What the World Was Watching: Wrestling Challenge – January 1, 1995

Although I have reviewed some of the early Attitude Era action on the Blog, I am going to embark on a new project:  reviewing all of the major televised action for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1995.  Readers are likely aware that 1995 was a terrible financial year for the company, with James Dixon writing in Titan Sinking that Vince McMahon and Titan Sports lost $6 million.  The wrestling industry was in the doldrums in the mid-1990s, reeling from declining ratings; the end of the Hulkamania boom; and lingering suspicions from sponsors about steroid and drug use, which caused the federal government to put McMahon on trial in the summer of 1994.

On a personal note, 1995 was the year that I got into wrestling.  Being exposed to the business during one of its worst times did not phase me since I had nothing else to compare it to.  I knew nothing of workrate or star ratings and accepted Diesel as the WWF champion.  However, it was painfully obvious to me that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were clearly the best and I enjoyed their televised matches throughout the year.  Little did I know at the time that both men had a significant rivalry behind the scenes and when it exploded in Montreal two years later it would help the WWF regain its position as the supreme brand of professional wrestling in North America.

These reviews will chronicle major WWF programming in 1995.  We will go through Wrestling Challenge, Monday Night Raw, Superstars, and The Action Zone.  Pay-per-views will also be covered, as will the occasional Sunday Night Slam where warranted.  Win-loss records will be provided for talent throughout the year and matches will be recapped, with reflections on the purpose of those matches and how they fit into existing storylines.  I will also compile other statistics – house show attendance, drawing power for champions – that I will share periodically.  Furthermore, for each week of action I will try to provide a brief calendar of notable events so readers can see the context that all of this booking is fitting into.  The reviews will be posted to the Blog on Tuesdays and Fridays going forward.

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ECW on Sci-Fi #41 03/20/2007

Dramatic recap of Bobby Lashley becoming the first person to break Chris Masters’ Masterlock, something that went unbroken for two years as Operation: Get Lashley The Fuck Over continues. Masters isn’t happy so he’s wrestling Lashley in a real match tonight, right here in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Smackdown – August 15, 2002

Smackdown
Date: August 15, 2002
Location: Key Arena, Seattle, Washington
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

With ten days to go before Summerslam, the Raw half of the card is mostly filled in. That leaves a lot of Smackdown to go and that could mean some interesting things going on. Now of course the important thing tonight is Brock Lesnar vs. Rikishi because that’s the kind of match that needs to be advertised. Let’s get to it.

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NXT – January 11, 2017

NXT
Date: January 11, 2017
Location: Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentators: Percy Watson, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips

We’re back to Full Sail and that means it’s time to hit the gas on the road towards San Antonio. The NXT Title match is already set up but now it’s time to set up the Tag Team Title match. We know that the Authors of Pain are waiting on the champions but the question is who will be defending against them. That’s what we’ll find out tonight as the Revival gets their rematch against DIY. Let’s get to it.

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Monday Night Raw – August 12, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: August 12, 2002
Location: Key Arena, Seattle, Washington
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

With less than two weeks to go before Summerslam, it might be nice to add a few matches to the card. Unless I’m missing something, all we have at the moment is Rock vs. Lesnar and HHH vs. Shawn Michaels. While those are both big matches, you need more than that to fill out a show. I mean, Shawn and HHH might disagree but not everyone thinks like they do. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – January 10, 2017

Smackdown
Date: January 10, 2017
Location: Raising Cane’s River Center Arena, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga, Tom Phillips

As is becoming the regular case around here, we’ve got a title match set up coming into the show. In this case it’s the Tag Team Titles being defended as American Alpha put the titles on the line against the Wyatt Family. Other than that we have John Cena’s first singles match in a long time as he faces Baron Corbin. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – August 8, 2002

Smackdown
Date: August 8, 2002
Location: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s time for a showdown as we have what would have been a dream match back in the 80s, assuming it could have actually been booked. Tonight we have Brock Lesnar vs. Hulk Hogan in what could either make Lesnar look like a killer or wind up killing what little heat he’s built up over the last few months. Let’s get to it.

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Monday Night Raw – August 5, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: August 5, 2002
Location: Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, Maryland
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

Summerslam continues to approach and that means we’re in need of some major matches. The big story around here though is someone attacking Shawn Michaels, sending HHH right back into caring about his former best friend who he just happens to beat up every now and then. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – January 3, 2017

Smackdown
Date: January 3, 2016
Location: Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Jacksonville, Florida
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga, Tom Phillips

It’s the first show of the year and because this is Smackdown Live, they actually have something set up. In this case it’s a double shot with Dean Ambrose challenging Miz for the Intercontinental Title and John Cena signing his contract for the Royal Rumble World Title match against AJ Styles. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – August 1, 2002

Smackdown
Date: August 1, 2002
Location: Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s back to the blue show where Brock Lesnar is a monster and everyone else is just hoping he doesn’t come after them. On top of that though we have a new face force comprised of John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Edge, who cleaned house to end last week’s show. That being said, their opponents are now gone due to Bischoff vs. Stephanie. Let’s get to it.

