While we have just completed the entire run of sometimes great, sometimes awful, but never dull WCW programming in 1996, it’s easy to forget there was still another game in town. Over at Titan Towers, things were not promising.
RAW was in the dumps, regularly drawing less than 5000 fans per crowd. They’d managed to crawl out of the rock bottom high school gyms of 1995, but they still had a long way to go. Many of their top draws had run off to the greener pastures of WCW, and they were left with a bare bones staff of wrestlers who were hungry, and happy to be employed. WCW cast-offs like Steve Austin and Mick Foley were finding themselves under new characters, and enjoying success. Brian Pillman was a shell of himself physically, but his charisma was off the charts. They had gone all-in on Shawn Michaels through 1996, and while ratings fell further as WCW monopolized the Monday Night Crowd, it was through no fault of his effort; able to put on a **** match with himself if he needed to.
Bret Hart had sat out most of 1996, taking some time to heal up after 13 consecutive years on the road, and figure out his future. Ultimately, he chose loyalty over money, and signed a 20 year deal to keep himself in the WWF for the rest of his life. Not everyone was happy to see him, however, and Bret was immediately tested by the young upstarts who were waiting to get their hands on him; specifically in the guise of a pissed off Steve Austin.
The trouble with the WWF was, after all the defections, the company didn’t really know who they were anymore. The campy 80’s had clearly passed them by, and WCW was putting on a smarter product every week, with strong undercard wrestling, and a hot nWo storyline. They needed a full-fledged makeover. Shows like Jerry Springer were all the rage on TV, and the WWF, in a desperation attempt to reclaim their lost fanbase, decided to move in a trashier direction. If it failed, they were cooked. But if they were right … the sky was the limit.
Queue Shotgun Saturday Night; a late night concept devised from the insanity we know as Vince McMahon. By moving the show to a late night slot, they had the creative freedom to do more “adult oriented” content than the norm. As such, this is the debut edition. On with the show.
A graphic violence warning is provided, before cutting over to the lineup of fans (all 30 of them?) waiting to get into the Mirage Nightclub in New York City – home of Shotgun Saturday Night. An amped BOB BACKLUND encourages everyone to go home, due to the sexual activity, violence, and crime taking place inside. “WHO’S THAT GOOD FOR? IT SHOULD BE BANNED! NEW YORK CITY SHOULD BE BANNED! SATURDAY NIGHT SHOULD BE BANNED!”
Who’s to say he’s wrong? Cue the opening montage, featuring all sorts of adult activities such as porno theatres, Sunny, Shawn Michaels’ bare ass, and the Undertaker who apparently lives in the sewer now.
A grunting VINCE MCMAHON and dancing SUNNY are your hosts from inside the night club. The wild scene is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in pro wrestling to this point; with a smaller ring than your typical WWF fare sitting in the middle of a dance party. And I’m not talking about this kind of dance party, I mean a legitimate Saturday night out on the town.
A completely out of place TODD PETTINGILL has managed to track down a handful of wrestling fans, who excitedly check out a couple of Klan members in the middle of the ring. Sorry, my mistake, they’re a new tag-team apparently, and they look ridiculous.
THE FLYING NUNS vs. THE GODWINNS (with Hillbilly Jim)
The Nuns are “Sister Angelica” and “Mother Smucker”, decidedly non-Catholic I’d reckon since they start throwing punches at the hog farmers. Sister Angelica starts with Phineas, drawing a “HOLY SHIT” chance for some reason. The ever hip McMahon agrees: “Holy cow indeed, ha ha ha!” Henry tags in and hits Angelica with a shoulderblock. Smucker gets the tag, and they give each other the sign of the cross – what the hell man? Phineas tries to woo Smucker until Henry smacks sense in to him. We’re like 4 minutes into this match, and absolutely nothing has happened, with the exception of the rowdy fans who’ve started a “GO TO HELL” chant. BROTHER LOVE hits ringside, and the Nuns hit the deck to kneel before him. Thankfully, we take a commercial break.
