flair gets the pin and Mongo officially joins The Horsemen as the fourth member. Savage takes the post-match beat-down as Heenan stands there calling the shots. The match itself is average but the booking makes up the difference. Mongo and Heenan used to spar on the Monday Nitro broadcasts but they shake hands here, seemingly in cahoots with each other for the past two months. Classic. June 16, 1996 was a seismic night for The Four Horsemen.
Rating: ***1/4

Eric Bischoff is on stage near the entryway and he calls out Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He tells them that he met with WCW Executives this past week and their request for a match has been granted for Bash at the Beach on July 7th in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bischoff asks Hall and Nash, though, if they work for the WWF, to which both answer no. Hall says, “Forget about the past, Chico, lets worry about the future. We want to know who your three guys are? Is it The Nacho Man? I don’t think so. And what about, what about, the immortal Huckster? You know, you tell Billionaire Ted to break out the money and get anybody he can because the big man and the medium-sized man, and our surprise buddy, are gonna carve them up.” Eric turns to Nash to ask him a question next but Hall and Nash are pulling no punches as they want to know the identity of WCW’s three guys. Bischoff tries to stall saying he’ll tell them who WCW has lined up tomorrow night on Monday Nitro. Hall grabs the mic and says “You can’t tell us? You can’t tell us?!? Don’t jack us around. Don’t jack us around.” Hall punches Bischoff in the gut. Nash turns that into a jackknife powerbomb off the stage as Bischoff goes thru a table concealed by a GAB PPV apron! Holy SHIT!!! Hall adds the parting shot. “The REAL ‘BIG BOYS’ they just left the building.” Bischoff is stretchered out in a neck brace with Tony exiting the booth to look on. Dusty is left to pontificate the ramifications of the “War” that’s at hand. WCW had become must-watch. Who EVER thought second-rate World Championship Wrestling would ever be #1??? It was happening …

At last … “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!”

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
“The Total Package” Lex Luger [WCW World Television Champion & World Tag-Team Champion]
vs.
The Giant (c) (w/ “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (9:40) following a chokeslam. Luger resembles a Lilliputian next to The Giant here as his attempts to do any damage are null and void. WCW was very much pushing The Giant as an unstoppable and unbeatable World Champion and Lex is but a pawn at the chess table. His punches have no effect. His clotheslines merely stagger. Finally, Luger collapses under his own feet in his attempt at racking The Giant. In between, The Giant makes mincemeat of Luger as it’s clear Lex is the one who’s jobbing. The crowd is never into the match following The Outsiders segment with Bischoff and the more significant developments with The Four Horsemen earlier in the hour. The two matches should have been flipped.
Rating: *

The Verdict: The Four Horsemen became whole. The Outsiders send shockwaves through WCW and the wrestling world. Rey Mysterio Jr. debuts as he and Dean Malenko put on a clinic. Chris Benoit outlasts The Taskmaster in an unforgettable Falls Count Anywhere encounter. Sting outlasts His Lordship in my favorite match on the card. The Giant, yeah, he’s an unbeatable Heavyweight Champion of the World. The 1996 Great American Bash is one of WCW’s best-ever Pay-Per-View events if you were to make a list. It’s a show that makes anyone yearn for this era of wrestling. WCW had asserted itself atop the food chain. Three weeks later, the business changed forever. n.W.o.

WCW Monday Nitro – June 10, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – June 10, 1996
Wheeling, WV

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss what’s on tap. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson will face newcomer Joe Gomez and Renegade. Snooze. The Giant goes one-on-one with Scott “Flash” Norton. Non-Title? Either way, that’s bad. Tony turns to the end of Nitro last week and the confrontation that occurred between the invading Scott Hall (yet to be named as such) and Sting. Hall promised a BIG surprise for this week. Tony actually points out for the dummies watching that next week is now tonight. Sting versus Meng is on the card. Finally, here’s Ring Announcer David Penzer!

Booker T. vs. Scott Steiner

Result/Analysis: Steiner via pinfall (5:54) following a belly-to-belly suplex throw. Good TV match between two pro’s. Both were still involved in the thick of the tag-team division but particularly with Steiner, who recently wrestled Sting in a Monday Nitro Main Event, the seeds were being planted for Scott’s future singles career. His confidence was building. Later on, it became arrogance. The Steiner’s were a great tag-team and had usefulness left in them but Scott was ready to be a lone wolf. Booker carried Stevie Ray in Harlem Heat and he likewise was being wasted by WCW staying in the tag-team ranks. Konnan is the reigning United States Heavyweight Champion. Konnan. I’d take Scott Steiner, Booker T., or a lot of guys holding that belt instead. Scott and Booker were truly on point in any move they executed. Two future Main Event stalwarts for WCW that could have been pushed into more prominent roles a lot sooner had the old guard not had so much backstage pull. Even still, both guys eventually had great careers so it’s hard to complain too much.
Rating: ***

Scott talks to “Mean” Gene Okerlund afterwards and discusses he and Rick facing Fire and Ice on Sunday at The Great American Bash. I’ll take The Steiner’s. Fire and Ice on a major PPV … common!

Debra McMichael interrupts Scott’s interview because she’s so upset at what her husband, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, might do. Debra’s concerned Steve might go a little crazy and he might hurt someone permanently. Nah, he’ll just stab his best friend in the back. Money talks. Debra is really, really upset and she asks Gene to set up a meeting with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson for the possibility the match can be called off – with cooler heads prevailing. Gene tells Debra he’ll corner Bobby Heenan tonight – the coach for Anderson and Flair – and see what can come of her request. Debra points out with Randy Savage also involved, noting he’s nuts, that something has to be done.

Lord of the Ring Match:
Jim Powers vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (4:06) following the diamond cutter. If you’ve followed wrestling since the late 1980’s at least, you’ve heard of Jim Powers. Of course, that Jim Powers, a much, much slimmer and younger version was one half of The Young Stallions in the WWF with Paul Roma, though they never accomplished much despite being high flyers. DDP was putting his Lord of the Ring on-the-line in matches like it was some prestigious title. No F’s given. This is your standard match where the heel beats on the newcomer. There’s the token comeback. And ultimately, the finishing move not set-up by anything. DDP will again risk his Lord of the Ring at The Great American Bash when he’s challenged by Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Tony and Larry discuss Page’s mysterious benefactor; the someone who paid off his debts. Does that person ever get revealed?
Rating: *

For the second straight week, the ongoings that is the feud between “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit are chronicled. You would have had to be glued into WCW Saturday Night to see it unfold, however. Nonetheless, at The Great Anerican Bash, it’s Benoit versus Sullivan in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. Sullivan, you see, saw Benoit as a “serpent” hiding within The Four Horsemen, much like Brian Pillman was, whom he defeated at SuperBrawl in February in an “I Quit Match.” After which, Pillman was never seen or heard from again in WCW. Arn Anderson has seemed to align his trust in Sullivan instead of Benoit. Oh what wicked webs we weave.

Back from a commercial and it’s a special look at Konan, the reigning United States Heavyweight Champion. In slow-motion highlights, Konan (yes, just one “N” in his name at this point) looks like a legit star. Except, he never panned out as one in The States. In Mexico, however, Konan remains a living legend to this day. More importantly, his credibility and trail blazing stardom at the time would bring over Rey Mysterio Jr. … and 25 years later, Mysterio is still wrestling, now with his son Dominik, also a fixture in WWE. Konan gives an interview with “Mean” Gene to discuss facing El Gato, a legend in South America, at The Great American Bash. The issue in 1996 was the U.S. population – demographically – wasn’t such that a Mexican/Latin star would have crossover appeal. Today, Konan, had he come into wrestling in the present day, would have a legit following. In 1996, few wrestling fans gave a shit and WCW gave cart blanche to Konan knowing he’d recruit other reknowned international talent. One of those concessions was him as the U.S. Champion. It’s a time when the prestigious title truly became forgotten. Konan tried but … wrestling El Gato? Um, no.

Meng vs. Sting [WCW World Tag-Team Champion]

Result/Analysis: Sting via submission (3:10) with the scorpion death lock. What a shockingly brief match. I’d have thought 8-10 minutes lenghth, but no. Meng, aka “The Human Vegomatic,” submits when he’s considered one of the toughest men in the sport. Weak. Sting’s push was escalating and he gets His Lordship, Steven Regal, at the PPV, but Meng arguably looks worse than Jim Powers.
Rating: *

Meanwhile, as promised Okerlund has located Heenan backstage, and Debra is present for a chat. Heenan has Debra come hither with him into Flair’s dressing room for a pow wow about the match request cancellation … even though, according to Bobby, Debra has been talking to Ric all week. LOL. Heenan immediately slams the door shut on Gene so he can’t be inside. Seconds later, Debra rushes out screaming. Flair and Anderson follow her out, all heated, and they come upon and ambush Gomez and Renegade to put them both out of commission for tonight. Aw-shucks!

“Squire” David Taylor (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: Duggan via pinfall (2:27) following a punch with his fist taped. “Hacksaw” is such a great American that he bends the rules to win. Pfft. Zbyszko says upon Duggan’s introduction that he’s still looking for his IQ. Given that, and the rule bending, Duggan has been figured out. Taylor had interjerted himself in the Regal/Duggan match last week, thus the rationale behind this bout. More importantly, with Flair and Anderson taking out Joe Gomez and Renegade, the Main Event for tonight is now Sting and Lex Luger versus The Horsemen with the World Tag-Team Titles at stake!
Rating: DUD

Coming up at The Great American Bash, Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko will be challenged by Mexican high flyer Rey Mysterio Jr. We see video highlights of each man wrestling to hype their match. Mysterio will be making his WCW debut at the event. 25 years ago now … Damn!

On the other hand, as Okerlund stands by with Jimmy Hart and his protégé, Big Bubba Rogers, The GAB will also feature John Tenta seeking retribution against Big Bubba for the head sheering which took place on Nitro two weeks ago. Hart gloats that Tenta couldn’t carry his weight in The Dungeon of Doom. Because of that, and at the direction of The Taskmaster, he was dealt with. Gene turns to Big Bubba and says “I know a bad barber when I see one.” Ha! Bubba calls Tenta half a man and says he gave people a reason to laugh at his face just like they’ve been laughing at him for years behind his back. Had this been 1990, and with different gimmicks, you’d have found the match on a WWF card somewhere. By 1996, seeing this match on PPV is considered cruel and unusual punishment. “We be serving Hard Time” all right, this Sunday.

Okerlund gets around because he next stops Scott “Flash” Norton on his way to the ring prior to his meeting The Giant. Norton says he took two chokeslams last week but yet here he is. He’s just that crazy. He’s also here because he’s not scared. And apparently, the World Title is on-the-line.

Hour 2:

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
Scott “Flash” Norton vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (1:43) following a chokeslam (outside the ring). Norton’s “Fire”is quickly extinguished in the squash match of the week. Predictable. Luger runs out to scuffle with The Giant afterward but he gets thrown aside. The Giant goes to chokeslam Lex thru Flair’s VIP table but Lex clocks him with the champagne bucket to stop him. The Dungeon run out so Luger flees. He flees to the announce location, however, where he cuts a weak promo about throwing the rules aside at The Great American Bash. I don’t think the World Title Match is No DQ, but why not?
Rating: DUD

Billy Kidman vs. “Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves)

Result/Analysis: Regal via submission (:58) with a standing Boston crab. Kidman resembles a young Daniel LaRusso here and he’s punked by Regal like Cobra Kai did to Daniel-san in “The Karate Kid.” Sting comes rushing out afterward and slaps Regal for stepping on Kidman’s head. His Lordship is besmirched! The audacity!!! Regal’s backhanded slap to Sting >. Regal vs. Sting at The GAB.
Rating: 1/2*

The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags] vs. Public Enemy [Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge]

Result/Analysis: Public Enemy via DQ (9:04 shown). This was designed to take up 15 minutes including introductions and commercial breaks. There had been decent brawls in the past but this encounter is F-ugly! The Nasties and Public Enemy belonged in ECW. There was plenty of garbage there and their styles would had the famed Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan captivated at least. The WCW fan base had zero interest. I can’t even say entertaining crap is on display here.
Rating: DUD

The same Hulk Hogan video package from last week airs to promote The Hulkster’s return. He’s American Made and has the red, white and blue running through his veins in case you forgot.

Meanwhile, in pre-recorded workout tape, “Coach” Savage helps train Greene and McMichael with The Great American Bash in Baltimore only six days away. What a misuse of “Macho Man.”

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger – WCW World Television Champion (c)
vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ Woman and Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via DQ (13:44 shown) after outside interference by The Giant. There’s a lot to like about the match. The champs look strong, particularly Luger since he’s wrestling for the World Title upcoming at the PPV. The Horsemen are discombobulated, not on their “A” game so to speak, and that sends “Coach” Heenan into a frazzled state while calling the match. Flair becomes the focal point as he gets beat up so much while putting over Luger and Sting that you’re reminded of how great that is just for taking punishment. Never was there a better showman in the biz. Anderson, he still does all the dirty work as the brains of the operation when he and Flair finally take control and take turns working over Sting. Eventually, one too many missteps by Flair, however, allows Sting to tag in the fresh Lex Express and Luger takes no prisoners. Then out comes The Giant because he’s just hot tempered. Sting and Scott Steiner come to Luger’s aide brandishing chairs – the wooden ones – and the face trio take turns hitting The Giant. Since The Giant can’t show weakness, though, he shrugs off each chair shot and pounds his chest like he’s King Kong before backing away. On his way out, The Giant informs Okerlund he’s fine if there are no rules when he and Luger square off in Baltimore. He says Lex will be leaving the arena on a stretcher.
Rating: ***

Bischoff and Heenan wrap up the night as Brain goes off in hysterics on Savage. Classic. Bobby runs off … which means, guess who is here? It’s Scott Hall! Bischoff stands up to take the lead on this latest confrontation. He tells Hall he wants no trouble but since Hall has made a lot of talk about some BIG surprise, the question has to be asked, where is it? Kevin Nash walks up behind Bischoff as Hall points Bischoff in the rear direction. “Where is HE, Bischoff says”? Hall turns Bischoff around and he’s startled to see Nash. “Big Daddy” grabs the mic and says, “You’ve been sitting out here for six months running your mouth. This is where the big boys play, huh? Look at the adjective, play. We ain’t here to play. Now he (Hall) said last week that he was gonna bring somebody out here. I’m here. And you still don’t have your three people and you know why? Because nobody wants to face us.” Bischoff pleads again he wants no trouble. Nash takes that as Bischoff not wanting his teeth kicked down his throat. Nash asks Bischoff where his three guys are as he suspects that maybe a paleontologist couldn’t be reached to clear the fossils, or possibly, that not enough guys could be cleared to get off the dialysis machine to get a team. Ha! I love it. Bischoff seems to mutter back he’ll get three guys. Nash asks where Hogan is, speculating he’s off doing another episode of “Blunder in Paradise.” Is the “Macho Man” doing another Slim-Jim commercial? Bischoff gets the last word. He tells The Outsiders that he’ll be in the WCW offices tomorrow morning and he’ll see what he can do about their request for a fight. Bischoff says maybe if they show up in Baltimore at The GAB, if they have the guts to do so, maybe they’ll get the fight they want. Hall and Nash communicate they’re loved in Baltimore. That’s what you call a PPV tease my friends. What’s next???

The Verdict: There’s a PPV coming up. The Great American Bash. It’s a WCW staple. It’s their biggest event of the Summer. Yet, the ongoing angle with The Outsiders has taken center stage. Put yourself in 1996 and speculate what’s next? It was a different world. No one knew what was next let alone the insiders who covered the business for a living. Appreciate that fact. WCW had rarely had a buyrate tease to any of it’s PPV’s. On the card, the big match is Flair and Anderson versus Mongo and Greene. The pay-off there is huge! Benoit and Sullivan wrestle an unforgettable Falls Count Anywhere Match, too. Some guy named Rey Mysterio Jr. debuts and he steals the show. Watch!

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 10, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 10, 1996
Fayettville, NC (taped 5/27/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

The King has a portrait made for The Ultimate Warrior that he’s going to gift tonight as a peace offering. Also, in the Main Event, The Undertaker will tangle with The British Bulldog. But first, it&/ more first round action in the King of the Ring Tournament.

King of The Ring Tournament First Round Match:
Yokozuna vs. “The King of Harts” Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette)

Result/Analysis: Hart via pinfall (3:59) after Yokozuna falls off the ropes when attempting the banzai drop. Owen wrestles with a cast on his broken arm here. What a trooper. Vince notes Yokozuna now weighs in at 666 pounds! That’s 150 lbs. more than he was the last time he was WWF Champion. Sad. Yoko could barely move. The ring isn’t that big in actuality yet the match had to be contested in half of it. The end was nearing for Yokozuna. Owen advances to the quarterfinal round in the KOR Tournament. He’ll face Bodydonna Skip or “Wildman” Marc Mero. No doubt on the winner there.
Rating: *1/2

Highlights are shown from the Attitude Adjustment Tour now as Vince promotes his brand.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts openly discusses his real life drug addiction. Now that’s RAW!

Meanwhile, Jim Ross checks in with an obviously despondent Yokozuna in his locker room following his loss to former tag-team partner Owen Hart. Yoko has checked out on the WWF and lost his way. He tells JR he’s got to go; go and find himself, again. May I suggest not eating twinkies, egg roll or those five pounds of rice with every meal? And to think of how good he was in 1993 and 1994.

King of The Ring Tournament First Round Match:
Skip vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (10:29 shown) following a top rope hurricanrana. It’s quite the lengthy TV match for the obvious result. Still, you see Chris Candido (Skip) more in his element wrestling singles action while Mero benefits by working with someone who has a clue. The Snake was on commentary for this bout though he had no invested interest in the outcome. I suppose it’s another opportunity for him to share his road to redemption. Mero wrestles a Lucha-Libre/Mexican style at this point but would be far more enjoyable later on after ditching much of his moveset. That, and as a babyface, he never garnered that much fanfare. Mero played out to be a WCW transplant that never caught on. He needed Sable. In time that played itself out. Mero/Owen in the KOR QF’s. As for Skip (and Zip), you can write to WWF headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut if you have suggestions for the new manager for The Bodydonnas. To think people may have done this! LMAO.
Rating: **1/4

Next week on RAW, Mero and Owen tangle in the quarterfinals. Savio Vega pairs off in the bracket with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw versus Jake “The Snake” Roberts QF comes on WWF SuperStars. Check your local listings. The winner of Hawk v Snake will face Vader at the KOR pay-per-view in the semi-final round.

The King is ready to hold court as Vince introduces The Ultimate Warrior! At KOR, it’s Lawler versus The Warrior in the most random pairing you could dream up. Warrior oddly is wearing a baseball cap here with his hair tied in a pony tail. I mention this because it’s significant to what transpires in the interview segment. More on that in a bit. Lawler first apologizes to Warrior for costing him a shot at being King of The Ring. But, no hard feelings intended he says. Therefore, as a peace offering, after he complements Warrior on his artwork from his self-titled comic book, King, being the artist he is, says he’s here to present Warrior with a framed likeness portrait. Which, is pretty damn good and if Lawler sold that he’d make good money for it. Warrior responds by calling Lawler an “artist” but also someone who’s also the biggest con-artist there ever was. Warrior says he appreciates the art and the time it took to get the portrait done but there’s only one King standing in the ring and that’s him. Warrior touts his career accolades and self-taught life principles to vouch for himself. At the KOR, Warrior says, “I’m going to kick your ass!!!” Vince backs off not so much appreciating the vulgarity spoken as Lawler moves in and smashes the portrait across Warrior’s head. Remember the baseball cap now? Warrior completely no sells the glass breaking, however, and Lawler runs off with Warrior following in hot pursuit. WEAK!!! The backstory is that Warrior S-H-I-T all over the angle that he wore a baseball cap to the ring for the segment so as to protect himsrlf ftom the possibility of being cut by the broken glass. Pfft. It’s a weak look when a guy such as Mick Foley is on the same roster and had done/would do anything to work an angle or match. Enjoy Warrior while he’s around because the clock is ticking on his latest WWF tenure.

Shawn Michaels/British Bulldog KOR promo. Davey Boy Smith had reportedly given his 90 days notice for a departure he later reneged on and there’s no way HBK wasn’t going over clean in their re-match after the draw booked at IYH: Beware of Dog. Thus, how can you promote the match?

The British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette, Owen Hart and Diana) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: Bulldog via count-out (13:10 shown) as Mankind crawls out from underneath the ring to prevent The Undertaker from making it back inside. Davey Boy wins. Cheap heat for that. Mankind one-ups Taker again to further their one-sided feud heading into their first-ever match at KOR. Effective booking. This is a good match. Bulldog dips and dives at the beginning. Taker tosses Davey into the corner, hits him with body blows and follows with a standing double armed choke. Taker hits the walking top rope clothesline, then adds a slam and a leg drop for a two count. Bulldog fights back with kicks and clubbing forearms and follows up with an impressive standing vertical suplex. Taker sits up and fights back but Bulldog gets a powerslam for a two count. Bulldog works a rear headlock for a while but Taker fights back. Bulldog hits a swinging neckbreaker followed by a leg drop and gets a two count. Bulldog adds a corner whip and returns to the rear headlock. Taker eventually breaks loose with back suplex counter. He attempts the tombstone but Bulldog counters into running powerslam. Taker counters that into a shot to throat. Taker wins a slugfest. From there, it’s a flying clothesline and a chokeslam as Cornette hyperventilates. Taker clotheslines Davey outside. Bulldog pulls Taker out and posts him. Taker counters a reversal next by tossing Bulldog into the ring steps. Taker throws Davey inside as Mankind appears from underneath the ring to prevent Taker from making it back inside. Count-out. Mankind and Bulldog club Taker and throw him in the ring. Cornette gets Bulldog and company out of dodge, however, leaving Mankind all alone with Taker. Piledriver. Mandible Claw is threatened but a slew of WWF officials rush out to prevent it. The show ends there. A lot is accomplished in the Main Event. Cornette announces to Michaels on commentary before the match, and to Vince and King, that Clarence Mason has forced WWF President Gorilla Monsoon into allowing for a Special Referee at KOR for the WWF Championship Match. A special referee that’s hand-picked, per Cornette. This is the result of the sudden angle switch away from Diana being propositioned by Michaels to the Monsoon physically assaulted Mason thingy. Whatever. Bulldog actually did threaten to leave the WWF (for WCW) had the Diana angle not have been dropped. There’s no announcement yet on whom the special referee will be, but I know, and next week, his identity is revealed. Michaels won’t like it.
Rating: **3/4

The Verdict: There’s nothing groundbreaking here. King of The Ring Tournament action, the stupid Lawler/Warrior segment and a decent Main Event. Mankind is rightfully outfoxing The Undertaker leading into their PPV match. Michaels gets to worry about a special referee, though it’s clear he’s a flop as the champion already and abusing illegal substances to cope. The summer of 1996 was so transitional as the WWF became an afterthought in wrestling for the first time and for a while.

WCW Monday Nitro – June 3, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – June 3, 1996
Asheville, NC

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss the big Main Event on tap as the WCW World Tag-Team Titles will be on-the-line. Lex Luger and Sting will finally defend the belts against The Steiner Brothers. In other action, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson oppose the returning Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Nice. Schiavone mentions the rumors that Bobby “The Brain” Heenan will return a manager’s role at The Great American Bash and be in the corner of The Four Horsemen. Up first, Big Bubba, who shaved off half of Shark’s head last week, will kick things off against Shark. Oy! Go back to a one hour for Nitro if this is a match.

Before the match, Shark relays to “Mean” Gene Okerlund he didn’t shave off the other side of his head because he wants to relive the embarrassment of what Big Bubba did to him. Um, Okay … Also, he’s not a fish or an avalance. He’s John Tenta. Now, there’s news! Big Bubba is in the ring and he has Tenta’s greasy unwashed hair he shaved off from last week. Well this ought to be riveting.

Big Bubba (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via count-out (1:10). Big Bubba flees after taking a bodyslam and Tenta brandishes scissors. Yup, that’s the match. In other news, Schiavone informs us both Johnny B. Badd and Vader will not be wrestling tonight. They don’t wrestle where “The Big Boys Play.” Apparently USA Network ran some thing? This was a weak start to Nitro.
Rating: DUD

High Voltage [Robbie Rage and Kenny Kaos] vs. The Faces of Fear [Meng and The Barbarian]

Result/Analysis: The Faces of Fear via pinfall (3:24) when Meng pins Rage (he’s called “Ruckus” here) following the mafia kick. I always dug Meng and The Barbarian as a tag-team, particularly in this time period. They were heels, yes, but very much “over” with fans. The Barbarian had turned back the clock and found the fountain of youth because he puts up with no nonsense beating the stuffing out of both Kaos and Rage. Rage takes the worst of it as The Barbarian executes a top rope belly-to-belly suplex throw to a sizeable pop. The diving double headbutt spot follows with Meng tagged in and Rage eats the mafia kick after that as High Voltage sizzles out in their Nitro debut. The Faces of Fear were primed for a Tag-Team Titles run which never came.
Rating: *1/2

Meanwhile, Luger defends his actions last week at ringside to Okerlund, and more importantly to Sting, as far as the melee that broke out with The Steiner Brothers is concerned. Luger and Sting have their customary friendly tiff before The Steiners barge into the interview and more arguing ensues between the teams before tonight’s match for the titles. The testosterone was a flowing.

And … in case anyone forgot about HIM, nah, how could we??? … Hulk Hogan wants the WCW World Title. It had slipped my mind these short Hogan promo videos started to air around this time. I mean, Hulk has red, white and blue running through his veins. Rooting for him is easy! Pfft.

The Disco Inferno vs. Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman (w/ Teddy Long)

Result/Analysis: Sgt. Pittman via forfeit (1:51) when Disco taps out before “Pitbull” applies code red – his cross armbreaker submission. Disco wanted to preserve his arm for future dance moves. LOL.
Rating: DUD

Meanwhile, His Lordship, Steven Regal confronts Sting on The Main Event telling him he’s going to make an example out of him. Sting eats a backhanded slap as the next commercial break comes.

“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: Regal via pinfall (4:27) with a roll-up. Duggan runs the gamut on his schtick as the locals in Asheville eat all of it up. “Hacksaw” had himself a career out of “hooooo’s!”, USA chants, taping his fist, brawling, barking at the referee “Get off my ass!” and the like. Regal is put off by Duggan and he does little here before his fellow Blue Bloods appear and run interference. Tony calling Regal the winner is hysterical as Larry points out “What? You didn’t think he was going to beat the dimwit”? HaHa!!!
Rating: 1/4*

Afterward, Regal holds court with “Mean” Gene in the ring to discuss his upcoming match with Sting that’s now signed and official for The Great American Bash. He says, “Being the man Sting is, he doesn’t love anybody else except for himself. When I get Sting in the ring at The Great American Bash, I want Sting at his best, not at his most half-hearted. I want this man mean, I want him nasty, I want him down right bloody rude. I am going to show the world as I beat this man at his best right in the middle of my home here (referring to the ring).”

Following a break, a video package airs to summarize the Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan feud. They’ll wrestle at The Great American Bash in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. Unfortunately for my recapping purposes, as shown, nearly the entirety of the feud was relegated to WCW Saturday Night. A show I loved, but can’t possibly recap with every Nitro, PPV and the WWF side of the story for 1996. Most, if not all of their feud belonged on Nitro.

“The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Prince Iaukea

Result/Analysis: Sullivan via pinfall (1:22) following the double stomp. Squash. Iaukea is wrecked in his Nitro debut. It’s quite amazing that he survived beyond this peril. The Taskmaster is a sick puppy.
Rating: 1/2*

Okerlund steps in the ring for another post-match interview. Hart tries to reason with Sullivan over picking a fight with Benoit and involving himself with The Horsemen. Hart says The Dungeon of Doom has the World Champion making them on top in WCW. Sullivan deflects the concern and instead alludes to the TWO legal battles going on right now. Sneaky. He also states Hulk-A-Mania isn’t dead and he’ll be coming back – for The Giant, Hart, The Dungeon and The Horsemen. Sullivan only respects two men in the wrestling business, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. He points out how correct he was about that snake in the grass Horsemen quitter Brian Pillman. Sullivan characterizes Benoit as a serpent, whom he must also kill off and by doing so it benefits The Dungeon and The Horsemen in their unified attempt to end Hulk-A-Mania. Strange logic there.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express [Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson]
vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ Woman and Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: The Horsemen via pinfall (16:06 shown) when Flair pins Gibson following a DDT by Anderson. If you’re feeling nostaglic for the mid-1980’s and catch yourself reminiscing, watching this match fires up the time circuits care of the flux capacitor! No tag-team epitomized The Eighties more than The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Their look is the same here: tassles, wristbands, and long/unkept hair, but they’re has-beens in terms of the ability once possessed and only wrestling AA and Flair allows the match to have any credibility being the feud dates back to the old NWA days at the onset of The Horsemen and during the height of RNR’s many championship reigns. Bootleg those matches, stat! At least in this re-enactment, old school tactics are pulled out from the woodwork to give the feels on what once was. Morton does most of the heavy lifting for RNR as The Horsemen take turns dishing out the punishment all the while cheating. Heenan walks away from the broadcast table to coalesce with Woman and Miss Elizabeth to set up their divide and conquer distraction strategy to allow for AA and Ric to overcome Gibson, who has a flurry of offense after he gets the hot tag. While Kevin Greene and Steve McMichael train with dead lifts and dumbbells for the pay-per-view, The Horsemen engage in ring warfare to prep for their football opponents.
Rating: **1/2

Afterward, at their VIP table, The Horsemen, the girls and Heenan celebrate the victory as Gene checks in. The bubbly is flowing by the glass! Anderson says he’s too big and too tough to be wearing some football jersey, let alone McMichael’s that would barely fit his 10-year-old boy. Flair goes off on Greene and the entire Carolina Panthers organization next, in classic hysterics, as he affirms The Horsemen are bigger, faster, sleeker and ALL NIGHT LONG! Oh, and Debra, Mrs. McMichael, she belongs to him, “The Nature Boy,” so deal with it! As for Heenan, he confirms he never “manage” again to squelch the rumor mill and thus he keeps his promise from whence he stepped away. “The Brain” does say, however, that he’ll “coach” Flair and Anderson at The GAB. Ha! He pulls out a 1988 All-Madden Trophy – with his name on the placard with several other NFL greats – to show he’s “coached” before. Greene and Mongo are facing a stacked deck.

Promos: The Giant, Hogan, saying “WCW is running wild on TNT,” and Glacier – “Blood Runs Cold.”

Bischoff and Heenan discuss Bobby’s return to ringside.

That’s followed by MORE Hogan as a video package airs to heighten Hulk’s dominance in WCW and overwhelming popularity. You’ll notice how intentional these vignettes were and how they helped make Hogan’s impending heel turn that much more shocking. That, and Bischoff hypes Hogan returning for “Hog Wild” on August 10th emanating from Sturgis, South Dakota. Brilliant.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
Ice Train vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (0:29) following a chokeslam. Ice Trains turns his back to bark at Hart and gets chokeslammed for his trouble. Game. Set. Match. Scott “Flash” Norton, Ice Train’s tag-team partner in Fire and Ice comes down – he wrestles next – so The Giant chokeslams him not once but twice for his interjection. After the match, The Giant takes umbrage with Okerlund on the Hogan video packages when he’s the champ. Who can argue? The Giant also puts Lex Luger on notice for what’s in store for him at The Great American Bash. The Giant says he has a personal agenda toward Lex after Luger tried to come between he and Hart.
Rating: DUD

Scott “Flash” Norton vs. Hugh Morrus

Result/Analysis: Norton via pinfall (1:52). Just. Plain. Bad. Morrus enters the ring with Norton still suffering the effects of the two chokeslams and drops a leg. He does the finger poke pin but breaks off at a two count. Morrus talks trash and drops a series of elbows. He attempts the moonsault but Norton has recovered and somewhat catches Morrus on the way down. I think it was intended to be a slam counter but Norton blows the spot. Terrible. Flash improvises with three successive punches to Morrus’ throat and pins him off those. Scott Hall better appear soon because this Nitro is in need of something noteworthy. The matches that have taken place on this card = mostly putrid.
Rating: DUD

Meanwhile, Greene diagrams a game plan for he and McMichael using football jargon. Mongo takes his turn at drawing up a play next as Greene sits back and snaps into a Slim Jim. Oh no. Mongo lectures Greene on tag-team strategy but all Greene does is respond back with football speak. Doofus. Anyway, they come to an agreement on one thing: they need a Coach. Slim Jim anyone? These brain farts both agree “Macho Man” is their guy and rush off to contact him. Isn’t Randy Savage banned from ALL WCW television programs and pay-per-views??? Bischoff is hyped by the possibility of Coach “Macho Man.” Bobby points out the Savage restrictions, anyway.

WCW World Tag-Team Chanpionship:
The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: No contest (6:31 shown) after outside interference by The Giant. So much for the Main Event. 15 minutes of an actual match could have produced a classic. For the television audience anyway, the first two minutes are a split screen with the match ongoing while Savage calls in to talk with Bischoff and Heenan to accept the coach gig offered up by Greene and McMichael. Following a commercial break, the match becomes the focus as all involved hit their signature spots. Rick hits a Steinerline and a top rope bulldog on Lex. Scott does the Frankensteiner on Sting for the near victory. Earlier Sting had Scott compromised with the Stinger splash and scorpion death drop he only started to bust out with. Luger briefly racks Scott but that’s broken up by Rick. Sting and Rick wind up outside where Rick backdrops Sting to counter a piledriver. The Giant comes out and chokeslams Rick. He then bypasses Sting to head to the ring. Lex sends Scott into the ropes off an exchange but The Giant pulls the ropes down and Scott goes flying. Referee Nick Patrick tosses the match as a result. Lex fights with The Giant and the crowd is in a frenzy. Sting and Scott come to Luger’s aid and it’s 3-on-1. The Giant is staggered by blows up against the ropes. Sting and Scott fling Luger and Lex clotheslines The Giant over the top rope to the floor with The Giant landing on his feet. Big pop. The Giant is heated and tosses a chair but Jimmy Hart talks him down. Lex flexes, Sting stands guard and Scott plays to the crowd.
Rating: **1/2

Bischoff and Heenan regroup with Bobby pleading to Savage to re-think his coach acceptance. Bischoff is looking around if you notice so something is up. Scott Hall walks out as Heenan bails. Hall gets in Bischoff’s face and discusses the war now at hand. Sting pops on stage for WCW’s defense, however, and tells Hall he got lost on his way to wherever because he’s now in the jungle. Sting calls Hall’s bluff for him asking for three of the best in WCW only Sting doesn’t see anyone but himself and Hall, with Hall standing alone. That would soon change. Sting wants a fight and he wants it now. Hall calls Sting “Chico” and says no one tells him what to do or when do to it. But if he wants a fight … tossing his toothpick at Sting … he’ll get it. Sting responds by hauling off and slapping Hall with Bischoff trying to be the peacemaker standing inbetween. Huge pop! Hall’s response to Sting, “OK tough guy. I got a BIG surprise for YOU next week.” Credits roll.

The Verdict: Meh for the oversaturated card. The Horsemen highlight the night and Heenan is getting involved so I love that. The wrinkle to add Savage to the mix with Greene and McMichael gets Macho back, too. The Giant is tearing through the roster only for Luger and his pals providing resistance. The Hogan vignettes airing are brilliant when you think of what’s to come. Sting stepping into the limelight on behalf of WCW against The Outsider intrusion furthers that angle. The Benoit/Sullivan feud is truly getting the shaft. Also, no Cruiserweights this week.

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 3, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – June 3, 1996
Fayettville, NC (taped 5/27/96)

Goldust is seen in a relaxed pose before the credits air where he’s naked, but robed, with the only the gold strapped Intercontinental Title belt draped across his mid-section. His message is for Ahmed Johnson, who Goldust, hears was a bit perturbed after last week when he saved his life. “I hear you want the Intercontinental Title? Well, here it is (pointing down) come and get it.”

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Vince immediatelt confirms that WWF President Gorilla Monsoon has made the match official for King of The Ring and Ahmed will indeed square off with Goldust for the Intercontinental Title.

King of The Ring Tournament First Round Match:
Bob “Spark Plug” Holly vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Result/Analysis: Austin via submission (9:17 shown) with the Million-Dollar Dream Eh. Austin was starting to get vocal crowd support – as a heel mind you – but he still wrestles too much of a mat-based style here so large chunks of the match bore. Holly had zero chance to advance in KOR so any offense he musters is fluff. With Ted DiBiase gone, Austin needed to add the Stone Cold Stunner as his new finishing move immediately. Why wait? Austin mixes in stiffer moves such as a backbreaker and a neck snap but the reaction he gets is the takeaway here and not much else.
Rating: *3/4

Vince recaps The Ultimate Warrior/King interaction from RAW last week and informs Lawler the match has been made official for KOR. Lawler, saying he has nothing personal against The Warrior, meanwhile, showcases the sketch for the cover of his comic book, which has him in large scale towering over The Warrior who’s titled as The Ultimate Loser. Ha! What a random and odd pairing.

Vince also announces Mankind and The Undertaker will square off at KOR. I’d have stalled that more but desperate times were at hand. Vince then breaks with tradition, LOL, and shows the cable audience the ending to the casket match at IYH with Mankind popping out of the casket to apply the mandible claw on The Undertaker and therefore cost him the win against Goldust.

Barry Horowitz vs. Mankind

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (3:57 shown) with mandible claw. 99.9999% Mankind here. There’s nothing to say. Actually there is, how is Horowitz on the roster in the WWF or anywhere?!? After the match, Jim Ross catches up with Mankind for his opinions on The Undertaker and KOR. Mankind says, “I am hoping that The Undertaker will finally stand up and show just a little bit of pride!!! Or maybe before the King of The Ring he will decide that there is no sense fighting a man who has nothing left to lose! Undertaker, you can’t take my ear, it’s already gone. You can’t take my teeth, they’re already gone. But all the things I’ve lost in life, I think I miss my mind the most and at the King of The Ring, you’re going to lose it ALL!!!”
Rating: DUD (but ***** for the interview)

Next week, The Undertaker is back in action against Davey Boy Smith, “The British Bulldog.”

Vince shows exclusive footage from IYH and the WWF Championship Match. Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog fought to a draw when both of their shoulders were counted down for three. The re-match has been signed for King of the Ring. Really, what else is there? Poor HBK.

Meanwhile, a naked Goldust lounges in his “jet” and assures us that he saved Ahmed Johnson’s life last week with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, i.e, “the breath of life.” He says, “Ahmed was in trouble and I simply ran to his aid. What did you want me to do? Allow him to expire? No. I didn’t have it in my heart of gold to do that. I only did what came natural.” Goldust then compares the sensation of giving Ahmed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the taste of chocolate in his mouth as he licks a chocolate bar in demonstation. “The taste in the mouth is exhiliarting. And now Ahmed Johnson I share that very taste, he continues.” Goldust reminds us that some of the best nurses are male nurses and that’s where he’s learned some of his best techniques. He concludes, “At the King of The Ring, at the King of The Ring, it will be and the mighty man jingle, one-on-one. Oh my goodness. And I will be holding that golden Wonka ticket like fine godiva. Ahmed Johnson will list, time melt in my hands and NOT in my mouth and in the end, he will never, EVER, forget the name of … ooooh, Goldust!” Say what you want, but Goldust, even at his most bizarre was a can’t miss in 1996.

Tekno Team 2000 [Travis & Troy] vs. The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas] (w/ Hillbilly Jim)

Result/Analysis: The Godwinns via pinfall (6:24 shown) when Henry pins Travis (I think/I don’t care) following the slop drop. Garbage. Filler. Sunny joins Vince and King for commentary, both flaunting the Tag-Team Titles and her “Smoking Gunns.” Poor lovestruck Phineas. Poor us. It’s like Vince knows every wrestling fan is watching WCW Monday Nitro so why even bother. I’d vote Tekno Team 2000 as the worst WWF tag-team ever. Sunny takes exception to The Bodydonnas on a search for their new manager. Things did get a little cloudy there or shall I say Kloudi. This all begs the question of why weren’t The New Rockers given a run? The tag-team division was in ruins anyway.
Rating: 1/2*

In other riveting developments to emanate straight from Titan Towers, a new angle commences wherein Clarence Mason, Esq., alleges WWF President Gorilla Monsoon of aggravated assault. Beyond stupid. This brilliant brainstorm all but replaces Michaels as a homewrecker. Watch Nitro.

King of The Ring Tournament First Round Match:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: Roberts via pinfall (9:38 shown) following the DDT. Helmsley’s burial/punishment had begun for his involvement in the Kliq “Curtain Call” MSG incident so he jobs to a 43-year-old has-been and gets the Snake treatment after the match. What’s more, since Jake needed to be carried to the finish line at his withering state, Hunter did all the work leading up to the DDT. Of course, as he accepted his fate, Helmsley got quite good at jobbing that he then became the next mega star so it all turns out OK for him. Roberts advances to the quarterfinal round in the KOR Tournament to meet Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw. The short-armed clothesline versus The Clothesline From Hell. Not bad. Anyway, the highlight of this bout comes on commentary as Vince speaks out on the ongoings over at the rival organization as he attempts to bury any legitimacy to Razor Ramon and Diesel working on behalf of the WWF, calling it all a “perpetuated ruse.” Keep in Mind this RAW was taped the night of Scott Hall’s WCW invasion but Vince no doubt caught wind of it during the lengthy tapings to then squash any rumors on his next opportunity. For a while, there were plenty of folks who believed even Vince was a lying schmuck and that Hall and Kevin Nash petpetuating their likeness over on Nitro for WCW was part of some master plot. Thus, WCW had an angle going that not even Vince could rubber stamp and kill. How did he sleep at night?
Rating: *1/4

The Verdict: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” How prophetic that well-known saying is and how it symbolizes where the WWF was at with summer upon them in 1996. Their best feud had to be accelerated. Michaels’ reign as WWF Champion had zero momentum. A rising star was in the doghouse. The tag-team division was a laughingstock. A pair of freaks, but one in particular while licking a chocolate bar, were the highlights on a Monday Night. And you weren’t sure as a fan from week-to-week who else would jettison out and turn up with that rival organization. It’s a good thing the WWF had a guy with black trunks, wearing black boots and with a bald head to showcase, huh?

WCW Monday Nitro – May 27, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – May 27, 1996
Macon, GA

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Schiavone and Zbyszko anmounce a pair of matches. Coming up in hour two, Sting will square off with Scott Steiner. That has to be a first. Also, The Giant will defend the WCW World Heavyweight Championship versus The Shark (Earthquake). That won’t be pretty. In addition, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson will team up as they begin their prep for The Great American Bash. Col. Robert Parker promises the debut of a new man under his guidance. Monday Nitro’s two-hour debut begins now!

The American Males [Marcus Bagwell & Scotty Riggs] vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ Woman and Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: The Horsemen via pinfall (9:49 shown) when Flair pins Bagwell following a DDT by Anderson. Who is the weakest link here? Duh, Scotty Riggs, of course. The Horsemen old school cheat throughout which is pure classic dick heel wrestling at its greatest. Scotty Riggs gets the boots layed to him early on as Flair and AA take turns finding their measure. Bagwell comes in and cleans house on Flair as The Horsemen scatter off with the girls to regroup as Naitch grabs a bottle of Dom Pérignon randomly. AA hits the ring post trying to deck Bagwell and he gets worked over. After a commetcial break, Riggs is back in for The Males to take a sustained ass kicking as The Horseman take turns while switching off without making the necessary tags. LOL. Flair serves up champagne to Schiavone and Zbyszko sitting at ringside for commentary as AA makes Riggs his personal bitch. Eventually, Riggs gets the hot tag to Bagwell. Reasons. Bagwell dropkicks Flair and sends Naitch skyward with a back body drop. Somewhere before all of this Flair and referee Randy Anderson get into a shoving match. Love it. Bagwell tallies some near falls, including one off a Perfectplex but AA makes the save. Later, as Bagwell has Flair pinned near the ropes, Woman gouges Bagwell’s eyes and while referee Anderson pays mind to that, AA sneaks up from behind to DDT Bagwell. Snap! Flair covers for three before Riggs can make it in the ring to break the count.
Rating: *** (HOT TV match)

Afterward, Flair douses himself with the champagne bottle to refresh himself as he, AA and the girls walk themselves over to their VIP table. “Mean” Gene Okerlund is present for commentary. Gene asks The Horsemen about facing Kevin Greene and Steve McMichael at the upcoming Great American Bash. AA says The Horsemen don’t respect anybody and he’s never met a football player in his life that he didn’t walk over to a better fight. Arn says he’s never met a woman that Ric couldn’t have; it just so happens the one he wants now is Mongo’s wife, Debra. Furthermore, The Horsemen, according to AA, don’t respect anyone that has to wear protective gear. In their world, it’s man-to-man and hand-to-hand. Oh, he’s soo good! Flair’s turn now but he’s in a mood for song as he breaks out “Afternoon Delight” following a weekend they all just had in The Keys. LOL. Ric says Debra belongs to him, as he made it so down in Austin while Mongo was out playing football. Gene asks Elizabeth if what Ric is doing with Debra is considered two-timing? Liz says the champ can do anything he wants. Flair closes with a dig on Savage by refuting claims that he’s Liz and Woman’s sugar daddy. Ric says it’s Savage’s bankroll that in actuality, has Liz being his and AA’s sugar mama. Whoooo!!! What a start to Nitro in Macon, Georgia. The crowd is amped up! If only they knew …

We see a workout montage for Greene and McMichael as they lift weights/pump iron … maybe even pop pills. Mongo, he at least, looks washed up. Greene cuts a Hulk Hogan style “Whatcha gonna do” line on The Horsemen. I can’t wait for the double-cross/swerve at the pay-per-view.

