1996 was a lot of fun ... for the folks at Turner. WCW was the hottest show on the planet, delivering the goods regularly. There were twists, good storyline progression, and a complete overhaul of the roster. The WWF was suffering, however, with a depleted roster, and near financial ruin. So how, from a quality standpoint, did the WWF turn RAW into the tightest, highest rated program in wrestling history?
Seems impossible. But it happened; and we’ll watch their progression as they combat the heat from WCW, and the edge of ECW, all year. No matter how many shots of Shawn Michaels’ bare ass we see along the way.
VADER promises the end of Bret Hart. They’ll face off in our main event.
We are TAPED from Albany, New York. A grunting VINCE MCMAHON and a squealing JERRY LAWLER are your hosts.
OWEN HART (with Clarence Mason and Slammy) vs. MANKIND (with Paul Bearer and Urn)
Mankind is still in full-fledged deranged freak mode here, dressed like a giant deuce, and rocking violently in the corner. Owen tries to lock on the Sharpshooter immediately, but Mankind dives into the ropes for safety. He hangs on, refusing to release until Owen backs off. And as soon as he does, Mankind knocks him into the corner and drives a knee into Owen’s face. All up in his grill, Mankind starts clawing at his face and squealing like a pig. Owen tries to fight off the Mandable Claw attempt by throwing elbows in Mankind’s face until he releases. He stomps on Mick’s hand to take away his ability to use the finisher, but Mankind fires back right away with a Cactus Clothesline. Mankind grabs a chair, but Owen kicks him in the ribs and hotshots Foley across the guardrail. Yowch! Back in, Owen works over Mankind’s midsection, before dropping him with a spinning heel kick. Sharpshooter is threatened, but it’s actually a stomp to the pooter. Owen applies an abdominal stretch; which seems counter-productive since I’m fairly sure Foley doesn’t have any abs. Mick escapes, and eats an enzuigiri of DEATH. Mankind hits the ground, and Owen’s all over him, but winds up getting whipped into the guardrail. Mick finds ... is that a kitty litter box? What the hell? He smacks Owen upside the head, and we take a break.
Back from the time out, and Mankind’s hitting a swinging neckbreaker. A second attempt is blocked with a DDT, and Owen heads up – diving right into the Mandable Claw. Owen hits a desperation enzuigiri, but can’t follow up, charging right into the ring post shoulderfirst, and succumbing to a spike piledriver at 7:11. **1/2
Backstage, SHAWN MICHAELS and JOSE LOTHARIO are here. Lothario suffered an attack from Sid Vicious a couple of weeks ago, positively heinous actions against a 70+ year old man, that promptly made him the biggest babyface in the company. Lothario promises he isn’t going anywhere, and has brought his son PETE LOTHARIO to watch his back. I was JUST thinking that there weren’t enough Lothario’s in the company. The clear company direction has to see Pete turn on his father and join Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13, to defeat Shawn Michaels for the strap. Do NOT bet against this.
NOT DIESEL and NOT RAZOR RAMON vs. DOUG FURNAS and PHILLIP LAFON
HONKY TONK MAN joins the commentary team, continuing his search for a guitar playing, hip wiggling superstar he can mentor. Vince McMahon is the only one in the world who has no problem with this Diesel/Razor nonsense, chuckling away as “BIG DADDY COOL DIESEL” tosses Lafon around the ring. Razor hits a fallaway slam, but Lafon comes back with a number of chops. Snap suplex brings in Furnas, but Razor immediately works him over in the corner. “Bret the Hitman Hart facing off with the Man They Call OOOOH WHATTASHOT!” Tony Schiavone is forgiven for everything ever. Furnas throws Razor with an overhead belly to belly, but Razor blocks a follow up German. Diesel gets in a cheap shot from behind, and tags in. Furnas puts up a fight, but Not Kevin Nash is just far too slow and methodical for him. Razor hits a swanky pumphandle suplex, and that takes us to a commercial.