We’re back, and the “fight” is back on, and Henry hits a backdrop to FINALLY give us something resembling a wrestling match. Angelica prays for Henry, and the Nuns return for a conference with Brother Love. Angelica comes off the top with a karate chop to the shoulder, and the Nuns stomp down Henry in the corner. The fans start an “ECW” chant, which seems apropos since this is completely low rent indy garbage. The Nuns continue their double team work on Henry, drawing the ire of the referee who yells a lot and does absolutely nothing about it. Smucker goes to finish with the guillotine legdrop, but Henry rolls away (all 18 inches) to his corner to get the hot tag. The fans completely turn on this, and start booing it. Not to worry though, because the Nuns inject Phineas with the Holy Spirit, stopping him in his tracks. A dropkick, and a shot from Brother Love’s giant bible is all it takes for the Nuns to score the upset at 9:28. For those of you who weren’t around in 1997 to see it; the Nuns are a still relatively new “Headbangers”. If this is what the WWF had in mind to kick off its hot new edgy program, then this show’s already on death watch. -**
TODD PETTINGILL asks Brother Love what the deal with the Nuns are. He loves them because they’re virginal, having never been touched by anyone but their own hands. Going forward, they’ll be known as the Sisters of Love, and all tag-teams best watch their back.
ROCKY MAIVIA is hanging out with all the young cats down in the VIP lounge, but so are GOLDUST and MARLENA. An irate BOB BACKLUND bursts in on the scene to scream that neither one of them are beautiful, demanding Marlena cover up and asking where her mother is? “THAT’S CLEAVAGE LADY! KEEP THAT OUT OF YOUR LIVES!” This is what the RTC needed in 2000. Give that man a World Title!
GOLDUST (with Marlena) vs. THE SULTAN (with Bob Backlund)
Goldust knocks Sultan to the floor and rubs his nipples. Vince notes that a number of ex-champions have endorsed the Sultan to this point, which may have him on the fast track to the big belt himself. I think he actually believes this stuff. Goldust hits a clothesline for 2. A sleeper is applied, and the announce crew tries to get a word with Backlund. “I CAN’T HEAR WITHOUT MY GLASSES ON!” Sultan clotheslines Goldust, and splashes him in the corner. A couple of kneedrops to the face, while Vince spews his favorite tagline: “You never know what will happen in the World Wrestling Federation!” Sultan drops a leg, getting 2. A powerslam gets all of 1, and Goldust goes into his cat pose. Sultan works a nerve hold, while Mr. Bob works to repair the fabric of America. The fans start getting into this, with a rowdy “FATU SUCKS” chant. Goldust hits a butt butt, and misses an axehandle. Sultan nails a falling headbutt for 2. They head to the outside, and Sultan grabs a chair but the referee is quick to take it away. They head back in, where Sultan misses a blind charge and takes a neckbreaker. Goldust gets a 6-count of punches in the corner, but he can’t get to 10 because he desperately feels the urge to rub himself. Is he on ecstasy or something? A bulldog looks to finish, but Sultan kicks out because this match is never going to end apparently. A hard clothesline gets 2. Sultan turns things around with a Samoan drop, and slaps on the camel clutch. Marlena jumps to the apron, and takes off her top causing Sunny to start making high pitched screams. Backlund goes completely insane, flapping around like he’s gone into a seizure, and Sultan hits the floor. Goldust appears to start masturbating through his tights, while Sultan is counted out at 9:39. Who the hell gave these two 10 minutes? Pettingill declares the winner of this match to be Marlena. DUD
Sunny loses her business, reminding us she’s still the sexiest woman in the WWF and promises a special surprise to all her fans next week; one of her personal sex tapes. “That’s right Vince, I’m gonna show you all a tape of me doing the wild thing baby! If Pam Anderson can do it, so can I.”