Steve Doll vs. The Mauler (w/ Col. Robert Parker)

Result/Analysis: No Contest.

The match is interrupted by the shocking WCW invasion of one Scott Hall/Razor Ramon! Hall walks through the crowd, hops the security railing, asks for/grabs a microphone from ring annoucer David Prnzer and hijacks the ring seemingly unscripted/yet entirely scripted to start a WAR!!! The next two minutes that unfold would forever alter the landscape in professional wrestling and Hall’s intrusion represents the most significant non-match result moment quite arguably in the history of Monday Nitro. It went down like this: “You people… you know who I am. But you don’t know why I’m here,” he said. “Where is Billionaire Ted? Where is the Nacho Man? That punk can’t even get in the building. Me? I go wherever I want, whenever I want. And where, oh where, is Scheme Gene? ‘Cause I got a scoop for you. When that Ken doll lookalike (referring to Eric Bischoff) … When that weatherman wannabe comes out here later tonight, I got a challenge for him, for Billionaire Ted, for the Nacho Man. And for anybody else in… WCW. Hey, you wanna go to war? You want a war? You’re gonna get one.”

Fans, discounting those Southerners in Georgia who were completely oblivious, saw the man that walked, talked and dressed like Razor Ramon. “The Bad Guy.” The WWF stalwart perhaps sent into enemy territory to in fact, start a war, a ratings war or just plain unthinkable cross-promotional dynamics never once thought of. In fact, Hall’s WWF contract had expired some eight days earlier and Hall was now a WCW employee, a very lucrative employee at that. WCW in sheer brilliance, with Eric Bischoff creatively in charge, slam dunked the WWF over the Billionaire Ted skits from earlier in the year. What was a cheap ploy, though comical in nature, when the WWF ran the skits, angered over Ted Turner attracting and buying up any ex-WWF star he could to win a ratings war and effectively try and put the WWF out of business, is immediately used against the WWF by WCW in the origins of the coming n.W.o. angle. Sheer brillance. WCW launched itself forward for at minimum the next 2 1/2 years in dominating the WWF in the famed “Monday Night Wars” and Hall’s debut on this night, 25 years ago, Memorial Day – May 27, 1996, set in motion the hottest period in professional wrestling that had or would ever be. The Internet was still in its infancy years. Only a true insider might have had a clue, even on matters on a wrestler’s contractual status. Their had been rumblings something was in the works. No one knew what. It all unfolds from here on out. Shock and awe could still be pulled off and WCW was just getting started with their impending war!

Now a match had been unfolding prior to Hall’s abrupt appearance. Col. Parker was debuting his newest charge, a repackaged Mike Enos, formerly Blake Beverly of The Beverly Brothers – WWF 1992/1993 fame, as The Mauler against Steve Doll, a journeyman wrestler who fans knew as one-half of the WWF tag-team Well Dunn earlier in the decade. The Mauler dominates but the match with Doll is but a trivia question for who was in the ring the night Scott Hall debuted in WCW. The best acting job and emmy award should go to Tony Schiavone who masters complete shock and bewilderment over Hall’s hostile takeover of the program as he shows real concern for the ongoing match that got interrupted and what happens to it. Everyone involved was on point. Place yourself there 25 years ago, in the context of the time, and Schiavone’s reaction was likely shared by many. Hall will be seen again before the night is over. ***** and a full monty rating for blowing the lid off.

Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman (w/ Teddy Long) vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (3:02) following the diamond cutter. Nothing match with Page doing next to nothing before hitting the diamond cutter. Pittman as a face = soft. DDP has a mysterious benefactor that helped him get back after he lost all of his money to Kimberly. Do we ever find out who that person is? Page always had the character down but he couldn’t wrestle very well yet and needed someone credible to carry him. The Serge wasn’t that man.
Rating: 1/4*

Meanwhile, Schiavone updates us on the status of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who has been suspended indefinitely from all WCW television events due to his recent out of control behavior. Basically, Macho was receiving the Hogan sabbatical treatment. That, and Flair is busy with Mongo.

Back from commercial and tonight’s challenger for the World Heavyweight Title, The Shark (Earthquake) is standing by with “Mean” Gene. Shark is furious over being booted from The Dungeon of Doom, and he’s notably disgusted with The Taskmaster and Jimmy Hart. No F’s given, Shark. Tonight, as payback, Shark says he’s beating The Giant to become World Heavyweight Champion (no chance in hell) and afterward, he might eat Hart for dessert. Shark falsely claims he almost ended Hulk-A-Mania so now he’ll end The Giant (not even in shark infested waters Quake!).

Speaking of Hulk Hogan, the absentee of late, Lee Marshall voices over a video montage to update WCW fans on the greatest champion in wrestling. Pfft. Hulk has spent his time away working at various charity events while hanging around notable celebrities. He’s shown with boxing great, Sugar Ray Leonard, and basketball superstar, Shaquille O’Neal. What was the point of this exactly?

Bischoff and Heenan are at the ready for hour two. Heenan thinks Greene and Mongo are in their hotel rooms hiding under their beds in fear of Flair and Anderson getting their hands on them. Bischoff, in another respect, won’t even dignify the intrusion from earlier in the night but for all intents and purposes calls out Scott Hall.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
The Shark vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (4:01) following a chokeslam. Shark tries some offense, none of it successful, as The Giant overpowers him. Shark eats several boots and gets body slammed. Hart causes distraction allowing The Giant an opening for the chokeslam. The match wasn’t quite the “Natural Disaster” I suspected, but it’s close. Afterward, Big Bubba comes in and shaves off half of The Shark’s head. The Bubba/Shark feud won “Worst Feud of The Year” honors by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The Giant takes on Lex Luger at The Great American Bash. “The Total Package” defends his World Television Title coming up. ICYMI, The Shark? He’s from “Tsunami.”

WCW World Television Championship:
Maxx vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: Luger via submission (5:47) with the torture rack. Maxx is DDP’s former sidekick/bodyguard Maxx Muscle, you know back when Page feuded with Dave/Evad Sullivan over The Diamond Doll (Kimberly) in 1994. Maxx dwarfs Luger, which few bodybuilding prototypes could do, but he’s a meathead with no wrestling IQ. Luger gets overpowered for most of the match as my weary eyes start to blink from boredom. The steel plate of doom turns the tide, however, and Lex hits a shitty body slam before impressively getting the lugnut that is Maxx up for the torture rack. Off-camera during the match Bischoff mentions to a stage hand while on commentary he’ll give a certain someone (Hall) time at the end of the night to speak. Luger speaks with Okerlund post-match and doesn’t take blame for getting the World Title shot instead of DDP. Gene shows the footage from two weeks back when The Giant and Luger wrestled and The Giant chokeslammed Lex thru a table outside the ring. Luger responds that The Giant wasn’t trying to win the match but was instead trying to take him out. He says he wants to face all the BIG guys in WCW before The GAB to get ready for The Giant. Okerlund classifies Luger’s task to torture rack The Giant as Mission: Impossible. Sting added to the match for a three-way dance was the logical booking. Pfft.
Rating: *

“Hardwork” Bobby Walker vs. Brad Armstrong

Result/Analysis: Walker via pinfall (4:27) following a flying shoulder tackle. Terrible match. Literally not one single fan reacts to anything save for Walker blowing three spots with poor footing/balance. They say hard work pays off but, um, whoever ran the WCW Power Plant gave false reporting on Walker because he stinks. Armstrong, a veteran of some 15+ years is resorted to enhancement talent with a kick ass entrance theme. Go figure. Where are Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan? They’re in a major feud yet WCW rolls out Mr. Hardwork and a has-been while Bischoff calls them both top cruiserweight contenders. Bad. Really, really, REALLY BAD!!! Bischoff also calls Walker a prodigy. LOL. That was the last we heard of that and Walker becomes famous later on ONLY for signing on in the filing of a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW. I believe Walker did discriminated against – – – for completely sucking – – – after I watched this one match.
Rating: DUD

“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright

Result/Analysis: Regal via pinfall (8:51 shown). Wright fails to execute a monkey flip out of the corner and Regal flips himself over into a bridge pin. I always liked and looked forward to Regal’s matches. He makes a facelock, side headlock, or basic European uppercuts look legitimate, plus he works stiff. Wright, meanwhile, adapts to the style of his opponent and gives Regal some of his back. Some may call this a boring but they don’t appreciate the subtleties at play here. Wright had talent and could have at least made something off say the Television Title had he been given a run with it. After the match, Regal gets rare interview time with “Mean” Gene in which he calls him a miserable little toad, Wright (who’s from Germany, mind you) “Junior Adolf,” The Giant, a bloody escape from Barnum & Bailey’s, and the fans, meager peasants. Regal says it’s high time he had a say for what goes on here in WCW and for that, he’s putting Sting, the franchise, on notice as he challenges him to a match to then win and earn a World Title shot against that bloody circus freak. Oh man, this was GREAT!!! More Regal puh-lease!
Rating: **1/2

Scott Steiner vs. Sting [WCW Tag-Team Champion]

Result/Analysis: Double DQ (10:17) as both Luger and Rick Steiner interfere. Scott was getting massive at this point as the roids kicked in. It wouldn’t be long before he could no longer do/get up for the frankensteiner. Sting wrestles on the defensive for the most part as Scott showcases his wares while suplexing ad naseum. It’s a decent match between two of WCW’s most popular babyface guys until, of course, the tag partners intervene for the donnybrook finish. WCW knew two things: The Steiner’s had to win the Tag-Team Titles and Scott was approaching his singles career. The fomer would come first only not by The Great American Bash with the champs separately engaged in singles matches. This rivalry simmered on …
Rating: **1/2

Bischoff and Heenan immediately go into their wrap-up but here’s Hall on cue. Heenan looks on in shock and disbelief. I mean, was he left in the dark on this one for mere effect? I suppose not but maybe? Hall stands in front of Ken Doll (Bischoff) and issues a challenge to WCW and Billionaire Ted to find three guys to go to war with because, as Hall puts it, “We” are taking over. Bischoff responds, “What do you mean, ‘We’”? Hall names “The Nacho Man” and Stinger as two possibilities and says again “We” are taking over. He says, “You want a war? You want a war? Then lets do it in the ring where it matters. Not on no microphones. Not in no newspapers or dirt sheets, lets do it in the ring, where it matters. If Billionaire Ted and, uh, his big boys got any guts, because we are coming down here, and like it or not, WE, are taking over!” Hall takes his toothpick out from his mouth ala “Razor Ramon” and tosses it at the direction of Heenan. Bischoff chimes in, “You’re outta here.” Hall walks off. Bischoff looks at Heenan. Heenan looks at Bischoff. Eric says, “I don’t know what to say. We’ll see you next week.” The biggest angle in the history of wrestling was underway.

The Verdict: You want a war? Well you’re gonna get one! Shock and awe in professional wrestling at a time when the Internet and the wrestling marks didn’t foretell such an angle. Contextually, watching this LIVE on 5/27/96, you’d have had some belief a cross-promotional WAR between the WWF was launched onto WCW. Instead, you get Hall for now and Kevin Nash (Diesel) not long after in the beginning stages of the n.W.o. angle that forever changed professional wrestling and catapulted WCW to #1 for 83 successive weeks, something no one ever thought was possible. The wrestling on this show is vanilla, and the matches are nothing anyone remembers. The GAB card is coming into focus. The Horsemen were great. His Lordship, besmirched, I dug. Hall’s appearance sent shockwaves throughout the business and WCW instantly became where eyeballs went.

WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog (1 & 2)

WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog
May 26
Florence, South Carolina

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Vince narrates a video montage that’s centered on Shawn Michaels. Did Michaels try to sully Diana Smith? Is he a homewrecker? Is Shawn simply a victim of an elaborate character assassination? And, can “The Heartbreak Kid” retain the WWF Championship against the bark and bite of his challenger, The British Bulldog? Welcome to In Your House: Beware of Dog.

On the Free-for-All prior to the PPV, the returning Smoking Gunns defeated The Godwinns to regain the WWF Tag-Team Championship. This was Billy Gunn’s first match back from neck surgery and he locks lips with Sunny, who had aligned herself with The Godwinns only to toy with the emotions of Phineas after the hog farmers had won the titles from Sunny’s Bodydonnas a week earlier. Recants of the match say it’s terrible in quality but alas, The Smoking Gunns are back, they get the belts, they’ll soon have Sunny’s managerial services, and they’ll be heels. So, there’s that.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (16:24) after HHH is slung into the ringpost off a catapult. A fantastic wrestling match and a forgetten gem in a PPV that’s marred by a satellite outage and thus, gets broken off into two parts. HHH has his best WWF match to date, which is ironic considering the timing (the now famous MSG Kliq Curtain Call happened one week earlier and Vince was set on punishing HHH for his part). Despite that, HHH dominates the match, systematically and methodically working over Mero’s left arm and shoulder using a variety of holds and punishing ram or torque shots using the ring post, turnbuckle pad and ring ropes. His approach is entirely old-school and you will find yourself digging the strategy as you watch. What’s more, Mero does a full and complete sell job from beginning to end. What a pro. This is storytelling 101: A Master Class. Mero was on point with his offense, too, what small amount he had to go with as Helmsley controls 95 percent of the match. This bout is anything but your standard curtain jerker. It’s really good.
Rating: ***3/4

Meanwhile, Camp Cornette is backstage with Mr. Perfect. Where’s handsome Dok Hendrix? Cornette teases dropping THE bombshell about Shawn Michaels but says by night’s end it shall be revealed. As for tonight, as he’s a little pre-occupied with Vader taking on Yokozuna, Cornette says he went to the South Carolina athletic commission earlier and procured Owen Hart a manager’s license so that he could second The British Bulldog and be in his corner. Diana is pleased.

And … on the original PPV broadcast the satellite truck loses its feed at this juncture some 20 minutes into the event. The remaining undercard matches took place in the darkened arena for the live crowd only but the blackout due to thunderstorms precipitated the WWF to re-air those two nights later for “Beware of Dog 2.” It wasn’t the WWF’s fault by any means that a LIVE PPV was severely hampered but WCW had to be enjoying the rotten luck.

The satellite feed does conveniently return in time for the WWF Championship Match to air, however, so there’s that. Vince had to be some kind of agitated at this “Act of God.”

Prior to the match, and after the introductions, Attorney Clarence Mason has Michaels served a summons as a defendant charged with “alienation of affections” untoward Diana. Mason says justice will be swift and hard when Shawn has to appear before a judge in a court of law. LOL.

WWF Championship:
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w/ Diana Hart-Smith & “The King of Hart’s” Owen Hart)
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Draw (17:24). Michaels executes a German suplex on Bulldog but replacement referee Mike Chioda recognizes Davey Boy as the winner. Earl Hebner, who had taken the late match ref bump, and is the assigned official, had come to in the meantime and he recognizes Shawn as the winner. Whatever. Both mens shoulders were in fact on the mat, however. Diana parades around ringside with the WWF Title belt after Bulldog is initially ruled the winner but WWF President Gorilla Monsoon comes out to consult with both referees and takes the belt from Diana on his way by. The draw ruling comes from the discussions. Shawn retains but there shall be a re-match. I’d think this angle/storyline involving Diana and Michaels’ other transgressions, however made up they are, continue with the blow-off match to come at next month’s King of the Ring. All of that aside, and with the booking changed no doubt on the fly due to the satellite outage and time constraints with the PPV window, it’s logical that 15-20 minutes was abbreviated from an expected 25-30. Given the slower pace it was going, I’m not sure if either Shawn or Davey Boy were aware going in they’d get cut short. Regardless, a 17+ minute match is plenty. There’s a lot of rest holds that drag on to echo my point but Bulldog does some nice things as he seems the more motivated of the two. Shawn (a) hated the storyline or (b) is checked out at the circumstances that limit his spotlight or (c) is just irked he’s not to go over clean against a guy that two months ago was in a tag-team with Owen Hart, who’s a manager outside the ring. Whatever the case, if you analyze Michaels in this match, he’s just OK and he definitely goes through the motions and even improvises. Even still, it’s a solid match and I’m fine with the continuance. The Federation is bereft of credible talent so stretching out the feud makes sense.
Rating: ***

WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog 2
May 28
Charleston, SC

Commentators: Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect

Caribbean Strap Match:
* If Savio Vega loses, he must be the personal chaffeur for Ted DiBiase. *
** If “Stone Cold” Steve Austin loses, DiBiase will forfeit his career and leave the WWF. **

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

Result/Analysis: Savio Vega (21:25). Both guys are tied by their left wrists to the leather strap and to win you have to touch all four turnbuckle corners in succession. The added stipulations create the drama, especially with DiBiase’s long WWF tenure on the hook. He was quite possibly the most despised villian of his time, certainly he was as a wrestler, and that’s a credit to him. As for the match, and I’ve seen many a Strap Match, this one rates out as one of the best. The strap is weaponized, for sure, but it’s fully incorporated into the match in unique and innovative ways. Austin was building his in-ring Résumé and Vega was continually trying to prove his worth and sustain a credible place on the roster. To accomplish that, both guys took hold of the opportunity at hand to produce a long forgotten gem. Motivation = art in pro wrestling. The strap keeps Austin and Vega within arm’s length yet it’s used as a means of setting up moves or to prevent them. There’s plenty of attempts to touch all four corners but none of them are fruitless tries as either Austin or Vega are neutralized by a series of moves or hogtied in some capacity to make them logical. The high points are Savio executing a superplex off the top rope, a tombstone piledriver reversal sequence with neither man able to do it and Austin taking DiBiase’s counsel by going for one piledriver too many instead of listening to his gut instincts and hitting the four corners for the win. At the end, Austin locks in the Million Dollar Dream though Savio is alert enough while in the hold to touch each corner after Austin does. Drama. There’s then a final struggle over the fourth corner as a tug-of-war with the strap ensues before Austin whips Savio into the turnbuckle to unknowingly, yet knowingly, lose the match. DiBiase realizes his fate is sealed and he bereates Austin after the bell. Stone Cold walks off in haste and leaves DiBiase alone with Savio. The crowd and Savio serenade DiBiase off camera in a chorus of “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.” Cheezy, but it’s a fitting send-off for “The Million-Dollar Man.” As for Austin … yeah, he’d do OK!
Rating: ****

Vader (w/ James E. Cornette) vs. Yokozuna

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (8:55) following a Vaderbomb. This was Yokozuna’s return/retribution match against Vader after his leg was broken (kayfabe) by Vader some 7 weeks earlier. The injury angle was meant for Yokozuna to take time off for weight loss. That didn’t happen. By this point, Yokozuna was a shell of his former self weighing in at approx. 660 pounds!!! He really couldn’t move. He is gassed only minutes in. His strategy is sumo style and executing pancake moves to flatten Vader. It’s sad to watch. The booking here features mucho stalling and Yokozuna using his immense girth to ground Vader, plus the added wrinkle of psychology with weakening Vader’s leg. Cornette gets involved to add something leading to a spot where Yokozuna attempts a banzai drop on his former manager. Vader pulls Cornette to safety as Yokozuna crashes down onto the canvas with Vader finishing him off. Yokozuna won the match held in the blackout two nights earlier if you’re into unofficial results. Vader was soon transitioned into a feud with Michaels to challenge for the WWF Championship. Yokozuna hung around for two more years – – – stunningly so – – – before his lights were turned out for good. Truthfully, his career blackout happens on this night.
Rating: *1/2

JR and Perfect discuss the upcoming King of the Ring spectacular. The semi-finals and finals of the tournament will be held at the pay-per-view on June 23. Shawn Michaels will once again defend the WWF Championship against The British Bulldog. The Godwinns will challenge The Smoking Gunns for the Tag-Team Titles. And, just added to the card, Jerry “The King” Lawler will be facing The Ultimate Warrior. There’s time to kill so Ross and Perfect discuss the KOR Tournament pairings. It’s a rather bloated field but here’s how the bracket stacks itself out:

Ultimate Warrior/Goldust (double countout; both guys eliminated)
Ahmed Johnson/Vader (Vader; earns a second round/quarterfinals bye)

Henry O. Godwinn/Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw
Jake “The Snake” Roberts/Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Bob “Spark Plug” Holly/“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Savio Vega/Marty Jannetty

Yokozuna/Owen Hart
Bodydonna Skip/“Wildman” Marc Mero

If my memory serves me correctly, at the PPV, Vader draws Roberts and Austin opposes Mero.

Casket Match for WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Goldust (c) (w/ Marlena) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: Goldust (12:36) with Mankind assistance. Shame on you if you expected any differently. Mankind had involved himself before in this Undertaker side feud and again, the WWF was incrementally delving into Taker’s longstanding battles with Mankind. Also, the only way to win a Casket Match is by putting your opponent inside and closing the lid. Knowing The Undertaker never won the Intercontinental Title in his career kind of crimps this bout in another way. In its context, however, this one-time contest is decent despite the predictability. Taker dominates early as he tosses Goldust around the casket and into the steel steps all while no-selling any of Goldust’s moves. Goldust comes back with clotheslines, a powerslam and even a tombstone piledriver but none of it has Taker out enough for him not to escape the casket in time. A sleeper hold comes next but that, too, can’t end Taker’s night. Goldust hits a flying clothesline minutes later but stupidly tries a pin in a match without pinfalls. Taker comes back again, hitting his own flying clothesline followed by his tombstone so you suspect it’s curtains for Goldust. When the lid to the casket opens this time within lies Mankind, who pops out and chokes The Undertaker out quickly with the mandible claw. He must have been underneath the ring and the casket rigged by a trap door contraption. Mankind locks Taker inside the casket and Goldust prevails. Shocker. After Paul Bearer has his freak out session, the lights flicker and the casket is opened up to smoke with The Undertaker vanished. Even in 1996, this was vintage Undertaker in these types of matches he’d so seldom lose. For nostaglia purposes and the context that you judge a match in, this was all fine. When will Undertaker resurface again? Until then, who can Mankind prey upon? What wretch of humanity is next?
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: It took two nights to complete but In Your House: Beware of Dog, has to be considered a success. With the WWF roster hemorrhaging, both the booking and the willingness to work compelling matches was a must. Three out of the five matches came through. Mankind furthered things with The Undertaker. Bulldog and Michaels were headed for a re-match. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on his own to begin a career ascent unparrelled. Each match feautured the proper winner. The Caribbean Strap Match and Helmsley/Mero were both terrific. The Federation was in the back seat for the first time since before the mid-1980’s so work rate had to be their calling card for eyeballs fixated on the happenings elsewhere, notably with a New World Order materializing.

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 27, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 27, 1996
Fayettville, NC

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

King of the Ring Tournament Qualifying Match:
Goldust [WWF Intercontinental Champion] (w/ Marlena) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: Double Count-Out (12:42 shown). At least there’s a match this time unlike their IC Title fiasco at In Your House in April and the theatrics seen there. Both guys are eliminated from further competition in the KOR Tournament. How tragic … At one point, Ahmed Johnson carries Goldust back to the ring as Goldust flees. This sets up Johnson chasing the Intercontinental Title. Oh, I can’t wait. The King walks at The Warrior after the match ends with Marlena’s director’s chair in hand but Warrior chases him off. I guess Lawler and Warrior will be working something? That’s equally thrilling. Warrior mostly no-sells Goldust offense around Goldust stall tactics but he does allow a few moves and a rear chinlock. I felt like I was watching a 1989 Warrior match yet without the feels. Neither guy could do the job here given their standing. Goldust will face The Undertaker in the Casket Match on the re-air of “Beware of Dog.” Warrior is sporting his personalized “Warrior University” trunks for this one. He was all about selling his merchandise and making a buck.
Rating: *3/4

Vince recaps Sunny’s night at Beware of Dog, first debuting as co-manager of The Godwinns and then locking lips with Billy Gunn of The Smoking Gunns before they recaptured the Tag-Team Championship. From there, “Wildman” Marc Mero was able to outlast Hunter Hearst Helmsley and then … the lights went out with power lost to the building and the WWF losing its satellite feed for over an hour. Vince says the three advertised matches that went on in the dark will happen again tomorrow night LIVE on pay-per-view. That buyrate had to be shockingly low. A rough time for the WWF this was. One of the matches to re-air will be the Caribbean Strap Match between Savio Vega and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Speaking of Austin, he’s standing by now with “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Even though Austin lost to Vega, DiBiase discounts the result being the match took place in the dark so who knows how many turnbuckles Savio touched. DiBiase believes wholeheartedly that Austin will defeat Vega that he’s willing to forfeit his career in the WWF should Savio win. Vega, on the other hand, will become DiBiase’s personal chaffeur should he lose.

Non-Title Tag-Team Match:
The Smoking Gunns [Billy & Bart] (c) (w/Sunny) vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip]

Result/Analysis: The Smoking Gunns via pinfall (9:20 shown) when Bart pins Zip after rolling through on a flying crossbody press. Hillbilly Jim sat ringside to discuss lovesick Phineas and Sunny’s betrayal. These teams were transitioning from heel to babyface and vice versa but fans were slow on the take so The Gunns play it straight while The Bodydonnas mostly do the same. Boring match here that The Bodydonnas control. Bart is in the ring for the vast majority so you can imagine dozing off. The Godwinns come out since Phineas wants a word with Sunny but Henry talks him down. What they needed to do was find a bimbo who actually had the hots for hog farmers. Anyway, The Bodydonnas actually wrestle a decent match but the champs go over. At KOR, The Godwinns will get their re-match with The Gunns. And that feud would drag on from there. Yawn.
Rating: * 1/2

Vince and King recap Shawn Michaels versus The British Bulldog from IYH. The end result? A draw. Therefore, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon has ordered a return match for the WWF Championship at King of the Ring. I’ll double down my bet on Shawn in that one.

King of the Ring Tournament Qualifying Match:
Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Ahmed Johnson

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (9:03 shown) following outside interference by Owen Hart. Two behemoths go toe-to-toe and the live crowd is lit. You don’t equate to Ahmed to being in good matches but here’s one of the few. The mastadon Vader goes on like he’s a prized bull in a back alley fight while Ahmed counters with a mentality and attitude that he’s mixed up in a bar room brawl. The punches thrown are stiff. Clotheslines leave their mark. Vader gladly sells Ahmed’s power moves to make him look far more credible than he’s been. Cornette interjects himself, first hitting Ahmed with the tennis raquet then being thrown around like garbage and slung into Vader. Owen was on commentary is hilarious. He’s confident on winning KOR again because there’s no one that can beat him. Damn, I love that guy. Vader hits a splash from the middle rope and a corner splash but Ahmed survives both. Ahmed impressively suplexes Vader after that. Vader misses a moonsault off the top rope and Ahmed levels Vader with more clotheslines and works in a powerslam. Nice. Cornette is brought into the ring at this point so Owen has enough. With the referee’s back turned, Owen, his left arm in a cast, ascends to the top rope and comes flying off to connect with Ahmed’s head. Vader covers Ahmed, who’s now knocked out, and gets the pin to advance on in KOR.
Rating: ***

After the match, Ahmed is stretchered backstage as Vince speculates a concussion. Goldust sneaks up as the paramedics wheel the stretcher toward an ambulance and orders mouth-to-mouth. Goldust resuscitates Ahmed himself leaving gold paint on Ahmed’s mouth. Ahmed wakes up and goes beserk as he hunts for Goldust, who has fled. Bob Holly takes a choking for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Marc Mero is present and points the way to Goldust’s dressing room. A stage hand stands in front of the door so Ahmed crashes through him and the door busts. No Goldust, however. Ahmed walks off as RAW concludes.

The Verdict: Hamstrung by Beware of Dog not yet finished, the WWF scrambled to produce a RAW that built toward KOR as unfinished business awaited. They pulled off an acceptable show. The Ultimate Warrior was forced into action. Sunny debuts as manager of The Smoking Gunns. Vader works with Ahmed Johnson and they surprise with a solid Main Event. The angle with Goldust and Ahmed caps off the night. Michaels and Bulldog will have their return match at KOR, too.

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 20, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 20, 1996
Sioux City, IA (taped 4/29/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Last night at Madison Square Garden, a famed “Curtain Call” Incident went down, with a certain Kliq going off script … oh wait, that’s not it … yes, Sunny kissed Phineas Godwinn and The Bodydonnas, in turn, kissed the Tag-Team Championship goodbye. Oh Vince, you’re a coy one.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase) v “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Austin via DQ (9:42 shown) as a result of outside interference from Savio Vega, who hits Austin in the back with a leather strap. At IYH, coming up in real time six days after the airing of this RAW, Austin and Vega will compete in a Caribbean Strap Match. Therefore, Vega’s interjection here is logical. As for Mero, he has Hunter Hearst Helmsley at IYH, which just so coincides with HHH in Vince McMahon’s doghouse for Helmsley breaking kayfabe at MSG. Place your bets on “Wildman.” Now Austin and Mero, then Johnny B. Badd, had a lenghty feud in WCW in the Spring of 1994, so they have a history together. Vince never, ever, ever alluded to his SuperStars previous backgrounds prior to joining the WWF so I’m mentioning this for all you peons out there. Unlike the series of matches from a few years hence, this encounter is pretty standard and vanilla. Call the match a standard catch-as-catch-can WWF style match, too. Austin hones his arsenal. Mero flies around. They swap near falls a few times only the crowd is completely dead from the three prior tapings. Either Vega or HHH had to interfere because jobbing Austin – the next King of the Ring or Mero – a future Intercontinental Champion, who had the HOT valet, didn’t make sense. The booking is spot on. The wrestling is acceptable. Austin became one of wrestling’s biggest stars while Mero flames out in the biz within two years. In 1996, they were looked at equally. That’s comical now.
Rating: **

Meanwhile, in Kuwait, forgetting we saw this LAST WEEK, Ahmed Johnson lifted the spirit of the people there by winning the first-ever (and last) Kuwaiti Invitational International 16-man single elimination Tournament. LOL. Well, the Kuwaiti people may have cared but WWF fans Stateside couldn’t have given two craps about it. Ahmed Johnson, the liberator. Vince was on crack.

Next week on RAW, in first round action in the King of the Ring Tournament, the aforementioned Ahmed Johnson will square off with Vader. In another KOR qualifier, Intercontinental Champion Goldust is scheduled to go up against The Ultimate Warrior. I say scheduled because Warrior was too busy signing autographs for his self-titled comic books which brainwashed the youth all while reaping the profits. Goldust may advance on in the tournament with a Warrior no-show. We’ll see.

Savio Vega v The 1-2-3 Kid (w/ “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase)

Result/Analysis: Vega via pinfall (7:49 shown) with a roll-up. DiBiase joins King and Vince on commentary to discuss Savio losing to Austin at IYH and having to be his personal chauffeur. LOL. Well, it’s not like Virgil is around anymore to be DiBiase’s slave so why not? In present time, The Kid was in drug rehab. This RAW is pre-taped so no one would know. Vega works a rear chin lock for what seems like an eternity but he does bust The Kid’s lip from a spinning heel kick that made a landing. Following a commercial, the match picks up for the audience with The Kid in control, though his moveset is also kick centric. They trade near falls before The Kid misses on a splash from the top rope and Savio awkwardly rolls him up for the pin. The Kid had his first-ever televised crotch chop here, too, if you’re keen on details. After Savio wins, Austin hits the ring and takes measure on Vega for the interference in his match. With The Kid’s help, Savio is hogtied by Austin with the leather strap as DiBiase places the chauffeur’s hat on him. Win or lose at IYH, Austin thankfully moves on from his lengthy feud with Vega. The next time wrestling audiences would see The Kid on television would be in September on WCW Monday Nitro. The WWF roster kept thinning out.
Rating: **1/4

Vince shows match highlights from MSG the night prior as The Godwinns unseat The Bodydonnas to win the WWF Tag-Team Championship. Sunny was the focus, both before and during the match. She goats Phineas into signing her on for managerial services by getting language into the match contract. Lame. The Godwinns win the titles at a house show and turn around for a challenge by The Smoking Gunns at IYH, well, it’s on the Free-For-All prior to the PPV. Transitional champions. Eh.

The Undertaker is being interviewed by Jim Ross as he sits inside an open casket, one that’s personally designed for Goldust and IYH. The lights are dimmed. Mankind comes out and slams the casket shut with The Undertaker stuck inside. He ropes it so Taker can’t escape. Goldust and Marlena appear to walk back Paul Bearer. Mankind repeatedly slams a steel pole into the casket and it tips over on its side. Vince is ever so dramatic on commentary. This is foreshadowing for IYH.

Jim Cornette, The British Bulldog, Diana and Clarence Mason are in the ring. Bulldog opposes Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the Main Event. Thrilling. Cornette tells everyone that Mason has, at Diana’s personal request, drawn up a restraining order against Shawn Michaels which prevents him from being with 100 yards of her prior to IYH. Therefore, Michaels won’t be on commentary for Bulldog’s match. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon comes out to review the contract. Cornette badmouths Gorilla and calls him a baboon. Monsoon deems the restraining order as valid and the WWF will comply with it. However, Michaels was advertised to appear tonight in front of the “live” crowd and for the at-home viewing audience so its Diana who must leave ringside area immediately. Diana has the look and feel of a woman that’s violated. LOL. Monsoon and Mason escort Diana away as HBK walks out and passes Diana clearly in violation of the restraining order. That poor woman.

The British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette) v Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: No idea. RAW concluded. The Bulldog works Jake’s knee over in a match that’s completely secondary for the TV audience to Michaels on commentary and HBK having to answer to and/or refute allegations of his womanizing ways. The King really gives it to Michaels for the duration. It’s hilarious. Shawn, of course, denies any wrongdoing toward Diana Smith. King brings up the rumored relations of Shawn and Pamela Anderson and Michaels admits they had something. The early Rockers days where Shawn and Marty Jannetty were a little wild, um yeah, that’s an understatement, are discussed and Michaels admits he and Marty were young and got a little wild. They weren’t initially called “The Midnight Rockers” for no reason. Girls, boos and “blow” I watched Shawn Michaels A&E Biography so he, himself, has corroborated that period. The match continues to suck and be unimportant so back to Michaels. King gets Shawn to admit posing for Playgirl just “today” 5/20/96, and Vince questions the timing of following through on that commitment. Finally, Diana walks herself out and gets in Shawn’s face. She gives him what for and throws a cup of water at him. Bulldog then ignores Jake and he and Shawn exchange blows as RAW goes off the air.
Rating: 1/2* (for the match)

The Verdict: In Your House 8 – Beware of Dog, is upon is. Beware of Shawn was more apt, given the WWF Title match was based around his rumored philandering ways. There was more going on behind the scenes in May 1996 between unscripted incidents and creative planning than what the WWF gave its fans. As luck would have it, not even the PPV went off without a hitch as a severe thunderstorm during the event caused a power outage at the arena in Florence, South Carolina and the WWF had to scramble to “finish” the event two days later: “Beware of Dog 2.” The Federation was losing talent in droves even though a lot of future talent was on the roster. It was all bad timing given that “The Monday Night Wars” were mere days away from the first real shots fired.

WCW Monday Nitro – May 20, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – May 20, 1996
Monroe, LA

Commentators: Eric Bischoff and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bischoff and Heenan hype Slamboree from last night. Really now? It sucked. Steve “Mongo” McMichael is not announcing tonight Bischoff says because he and his number one draft pick, Kevin Greene, are in serious training for Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. Bischoff circles back to Slamboree where Flair challenged Mongo to a tag-team match versus himself and AA. Mongo then announced/introduced Greene as his partner. So Earth-shattering, I tell you. Bischoff says the match is official as of this morning and will happen in Baltimore at The Great American Bash. Heenan, for lack of a better adjective, thinks Greene and Mongo are mincemeat come The GAB.

Fire and Ice [Scott Norton & Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: Double Count-Out (5:26). This is a return match of sorts as these teams wrestled on April 29, three weeks prior. That bout was a quick and decisive Steiner’s win. Here, having worked out the kinks, the action is impactful with Fire and Ice hanging with The Steiner’s, the seasoned vets. Scott was juicing by this point and noticeably carrying the load. His suplexes, the vast variety of them, were firmly executed. Ice Train was superior to “Flash” Norton in Fire and Ice but it’s hard to take them seriously as heels with such blinding ring attire. Five minutes in, after some good wrestling – – – 70% Steiner-dominated – – – Ice Train pairs off with Rick while Norton fights with Scott. All four men wind up outside the ring and the 10 count is on. Ice Train powerslams Rick. Norton hits a shoulderbreaker on Scott. Both teams are counted out. This rivalry is just getting started.
Rating: **1/2

Eddie Guerrero vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Elizabeth and Woman)

Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (16:58 shown) with assistance from Woman as Guerrero was locked up in the figure-four. Fantastic match. Eddie Guerrero proves here, on May 20, 1996, he had the goods and could wrestle Flair, the very best, for a near 20 minutes and go blow-for-blow, move-for-move and craft a match that drips with psychology and storytelling. WCW clearly had figured out Guerrero was a budding star. How they later blew it with him is one of their colossal blunders and undoings for mere existence. It’s a coming out party for Guerrero here and Flair is so great, an underrated part of his legend, in that he has Guerrero carry him to something that’s fantastic. They trade stiff chops in the beginning stages as Flair is frustrated by Guerrero’s grit and tenacity so he takes a powder and gets into a shoving match with referee Randy Anderson. Woman shrieking over every Flair setback is hilarious. From there it’s counter wrestling and a series of near falls for Guerrero as his underdog upset bid gains traction. Guerrero gets the figure-four on Flair but that’s short lived. Flair begins working the knee of Guerrero and Guerrero sells for the better good but more so on his own offensive moves that put his knee in a tender position. Brilliant. Guerrero debuts the frog splash here which would have won him the match if not for landing on it improperly and he can’t cover. Flair slaps on the figure-four and you think Guerrero will tap. But no, Flair resorts to cheat tactics and uses Woman for leverage. That pins Guerrero’s shoulders to the mat and Flair overcomes. Guerrero is kept strong in defeat but Flair wins. That is how it’s done!!!
Rating: **** (a rare freebie on TV that’s pushing the bar toward that rarified territory)

After the match, next to his private VIP lounge set-up Flair cuts a victory promo with Okerlund as the MC. Naitch refutes that “Macho Man” Randy Savage is anywhere close to the building let alone inside of it and he’ll be enjoying another night with the girls. As for Kevin Greene, well he made the cardinal mistake of entering North Carolina without asking permission (Greene was now on the Carolina Panthers roster) and also thinks he can cross-train football with wrestling and it doesn’t work that way. Flair draws a comparison to himself cross-training the girls. Ha! Naitch is GOD!!!

Following a commercial break, Flair has assumed Mongo’s position at the broadcast table. The girls are there. The champagne is being poured. The catering has been transferred. And Heenan, yeah, he’s got the candelabra. Flair makes it a point that Ted Turner wants him there. Well this ought to entertain. For now, it’s back to the ring.

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
The Faces of Fear [Meng & The Barbarian] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (7:53 shown) when Luger pins The Barbarian after a Stinger splash from Sting from off the top rope. There’s something in the water in Monroe, Louisiana on this tonight because this is another high-quality match, with the Tag-Team Titles on the line to boot. Sting takes a sustained beating to follow up on his weakened state having competed against The Giant at Slamboree the night before. The Faces of Fear cut the ring in half and take turns pulverizing Sting. The highlights are a top rope belly-to-belly suplex by The Barbarian on Sting – supremely executed – and a diving double headbutt from adjacent top turnbuckles from Meng and The Barbarian. Luger had the referee tied up so Meng doesn’t get the three count but alas, there’s the hint of doubt on if Sting and Luger retain the straps. Luger eventually gets the hot tag and cleans house leading to the finish. All four guys were motivated to work a good match. It’s refreshing. Flair added levity to the commentary but mostly bragged about himself – that’s OK.
Rating: ***

Meanwhile, Savage is outside the building and Okerlund says he’s again banned from entering. Gene tells Macho there’s a meeting going on to discuss his future in WCW and the speculation is, Savage may not be allowed to even wrestle again. Macho barges at the door but he’s stopped by security and law enforcement. Flair and Heenan find it hysterical.

Blood Runs Cold: Glacier is coming. Big whoop!

Brad Armstrong vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (4:38 shown) following the diamond cutter. Page had won BattleBowl at Slamboree and with it became the “Lord of the Ring.” Winning that was to give DDP a World Heavyweight Title Match at The Great American Bash. Due to Page winning the battle royal in controversy, however, as he was thrown over the top rope and out of the ring early on in the match with both of his feet touching the floor, Okerlund breaks the news to DDP after his victory here that he will no longer receive the title shot after WCW’s executive committee looked at the video footage. Dumb. So much for DDP’s push. He wasn’t yet what he’d later on be as a wrestler and performer, but I swear WCW strung Page along on a string to adhere to his rags-to-riches journey. That, and in 1996, the thought of DDP being in any World Title match, let alone on a signature PPV, did seem desperate. Okerlund announces Luger will receive the title shot at The GAB instead. No re-match for Sting against The Giant? Lex did hold that ever prestigious TV Title so perhaps that qualified him? LOL. Armstrong was a credible wrestler to have in the ring with anyone yet still lose and be OK with it. Page had gotten better but he hadn’t refined even the diamond cutter yet. His side headlock, though, yeah, that was part of his repertoire. I wonder if Page wrestles anyone at The GAB. I can’t recall. At least WCW should have him face Konnan and beat him for the U.S. Title, no?
Rating: *1/2

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (3:39) following a chokeslam. Glorified squash of “The Enforcer.” AA always did a job if it was right for business. This match felt like a time filler not a Main Event. The Giant is our champ so throw him out there to make quick work of someone that’s credible. It’s not a match that can be good so there’s no bother in trying. At The GAB, the World Title Match to have with DDP thrown out as the challenger was not Luger vs. The Giant or Sting vs. The Giant but both Luger and Sting vs. The Giant. A three-way dance, something not at all common even by 1996, made the most logical sense considering what transpired at Slamboree.

The Verdict: Strong Nitro off a poorly booked Slamboree. WCW had one noteworthy storyline heading into The GAB with The Horsemen challenging Mongo and Greene. I just mentioned what the World Title match should be. On this night, Flair and Guerrero produce a classic so check that match out for sure. Both tag-team matches are solid, too. Next week, an “Outsider” shows up …

WCW Slamboree 1996

WCW SlamBoree 1996
Sunday, May 19
Riverside Centroplex – Baton Rouge, LA

“What goes up Must come down … HARD!”

