The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.08.96
They have thankfully fixed the server issues with the Network and Roku is working perfectly tonight, so apparently some of that new budget actually went to dealing with the problems they were denying having.
Taped from San Bernadino, CA
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Mr. Perfect
Yokozuna v. The Man They Call Vader
This would be the first time they pulled out that name for Vader, I think, as he had been off TV for the past couple of months with shoulder surgery. I can just hear Art Donovan on commentary yelling HOW MUCH DOES THIS GUY WEIGH over and over for this match. Of note: Mr. Fuji is now at ringside waving the American flag. OK then. They exchange slaps and Yoko puts him down with a samoan drop, but Vader clotheslines him as Vince promises that they’ll start the show early every week from now on. That can’t have lasted long. Vader beats Yoko down in the corner, but Yoko comes back with a uranage and legdrop, and Vince declares it a “clash of BOHEMETHS”, which is a unique Vince-ism. Yoko pounds away in the corner, but Vader trips him up and splashes his ankle and the ref calls for the bell at 3:27. Vince sells it as a broken leg, and we get weird overdubbed ring announcing from Finkel declaring Vader the winner by ref stoppage. In a cool visual, they bring out a forklift to take Yokozuna away and tend to his broken leg. Nothing as a match, but it made Vader look like a killer.
The Ultimate Warrior makes his RAW debut, cutting a nonsensical promo that pops the crowd anyway, until Goldust interrupts his maniacal ramblings because he wants to play superheros with him. Warrior’s response: “What is, is, and whatever you’re into, I don’t give a shit.” In other words, QUEERING DON’T MAKE THE WORLD WORK. Warrior punks him out and sends him running to end the segment. This show has Vince Russo written ALL over it.
Meanwhile, we return to Yokozuna’s treatment, where Vader interrupts and smashes a chair into his already-broken leg because he’s kind of a jerk.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Duke Droese
Really, Duke was still getting TV time at this point? Droese attacks and sends Hunter fleeing, and back in we get a Flair Flip from Hunter. Press slam follows, but Duke charges and hits the floor. Hunter sends him into the stairs to take over and comes back in with a double axehandle for two. Perfect notes that Hunter might be focusing too much on his valets and should focus on the match more, which actually turned into an angle that paid off pretty big later in the year. We take a break and return with Droese escaping the Pedigree and making the comeback. Atomic drop into a spinebuster and he follows with a powerslam, but Hunter escapes the Trash Compactor and finishes with the Pedigree at 6:33. Hunter was actually improving tremendously at this point, moving past his initial snob character and becoming more of a snotty heel in general. Good TV match. **1/2
Meanwhile, Yokozuna gets loaded into the ambulance (“Like Free Willy”, notes Perfect).
Arm Wrestling match: Ahmed Johnson v. British Bulldog
Owen Hart is hilarious here, bitching about everything Ahmed does. Why didn’t anyone think of putting Owen and Bulldog together as a team before now? Finally Jack Doan has enough of Owen and sends him away, and with no further stalling Ahmed quickly wins the actual match. And then Bulldog of course attacks him and just destroys him with chairshots and whips him into the table, which is so loaded up with Ahmed’s oil that it doesn’t break. So Bulldog does it again. Still no breakage, so he just drops the table on him whole. That table is so fired. Probably a WCW spy. Great angle and Owen Hart as the insufferable little bastard was tremendous. Of note, the Observer reported on the tapings and specifically listed Shane McMahon as the referee, but it was actually Jack Doan and Vince even called him by name, so I have no idea where that came from.
Shawn Michaels v. Jerry Lawler
Big D is on commentary, wearing a Shawn Michaels shirt, as Vince works hard to get “Good Friends, Better Enemies” over as a catchphrase. Smart move, since In Your House VII was the first one to be officially subtitled. Nash was just on fire at this point, just before jumping to WCW. Shawn wins a comedy slugfest with Lawler and stops to high five fans at ringside. Back in, Lawler finds his phantom foreign object and takes over with a cheapshot. He chokes away as we take a break, and return with Lawler hammering away from the floor while Shawn sells on the apron. Piledriver gets two. Lawler goes up and gets nailed coming down, and Shawn makes the comeback with the flying elbow. Shawn stops to jaw at Diesel and Lawler goes to the tights again, but charges into a superkick for the pin at 10:34. You’d think this would be a huge trainwreck, but it was totally fine. **1/2 Diesel goes in and slugs it out with Shawn, and Perfect tosses him the title belt to really lay Shawn out. I love that Diesel made sure to take off his watch and sunglasses before kicking Shawn’s ass.
Best episode of the show in ages, actually. Three strong angles and some good wrestling make this one a solid thumbs up show.