KONA CRUSH (with Clarence Mason) vs. AHMED JOHNSON
With 15 minutes left on the show, there’s an excellent chance we won’t see any positive snowflakes tonight. Johnson spears Crush, and powerslams him. Crush is tossed to the outside, but this ain’t WCW so it’s legal. Crush is dropped face first on the guardrail, while Vince gets shooty: “Crush is doing some hard time in there with Ahmed Johnson”. Crush is sent back in, and Ahmed rears back from the dance floor, and manages to jump from the floor, over the top rope and hit a flying clothesline. Crush throws a couple of punches to gain control, while Clarence Mason is asked about his relationship with Crush. He feels Crush has been used and abused, but today’s a new day, and the Nation of Domination will overtake the WWF. The fans start a “JAIL BIRD” chant, while Crush applies a full nelson. Ahmed breaks out of the hold with little effort, and hits an axe kick. Ahmed sets up the Pearl River Plunge, but D’LO BROWN attacks and we have a DQ at 4:00. 1/2*
Ahmed kills D’Lo with a spinebuster, but can’t get the Pearl River Plunge because Crush clotheslines him from behind. They double team Ahmed, and Crush grabs a chair, smacking him full force in the face. GOLDUST and THE GODWINNS dive into the ring to protect Ahmed from any more abuse … except Ahmed’s back up and chases the Nation right out the back door. Out on to 56th Street, the fight continues, and poor D’Lo Brown is given the Pearl River Plunge on the roof of a parked car!
MASCARITA SAGRADA vs. MINI VADER (with Jim Cornette)
Sagrada was on Nitro this past Monday, but has since come to terms with the WWF. Quite frankly, they can have him. Before the match, Sunny joins her favorite midget in the ring, and they do the Macarena while Todd Pettingill makes up his own lyrics.
He comes from a place where you shouldn’t drink the water /
Not much taller than my two year old daughter /
He’ll bite later, like a gator /
When he steps into the ring with Mini Vader /
He’s no igit, he’s a midget /
And his favorite TV show is Pitch It /
He’s got the powers and the quickness of a cheetah /
Small enough to swallow like a human picadita /
He’s getting more attention than Madonna in a Evita /
He’s Mascarida /
His only preparation is to drink a margarita /
He’s Mascarida … HEY!
I … just … well … sigh. It should come as no surprise that this is the funniest thing Vince has EVER heard. Vader finally has enough and kicks Max in the face. A senton misses, and Max hits a springboard armdrag. Another armdrag sends Vader to the floor, while Cornette joins commentary and complains about Vader being the biggest pain in the ass he’s ever dealt with. With that, he hits the ring, and calls time-out. And thus we do, with a commercial break.
We return with Max flying to the outside with a springboard plancha. Back in, Vader hits a superkick that Max takes about 3 seconds to start selling. Vader hits a clothesline, and nails a powerbomb. A corner senton misses, and Max comes off the top with a rana that sends Vader to the floor. A 360 corkscrew plancha is on point, but it hurts Max more than Vader. Back in, Max nails a Frankensteiner, and follows with a missile dropkick for the pin at 3:54. Match of the night! *
Cornette tosses Vader out of the ring, and challenges Max to a brawl himself. Vader gets back in and lies in wait behind Jimmy, while Max shoves him backwards to trip him up. And since ANYTHING can happen in the World Wrestling Federation, they rip his pants off.
Let’s not kid ourselves. If this aired today, it would widely be recognized as the worst concept in wrestling history. They’re still trotting out the same stupid gimmicked characters of yesteryear, but trying to put them in an adult environment, and it simply doesn’t mesh. The only people who could even remotely appear to be with this kind of snuff environment were Goldust, Marlena, and Sunny. (And of course, an outraged Bob Backlund is never a bad idea.)
However, the WWF was in dire straits, as we noted at the top – and I’ll give them credit for trying anything different as opposed to rolling over and letting WCW walk all over them. They were on the right track by recognizing they had an untapped adult audience that was waiting for them; but it was simply a matter of figuring out how to massage the product to them. This DEFINITELY wasn’t it, but we’re headed places.