Announcers: Tony Schiavone, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan & “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Road Warrior Animal & Booker T. vs. Road Warrior Hawk & “The Total Package” Lex Luger

Result/Analysis: Double Count-Out (6:52). Both “teams” are eliminated from BattleBowl and The Road Warriors, Booker and Luger won’t have a shot to be crowned Lord of the Ring at night’s end. Whatever. Luger trades off facing Animal and Booker, with Hawk never tagged in. There’s some semblance of a match but you could have stalled at your fridge looking for that last beer and not missed a thing. When Hawk does get in, he starts a fight with Luger. At that point, the match becomes The Road Warriors pairing off against Luger and Booker. The pier-six brawl spills outside the ring and continues long enough for referee Nick Patrick to count all four men out. Just bad.
Rating: DUD

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge] vs. “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan
(w/ Jimmy Hart) & “The Canadian Crippler” Chris Benoit

Result/Analysis: Public Enemy via pinfall (4:44) after crashing Benoit thru a table. Sullivan and Benoit were positioned on the table but Sullivan moves off so that Benoit is the one that’s damaged. Sullivan then feigns a knee injury and hobbles off with Hart. Public Enemy rolls Benoit into the ring for the easy three count. Sullivan and Benoit had friction going in so the events here exasperate their disdain for another. Public Enemy stayed together in the “random” drawing so it’s explainable they advance on. At least Benoit and Rock have a decent wrestling sequence before the match breaks down into chaos. Public Enemy is now subject to the next drawing prior to the second round. The first match offered nothing, this at least kicked a can or two down the road, so.
Rating: *

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman (w/ Teddy Long) & Scott Steiner vs. The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe) & “The Dog-Faced Gremlin” Rick Steiner

Result/Analysis: The Booty Man & Rick Steiner via pinfall (8:24) when Rick pins Pittman with a belly-to-back suplex. And yes, The Steiner’s do mix it up and square off! Awesome. If only The Road Warriors had done the same. Pfft. The mat wrestling, Scott suckering Rick in for an inside cradle by playing possum, Scott’s suplex arsenal in full-force and Rick hitting the Steinerline, highlight their exchange. The crowd loved it. Who wouldn’t given The Steiner’s hadn’t been on opposite sides yet? Pittman and Booty manage not to stink up the joint and Booty nearly submits to Pittman’s code red cross arm-breaker submission. Nice. All four men are babyface so the match is competitive without being hostile. I’d have favored Scotty and “Pitbull” but the result goes the other way. Good stuff.
Rating: **3/4

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
The Blue Bloods [“Lord” Steven Regal & “Squire” David Taylor] (accompanied by Jeeves)
vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan & V.K. Wallstreet

Result/Analysis: Duggan & Wallstreet via pinfall (3:48) when Duggan pins Taylor following a punch to the head with a taped fist. Really now, this crap is on pay-per-view? Duggan and Walstreet are arch-enemies so they can’t co-exist. His Lordship is besmirched the whole match being lowered to a sub-standard level of having to compete against such an imbecile. The Squire is a pawn in this wretched game of chess and offers no value. If only Jeeves had stuck around. Awful.
Rating: DUD

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
“Dirty” Dick Slater (w/ Colonel Robert Parker) & “Earl” Robert Eaton (accompanied by Jeeves)
vs. “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright & The Disco Inferno

Result/Analysis: Slater & Eaton via pinfall (2:58) when Slater pins Disco after hitting him with his cowboy boot. Woof! These are HORRIBLE matches. WCW only received a 0.44 buyrate for this event so even the fans knew to stay away. Wright tries to wrestle but otherwise it’s just some clubberin’ going on. We have ourselves a new top contender for “Worst PPV of 1996” as this continues on. Slater and Eaton join Duggan, Walstreet, Booty Man, Rick Steiner and Public Enemy in the second round. I wish I was kidding! What’s next?
Rating: DUD

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian vs. Hugh Morrus & Meng

Result/Analysis: DDP & The Barbarian via pinfall (5:17) when The Barbarian pins Morrus following a clothesline. Meng was simultaneously covering DDP for a pin but referee Randy Anderson tosses out Meng’s fall as DDP had his feet underneath the ring ropes. Gee whiz, WCW is stretching the envelope on this show finding different ways to end matches. The common theme is all ways have sucked. Meng and The Barbarian do a tit-for-tat sequence but both are impervious to pain. Asking either one to SELL wasn’t in their make-up. I’m beginning to recollect this colossal shitfest of an event is about DDP. Given those who’ve advanced on in BattleBowl, Page has as good at shot as anybody of winning the battle royal to be crowned Lord of the Ring. This match was more fluff.
Rating: *1/4

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Big Bubba & Stevie Ray vs. Fire and Ice [Scott Norton & Ice Train]

Result/Analysis: Fire and Ice via pinfall (3:33) when Norton pins Big Bubba following a double shoulderblock between he and Ice Train. This match is a train wreck much like the entirety of the event. Clotheslines are aplenty here but that’s about all. It’s another TERRIBLE tag-team bout. Someone wake up Baton Rouge because these people are comatose.
Rating: DUD

BattleBowl First Round Tag-Team Match:
Eddie Guerrero & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Woman and Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: Savage & Flair via pinfall (4:07) when Flair pins Guerrero after Anderson DDT’s him. Flair spends the match beating up on Savage or making sure Savage is tagged in so that Anderson can dish out the punishment … Horsemen-style. Within all of that, Guerrero shines as he “wrestles”amidst the chaos. WCW obviously believed in Guerrero to give him this opportunity and therby have him integrated in the card’s main storyline. The result of Flair and Savage advancing on in BattleBowl is absolutely necessary. They were the only credible Main Eventers out of the previous match winners. Watching Flair be the dick partner and AA backing up his mission is classic. Five more minutes of Savage torture with Guerrero shining in the spotlight, plus the same result would have equaled gold. As it is, Flair lays the boots to Savage more, Anderson gives Macho a second DDT onto the mat outside the ring, and Elizabeth rubs salt in the wound with a slap to his face.
Rating: **

Tony, Bobby and Dusty recap the first round winners. Tony says the next random drawing upcoming will determine which team will receive a bye into the Battle Bowl 8-man battle royal with 7 teams advancing and only slots for three second round matches comprised of the other 6 teams.

A Great American Bash promo comes next. It’s a WCW Father’s Day you’ll never forget. LOL.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is standing by with some girls from “Hooters” which Gene says is one of his favorite establishments. Creep. Fire and Ice are drawn as the team to receive the second round bye. Good. I didn’t want to see them wrestle again. As for one of the second round match-ups, Slater and Eaton will square off with Duggan and Walstreet. Oh hell, that match wouldn’t be on WCW Saturday Night if I was in charge of the booking. Moving on …

WCW Cruiserweight Championship:
Brad Armstrong vs. Dean Malenko (c)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (8:28) following a gutbuster off the top turnbuckle. The “Iceman” cometh as Malenko systematically dismantles Armstrong’s knee using a variety of holds. Even by 1996, ring psychology, working a specific body part to weaken it, had become a lost art in professional wrestling. It was a lost art, and, few guys would SELL for anyone to thereby craft a match. Armstrong, in contrast to Malenko, the self-professed “Man of 1,000 Holds,” was a longtime veteran of the sport having begun his career in 1980 and had held various championships in multiple promotions. BA was a high-flyer by trade but he could chain/mat wrestle with anyone as was Malenko’s forte. The charade over there being a tournament contested on two continents to crown a Cruiserweight Champion, Shinjiro Otani at first, was again perpetuated here, as that never happened, but Malenko being the current titleholder at least meant there’d be a good match if he was involved. This card has stunk all night so to watch an actual wrestling match wherein there was a working plan has lifted me out of my drowsy state. I still need more caffeine, stat.
Rating: **3/4

Blood Runs Cold: Glacier is coming to WCW … well he is, sometime, eventually, or, after a while. But, who the F knows when? Had it been never that would have been fine, too. The vignette for Glacier promised “our world was a out to change.” HaHa. Anyway, the second round of Battle Bowl must now commence. Yawn.

Okerlund announces the other two match pairings for the second round with those Hooters stand-ins. Public Enemy will oppose Flair and Savage. DDP and The Barbarian square off with The Booty Man and Rick Steiner. Gene just wants to get himself to Hooters. Can we hurry this up please?

BattleBowl Second Round Tag-Team Match:
“Dirty” Dick Slater (w/ Colonel Robert Parker) & “Earl” Robert Eaton
vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan & V.K. Wallstreet

Result/Analysis: Slater & Eaton via pinfall (4:10) when Eaton pins Walstreet with a roll-up after “un-friendly” fire from Duggan. So lame. Walstreet and Duggan spend half the match sparring with each other. Explainable, yes, but what SH**! Slater and Eaton are in the BattleBowl battle royal? What year are we in? Colonel Parker is at least overjoyed.
Rating: DUD

BattleBowl Second Round Tag-Team Match:
Public Enemy was to take on Flair and Savage, but no. Savage attacks Flair in the aisle during Flair’s entrance to spark a melee. Elizabeth and Woman were tossing Savage’s money into the crowd. Public Enemy advances to Battle Bowl via count-out. WCW could not have booked a worse PPV. Given who’s in the battle royal now and the match remaining to complete the field, the winner and the next Lord of the Ring is obvious. “It’s me, it’s ME, it’s D-D-P!”

BattleBowl Second Round Tag-Team Match:
Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian vs. The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe) & Rick Steiner

Result/Analysis: DDP & The Barbarian via pinfall (5:08) when The Barbarian pins The Booty Man following an elbow to the back of Booty’s neck by DDP. By golly, yes, that’s the actual finish. Holy hell. When you think an event can’t possibly get worse, it somehow still does. There’s no redeeming quality. For Battle Bowl, the final eight men that will compete are: Dick Slater, Robert Eaton, Scott Norton, Ice Train, Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, The Barbarian and DDP. Atrocious. Abominable.

Dusty heads backstage to investigate the latest on Flair and Macho. That means Mike Tenay joins Tony and Bobby for Konnan and Jushin Thunder Liger. I guess Tenay improves the commentary?

WCW United States Heavyweight Championship:
Jushin Thunder Liger (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Konnan (c)

Result/Analysis: Konnan via pinfall (9:31) following a Razor’s Edge into a sit-out powerbomb. The first five minutes and change are an absolute snooze as Liger and Konnan do a mat wrestling exchange. The crowd is too dead (as am I) at this point to get juiced by holds and counter holds. These guys are stuck in Jell-O. The latter half picks up, however, as the modest submission holds are ditched in favor of aerial and power moves. These produce some long two counts. Liger controls 90 percent of the match while Tenay bores us with his astute commentary on both international stars. Both were legit, but neither had a following in The States and they’re wrestling over the U.S. Heavyweight Title. I guess that’s how WCW figured its fans would care? By the end, this is a pretty good match but the rating I give it is inflated by the heaps of trash on this card.
Rating: ***

There’s time to kill apparently so Okerlund brings out Flair, who’s joined by AA, Elizabeth and Woman. Flair gives us his synopsis of what we’ve seen tonight. Besides crap? Ric says Savage is locked up downtown, he’ll have a mental evaluation tomorrow, and he is, for all intents and purposes gone, as in, “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” gone. LOL. And while Savage is locked up in the jailhouse tonight, they’ll be having a pajama lingerie party at the top of the Radisson Hotel, all while armed by double security. Flair says it will be the first real party in Baton Rouge. Now turning to one Steve McMichael … Naitch says Mongo has stepped in it with his mouth. Flair says Debra is in his back pocket so he’s not the one to blame. Mongo comes out but Flair tells him to watch it as “The Enforcer” is here and he’s walked over more football players on the way to the rest room than guys Mongo played against. Ha! Flair sums up what’s been going on by cracking into tune “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers, whoooo!” Flair challenges Mongo to a match versus himself and AA if McMichael can find a partner that’s willing to step into the ring with The Horsemen. Mongo says he came prepared as he thought something like this would go down. Out comes Kevin Greene, which sets up The Great American Bash next month. Flair and AA back off as Greene introduces himself while speaking gibberish. Tony, Dusty and Bobby think this is a monumental match forthcoming.

Eight Man Battle Royal BattleBowl Finals:
Scott Norton, Ice Train, “Dirty” Dick Slater, “Earl” Robert Eaton, Public Enemy [Johnny Grunge & “Flyboy” Rocco Rock], Diamond Dallas Page and The Barbarian

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (9:40) following a diamond cutter on The Barbarian. Yes, you read that correctly, via pinfall. In a Battle Royal! WCW crapped all over itself. DDP pinned the final three guys: Grunge, Ice Train and The Barbarian. The other four stiffs were eliminated by being tossed over the top rope which is what a Battle Royal is. Oh God, you can’t defend this. So Page wins and is Lord of the Ring. With it was supposed to come a World Heavyweight Title shot but alas, WCW drops that detail immediately as if forgetting they advertised BattleBowl being about that. The Main Event awaits still but what a wretched tournament. The crowd needs EMS for resuscitation.
Rating: 1/2*

The Giant and Jimmy Hart are with Okerlund in the locker room. Hart is sweating bullets over being handcuffed to Luger during the match. Say what? The Giant is tired of Sting. He says Sting has been a thorn in his side, a rat under his bed and a cockroach in his apple pie. Lame. Tonight, he’ll exterminate everybody. DDP, The Giant suggests, should watch this match and think about whether he wants to be next. Terrible promo. It almost makes me want Hulk Hogan back now. I said almost.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
Sting [WCW World Tag-Team Champion] (w/ Lex Luger) vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (10:42) following a chokeslam. The added wrinkle/stipulation of having Luger and Hart handcuffed to each other is integral to the booking of the match. Sting bounces off The Giant like teflon early on with his offensive prowess having little to no effect. The Giant works his power, size and strength to pummel and weaken Sting from there. Later on, outside the ring, The Giant goes to chokeslam Sting thru a table but Luger props Hart on top of the table so The Giant doesn’t follow up on the threat. Sting makes a comeback as the crowd goes bonkers. Tony, Dusty and Bobby at this point hype Sting as a 6x World Heavyweight Champion. Sting hits a series of Stinger splashes but when he tries another dive, he hits the turnbuckle with Hart pulled off, seemingly by Luger, as Hart had positioned himself to interfere. The finishing sequence comes with Sting having the scorpion death lock on The Giant as Hart and Luger struggle on the ring apron for control over who has the megaphone. Of course, Luger wrestles it free from Hart’s grasp only to lunge forward with Sting getting hit on “accident.” The Giant recovers and chokeslams Sting to retain the Title. Once again, Luger and Sting, and the goings-on between them, remains the best thing WCW was offering up. The Giant walks off triumphant in victory as Tony, Dusty and Bobby summarize the event. This match was as good as it could have been.
Rating: ***

The Verdict: To watch Slamboree 1996 is one time too many. The Main Event has juice, OK. That you like. DDP again making a comeback in his early rags-to-riches career, yeah, that’s a story here, too. But BattleBowl, how the tournament plays itself out, scrub mid-card talent in nearly every match, plus awful match quality and booking, lends itself to a BAD pay-per-view. Of course, within weeks, save for Flair and Anderson against Mongo and Greene, none of what materialized here matters with the n.W.o. angle about to commence, which makes Slamboree 1996 a footnote in a transitional time in WCW. The crowd is dead the entire night outside of Sting/The Giant and the Savage/Flair tag match. Monday Nitro is 90 minutes the following night and then increases to a full two hours by May 27th. At that point, WCW begins their ascent. At this juncture, even with the shortcomings in roster talent the WWF had, the better product, in retrospect, may still have been produced by one Vince McMahon. WCW would have been out of business within one year or two without the n.W.o.

WCW Monday Nitro – May 13, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – May 13, 1996
Nashville, TN

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael

Will be the third time be the charm for Lex Luger? He’s missed out on two previous title shots to challenge The Giant for the World Heavyweight Championship. Bischoff shows Luger “camping out” last night in Nashville to assure himself he wouldn’t miss this opportunity, too. Luger brought his fly swatter and flashlight. Mongo think he’s probably eating raw meat. LOL.

Tag-Team action kicks off Nitro so let’s get down to the ring.

Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (6:56) when Scott pins Rock after a frankensteiner. This was solid tag-team wrestling. WCW had ALL the tag-teams worth their salt at the time with The Steiner’s front-and-center. Actually, Public Enemy acquits themselves nicely and they grow on me whenever they’re not in a Street Fight with The Nasty Boys. The match is pretty even with Public Enemy getting innovative with their offense as they pull off a signature Fabulous Rougeau double-team senton on Scott using the top rope. The Steiner’s were on fire, however, as they were huge fan favorites surging toward another reign as WCW World Tag-Team Champions. First, they’ll need to compete on opposite teams at SlamBoree coming up in six days in Baton Rouge, LA.
Rating: **1/2

Bischoff says Nitro will begin airing for TWO hours on May 27th. That was a signature broadcast …

“Squire” David Taylor (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. Chris Benoit

Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (4:18) with a dragon suplex. This match is a contrast of styles. Benoit, the mat wrestler versus Taylor, the Brit, who like His Lordship, Steven Regal, intended to rough up an opponent. Taylor was in the Blue Bloods with Regal and “Earl” Robert Eaton. Benoit remained a member of The Four Horsemen though they weren’t a “foursome” with Brian Pillman gone/on the shelf. Benoit was just getting ramped up with Kevin Sullivan around this time and of course, they’re a tag-team at SlamBoree. So random that drawing for The Lethal Lottery was. Taylor will substitute for The Belfast Bruiser, who was to tag with Regal (again, random!), since The Bruiser wound up with glass in his eye as a result of the parking lot brawl with Regal two weeks ago. Ouch! As for Benoit, WCW blew their wad with him in these early years. On pure wrestling ability alone, he was one of their top guys. At some point, Benoit could have turned face and feuded with Arn Anderson, at least. That would have been special. At least the Sullivan feud that’s upcoming has juice, and realism, to it. Stay tuned for that. Benoit is your winner here, in a time filler bout.
Rating: *

Outside the arena, “Mean” Gene Okerlund is standing by with WCW security and local law enforcement to make sure “Macho Man” Randy Savage stays out. He’s barred tonight. Whatever. Mongo comes outside to tell Savage he has a plan to deal with Ric Flair since his family (Debra, specifically) has been messed with, too, by “The Nature Boy.” Okerlund tells Savage he’s lost it. Macho insists otherwise and says he doesn’t have a problem with Flair being his tag-team partner at SlamBoree because he’s fine with dragging a dead guy to the ring. Ha! Gene tells Macho to seek out professional help, i.e., go and see a psychiatrist. He says, it doesn’t appear as of yet Savage has.

Glacier is coming. Either that or it’s getting cold as the summer months approach.

V.K. Wallstreet vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Woman and Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: Flair via submission (5:56 shown) with the figure-four. Mike Rotunda is a quasi-babyface here and he takes it to Flair throughout. It’s strange because Rotunda is a heel in his V.K. Walstreet gimmick, which, of course, is a cheap take-off from his I.R.S. days. Anyhow, Rotunda will team up with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan at SlamBoree. Those two don’t like each other. Wallstreet hadn’t looked this good in the ring since well, he was wrestling as himself in The U.S. Express while he tagged with Barry Windham in the mid-1980’s. That’s over a decade prior. As for Flair, since Walstreet is the irrelevant one, he gets his ASS handed to him yet capitalizes when Walstreet hits the ring post with his knee and then slaps on the figure-four. Then, in typical Flair fashion he gives one of his classic promos after the match with Okerlund. He lays into the Nashville crowd for booing him and says they haven’t thought much of him since he made Dolly Parton ride “Space Mountain” one night. LOL. He also dismisses Savage’s assertion he’s a “dead man” by kissing Elizabeth’s arms up and down. Oh my! Naitch says he’ll wear a new tuxedo to SlamBoree and the girls will be dressed to kill. As for Mongo, and his own flirtations with Debra in the recent weeks, Flair compares himself to Joe Namath throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass to his wide receivers (Elizabeth and Woman) while McMichael had to roll around in the dirt just to become a four-time all-pro defensive linemen. Wooo!!! Mongo was pre-occupied with recruiting his buddy, all-pro defensive end Kevin Greene of the Carolina Panthers for back-up. Stay tuned for that.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger

Result/Analysis: Luger via DQ (4:05) when The Giant chokeslams him through a table outside the ring. Lex is laid in ruins to end Nitro as Sting rushes to his aide. The Giant tosses Lex around like a rag doll/yesterday’s garbage all while Luger bounces off of him like a pinball going in the wrong direction. WCW was pushing The Giant as an unstoppable force so they get an “A” for effort. The table was Flair’s VIP set-up and even he, Elizabeth and Woman have to look on in horror as Luger is chokeslammed thru said table and onto the concrete floor. The match had zero to it other than what I describe. The Giant is being booked as a monster. Correctly so. What can Sting do at SlamBoree?
Rating: 3/4*

The Verdict: WCW had re-set itself inbetween Uncensored in March and SlamBoree upcoming. Of course, the soon-to-be arrival of two Outsiders from up North would necessitate a full re-set again in the coming weeks. In the interim, The Giant is World Champion and at least he was someone new at the top. The Lethal Lottery/Battlebowl mixed some feuds and will start some new ones. Wrestlers that would rarely see pay-per-view time were about to get some. There’s no fault in that. Oh, and thanks to a mysterious benefactor, Diamond Dallas Page will return at SlamBoree. Someone will be crowned Lord of the Ring and earn himself a World Championship Match.

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 13, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 13, 1996
Sioux City, IA (taped 4/29/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Zip [WWF Tag-Team Champion] (w/ Skip & Sunny) vs. Ahmed Johnson

Result/Analysis: Johnson via pinfall (3:16) OF Skip following the pearl river plunge. The Bodydonnas play switch-er-oo as the idiot referee at first doesnt’t notice and then does as he refuses Zip re-entry into the match. Whatever. Sunny tries to oil up Johnson (he didn’t need it) prior to the match, interrupting his interview with Jim Ross backstage, but Johnson slaps her off. The thing is, he probably did plenty of slapping, and spanking, with Sunny before this in some skanky hotel room, but I digress. Johnson had just won the ever-prestigious Kuwait Cup Tournament (we’re supposed to be impressed?) as Vince hypes it as a major milestone accomplishment. Since Sunny layed down with whomever, Vince was probably onto something giving Johnson more credit for Kuwait. He probably just tapped into an oil reserve while there. Who did he beat to win the trophy, though? Anyway, this match is nothing. Johnson’s third push, I had lost count, was beginning. Ugh.
Rating: *

Meanwhile, The Ultimate Warrior, out of character, comes on to promote Warrior University in a pre-taped segment. His entire reasoning for returning in 1996 was to pump his wrestling school in Scottsdale, Arizona and to be the one to sell his merchandise to turn a profit. Thus, these infomercials to advertise Warrior University began to air. WWF fans only wanted Warrior to wrestle but they didn’t get much of that. This agreement between Warrior and the WWF soon blew up.

Duke “The Dumpster” Droese vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette)

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (5:50 shown) following the VaderBomb. Jim Cornette provided the entertainment value. He has some great one liners on commentary with King and Vince. At IYH on May 26th, two tanks will meet in the ring. Vader as a Sherman Tank and Yokozuna as a Septic Tank. James E. also characterizes Vader’s path of destruction through the WWF as that as a carry-out service since all of his opponents, along with WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, get carted off when Vader is finished with them. Yokozuna is getting a second ride but he’ll have two snapped legs this time. LOL. Droese has an offensive flurry or two in the match but don’t ask me why. It’s not that Vader’s push had stalled out but beating up on lower card talent wasn’t the way to establish him. His push would have meant more had he worked with The Undertaker and put him on the shelf.
Rating: **

Next week, “Wildman” Marc Mero squares off with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Savio Vega wrestles The 1-2-3 Kid. The British Bulldog competes in the Main Event versus Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

The Undertaker and Paul Bearer come out to join Vince. Bearer has pushed Goldust’s gold casket to the ring. See the WWF was slow walking The Undertaker/Mankind feud meaning Goldust gets his freak on with “The Deadman” just for the hell of it. Unless you’re into 1996, as I’m spending this year recapping, you’d have forgotten this side piece ever happened. But, here’s further proof. Bearer, of course, is still speaking for The Undertaker, and says Goldust loves being in the spotlight but at In Your House, he’ll get ready to cross over to the dark side. Ohhh yesss! Taker says he plans to immortalize Goldust but before he can elaborate on what he means, out walks Goldust, and Marlena. Goldust grabs the microphone and says, “Behold, the pale horse and the man who sat upon him was death, and I followed him. Tombstone 1993. Look at you Deadman, so tall, oh, so dark, so clammy, and so stiff. That scent, that scent oh it’s driving me crazy. What is that? What kind of cologne is that? Is that embalming fluid number five? But you know something? That coffin right there, you can lay me in it any time because you know what? There will be no resting once you’re in, no there won’t. I’ve never danced with the devil on the pale moonlight, but I’ll try anything once. Let me just feel your touch, touch you deeper. Do you know what rigor mortis is? Look at me Deadman, it’s a stiffening of the muscle.” And, at last Taker crunches Goldust’s hand and Goldust falls to his knees and holds him down. Then from nowhere appears Mankind to attack Taker. Mankind gets the mandible claw on and Taker falls flat and passes out as Goldust crawls around in the ring watching. Goldust creeps Mankind out by coming up to his ear, or what’s left of his right ear, and blows in it which has Mankind, even in his deranged state, backing off as he releases the mandible claw. Goldust stands over Taker and shimmies off his robe. Oh my. Goldust lays on top of Taker and Jesus it’s full-on here for a second. Goldust rolls off and Taker sits up. Goldust is scared and he’s outta here! Taker follows Goldust on foot as RAW heads to break. Well that was quite something …

“The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya vs. Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/ Uncle Zebekiah)

Result/Analysis: Bradshaw via pinfall (3:47) following the clothesline from hell. Uncle Zeb (Dutch Mantel) and The King renew acquaintances at the announce table (they had a friendly rivalry in the Memphis territory during the 1980’s) while Bradshaw makes mincemeat of Montoya. Zeb claimed the WWF SuperStars were ducking Bradshaw which led to Bradshaw getting on the IYH card. Squash match. Time filler. Nothing to see. Actually, that’s not true. Zeb brands Montoya.
Rating: 1/2*

Meanwhile, Vince updates us on the difficult lives for citizens of Kuwait City approximately five years after The Persian Gulf War ended. But have no fear, the ambassadors of goodwill the world over, the WWF SuperStars, recently arrived to spread some much-needed cheer and hope. Oh, please. Shawn Michaels, of course, takes the credit. Then, in exclusive tour footage, as Shawn tries to score some chicks at a local beach, The British Bulldog attacks and beats up Michaels taking it to him in the water. Yes! Shawn deserved that. “Beware of Dog” is the season at hand, you know. Ha!

Non-Title Match:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels [c] (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (13:11 shown) following sweet chin music. This was Helmsley’s showcase match before that Kliq incident at MSG on the house show circuit coming up soon and Michaels sells every bit of Helmsley’s evolving move set. This is the match when you watch it that you could see Helmsley had the goods. Of course, working with Michaels at the height of his career would make almost anyone look good. Had Helmsley not participated in the Diesel and Razor Ramon WWF curtain call, he was set for a monster push culminating with winning The King of The Ring Tournament in June. As it was, he would win the crown in 1997 and his career skyrocketed a year later so it worked itself out. For now, EVERYTHING was riding on Michaels’ back during his initial WWF Title run. He was THE star. Even more so since The Undertaker hadn’t been humanized as a character meaning he was a separate entity all his own. Shawn somewhat gets ripped for his reign as champion but I think a lot of it in retrospect focused on other things besides his match work. Here, you’re reaction is damn, that Michaels can take beating yet still find that killer instinct to triumph, and hey, that Helmsley fellow can wrestle … now, if only he didn’t have the Connecticut Blue Blood upper class gimmick dragging him down. This is the first match of dozens that Michaels and HHH would have over the next decade. The one thing in common? ALL were fantastic matches!
Rating: ***1/2

The British Bulldog is with Jim Ross. Bulldog promises he’ll punish Michaels if he sticks his nose in his business next week, or, if he approaches Diana during his match with Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

The Verdict: As recapped, Helmsley vs. Michaels is terrific. The Undertaker/Goldust segment is hilarious, all the while cringe-worthy. It’s hard to have taped shows when the landscape of the roster in actual time was evolving by the day. Case in point, referencing an International tour when the content being shown had occurred weeks earlier. Did the WWF realize the Internet existed and all of their secrets were out? They were in budget hell, I get it. Wrestling fans sought LIVE action, though, and only one promotion was giving that each and every week. All of that said, this period, as non-descript as it was, still had its moments of intrigue.

WCW Monday Nitro – May 6, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – May 6, 1996
Daytona Beach, FL

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bisch, Brain and Mongo run down tonight’s card, which is highlighted by Lex Luger challenging The Giant for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Also, in cruiserweight action, Japan’s Jushin “Thunder” Liger will square off with Dean Malenko. As for Sting, he’ll be in the ring with His Lordship Steven Regal. Plus, “Macho Man” Randy Savage is in the building so security is on alert. Let’s get down to the ring!

Hugh Morrus vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Result/Analysis: Morrus via DQ (3:07) as Savage chokes him out with his ring jacket. Truthfully, this could be ruled a no contest since the match never officially starts. Morrus jumps Savage upon his entrance and beats him up outside the ring. With Savage crawling inside the ring, Morrus puts on Savage’s hat and jacket and Macho goes beserk since he’s already psychologically damaged from Ric Flair and Elizabeth. Savage uses his jacket to choke Morrus out as he hangs from the ring apron. The referee DQ’s Macho so he body slams him and drops a flying elbow, after Morrus eats one, too. WCW security personnel come out with local law enforcement and Savage walks off to cheers. Even crazy Savage drew a tremendous crowd response. Remember that Macho is Flair’s tag-team partner coming up at SlamBoree. That can’t go well.
Rating: N/A

Dean Malenko vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger (w/ Sonny Onoo)

Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (6:51 shown) following a double underhook powerbomb. The WCW Cruiserweight division was just getting started but these types of high-quality matches became a weekly trend on Monday Nitro. Bischoff announced Japan’s Shinjiro Ohtani as the first Cruiserweight Champion but he never won the belt; He was given the title. Pfft. Bisch also said Ohtani would be defending the strap at SlamBoree but I don’t recollect that match taking place. Such lies. Anyway, this match is a portend of the Cruiserweights taking over WCW and putting forth the best wrestling on their shows each and every week for the next three+ years give or take. Malenko’s work here is technically sound but Liger dictates the pace and style. Liger was an accomplished star in New Japan Pro Wrestling but WCW often got his services on rental. Throw in Sonny Onoo to boot and you get a shrewd business like Donald Trump in Liger’s corner, at least, according to “The Brain.” Malenko executes the best move with a gut buster coming off the top turnbuckle. The move had the look like it could have caused some digestinal problems for Liger.
Rating: ***

After a commercial break, “Mean” Gene Okerlund is with Flair, Elizabeth and Woman. Flair’s in a good mood despite losing the World Title to The Giant last week and why wouldn’t he be with the girls, spending the Macho Man’s money, and sipping cocktails. Wooo! Flair says The Giant got lucky but he’ll get hurt when he comes around again. Once again he flirts with Debra McMichael at ringside and has a cocktail served to her. Debra dumps the glass but Flair is convinced she wants some. Elizabeth tells Gene not to worry over the cost of the champagne because Randy has lots of money. Ric informs Macho they’ll be riding home in the blue porsche of his tonight. As for SlamBoree, he’ll be moving on in The Lethal Lottery and says “Double A” will do the right thing. The opening match has Flair and Savage against Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero. Naitch being Naitch in this segment. All in storyline, but I still bet Savage had to be restrained backstage, for real.

Glacier is coming soon. Did anyone care?

“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Geeves) vs. Sting [WCW Tag-Team Champion]

Result/Analysis: Sting via pinfall (5:49 shown) after reversing a Regal butterfly suplex attempt into his own and bridging his body up. Quite the nifty counter move by Sting to win the match here. Sting was still motivated to work good matches – – – mostly, anyway – – – in 1996, especially with an accomplished ring scholar like Regal, who was fresh off of his war of attrition “Parking Lot Brawl” the previous week against The Belfast Bruiser. Now Regal was to tag with The Belfast Bruiser at SlamBoree but Bischoff says he’s injured from the match last week so Regal was drawn fellow Blue Blood “Squire” David Taylor as the replacement partner. Whatever. Sting, on the other hand, is lined up to face The Giant for the World Heavyweight Championship. As for this match, I’d have taken another five minutes. Regal could work a very good match with anyone that was willing.
Rating: **1/4

Well, “The Total Package” Lex Luger is a no-show at the arena as Main Event time is upon us so “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, yes, Old Glory himself, has offered to sub in. The live crowd in Daytona Beach is less than enthused by this. Sting won’t be happy either. The Lex Express must have detoured on the highway that’s the only logical explanation. Luger wouldn’t duck anyone. 🙄

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (3:16) following a chokeslam. Duggan is pancaked. Good. Build The Giant up. It’s the ONLY way to legitimately establish him as the World Champion. After the match, Duggan eats a second chokeslam as do three saps from the roster who run out. Flair also runs in and he wallops The Giant with a wooden chair over his head but that has no ill effect. The Giant grabs Flair’s throat only here’s Sting to make the save. Sting chops at The Giant’s lower base and weakens his knees. He applies the scorpion death lock but Jimmy Hart hits him with the megaphone. Luger FINALLY arrives and Sting is none too pleased. Luger plays dumb about being late. Uh huh. Luger and Sting get in a heated argument with Okerlund on hand but that’s a wrap.

Rating: 3/4*

The Verdict: Solid Nitro. Isn’t Hogan being gone refreshing? The Giant gets Sting at SlamBoree but how does Luger fit into that? Flair keeps torturing Savage. That never tired. The Cruiserweights did their thing as Monday Nitro had a new staple it could go to for a crowd buzz. SlamBoree is finally approaching. WCW hasn’t had a PPV offering since that wretched Uncensored in March. Who will be crowned Lord of the Ring? Savage probably takes out Flair before Naitch and AA pull a fast one.

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 6, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – May 6, 1996
Sioux City, IA (taped 4/29)

The death of Ray “The Crippler” Stevens is mentioned at the top, with RAW dedicated in his honor.

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Shawn Michaels as “The Homewrecker” is further revealed tonight on Monday Night Raw as we hear from a woman who claims “The Boy Toy” is responsible for ruining her marriage.

The 1-2-3 Kid (w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase) vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable)

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (9:36 shown) after countering an attempted superplex. Hunter Hearst Helmsley joins Vince and King on commentary and HHH puts Sable down while enlightening the viewers about Mero’s many shortcomings. This is a fun bout. Mero is on point with everything and the live crowd is electric for him. He was a good signing at the time by McMahon. The Kid also brings his working boots and he even makes a sleeper hold interesting which is hard to do. Unfortunately, The Kid was soon a goner from the WWF with drug rehab in his future before an outright release and heading South. Mero and Helmsley will finally clash at In Your House in three weeks on May 26. Their feud began at WrestleMania XII on March 31. Theirs wasn’t rushed.
Rating: ***

Meanwhile, from WWF SuperStars over the weekend, DiBiase accepted Savio Vega’s challenge to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin last week on RAW for a “Caribbean Strap Match” come IYH. DiBiase accepts on the stipulation that if Vega loses, he’ll become his chauffeur. Evil laugh.

Moving on, a woman, or a paid-off stand-in, whose identity is video distorted, claims Michaels and her slept together behind her ex-husband’s back (some ex-wrestler, who wasn’t). As a result, their one-time fling ruined her matrimonial life as Shawn got his fixings. Oy! This skit was worse than ALL the “Billionaire Ted” nonsense from earlier in the year. Shawn was no doubt a ding-dong – in reality – up and down the road but the storyline being Diana Hart-Smith alleging his improprieties could have been enough for the made-up on the fly rationale for their sudden feud. The WWF could have gotten creative and even more salacious positioning Diana in awkward situations with Shawn, no?

Speaking of The British Bulldog, he’s in action next against Fatu, who’s still making a difference. Yeah, that gimmick went nowhere.

Fatu vs. The British Bulldog (w/ Diana and Jim Cornette)

Result/Analysis: Bulldog via pinfall (8:15 shown) following a running powerslam. Fatu rattles Bulldog to start to he bails out to regroup with Diana checking him over. Bulldog crotches Fatu on the top rope to take the upper hand and clotheslines him out. Cornette chokes out Fatu with his tennis raquet as Vince speculates what Diana is doing at ringside. King answers that she’s out there for her safety and Bulldog’s peace of mind as that sexual predator Shawn Michaels is lurking backstage. Ha! King was fantastic for so many years with his one liners to accentuate feuds. With the match heading to a commercial break, The Samoan Gangster Party (Headshrinker Samu and Matt Anoa’i, who later on had a career as Rosey alongside Hurricane Helms) come out to scout Fatu. Their intent was to reign in Fatu after he went soft. Anyway, Bulldog low blows Fatu and clotheslines him with Fatu selling it with a mid-air spin. From there, it’s Bulldog circa 1991, as a running powerslam cements his victory. I expected very little but this is a fine TV match. Bulldog flexes after the pin, receives congratulatory applause and an embrace from Diana. LOL. Lawler speculates Diana will take her story to the national talk show circuit: Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, Jerry Springer and Oprah Winphrey. Ha! The SGP confront Fatu as he walks up the aisle and Fatu wants none of their advice telling them they’re not his family but the WWF (and its fans) are. Whatever.
Rating: **1/2

Vince announces Michaels/HHH next week on RAW … years later fans would pay the big bucks for their matches … Vader will be in action, too, versus Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, and The Undertaker will have a special interview.

Non-Title Tag-Team Match:
Tekno Team 2000 [Travis & Troy] vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] (Tag-Team Champions) (w/ Sunny)

Result/Analysis: The Bodydonnas via pinfall (6:53 shown) when Zip pins Troy after a double-axehandle from the top rope. Terrible. Zip had no impact with the move, though I guess, Skip, who hit a frankensteiner on Troy from a seated position on the top turnbuckle, had actually hit the finishing move? Whatever. The Bodydonnas were the single worst WWF Tag-Team Champions ever. Vince actually says during the match, however, that the tag-team competition was really heating up. Considering, there was The New Rockers as the #1 Contender’s, along with The Godwinns, The Bushwhackers, and now Tekno Team 2000, dragged up from the wretches of the developmental USWA promotion, and it’s hard to argue. 🙄 This match is so riveting you could hear a guy fart from the front row. OK, I made that up, but suppose it happened. Harvey Wippleman stood in the aisle taking notes on official Jack Doane as Vince said he was preparing a report on officiating for WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. Jesus. Tekno Team 2000 has a flurry of offense early on but I’m too blinded by their hideous-looking futuristic ring attire to care. I frankly had forgotten this team existed before this RAW came up next on the 1996 calendar. Speaking of The Bushwhackers, who were under contract, they’d have been a better match-up here. At least Sunny being chased off by Butch or Luke would have garnered a crowd response. The New Rockers had defeated The Godwinns to earn a title shot but The Godwinns soon won the belts as Sunny moved onto “managing” them and The Bodydonnas went away and no one missed them. No single year in the history of the company before or since comes close to 1996 and how bad the tag-team division was. WCW had every legit tag-team but even they kept the belts on two singles wrestlers. The Smoking Gunns were soon to be back in action with Billy healed from neck surgery so there’s that.
Rating: *1/4

Jim Ross is with Vader and Jim Cornette. JR tells Cornette Yokozuna will be 100-percent on May 26 when Vader must face him after taking him out of action. Cornette refutes that Yoko will ever be 100-percent again. He’s a 650-pound man with one bad wheel who can’t match up to Vader because Vader has the quickness and agility Yoko never had, plus the heart he lacks. As for Duke “The Dumpster” Droese next week, Cornette can’t think of a man that’s better suited to take out the trash and Droese’s future is looking dim and he won’t last.

Goldust and Marlena join Vince and King at ringside prior to The Undertaker’s match with Owen Hart. Goldust begins to fondle Vince as RAW heads to a commercial break. LOL. After the break, with Owen being introduced, Vince alerts Goldust to the stipulation for his match at IYH with The Undertaker. It’s a Casket Match with the Intercontinental Championship at stake. Say what?!? When and where did this feud originate from? The “Dark Match” after Good Friends … Better Enemies? Naturally, Goldust freaks out at the announcement and walks off only here comes The Undertaker! Remember when Goldust was feuding with Razor Ramon? Then it was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper with Ramon suspended. Then it was The Ultimate Warrior, only that went nowhere. Oh, let’s not forget the two-week Savio Vega angle over the IC Title. And now, it’s The Undertaker, who has the beginnigs with Mankind, Goldust is randomly paired with. Who came up with all these ideas???
Goldust is hilarious on commentary as The Undertaker has his entrance as he hyperventilates over the impending Casket Match and says “No, no, no, no … tell them to cut, tell them to cut.” Goldust is in fright at the sight of The Undertaker as the lights come back on. His teeth chatter and he cowers behind Marlena. LOL. Dustin Rhodes sold the SH** out of the gimmick!!!

“The King of Harts” Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via pinfall (6:52 shown) following a tombstone piledriver. The match is nothing. Goldust being at ringside freaking out about facing The Undertaker while also playing to his fantasies for “The Dead Man” was the point of this. Granted, this was entirely random and scripted off-the-cuff because nothing had occurred prior to this to make anyone think their would cross. The reality of the roster being decimated by the departures of Diesel and Razor Ramon, and the WWF not wanting to rush the inevitable Mankind feud with The Undertaker, meant they decided to randomly do a “Goldust is afraid of death angle” because he had no one to work with. Poor Owen Hart is the pawn used for the match, but it’s a match just to have The Undertaker in a match while Goldust did his antics around it all. Goldust fondles Paul Bearer, who refuses to let Goldust take hold of the gold urn, making him hightail it backstage. After Taker wins the match, Bearer returns pushing a gold casket with Goldust’s star emblem on top of it and Goldust backs into the casket and runs off in fright. So there you have it … the forgotten Goldust/Undertaker thing from 1996. A legitimate feud could have been interesting but this was as random as things got.
Rating: *

The Verdict: The WWF was seemingly booking its shows week-to-week instead of month-over-month as was customary. Therefore, angles and matches were as random as a 10-year-old coming up with them. It led to some interesting prospects but few materialized into anything but one-offs such as Goldust and The Undertaker or The Ultimate Warrior working with Goldust during the previous month. 1996 is an interesting year to review because a lot of what happens in the spring and summer months has been forgotten over time. The stars of the future were mostly on the roster so looking back on their beginnings is what I’m enjoying most. That, and the Shawn Michaels-era.

WCW Monday Nitro – April 29, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – April 29, 1996
Albany, GA (taped 4/22/96)

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Both Heenan and Mongo favor The Giant to dethrone Ric Flair and win the World Heavyweight Title. Bischoff also says Sting and Lex Luger will defend the World Tag-Team Titles versus Harlem Heat. Are the champs on the same page with SlamBoree less than three weeks away? Also, his Lordship, Steven Regal tussles with The Belfast Bruiser. These two enemies will team up at SlamBoree as per the drawing of The Lethal Lottery held last week. Will both of them make it there?

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
Harlem Heat [Stevie Ray & Booker T.] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (8:21 shown) with a Sting roll-up of Booker T. Jimmy Hart tried to throw in the towel to save Luger from losing clean but Booker catches it so referee Nick Patrick ignores the sign of surrender. Stevie Ray tosses Hart in the ring on top of Luger allowing Sting to come in the back door and school boy Booker for the cheap win. Before all of that, the match is back-and-forth and of decent quality. Sting and Luger never really had a clean victory in their lengthy reign as champions, and now, even Sting was partaking in the chicanery of wins-by-distraction. That, at least, added to how Luger glad-handed victories in the tag-team partnership or for himself in his singles matches. Booker desperately needed to start his own singles career, stat.
Rating: **1/4

Fire and Ice [Scott Norton & Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (3:27) when Rick pins Ice Train following a Steiner Line. Welp. That was abrupt. Fire and Ice were supposedly the new hot tandem yet they do the quick job after some back-and-forth. I never took Fire and Ice seriously nor did the masses. At SlamBoree on May 19, however, Fire and Ice remain together while Rick and Scott will find themselves on opposite teams. This match is nothing but a mere time filler.
Rating: *

“Mean” Gene Okerlund brings out World Heavyweight Champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Woman o Woman won’t you marry me now and Elizabeth are with Slick Ric. Flair tells Okerlund to look at Woman and ask himself if “The Nature Boy” is worried about a seven foot four ignoramus by the name of The Giant? Nah. Ha! Flair has Gene now look upon the former Mrs. Savage, who’s now in love with “The Nature Boy,” and ask yourself are we worried about a real-live, walking, talking, fire-breathing Giant? To affirm his point both Woman and Elizabeth agree The Giant isn’t half the man of “The Nature Boy.” I love Flair but this goes down as one of his weaker promos.

Meanwhile, Glacier is coming soon to WCW. No F’s given.