Poor Doug Furnas is on the receiving end of a sidewalk slam, and Diesel gets 2. McMahon is in awe of Razor and Diesel’s effectiveness as a tag-team. The NotSiders double team Furnas, and Diesel hits the leg straddle. A leg drop misses, and he’s in enough pain that Furnas gets in a dropkick and makes the tag to Lafon. The fans start booing the ever loving shit out of this. An enzuigiri takes down Diesel, and the spinning heel kick gets a near 2. Lafon hits a sunset flip, and Furnas pushes him over with the dropkick, but Diesel kicks out. Razor tags in to an overhead hammerlock suplex, and Furnas tags in. Razor goes for Razor’s Edge, but Lafon saves, and Furnas hits a Frankensteiner for 2. Diesel is dumped stop his slow interference, and the Can-Am finishes with a Hart Attack into a bridged pin for the win at 9:17. I love me some Furnas and Lafon, but there ain’t no one carrying McMahon’s brainfart to anything watchable. *
BRET HART chats with McMahon, and brings up the fact Shawn Michaels is going to be sitting ringside during his match. Vince says Shawn’s promised not to interfere, which Hart blows off since Shawn has no integrity. Hart would actually prefer he try and stick his nose in his match, so he can mop the floor with the Boy Toy. He has more to say, but is cut off by Sid’s entrance music, and storms off looking seriously pissed at the disrespect.
JIM ROSS plans himself in the ring to chat with WWF Champion SYCHO SID. Sid’s walking into “hostile territory” in San Antonio against Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble; but Sid isn’t intimidated by anyone or anything. Not man, not wolf, not squeegee. He vows to walk into and out of San Antonio The Man, due to his being the Master and Ruler of the World and all.
SHAWN MICHAELS and JOSE LOTHARIO skip down to ringside, and Shawn does a striptease on McMahon’s announce table, getting all sorts of unnatural noises emanating from Vince. Let us all be thankful he didn’t decide to floss his ass with a studded vest. Sid apologizes to Shawn ... for what he’s going to do to him later. Shawn responds by removing his pants and wiggling his hips. YOUR LEAD BABYFACE LADIES AND GERMS!
BRET HART vs. VADER
Cornette is nowhere to be seen, of course, having been stuffed into Undertaker’s body bag at the tail end of Superstars yesterday. I don’t know if it’s just because we’ve seen so many big fat guys since then, but Vader doesn’t seem as physically imposing today as he did 18 years ago. Vader tosses Bret to the floor, where he ... allows Bret to whip him into the stairs. That’s followed by a whip to the ringpost, and a whip to the guardrail. That didn’t exactly work out for Vader. Michaels lambasts Bret for claiming to be a man of integrity, while he’d happily whack you with a chair the second he was given an opportunity. Vince McMahon gives a hearty guffaw and tells Shawn he’s the most straight up superstar in WWF history. I’d suggest getting them a room, but it’s clear they’ve made this platform exactly that. Vader turns things around with a hard body-block, and start working over Bret with his giant hams in the corner. Vader comes off the top with a clothesline, as we catch a glimpse of STEVE AUSTIN watching in the backstage area, taking us to commercial.
Vader’s in full control when we get back, headed up to the second rope and delivering a pretty nasty looking splash – which Bret is lucky to kick out of at 2. Shawn continues to slag Bret in a fairly unnatural way for baby on baby action… and I love it. The complexity of their issues runs so deep that it trumps the way a babyface “should act”, and as a result they come across a little more human. Assuming, of course, regular humans gave lapdances to Vince McMahon while a middle aged fat guy in a jockstrap mask tries to kill a middle aged regular sized guy about 8 feet away. The Vaderbomb is blocked with the knees, but Vader sells it poorly, stopping the “bomb” about a foot from the connection point. Bret nails the Russian legsweep, while Shawn starts pointing out that Bret’s doing the exact same moveset he does every match. Axehandle sets up the backdrop suplex for a 2. A crossbody block takes both guys to the floor, and Bret throws a headbutt. SYCHO SID returns to ringside, and steals the cameraman for some reason. Vader ties up the referee in a heated discussion about high level chess, while STEVE AUSTIN runs down to give Bret the Stunner in the aisle. Hart’s sent back in, and this time the Vaderbomb hits for the win at 8:40. This was a disjointed mess, both guys are far better than this. *1/2
In the back, SYCHO SID has PETE LOTHARIO, and powerbombs him ON to a table in his locker room. No, not through it, that sucker had no give! Shawn dashes to the locker room, with Jose hobbling behind, but it’s too late. Michaels is an emotional disaster, screaming uncontrollably, while McMahon wishes us a good night!
This … was probably not the best RAW to start with. We have a long, long way to go.