Parking Lot Brawl:

“Lord” Steven Regal vs. The Belfast Bruiser

Result/Analysis: Regal via pinfall (6:25) following a piledriver on the hood of a car. Before “hardcore matches” became a regular thing, and gimmicked hardcore matches at that, Fit Finlay and Regal give us a parking lot brawl to settle their differences … at least, for a while. These guys made their scripted fights look real and either one could have stood a chance in a UFC match had they been around in today’s phenomenon. Car windshields, concrete, a truck bumper, a seat belt – used as a choking device – and the hoods of the four vehicles serving as the fight perimeter, are used. I could watch Finlay and Regal fight each other in a Best-of-7 series in all different styles of matches and be highly into it. These guys were plain tough. At SlamBoree, they’ll be tag-team partners thanks to the Lethal Lottery but it’s hard to imagine them getting along to advance on, though.
Rating: ***

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) (w/ Elizabeth and Woman)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (5:50) following a chokeslam. Well, that was quick and more so, decisive! WCW crowns a new World Heavyweight Champion with Flair putting The Giant “over” after Hulk Hogan never did/would. The top of the card needed a shake-up at this point – – – retrospectively, pre-nWo – – – just for a new Main Event that wouldn’t involve Flair, Savage or Hogan (at least for the short-term) and to push The Giant as an unstoppable monster which had self-explanatory logic. Flair was pre-occupied with torturing Savage, the women and wooing Debra McMichael which led to Mongo joining the Four Horsemen to replace Brian Pillman. He, therefore, didn’t need the belt. Flair’s only offense in the match comes from a thumb to the eye and knocking The Giant out with the use of an illegal object that he pulled from his trunks. Otherwise, the match is a squash, complete with the chokeslam ending coming from a sitting position as Flair has the figure-four on. The Giant was signed for SlamBoree versus Sting. Now, that’s a World Title Match.
Rating: *

The Verdict: WCW was an aircraft in a holding pattern circling the runway until their entire direction changed 2-3 months later. Therefore, why not shake things up in the interim? The competition up North was circling the drain, mostly due to a lack of star power, so WCW was afforded doing whatever and they’d still attract the eyeballs. SlamBoree was on the horizon and a Lord of the Ring.

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 29, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 29, 1996
Sioux City, IA

At the conclusion of In Your House the night before, the WWF began an angle whereby The British Bulldog aka Davey Boy Smith alleged his wife Diana Hart-Smith, the sister of Bret and Owen Hart, had been sexually assaulted by WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. Racey. That is where Monday Night Raw on April 29 picks up, with the next In Your House only four weeks away. Gone are Bret (sabbatical), Diesel and Razor Ramon (WCW defections) – kept off television until their contracts expired in May, and The 1-2-3 Kid (suspension). The cupboard was looking bare.

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Bart Gunn vs. Mankind

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (8:38 shown) with the mandible claw. It’s the same Mankind match as his prior two RAW appearances except Bart Gunn controls WAY TOO MUCH of the action. That, I don’t understand. Just job the F out. Fugly match with sloppy brawling and Gunn getting near falls. That didn’t make sense. Bart was cut on his left arm or side early in the match and Mankind’s fingers and face had blood. Vince decided Mankind had war point on. Idiot. After the match, Jim Ross seeks commentary from Bart on the mandible claw but he can’t speak much. Mankind jumps him anyway to reapply the mandible claw. With commercial breaks factored in, this was 1/3 of the show. The Undertaker/Mankind feud was slow walked while Mankind took apart mid card scrubs on a weekly basis. As for Bart, Billy Gunn was due back any day so The Smoking Gunns were back as a tag-team and feuding with The Bodydonnas.
Rating: *1/2

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

Result/Analysis: Austin via submission (2:40) with the Million-Dollar Dream. Taylor had no offense and he offered no resistance. Taylor, of course, enjoyed later fame as Scotty Too Hotty but he was employed jobber fodder in 1996. Austin stomps a mudhole in him and walks it dry. Savio Vega joined Vince and King on commentary and challenges Austin to a Carribean Strap Match at the next In Your House. DiBiase waves Vega off after the match so Vega jumps Austin and hits him with the strap. The WWF surprisingly got a lot of mileage out of the Austin/Vega feud.
Rating: 1/2*

The British Bulldog, his wife Diana and Jim Cornette join Vince in the ring. Shawn Michaels is then introduced to face the allegations being levied against him by Diana and Davey Boy. This angle, given his later creative storylines deemed more controversial, had Vince Russo’s likely input. Vince blows Shawn to start off talking about his unbelievable victory at IYH the night before against Diesel. Bulldog, Cornette and Diana stand there in disgust. Michaels touts himself to stroke his own ego and also Vin-Man’s well, you know … by telling everyone how he adapted to the styles of both Bret Hart and Diesel in the past month to defeat them when no one thought he could. Vince is gushing! Michaels says he and his Clique are ready to adapt to any style and take on the best the WWF has to offer. Bulldog and Diana aren’t impressed. Cornette steps in. He wants to get down to brass tacks and not spend any more time on Michaels’ great victory last night. He calls Michaels a pervert and says the real story of last night is how Shawn tried to sleep with Bulldog’s wife. Diana looks sudden to play the part of a woman accosted. LOL. Vince asks Cornette for the proof for these outlandish accusations. Cornette has video from IYH whereby Diana gets up from her seat during Bulldog’s match to be called backstage. Cornette’s claim was that she was called back for him when in fact, it was Michaels who was waiting and he took her to a dark corner and propositioned her! Diana nods to the affirmative. Cornette gets in Shawn’s face, after calling him a punk, and says everyone knows that he thinks he’s God’s gift to women as “The Heartbreak Kid.” But the answer on everyone’s mind is what kind of a man or sexual deviant before one of the biggest matches of his life, would be in the back in a dark corner trying to cozy up to somebody else’s woman, someone as innocent as Diana, to force her to think of breaking her matrimonial bonds and try to corrupt her, sully her and desecrate her. Cornette says Diana isn’t a jezebell or a scarlett woman but he points to Shawn and says you are a sleaze-bag. This is good! Cornette brings Diana over to stand face-to-face with Shawn. He asks Michaels to look into the eyes of the woman he tried to deflower, sully and ruin. He asks Diana to look into Shawn’s eyes, the man who tried to lay his hands on her most private parts, the man who’s a fornicator! Vince plays dumb and he doesn’t believe any of it. But, he asks Diana if she has anything to say. “Yeah. Yeah, I do,” she responds. “Shawn, I know that you want me.” The crowd erupts. King says, “What? He does! He wants every woman! He’d go after a snake if it had a skirt on.” OMG. Shawn responds. “Mrs. Smith, with all due respect, please do not flatter yourself.” The crowd cheers. Diana is pissed. She pauses after a bewildered look and then smacks Shawn across his face with a hurtful look! Yes!!! Get that pervert. Vince tries to squelch the flared tempers by throwing control back to King. Shawn steps in, though, and says, “Well, we know who wears the pants in The Smith Family.” Bulldog charges Shawn for that comment and all hell breaks loose as a brawl erupts. The crowd is into this big-time! Of course, RAW breaks off to commercial.
The melee continued into the break before various WWF officials broke Bulldog and Shawn apart. In the capper, as Shawn and José Lothario are walking out, The New Rockers run out for their match with both Leif Cassidy and Marty Jannetty throwing shade at Michaels. LOL. That’s just great.

Meanwhile, next week on RAW, “Wildman” Marc Mero has an IYH/Free-For-All re-match with the 1-2-3 Kid and The Undertaker battles Owen Hart with Goldust sitting at ringside for that match.

#1 Contender’s Match: The winners receive a Tag-Team Titles opportunity vs. The Bodydonnas
New Rockers [Leif Cassidy & Marty Jannetty] vs. The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas] (w/ Hillbilly Jim)

Result/Analysis: Double Count-Out (7:39 shown). Oh, what a delightful match this was. The dorky middle-aged New Rockers against the hog farmers from fictitious “Bitters,” Arkansas wherein the pre-match stipulation is thrown out with no declared winning team. All of the attention is on Phineas and his desires for Sunny. The New Rockers just dick around and mostly stall or bail out because they realize The Godwinns are (a) crazy and (b) smelly. Who wants to wrestle that mix? Sunny comes out to cheers as the fans want nothing to do with the match and she dances around ringside flaunting the tag-team title belts. Phineas and Jannetty wind up on the outside but they’re the legal men and get counted out. That leaves The Bodydonnas without challengers for the time being.
Rating: DUD

In the bowels of a dark stairwell, Jim Ross asks Mankind to explain the mandible claw, to which he does in great detail. Eerie. He says, “There is NO escape! Temporary paralysis overcomes the body and the ONLY HOPE is Mankind’s love for hunanity and I assure you I HAVE NONE!!!” Ross asks Mankind if he fears the retribution of The Undertaker? Mankind responds by saying he was surprised at how easy it was (to take out The Undertaker) and he’s becoming bored with Taker, whom he calls a gutless ghoul. “Have a nice day!”

Isaac Yankem D.D.S. (w/ Jerry “The King” Lawler) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: The Ultimate Warrior via pinfall (1:49 shown) following a big splash. There’s nothing here. It’s a squash. I’m sure Warrior only agreed to return for complete squash matches. Apparently there was to be some feud between Lawler and Warrior but I can’t recollect it. The Warrior’s return and exit were on top of each other that you have to remind yourself he came back at all in 1996.
Rating: DUD

The Verdict: The wrestling was abhorrent. The lack of star power the WWF had to work with was draining their hourglass. Thus, they concoct a salacious storyline to attract eyeballs. Hey, those 5-8 minutes, plus Mankind’s interview with Jim Ross, were the highlights of this RAW. The IYH card had all been locked in. Michaels and Bulldog for the WWF Title. We knew of Vader/Yokozuna, Marc Mero/HHH. Savio Vega and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin are set for a Caribbean Strap Match. Next week, The Undertaker returns to RAW so what will Mankind have planned for “The Dead Man”?

WWF In Your House 7: Good Friends … Better Enemies

WWF In Your House 7: Good Friends … Better Enemies!
April 28, 1996
Omaha Civic Auditorium – Omaha, NE

A Diesel/Shawn Michaels package airs at the start. Can “Big Daddy Cool” ruin Shawn’s life. Does he even care about regaining the WWF Championship? For Shawn, is tonight the first time he defeats his former best friend? And what will it take for him to do so? These are the questions at hand.

On the Free-for-All prior to the PPV, “Wildman” Marc Mero bested The 1-2-3 Kid by disqualification as Hunter Hearst Helmsley interfered. There had been enough go down to just have Mero versus Helmsley be on the card. Why it wasn’t befuddles me. I’m sure Sunny equaled some made-up buyrate number so her and The Bodydonnas make it on instead. Pfft.

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Impromptu Tag-Team Match:
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart vs. Ahmed Johnson & Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: Bulldog and Hart via submission (13:47) when Roberts submits to Bulldog in a kneebar after taking care tennis raquet shots to his knee. Lame. And man alive, does the match drag. Bulldog and Ahmed carried the beef coming in off an arm wrestling challenge from RAW that Ahmed won only for Bulldog to go beserk after for having lost. Ahmed broke his thumb in that melee so not being sure he could make IYH, the WWF booked Bulldog versus Snake after a random altercation on the post-WrestleMania German tour. So whatever. Owen does the heavy lifting here. Bulldog ducks Ahmed, leaving Owen in the ring a lot early and then back in several more times after short spurts by Davey Boy. Diana Hart-Smith, Bulldog’s wife, looks on unimpresssed with her husband’s lack of balls. Well, it was either that she is miffed over or she’s awaiting Sunny later on to gauge her competition. But, I digress. Snake plays face-in-peril for an extended stretch but he’s blown up after five minutes making the match sobering to watch. Ahmed wouldn’t sell a Bulldog powerslam so he’s useless. Following Jake’s introduction, attorney Clarence Mason and Jim Cornette presented a signed order to the referee that said Jake’s pet snake was barred from ringside. Cornette got slithered on by the snake as a result so he and Mason were gone by the time the bell rang with Roberts bringing out Johnson as his tag-team partner. Vince would say Ahmed and Jake never tagged with each other before only they had with Yokozuna at WrestleMania in the six-man versus Bulldog, Owen and Vader. Doesn’t he know his scant audience? The heels won that match, and this one, too. Good. I’d have thought Ahmed and Jake would.
Rating: *1/2

Mero and The 1-2-3 Kid are shown arguing with each other on the SuperStar line. Sable, meanwhile, looks bored stiff. Lawler argues with Vin-Man she’s not that good looking. Ha!

WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Goldust (c) (w/ Marlena and “Bodyguard”) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: The Ultimate Warrior via count-out (7:47). An actual match this wasn’t. Goldust had blew out his left knee on the recent live tour of Germany. His knee is heavily bandaged as a result. The entrances for both equal the stalling and time duration prior to the countout. I’m sure that a countout or disqualification would have been the planned booking had there been a match or Goldust could have done the job in 30 seconds. The Warrior wasn’t getting the belt. What this was is Goldust, Marlena and his “bodyguard,” who used to wrestle as Mantaur, walking around the ring as Warrior sits in Marlena’s director’s chair smoking her cigar. Goldust eventually braves up and enters the ring. Marlena is handed back her cigar with Warrior having smoked most of it. Goldust is robed by Warrior and sits in the chair. He makes overtures to Warrior as if an unspoken bond exists. But, no. Warrior pounds his chest and clothlines a sitting Goldust out of the ring. Goldust flees with Marlena and is counted out. The fans get ripped off. If a match couldn’t happen, this should have been bumped. Mero/Helmsley was ready-made. Warrior beats up the bodyguard to get a pop. More importantly for him, he cashed a very large appearance check assuredly.
Rating: -*****

Backstage, The British Bulldog wants to be let into Michaels’ dressing room. Dok Hendrix suspects it has something to do with Diana. No, not quite. Maybe another blonde, though … Bulldog was actually next for HBK with Diesel going bye-bye and the next In Your House in May was dubbed “Beware of Dog.” Oops, that’s a spoiler alert. Has anyone seen Sunny?

Vader (w/ James E. Cornette) vs. “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (14:50) following a seated senton. My memory of this match, having seen it just once, was that of a glorified squash and Ramon being pushed aside like yesterday’s garbage. But, that’s not the match here at all. Sure, Vader wins. Everyone figured that much. Ramon had been on suspension and he hadn’t appeared once on television leading into this event. Scott Hall had signed with WCW and his departure was a done deal. So bury “The Bad Guy” and your former four-time Intercontinental Champion on his way out, right? Wrong. Yes, Ramon jobbed. Vader’s push was only increasing by the week. Yet, Ramon kicks out of the Vaderbomb, he slugs it out with Vader, exexcutes some moves where you’re impressed he’s getting so much play as a soon-to-be ex-employee, and he doesn’t exhibit much ring rust, save for being gassed from a 15-minute match with a man of Vader’s size. Vince McMahon had every right to embarrass Ramon, and not make him just “job,” yet he didn’t. The Kliq having so much say backstage and Ramon (as with Diesel later on) having been WWF fixtures in the “New Generation” made it so the send-off was actually classy. Ramon bows out fighting. Hell, he even almost has Vader in the Razor’s edge for a second. Vader wins. Good. He defeats a top-notch star. Even better. The problem is the calendar. He needs to be main eventing/headlining shows versus Shawn Michaels but it was late April/May and SummerSlam is four months away. Thus, his feud with Yokozuna is to be rekindled as Dok Hendrix breaks the news to that effect following the match with Cornette ranting and raving over WWF President Gorilla Monsoon’s decision. The match at the next In Your House in May.
Rating: ***

Meanshile, Paul Bearer and The Undertaker are shown with the AOL geeks chatting up with the 12-year-old wrestling marks. Taker looks to have recovered from Mankind choking him out with the mandible claw the night after WrestleMania. They wrestled a “Dark Match” on this night.

WWF Tag-Team Championship:
The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas (w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] (c) (w/ Sunny)

Result/Analysis: The Bodydonnas via pinfall (7:18) as Zip pins Henry with a small package after a switcheroo with Skip. Lame. Henry had hit the slop drop on Skip but Sunny had the referee distracted while flaunting an autographed framed picture of herself to Phineas, who was “in love” with her. This match belonged on RAW, at best. The tag-team titles were garbage at this point. The Smoking Gunns had vacated the belts due to a neck injury for Billy Gunn and The Bodydonnas had defeated The Godwinns in the finals of the tag-team tournament on the Free-For-All prior to WrestleMania. No one gave a shit. Sunny would manage the champions, not just The Bodydonnas, throughout the year, whomever they were, and used her sexual proclivity, or crack addition, to wedge her way into a team. She was the only one that was “over,” or at least bent over, to make the tag-team titles a thing. This was an era when the WWF still only had the three primary titles so it wasn’t like they could hide the tag-team belts. When The New Rockers legitimately were the best tag-team minus The Smoking Gunns you’re tag-team division is crap. Bulldog and Owen were a tag-team but they weren’t used for chasing the belts. They were merely an extension of Camp Cornette but still singles wrestlers.
Rating: *1/2 (a house show quality match and a totally nothing/meaningless feud)

The WWF has asked you spend a part of your 1996 Memorial Day Weekend with them as the next In Your House Pay-Per-View comes on May 26th. Yokozuna returns to face Vader. Mero and Helmsley will lock up. Savio Vega will look to avenge his WrestleMania loss when he again squares off with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And, the WWF Championship will be defended as the graphic shows both Shawn Michaels and Diesel. Nice try.

Meanwhile, Mero tells Dok Hendrix that Helmsley has released the beast within by messing with Sable and himself. At the next IYH Mero says Helmsley will have to answer the call of the wild. Ha! It’s funny to look back and see Mero was being pushed out of the two yet his career flamed out completely in two years, and his marriage to Sable, while HHH was on the verge of superstardom.

The same pre-match video package that aired on RAW for Diesel/Shawn Michaels is aired next. The WWF excelled at these and this one was easy to craft given their intertwining careers in the two years prior. Diesel was exiting the federation but DAMN if you didn’t want to see the match.

Michaels had a pre-recorded interview that aired on the Free-For-All that is replayed in which he discusses his dissolved friendship with Diesel and their No Holds Barred Match.

Diesel, on the other hand, teases that he has something for Vince tonight after he’s finished with Michaels and all the little cliquesters. Kevin Nash had wanted to stay with the WWF but McMahon wouldn’t/said he couldn’t match WCW’s contract offer because of the company’s bad financial situation and he knew he’d have to offer matching contracts to other wrestlers. There was definitely some bitterness on Nash’s end. He didn’t hide it, on camera, on this, his final televised appearance.

No Holds Barred Match for the WWF Championship:
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ José Lothario)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (17:54) following sweet chin music. If you’re looking for a pre-Attitude Era WWF match before it was The Attitude Era, this is the one to look for. You had nWo Kevin Nash at the height of his heel run in his twilighting WWF career pounding, beating on and punishing Michaels to the point you’d think some of it was off the cuff. Diesel whips Michaels with a steel chair, chokes and hangs him with referee Earl Hebner’s belt, visciously drops Shawn onto the top turnbuckle in a snake eyes … the outside railing, too … and the best spot of the night before the ULTIMATE heel move, was his jackknife powerbomb of Michaels through the announce table, which created a new signature spot in later Attitude Era matches for years, that leaves Shawn for dead as Vin Man opines over Shawn just refusing re-entry to the match to save his career. Michaels, of course, doesn’t succumb to any of it, and fights his way back using a fire extinguisher, pummels Diesel down and drops a flying elbow for good measure. Diesel comes back with a clothesline, to which Michaels sells as if his head was turned around. After the outside railing spot, Diesel walks over to the opposite railing and takes a seated Mad Dog Vachon, throws him down, and rips off his prosthetic leg. OMG. Such immense heat for that. Vachon is left to rot without his foot as Diesel heads back inside. Shawn steals the leg after a low blow and wallops Diesel with it to set up sweet chin music. The superkick ends the match as Michaels retains the belt, truly surviving to be perfectly honest, in his first title defense. The Shawn Michaels’ era actuallu started here, in Omaha, with the outgoing Nash putting him over as the babyface that could take a thrashing but still triumph.
Rating: ****1/4

The Verdict: IYH 7 is a glorified “House Show” you’d find in ANY arena throughout The States in 1996 EXCEPT for Diesel v Michaels. The Attitude Era WWF that eventually displaced WCW years later in “The Monday Night Wars” was in born in embryotic form from their match. Diesel had hit his stride as the top heel in wrestling and his departure, more than Ramon’s, left a huge void. Even with Ramon leaving, too, the WWF was losing two established stars at the same time. The company soldiered on with Michaels next feuding with Davey Boy Smith. That was a major downgrade.

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 22, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 22, 1996
San Bernardino, CA (taped 4/1/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Return Match for the vacant WWF Intercontinental Championship:
Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Savio Vega

Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (11:06 shown) after “Stone Cold” Steve Austin wails Vega with the million-dollar belt as Marlena distracts the referee. So let me understand this. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon stripped Goldust of the title “last week” due to the use of the belt, which led to Vega’s “win,” but when the match concludes in the same fashion the “next week,” only for an outside party, the result stands? That’s terrible booking. Also, the WWF literally taped FOUR weeks of RAW shows the night after WrestleMania – – – I’m sure the roster loved that – – – so this crowd in San Bernardino technically sat through TWO Vega/Goldust matches in the span of let’s say 90 minutes? Mind numbing. The highlight here has nothing to do with the match but in the “director’s chair” where Marlena was clearly nipping out. I mention because the video cameras kept going back to the same shot! Those perverted cameramen! The Goldust/Vega match in Act I (last week) wasn’t too bad. Act II can put you to sleep. Vega gets some near falls to pop the mostly dead crowd but Goldust mostly controls the match, which is fought at a snail’s pace. Goldust regains the IC Title for a defense against The Ultimate Warrior at In Your House. You’d have thought Vega and Austin would also make the card against each other but they only wrestle a “dark match” following the PPV for those in attendance in Omaha. The IYH events were two-hour PPV’s at a “cheaper” price, I think.
Rating: *1/2

IYH Promo Package highlighting Shawn Michaels/Diesel “No Holds Barred.”

Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Fatu

Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (1:57 shown) following a top rope moonsault. Squash. The match was JIP (joined in progress) so there’s not much to dissect. Fatu hit a couple of moves to little effect. Vader is set up to squash the returning from suspension Razor Ramon at IYH, but moreso as it’s Ramon’s last televised match in the WWF before departing for WCW in May. The match had no build just an announcement the previous week coupled with a Cornette rant. Otherwise, the pairing could have worked a halfway decent match or two. Vader remained the best heel going.
Rating: 1/2*

Meanwhile, on the WWF’s live tour in Germany, The British Bulldog jumps Jake “The Snake” Roberts in his match with Owen Hart to set up a tussle at IYH. Jake fights back and places his snake on Bulldog. This taped footage lasted longer than the Vader/Fatu match. I believe, however, Ahmed Johnson teams with Roberts at the PPV and Bulldog tags with Owen. The advertised matches didn’t always stay as advertised. The WWF always had that fine print on their ticket stubs.

The Godwinns [Henry O. & Phineas I.] (w/Hillbilly Jim) vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri & Tim Patterson

Result/Analysis: The Godwinns via pinfall (3:36) when Henry pins Patterson following the slop drop. Terrible jobber squash. Sunny came out flaunting the tag-team titles but she gets chased off by Hillybilly Jim and the mut dog. The pay-off comes following the match as The Bodydonnas jump The Godwinns and feed Phineas the slop bucket. Yes!!! The Tag-Team Titles are up for grabs at IYH.
Rating: DUD

“The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya vs. Mankind

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (3:32) with the mandible claw. This was Mankind starring in his own horror film as, of course, a paranoid schizophrenic. Montoya was metely the sacrificial lamb being led to slaughter. Mankind pulls his own hair out, doing so twice, once leaving the strand on the turnbuckle bad, as he grunts his way through the match. Mankind became The Undertaker’s most significant feud in his 5 1/2 WWF career to that point, unless you count Yokozuna considering they had a thing. Montoya, aka Justin Credible, languished on as jobber fodder for another 1 1/2 years before experiencing a career revival in ECW under Paul Heyman. The Undertaker/Mankind feud was in its infant stages and initially lasted the duration of 1996 before being revived several more times in 1997, and notably in 1998. It would beome one of the most pivotal feuds to bridge the “New Generation” and “Attitude Era” time periods. As for this match, it’s what you get when establishing a fresh talent, and at the tail end of a four week RAW taping night in one location. When your company is fighting against budget constraints, and for its survival, this is what you do. Mankind and The Undertaker would have a “Dark Match” following IYH. No need too rush.
Rating: *1/2

RAW concludes with a lengthy recap of Shawn Michaels and Diesel’s two year odyssey. Diesel debuted as Michaels’ henchman. He then branched out and became Intercontinental Champion, and Tag-Team Champion with Michaels. They were dubbed “Two Dudes With Attitudes” and stayed “Good Friends” while forging separate paths. Diesel became the WWF Champion in November 1994, and even defeated Michaels at WrestleMania XI after Michaels had won the Royal Rumble. As Diesel’s reign as WWF Champion continued on throughout 1995, Michaels regained the IC Title and he and Diesel again became the Tag-Team Champs. But, Diesel showed a mean streak after losing the WWF Championship to Bret Hart at Survivor Series and then lost out to Michaels in January’s Royal Rumble Match. Michaels went on to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XII and now, a jealous Diesel, is gunning for Michaels and the belt at IYH. The match will be “No Holds Barred” and once “Good Friends” will become “Better Enemies.” The match was so easy to put together as the history was already in place. Bret Hart was back in Calgary pouting and with Diesel (Kevin Nash) on his way out of the WWF, the blow-off match was a must. Did it deliver???
Diesel has the last word, pre-taped from Germany. He doesn’t care about the belt; He wants to destroy Michaels. Diesel shoots on McMahon, also, to insinuate a personal beef on his way out. Oy!

The Verdict: If EVER there was a one match draw for a PPV event it was IYH 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies. The entire card, what there is of it, was constructed at this single four week RAW taping in San Bernardino, CA. WrestleMania XII must have been the budget for the first half of 1996, at least. Michaels and Diesel better deliver. This RAW stunk making it two weeks in a row. The larger issue in booking was there wasn’t an immediate plan sans Diesel, Ramon, Bret Hart etc. for a while longer. WCW would capitalize on that malpractice and BIG TIME!!!

WCW Monday Nitro – April 22, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – April 22, 1996
Albany, GA

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

In the Main Event, ALL Titles will be on-the-line as WCW World Heavyweight Champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair teams once again with The Giant to take on the WCW World Tag-Team Champions Sting and “The Total Package Lex Luger, who is also the WCW World Television Champion. Whomever pins/forces a submision on another guy will win the match and THAT title. Hmm …

Bischoff pays no mind to the “World Whining Federation” by giving away the results of Raw. Therefore, we’re to stay right here on TNT for the ONLY LIVE wrestling action each and every week.

The Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge]
-vs-
The American Males [Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Scotty Riggs]

Result/Analysis: The American Males via DQ (7:23) when Scotty Riggs is tossed over the top rope. The dumbest rule WCW ever had was the top rope disqualification but here it sufficed as The Males and TPE save face. The Males control off a hot start, capped by dives onto Rock and Grunge. TPE flips the script by neutralizing Bagwell, who takes a beating as face in peril. TPE, perhaps out of their comfort zone, i.e., not in a “Street Fight” versus The Nasty Boys for once, actually work a functional match by cutting the ring in half. Who knew? Riggs gets the hot tag after Rock misses a senton drive off the top rope and he cleans the ring of TPE like a house on fire with a series of dropkicks. Bagwell joins in the fray but he’s backdropped to the floor and railed for his efforts. Riggs gets sent flying for the DQ and Public Enemy puts him through a table which gets a pop.
Rating: **1/2 (a crowd pleasing opening match)

“Mean” Gene Okerlund has a live draw, continued anyway, for SlamBoree on May 19th and “Battlebowl” as The Lethal Lottery tournament to crown “The Lord of the Ring” is determined. It’s supposedly a “random” drawing but Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage are paired together. Their first round opponents will be the team of Arn Anderson – – – hey, it’s RANDOM – – – and Eddie Guerrero. As for Guerrero, nice segue, because he’s coincidentally in singles action next against Chris Benoit. Okerlund announced two other matches in this segment from prior drawings as the WCW mid card wrestler, a regular tag-teamer or otherwise, would get on the card. We know Public Enemy and Fire & Ice stay together from the draw. Watch one of those four make the final eight and the battle royal. Pfft. That said, I loved the concept.

“The Crippler” Chris Benoit -vs- Eddie Guerrero

Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (5:00) while holding the ring ropes for leverage on a cradle. Both guys were looked at as “Cruiserweights” which is funny as each later went on to become heavyweight champion. WCW badly misused Guerrero, in particular, but they wasted Benoit in 1996 and 1997 so his career arch could have also peaked sooner. The match is too short to break down and a commercial break is thrown in the middle. Guerrero barely rose from mid card status and Benoit’s ascension wouldn’t occur for another two years. He would have that “real life imitating art” feud first with Kevin Sullivan and Woman … leading to an interwoven mess that 11 years later decided the fate of three lives. When you think back on it, that’s surreal, too, not just June 2007.
Rating: **

A WCW “suit” is with Okerlund to discuss the recent behavior of one Randy Savage. Macho comes out to participate in the conversation and it’s a big waste of time. The suit informs Savage his WCW career will face serious ramifications should he not clean up his act and that maybe he should seek outside professional help, i.e., a psychiatrist. Savage doesn’t back down, naturally, promising to continue doing whatever it is he wants such as be the tag-team partner from hell for Flair. Randy just needed to snap into a Slim Jim. Stat.

Meng -vs- “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: Duggan via pinfall (5:57) after a taped fist punch. Nothing match. Both guys were still around. Yay. Duggan hooooes and pulls his usual antics. Meng rarely got a sniff later in his career. He was the tough guy who didn’t win. Why this match wasn’t saved for WCW Saturday Night or WorldWide I don’t understand. Oh, and Bischoff was so enthralled he gives away the results of Raw for the second time in 45 minutes. The WWF taping their shows hurt more than anything else.
Rating: DUD

Okerlund announces another tag-team match for SlamBoree after more drawings from The Lethal Lottery took place backstage. Yippee. And it’s a MUST SEE as Alex Wright and Disco Inferno will oppose “Earl” Robert Eaton and “Dirty” Dick Slater. The “random” drawing concludes with “Lord” Steven Regal teaming with The Belfast Bruiser (Fit Finlay) – – – they’re feuding – – – to go up against V.K. Walstreet (Mike Rotunda/I.R.S.) and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Walstreet and Duggan make strange bedfellows. “Mean” Gene was entirely in his element announcing these pairings.

World Tag-Team Championship/World TV Championship/World Heavyweight Championship:
The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion] (w/ Elizabeth and Woman) -vs- “The Total Package” Lex Luger [World Television Champion] & Sting (c)

Result/Analysis: Luger & Sting via DQ (7:27) when Flair throws hot coffee (yes, again) only this time, it hits The Giant by mistake. This, of course, sent The Giant over the edge to cement his face turn and sets up Flair defending the World Heavyweight Title next week on Nitro with Naitch, himself, setting in motion the match as he was angry The Giant wouldn’t accept his post-match apology. Sting and Luger were pawns in this storyline and the match clearly wasn’t about ANY title changes since none of the options made even the least bit of sense. Flair was unraveling – – – in character, which no one could do better – – – by angering Savage at every turn and getting under the skin of The Giant, whom he couldn’t control and that wanted what was his: the World Title. Flair takes the punishment in this match as Sting and Luger take turns dishing it out. Bischoff announced as the that Sting will take on The Giant at SlamBoree in a “Grudge Match.” That easily becomes for the World Heavyweight Title should The Giant win the belt from Flair next week. You can use your own noggin on the most logical outcome. As for Savage, he tried to get at Flair prior to Luger and Sting’s introductions and he was handcuffed and taken away. With Savage, yes he was in character, but there had to be a sense of realism to his derangement, right? Elizabeth really stuck it to him.
Rating: **

The Verdict: Nitro gave us some decent wrestling on this night. Hulk Hogan had started his lengthy sabbatical that continued until Bash at the Beach in July and as a result, the creative wasn’t suffocating with him gone. SlamBoree and “Battlebowl” was on the horizon. In past years, the May PPV was used for “A Legend’s Reunion” but that was no more. I liked the lethal lottery but WCW could have tried a little harder not to pair those in feuds with each other or split up tag teams. One guy was being elevated and pushed to the max: The Giant. It sure was time for someone else, and someone fresh, to be the focal point.

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.

WCW Monday Nitro – April 15, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – April 15, 1996
Charleston, WV

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

2-on-1 Handicap Match:
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ Elizabeth & Woman) & The Taskmaster (w/ Jimmy Hart)
v Hulk Hogan (w/ The Booty Babe)

Result/Analysis: Hogan via pinfall (4:21) following a leg drop on Sullivan. The stipulation was the winner(s) would get five minutes alone with the manager of their choosing. The Booty Man was to be Hogan’s tag-team partner but he had suffered an injury on WCW Saturday Night forcing the handicap match. Booty or no Booty, this was “The Hogan Show.” A show which had over-run its stay and WCW desperately needed to cancel it. You’d think a handicap match would put Hogan at a disadvantage, but naw, he wasn’t into working or selling for anyone in the least bit at this point. Hogan had surpassed being intolerable leading up to this send-off match (as it turned out) but this was the icing on the cake. Hulk-A-Mania had become Puke-A-Mania and I only wish Jesse “The Body” Ventura had still been around to remind everyone “I told you so.” Not only are AA and Sullivan pawns in Hogan’s game of chess here but poor Jimmy Hart circles back to the 1980’s for managerial abuse as the five minute selection becomes him. Elizabeth and Woman are first teased as Hogan’s choice before he decides against. The ONLY good moment is The Giant coming out in defense of Hart to chokeslam Hogan except Hogan completely no-sells a move no one got up from and bodyslams The Giant for getting in his business. Pfft. Hogan even gets a post-match interview with “Mean Gene” Okerlund where he says Hulk-A-Mania is running wild all over WCW on his way to the WCW World Title. As it turned out, however, Hogan disappearred from TV altogether. This was his last babyface appearance until his shocking heel turn at Bash at the Beach in July forming the n.W.o. with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. The new and improved Hogan would become the shit!!!
Rating: – any */*’s of your choice

“Anything Goes” Falls Count Anywhere Street Fight:
Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge] v The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobs & Jerry Sags]

Result/Analysis: The Nasty Boys via pinfall (9:16) when Knobs pins Rock after Rock goes thru a table. Two tag-teams that were the quintessential “garbage” or “hardcore” twosomes of the 1990’s had to be The Nasties and TPE. ECW was a promotion unto itself but WCW had these teams and they often threw them out there in street fight/anything goes 10-minute time-killing matches. You knew what it was you were getting. Unlike other matches that do stand the test of time, however, these matches just don’t. The Nasties were their hottest in 1991. Public Enemy was at their height during their ECW run. What you would think the match would be is what it was: garbage cans, garbage can trash lids, tables, steel chairs, etc. Their match at SuperBrawl VI in February was actually solid and did transition away from ringside. There was more creative spots in that “Street Fight,” too. Here, all four guys probably just had borderline concussions from the repeated shots to the head. For a hardcore match on live TV it served fine. The overall booking was terrible anyway so trash was trash.
Rating: **

“Earl” Robert Eaton (w/ Geaves) v “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (3:57) after a flying elbow drop. Eaton impersonates Ric Flair which torques Macho. Savage discards of Geaves. Nothing match. Savage was deranged over Elizabeth’s antics of cashing in on his alimony and her parading around as Flair’s valet. The flying elbow drop wins Savage the match but he drops a second one for effect before having to restrained by Alex Wright, Ice Train and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. WCW milked Flair, Savage and Elizabeth for all they could in ‘95 and ‘96. It’s clear they lacked creative ideas for Macho and no one else on the roster made sense for him to feud with except Hogan and he was going on sabbatical.
Rating: *

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:

“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion] (w/ Elizabeth and Woman) & The Giant
v “The Total Package” Lex Luger [World Television Champion] & Sting (c)

Result/Analysis: Luger & Sting via DQ (10:34 shown) following outside interference from Woman who threw hot coffee in Sting’s eyes. That’s two weeks running for the expresso finish to Nitro’s Main Event. The match was heating up at the time, too. WCW had the most wretched endings to their matches a lot of times. Flair gets whipped around at the start with The Giant throwing him back inside the ring to man up. Flair gets fed up and hauls off on The Giant and walks off. That was cue for a commercial, though. The match resumes with The Giant taking apart Luger before Flair mops up by placing Lex in the figure-four all with Woman assisting him for leverage. The ref finally notices and Luger manages to tag Sting after catching Flair off the ropes – that NEVER worked for Naitch. Sting cleans Flair’s clock and gets the scorpion death lock on. Luger gets caught up with The Giant but the ref holds back The Giant as Lex ducks the coffee thrown by Woman as Sting is in the direct line of it and it’s a DQ. The Giant goes mad afterwards by choke slamming Luger and Sting. Flair covers both and counts his own pin. LOL. The Giant and Flair were set for a re-match soon for the World Heavyweight Title so they weren’t winning the tag-team belts. Good match / overused finish.
Rating: **3/4

The Verdict: Hogan’s last babyface hurrah for 3 1/2 years happened on this night. Savage was wrestling mid card heels by the week while obsessing over Flair. Throw in your average hardcore street fight between tag teams wrestling in the wrong promotion and it’s a bad night. The main event is good but the ending ruined it. The Giant is the one being pushed though Hogan did all he could to stall that. Slamboree: The Lethal Lottery / Lord of the Ring was on the horizon in May.

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 8, 1996

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?
Rating: *

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.
Rating: **

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
Rating: N/A

Next week on Raw, Savio Vega challenges Goldust for the Intercontinental Title. What’s Nitro got?

Non-Title Match:
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?
Rating: **

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.

WCW Monday Nitro – April 1, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – April 1, 1996

Cleveland, OH

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Sting

Result/Analysis: No contest. Jimmy Hart had paid off Harlem Heat to eschew a tag-team match versus Sting and The Giant for the WCW Tag-Team Titles but The Giant was in on the take and an impromptu match begins instead. They wrestle a bit before The Giant winds up outside and Lex Luger, who holds the tag-team titles with Sting, shows up as back-up. What a bizarre start to the show. It felt like WCW was attempting to snatch the curious eyes tuning into Raw off WrestleMania but the attempt fell flat. The Giant walks off with Hart and the intro to Nitro is cued up. Stupid.
Rating: DUD

Bischoff, Mongo and Heenan lay out the night. Ric Flair will defend the WCW World Heavyweight Title against Luger. There’ll be a triangle tag-team match with The Steiner Brothers, The Road Warriors and Public Enemy. Also, Hulk Hogan and The Booty Man square off with Arn Anderson and The Taskmaster.

Commercial. Woof. What a terrible start!

Triangle Tag-Team Match:
The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobs & Jerry Sags] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]
vs. The Road Warriors [Animal & Hawk]

Result/Anslysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (12:35 shown) when Scott pins Johnny Grunge of Public Enemy who was disguised as Brian Knobs and took his place off a run-in. The wacked ending aside, this match is pretty good. You didn’t see many, none that come to my mind, triangle tag matches in this era. Here you had the top contenders in one match with the storyline being if it was L.O.D. or The Steiner’s who took out The Nasty Boys several weeks back when The Steiner’s returned to WCW and wrestled L.O.D. in a terrific match in their place. Public Enemy was feuding with The Nasties so the attack is pinned on them given their interference costs The Nasties this match. Truthfully, no one gave a crap. What this match provides is short bursts of offense and that makes it watchable. I was into The Steiner’s at least. The Road Warriors were probably “promised” a Tag-Team Titles run when they returned but that hadn’t come to pass. The Steiner’s were getting their push instead. The Nasties had jobs because they were buddy-buddy with Hogan.
Rating: **3/4

WCW Saturday Night: Luger will defend the World TV Title against The Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage will snap into action versus Scott Norton, and Flair wrestles The Booty Man.

“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan (w/ Elizabeth and Woman)
vs. Hulk Hogan & The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe)

Result/Analysis: Hogan & The Booty Man via pinfall (7:46) when Hogan pins Sullivan after hitting him with the heel shoe of The Booty Babe. Ugh. How many times can WCW do the same finish in a Hogan match. This time it’s to Hogan’s benefit because he and Booty just needed to cheat to win, of course. Hogan was so unlikable and receiving vociferous boos at this point. The match sucks. It’s a virtual house cleaning to stroke Hogan’s ego despite no one giving a shit or buying into Hulk-A-Mania anymore. He had become so stale you were beginning to forget the glory years. Seriously. Poor Anderson and Sullivan were front-and-center in this tireless ensemble. Literally the same angle without a different outcome was put on display for weeks. To further drown in boos, Hogan (and to some extent Booty) put everyone to sleep in their post-match interview with “Mean” Gene Okerlund where Booty promises Hulk the secret sauce to eliminate Anderson and Sullivan for good. It’s something that’s apparently so good Hogan wants Booty to just come out with it. Get Hogan off TV immediately! His heel turn and the arrival of The Outsiders [Scott Hall and Kevin Nash], to form the n.W.o. was ALL that saved Hogan’s career. He was finished in 1996. Booty makes out with Kimberly/The Booty Babe before a commercial break resuscitates all humanity!!! The applause in the match came when AA or Sullivan did something. That’s all you need to know.
Rating: 1/2*

WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“The Total Package” Lex Luger [WCW World Television Champion & World Tag-Team Champion]
vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) (w/ Elizabeth and Woman)

Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (10:58) after Woman tosses hot coffee in Luger’s eyes. Ugh. Not even a World Title Match in the main event can escape a cheat-by-any-means victory. I get that’s how Flair often won as “The Dirtiest Player In The Game,” but couldn’t he just have cheated on his own accord instead of his entourage helping him escape? Another complaint here is that Luger is full-fledged babyface after months of being a tweener at best, leaning more to him as a heel. There was no consistency sometimes. Anyway, the match is decent with Flair being stomped and hit with a bunch of clotheslines. Flair teases taking a powder and hitting the showers early but he returns and soon gets Lex in the figure-four. Luger reverses it, though, since Flair only ever put the hold on but rarely won with it, and gets some near falls. Flair gets caught on the turnbuckle so Lex hits a superplex. He puts Flair in the torture rack so Liz distracts the referee as Woman decaffeinates Luger in the crappy finish. Sting comes to Luger’s aid afterward but Flair scurries off still the champ.
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: The best part of this Nitro was Heenan playing an April Fool’s joke that it was his last night with WCW. Other than that comedy, it wasn’t a night that moved the needle. Hogan overkill continued after he took the previous week off, and the boos in his direction were LOUD. To look back at this now and pick up on his reactions is something that didn’t register with me at the time. Hey, I was 15 years old and a quasi Hulk-A-Maniac for a decade. Flair, meanwhile, was having a lackluster title reign. I loved the guy, but he was the wrong guy to have the belt. Even Luger for a short run would have been better. He, at least, had Sting, his tag-team partner, to work with. One week Lex was a heel and the next he was a babyface. Even The Giant was flip-flopping. WCW’s booking was really bad for the two months before The Outsiders arrived. Slamboree: The Lethal Lottery, wasn’t until mid-May so more lackluster Nitro’s lay ahead. Hogan was problem 1, 2 and 3.

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 1, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – April 1, 1996
San Bernardino, CA

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

A WrestleMania XII rewind sets the scene. The Shawn Michaels era begins tonight!

Vince welcomes us to San Bernardino and you’d think Raw was LIVE from Madison Square Garden with his exuberance. But no, it’s the NEW WWF Champion Shawn Michaels that has old Vinnie Mac gushing. The man could hardly contain his crush. LOL.

Bob “Spark Plug” Holly vs. Mankind

Result/Analysis: Mankind via submission (3:22) with the mandible claw. Mick Foley’s long-awaited WWF debut comes off the heels of WrestleMania XII. Cactus Jack was repackaged from the hardcore/risk-taking psychopath that wrestled in matches with barbed wire and tables to that of a schizophrenic who’s a deranged and forgotten soul. Right away, Foley sells the gimmick by ripping his own hair out, making strange grunting sounds and debuting a new finisher. The mandible claw was designed for opponents to choke on their own vomit, which Holly sort of does here to sell the move. The match is too short to critique but Foley nails his new gimmick on night one. Perfecto!
Rating: *3/4

Vince and Lawler discuss the WrestleMania appearance of “Wildman” Marc Mero, who was then jumped by Hunter Hearst Helmsley after he lost quickly to The Ultimate Warrior. As for Sable, who accompanied Helmsley to the ring, she’s bought a ticket for tonight and sits at ringside. Sable, Rena Mero at the time, was married to Marc in real life.

More WrestleMania highlights are shown with fan comments from those in attendance. The encore presentation is being hyped.

Isaac Yankem D.D.S. vs. “Wildman” Marc Mero

Result/Analysis: Mero via pinfall (4:26) following a flying sunset flip. There’s some vintage Johnny B. Badd here as Yankem doesn’t do too much. Helmsley comes to ringside to sit next to Sable and convince her that he’s deserving of a second shot, moreso over Mero whom she’s eyeing like a cat. That’s the storyline but Mero mixes in a sommersault dive, slingshot legdrop and a flying headscissors to show himself off. Helmsley being a distraction does allow Yankem an opening to work some offense, which Lawler, on commentary, uses to ask for Mero’s bicuspid’s as an extraction. LOL. Mero instead nearly ends the match off a crucifix – – – without much help from Yankem – – – and a reverse roll-up, before his golden gloves boxing acumen delivers a hard knockout punch. The woozy Yankem falls prey to the aforementioned sunset flip. Mero needs a finisher right off. After the bell, Mero confronts Helmsley over him badgering Sable. He pushes him aside and Sable hops the railing into Mero’s arms. The WWF had itself a new power couple. It’s a decent debut for “Wildman.”
Rating: **

The Ultimate Warrior will appear on Raw next week. That will be a first for him.

Non-Title Tag-Team Match:
Barry Horowitz & “The Portuguese Man ‘O War” Aldo Montoya
vs. The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] – WWF Tag-Team Champions (w/ Sunny)

Result/Analysis: The Bodydonnas via pinfall (5:32) when Skip pins Montoya off a top-rope cannonball. Decent match. Sunny was the attraction and not just backstage with the entire locker room! Sure, The Bodydonnas were given a run with the tag-team titles, but it was Sunny who followed the belts wherever they went. That parodied her lifestyle if you followed along. And for a jobber tag-team, Horowitz and Montoya get a little run here but it’s really all fluff to allow the cameras to focus on Sunny’s cleavage for the entire five minutes. As for The Godwinns, the team whom The Bodydonnas defeated to win the vacated titles prior to WrestleMania, Vince announces there will be a re-match for the titles at In Your House VII on April 28th. Yippee Skippee. I can’t wait.
Rating: **

WrestleMania XII highlight package to pump the ENCORE airing once more.

Mr. Bob Backlund is spotted in the crowd campaigning for his Presidential bid.

More overkill on WrestleMania with yet more fan reaction.

Vince introduces Shawn Michaels as “the leader of the New Generation.” That had to piss off Bret Hart even more back in Calgary! Vince gushes with Michaels standing next to him with the WWF Title belt draped over his shoulder. He even gives a half-hearted shout out to Bret. Cheap. Michaels’ clapping is more irritating on the subject, however. Shawn says WrestleMania was the greatest night of his life and he has The Kliq to thank for it. Yeah, the gullible ass kisser wannabees. Shawn says there were times he didn’t think he could get back up. Because of his Kliq, he found the extra strength. This is nauseating. Vince tells Shawn his hunt to become the WWF Champion is now over and that he’s now the hunted … starting next week versus “The King.” Ha! As for “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel? Yeah, he’s after that. Shawn puckers up to Bret saying he’s been made a believer after WrestleMania as to how good “The Hitman” is after years of Bret saying so repeatedly to everyone. Just stop! Shawn promises the WWF fans, Bret and Bret’s family, that he’ll wear the WWF Title with the honor, dignity and class that Bret did in the past. Except Shawn, you didn’t. Vince turns back to Shawn versus Lawler next week. The crowd chants “Burger King,” of course. Shawn informs Lawler he’ll be sending him back to his white castle. WTH? As for Diesel, Shawn admits they were once Skipper and Gilligan, but not anymore. He casually coins the tagline for IYH calling them “Good Friends (but) Better Enemies” and promises “Big Daddy Cool” will be eating sweet chin music when they tango. And that’s a wrap as Shawn primps and dances for The Kliq. Lawler, on commentary, spouts off about next week. Couldn’t they have fed Shawn, you know, Marty Jannetty first instead?

But wait, there’s more as Shawn Michaels will personally autograph a limited edition 4,800 to be exact WrestleMania XII plaque that showcases him realizing his dream of becoming the WWF Champion in the greatest match of all-time. How Bret EVER returned with all of this pre-planned ceremonious Michaels bestowment as “their guy” I just can’t fathom. In case you’re wondering, one of those rare puppies just sold for $400 on eBay! I SHIT you not!!

Next week on Raw, in addition to Michaels versus Lawler, there’ll be an arm wrestling challenge between Ahmed Johnson and The British Bulldog plus Yokozuna goes one-on-one with Vader.

Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/ Zebekiah) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via DQ (4:27 shown) due to outside interference from Mankind. Bradshaw was great here, wrestling a brute Texas redneck roughhouse style taking no prisoners with high impact offense. Taker, “weakened” off his WrestleMania match with Diesel takes the ass-kicking before he mounts his comeback. A flying clothesline, chokeslam and tombstone piledriver seemingly end the match but wasting no time making an impact is Mankind! Taker is laid out quickly as Foley delivers his flying elbow coming off the ring apron. He applies the mandible claw from there shrieking all the while as The Undertaker passes out drowned in his own saliva. Mankind keeps coming back on the attack as various officials try to keep him at bay. And just like that, on his debut night as Mankind, Foley is immediately engaged in a feud with the alpha dog.
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: Shawn Michaels begins his era as WWF Champion with pompous arrogance and hollow rhetoric (about Bret) to which no one in the know believed. The story on this night, however, was Mankind. Foley sold the gimmick immediately and became the natural next enemy for The Undertaker as the WWF wasted no time jumpstarting their feud. Mero had himself a nice in-ring debut and adding Sable helped to get him over. The entire feel of the product changed in a 24-hour period. There finally was an anticipation of what would come next after two solid years of expecting nothing special. Harnessing the fresh talent influx took time but it eventually paid off.

WWF WrestleMania XII

WWF WrestleMania XII
March 31, 1996
Arrowhead Pond – Anaheim, CA

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

On The Free-For-All, The Bodydonnas, much to the delight of Sunny, defeated The Godwinns in the Finals of the WWF Tag-Team Championship Tournament. The tag-team division was void of any good teams so Sunny’s sex appeal won out over The Bodydonnas actually being worthy of holding the belts. More to my point, Sunny kept following the belts no matter who wore them throughout 1996. There was also the epic blow-off match between “The Huckster” and “The Nacho Man” as Billionaire Ted presided over it as the special referee. Get this if you don’t remember, all three characters “die” as a result of heart attacks. ‘Snap into a Slim Jim!’ Now on with WrestleMania XII.

A Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels video package preludes the broadcast. These were so well done.

Match 1: Six-Man Tag-Team Match:
* Should Yokozuna’s team win, Yokozuna will get five minutes alone w/ Jim Cornette. *
Camp Cornette: Vader (w/ Jim Cornette), The British Bulldog & “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart
-vs- Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji), Ahmed Johnson & Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: Vader, The British Bulldog & Owen Hart via pinfall (13:11) when Vader pins Roberts following a Vaderbomb. The six-man was a good choice for an opener. The crowd was into it, especially the parts with Vader and/or Yokozuna. I had low expectations but Camp Cornette wins and being WrestleMania, all of them put on a good effort. Vader versus Yokozuna was the initial plan but given Yokozuna’s weight and his propensity to blow up after short bursts of offense, there’s no way that match could have lasted beyond 5-8 minutes. Jake popped a crowd. Ahmed was the Slammy Award-winning “New Sensation” and Bulldog/Owen weren’t being kept off the card. Thus, a six-man was the right call. 25 years later and the face team is entirely deceased. You don’t think about that until it dawns on you. Snake gets worked over here but his DDT on Owen pops the crowd. Vader continues on with Yokozuna after WrestleMania kayfabe breaking Yokozuna’s leg so Yokozuna take time off to could lose weight. Vader moved on to a feud with Shawn Michaels.
Rating: **1/4

Michael Cole, in a voice over redux from the original Todd Pettengill cut, recaps the ongoings that have led to Acting WWF President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper taking on Goldust. Razor Ramon was set to face Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship in a “Miami Street Fight” but he was on suspension and in subsequent drug rehab. The Piper/Goldust match is broken into two segments. The first is pre-taped in an “alley” somewhere in Hollywood. Part II comes in the ring in a live bit.

Match 2: First-Ever “Hollywood Back Lot” Brawl (Part I of II)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper -vs- Goldust (WWF Intercontinental Champion)

Analysis: Piper mugs Goldust (4:44) over the near five minutes in his attempt to make a “man” out of him. Goldust drives up in a gold cadillac. Piper smashes out the windows with a baseball bat. He throws Goldust into a dumpster and a makeshift cattering stand. Piper sprays Goldust with a fire hose but Goldust escapes to the car following a low blow. Goldust runs Piper down as Piper lands on the hood of the car before he falls off. Goldust drives away in the cadillac so Piper hops into a white ford bronco and drives off after him. This set in motion the duped video footage of “Piper”driving – – – that was the actual O.J. Simpson police chase reel from 1994. The match concludes, well, sort of, in the ring prior to the Bret/Shawn “Iron Man Match.” The live crowd mostly feels equivocal on what they saw. In other words, what a letdown so far. Vince perfectly sums it up, “All I can say is, I’m happy that’s over with.” LOL. The pre-taped nature of “Part I” certainly made it feel second-rate. Well, the WWF was bargain-basement … Anyway, this gets worse so stay tuned.

Match 3:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase -vs- Savio Vega

Result/Analysis: Austin via submission (10:09) with The Million-Dollar Dream. The crowd couldn’t have given two shits, but this was a good match. They had a match on Raw weeks beforehand that preceded this along with Austin replacing Ramon as Vega’s tag-team partner in the tag-team tournament, with Austin, of course, not interested in that. Given what Austin later became, it’s strange to watch him mat wrestling with Vega here. They trade a series of near falls in a nice little sequence and Vega slugs it out with Austin to hold his own. Knowing how HUGE Austin got within the next year it’s funny to watch this and see an unresponsive audience. He was “Stone Cold” by name only, though, and as I’ve said previously, DiBiase as his manager, starting off as “The Ringmaster,” and being the meaningless Million-Dollar Champion only watered him down from the get-go. Vega was one of the WWF’s better mid-card wrestlers but he had a marginal following at best. Referee Tim White gets bumped off a Vega side-kick which gave Austin the opening to use the Million-Dollar belt to TKO Vega and finish him with the sleeper hold, which resembled more of a choke. Piper called in twice during the match as dubbed footage from the O.J. Simpson police car chase from 1994 was shown as Piper pursued Goldust in the white ford bronco. That distracts from the match for the PPV audience. Moreso, it was an ill-conceived narrative: a double-homocide in real life compared to fictional wrestling with a storyline confronting one man’s homophobia.
Rating: **3/4

Meanwhile, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel is with Mr. Perfect. Diesel isn’t concerned with the mind games being played by The Undertaker over the last several weeks. He says he doesn’t sweat the small stuff (or the big stuff either). Diesel is confident he’ll take care of The Undertaker tonight and he wishes Michaels good luck and says he’s next. Diesel had already signed on with WCW so he was playing out the string on his contractual obligations and giving nothing more.

Match 4:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Sable) -vs- The Ultimate Warrior

Result/Analysis: The Ultimate Warrior via pinfall (1:39) following a big splash. Following weeks of endless hype, Warrior’s return reached its crescendo with “The Ultimate Squash.” Both entrances double the length of the match. It’s funny to circle back on HHH’s HOF career and see him job to a bygone era has-been that literally had been living in “Parts Unknown” for nearly four years, but, that’s a footnote for him. Warrior no sells the pedigree (shocker) after HHH jumps him at the bell. He hits three clotheslines, a flying shoulder tackle, does his gorilla press slam and caps with the big splash. No one figured an actual match would happen as why would The Warrior sign back for anything but a sizable payday and squash? The WWF was desperate for a draw but The Warrior’s fandom had waned in his years away plus he was unreliable as he soon again proved himself to be.
Rating: 1/4* (the return aspect alone warrants a partial credit)

Todd Pettengill introduces us to the newest WWF SuperStar. Yes, it’s “Wildman” Marc Mero, aka the departed Johnny B. Badd from WCW. And since Sable, aka Rena Mero, was his real life wife, Mero and Helmsley, who just so happens to bump into him during the interview, get into a scuffle. This, of course, went nowhere except Sable naturally becoming Mero’s manager in due time.

That transitions to Piper in pursuit footage, uh, I mean O.J. seemingly ready to blow his brains out.

Match 5:
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel -vs- The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via pinfall (16:46) following a tombstone piledriver. If you were to stack The Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches from his first at WM VII (1991) up until his first epic go around versus Triple H at WM X-Seven (2001), his WM match with Diesel was his best in that initial 10 year period. Even as Kevin Nash was on his way out of the WWF, to rival WCW no less, he didn’t go through the motions just to collect a paycheck and do the job to The Undertaker. This is a better match than either had worked in a while – with anyone else. Diesel dominates to fit the narrative of The Undertaker coming back no matter what the punishment. Two jackknife powerbombs, Diesel’s finishing move to which no one got up from, or kicked out of, couldn’t keep The Undertaker down because, of course, he was “inhuman.” From there, despite still seemingly holding an advantage, Diesel succumbs to defeat: the flying clothesline, chokeslam and tombstone piledriver. The pin actually felt important. I’ve always liked this match as I credit Nash for following thru on his contractual committments all the way to the end and Taker allows him to carry the load.
Rating: ***1/4

Part II – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper -vs- Goldust (w/ Marlena)

Result/Analysis: Piper with Goldust fleeing (6:05). There was time to kill before the next hour+ and the main event so Goldust and Piper return to the arena for the off-the-cuff finish. Goldust gets the better of Piper when they hit the ring but his focus is mostly on groping, straddling and then kissing Piper. The seal of a kiss sends Piper bonzo gonzo. He grabs Goldust’s nuts, knees the crown jewels, kisses him back, and of course, the unforgettable WrestleMania moment for all-time, the coup de grâce – the stripping of Goldust to reveal he’s wearing bondage gear underneath his suit. When you know that’s what’s coming, there’s not the shock value of the first time you see it. Context. Anyway, Goldust flees with Marlena covering him after a final blow to his bulging man area, and Piper revels in his conquest. When you think of Piper at WrestleMania you think of Adrian Adonis first at WM III, Piper’s Pit with Brother Love and Robert Downey Jr. at WM V and this “match” with Goldust. He, of course, wrestled a classic match versus Bret Hart at WM VIII but lost so it’s his WM moments of embarrassing others that carry on in people’s consciousness.
Rating: * (hot garbage in total but Piper was the only one that could have made this work)

Michael Cole again voices over the original Todd Pettengill take that tells the narrative of Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart. What? Did Pettengill’s storytelling have an expiration date? Bret sums up the match perfectly. He says, “The way it look at it is this. One man’s sunset is another man’s dawn and I just want to wake up tomorrow morning with this (tapping the WWF Title on his shoulder.”

Match 6: First-Ever 60-Minute “Iron Man Match” for the WWF Championship
“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (w/ “Supersock” José Lothario) -vs- Bret “Hitman” Hart (c)

Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall following sweet chin music (1:01:55). The boyhood dream has come true. Half a century later, this match holds it’s immense exceptional quality. Today’s wrestling can’t hold a candle to the storytelling, drama and psychology that’s on display here from two all-time greats in arguably the greatest match in WrestleMania history. To truly appreciate it, despite knowing the end result, you need to watch and study it. This go around was probably take five for me and the ramifications historically set in motion the WWF transitioning from its “New Generation Era” into the “Attitude Era” as the product developed a sustained edginess to it that produced must-see weekly content for years. Bret vs. Shawn. The Iron Man Match. Two titans of the sport from completely different walks of life and wrestling styles. Egos that hardly saw eye-to-eye. When you know what resulted a year and a half later, seeing the beginnings of it all – the end of Bret’s run as top babyface and the wheels set in motion for his departure – this match holds tremendous significance. Now the great recall to the match other than the one and only fall for Michaels, is the last 40 seconds and sudden death period. There’s far more to unpack than just Bret locking the sharpshooter on Michaels as he catches him coming off the ropes and Michaels squirms in anguish but doesn’t tap out as the 60 minute time limit expires. And that Gorilla Monsoon orders a restart to the match to thereby give Michaels the additional chance to win, which, the first time you watch even has your brain thinking that’s assuredly the outcome. I was all for Bret all the time is his day. To that end, while I appreciated Michaels, as a babyface he represented a threat. Time has taught me that Michaels winning the belt here was totally the correct decision. The Iron Man Match made Shawn Michaels’ career. He had the two ladder matches – both excellent – with Razor Ramon but otherwise was the guy Vince didn’t go all the way with. At WrestleMania XII and beyond, Michaels ceased being “The Heartbreak Kid” and became his other credo, “The Showstopper.” For all of his great to legendary matches, this was Michaels’ finest hour +. Now his initial title reign disappoints, but that’s another dissection for another time and place. As for Bret, the fans, or in the case of 1996 … The Kliq … let it be known that his time as the top dog, as in babyface and standard bearer post-Hulk Hogan, was over in the WWF. Yes, Bret took his ball so to speak and went home to Calgary for six months following WrestleMania, to reboot himself, lick his wounds, check his ego and flirt with overtures from rival WCW, but he had to be done as a babyface and thankfully, the ascension of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and after that, DX, is what jolted his career as the company’s #1 heel – which, Bret was fantastic as. Literally, 18 months of storyline plot resulted from this match and Michaels winning his first WWF Championship. As for the meat and potatoes of the 60 minutes that ended in a “draw,” let me give all of that its just due. Over the duration of the one hour, you could say in parts that Bret does pound Shawn into the mat. However, Shawn hangs with Bret in the first 20 minutes that’s a mat wrestling portion consumed with rest holds. Bret wrestles the stiffer match over the next 20 minutes as begins to soften Michaels back for the sharpshooter while he mixes in stiff elbows with European uppercuts. Michaels turns the tide off a viscious corner whip and he consistently works Bret’s shoulder with moves such as a shoulderbreaker, hammerlock slam, single-arm DDT and cross arm-breaker. HBK was winning the title but he showed up to wrestle “The Excellence of Execution.” That’s what made this match as awesome as it was. The final 30 minutes are edge of your seat good. Near falls come aplenty and either man could have netted a fall or two, yet the 0-0 score continued to accentuate each move and pinning attempt as the clock wound down. The kitchen sink was thrown out here in terms of Bret’s moveset, Shawn’s moveset, suplexes, submission holds, Michaels flying through the air doing superhuman bumps, etc., but nary a decision. Everyone remembers the Bret back body drop of Michaels over the ropes onto the floor or Michaels catapult outside of a corner whip and colliding with Lothario as eye-popping moments. The last 10 minutes gave the impression that one fall, and one fall only, would decide the match. The sharpshooter? Or sweet chin music? A double clothesline momentarily grounds both before Shawn gets a flurry offense over five minutes that nets him several near falls. The last 40+ seconds with the crowd at a fever pitch come as Bret, groggily at his feet, catches Shawn coming off the ropes to apply the sharpshooter. Michaels withers in pain and fights with all he has to not submit but had he, and Bret retained the title, no one would have said boo given the climax occurs at the very end. Shawn doesn’t tap and the bell rings. Referee Earl Hebner looks around. Bret grabs the belt and starts to walk off, receiving handshakes and applause for going the full hour without getting beaten … only Gorilla Monsoon, back again as WWF President appears to order Hebner to restart the match because “there must be a winner.” The Bret heel turn begins here. He frustratingly returns to the ring, tossing the belt down on his way back in. He asks for the bell and immediately attacks a withering Michaels and his lower back. Despite the punishment, from the sharpshooter and a back body drop and suplex, Shawn staggers himself to his feet and hits Bret with sweet chin music out of nowhere. He can’t make the cover, though, so Bret sells it (somewhat anyway) as he e crawls to the corner. Bret jelly-legged gets on his feet but he’s met with a second sweet chin music as Michaels had time to wind up. Shawn covers and at last wins the WWF Title for the first time in an epic WrestleMania moment. Michaels celebrates in tears on his knees as his face is buried in the belt. Bret gets up after a minute. He stares on in disbelief then walks off in disgust (at the situation and no longer being Vince’s #1 honestly). He tears down the straps on his tights and walks off heated. Michaels at last celebrates the win with his Kliq as WrestleMania XII comes to a close.
Rating: ****3/4 (one of the best matches in wrestling history and the greatest WrestleMania Main Event – for me – other than being topped by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001).

The Verdict: WrestleMania XII has often had a lukewarm reception to it. On the whole, that’s understandable. Bret vs. Shawn. The 60-minute Iron Man Match – the first of its kind, however, IS the event. The historical significance to a single match may begin with Andre The Giant putting over Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III to make and cement Hulk-A-Mania but no match has had the staying power or drove more storyline content, transitioned eras, like Hart and Michaels and all that resulted from it. The match has aged exceptionally well despite the end result and knowing there aren’t any falls in the actual time limit. I believe it’s Michaels all-time greatest match. Bret had better matches prior to or even after, for different reasons, and the one knock you can give him was that he was 80 percent invested to Shawn’s 100 percent. It takes multiple sit throughs to notice the intracacies hidden therein. It’s all quite remarkable to study. Outside of the epic Main Event, Diesel and The Undertaker had a good match and Austin was just getting started. 25 years later and WrestleMania XII while an average show amongst the 36 altogether, delivered because Bret and Shawn delivered. Often times, that has failed to happen. The WWF sprung forward from their match after a two/three-year malaise period of just scraping by as WCW passed them by – and would more for a while yet – to re-invent their product and give wrestling fans “attitude.” If the WWE ever recognized singular matches in its Hall of Fame, the Iron Man Match should be enshrined first.

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 25, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 25, 1996

WrestleMania XII is six days away but Raw is pre-taped from San Antonio, TX (3/11/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 1: Leif Cassidy vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (w/ “Supersock” José Lothario)
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (8:34 shown) following Sweet Chin Music. This is a surprisingly good TV match. Cassidy played the role of the goof ball sidekick to Marty Jannetty in The New Rockers. They were heels in the non-typical way. Speaking of Jannetty, he came to ringside part-way through to back his tag-team partner, and to be someone Michaels had to think about. Bret Hart sat with Vince McMahon for commentary and he wasn’t just good, he was great. Hart discussed his plans for Michaels at WrestleMania in their “Iron Man” Match. He spoke about punishing Michaels for 60 minutes as a way to counteract Shawn’s athleticism and high-flying aerial moves. Bret could be respectful while also throwing in the occasional dig, such as referencing how Michaels got his ass kicked by nine “cheerleaders” in Syracuse, NY or that the Mexican-style of wrestling is exciting but rolling around the ring in a ball doesn’t mean you’re tough. Simply put, Bret believes, how can Shawn possibly hang with him for one hour? Cassidy hangs with Michaels throughout. Al Snow was really fit here and a workmanlike wrestler at this point in his career. Jannetty involves himself at the end holding back Michaels against the ropes. Bret lends an assist by pushing Jannetty aside which frees Shawn and gives him the opening for the superkick. Michaels doesn’t take kindly to Bret’s helping hand as they exchange words outside the ring before Lothario has their cooler heads prevail. It’s a fast-paced match that’s easy to get into with Bret masterful on commentary to boost the entertainment value. Really, there couldn’t have been a better pairing in WWF history up to the present day in 1996 to contest a 60-minute match for the belt. Given the roster, it was needed, too.
Rating: ***1/4

Match 2: “The Portuguese Man o’ War” Aldo Montoya vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Rating/Result: Helmsley via pinfall (4:33) following the pedigree. McMahon and Lawler discuss The Ultimate Warrior the whole match – – – Helmsley’s WrestleMania opponent – – – as Montoya gets grounded before a flurry of offense by him sends Hunter reeling. Add a couple of near falls for The Man o’ War before Helmsley finishes him off with the pedigree. Hunter again had a blonde bimbo with him at ringside. Sable would be Helmsley’s escort at WrestleMania versus The Ultimate Warrior as his ring entrance far exceeded the length of the match. Helmsley had wrestled Henry Godwinn in pig slop and would now job to a by-gone era has-been in 30 seconds. That’s paying your dues.
Rating: *1/2

Located in a “Hollywood Back Lot,” Goldust seduces a Roddy Piper mannequin. He explains in rather explicit and sultry detail how they’ll become one entity at WrestleMania. Creepy. He smashes the mannequin as a final curtain of what’s in store for Hot Rod, though. Goldust was getting himself the feels and then some here. The match was thrown together on the fly but it had good build-up.

The debut of Mankind is next week on Monday Night Raw. Yes! Finally!!!

McMahon introduces The Undertaker as a man who will face his “Gravest Challenge” at WrestleMania when he opposes “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel. Now wait, wasn’t that the Hulk Hogan match at Survivor Series in 1991? Oh yes, the past was all but written off by 1996, how silly of me. Paul Bearer first recaps the ongoings – – – for those that need a reminder – – – of what led to the match. Diesel, he says, is on the eve of destruction. Taker mentions his creatures of the night and tells them to prepare for a feast at WrestleMania. He says all that will be left of Diesel is his battered carcas. He notes at one time he’d have been satisfied with just beating Diesel but after Diesel laid his hands on Paul Bearer, that corpse of himself he saw in the casket, will be his future. Diesel will look into the eyes of “The Grim Reaper” and realize his soul and fate lay in his hands. Rest. In. Peace.

It’s time for the hard sell now with training montages for Michaels and Hart. These are the same packages previously shown a few weeks back. Anyone that still preferred the WWF was already locked in on WrestleMania. This was attempt to bring back those that had left for WCW or on the fringe. For myself, being invested in both products, I didn’t need these. But, they were well done.

Match 3: “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Ahmed Johnson
Result/Analysis: Johnson via DQ (5:45 shown) following outside interference from The British Bulldog. Nothing match. Johnson works sloppy as usual. The guy was a total bust. Diana Hart watched from ringside. Why she cared I have no clue. Vader joins Owen and Bulldog after the bell for a three-on-one but of course, Yokozuna and Jake “The Snake” Roberts come down allowing the faces to stand tall before the six-man tag at WrestleMania.

A Bret Hart tribute video airs to end the show. As it turned out, Bret’s match with Shawn was his last televised WWF match for a near eight months before he returned as a tweener to feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin come Survivor Series.

The Verdict: The hard sell fell flat on its face. Bret vs. Shawn WAS the WrestleMania card with the other matches mere filler. At the time, I was half-invested. I favored Bret, but the handwriting was on the wall for Shawn finally winning the belt. It was the how, however, which left the intrigue. The year before, with Lawrence Taylor headlining against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleKania XI, I was checked out. At least there was improvement in 1996. It’s now been 25 years since “The Boyhood Dream” came true. It’s time next to look back on an iconic moment from the 12th “Showcase of The Immortals.” At least WWE, now exclusively on Peacock, has it at the ready for the masses. Sheesh.

WCW Monday Nitro – March 25, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – March 25, 1996

Huntsville, AL

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Three titles will be on-the-line. The World Tag-Team Titles are up for grabs as Sting and Lex Luger are challenged by The American Males, the United States Heavyweight Title is at stake as Konnan gives a shot to Mr. J.L. (Jerry Lynn) and Ric Flair defends the World Heavyweight Title against the 7-foot 4-inch 440-pound Giant. But first, “Macho Man” Randy Savage tussles with The Belfast Bruiser.

Match 1: The Belfast Bruiser vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (5:07) following the flying elbow drop. This was the first television defeat for The Belfast Bruiser aka Fit Finlay with Savage returning to his solo act post Mega-Powers. No one could deliver a beating like Finlay or take one like Savage, so this was a good pairing. Think mid-1980’s Greg Valentine versus Savage but only a step up from those encounters. Furthermore, this is textbook for how you work a match and deliver moves with impact when only given five minutes to work with. Two pros out there doing their thing. It’s a solid opening bout.
Rating: **1/2

“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, with Elizabeth and Woman alongside him, comes out to speak with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Flair says tonight he’ll slay a real-life fire-breathing, walking-talking Giant and be standing over him when it’s all said and done. He breaks into song with “I’ve got the whole world in my hands” as he grabs the waist of Woman and Elizabeth. “It’s not easy being ‘The Nature Boy,’ he says. What, with the title belt, Woman o Woman won’t you marry me now and “Macho Man’s” ex better half.” Ha! Okerlund asks Flair about Luger and the knockout punch he delivered to him last night at Uncensored. Flair admits he’s turned a blind eye toward “The Total” Package of late but he realizes Luger wants all that he’s got. He says Luger, because of last night, is now joining the long list of those who will not be able to Style and Profile with him. Elizabeth confirms to Okerlund that Flair is more of a man than Luger. Three years later, that changed. For real. Elizabeth was carrying around Savage’s money here. Macho didn’t kindly to that later on.

Match 2: WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
Mr. J.L. vs. Konnan (c)
Result/Analysis: Konnan via pinfall (6:22) with a whiplash slam into a bridge. Konnan may have drunk a few too many cervezas following his win over Eddie Guerrero at Uncensored because he moves at half-speed in this match and is sluggish. J.L. was the masked alter-ego of Jerry Lynn. He was involved in the Cruiserweight tournament and had defeated Dean Malenko to advance. There’s some nice moves and Lucha wrestling but Konnan lacks motivation to work a second good match in the same week. Thus, this feels unimportant and drags on to the obvious conclusion. Next.
Rating: *1/4

Match 3: Disco Inferno vs. The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe)
Result/Analysis: The Booty Man via pinfall (1:18) following a running high knee. Squash. Disco had no offense. Booty jukes and jives, delivers two atomic drops, gets a smack on his ass by Kimberly, now The Booty Babe, and the running knee lift of doom ends the match. HORRIBLE!
Rating: DUD

On WCW Saturday Night, Lex Luger defends the World Television Title against The Shark. Sting tussles with Dean Malenko. Ric Flair will compete. “Earl” Robert Eaton takes on The Belfast Bruiser. Also, The Giant faces Big Bubba. Will he or Flair be the World Heavyweight Champion?

Match 4: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
The American Males [Marcus Bagwell & Scotty Riggs] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (6:33) when Sting pins Riggs off a flying crossbody. Nothing match. Luger mixes it up with Riggs, mostly while getting his ass handed to him, before ducking Bagwell, whom Sting was responsible for bringing into WCW. Lex’s part was be the weakest link of the team but he always celebrated victories as if he were solely responsible for them. The Males never accomplished much but they were a hit with the ladies. Their entrance theme did rock, though. Sting stays behind post-match to buddy up with The Males while Luger takes his belts and celebrates all on his own. LOL. That Sting, he’s a pretty forgiving fellow. Luger’s antics made the team go. At some point, The Steiner Brothers have to get a title shot.

Match 5: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
The Giant (accompanied by Jimmy Hart) vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) (w/ Woman & Elizabeth)
Result/Analysis: No Contest (8:55). The end result of this match was the face turn of The Giant. Arn Anderson hits The Giant with a steel chair to save the title for Flair but since The Taskmaster was present and had taken the chair from AA, The Giant saw it as Kevin Sullivan being the guilty party. He had chokeslammed Flair before Elizabeth and Woman enter the ring to stand over Flair which led to Anderson’s outside interference. Flair was the master of working a match with a big man. He bumps like crazy, tries to chop The Giant down to size only to no avail before resorting to every cheat tactic in the book because he is, after all, “The Dirtiest Player in the Game.” The Giant was particularly agile in his early career and could do things at this point he couldn’t later on as The Big Show in his long WWF/WWE run. With Hulk Hogan a soon-to-be absentee as the top babyface in preparation for his heel turn months down the road, it made sense for The Giant to take the mantle and feud with The Four Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom. He’d soon become the World Champion for a second time but not on this night as Flair escapes. Good Main Event.
Rating: **3/4

The Verdict: Five matches in one hour off a PPV the night before is nothing to sneeze at. The Giant turning face is the takeaway. The stuff with Savage, and Elizabeth tossing around her alimony money from “the divorce,” while hysterical, was getting too much play. Luger was in his element. He worked as a heel yet played the part of face while tagging with Sting. No one could pull that off any better. Until Scott Hall, followed soon after by Kevin Nash, arrive, however, WCW had little creative direction. From top-to-bottom their in ring product on Monday Nitro and WCW Saturday Night was far superior than anything the WWF was providing. Thus, if could only watch one show back then, even though channel flipping was a must (more so in 1997 and 1998) Nitro was the first choice.

WCW Uncensored 1996

WCW Uncensored 1996

“Everything you’ve wanted to see…plus the stuff you haven’t thought of yet!”

Tupelo, MS – Tupelo Coliseum

Commentators: Tony Schiavone, “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony, Dusty and Bobby discuss the Doomsday Cage Main Event and the possibility that Hulk-A-Mania could end on this very night. Yeah … as if!

WCW United States Heavyweight Championship:
Eddie Guerrero vs. Konnan (c)
Result/Analysis: Konnan via pinfall (18:28) following a low blow off a leap frog by Guerrero. The match was ahead of its time as the American audience was hardly conditioned to the Lucha Libre/Mexican style of professional wrestling. There’s a good portion of the match that’s mat wrestling, too, and that was rare to see in the mid-1990’s. Guerrero, naturally, carries Konnan to a higher level and he had more stamina to work a 20-minute bout. It’s a match of this ilk, with no flash or theatrics to it, where you realize that even in 1996, long before he achieved super-stardom, Guerrero was one of the best pure wrestlers in the business. Konnan had the immense pull and notoriety with many of the Mexican wrestlers so his sustained push, if for nothing else, brought in many a talent to WCW who jumpstarted the Cruiserweight division. For that, he gets the credit for paving the way. On a PPV that’s historically remembered for Hulk Hogan’s booking running itself amok, this terrific match feels out of place. There’s plenty of innovative moves and counter holds/pins. It all felt new.
Rating: ***1/2

“Mean” Gene Okerlund has Colonel Robert Parker with him, and “Dirty” Dick Slater, he’s there, too. The Stud Stable was no more as Bunkhouse Buck had abandoned Slater during a recent match versus The American Males several weeks before this event. Anyway, Parker is up against his once “fried pie” Madusa in a “Man vs. Woman” Match. The Colonel says he’s fighting on behalf of all men. Parker says, “I’m the rooster and I’m gonna prove it.” Well, OK then. I’ll be on the edge of my seat!

“Grudge” Match:
“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. Fit Finlay “The Belfast Bruiser”
Result/Analysis: The Belfast Bruiser via DQ (17:21) due to the outside interference of The Blue Bloods. I’m telling you, if you like hard-hitting, incredibly stiff, impactful wrestling with a sense of realism to it, do yourself a favor and go on a search for this match. The sheer brutality from bell-to-bell is world-class and second-to-none in the scripted genre that is professional wrestling. The match could have gone on for another 20 minutes and I’d have been engaged with every nuance and uppercut. The finish sucks, however, with no decisive winner. Still, this is a hidden gem in an era of wrestling that was constantly re-inventing itself. Regal winds up a bloody mess at the end and it wouldn’t shock me if that was a result of the beating Finlay dished out. Well-known wrestling author Scott Keith summed it up perfectly, “It wasn’t GREAT as a wrestling match or anything, but as a total war of attrition, it was amazing, something out of a UFC almost.” Plus, Dusty invents new terminology with “plunder” being my most favorite. He’d use it throughout the night.
Rating: ***1/4

Jimmy Hart and The Giant are with Okerlund. Hart says Loch Ness will find out tonight why he’s the greatest wrestling manager in the world and why no one puts their hands on him and gets away with it. “Mean” Gene breaks the news the match is a #1 Contender Match for the World Heavyweight Title tomorrow night on Monday Nitro. Well, that settles it. The Giant says he can give us rhymes or riddles but he’ll smoke Loch Ness in the ring like bacon on a griddle. LOL! As for Ric Flair, The Giant promises to tear him from limb to limb and win the belt.

Tony, Dusty and Bobby pontificate over what has transpired so far. Heenan explains how if he were Colonel Parker, how he’d approach the upcoming match, man versus woman, with Madusa. The Brain suggests handing over the credit cards to Madusa so she can go on a spending spree. LOL.

Loch Ness is with Okerlund. He calls Hart a weasel-faced manager who promised him he’d get a shot at Hogan inside the Doomsday Cage but instead used his power of attorney to remove him from the match. As payback, Loch Ness says he’ll drop his 700 pounds on The Giant and he won’t get up. Okerlund wants to introduce Loch Ness to his neighbor down in Florida, who’s a dentist. Ha!

“Man vs. Woman” Match:
Col. Robert Parker vs. Madusa
Result/Analysis: Parker via pinfall (3:47) with assistance of “Dirty” Dick Slater. You’d have thought the WCW bookers could have gone all “Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs” here but that would be too logical so the cheap way out of Parker winning won out. This being on the card at all was the mockery but they actually “wrestle” despite the sham of it all. Ideally, Madusa needed to win and make Parker her “bitch,” especially since she returned to WCW in the fall of 1995 as the reigning WWF Ladies Champion and had thrown their title belt in a trash can on Nitro, but alas, she jobs to a manager who was two-timing her with Sister Sherri. The Jerry Springer Show is where this tryst needed to culminate. And why, oh why, wasn’t Sherri involved? Terrible.
Rating: 1/4*

Lee Marshall interviews The Road Warriors. L.O.D. promises to remove the medulla oblongata (brain stem) from both Booker T and Sting during the Chicago Street Fight and they’ll each have to wear depends for the rest of their lives. Well then! On a side note, a diagram of the Doomsday Cage is on a blackboard behind Marshall with what appears to be mapped out plans for the match. OMG. I have never seen such amateurish/out-in-the-open booking. Only in WCW. Did they forget the blackboard was in the room prior to the interview? If not, flip it over! So embarrasing.

Tony, Dusty and Bobby discuss Diamond Dallas Page versus The Booty Man as they obviously stall to kill time. DDP, they say, has sold all of his prized possessions at pawn shops near and far just to have one last crack at a match so he can win back Kimberly plus the money he’s lost / blown. Heenan says DDP only needs to mess up The Booty Man’s face and Kimberly will turn away. That’s an obvious reference to Brutus Beefcake’s 1991 parasailing accident. The Brain held nothing back.

The SlamBoree promo airs. It’s “The Lethal Lottery” in May. Those shows were innovative.

Special Stipulations Match:
* If DDP loses, he’ll quit wrestling. ** If DDP wins, he’ll earn back his money AND Kimberly. **
Diamond Dallas Page vs. The Booty Man
Result/Analysis: The Booty Man via pinfall (16:02) following a running high knee. Woof! Where do I start, even though I’d rather just spare you all? The Booty Man replaced Johnny B. Badd because Badd, aka Marc Mero, got himself legit fired over this angle involving Kimberly and losing her services to The Booty Man down the road. The Booty Man is, of course, Brutus Beefcake / Ed Leslie and the real-life BFF of Hogan. His storyline was that he was a planted spy working on behalf of Hogan inside The Dungeon of Doom as “Zodiac.” I swear they made that up on the fly or Hogan did to suit his booking fancies. DDP had worked many a match with Badd, countless PPV bouts, and this would have been the culmination to their long-standing feud had Mero not said no mas to WCW. Tony buries Badd which follows up on Eric Bischoff doing so on Nitro as they really were disgusted by his insubordination. Anyway, Page and Booty were oil and water and everyone knows those two don’t mix. The match is atrocious and has no redeeming value. Kimberly comes out dressed in cheerleader attire which matches the tights Booty is wearing. Much of the focus is on her because DDP works a chinlock for five minutes after he stalls and acts like a drunken sailor for the first half of the match to garner a crowd response since working with Booty provided none on its own. Booty winning wasn’t something in doubt. Beefcake hadn’t been “over” since 1990 but somehow he survived in the business with gimmick upon gimmick. The Booty Man / Booty Girl brainstorm that became a reality should have ended Beefcake’s career. It would not. DDP loses the match so he “quits wrestling” and leaves (for a while) as flat broke. Page made himself into a World Champion out of going through these awful feuds and did so by busting his ass in the ring and not by kissing ass or shaking it like Beefcake. I have the thought that Booty Man would have teamed with Hogan and Randy Savage in the Main Event if not for Badd exiting WCW.
Rating: DUD

Jimmy Hart and Luger are with Okerlund. A “teary-eyed” Hart leaves Luger with a custom-made manager’s jacket saying he’s a man of his word and tonight will be the last time he will escort him to the ring. Luger has mixed emotions, but they’re about stepping inside The Doomsday Cage and what that match will represent while also sitting back and watching Sting, his tag-team partner and one-half of the World Tag-Team Champions, compete in the Chicago Street Fight without him there fighting along side. LOL. See it was Hart, who used his POA, to wriggle Luger free of the Chicago Street Fight and into the Doomsday Cage as part of “The Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania.”

“Giant vs. Giant” #1 Contender Match:
* The winner will face “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship. *
Loch Ness vs. The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart)
Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (2:35) following a leg drop. Heenan refers to The Giant as the son of Andre, though not by name. Why WCW persisted in this untruth I don’t know. Almost nothing happens. Thankfully the match ends before you can journey to the bathroom and back. The Giant is the number one contender and gets Flair on Nitro. He says into the camera following the win the leg drop was for Hogan and he’s coming for Flair. As for Loch Ness, he was a goner but it’s because he was diagnosed with cancer. He would pass away in November of 1998.
Rating: DUD

Speaking of strange bedfellows, Lee Marshall brings in Sting and Booker T., he still of Harlem Heat, mind you. Booker speaks a lot gibberish toward The Road Warriors as he says the Chicago Street Fight will turn into a Harlem Street Fight. Suckas! Sting is a little over-hyped and he fires Booker up for “the match of their lives.” If I remember, this failed miserably to meet expectations. Let’s see.

Anything Goes, Falls Count Anywhere “Chicago Street Fight”:
The Road Warriors [Animal & Hawk] vs. Booker T. & Sting [World Tag-Team Champion]
Result/Analysis: Booker T. & Sting via pinfall (29:39) when Booker pins Hawk following assistance from Stevie Ray. This was “Survival of the Fittest” but save for Booker T., the other three blow up within the first 10 minutes and 2/3 of the match still remained. While by no means a parody to the movie, let me just paraphrase off its title at least and call this “Extremely Long & Incredibly Colorless.” It’s fought at THE MOST galatial and plodding pace imaginable and there seems to be no real plan of attack. It’s endless brawling on repeat. If you’re the least bit fatigued, you could need to rewind from falling asleep only don’t do that as you won’t miss anything! You’d like to point to a moment and look back and say remember that Chicago Street Fight in 1996 when … only you’d never come up with anything but describe it as lackluster and never-ending. Now that I’ve summed up 30 minutes of my life gone by, the takeaway is Harlem Heat earning a title match versus Sting and Luger. Booker was ready for his singles career but that got delayed. Also, weren’t The Road Warriors supposedly unbeatable in a Chicago Street Fight? Maybe being in Tupelo makes the loss not count? Truth be told, Luger, while integrated into the match in an odd circumstance as he primmed and posed in front of a mirror as Booker and Animal fought backstage, should have been Sting’s partner. Then again, no way the match lasts 30 minutes, and it played to Luger’s schtick having him being finagled out. How exactly Sting accepts him back as his partner, I can’t recall.
Rating: **

Tony, Dusty and Bobby set the stage for Doomsday. Bobby compares the three-tiered cage structure to that of Alcatraz with the concrete walls being stripped away so we can see the felons tearing each other apart. Nice. Will Hulk-A-Mania cease to exist after tonight? Here’s Michael Buffer as we’re about to find out. For The Mega-Powers to win, they must conquer the entire Alliance.

Doomsday Cage Match:
The Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania [“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Woman & Elizabeth), “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson, “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan, “The Total Package” Lex Luger (w/ Jimmy Hart), Meng, The Barbarian, Z-Gangsta & The Ultimate Solution]
vs. The Mega-Powers [Randy “Macho Man” Savage & Hulk Hogan]
Result/Analysis: The Mega-Powers via pinfall (25:21) when Savage pins Flair after Luger misfires on Savage and hits Flair with a loaded glove. The match is WIDELY considered to be THE WORST PPV Main Event in pro wrestling history. If you’ve watched it once, or in my case, twice, now 25 years apart, there isn’t a counter argument to refute that belief. The rules were never explained only that The Mega-Powers had to maneuveur through all tiers of the cages. The way to win the match for either side never got communicated. If anyone was eliminated, who knew? Watching, you’d have written off Anderson and Flair after the first minutes with The Mega-Powers escaping that cage tier, but alas, they’re involved at the end of the match. Only Meng and The Barbarian, The Faces of Fear, randomly disappear, but the other six were involved at intermittent stages. Z-Gangsta (Zeus) and The Ultimate Solution (Jeep Swenson) are announced by Michael Buffer, but they only appear for their in-ring segment at the bottom of the cage structure for the final three minutes of the match. What you have here is Savage surviving a sustained beating and Hogan discarding all eight guys as if they were each chopped liver. If you want to know what the low point of Hogan’s career was, it bottomed out on this night 25 years ago. Punch, Punch, Kick, Kick, Eye Rake, No Sell, Throw Powder, Use a Steel Chair, Use a Frying Pan (I’m not making this up) and nearly cause Kevin Sullivan to fall off the scaffolding 45 feet high to his would-be death. It’s a COLOSSAL and total CLUSTERF*** that only seeing is believing. Yet, I recommend you don’t watch the match and simply take my word for it. Save yourself. This match should be permanently erased from existence. What’s noteworthy is this was Hogan’s last match as a babyface for four years before his heel turn at Bash at the Beach and the formation of the nWo. The heel turn revived Hogan’s career and added another decade to it.
Rating: -*****!!!!!

The Verdict: From his WCW debut in 1994 through this PPV “American Made” babyface Hogan was front and center in EVERYTHING! Ted Turner and creative made sure Hogan was The Main Event and given carte blanche over his character. It had all run itself amok and reached a crescendo at this wretched event. While The Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania was a total abject failure, the WCW fan base made sure their voices would be heard. It took months of lukewarm reactions and boos before a new direction was sought. Hogan disappeared. Soon enough, WCW was gift-wrapped Scott Hall and Kevin Nash from the WWF and the product soared to unthinkable heights merely with a New World Order. For Uncensored 1996 do yourself a favor and censor yourself from ever watching it. The first two matches are worth a peak and then pretend the show ends. Flair defends the World Heavyweight Title versus The Giant on Monday Nitro. Change is afoot.

WCW Monday Nitro – March 18, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – March 18, 1996

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Nitro comes on the air with the brawl to end all brawls as The Giant is wailing away on Loch Ness as Jimmy Hart cheerleads. Lex Luger is introduced as he’s scheduled to defend the TV Title versus Loch Ness. Luger poses through his pyro and pays no mind to Loch Ness being ambushed as he heads to the ring. Referee Randy Anderson immediately starts his count. WTF?!?

Match 1: WCW World Television Championship
Loch Ness vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Luger via count-out (0:14). “The Total Package” is on such a roll that he doesn’t even break a sweat in these title defenses. Impressive. This actually played to Luger’s schtick. He’d take a cheap victory and present it to the world as if he single-handedly had found the cure to cancer. Speaking of the “C” word, Loch Ness was diagnosed with having it, which sadly led to his premature death two years later. He and The Giant were matched up at Uncensored. Yes, that’s “Uncensored.” Luger’s narcissitic alter-ego was being played off and “The Brain” for one, loved it.
Rating: N/A

The Mega-Powers come out to hype their participation in the Doomsday Cage Match at Uncensored even though WCW had dropped the ball on explaining the match even one time to its audience. Hogan calls himself “The Dirtiest Player In The Game” during his long-winded soliloquy. Savage, meanwhile, references he and Hogan as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Yeah, The Mega-Powers are a pair of Wild West Outlaws. Gimme a break! Tonight, it’s a Tornado Match versus Ric Flair and Kevin Sullivan. Poor Tony Schiavone handled the interview like a stiff board not wanting to complete his assignment. He was uncomfortable, and nauseated like most of us wrestling marks.

Match 2: Public Enemy [Johnny Grunge/“Flyboy” Rocco Rock] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]
Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (7:03) when Rick pins Grunge following a bulldog off the top rope. I don’t think these teams had any prior matches. They may have crossed paths in ECW in 1995 but I’m too lazy to check. Anyway, The Steiner’s were “so over” that it made Hogan’s crowd reactions look like a Sunday School picnic by comparison. Public Enemy eschews their normal brawl tactics and wrestles The Steiner’s here but that’s a proven losing strategy. It’s two impressive showings for Rick and Scott. They want The L.O.D./Road Warriors. Yes, please!
Rating: **

Match 3: “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson w/ Woman vs. The Booty Man
Result/Analysis: The Booty Man via pinfall (5:43) following a running knee lift. Oy! Was this pure crap? Anderson doing the job for an 80’s has-been who only still had a job/push because of his BFF standing with Hogan. The Booty Man gimmick is one of the worst in the history of pro wrestling and that includes Naked Mideon. Kimberly, acting as The Booty Babe, though Bischoff calls her “The Booty Girl”, engages with Woman which throws the match haywire. AA always towed the company line but jobbing to Brutus Beefcake had to be the lowest of the low during his in-ring career. Woof! The Booty Man will wrestle DDP at Uncensored. The Booty Babe will be at ringside. Terrible.
Rating: DUD

WCW Saturday Night features The Road Warriors vs. Public Enemy, Sting vs. “Earl” Robert Eaton of The Blue Bloods, Lex Luger defending the World TV Title against Brad Armstrong, Eddie Guerreo matches up with Alex Wright and Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman challenges “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. What? No Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid??? Count me in! That show was so underrated.

Match 4: The Road Warriors [Animal & Hawk] vs. The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobs & Jerry Sags]
Result/Analysis: The Road Warriors via pinfall (5:53 shown) when Animal pins Knobs after using the forearm guard as an illegal foreign object. The match is a brawl and a total clusterf*** at that. It’s like resorting to TV dinners for supper but your microwave malfunctions/overheats and you’re consuming unhealthy calories. Their matches in 1991-1992 were at least passable. Here, it’s four guys blown up and gassed. The Nasties had employment, particularly Knobs who hung on forever, because of relations with Hogan. L.O.D. had the following, and the potential, like with The Steiner’s, to still be included in something special on occasion. Sting and Booker T await at Uncensored in a Chicago Street Fight. Remember, Jimmy Hart negotiated Luger out of the match as his POA. LOL.
Rating: 1/2*

Match 5: Texas Tornado Tag-Team Match
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Hvt. Champion] w/ Woman & “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan
vs. The Mega-Powers [“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan & “Macho Man” Randy Savage]
Result/Analysis: The Mega-Powers via DQ (10:10) following outside interference by Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman. The larger story came afterward as Ze Gangsta (Zeus) and a man named The Final Solution (Jeep Swenson of GWF notoriety) appeared/were introduced as the last trump card played by The Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania. Neither man talk as AA, Flair and Sullivan bask in their belief Hogan (and Savage) are a certainty to be finished at Uncensored in the Doomsday Cage Match with definitive rhetoric by all on what’s to come. I’m sure at the time the surprise unveiling of these two behemoths made the average fan react in some fashion but time holds no significance to their one shot deals as nothing came from either at the PPV. As for the match, it’s a meandering brawl and nothing more with Hogan in control / the focal point of 99% of it. Pillman’s interference was random because he wasn’t involved at all and spent these days and weeks inventing ways he could get fired. It will be 8-on-2 at Uncensored but you can guess which team wins …

The Verdict: Unsanctioned. Unauthorized. Everything you’ve wanted to see…plus the stuff you haven’t thought of yet! Yes, those are the taglines for Uncensored. What WCW left out was “Unwatchable.” I chose 1996 to thoroughly review and dissect this year, however, so I can’t “unauthorize” myself from recapping the event. Nitro was crushing Raw in the ratings but the product at this early juncture of the year was horrible. I’m uncertain if I watched Uncensored at the time or even caught it later on but I have my doubts. The card is wretched and Hulk-A-Mania will run wild and whatcha gonna do, brother? In case you doubt me, here’s the lineup for the PPV.

https://www.cagematch.net/?id=1&nr=1618&page=2

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 18, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 18, 1996

San Antonio, TX (taped 3/11/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Over the weekend at Madison Square Garden, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel lost his cool attacking The Undertaker, Bret Hart and surprisingly, Shawn Michaels, all with a steel chair at the conclusion of a tag-team match in which he partnered with HBK. Tonight, both Diesel and The Undertaker are present, with Diesel in action. Bret Hart will face Tatanka. Plus, Billionaire Ted’s FTC hearings.

Match 1: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim Cornette vs. Jake “The Snake Roberts
Result/Analysis: Bulldog via count-out (4:53). Eh. Jake hits the DDT on his third or fourth attempt, I lost count, but Cornette pulls him off Davey Boy on the pin which leads to a chase around the ring with Jake taking his snake out of the bag for the pursuit. This was nothing more than added feul to the six-man tag match at WrestleMania which Camp Cornette had yet to respond to and accept.
Rating: 1/2*

Shawn Michaels training montage. José Lothario and his world class expertise was leading HBK, aka “The Boy Toy” toward achieving his boyhood dream. As for Bret Hart, in a special inside look with “The Hitman” preparing for WrestleMania, he feels he’s a better role model than Michaels. To summarize, the focus with Michaels was completing a lifelong goal. Hart, yeah he was concerned with the perception people had of him. That’s reality intertwined with the script. Uncommon.

Match 2: Fatu vs. Goldust [Intercontinental Champion] w/ Marlena
Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (2:38 shown) following the curtain call. Goldust wrestled in a kilt to futher irk Piper. Speaking of Piper, he calls in during the match so McMahon and King can hype the Hollywood Back Lot Brawl at WrestleMania. Fatu was working the short-lived “Making A Difference” version of himself. That went nowhere. As for Goldust, did he EVER defend the IC Title?
Rating: 1/4*

Video highlights of The Ultimate Warrior throughout the years

Camp Cornette joins McMahon in the ring. They’re here to accept the challenge laid out for a six-man tag at WrestleMania versus Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Let’s face it, a Vader/Yokozuna match wouldn’t be pretty. In the old days, with four hours to kill and without a one hour Main Event, there could have been three matches: Owen/Jake, Bulldog/Johnson and Vader/Yokozuna. The faces appear on the video wall for a pre-recorded message for Cornette. If they win – – – read the fine print on that contract you know – – – Yokozuna will get five minutes alone in the ring with Cornette. Now that’s a draw for a stipulation. Ha!

Michaels/Hart Iron Man Match/WrestleMania XII promo. Milk it, Vince. Milk it!

McMahon recaps Diesel turning on Michaels at MSG just yesterday (in reality). HBK wasn’t a happy camper. After WrestleMania, and in Diesel’s departure feud, he and Michaels would reconvene leading to their match at IYH 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies.

Match 3: Barry Horowitz vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel
Result/Analysis: Diesel via pinfall (2:05) following a punch to the head. Horowitz was the lamb led to slaughter. Diesel was distracted by a casket placed at ringside by Paul Bearer. That explains the non-descript finish. Diesel opens the casket to see himself lying in repose: an homage from The Undertaker of his future in the WWF come WrestleMania. Diesel plays up the sobering reality well.
Rating: DUD

Next week on Raw, Michaels has his final WrestleMania tune-up match versus Leif Cassidy of The New Rockers. Owen Hart battles Ahmed Johnson. HBK and Al Snow in the Main Event? Really?!?

Match 4: Tatanka w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart [WWF Champion]
Result/Analysis: Hart via pinfall (6:58 shown) with a roll-up. The 1-2-3 Kid interferes but that backfires and Bret school boys Tatanka for the weak finish. Bret was setting up for the sharpshooter but I guess Tatanka tapping out was not in his contract? Tatanka was pudgy at this point and his stamina tanked after five minutes. I’d have taken this match in 1993 three years earlier with Tatanka also a babyface and there would have been **** potential with it. Here it’s the motivated versus the unmotivated and that combination never works.
Rating: **

Federal “Turner” Commission Hearings: Yet more incessant whining by the WWF power brokers – Vince – over Billionaire Ted monopolizing the TV industry by merging AOL and Time Warner. Billionaire Ted is made to look anything but omnipotent here as he goes all Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men” on the committee when he’s asked about targeting the WWF saying, “You can’t handle the truth!!!” The words hostile takeover and predatory practices he continues are demeaning when the world is run by a handful of billionaires who control everything. Finally, after being pressed on the question repeatedly, Billionaire Ted admits he’s trying to put the WWF out of business. The broadcast ends asking people concerned about the proposed merger to write to the FTC. At some point soon, after Billionaire Ted, The Huckster and The Nacho Man die of heart attacks in the Geriatric Match at WrestleMania, these elaboate skits cease and the WWF focuses on their own product and how to compete with their newfound competion the old-fashioned way.

The Verdict: Who let the dogs out? Moreso, why did the dogs crap on everyone’s lawn? The WrestleMania build stalls. Billionaire Ted is front-and-center. Vince McMahon needs a reality check. So your product sucks? Fix it! Storytell. Build new stars. Find an attitude (oh, that came a year+ later). More importantly … wrestle! If you watch this Raw and were told WrestleMania was under two weeks away you’d have been left bewildered. Seeing Diesel in a casket is a chilling takeaway, though, and is subliminal messaging since his WWF career is an hourglass that’s running out time.

WCW Monday Nitro – March 11, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – March 11, 1996

Winston Salem, NC

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Easy E, Mongo and Brain discuss the Main Event. Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage & The Booty Man take on “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan in a six-man double strap lumberjack match. Yes, “Uncensored” has come early. Also, The Road Warriors are back in action as well as the NEW World Television Champion: Lex Luger.

Match 1: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. The Giant w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (6:30) following a chokeslam. Duggan was always a crowd pleaser and it was natural to pair him against the over-sized villians. Hacksaw ran through his schtick no matter what and even though he’d lose, he still gave the works. The Giant could at least sell Duggan’s offense which is in stark contrast to Andre The Giant some eight years earlier. Duggan was fodder. The Giant was lacking a feud post-Hogan. As an aside, Brian Pillman creates a racous in the crowd during the match in his latest attempt to get fired as he’s escorted away by security. Duggan makes sure to wallop Jimmy Hart before falling victim to the chokeslam – manager abuse still played. Hacksaw had no usefulness to the wrestling business beyond Sgt. Slaughter and 1991.
Rating: *3/4 (a better match than you’d guess)

Match 2: The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott] vs. The Road Warriors [Animal & Hawk]
Result/Analysis: The Road Warriors via pinfall (10:10) when Hawk pins Rick after Animal uses a forearm pad to hit Rick after he executes a top rope bulldog on Hawk off Scott’s shoulders. This is an absolutely bitchin’ match on free TV, mind you, that came completely out-of-nowhere! The advertised match was The Nasty Boys wrestling The Road Warriors but The Steiner’s ride out on Harley Davidson motorcycles to make their surprise return to WCW for the first time since 1992. Scott had started juicing as he’s considerably bulked up here and he suplexes like an animal, no pun intended. The Road Warriors look as good as they have since their WWF run from 1991-92 and were no doubt juiced by drawing The Steiner’s. It’s in a match of this high-quality that you realize how technically great and schooled a tag-team The Steiner’s were before Scott’s lengthy singles career and Rick’s toiling about in the mid card. The fan reaction is rabid for both teams. That’s a rare moment in wrestling. Raw lost all its viewers the second The Steiner’s rode out to the ring. In 10 minutes, these teams pull out all the stops. AWESOME moment / memory. L.O.D. may have started a heel turn with this match but I need to let that play out as my recollection is foggy. After the match, The Steiner’s, interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund, say they’ve been hunting The Road Warriors for four years and this match (isn’t) the end. The Steiner’s had a brief tenure in ECW in the summer and fall of 1995 in-between their last WCW stint and their three year run in the WWF from 1992-1994. In memory serves me correctly, they stick around while L.O.D. does not much longer.
Rating: ***1/2

Match 3: WCW World Television Championship
“Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Luger via pinfall (6:37) following outside interference by Jimmy Hart. Luger was hot shot the World Television Title (his second reign – the first had lasted one day – in one month) with Johnny B. Badd departing WCW over a heated contractual dispute over the use of Kimberly Page of all things twisted. Exactly why Luger, when he was already one-half of the World Tag-Team Champions with Sting, dedpite their ever-dissolving partnership, was a strange decision, but alas, he was. Bischoff spends the first minute (or two) of the match burying Badd for ducking out of WCW, saying, “Obviously, Johnny B. Badd decided he could no longer hang where the big boys play.” Ouch. Wright had begun to receive more of an opportunity because, you know, he could wrestle and make someone as overhyped as Luger even look good. The storyline for Luger was that he negotiated a way for Hart to act on his behalf as his Power of Attorney, whereby Hart managed a loophole to wiggle Luger free from having to wrestle with Sting in the Chicago Street Fight at Uncensored versus The Road Warriors. Ha! The old-school chicanery tactics always played. Luger brushes aside a celebratory Hart after defeating Wright here, “acting” angry that Hart assisted him, just so he could go through his posedown routine. Classic. Instead of teaming with Sting at Uncensored, Luger wound up as one of the eight members in “The Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania” in the Main Event Doomsday Cage Match opposite The Mega-Powers. Yeah, more on that later …
Rating: **

Match 4: Six-Man Tag-Team Double Strap Lumberjack Match
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion] w/ Elizabeth & Woman, “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan vs. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage & The Booty Man
Result/Analysis: Savage, Hogan and The Booty Man via pinfall (6:28) when Hogan pins Flair after the big boot and leg drop. The leather straps were weaponized by the lumberjacks, naturally, but predominantly by Hogan as this colossal mess is merely an exercise for him to beat on Flair the entirety of the match, which had zero structure to it, only mass chaos as if a prison riot broke out, and then pick up the win. Anderson and Taskmaster were ghosts as each get waylayed by Savage and The Booty Man. Kimberly, The Booty Babe-to-be, looks on in adoration for Brutus Beefcake. And you wondered why Marc Mero, aka Johhny B Badd, said see-ya. Loch Ness and The Giant start as Lumberjacks but fight with each other because they were fighting over who had the rights to Hogan. I wonder how the WWF can weave this into their Huckster character? Pure and total 🗑.
Heenan sums up the Hogan show saying, “There he is, surrounded by ‘Hogan’s Hereos’.” Mongo follows that with, “And don’t think he’s not going to be World Champion again Weasel.” Okerlund, meanwhile, catches up with Sullivan, Anderson and Flair after the match. They rant and rave about the Doomsday Cage Match upcoming at Uncensored and Flair, while he bounces off the ropes, pays no mind to this loss, saying he’s got the whole world in his hands, i.e., Elizabeth and Woman. “Whoooo!!!” At this juncture, The Mega-Powers faced odds of 2-on-4 with Luger invoked by Sullivan but the aforementioned Alliance To End Hulk-A-Mania would grow to eight. Stay tuned.

The Verdict: Hogan’s ego and booking input did its damage but not enough to drown out the first 3/4 of the night. The return of The Steiner Brothers sent shockwaves across the bow and hot damn if they didn’t look good. The Road Warriors showed up to work. Thus, a tag-team clinic resulted. For nothing else, watch Nitro from March 11, 1996 for this match. As for Hogan, his babyface run of 12+ years was nearing its end. Thank God. No one knew this of course but WCW was the better for it. The entire product had another two months in its current form before a New World Order arrived for long overdue hostile takeover. The WWF was approaching WrestleMania XII but their weekly content was amateur hour to the wrasslin’ side of the business. Nitro was your Monday Night fix.

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 11, 1996

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.
Rating: **1/2

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.
Rating: DUD

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.
Rating: DUD

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.
Rating: 1/2*

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.

WWF Monday Night Raw – March 4, 1996

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?
Rating: ***1/2

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.
Rating: *

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.
Rating: ***

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.

WCW Monday Nitro – February 26, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – February 26, 1996

Knoxville, Tennessee

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bischoff gives away the Raw spoilers right from the top as he says to put away the remote control and not switch over to the “World Whining Federation.” Ha! It’s the first time of many to come for this back-handed chicanery.

Match 1: Big Bubba vs. Sting
Result/Analysis: Sting via pinfall (7:14) following a flying crossbody press. Big Bubba f/k/a The Big Boss Man, The Boss, The Guardian Angel was enhancement talent by this point. I always thought of this gimmick as that of a hit man and it fit. Bubba wrestles a solid power match as Sting struggles sans Lex Luger. That was the idea, with Sting in need of Luger and their partnership. Sting trips Bubba on the turnbuckle to then catch him with the flying crossbody after taking a sustained beating. Luger is scheduled next against The Renegade – WCW’s “The Ultimate Warrior” parody.
Rating: *3/4

Following a commercial break, “Mean” Gene Okerlund is with Sting, fresh off his victory, and Luger, who just so happens to be holding BOTH of the tag-team title belts. The Road Warriors walk out to question Sting as to why he’s still hanging with Luger when he knows what Luger is really about. Luger, standing behind Sting, answers L.O.D. that they’re the champions, thereby the best in WCW, and will accept a challenge from them in any match, at any time. The Road Warriors pitch a “Chicago Street Fight” to which Luger accepts without hearing on it from Sting. Oh no. Luger furthers his hole by then playing dumb about what the match will entail. The Road Warriors have goated Luger into their style of match and Sting, who is peeved, walks off on Luger telling him to shine the belts in a mirror and figure it out. Ouch! As Bischoff later puts it, Luger wrote a check with his mouth that Sting knows he needs to cash and the funds may get returned as non-sufficient.

Match 2: The Renegade vs. “The Total Package” Lex Luger
Result/Analysis: Luger via submission (5:48) with the torture rack. Like Sting, Luger struggles in singles competition. Unlike Sting, and thanks to that maggot manager of his, Jimmy Hart, Luger had assistance to pick up the win. Luger is confronted by a heated Sting afterward but he cowers in the face of the abetting interference by feinging complete ignorance to Hart pushing The Renegade off the top turnbuckle and onto the floor. The Tag-Team Champs are a hot mess. As for The Renegade, this was his first appearance back on the main roster after last being seen in the fall of 1995. Back then, Jimmy Hart, who had brought him into WCW earlier, turned on him, really, Hulk Hogan foremost, to join the Dungeon of Doom, and he was cause for The Renegade losing his face paint. Following this appearance, he was again absent from television broadcasts for several months.
Rating: *1/2

Match 3: #1 Contender’s Match for WCW World Tag-Team Championship
Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] vs. The Road Warriors [Animal & Hawk]
Result/Analysis: The Road Warriors via pinfall (7:53) when Hawk pins Booker T after a kick to the head by Animal. Both teams were a bit lethargic, particularly L.O.D., but even Jell-O can move on occasion. Harlem Heat controls the tempo, which is the smart way to have a Road Warriors match at this point come off as being passable. It was announced midway through the winners would be named the #1 Contender’s for the tag-team titles. Naturally, L.O.D. was going over to make the earlier segment with Luger and Sting hold weight. Booker hits the Harlem Hangover on Hawk before the lame finish as Animal separates from Stevie Ray after they were brawling outside the king to kick Booker in the head and position Hawk on top for the cover. Eh. Harlem Heat do all the work in these tag-team matches but they became second rate in the win/loss column in early 1996. For two heels, they always received babyface crowd support. Most all of that was for Booker T.
Rating: **

Match 4: Six-Man Tag-Team Main Event
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion], “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & The Taskmaster w/ Woman & Elizabeth vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan & The Booty Man
Result/Analysis: Savage, Hogan & The Booty Man via pinfall (12:05) when Hogan pins Anderson (not the legal man) following the big boot and leg drop combo. Good golly almighty was this ever a CLUSTER****!!! I’m sure Hogan orchestrated the entire plan backstage. The Booty Man had the first five minutes to shake his “booty” and put the heels in sleeper holds, and Flair in a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. With that going nowhere fast, Savage was next in the ring, but he, of course, is the one to take a beating, including shenanigans pulled by Elizabeth and Woman. Then, to save the day, Hogan gets the hot tag wherein he stands in the corner as Sullivan, Flair and Anderson are lined up in an assembly line to take the big boot. Nauseating. AA takes the fall because he had pinned Hogan each of the last two weeks. The heels avenge the loss with Flair cornering Hogan and Elizabeth handcuffs on him to the ropes as Nitro goes off the air. That sounds terrible, right?
Rating -*****

The Verdict: The six-man tag-team fiasco leaves you feeling ill, but otherwise, Sting and Luger, and their evolving and deterioating partnership held the water for 45 minutes at least. If only “The Alliance to End Hulk-A-Mania” had succeeded in due time … but, at least, the babyface days of Hogan running amok had nearly run its course and a career resurrection for him as “Hollywood” was nearing … though who could have predicted that or that the nWo would skrocket WCW to unthinkable heights? Nitro returns on March 11th giving the WWF a Monday Night to themselves.

WWF Monday Night Raw – February 26, 1996

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.
Rating: 1/4*

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.
Rating: 1/2*

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.”
Rating: DUD

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?
Rating: 3/4*

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.

WCW Monday Nitro – February 19, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – February 19, 1996

Salisbury, MD

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bischoff welcomes the audience. “If you love wrestling, he says, there’s only one place to be.” But wait Eric, over on Raw it’s “Larry Fling Live” with special guest Billionaire Ted! Oh yeah, the World Heavyweight Title is at stake in the Main Event here on Nitro, forgive me. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair defends against “Macho Man” Randy Savage in the return match from SuperBrawl VI plus, in a “Revenge Match,” “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson again battles Hulk Hogan after defeating him last week (as The Hulkster again fell victim to Woman’s size 7 high heel shoe!). Bischoff points out Hogan has never lost to the same man twice. That’s sad, but true.

Match 1: “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson w/ Woman vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Anderson via DQ (7:04). Savage ran interference to prevent The Taskmaster from interference but referee Nick Patrick only notices Savage in the ring and grants AA the decision. Ever the good soldier, Anderson allows Hogan the entirety of the match to give him a whuppin to stroke Hogan’s ego for doing the job last week. Mongo has the line of the match as he summarizes Hogan’s loss to AA last week as that he was perpetrated on. Ha! Hogan blocks Anderson’s DDT attempt, levels him with the big boot and applies the figure-four as a jab attempt at Flair. The interference follows before AA can say no mas and Hulk has lost twice in a row to someone!
Rating: 3/4*

Match 2: “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright vs. Loch Ness w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: Loch Ness via pinfall (2:22) with an elbow drop. Wright throws the proverbial kitchen sink at Loch Ness to no avail in a designed squash. Wright’s career was being wasted. If only he had headed North. Loch Ness, the latest “monster” foil, no pun intended, of The Dungeon of Doom, was being pushed for a feud with Hogan. Can you imagine how wretched those matches would be? Unsightly? Displeasing? Fugly? Those descriptions all mean the same thing. Heenan says, “he gives new meaning to the name mud slide” to which Bischoff retorts, “sponge, ought to take care of it.” Poor “Das Wunderkind” just became “Das Wunderflat.”
Rating: DUD

WCW Saturday Night: Chris Benoit vs. Johnny B. Badd for the World Television Title, Scott Armstrong challenges Konnan for the U.S. Heavyweight Title, The Road Warriors in tag-team action and Sting/Lex Luger defend the World Tag-Team Titles against Public Enemy. Not bad.

Match 3: The Belfast Bruiser vs. Brad Armstrong
Result/Analysis: The Belfast Bruiser via pinfall (6:51) following a tilt-a-whirl powerslam. The Belfast Bruiser a/k/a Fit Finlay was embroiled in a feud with “Lord” Steven Regal, with Regal often interfering in his matches. Finlay and Regal are on the card at the Uncensored pay-per-view that’s next on the WCW calendar on March 24. Brad Armstrong, a long-time stalwart of WCW, previously the NWA, had just made his return to work in the upstart Cruiserweight Division that was set to be launched. I always enjoyed Armstrong’s work and he’s a very forgotten / underrated wrestler historically. HOF broadcaster Jim Ross, he, for one, would surely know, stated this so, too, at Armstrong’s funeral in 2012. True to his name, The Belfast Bruiser bruises Armstrong throughout the match. Finlay always worked stiff, which created a sense of realism to his matches. His legacy is how he trained both men and women to greater heights. The match is nothing but two pro’s wrestling as if it were the mid-1980’s instead of the mid-1990’s. The crowd is apathetic but what did they know?
Rating: *3/4

Match 4: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) w/ Woman & Elizabeth vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (11:32) following outside interference by Arn Anderson. Naitch and Macho do their thing for the 100th time, it feels like anyways in under two months, which, of course is a fine match, until the tainted finish allows Flair to retain the belt. The Taskmaster first comes out. He’s immediately followed by Hogan. Savage had intercepted Woman’s Size 7 high heel of doom and clocked Flair with it only for a false kickout to happen as Anderson fails to make it to the ring in time. Oh boy. Referee Nick Patrick thus allows himself to be distracted by Hogan and Taskmaster exchanging blows as AA DDT’s Savage and rolls Flair on top for the pin. Afterward, The Booty Man debuts, no longer Zodiac of The Dungeon of Doom, and he’s clear-as-day Brutus Beefcake in the flesh, although the broadcast team in unison feigns cluelessness altogether. That’s just a whole new level of bad, even by WCW standards and practices. LOL. Booty Man helps The Mega-Powers clear the ring. The faces all but annex the broadcast table, well Heenan clears out, and voice to “Mean” Gene Okerlund their desire for a six-man tag-team match next week against Anderson, Flair and The Taskmaster. Bischoff informs them he’ll see to it the match happens. Hogan the booker, has arrived. But just wait, the creative direction in the weeks ahead really circle the drain!
Rating: **3/4

The Verdict: Hogan had unsurped creative control of WCW worse than The Kliq ever did in their WWF power trip politicking around the same time. The 02/19/96 Nitro is one of the worst. Raw was porous enough on this same night (read The Verdict on that) but Hogan just had to be the center of attention and elevate his best friends, notably Ed Leslie, now in his latest atrocious gimmick as The Booty Man. Meanwhile, the WCW Tag-Team Champions were relegated to appearances on WCW Saturday Night. Loch Ness had become a weekly fixture in squash matches over mid-card talent. And The Four Horsemen had become, in essence, Flair, Anderson, Woman and Elizabeth. Garbage.

WWF Monday Night Raw – February 19, 1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – February 19, 1996

Cincinnati, OH

Vince McMahon highlights the WWF Title match outcome at IYH with Bret Hart retaining the championship against Diesel, with The Undertaker coming up from through the ring mat to prevent “Big Daddy Cool” from winning the Steel Cage Main Event. Tonight on Raw, The Undertaker battles “Native American” Tatanka. Also, Razor Ramon will try to become the first-ever five-time Intercontinental Champion as he squares off once again with Goldust. “Larry Fling Live” will debut with special guest Billionaire Ted. Plus, there’s news on The Ultimate Warrior!

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 1: WWF Intercontinental Championship
“The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon vs. Goldust (c) w/ Marlena
Result/Analysis: Ramon via countout (5:34 shown). Goldust flees ringside to avoid losing the title. Ramon wrestles aggressively as Goldust mostly takes a whipping. In a shorter time duration, prior to the countout finish, this match was far superior to whatever it is they worked at The Royal Rumble in January. At one point, Ramon executes his signature fallaway slam but he does so up against the ring ropes to send Goldust over and out onto the floor. Nice spot. After the match, in a rarity, Ramon cuts a promo whereby he wants “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to make a match between him and Goldust. Ramon says he doesn’t want Goldust’s belt; he wants his ass. Well then. If only Ramon’s drug-related suspension didn’t follow soon after. The blowoff at WrestleMania XII … rumored to be a “Miami Street Fight” … never happened. By the time Ramon returned, he was all but off to WCW.
Rating: **1/2

Meanwhile, backstage, Paul Bearer looks on as The Undertaker exits a stand up casket.

Dok Hendrix recaps IYH for the masses of people who missed the event.

Vader, accompanied by Jim Cornette, however, walks out to the ring. Good. Hendrix was putting everyone to sleep. Vader destoys the tag-team of Aldo Montoya and Barry Horowitz, who were scheduled to wrestle The Body Donnas. You’d have thought Yokozuna to the rescue but nope.

A video package for The Ultimate Warrior is shown. He’s coming back!

WrestleMania XII infomercial

Sunny, wearing red lingerie and sipping wine, sings “Happy Birthday” Mr. President. Sultry.

Mr. Bob Backlund is spotted in the crowd lobbying for votes for his Presidential campaign. LOL.

Match 2: Marty Jannetty vs. The Ringmaster w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Result/Analysis: The Ringmaster via submission (5:16 shown) with The Million-Dollar Dream. First, it’s hard to believe a sleeper hold still won someone a match in the mid 1990’s. Second, The Ringmaster gimmick was a flop at the box office as Steve Austin was getting zero traction from it. Third, Austin makes his debut here with a cleanly shaven head, wearing black trunks, and McMahon, on the broadcast, called him “Stone Cold” when referencing his demeanor. Interesting. It would seem that the wheels were in motion only one month into his WWF career for Austin to be a repackage candidate. He, of course, was in mere months and the rest is history. It was certaintly odd to see a brawler like Austin working as a mat-based submission specialist. The crowd is dead for the match. No one cared about Jannetty, not that anyone ever did. He became a JTTS (jobber to the stars) as a singles wrestler post 1993. Then again, Jannetty was about to form The New Rockers tag-team with Leif Cassidy (Al Snow) though that venture never flourished much success, either.
Rating: *1/2

Mankind gets his latest vignette. On the 8th day, God created him and all his atrocities. He curses the world for making light of his deformities: face, ear and fingers. Mankind couldn’t arrive soon enough to the Federation. Lord knows, his debut was long drawn out.

1996 Slammy Awards infomercial – who will win?

Next week on Raw, Yokozuna vs. The British Bulldog and Owen Hart in a Handicap Match, Diesel unleashes his fury, Jake “The Snake” Roberts battles Isaac Yankem D.D.S. plus their first face-to-face encounter in an interview with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.

Match 3: Tatanka w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via pinfall (4:22 shown) following the tombstone piledriver. The match was a sidepiece to what Diesel was doing. He comes to the ringside carrying an axe, commandeers a camera man and returns backstage to take said axe to then destroy The Undertaker’s coffin. McMahon cries out that’s The Undertaker’s home! In the ring, Taker makes quick work of Tatanka before seeing Diesel’s actions on the video wall. Lawler tells McMahon he’ll head backstage to get a gauge on The Undertaker’s reaction. It would have been fitting to do a Casket Match at WrestleMania with Diesel and The Undertaker seeing as how the casket was utilized so much in mind games in the build up to their match and Diesel was leaving the WWF anyway.
Rating: *

It’s Larry Fling Live w/ special guest Billionaire Ted on BNN (Billionaire News Network). The pointless segment features call-ins by The Nacho Man and The Hukster and Larry Fling making Billionaire Ted sweat over a series of questions related to an SEC investigation into his business, purported losses by his wrasslin’ company and the Geriatric Match at WrestleMania XII between The Hukster and The Nacho Man. I understand the blowback at WCW but pure jeslousy by McMahon allowed these skits to air ad naseum on a weekly basis, often at the end of Raw, while on Nitro, WCW was actually having a Main Event match for its paying customers.

Raw concludes with The Undertaker and a hysterical Paul Bearer surveying the casket remains. Diesel, “you’re going to pay for this,” says Bearer.

The Verdict: Diesel vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania and furthering their feud was the focal point. My takeaway, for historical reference, was Austin debuting his defined look while still as The Ringmaster and McMahon first referencing him, albeit offhandedly, as “Stone Cold.” Mankind’s vignette was great. The WWF needed him so why the wait? The Ultimate Warrior is returning which signals desperation. Ramon/Goldust at last is heading somewhere until that falls apart. Vader ambushes jobber scrub talent which feels a natural way to go. WrestleMania XII has a much different look six weeks out than the final card winds up as. No Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels off IYH as the slow burn to their impending collision for the WWF Championship simmers for one week.

WWF In Your House 6: Rage In The Cage

WWF In Your House 6: Rage In The Cage

Louisville Gardens – Louisville, Kentucky

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 1: “Cry Baby” Match
* The loser will be diapered and fed a baby bottle. *
“The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon vs. The 1-2-3 Kid w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Result/Analysis: Ramon via pinfall (12:02) following successive executions of the Razor’s Edge. These two were friends backstage as members of The Kliq. The other thing they had in common was that they were both soon ex-WWF employees. But first, to blow-off an on-again / off-again three-year feud, the bookmakers gave us the “Cry Baby” match. No wonder each wanted to exit the company, and fast. Lawler’s baby euphemisms, mostly about Ramon, are the comedy component. The match is solid despite the stipulation. Baby powder is used as the foreign substance of choice, with DiBiase falling victim to it as does Ramon and The Kid. Both guys were good soldiers and worked the angle through but what must they have been thinking? Ramon was planned to continue on with Goldust leading into WrestleMania XII with the Intercontinental Championship at stake in a “Miami Street Fight” but he received a drug-related suspension for six weeks after IYH. Ramon briefly resurfaced but his career wouldn’t officially kickstart again until joining WCW in May.
Rating: **1/4

Vince tosses it to Raymond Rougeau and Sunny, who was looking her hottest, to promote the WWF SuperStar line. Did anyone ever actually call that thing? Nah, WCW had the Hotline / inside scoop.

Todd Pettengill is with Duke “The Dumpster” Droese as Hunter Hearst Helmsley is being introduced for their match. Droese is furious after Helmsley’s recent sneak attack on WWF SuperStars left him with a new haircut. Thankfully, the blow-off match to this feud is next. Droese agrees, “It’s time. It’s absolutely time!” To think that Helmsley went from Hog Farmer Henry O. Godwinn to Garbage Man Duke Droese bridging 1995 and 1996 and then went on to have a Hall of Fame career afterward is something impressive. It pays to have the right friends (The Kliq) during such bottomless feuds, no?

Match 2: Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Elizabeth Tilden vs. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese
Result/Analysis: Helmsley via pinfall (9:40) after hitting Droese with the trash can lid to his garbage can. Lawler spent the duration of the match hitting on Tilden. Classic. McMahon promotes sanitation as a good, honest day’s work to defend an awful gimmick he dreamt up. Droese was an OK wrestler but his gimmick destroyed what small chance he did have. Helmsley had the Connecticut Blueblood gimmick for himself, and that, too, nearly stalled his career. Being associated with The Kliq prevented that, however. The feud was pointless and no one cared. The real question is how this match made the pay-per-view instead of Goldust versus The Undertaker, with the Intercontinental Championship at stake, going as “dark” after the event.
Rating: *

Yokozuna’s face turn from Monday Night Raw back on February 5 is highlighted. That has led to a match versus The British Bulldog here at IYH as Yokozuna aims at payback against the members of Camp Cornette. Dok Hendrix interviews Yokozuna beforehand as The British Bulldog is being introduced and Yokozuna cuts an American style promo after three years of mostly saying BONZAI during any mic time. What in the actual H?!? You see, Yokozuna had won titles yet he wasn’t allowed to talk the entire time while managed by Cornette with Yokozuna claiming Cornette received all the credit for his success. On the surface that makes sense but a fan favorite run in the mid-card?

Match 3: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim Cornette vs. Yokozuna
Result/Analysis: Yokozuna via DQ (5:03) following outside interference by Cornette. The match is a snooze and it’s only fueled by the aftermath. Vader, reinstated from his indefinite suspension, comes out to handcuff Yokozuna to the top rope so he and The British Bulldog could double team. Their barage lasts several minutes. The likely plan heading into WrestleMania XII was for Vader to face Yokozuna until it was realized the match would suck? I’m not sure. The feud continued with their matches occurring on TV or the house show circuit until a blow-off ppv bout at IYH 8 in May.
Rating: *1/4

Goldust, with Marlena, is present for an AOL live chat. He basically has foreplay with the poor sap there to transcribe his oozing machismo for Razor Ramon. Goldust is to defend the Intercontinental Title against Ramon on Monday Night Raw.

Shawn Michaels’ comeback is chronicled along with his feud with Owen Hart. Michaels was assaulted by nine thugs outside of a Syracuse, New York bar in October 1995. Then, to sell his injuries, Owen kicked Michaels in the back of the head on an episode of Raw during a match in November whereby Michaels collapsed in the ring so as to be written off as someone suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Michaels returned at the Royal Rumble in January and outlasted 29 other SuperStars to win the WrestleMania XII title shot against the reigning WWF Champion only to be goated into a match with Hart with his title shot at stake. Alas, we all know who is winning.

Match 4: Shawn Michaels’ WrestleMania XII Title Shot At Stake
“The King of Hearts” Owen Hart w/ Jim Cornette vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (15:58) following sweet chin music. With Michaels as the winner not in doubt, the art form here was to construct a match around the obvious result. Mission Accomplished. Aside from the dicking around in the initial stages by Michaels, a touch of not taking it serious, there’s a solid 12/13 minutes of wrestling as Owen dictates the action to thereby play up his chances for a shocking upset. The match is also a reminder of how good Owen was, especially when getting to work with a top guy. Michaels wrestles the “underdog” role as he stems off all Owen dishes out, enzuigiri, sharpshooter, etc. to still overcome the odds and secure his WrestleMania WWF Title shot. I loathed Michaels’ ego in the Kliq years, you could tell he was the biggest Vince McMahon ass kisser, but this was one of the better constructed pay-per-view matches he was in either before winning the WWF Championship or while he was defending the belt, and thus, carrying the torch. Owen deserves 60/40 on the credit ledger for this one, however.
Rating: ****

WrestleMania XII promo whereby it’s reiterated just how great WrestleMania XI was. Say what?!?

Back live, McMahon tries to goat Lawler into admitting Michaels is the greatest and well, that Owen isn’t too shabby, either. Please just stop Vince.

Todd Pettengill brings out Acting WWF President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as the old interview stage is brought back to use. Piper takes the job seriously yada, yada. He announces Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart/Diesel at WrestleMania for the WWF Championship. Second, Vader, after Piper makes jokes about his head gear, that maybe he’s an imbred (yes, really), and how he’s not foolish enough to suspend him like was already done, will face Yokozuna at WrestleMania. That news brings out Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason. Cornette blabs about how Vader has struck fear into everyone, including Piper, and not even a 640-pound Yokozuna will scare him. Piper, ever the comic, retorts by guessing that each butt cheek on Yokozuna probably weighs approx. 300 pounds and should Vader lose to him at WrestleMania, Cornette will likely be experiencing Yokozuna’s cheeks for himself. Piper exits stage right after grabbing Cornette’s butt cheeks while riles up James E. The steel cage was being assembled by the ring crew for the Main Event, thus, this colossal waste of time. I thought Piper vs. Vader for WrestleMania made logical sense at the time, especially with “Hot Rod” never backing down from anyone. Plus, he’d be defending the honor of Gorilla Monsoon. Whi knows, maybe that was a thought-about option before Razor Ramon got himself drug suspended and Goldust needed a WrestleMania opponent. All the WWF did in 1996 was scramble creatively.

Match 5: Steel Cage Match for WWF Championship
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: Hart via escape (19:15). The Undertaker pops through the ring mat to drag Diesel down with him to the proverbial depths of hell. The ending is memorable but it renders Hart’s successful title defense as a mere afterthought. That’s not exactly how you book your top dog and the standard-bearer of your company. Then again, Bret’s entire title reign for this particular run as WWF Champion was filled with screwy endings as he failed to go over any of the big names clean. As for Diesel, his tweener days were done as soon as he entered the cage but moreso with The Undertaker as whom he was paired with for WrestleMania. “Heel” Diesel was always more natural. As for the quality of the match, I saw better and I saw worse to that point. The finish was the only purpose to the cage stipulation because it allowed for the surprise Undertaker involvement. Bret’s work is solid. Diesel whips Hart from pillar to post, and back again. The escape attempts were frequent but that was needed. I find the match passable despite its laggard pace. My takeaway: Diesel, even as a heel, received 50/50 fan support with the live crowd. McMahon had to take note of that with Michaels, and WrestleMania in mind, though the title change decision had been made.
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: This was a bridge show if there ever was one. In the 1980’s/early 1990’s, a “Saturday Night’s Main Event” would have done the trick. The card revolved around the Owen/HBK and Bret/Diesel matches but the Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart WrestleMania WWF Title match was a formality making the event mere storyline fodder. Still, the WrestleMania XII card took its initital shape at IYH 6. It’s final look come March 31st was Plan C. Michaels, with his Kliq, the fans in this case, solely kept the Federation afloat in the ever-changing and highly-competitve wrasslin’ wars yet to come.

WCW Monday Nitro – February 12, 1996

WCW Momday Nitro – February 12, 1996

Tampa, FL

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael

The broadcast team recaps SuperBrawl VI and previews the card ahead for the night.

Match 1: Hugh Morrus vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (4:52) following successive flying elbow drops. Macho comes to the ring in an obvious foul mode after what transpired at SuperBrawl. He pays no mind to his pyro. There’s no playing to the crowd during “Pomp and Circumstance.” It’s Savage, all business, in his lime green Macho t-shirt. Hugh Morrus is the sacrificial lamb here despite grounding Savage a few times over. Savage wrestles a somewhat-heelish match but it’s because of his deranged mindset, one entirely consumed with an obsession for Ric Flair. I always loved that version of Savage. It felt natural. Morrus misses his top rope moonsault (No Laughing Matter) and the elbow drops then follow a body slam as Savage at last plays up the crowd. Morrus escapes a third flying elbow before Savage takes the mic to say he wants Flair. The return match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship is scheduled for Monday Nitro next week as Elizabeth debuts in Flair’s corner.
Rating: *

Match 2: Scotty Riggs vs. Loch Ness w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: Loch Ness via via pinfall (1:08) after two elbow drops. That was the offense after Loch Ness, or Giant Haystacks, whichever you fancy, completely misses a catch slam / body splash. Riggs starts off with punches and dropkicks to no avail. Loch Ness was brought in for Hulk Hogan as more big man fodder that he could conquer. Thankfully, it was a short-lived gimmick (an awful gimmick at that) due to a cancer diagnosis, leading to Haystacks premature death two years later.
Rating: DUD

“Mean” Gene Okerlund walks out with Woman and Elizabeth pulling a gurney with Ric Flair underneath the white sheets. Elizabeth reminds Okerlund that Flair did say someone would exit SuperBrawl on a gurney, although it may have taken all night. That’s an obvious reference to “Space Mountain” and the night Elizabeth and Woman experienced. Ha! Flair pops out and goes off in classic “Nature Boy” style about his luxurious life, stylin’ and profilin,’ long limousines, jet flying, walking the aisle, reminding us all he’s now the reigning 13-time World Heavyweight Champion, etc. He’s got Woman on his right, and Miss Elizabeth, “Woooo!” on his left. Flair has Elizabeth speak. She’s of course the vindictive ex-wife in a villanous role who’s gloating over stripping Savage of his most prized possession – – – the belt. Revenge is a bitch, Macho. Man, is Elizabeth great here.

Match 3: “Dangerous” Devon Storm vs. Konnan [WCW United States Heavyweight Champion]
Result/Analysis: Konnan via pinfall (5:20) with a powerbomb counter off the top turnbuckle. These two mixed like oil and water. Konnan works a Lucha Libre style yet he was hardly a Cruiserweight so his attempt at doing so feels contrived. Storm, who was repackaged by WCW as Crowbar four years later, is your typical high flyer, only he’s half polished and became a more credible worker later on. His WCW tenure in 1996 wouldn’t last long. I wasn’t feeling Konnan at the time and 25 years hasn’t changed my mind on him. A so-so match here with no substance. Please get the U.S. Title off him.
Rating: *

Match 4: “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson w/ Woman vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Anderson via pinfall (9:17) with Hogan first hit with powder in his eyes by Woman and then with Elizabeth’s high heel shoe. Flair and Elizabeth come to ringside with Anderson seizing control after several minutes of taking a sustained beating. AA hits the spinebuster but Hogan kicks out. After Hogan Hulks up, AA is placed in the figure-four which sends Flair over the edge. Referee Nick Patrick loses control leading to the screwy finish. Hogan succumbs to a rare pinfall loss which furthers The Four Horsemen in control of WCW. Savage runs out to clean house with Hogan after the match as The Mega-Powers unsurp the upper hand/save face. Both teams take turns commandeering the broadcast table to rant and rave about the other as Nitro wraps.
Rating: *3/4

The Verdict: All-in-all a rather weak Nitro here off a solid SuperBrawl. Flair being unhinged, in a classic rant, is the takeaway. Well, the villanous and vengeful Elizabeth, moreso. The wrestling quality felt like watching an episode of WCW Worldwide on some back channel save for Anderson, Hogan and Savage working on the night. The WWF was off for the night and thus, there was no competition. It could have led to something significant but alas WCW gave nothing.

WCW SuperBrawl VI

WCW SuperBrawl VI
– The Brawl for the Belt!

February 11, 1996

Bayfront Arena – St. Petersburg, Florida

Announcers: Tony Schiavone, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan & “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes

Match 1: Falls Count Anywhere with “Street Fight” Rules
Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock/Johnny Grunge] vs. The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobbs/Jerry Sags]
Result/Analysis: The Nasty Boys via pinfall (7:51) as Knobbs pins Grunge following a missed reverse sommersault off the souvenier stand. I had such low expectations for the match so the quality of this demolition derby exeeceeded those. With Street Fight Rules and the use of the ring as irrelevant with falls counting anywhere, the natural hardcore brawl ensues. There’s some good table spots, Sags with a piledriver to Grunge onto a trash can and plenty of quality steel chair shots to get you to cringe when watching. I’d think all four guys wound up in concussion protocols afterward. WCW brought ECW to SuperBrawl and placing the match in context, as is required, it’s a fun melee.
Rating: **3/4

In the interview area, “Mean” Gene Okerlund shoots off about the WCW Hotline and two former World Wrestling Federation champions that could be on their way to World Championship Wrestling. Talk about some serious foreshadowing … Anyway, the reigning Mexican Heavyweight Champion and newly-crowned WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Konnan, stops by to chat. Konnan clearly reads his remarks from a teleprompter. He won’t let Mexico or his new fans in the U.S. down by dropping the belt to One Man Gang. Eh. Where’s Chris Benoit? Dean Malenko?

Match 2: WCW World Television Championship
* The winner also earns the managerial services of The Diamond Doll and $6.6 Million*
Johnny B. Badd (c) w/ The Diamond Doll vs. Diamond Dallas Page
Result/Analysis: Badd via pinfall (14:59) after reversing a piledriver into a tombstone piledriver. Succinctly put, this is a very good match. Page was improving by leaps and bounds, truly honing his in-ring craft, while mastering his character schtick. Pure brilliance. Badd, before he left WCW for the WWF shortly after this, I always enjoyed. It seemed he was always in these Television Title bouts in the mid-1990’s and he usually was in one of the better matches on a card. The feud here is long-standing one with Badd first defeating DDP at Halloween Havoc in October 1995 to capture the Television Title, and then again, at World War 3 in November, whereby he won Kimberly in a stipulation. Badd was well-utilized in mid-card feuds in his WCW career and him departing proved later on to be detrimental. DDP was on his way to a great career after starting with zero wrestling background. What he had was a strong work ethic and a want-to. A surprisingly high-quality match.
Rating: ***1/4

Harlem Heat is with Okerlund. They assert they’ll leave SuperBrawl tonight again as the World Tag-Team Champions. They correctly point out the thievery that occured in Las Vegas several weeks back when Lex Luger committed grand larceny to win himself and Sting the belts. Okerlund asks about The Road Warriors with Booker scoffing that it’s 1996 not 1976. This team was the shit!

Match 3: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
* The winning tag-team will defend the titles later on at SuperBrawl versus The Road Warriors *
Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (11:48) following outside interference by The Road Warriors. Hawk and Animal had made a pledge to face Sting and Luger for the belts later on at SuperBrawl, thus their involvement and Harlem Heat being mere pawns at the chess table here. Sting dominates the action in his two turns in the ring. He and Booker have good exchanges. Who the stars of each team are couldn’t be more obvious. Luger struggles while he’s in and mostly takes a sustained beating. The match breaks down after Sting is refused entry on a blind tag that referee Nick Patrick doesn’t see. Sting lands outside the ring as Booker pulls the ropes down which leaves Luger, as the legal man, inside with Stevie Ray. The Road Warriors then run interference and club Ray with a lead pipe which allows Luger the pin. The idea was the obvious interjection by The Road Warriors and Luger showing himself as the weak link yet still being the member of the team that scores the fall. Their script was followed to a T time-after-time. Afterward, both men deflect the obvious question from Okerlund about The Road Warriors interfering. Well, Luger deflects and Sting just plays blind and stupid. Again, Sting is convinced and he’s on board with Luger. OK match.
Rating: **

Match 4: WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
The One Man Gang vs. Konnan (c)
Result/Analysis: Konnan via pinfall (7:26) following a top rope somersault. The match is downright atrocius and it doesn’t belong on the card. This is the period of time when WCW spoon fed the once prestigious U.S. Title to incoming talent as a bargaining chip of sorts. I mean hell, The One Man Gang was the champion just one week prior to SuperBrawl before Konnan won the belt on The Main Event, the weekly Sunday night broadcast of mid-card talent. How The One Man Gang was employed by a major promotion by 1996 still blows my mind. As for Konnan, his influence in Mexico as its biggest star was paramount to WCW later signing the likes of Rey Mysterio, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, etc., but he mostly sucked in most of the matches/angles I remember him being in. This match is your cookie-cutter style where the girthy heel plods and beats on his much-smaller opponent at a galatial pace only to still lose by some weak manner. Garbage.
Rating: DUD

Okerlund again hypes the WCW Hotline and the hot rumor circulating regarding of the two former WWF Champions that could be on their way to WCW. Hey, for once, calling the 1-900 telephone number was legit. Meanwhile, The Road Warriors stop by to NOT apologize to Harlem Heat for costing them the Tag-Team Titles and to put Sting and Luger on notice. Animal and Hawk could still bullseye an interview like no one else. Hawk threatens to deviate septums for the champs. Ouch!

Match 5: “I Respect You” Leather Strap Match
“The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Flyin’ Brian Pillman
Result/Analysis: Sullivan (:55). “Loose Cannon” Pillman and Sullivan couped up this “worked shoot” angle unbeknownst to ANYONE else in WCW whereby Pillman loses on purpose, saying, “I respect you booka man!” going off the script, as he knew Sullivan was heavily involved in the booking (storyline writing/direction) of the product. Pillman flips off the crowd as he quickly walks off. In a related shoot later on, Pillman orchestrated his own contractual release from WCW but Sullivan wasn’t clued into that part. Sullivan sells this shoot by standing around looking confused, while pretty much breaking character, before Jimmy Hart returns with Arn Anderson dressed in civies. I’d guess there was mad backstage scrambling going on since no one but Pillman or Sullivan knew.
Rating: N/A

Match 6: “I Respect You” Leather Strap Match
“The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan vs. “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson
Result/Analysis: No Contest. Sullivan and Anderson improvise for several minutes to give on the illusion this was the original plan before Ric Flair comes out (with Jimmy Hart leading him) to squelch tempers by ranting and raving about turning to a united front against Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Flair is clearly working off the cuff as he masterfully pulls the SHIT that was the last five minutes back together. Director: CUT!!! The live crowd is clueless as to what they just watched.
Rating: N/A

Jimmy Hart is making the rounds quickly as he’s now standing by with The Giant and “Mean” Gene. Hart promises the end of Hulk-A-Mania tonight with Hogan locked inside the steel cage with only one good eye against the 7’4 Giant. The Giant says he’s looked into the souls of the darkest men while he’s been in The Dungeon of Doom and tonight will be a day of reckoning for Hogan as he’s got nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. This sounds all too similar to Andre The Giant and his remarks prior to facing Hogan at WrestleMania III. We all know how that match turned out.

Match 7: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
The Road Warriors [Hawk & Animal] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Double Countout (13:56). Luger spends five minutes after the introductions stalling on coming to the ring. It was all downhill from there. The match is F-UGLY and a total cluster you-know-what. The Road Warriors couldn’t much execute more than a powerslam with precision. Luger was playing the part of the scared heel while over-selling even his own offense and the weakest fist-a-cuffs of The L.O.D. Sting tries to piece together an acceptable match, quality-wise, but he was working with a disinterested partner and two broken down has-beens. Had this match taken place say eight years earlier, given the heights of the men around that time, you’d have seen something special. Here, it’s a double countout and no winner. You feel at least somewhat cheated by that.
Rating: *1/2

Flair, with Woman alongside, paints a portrait in his own words for “Mean” Gene of how the evening will go for Savage inside the steel cage. There’ll be blood, sweat, tears, a World Title change and “Space Mountain” with Woman on his right and Elizabeth on his left. Woooo!

A WCW Uncensored promo airs. That’s the next big extravaganza coming up on March 24.

Okerlund is with Elizabeth but Savage comes in hot before she can speak to hype The Mega-Powers as if we were all time warped back to 1988. Savage promises a divide and conquer strategy between himself and Hogan tonight but we should still expect the unexpected. Elizabeth stands in place as the timid valet she used to be. WCW was recycling the WWF’s glory days ad naseum.

We go now to Michael Buffer. “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!”

Match 8: Steel Cage Match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/ Woman vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (c) w/ Miss Elizabeth
Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (18:56) after hitting Savage with one of Elizabeth’s high heel shoes. Call this the “If the shoe fits match” in the longstanding rivalry between Flair and Savage with Elizabeth once again woven in. WCW did what the WWF never chose to do, and could have four years earlier had they wanted to actually do something juicy, and that’s turn Elizabeth heel on Savage. Forgetting the fact the two had been married and divorced, Elizabeth was brought into WCW to kayfabe work with Savage only for the bait-and-switch happening within mere weeks as Flair wins his 13th World Title here (not counting his two reigns as WWF Champion in 1992). If you can get past Woman repeatedly shrieking “Ric! Ric!!!” every time he’s thrown into the cage or in trouble, and your ears aren’t hurting, this match is pretty good. I personally prefer their WrestleMania VIII match (it’s an all-time classic) and initial feud above anything else but Savage and Flair could wrestle each other and work their magic with their eyes closed or in their sleep, even, and you’d pay whatever price you had to in order to watch them wage war. Savage takes a beating and Flair takes a beating. Savage has Flair in the figure-four and later Flair gets Savage in the figure-four. Flair knocks out the ref, well because, he can it’s a cage match. Flair bleeds (after he blades) to put over the cage abuse he suffers. Savage trunks Flair – – – twice – – – and the pay-per-view audience and all of St. Petersburg see the backside of Space Mountain. Flair tries his usual high risk moves and they backfire as is customary. The Elizabeth heel turn was more the storyline out of SuperBrawl than Flair’s title win. And more on her betrayal would be forthcoming. Hulk Hogan, of course, runs out after the match to chase off Elizabeth, Woman and Flair leaving Arn Anderson to take a chair shot before he escapes, too. As Hogan helps Savage to the back, there’s a legit “Hogan Sucks” chant that breaks out if you listen closely. THAT. Yes that, was a first! Hogan vs. The Giant is next …
Rating: ***1/2

But beforehand, The Hulkster stops by to coalesce with “Mean” Gene. Hogan is irate over Elizabeth stabbing Macho in the back and speculates as to why. He calls her a turncoat and puts the heel spike to his eye that he suffered on Nitro two weeks back into perspective with Elizabeth also likely behind that. Okerlund turns to The Giant and the cage match that’s minutes away. Hogan says the match is unsanctioned with the referee outside the ring. You win by escaping the cage. Hulk says “The Hulk-A-Maniacs” will help him with his impaired vision. Yeah, because they are so many of them left … Yawn, the result of this Main Event isn’t in doubt is it?

Back to Michael Buffer again for the introductions.

Match 9: Unsanctioned Steel Cage Match
The Giant w/ “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan & Jimmy Hart vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Hogan via escape (15:07). I’m shocked! Of course, I’m not. Any living and breathing person who watched this match at the time wasn’t. Furthermore, when the quality of Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a Steel Cage Match at WrestleMania 2 supercedes what’s contained herein you have problems. WCW tried to recreate Hogan vs. Andre The Giant and they failed miserably. The Dungeon of Doom stable that existed entirely for Hogan’s demise was extinguished one-by-one with six months at a minimum poured into the failure. The “Hogan Sucks” chant continue during the match as the crowd was checked out after Savage/Flair and therby forced to sit through the inevitable ego trip with deafening silence. It was noticeable how unpopular Hogan was becoming at the time but when you circle back it’s more shocking how much wrestling fans had soured on Hulk-A-Mania. Fee Fi Fo Fum. I’d suggest reading Jack and The Beanstalk as this cage match is a replica of that fable. Terrible. Boring. Obvious. Hogan even circumvents 8-on-1 after his escape with the entire Dungeon all doing run-ins. Loch Ness, remember him? Me neither. He is held back.
Rating: DUD

The Verdict: I consider Savage/Flair, featuring Elizabeth’s heel turn, as the main takeaway from SuperBrawl VI historically. Flair never needed the belt as the top heel, and with The Four Horsemen, but he was WCW. Hogan’s popularity was all but extinguished although his career revival would come months later once those two former WWF Champions artrived from up North. Pillman was in full “Loose Cannon” at this point, at least in his remaining WCW tenure, as he and Sullivan orchestrate their worked shoot to get back at the emerging internet marks of the time. DDP and Johnny B. Badd wrestle a high quality match as I credit two workers who are undervalued in time. Sting and Luger retain the Tag-Team Titles twice over so as to continue their webbed tale of Sting trusting in Luger even though he shouldn’t. It’s easy to forget pre n.W.o. WCW when it comes to 1996, but I’d recommend this PPV if you’re wanting a rewind into the past.

WCW Monday Nitro 2/5/96

WCW Monday Nitro – Febraury 5, 1996

Lakeland, FL

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Match 1: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Chris Benoit vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (c) w/ Miss Elizabeth & Woman
Result/Analysis: Savage via DQ (8:18) due to outside interference by Ric Flair. THIS is the match where Woman showed her true colors and aligned with Flair and The Four Horsemen betraying her ties to Elizabeth and Savage. Liz, was the next one to stab Savage in the back. Prior to the wild finish, though, Savage takes an absolute beating from Benoit, who systematically and relentlessly beats Macho to a pulp while working stiff. Savage, a further credit to how awesome he was, takes all the punishment, sells and sells and sells the Benoit offense to effectively do his part in helping to recite The Horsemen’s playbook. Benoit was a later version of himself here, “The Rabid Wolverine,” and man, does he smack his forehead hard on the exposed concrete when missing a dive through the ropes aimed at Savage. That, but then taking Savage’s flying elbow drop while laying flat out the mat and directly to his neck. Benoit shows in this match his future stardom while Savage reminds us no one took a beating any more convincing than him. This was a professional wrestling clinic.
Rating: ***1/4

Savage is walked off after Hogan runs in with a chair and hits Arn Anderson and Benoit with it. With “Mean” Gene Okerlund in the ring now, Hogan turns the attention onto himself (ego-maniac) after not being able to explain what just went down with Woman. Hogan babbles about The Giant but Flair re-appears and beats the stitches off his head. Yes! The Giant arrives with Zodiac, and he hits Hogan with the chair. Zodiac steps in to protect Hogan, though. Brother Bruti. Eh. The Booty Man commeth. Savage is back as he runs off Flair. The Giant bails to avoid a chair shot. Savage voices to Okerlund that what he’ll do to Flair in the cage at SuperBrawl can’t be said on TV. He admonishes Elizabeth as to why she didn’t warn Hogan about the Flair blindside attack. Okerlund plays peace maker to deflect that legitimate question before calling for medical help as Hogan bleeds profusely while covering his eye. Hulk is in a bad way. From start-to-finish, these 15 minutes were awesome!

Match 2: “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan & Hugh Morrus w/Jimmy Hart
vs. “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson & Flyin’ Brian Pillman
Result/Analysis: The Horsemen via DQ (7:18) when Taskmaster weaponizes a leather strap on Pillman. The match lacks organization and moreso has moments that indicate – – – for Pillman and Sullivan – – – improvisation and going off script. Weird. Anderson and Sullivan fight up the aisle near the conclusion where an unseen assailant (Paul Orndorff) hits AA with a broom handle from behind a curtain. It is announced Pillman and Sullivan will square off at SuperBrawl in a Leather Strap/“I Respect You” Match. I read that encounter gets out-of-hand as this match did.
Rating: *1/2

Match 3: Marcus Alexander Bagwell vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/ Woman
Result/Analysis: Flair via submission (7:02) with the figure-four. Bagwell, the young buck he was at this point as one-half of The American Males, comes loaded for bear. If only he wrestled the rest of his career this way. Flair, with Heenan playing it up well on commentary, wrestles the match in a way of taking Bagwell lightly, as if he was looking ahead to facing Savage at SuperBrawl. Bagwell is the agressor as Flair was doing his best Muhammad Ali “Rope-a-Dope.” Savage runs Flair off after the bell as Naitch refuses to release the figure-four and had punched the referee. Macho made it to the hospital with Hogan and back in seven minutes? Woman replaces Jimmy Hart. Woooo!

Match 4: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
The Road Warriors [Hawk & Animal] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (7:34) with Luger pinning Animal after using a steel plate. The Road Warriors don’t look as bad here as they did one week prior in their re-entry match but even the modest improvement won’t elicit a higher rating with the star system rating. Luger is the heel in sheep’s clothing as he cheats to win, chokes, pulls down the ring ropes on Animal, etc. Sting can only gaze at Luger in disapproval as he wants to keep the peace … the belts and all. Hawk, again, appears sluggish. Given his later history with substance abuse, it makes you wonder. Then again, Hawk does talk coherently afterward as he and Animal challenge the winning team at SuperBrawl (later on in the night). Harlem Heat first gets their return match with Sting and Luger.
Rating: *3/4

The Verdict: Bizarre happenings for the Nitro on the eve of SuperBrawl. Woman, at last, turns heel to align with Flair and The Four Horsemen. Elizabeth will be next. Pillman couldn’t stay on script in his matches – – – or, so it seemed – – – and management grew more nervous each and every time he was on camera. Flair was carrying the flag (when didn’t he?) as the top heel and wrestler. Benoit and Savage put on a clinic. Alas, however, we remember the four participants of the opening match, whom all met untimely ends to their lives. SuperBrawl has potential but the midcard has no juice.

WWF Monday Night Raw 2/5/96

WWF Monday Night Raw – February 5, 1996

Stockton, CA (taped 1/22/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 1: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith & Yokozuna w/ Jim Cornette
vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels & “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel
Result/Analysis: Michaels & Diesel via countout (10:53 shown) with Yokozuna unable to return inside the ring following Sweet Chin Music. The countout finish … that’s a thing of the past. Camp Cornette controls most of the match with Michaels taking the beating as Diesel watches from the corner. Diesel is full on babyface when teaming with HBK but he’s a tweener otherwise. Bulldog is far more effective in a tag-team role and that’s clear here. After losing the match, Cornette verbally berates, then, puts his hands on Yokozuna, to which Yokozuna loses it and pounds on Cornette, Bulldog, and Owen Hart, who is present for the dissension also experience the wrath. Yes, Yokozuna turns babyface. Who could forget the epic run for him which follows … ?
Rating: **1/2

The weekly Mankind promo comes next. “Maybe soon, I can have a nice day.”

Match 2: Hakushi vs. The 1-2-3 Kid w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Result/Analysis: The 1-2-3 Kid via pinfall (8:21 shown) following a double underhook butterfly suplex off the top turnbuckle. There’s no wasted energy here, just very good wrestling. Lawler was hysterical on commentary discussing the potential of seeing Razor Ramon being diapered at In Your House. Around that, Hakushi and The Kid mix martial arts, high-flying aerial moves and trade several near falls. The Kid was all business and Hakushi rarely had an off night. Entertaining.
Rating: ***

Vader’s Attorney, Clarence Mason, a so-called expert at Case Law he says, threatens immediate legal action if the suspension levied against Vader isn’t lifted immediately. I’m sure the Acting WWF President, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, is shaking in his kilt. Gorilla Monsoon joins McMahon and Lawler on video conference to update his health. He mentions a transverse process of the third cervical vertebrae and torn intercostal cartilage. Yeah, like any of that happened. Monsoon apologizes to the WWF fans for his actions but he doesn’t apologize personally to Vader. He defends his decision to install Piper in his place while he heals up. Vader’s fate, he says, is in the hands of the Board of Directors. What began as a hot angle quickly went to crap. Vader should have continued with Piper.

Match 3: WWF Championship [Royal Rumble Return Match]
The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: No Contest. Diesel was sitting ringside with McMahon and Lawler on commentary from the early stages onward so logically he was to involve himself. The match prior to that involvement is a snoozer. Diesel first takes Bret out by running him into the ring post. After Taker momentarily discards of Diesel to still contest the match, Diesel gets up and uses a steel chair to knock The Undertaker down. Referee Tim White had been bumped inside the ring during the match and he was rendered unconscious for an awfully long stretch of time. Inside the ring, Diesel delivers two jackknife powerbombs to Taker before departing to a chorus of boos. Bret brawls with Diesel during the commercial break, which takes them backstage and the match is declared a draw says McMahon. Naturally, you’d have thought Bret vs. Diesel vs. Taker in a Triple-Threat Match at IYH inside the steel cage for the WWF Championship but it was kept Bret vs. Diesel one-on-one, which, led to the logical outcome on February 18th. Yawn.

Billionaire Ted’s press conference concludes. McMahon ran these skits out of jealousy and desperation to get back at his loss of talent, viewers and because his product was lacking. Truthfully, things were made worse because of choosing to spend air time on these productions.

The Verdict: The Main Event angle did further Diesel as a heel despite his Kliq relations with Michaels, still, The Undertaker needed to be added to the IYH match. The Vader angle could have continued on with Piper choosing to reinstate Vader after he was beat up like Monsoon – leading to WrestleMania – but instead, the incredibly cheezy Clarence Mason as Attorney route was pursued. Raw gave fans a countout in a feature tag-team match, a no contest in the WWF Championship, both sandwiched around Hakushi and The 1-2-3 Kid. Or was Billionaire Ted the focal point? McMahon had to ultimately regret this stretch of wasted time. There’s no Raw scheduled for two weeks with The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show airing on USA so In Your House is the next rewind into the WWF’s Road to WrestleMania. WCW will have the eyeballs unopposed for two weeks.

WCW Monday Nitro 1/29/96

WCW Monday Nitro – January 29, 1996

Canton, Ohio

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bischoff, Mongo and Heenan discuss the card, which features the World Heavyweight Title on-the-line as “Macho Man” Randy Savage defends against The Giant. The Road Warriors will be in action. Sister Sherri and Madusa will get their hands on each other. First, it’s the latest chapter in the rivalry between “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Hulk isn’t in the Main Event tonight?!?

Match 1: “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Hulk Hogan w/ Miss Elizabeth
Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (11:25 shown) after spiking Hogan in his left eye with Elizabeth’s high heel shoe which was taken off by the interfering Arn Anderson. Well, the brass knuckles tactic failed this time so the next best bet for a cheating victory for Flair, is, of course, the opposing manager’s footwear! Forgetting the wacked ending, and forgiving Hogan for not just losing a match to Flair without shenanigans just once, this was one of their better matches. Jimmy Hart interferes repeatedly. Flair actually gets to work Hogan’s legs to prep for the figure-four. And Hogan, yeah, he does his usual schtick with Flair taking bumps to sell even the basic offense. Savage and Elizabeth tend to Hogan outside the ring after the match with Hogan bleeding from his blade job to sell the heel spike. Hogan lost so will he be set back in his quest to be named the #1 Contender?
Rating: ***

WCW Saturday Night promo: Flair/Dean Malenko, Lex Luger/Eddie Guerreo, Public Enemy, Sting and The Taskmaster will be in action. I used to love that unopposed one hour of wrestling!

Match 2: The Faces of Fear [Meng & Barbarian] vs. The Road Warriors [Hawk & Animal]
Result/Analysis: The Road Warriors via pinfall (9:06) as Hawk pins Barbarian after a flying clothesline. Believe it not, the far superior tag-team was The Faces of Fear. The Road Warriors look as bad as you can and their ring rust showed. Hawk looks disinterested and frankly, under the influence. Animal blows several spots. The finish is altered on the fly twice it appears and I’d have re-thought the decision to re-hire The Road Warriors after this performance. If not for Meng and Barbarian cutting the ring in half and softening the injured back of Animal, which, legit had kept him on the shelf, this match would have been a total train wreck. Oh, and Heenan called The Road Warriors “The Legion of Doom” during and after the match. Yeah, that’s not good.
Rating: *1/2

The Taskmaster, joined by Hugh Morrus, is in the ring with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Kevin Sullivan communicates he’s got a problem with The Four Horsemen, specifically, Arn Anderson, whom he always thought was a man of his word. Okerlund shows video footage of recent disagreements between The Dungeon of Doom and The Four Horsemen and defends Anderson as being the voice of reason. Anderson and Brian Pillman walk out as AA wants to respond. You see, Taskmaster doesn’t believe Pillman is Horsemen material so he wants Anderson to remove him as a Horsemen or suffer the consequences. Anderson again lectures Pillman about his antics and selfish behavior. He promises “tough love” since his lectures or a slap to his face didn’t previously work. He removes his belt to which Pillman cowers for forgiveness. Sullivan swipes the belt, however, and proceeds to beat Anderson with it. Pillman plays coward outside the ring. With Anderson down, Sullivan goes outside and similarily whips Pillman repeatedly. Anderson regroups and DDT’s Morrus before chasing away Sullivan. An irate AA re-enters the ring to assert The Four Horsemen police their own. He demands a match with Sullivan (and his stooge (Morrus) ) from the executive committee. Pillman says something unintelligible to have the last word. (Effective segment with storyline advancement)

Match 3: Sister Sherri vs. Madusa
Result/Analysis: Sherri via pinfall (1:48). The backstory here is Sherri refused to job. Madusa, gets to lay Sherri out, though, unbeknownst to Sherri after the match, however, as Sherri was being punished for showing up intoxicated on a recent tour of Japan. My thought is Madusa, who left the WWF as the Women’s Champion, throwing the belt into a trash can on Nitro to boot, loses in under two minutes to a valet. I’d be throwing it down, too, if I was Madusa. This rivalry continues …

Match 4: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
The Giant vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (c) w/ Miss Elizabeth
Result/Analysis: No match. Savage sneak attacks The Giant with the title belt and the referee immediately tosses aside the contest. Flair runs out and he and The Giant lay waste to Savage over several minutes. Hogan finally shows up brandishing a steel chair with his eye heavily bandaged as he waylays every Dungeon of Doom member like a mad man as they individually rush the ring before tending to Savage. Meanwhile, Flair has commandeered the broadcast table and he cuts a rambling promo ranting about SuperBrawl, Savage and Hogan. Naitch was unhinged here. Classic!

The Verdict: Flair beats Hogan, yes, with shenanigans. Flair goes unhinged. Those two things make this Nitro a thumbs up. There’s storyline advancement heading into SuperBrawl but the overall card will likely be thrown together. WCW wasn’t the best at building a pay-per-view. The Road Warriors looked atrocius so that was the low point. No Sting/Lex Luger was disappointing. Nitro > Raw.

WWF Monday Night Raw 1/29/96

WWF Monday Night Raw – January 29, 1996

Stockton, CA (taped 1/22/96)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match 1: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim Cornette vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel
Result/Analysis: Diesel via pinfall (6:13 shown) after Yokozuna, who came to ringside during the match, and then entered the ring with Cornette distracting the referee, misses a legdrop that lands on The British Bulldog. Diesel is the #1 Contender, thus, a more convincing win, with a jackknife powerbomb, would have fit the bill here. Instead, it’s the near escape go-to. Eh. Diesel was supposed to be running roughshod thru guys on route to his rematch with Bret Hart for the WWF Championship at IYH so I’m not digging the logic behind this finish. Then again, the WWF Championship Match at IYH 4 in October 1995 between these two was/is regarded as one of the worst PPV matches in the company’s history so why complain?
Rating: *3/4

Dok Hendrix updates the IYH 6 card for February 18. Hart versus Diesel in a Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship, Shawn Michaels puts up his WrestleMania XII Title shot on-the-line against Owen Hart, Razor Ramon and The 1-2-3 Kid square off in a “Cry Baby Match” with the loser fed a baby bottle and put in a diaper, and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese continues his riveting feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Now, it’s onto the next Billionaire Ted vignette despite an actual cease-and-desist order that came from Eric Bischoff and WCW. Yes, that happened!

Billionaire Ted calls a press conference to explain his motives for trying to put the WWF out of business. Various “reporters” shout their questions to which most are deflected or agreed to by Billionaire Ted from how the WWF saw things. The Huckster and The Nacho Man are present to back up Billionaire Ted and comment on their upcoming match. LOL. These skits would continue on awhile longer as did the growing disdain between the rival promotions. The “War” had just begun.

Match 2: The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] w/ Sunny vs. The Godwinns [Henry & Phineas] w/ Hillbilly Jim
Result/Analysis: The Godwinns via pinfall (2:18) when Phineas pins Skip after the slop drop. This match received little time allotment. It could have been half-way decent I suppose?
Rating: 1/4*

A video montage of Vader’s destructive actions is shown, capped off by WWF President Gorilla Monsoon being beaten down on Raw last week. In response, Jim Cornette and Vader have hired Attorney Clarence Mason to fight Vader’s indefinite suspension. Monsoon will respond next week. Next, McMahon will announce whom Monsoon chose to be Acting WWF President in his stead.

Hot Rod! Yes, the one, the only, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is announced as Acting WWF President. He gets a racous ovation so his pop still exists. Piper reminisces at first before lauding today’s crop of WWF SuperStars to which McMahon gushes over. He says they’re all in good hands just a little confused as that’s what they’re one problem is. Piper ends the segment by giving McMahon an airplane spin because eventually everyone has got to pay the Piper. Piper is the perfect figure-head.

Mankind, long before his in-ring WWF debut, and not as Mick Foley or Cactus Jack, and, hired at the request of Jim Ross who knew of Foley’s work in WCW years prior, gives an introductory promo. It’s here, that an out-of-nowhere Hall of Fame career got its start. No one had any idea. That’s twice in one month with Steve Austin, of course, saddled with The Ringmaster gimmick, debuted in the WWF. Both were hugely pivotal in helping the WWF eventually win “The Monday Night Wars” and carry the company into “The Attitude Era.” Just think if WCW had the foresight and creative geniuses at their disposal and had kept both men …

Match 3: Yokozuna w/ Jim Cornette vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (7:48 shown) following Sweet Chin Music. Owen Hart comes to ringside early on to stack the odds against HBK. Owen levels several cheap shots unbeknownst to the referee as Yokozuna whips Michaels from pillar to post while working in a nerve hold. HBK has bursts of offense that frustrate Yokozuna but he mostly bumps his way through the match. Owen attempts to kick Michaels in the head at the conclusion of the match but he misses and the kick hits Yokozuna instead. The superkick follows and Michaels escapes. Yokozuna and Owen argue with each other after the match before Cornette and The British Bulldog calm the tension. Camp Cornette turns to Michaels but Diesel comes down to squelch that. Cornette challenges HBK and Diesel to a tag-team match on behalf of The British Bulldog and Yokozuna for next week. The Kliq or “Two Dudes With Attitude” accept. This match was actually pretty good.
Rating: ***

The Verdict: The Kliq consumes the night with Michaels’ monster push in full throttle now. No Bret Hart this week as the WWF Champion gets the night off. The Undertaker will receive his Royal Rumble re-match next week for the belt it was announced. Piper is the de-facto WWF President, which gave “Hot Rod” the forum to mouth off and be in place for his feud with Goldust that was yet to come. Mankind was introduced for the first time, too. This was a tidy show.

WCW Clash of the Champions XXXII

Tuesday, January 23, 1996

Las Vegas, Nevada

Commentators: Tony Schiavone and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Monday Nitro from just last night is recapped where “Macho Man” Randy Savage regained the World Heavyweight Title by defeating “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, of course followed by a somewhat heated exchange between Savage and Hulk Hogan. Plus, the tag-team of Sting and “The Total Package” Lex Luger captured the World Tag-Team Titles from Harlem Heat. Oh, and Flyin’ Brian went off script yet again.

Schiavone and Heenan are live to hype tonight’s Clash and point out, as announced on Nitro, that Miss Elizabeth will appear, as will Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene and The Road Warriors are scheduled.

“Mean Gene” Okerlund is standing by at a local wedding chapel in Las Vegas as the wedding of Col. Robert Parker and Sister Sherri is minutes away. Okerlund promises to man the red carpet as the guests arrive for the nuptials. This wedding ought to be a hoot!

Match #1: Tag-Team Attraction
Public Enemy [Johnny Grunge/“Flyboy” Rocco Rock vs. The Nasty Boys [Brian Knobbs/Jerry Sags]
Result/Analysis: Double Disqualification (3:58) as referee Nick Patrick throws out the match. It was a pier six brawl/street fight right from the bell but since WCW wasn’t ECW so there was no concrete plan for this mishmash. Both of these teams were colossal train wrecks and truly belonged wrestling in local high school gymnasiums on the independent circuit. The crowd gets warmed up anyway.
Rating: 1/4*

Eric Bischoff has “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Jimmy Hart) and The Giant come out for an interview. Flair downplays his World Title loss to “Macho Man” Randy Savage last night because, well, he’s in Las Vegas surrounded by ALL the pretty women and the bright lights … and, he gets Savage in the ring again tonight with The Giant along side. The Giant, who shouldn’t have talked, pledges to rid wrestling of Hogan and Savage forever. Ha! Flair adds that with The Giant present, Macho can’t hide behind “Slim Jim” nor Hogan “Baywatch.” LOL.

Match #2: Dean Malenko vs. “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright
Result/Analysis: Malenko via pinfall (5:31) with a rolling cradle. These two were wrestling a “return match” from WCW Saturday Night with Malenko winning that encounter with his Texas Clover Leaf submission hold (a standing reverse figure-four). Malenko pound-for-pound was as good as there was. Wright holds his own here with flips and dropkicks as there’s plenty of counter moves by each man. The finish is seemingly botched as Malenko is counted for the pin by referee Randy Anderson even though Wright has his shoulder off the mat. Yeah, Fuck-Ups aren’t looked at kindly.
Rating: **

Match #3: “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan w/ Jimmy Hart vs. The Disco Inferno
Result/Analysis: No Contest. Disco was at the Colonel Parker/Sister Sherri wedding so he has an Elvis Impersonator show up in his place to deliver a singing telegram to The Taskmaster. Sullivan doesn’t take kindly to being stood up so he beats up “Elvis” to end a pitiful segment.

Okerlund updates the goings on at the Little White Chapel. Parker’s tag-team of Bunkhouse Buck and Dick Slater arrive. They’re dressed in usual redneck attire. Not mincing words, Buck and Slater have doubts this wedding goes off. Okerlund says Sister Sherri is a no-show so far.

Bischoff has the new World Tag-Team Champions Lex Luger and Sting come out for their interview segment. Luger brags ad naseum about winning the belts as Sting is in the background putting up with his tale. Out come The Road Warriors, however, who Sting greets with high fives and pleasantries as a perturbed Luger looks on. Animal doesn’t waste time asking for a title shot and Sting is receptive to the challenge. Luger steps in for his two cents to remind Sting there are other tag teams that deserve a title shot, too, as he names Harlem Heat, The Nasty Boys, The American Males and State Patrol as would-be contenders. Luger says The Road Warriors have been on the shelf for two years, meaning no disrespect, of course. Hawk chimes in to call Luger’s bluff but he walks off with Sting trailing after betwixted. This segment had underlying heat.

Interview segment with Paul Orndorff. “Mr. Wonderful” was forced into retirement in storyline form by the 4 Horsemen one month earlier after he turned down a spot in the famed stable. In actuality, Orndorff’s career was cut short due to the mounting injuries he sustained throughout his wrestling career, with back and neck atrophy along with weakness to the right side of his body at the heart of his ailments. It seemed that Orndorff was planned to make a comeback but that never materialized.

Colonel Parker finally shows up to his own wedding but he hasn’t a dime to his name after blowing it all at the casinos. He asks Okerlund for $50 to pay his limousine driver but no dice. Sherri calls Parker as Okerlund is speaking to him and The Colonel walks off a sweaty mess. Cold feet perhaps?

Match #4: Flyin’ Brian Pillman vs. Eddie Guerrero
Result/Analysis: Pillman via pinfall (5:59) following a crossbody collision. What’s notable about this match is Pillman, full on loose cannon mode here, grabbing Heenan’s neck outside the ring, not expected, and Heenan going off on live television “What the fuck are you doing”? before getting up from the broadcast table, almost walking out of the show, before returning to call the rest of the match after cooling off. Pillman wasn’t invested in the actual wrestling part of the show as he was full on at all times creating controversy. Poor Guerrero, in his youthful career, was thrown off but managed to be professional and wrestle a quality match for both of them before losing.
Rating: *1/2 (WCW had a MAJOR problem on their hands with Pillman and it only grew worse.)

Bischoff has The Mega-Powers and Kevin Greene out to shoot the shit. Hogan won’t the shut the hell up. Greene is on something. Savage allows Hogan to run his mouth. Everyone is on the same page pre-Main Event and the only decision looming, according to Hogan, is which one of them gets to hit the town with Liz after the show. Hogan mentions how Savage couldn’t handle her in the past. LOL. My thought is she turns heel and runs to Flair. Remember those pin-up photos? Woooo!!!

Match #5: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
Blue Bloods [“Lord” Steven Regal & “Earl” Robert Eaton vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via submission (7:45) when Eaton succumbs to the scorpion death lock. The Blue Bloods individually do their schtick but the champs earn the clean victory to supplant their unity. It’s an old-school tussle with obvious booking. Regal is noticeably portly here, though.
Rating: **

Back at the Little White Chapel, Parker discusses the catering with Okerlund as Sherri arrives. Parker breaks the bad news to Sherri that he’s flat broke after his day spent gambling. Sherri is obviously upset. She bemoans to him his promise to her of a big wedding day. Buck and Slater look on. A drive-by ceremony is perhaps all The Colonel can afford now!

Pillman comes out and threatens to unleash the seven deadly words on live TV. Instead, he goes off on his definition of respect, mentioning what the 4 Horsemen did to Orndorff, how Arn Anderson smacked him across the face and his personal issues with Kevin Sullivan. Pillman was must-see TV.

Match #6: Mexican Heavyweight Championship
Psicosis vs. Konnan (c)
Result/Analysis: Konnan via submission (5:25) with the ziplock (a standing figure-four). The match is particularly dull and the crowd had little to no reaction with zero knowledge of each guy. This match was introductory to the Mexican influx of wrestlers to come into WCW throughout 1996 and beyond but the fan base wasn’t ready to embrace the “Lucha Libre” style of wrestling. Mike Tenay was on commentary to put over the talent (in a back-handed way himself) but no one gave a F.
Rating: **

At the Little White Chapel, Sherri is getting dressed in the back of her limousine as Okerlund remarks it’s probably not her first time in the back of a car. Ha! Parker wants $30 from Sherri’s purse as she’s getting changed. What happened to the $50? Anyway, Okerlund convinces Sherri that he’ll give her away at the altar. LOL. Following a commercial, the ceremony takes place – at the drive-up window. Harlem Heat, Disco Inferno, Buck and Slater are your attendees. Slater and Buck tear up. Comical. Okerlund can barely hold himself together, also. Before the vows are exchanged, Madusa exits Colonel Parker’s motor home and attacks Sherri from behind, leading to a catfight. Parker was double-dipping behind Sherri’s back with his “fried pie.” OMG. Disco just holds the champagne.

It’s Michael Buffer time. “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!”

Match #7: Tag-Team Main Event
The Giant & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Hulk Hogan & “Macho Man” Randy Savage [WCW World Heavyweight Champion] w/ Miss Elizabeth, Kevin Greene & Female Entourage
Result/Analysis: The Giant & Flair via pinfall (9:53) with Flair pinning Savage after using brass knuckles after Macho had hit the flying elbow drop. Ugh. The match is OK but the finish is dumb. Hogan and The Giant are in the ring for the meat and potatoes portion as Hogan takes a beating before growing tired of doing so and he makes The Giant then look like Lord Littlebrook at WrestleMania III. Hell, Schiavone and Heenan even talked up the Hogan/Andre match, referencing it as being in 1987, for historical context. Savage and Flair start and finish. Elizabeth was a non-factor. Greene helps Hogan empty the ring after the bell as both Zodiac and Pillman do run-ins. At least The Mega-Powers lost. Where everything is headed, however, is anyone’s guess.
Rating: *1/2

The Verdict: The Clash was a Monday Nitro+ TV special occassionally pulled out by the year 1996. The 32nd edition is mediocre at best with no long-term ramifications to WCW’s creative direction. The Main Event was a total eh as it hardly felt like a big-time match. The wedding theatrics, while entirely amusing, consume too much of the event. Heenan, with his unscripted shoot comment to Pillman’s brash action, is the takeaway. Nitro the night before in a one-hour time slot was the much-better show. WCW was winning the ratings war with the WWF but in the first month of the year both products were just OK. In actuality, the creative direction in Stamford, CT was more fluid.

WCW Monday Nitro 1/22/96

WCW Monday Nitro – January 22, 1996

Las Vegas, Nevada

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

The broadcast team plugs the show ahead from Caesar’s Palace before Mexican Champion Konnan joins them at the announcer’s table to lay down a challenge to Psicosis for tomorrow night at Clash of the Champions. Why am I thinking that match will steal the show, yet, the WCW fans won’t react?

“Macho Man” Randy Savage is introduced for the World Title match and with him is an entourage of women that includes Linda Hogan, Debra McMichael and Nancy Sullivan (later Benoit) otherwise known as Woman (may she rest in peace). I’m guessing these broads are the much talked-about secret weapon that Savage and Hulk Hogan promised? Weak. Anyway, Savage is stopped in the aisle by “Mean Gene” Okerlund only Mr. Selfish, aka Hogan, comes out to inform Macho HE’s to receive the first title shot after Flair is beaten tonight. AND this is why Hogan as a babyface/fan favorite had reached its end. What. A. Jackass. Classic Savage in response to Okerlund asking him “What about it”? as he says “What it is, is what it is.” LOL. With that, Savage and his entourage head to the ring. But wait, Bischoff lets it be known that Miss Elizabeth, yes, Miss Elizabeth, will reunite with Hogan and Savage at The Clash tomorrow night. Shocker. Well, Heenan is surprised. Comical.

Match #1: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (8:28 shown) following a flying elbow drop and backfired outside interference from Arn Anderson as he misfires with brass knuckles on Flair. There’s a lot of prior wrinkles to older Flair and Savage matches in this encounter and both brought their working boots for a solid TV match. Afterwards, as Hogan comes out to celebrate with Savage, Macho calls out Hulk for him acting like he won the title and the match. Finally! We get the skeptical/peeved Savage diatribe here circa pre-Mega-Powers break-up in 1989. Hogan doesn’t try to tread lightly as he takes partial credit for Savage winning because he came out to assist. Oh brother! Savage agrees to give Hogan a title shot when, and if, Hulk works himself into position to be the #1 contender and not simply by calling himself it, i.e. as Nick Bockwinkel did for years. Ha! They agree the match eventually needs to happen and that whichever one of them wins, the loser will be man enough to shake hands. Before the n.W.o. materialized later on, the teased match was to simmer most of 1996 until eventually happening at Halloween Havoc, also at Ceasar’s Palace, in October. As for The Clash, The Mega-Powers will oppose Flair and The Giant. Hogan takes on One Man Gang tonight.

Match #2: Dean Malenko vs. Flyin’ Brian Pillman
Result/Analysis: Pillman via pinfall (6:21) despite Malenko’s feet being tangled in the ropes. The finish is awful after Malenko carries Pillman to a decent match. Pillman was a solid wrestler in the rare instance he wasn’t full-on “loose cannon” but on pure wrestling acumen alone, Malenko was more 4-Horsemen material. The crowd was flat for the match. Both of them being heels is my guess.
Rating: **

WCW Saturday Night promo: Lex Luger and Sting will appear, Meng will square off with Johnny B. Badd, Harlem Heat battles The American Males and Alex Wright steps in the ring with Ric Flair.

Match #3: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] (c) vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (9:36) with Luger pinning Booker T. after hitting him with a fist full of silver dollars given to him by Jimmy Hart. Can you say lame? The ongoing storyline with Sting and Luger lent itself to them winning the belts here but wouldn’t a convincing finish without shenanigans behind Sting’s back have been beneficial? Perhaps not as Luger was under-cutting their partnership enough to where it appeared his intentions were on the up-and-up. There wasn’t a lot to this match despite the near 10 minute duration. Luger started off hot. Sting continued that mojo but he soon fell prey to a numbers game and was face-in-peril until the contrived ending. For now, Sting and Luger are the champs but that will not last for long before their inevitable split.
Rating: **

Match #4: One Man Gang [U.S. Heavyweight Champion] vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Hogan via pinfall (3:04) following the big boot, a body slam and a leg drop. Yawn. This was 1988 only an abreviated squash. Hogan must have been working overtime backstage at this point to politic for HIS Main Event spot. And just how in the hell did WCW pull the U.S. Title out of the trash can here to have One Man Gang be the champion? After the match, Hogan, joined by Savage fight off the entire Dungeon of Doom and 4 Horsemen except for The Giant is held back. Okerlund then gets more words out of The Mega-Powers, who talk about the Clash tomorrow night before themselves some more. And Scott Hall and the n.W.o. angle couldn’t arrive soon enough.
Rating: DUD

The Verdict: I’m not sure the point of having Savage vs. Flair and Savage winning back the World Heavyweight Championship being the match that began this show other than to stroke Hogan’s ego as “The Main Event.” To have Nitro concluded with the Savage title win, plus him berating Hogan as he did, would have been far more effective to leave viewers with, especially as The Clash immediately follows suit. That just tells anyone the stroke Hogan had. Sting and Luger are on a collision course, I’d suspect by SuperBrawl in February, and their tag-team titles reign can’t be a lengthy one. Outside of Hogan, the wrestling wasn’t bad. But WCW, despite dominating in the ratings, was a lot of recycled content. Let’s see what The Clash has in store for the creative direction.

WWF Monday Night Raw 1/22/96

WWF Monday Night Raw – January 22, 1996

Stockton, CA (Live!)

Sunny promotes Raw while shooting pool in her lingerie. Viewer discretion is advised!

Royal Rumble recap

Tonight, Bret Hart goes one-on-one with Goldust, Razor Ramon squares off with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Shawn Michaels will conduct an interview off his victory in the Royal Rumble Match.

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match #1: Savio Vega vs. Vader w/ Jim Cornette
Result/Analysis: Vader via pinfall (3:00) following a Vaderbomb. The crowd is apeshit over Vader. The savvy fans knew a monster/unstoppable heel when they saw one. Vega is destroyed and eats a second Vaderbomb after the bell. Vader then beats up referee Jim Cordereas and powerbombs a second referee, Jack Doan, in a viscious spot. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon enters the ring and jaws with Vader. If one guy had the stature to stand up to Vader it was Gorilla. Monsoon, in fact, has Vader suspended indefinitely on the spot. In response, an irate Vader beats up Gorilla, with a Vaderbomb to boot, to effectively write both off television for the forseeable future. Vader jaws with McMahon at ringside after Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels come out to chase him from the ring. Damn! This Raw moment still feels epic all of these years later.
Rating: * (SQUASH – and rightfully so)

During the commercial, Monsoon is stretchered out as Vader’s destructive actions are recapped.

We’re back live and Vader is throwing trash cans around backstage in a fit of anger as he declares war on everyone in the WWF, including McMahon! Cornette was ducking the flying tin here. Ha!

Match #2: Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Shae Marks vs. “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon
Result/Analysis: Helmsley via countout (6:01 shown) with the 1-2-3 Kid coming out to bait Ramon into a game of chase. What a lame ending to a match with potential. The Kid came to ringside to shove a baby bottle in Ramon’s mouth which played up their upcoming “Crybaby Match” at In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage. That, of course, was a low point in both men’s careers to that point. Helmsley, meanwhile, brought a skank to the ring named Shae Marks, which became his schtick, and that led up to the introduction of Sable, and later on Marc Mero. Ramon was checked out here – who can blame him? – while Helmsley was bumping all over the place to earn locker room cred.
Rating: *1/4

Billionaire Ted’s “Wrasslin’ Warroom”

Back in the ring, McMahon all but wets himself introducing Michaels for an interview as he unflatteringly moves about as HBK dances his way out. Vince calls Michaels the most flamboyant SuperStar in the world. Naw, Michaels just had his lips so far up the boss’ ass! Anyway … HBK brags about winning the Rumble … “I told you so” and “back in the saddle again” are the catchphrases used all while Vince blushes uncontrollably and Bret Hart probably vomits backstage. Michaels says he’s on the way to completing his three-step program. Rumble = done. WrestleMania = will be done. In between, well, there’s Owen Hart he has to deal with as Owen is going around running his mouth that he put HBK out, when in fact, the nine thugs in Syracuse, N.Y. deserve that credit. I love shoot comments. With that, Cornette comes out on behalf of Owen. Cornette could talk with the best. That’s been long since forgotten. Cornette says no to the match on behalf of Owen because there’s nothing left for him to prove. HBK, however, says he wants Owen in the ring so bad, as does his Kliq as he pauses to poll the live crowd, so he’s willing to put up anything to get Owen in a match. Cornette asks Michaels’ for his WWF Championship Match at WrestleMania be at stake. Michaels, with the Kliq’s approval, agrees. Cocky MF! Cornette is then ceremoniously thrown out of the ring by HBK to end the segment as Vince returns to gushing. Damn those Syracuse hooligans!

Next week on Raw, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel battles “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and Michaels goes one-on-one with Yokozuna. The days when you knew matches one week in advance did juice a fan up. WCW was doing this also. The “Monday Night Wars” were ongoing …

Match #3: Non-Title/Champion vs. Champion
Goldust w/ Marlena (WWF Intercontinental Champion) vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (WWF Champion)
Result/Analysis: Hart via submission (5:13 shown) with the sharpshooter. There are three commercial breaks during this Main Event. That’s idiotic. Pay your advertisers another way. Thus, with what little of the match seen, it’s hard to judge it. The surprising thing is the clean job by Goldust after he won the Intercontinental Title but building up Bret’s resume never hurt.
Rating: 3/4* (half the match isn’t shown)

After the match, McMahon gets comments from Hart, who reiterates how he’s fed up with Diesel and that inside the steel cage, where he’s deadly, on February 18th, his excuses stop once and for all. As for The Undertaker, Bret promises “The Deadman” he’ll get another shot as the fans were robbed of a clean finish at The Royal Rumble. There’s no mention of Michaels.

Next week, Billionaire Ted will have a press conference to reveal why he wants to put the WWF out of business! These skits completely backfired on McMahon and drove Nitro’s ratings up for WCW.

The Verdict: The Vader angle with Monsoon was this show and in 1996, it felt like a big deal. Intially, Vader WAS booked as an unstoppable monster. Don’t ask me how the WWF blew it. Anyhow, In Your House immediately took shape as Bret Hart and Diesel were signed for a Steel Cage Match, Shawn Michaels wanted Owen Hart so he gets him with his WrestleMania title shot at stake, and oh, there’s that “crybaby” storyline between Razor Ramon and The 1-2-3 Kid that’s riveting! Good Raw.

WWF Royal Rumble 1996

WWF Royal Rumble 1996
Sunday, January 21
Selland Arena – Fresno, CA

In a match occurring on the Free For All preshow, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley. WWF president Gorilla Monsoon stepped in after Droese was pinned and reversed the referee’s decision, disqualifying Helmsley for using brass knuckles to knock Droese out. As a result, Droese won the right to be entry number 30 in the Royal Rumble match, while Helmsley had to enter first.

Sunny, in a bathtub drinking wine, says tonight’s show includes material of a graphic nature and viewer indiscretion, uh discretion, is advised. Well … OK then.

The intro package follows which the WWF production crew always really excelled at. The theme: Which WWF SuperStars will show they have “the heart of a champion” tonight?

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect

Match #1: “Double J” Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson
Result/Analysis: Johnson via DQ (6:39). Jarrett smashes his guitar over Johnson’s head coming off the top turnbuckle for the lame finish. Johnson was “undefeated” coming in so wouldn’t a clean win against the soon-to-be departed (contract dispute) Jarrett have been the correct booking decision? The match came about after Jarrett smashed his musical record of “With My Baby Tonight” over Johnson’s head one month prior at In Your House V: Seasons Beatings so maybe the ending to the match makes sense because of that. Johnson would be hospitalized with a concussion from the guitar shot. At least Johnson didn’t screw up. He held a reputation for being a sloppy worker.
Rating: *1/2

Todd Pettengill interviews Diesel. “Big Daddy Cool” is confident he’ll win the Rumble – – – despite Shawn Michaels’ return and Vader’s debut – – – and then go on to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania. But Diesel, yeah, he isn’t pleased The Undertaker is the #1 Contender and gets “his” title shot tonight. Ah, the foreshadowing … Diesel was a tweener on his way out the door in 1996.

Match #2: WWF Tag-Team Championship
The Bodydonnas [Skip & Zip] w/ Sunny vs. The Smoking Gunns [Billy & Bart] (c)
Result/Analysis: The Smoking Gunns via pinfall (11:14) when Bart pins Skip with a small package. This is a formulaic tag-team match but it has good wrestling plus the Sunny factor, whereby she teases the Gunns and feigns an injury to get The Bodydonnas an advantage. Skip, of course, is the late Chris Candido while Zip is Tom Prichard, formerly of The Heavenly Bodies. Each was an accomplished wrestler and together they carried heat. The Gunns are an undderrated tag-team historically but people mostly forget because Billy’s career reached greater heights with DX and in a notable singles career. Billy, as seen here, is the best of the four guys involved, and he plays face-in-peril as The Bodydonnas control the match. Bart needed Billy to be relevant. The Gunns win the match after they hit their finishing move, the sidewinder, and in a bit of confusion with all four guys in the ring. To hot shot the titles off The Gunns here would have been a mistake. Good booking.
Rating: ***

Next, a compilation of Billionaire Ted’s “Wrasslin’ Warroom.” Vince McMahon just couldn’t resist.

Pettengill narrates a video package to recap the feud between Goldust and Razor Ramon.

Match #3: WWF Intercontinental Championship
Goldust w/Marlena vs. “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon (c)
Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (14:17) following outside interference by the 1-2-3 Kid. I’ve read various takes on this short-lived feud, and match, with most recappers trashing the angle and work rate of this match. Perhaps Scott Hall wasn’t too invested on his way out of the WWF in 1996 but Dustin Rhodes put forth 100-percent of himself into establishing the Goldust character/gimmick and it truly jumpstarted his career and bought him another 15+ years in the business. The entirety of the feud and this match, is a master class on ring psychology. Scott Hall’s work rate went down years later – – – alcohol abuse being front and center – – – but he plays his part in this storyline, drops the belt and lets Goldust dictate the direction, style and tempo of the match. The debut of Marlena in Goldust’s corner threw everyone off as to what the Goldust character was all about. In retrospect, this was a successful Vince Russo creation and Rhodes went out each night and sold the gimmick. Ramon loses the title but easily transitioned off Goldust and into a feud with the 1-2–3 Kid before his departure. The match is exactly what you’d think it would be. I enjoy it still today.
Rating: **

Dr. Jeffrey Unger updates Shawn Michaels’ health before the Rumble. This was total baloney.

Various SuperStars voice their opinions on the upcoming Rumble. We hear from Owen Hart, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Barry Horowitz, Vader, and Shawn Michaels.

Match #4: 30-Man Royal Rumble
* The winner earns a WWF Championship Match at WrestleMania XII *
Participants (in order of entry): Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Henry O. Godwinn, Mr. Bob Backlund, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly, King Mabel (w/ Sir Mo), Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Dory Funk Jr., Yokozuna, 1-2-3 Kid, Takao Omori, Savio Vega, Vader (w/ Jim Cornette), Doug Gilbert, Squat Teamer #1, Squat Teamer #2, “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, Hakushi, “Native American” Tatanka, “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, Kama “The Supreme Fighting Machine,” The Ringmaster (w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase), Barry Horowitz, Fatu, Isaac Yankem D.D.S., Marty Jannetty, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese

Result/Analysis: “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (58:51) last eliminating “Big Daddy” Cool Diesel with a superkick. To no one’s shock and/or surprise, HBK wins the Royal Rumble for the second consecutive year. The Michaels push was in full-go and the collision course with Bret “Hit Man” Hart, that was years in the making, is at last upon us. Diesel was the only threat to HBK and naturally, he’s the runner-up. Vader was a beast and he dominated a lot of the scrub talent. In a rare instance during his WWF run, he was booked strongly. What happened to ruin his would-be push don’t ask me. Owen Hart also has a nice run in the match as he sticks around long enough to kick Michaels in the head to sell the HBK concussion storyline that had Michaels out for two months. As with every Royal Rumble, the interwoven history is thrown in such as The Bulldog and Michaels renewing their 1995 finish, Jannetty getting mixed up with Michaels to tease The Rockers tag-team days and Lawler hiding under the ring for 30 minutes for comic relief after Jake “The Snake” Roberts had him covered by his python. The overall field lacked considerable depth but 1995 was the worst it got. I watched in stages over several days, but this Royal Rumble Match was a decent, if only average, with the obvious winner in Michaels. Thus, there was no drama involved. That hurt.
Rating: **1/2

Order of Elimination:
Yokozuna eliminates Backlund
Yokozuna eliminates Mabel
Roberts eliminates Omori
Vega eliminates Funk
Vader eliminates Roberts
Vader eliminates Gilbert
Vader eliminates Squat #1
Yokozuna eliminates Squat #2
Vader eliminates Vega
HBK eliminates Yokozuna and Vader
HBK eliminates 1-2-3 Kid
Owen Hart eliminates Hakushi
Tatanka eliminates Montoya
HBK eliminates Lawler
Diesel eliminates Tatanka
The Ringmaster eliminates Holly
Diesel eliminates Helmsley
Owen Hart eliminates Horowitz
Diesel eliminates Owen Hart
Bulldog eliminates Jannetty
Fatu eliminates The Ringmaster
Yankem eliminates Fatu
HBK eliminates Yankem
Diesel and Kama eliminate Droese
HBK eliminates Bulldog
Diesel eliminates Kama
HBK eliminates Diesel

Match #5: WWF Championship
The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via disqualification (28:31) due to the outside interference of Diesel. Before the match, Diesel and The Undertaker exchanged blows to further their budding feud and Diesel, naturally, reappears to screw The Undertaker out of winning the WWF Championship following the tombstone piledriver. All of that made sense. I’ve read recaps of this match that ripped the work rate by both guys. It’s horeshit. In fact, while the match drags in spots and could have been trimmed up by 10 minutes, what this match was in essence, is two fan favorites wrestling a heel-ish match. And no one past, present or future could masterfully wrestle a style like that the way Bret Hart did, especially in this period leading up to WrestleMania XII and the dichtomy between he and Michaels to create edginess to their rivalry. “The Hit Man” gives everything he always did: the moveset, taking a beating, the ring psychology of working a specific area of his opponent – the left leg of The Undertaker in this case — all while showcasing the art of telling a story. Thus, the pundits from back in the day, were far off in their analysis. Hart even does everyone a favor by removing The Undertaker’s face mask/guard to make that absurdity a thing of the past. I see a match between two pro’s that’s worked to its pre-determined conclusion. It’s not a classic match, but it’s a purposeful match. Bret Hart was really becoming interesting.
Rating: ***

The Verdict: The 1996 Royal Rumble has little historical significance. Shawn Michaels winning the Rumble Match was a foregone conclusion. Given that, Bret Hart remaining as WWF Champion had to also happen. Seeing as how The Undertaker couldn’t be booked to lose cleanly to Hart, the involvement by Diesel made sense to set up the match at WrestleMania on the undercard. Goldust needed to win the Intercontinental Title given his push and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) was headed out the door for WCW. The tag-team title match was good. The pay-per-view is average altogether but the WWF did the best they could with what little they had left in the cupboard. No fault there.

WCW Monday Nitro 1/15/96

WCW Monday Nitro – January 15, 1996

Miami, Florida

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McDaniel and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Match #1: “The Total Package” Lex Luger vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Luger via submission (5:10) with the torture rack after Savage misses the flying elbow drop. The match features two supposed babyfaces yet each tries to play the role of the heel. Luger wins, yet it was announced prior to the match that Savage was getting a World Title opportunity next week against the winner of Ric Flair and Sting that’s on for tonight’s Main Event. That’s some whacked booking when your #1 contender is doing the job in five minutes. WCW was promoting Savage yet burying him simultaneously? Does Luger now get the title shot??? Odd.
Rating: *1/2

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is brought to the ring by The Dungeon of Doom and The Four Horsemen. There was a tag-team match scheduled between The Taskmaster and Hugh Morrus against Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman but that’s not happening. Anderson berates Pillman for how he’s dressed for this “business meeting” and tells Okerlund he and Taskmaster had a meeting of the minds. AA says The Horsemen don’t want to be a part of the brush fire that’s started up with The Dungeon of Doom as they’re about titles. The war with The Dungeon isn’t one that either side can win. There would only be survivors from it and there’s no financial gain. Taskmaster says he respects Ric Flair so much that he’s renting him the services of The Giant at The Clash of The Champions next week. Taskmaster also relays his respect to Anderson and echoes the words he just spoke of. Taskmaster says his problem lies with Pillman, someone with no respect, and who’s not Horsemen-material. Anderson relays his respect back to Taskmaster but says they don’t fear The Dungeon. Pillman interjects with his hyperbole only to get smacked in the face by AA. Wow. The interview segment concludes with Taskmaster reminding everyone Hulk Hogan, their common enemy, is in the ring with Meng tonight. Kevin Sullivan could cut a great promo. But Anderson, shit! He was 1A to Flair as the very best on the mic in this golden era of the sport.

Match #2: The Public Enemy [Johnny Grunge & “Flyboy” Rocco Rock] vs. The American Males [Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Scotty Riggs]
Result/Analysis: The Public Enemy via pinfall (3:28) when Rock rolls up Bagwell. This was a purely horrendous match. Both Grunge and Rock look hideously out-of-shape and The American Males hardly impress, either. I always thought of Scotty Riggs as a poor man’s Marty Jannetty but he sucks here and Bagwell tries to work the match by himself for everyone. Nothing on Raw could have been this bad. The fans at ringside were chanting ECW, of course, where Public Enemy should have remained. Rock reverse sommersaults Bagwell thru stacked tables after the match. The Public Enemy were a pre-cursor to The Dudley Boyz only they weren’t any good. R.I.P. Grunge and Rock.
Rating: 3/4*

Match #3: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Sting [Challenger] vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair [Champion] w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (11:07 – shown) with Sting unconscious while in the figure-four. It could be any year and Sting and Flair could wrestle in their sleep against each other. They were truly a peanut butter and jelly combination. A flawless TV match here with the added wrinkle of Luger involving himself and costing Sting the match by fighting with Jimmy Hart over the megaphone which strikes Sting on his charge at Flair into the corner. That’s twice in three weeks Luger has prevented Sting from becoming World Heavyweight Champion. And, they’re a tag-team! Naitch gives us his whole move set in this match, full with cheat tactics. Classic.
Rating: ***

After the match, Hogan and Savage come to Sting’s aid. Okerlund is present and the self-serving Hogan lectures Sting on how Luger has now twice cost him the World Title. Savage also gets in Sting’s face about placing trust in Luger and tells him he’s dying by doing so. Sting, all groggy and confused, asks The Mega-Powers what they’re talking about before leaving the ring to get the scoop from Luger backstage. Hogan and Savage remain in the ring with Okerlund. Hogan chastises Savage for receiving the title match versus Flair next week after losing to Luger four times in a row. Hulk says he’s been on a roll lately and the World Title has his name on it. Oh, Brother. Savage fires back at Hogan to back down as he is deserving of getting a title shot while reminding Hulk he’s not Nick Bockwinkel (always getting title matches) and that the two of them have already been to hell and back about 12 times. Hogan responds that they’re one in the same and since Macho’s not 100-percent with his arm injury, he’d have a better shot of winning the belt. Savage has enough and exits the ring with Hogan in pursuit trying to squelch the tempers. Okerlund reminds us that Hogan and Savage will be teaming up at Clash of the Champions to oppose The Giant and Flair.

WCW Saturday Night promo: Hogan interview, Harlem Heat vs. Sting & Luger, and Jim Belushi

Match #4: Meng w/ Taskmaster vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Hogan via pinfall (4:41) after using Meng’s golden spike to hit him in his throat. There’s no sugar coating it: this match is awful. Meng works over Hogan’s nerves and pressure points. Hulk eventually no-sells all of it and makes his comeback. The crowd doesn’t react, which had to be noticed, and Hogan wins the Main Event to mild reaction. Savage had come out to deal with Taskmaster so Macho and Hulk are buddy-buddy again in a span of only 10 minutes. Shocker!
Rating: DUD

The Verdict: Flair and Sting wrestle a good match. Arn Anderson reminds us again how great he is on the mic. There’s storyline advancement with Luger again foiling Sting’s chance to become World Champion. Most of all, Hogan’s self-serving ego was starting to ruin an overall good product.

WWF Monday Night Raw 1/15/96

WWF Monday Night Raw – January 15, 1996

Newark, Delaware (taped 12/18/95)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match #1: Marty Jannetty vs. “The King of Hearts” Owen Hart w/ Jim Cornette
Result/Analysis: Hart via pinfall (5:42 – shown) with a reverse cradle. The wrestling is fine. Jannetty apparently thinks it’s still the late 1980’s with his Rockers attire in blinding neon colors, etc. McMahon and Lawler hype the 30-man Royal Rumble match throughout even though the winner was quite obvious given the participants and the overall roster was filled with mid card “talent” and has-beens. Owen wins with a nifty reverse cradle but the match belonged on a Saturday morning edition of WWF SuperStars if that show was even still a thing in 1996?
Rating: *1/2

Todd Pettengill with The Royal Rumble report. Pettengill is a bit overhyped for the Free-For-All prior to the pay-per-view extravaganza. I swear he took “happy pills.” Diesel and Vader get promo time.

Dok Hendrix alerts us that Razor Ramon is on his way to the arena to confront Goldust. Stay tuned.

Match #2: The Ringmaster w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. Matt Hardy
Result/Analysis: The Ringmaster via submission (4:36) with the million-dollar dream. This match is where it ALL started for Steve Austin, positioned in a gimmick that quickly flamed out. What’s funny also, is that Matt Hardy, as a jobber, became Austin’s first WWF opponent and Hardy went on to have a lengthy career himself. This match is a good trivia question! Jobber Hardy works in some offense but Austin picks up the easy win. The only thing lacking was Jim Ross wasn’t the lead announcer yet. JR would have been all over Austin’s use of the Lou Thesz press.
Rating: *3/4

Shawn Michaels narrates his comeback story. It is quite nauseating if I’m being honest.

Dok Hendrix updates the whereabouts of Razor Ramon. “The Bad Guy” is only a few miles away from the arena and should he make it in time for the Goldust interview then all hell will break loose.

Following a commercial, a tag-team match between The Smoking Gunns and The Spiders is joined in progress. Now that’s porous. The Gunns, the reigning tag-team champions, finish off The Spiders in short oder with their sidewinder finishing move. The Spiders were later on The Headbangers. The Smoking Gunns would defend the tag-team titles at The Royal Rumble against The Bodydonnas.

Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ Warroom: Vince Russo makes a cameo appearance. Billionaire Ted wants to buy the WWF, but can only get their “disloyal has-beens from the 80’s.” Especially Randy Savage, who was banished to the commentary desk and didn’t have any loyalty shown to him. Things would only get more mean-spirited from here.

Goldust is interviewed by Vince McMahon. He says Vince either has another microphone in his pants or is just excited to see him? Goldust creepily goes into detail about how he selected Razor Ramon as someone that could give him “the worst absolute time.” That, Goldust says, is when he makes his move. He references “Tootsie” from 1982 as a comparison. Intentional or unintentional, the Goldust character blurred the line of homophobia and that would never get off the ground in today’s “woke” cancel culture society.

Dok Hendrix updates us that Razor Ramon has just arrived and he’ll try to get some words with him.

Ramon enters the building and storms past Hendrix looking for Goldust. Nice work, Dok.

Match #4: Isaac Yankem D.D.S. vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Result/Analysis: The Undertaker via pinfall (7:33 – shown) following a tombstone piledriver. Yankem, of course, was Lawler’s personal dentist before later becoming The Undertaker’s “brother” Kane in October 1997 at In Your House: Bad Blood. The Undertaker was wearing his “Phantom of The Opera” gray face mask / guard at this point. I always hated that look. The match here is OK but it’s a yawn really as the end result was a 100-percent certainty. The urn was no more as Kama had stolen it at WrestleMania XI the prior year and had it melted into a large gold necklace, to which, The Undertaker had gained possession of. That was another lame storyline.
Rating: *1/2

Goldust is interviewed by Hendrix about facing Bret Hart next week on Raw, but Ramon attacks him for a pretty wild brawl, including outside of the arena in the snow. That feud had fans invested. Little else of the overall WWF product did.

McMahon and Lawler run down the card for The Royal Rumble to end the show.

The Verdict: Goldust and Razor Ramon had a heated feud going. Shawn Michaels was bound to win the Royal Rumble Match because, quite frankly, he was the only choice the WWF had. Bret Hart as the reigning WWF Champion was already a backstory. It was hard to get amped up for a “Big Five” pay-per-view with so much obvious booking and a lot of middling mid card talent being pushed. But it’s the 1996 Royal Rumble that is upon us.

WCW Monday Nitro 1/8/96

WCW Monday Nitro – January 8, 1996

Charleston, South Carolina

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael

The Main Event hype is in overdrive as Nitro begins as assuredly “those other boys,” as Mongo puts it, won’t have anything to top the format that’s on tap for Nitro tonight. In you case you missed last week, Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage will square off with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Arn Anderson tonight. Over on Monday Night Raw, meanwhile, the WWF focal point was a pre-taped Shawn Michaels press conference. I’ll take the wrasslin, “Where The Big Boys Play.”

Match #1: “The Canadian Crippler” Chris Benoit w/ Brian Pillman vs. “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright
Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (6:40) with a dragon suplex. The young buck – – Wright – – hangs with the seasoned vet – – Benoit – – nearly move-for-move. Pillman, of course, interjects himself into the match on more than one occasion but gets punked by Wright for his troubles. Benoit had the legitimacy of a full move set plus the 4 Horsemen affiliation. Wright had to work his way onto the card. He was a good talent as this match proves. Pillman taunts the fallen Das Wunderkind after the match and spits on him. Bischoff speculates if Pillman keeps up that behavior he’ll be on thin ice.
Rating: **3/4

Match #2: Lord Steven Regal w/ Sir William vs. Eddie Guerrero
Result/Analysis: Guerrero via pinfall (8:09) with a backslide. Regal dominates the match and punishes Guerrero with brute strength and stiff blows. Guerrero counters often with Lucha Libre style moves and you can see how refined a wrestler he was even at this point. Given that His Lordship was “the star” of the two, Guerrero getting the upset win was a pleasant surprise. Both of these guys could wrestle. Regal is besmirched with the loss.
Rating: **3/4

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is standing by with Sting and Lex Luger. Sting wants to question why Luger grabbed his arm outside the ring in their triangle match with Ric Flair at Starrcade, alluding to perhaps some malicious intent on Luger’s behalf. Lex deflects the question to say he injured his knee and was reaching out for Sting’s hand to be helped to his feet. Okerlund doesn’t buy that and Sting is leery himself. Luger goes to Plan B and says he and Sting should officially form a tag-team. Sting accepts. Boy, Sting was an idiot sometimes. At Clash of the Champions, Luger and Sting will face The Blue Bloods.

Match #3: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Sting
Result/Analysis: Sting via submission (6:19) with the scorpion death lock. Classic heel Page here with old-school cheat tactics: cigar in the face, using the ring ropes for leverage and a thumb to the eye. Page also executed a pair of swinging neckbreakers. With early DDP, however, you also would get the screw up as he botches a leapfrog off a rope exchange. Sting executes four moves in the match: a dropkick, a dive onto Page over the ropes, his Stinger Splash and the scorpion death lock. Sting never gave much more than that. Page wasn’t a star at this point or anything close to it but he improved as a wrestler each and every time.
Rating: **1/2

Match #4: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion] & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson
vs. Hulk Hogan & “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Hogan and Savage via pinfall (12:16 -shown) when Hogan pins Anderson following a leg drop. If you could picture a Four Horseman tag-team match versus The Mega-Powers and what that would be like, the visual would resemble this: Hogan cleans house to start. Savage tags in to continue the momentum but he soon takes a pounding that lasts several minutes. Hogan becomes a statue on the ring apron as AA and Flair cut the ring in half and take turns on Macho, although Savage counters enough into several near falls so as not to kill the crowd. It was debatable at this point whom the masses were cheering for, however. Savage eventually makes the hot tag to Hogan and you know the rest – – with the most agregious being Hulk doing a complete no-sell of Anderson’s spinebuster. Benoit and Pillman race to the ring but the pin happens first. The Dungeon of Doom, joined by Jimmy Hart, is also out. The Giant ambushes Hogan and Savage and lays both out with a chokeslam. Zodiac and Kevin Sullivan hold The Giant back as Hart cheers on.
Rating: **1/2

The Verdict: Four above-average matches in a one hour show on live TV. This is why WCW was #1. They didn’t mix in any bullshit. The Giant was being pushed with Hogan his natural target. The Four Horseman carried the show. It was good to see young talent like Alex Wright and Eddie Guerrero get time. Next week, Hogan faces Meng from The Dungeon of Doom and Savage wrestles Luger.

WWF Monday Night Raw 1/8/96

WWF Monday Night Raw – January 8, 1996

Newark, Delaware (taped 12/18/95)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

Match #1 Hakushi vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
Result/Analysis: Jarrett via submission (5:51 shown) with the figure-four leg lock. Double J was just starting a feud with Ahmed Johnson, with the two paired up one-on-one at the upcoming Royal Rumble. No one gave a shit about that entanglement, however. Hakushi’s usefulness had run out by 1996. It’s too bad; he was pretty good. Jarrett is noticeably pudgie here. He was also wearing those striped full-body tights which wasn’t a good look. The match is OK but it belonged on a “House Show.” In truth, it was since Raw was pre-taped in these days due to budget constraints. Two months later, Hakushi left the WWF. Jarrett departed around the same time due to a contract dispute.
Rating: *1/4

Jim Ross with The Royal Rumble Slam Jam as more Royal Rumble participants are named. The Vader promo package is shown again – the same as last week. Man, all that hype for a nothing run!

Match #2: Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Brettler
Result/Analysis: Ahmed Johnson via pinfall (1:32) following the pearl river plunge. Jarrett tries to attack after the match ends with a guitar shot but misses. Johnson destroys the guitar. Jobber matches served a purpose: squash!
Rating: 1/2*

The Brother Love Show w/ The “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. DiBiase has finally found the heir apparent to be “Million-Dollar Champion” … The Ringmaster! Yes, Steve Austin makes his WWF debut!!! The rest, is, of course, history. Brother Love comically goes apeshit over the pronouncement and calls Austin “Brother Ringmaster!!!” Austin’s mic skills weren’t bad, hell, he had plenty of work in WCW. The funny part is the WWF crowd was clueless as to who he was or what they all had. Imagine had Austin, as The Ringmaster, won the Royal Rumble right off and drawn Bret Hart at WrestleMania? He probably wasn’t quite ready for that, but in retrospect, it could have played. Especially knowing the unreal chemistry and mutual respect both Austin and Hart shared.

Match #3: “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya vs. Goldust
Result/Analysis: Goldust via pinfall (2:17) following the curtain call. Montoya was a nothing and a jobber despite his gimmick. Goldust was feuding with Razor Ramon and the Intercontinental Title would be at stake come the Royal Rumble. The entrance for Goldust lasted longer than the match.
Rating: 1/2*

Shawn Michaels’ “press conference” whereby “The Heartbreak Kid” announces his return as a participant in the Royal Rumble Match. Michaels had been teasing his retirement prior to this following a storyline concussion in a match with Owen Hart. WWF SuperStars such as Diesel, Razor Ramon, and Hart comment on Michaels’ announcement. Yawn.

Match #4: In Your House V: Seasons Greetings Replay – WWF Heavyweight Championship
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim Cornette & Diana Smith vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: Hart vis pinfall (21:10) with a cradle. The odd finish at least mimmicks the SummerSlam ‘92 result at Wembley Stadium when The British Bulldog went over. The match is a forgotten gem in time but it’s not an all-out classic. The anti-climatic finish hurts. Still, it’s an excellent championship match and one of Davey Boy Smith’s best matches, superceded of course, by his win over Bret for the Intercontinental Title three years prior. These two really knew how to tell a great story in their matches and worked to put each other over while doing so. That’s been a lost art in professional wrestling for a long time now. Hart has a Great Muta-like blade job halfway in and that adds to the drama and brute style the match was contested under. It was a no-brainer Hart would retain the belt but having Diana intertwined as the spouse of Davey Boy and sister of Bret always added something extra to their matches. Superb wrestling on a pay-per-view not remembered.
Rating: ****

The Undertaker, who will challenge Hart for the WWF Championship at The Royal Rumble, is with Paul Bearer, and vows to win the belt for “the creatures of the night.”

Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin’ War Room with The Huckster and The Nacho Man

The Verdict: Pre-taped episodes of Raw always seemed to lack. That’s especially true when the best parts were The Brother Love Show – historical significance of Steve Austin’s debut and a replay of a match from pay-per-view. The storyline build-up just wasn’t there to juice the upcoming Royal Rumble. Was Michaels’ announcement supposed to do it or Jim Ross’ Royal Rumble Slam Jam’s? Week #2 of 1996 was better than Week #1. Next week, The Ringmaster makes his in-ring debut, Owen Hart wrestles Marty Jannetty and The Undertaker faces Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.

WCW Monday Nitro 1/1/96

WCW Monday Nitro – January 1, 1996

Atlanta, Georgia

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael

The broadcast team discusses “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s record-breaking 12th World Heavyweight Championship win at Starrcade five days earlier over “Macho Man” Randy Savage. They announce Hulk Hogan as Flair’s opponent in a title defense for the Main Event. As for Savage, he’s asked for a match against Arn Anderson, who he holds responsible for him losing the belt to Flair.

Match #1: “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (7:58) after hitting Anderson with brass knuckles that AA had pulled from his tights after referee Randy Anderson is bumped to the mat. Savage begins with a flurry of offense before Anderson takes control and wrestles an old school match focusing on Savage’s arm and shoulder. After the bell, 4 Horsemen members Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman hit the ring wanting a piece of Savage but he bails and their potest with the referee falls on deaf ears.
Rating: **1/2

Match #2: Lord Steven Regal w/ Sir William vs. Chris Benoit
Result/Analysis: Regal via pinfall (5:41) after rolling Benoit in the ring after a failed suicide plancha by Benoit over the top rope. The match was a super-stiff fight with all moves executed to perfection. If you love an old-school professional mat wrestling type of match, this was it. The one thing lacking for it was time. His Lordship was the more established WCW talent at this point, thus the clean win.
Rating: **3/4

After the match, “Mean” Gene Okerlund is joined in the ring by The Horsemen, sans Flair, and Brian Pillman bitches out Benoit and AA for losing tonight, saying they’re all here to win and dominate … not to languish in mediocrity. Well said. Pillman is wearing his BADASS leather duster right out of The Undertaker’s closet. Ha! Pillman turns to Anderson and admonishes him for losing by way of a move straight out of The Horsemen’s playbook. True. Arn tries to make peace, reminding Pillman their (his) goal is to protect the world title (for Flair) and they perish and prosper together as a unit. The Dungeon of Doom storm the ring but The Giant keeps everyone at bay, along with Jimmy Hart.

WCW Saturday Night Promo: The American Males vs. Arn Anderson & Brian Pillman in a tag-team bout; Lex Luger vs. The Cobra in singles action

Match #3: The Super Assassins [Barbarian & Warlord] w/ Col. Robert Parker vs. Lex Luger & Sting
Result/Analysis: Luger & Sting via submission (5:50) as Barbarian waves off while in Luger’s torture rack. Sting played face in peril until the hot tag to Luger as The Assassins took turns working him over. Even if one didn’t know who the masked assassins were – – – I had to look it up – – – there individual wrestling styles and builds gives it away despite their masks. I was more interested in Col. Parker’s budding romance with Sister Sherri that was blooming at the time. How 25 years makes one forget. At least Luger & Sting begin the year on the same page.
Rating: *1/2

“Mean” Gene Okerlund interview with Jimmy Hart and The Giant. “The Son of Andre” is coming for Hogan (starting tonight). Hart says he’ll back any man that’s against Hogan.

Match #4: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) vs. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Hogan via DQ (7:55) after Arn Anderson interferes brandishing the brass knuckles. This was every Flair versus Hogan match you’ve ever seen but condensed and particularly mid-1980’s in quality. Flair wrestles. Hogan punches and no-sells nearly everything. Hogan makes the comeback, with the big boot and leg drop, of course, but it’s free TV so there can’t be a job. Jimmy Hart, as he promised, came to ringside to back Flair (against Hogan, really). After the bell, Hogan has taken the brass knucks and he single-handily brings all of The Horsemen to their knees. The Giant comes out, with Kevin Sullivan and Zodiac, with a stool to hit Hogan with. Savage runs in to save Hogan and The Giant is cleared out as The Horsemen flee.
Rating: **

Nitro concludes with Okerlund interviewing The Mega Powers. Hogan lays down the gauntlet to Flair and AA in a tag-team challenge match for next week. The Giant? Yeah, he’s next. Ah, nostalgia.

The Verdict: WCW: It’s Where “The Big Boys” Play. To begin 1996 this theme was in overload. WCW had its formula. The “New Generation” of the WWF hadn’t yet caught fire and so all Ted Turner had to do was trot out the tried and tested and recycle old feuds ad naseum. It worked for a while longer. I had to pinch myself a few times that I had time traveled 25 years into the past. Memories.

WWF Monday Night Raw 1/1/1996

WWF Monday Night Raw – January 1, 1996

Newark, Delaware (taped 12/18/95)

Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

It’s the first-ever (and it twas also the last) “Raw Bowl.”

The Smoking Gunns [Billy & Bart] – Tag-Team Champions vs. Yokozuna & Owen Hart w/ Jim Cornette & Mr. Fuji vs. “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon – IC Champion & Savio Vega vs. The 1-2-3 Kid & Sycho Sid
w/ “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase

* One time-out per team can be used at any time *
** A team is eliminated when a teammate is pinned, disqualified, counted out or submits **
*** Any “player” may be tagged in at any time ***
**** Once tagged, physical contact must be made with opponent before tagging out ****

Result/Analysis: 1-2-3 Kid pins Razor Ramon (9:45) to eliminate Ramon and Savio Vega; Billy Gunn pins Owen Hart (13:53) following an inadvertent banzai drop by Yokozuna to eliminate Hart and Yokozuna; Bart Gunn pins Sycho Sid (17:23) following interference from Ramon. The Smoking Gunns win “The RAW Bowl.” There’s some decent wrestling here but the football terminology within the commentary is very distracting and frankly unbearable. On WCW Monday Nitro, Eric Bischoff more aptly called this match “The Toilet Bowl.” The WWF was circling the drain at the onset of 1996 and this novelty idea is a forgotten piece of the garbage they tried.
Rating: *1/2

To make it worse, Vinnie Mac “hands off” the broadcast to handsome Dok Hendrix for the “Wrigley’s” half-time report. Hendrix previews “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. King Mabel and tosses over to “Jumbo” Jim Ross for words from Diesel, which JR has none from. Poor JR wants nothing to do with this show, it’s obvious. Back to Hendrix now and the upcoming Royal Rumble pay-per-view card is discussed with more football lingo thrown in.

Match#2 Arkansas Hog Pen Match:
*Special Guest Referee: Hillbilly Jim*
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Henry O. Godwinn

Result/Analysis: Helmsley wins as he back drops Godwinn into the Hog Pen filled with pigs and slop. The entire match thankfully wasn’t shown with commercials thrown in. Even in 1996 as a mid card afterthought you could see Helmsley’s potential. He bumped all over to make Godwinn’s offense sell. This was a gimmick match for its time with the right guy put over. Godwinn gets Helmsley in the hog pen with him and does his power moves as the pigs circle around. Classic!
Rating: **

Match#3: King Mabel w/ Sir Mo vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel

Result/Analysis: Diesel (:10) with a big boot. Yes, a 10 second “Main Event.” Diesel was such a bad ass you see and still angry 24/7 over losing the WWF Championship to Bret Hart at Survivor Series.
Rating: DUD

In the locker room, we have “The Lombardi Trophy” presentation to the Smoking Gunns which is Steve Lombardi, aka The Brooklyn Brawler, handing out a miniature trophy with his face on it. The Gunns smash the trophy and then pour a cooler filled with iced tea on a fallen Lombardi.

The Royal Rumble Match participants are revealed, highlighted by the announcement of Vader entering. This could have been a big deal …

Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin War Room with The Huckster and The Nacho Man closes the show.

The Verdict: A crummy Monday Night Raw to begin the year. The show had a :10 Main Event, a gimmick match that dragged with unbearable commentary plus a replay of a match from ppv. If there was a creative plan in place, you couldn’t tell. The WWF/Vince McMahon was winging it.

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You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.