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Monday Night Raw – July 29, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: July 29, 2002
Location: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

We’re officially in the HHH Era on Raw but unfortunately he doesn’t really have a lot to do yet. Last week HHH debuted on the show and turned heel by beating up Shawn Michaels, but there’s absolutely no way that’s going to lead to a match anytime soon of course. With about a month left before Summerslam, the card is in need of some matches in a hurry. Let’s get to it.

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NXT – December 28, 2016

NXT
Date: December 28, 2016
Location: Edion Arena, Osaka, Japan
Commentators: Corey Graves, Tom Phillips

It’s a special week in NXT as we’re closing out the year with a house show taped over in Japan earlier this month. The main event is Shinsuke Nakamura challenging Samoa Joe for the title in a match we saw a few weeks back. This is also a two hour show, meaning the matches won’t have to be as clipped. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – December 27, 2016

Smackdown
Date: December 27, 2016
Location: Allstate Arena, Chicago, Illinois
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga

As usual, Smackdown has a stacked show with three title matches to close out the year, putting it a bit ahead of the World Champion losing to the midcard champion in a combination rematch/preview of the upcoming title match. On top of that, some guy named Cena is back tonight and probably opening the show. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – July 25, 2002

Smackdown
Date: July 25, 2002
Location: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s another big night for Smackdown as we have the in ring debut of Rey Mysterio as well as the Smackdown debut of Brock Lesnar, who Stephanie stole this past Monday. We’re also getting ready for Summerslam and that’s the best thing that could happen after a rather dreadful summer. Let’s get to it.

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Monday Night Raw – July 22, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: July 22, 2002
Location: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

We’re just over a month away from Summerslam but more importantly, HHH is now officially on Raw. I know it’s not the best sounding thing in the world but at this point, Raw is absolutely dying for star power and HHH gives them a top name. Booker T., Rob Van Dam and Ric Flair are big names but they’re not top level stars at this point, making HHH a necessary evil. Let’s get to it.

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NXT – December 21, 2016

NXT
Date: December 21, 2016
Location: Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentators: Percy Watson, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips

It’s time to start the build towards “Takeover: San Antonio” as we have a four way elimination match to crown a new #1 contender. Tonight it’s Bobby Roode vs. Andrade Cien Almas vs. Tye Dillinger vs. Roderick Strong for the shot at Shinsuke Nakamura in January. We’ve also got Daria Berenato vs. Billie Kay in a revenge match. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – December 20, 2016

Smackdown
Date: December 20, 2016
Location: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga

We’re in the home stretch of 2016 and Smackdown is going out with a bang. Tonight we have two title matches and a major match between Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose. It’s unlikely that they’re going to change either the Intercontinental or Smackdown World Title here but stranger things have happened. Let’s get to it.

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Vengeance 2002

Vengeance 2002
Date: July 21, 2002
Location: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Attendance: 12,000
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Tazz

We’re in an interesting place here as both shows have their first General Managers but the stories are hit and miss at best. The main event is the Rock, who has had one match since he came back, challenging Undertaker for the title in a triple threat also involving Kurt Angle. This is really just a pit stop before Summerslam though so let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – July 18, 2002

Smackdown
Date: July 18, 2002
Location: First Union Arena, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the go home show for Vengeance but the bigger story here is the in ring return of the Rock who will be facing Kurt Angle to warm up for his World Title match on Sunday. Other than that we get to meet the first Smackdown General Manager, who I’m sure won’t be a huge disappointment and create a bunch of plot holes. Let’s get to it.

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Monday Night Raw – July 15, 2002

Monday Night Raw
Date: July 15, 2002
Location: Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Commentators: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

This is a big one. Last week it was clear that something had to change around here after one of the most dreadful nights in the history of this show. It’s not so much that the wrestling was bad (save for the mixed tag) but there was almost nothing worth watching and one boring match after another. Things really do need to change and change they will. Let’s get to it.

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Tribute to the Troops 2016

Tribute to the Troops 2016
Date: December 14, 2016
Location: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Commentators: Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, John Bradshaw Layfield

I try so hard to care about this show but it feels like WWE puts in less of an effort every single year. This is the annual show for the members of the United States military, meaning almost nothing of consequence will happen and the big main event will be Americans vs. foreigners. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – December 13, 2016

Smackdown
Date: December 13, 2016
Location: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Commentators: Tom Phillips, John Bradshaw Layfield, David Otunga, Mauro Ranallo

As has been the case more often than not lately, we’ve got a fairly stacked Tuesday show. Tonight it’s a tag team battle royal to determine some new #1 contenders to go along with AJ Styles defending the Smackdown World Title against James Ellsworth. Smackdown doesn’t have anything major to set up until the Royal Rumble so it’s all about big TV until then. Let’s get to it.

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ECW on Sci-Fi #37 02/20/2007

Show sadly starts with a In Memory Of Mike Awesome. Awesome had a mullet and wasn’t a great talker but was able to live up to his surname every night by being The Heavyweight That Flew Like A Cruiserweight in FMW and ECW where not being the total package wasn’t an issue. Paul Heyman made sure Awesome wasn’t cutting soliloquies and made sure to was pair him with super-bumpers like Masato Tanaka and Spike Dudley so he looked like money (that ECW wasn’t paying him). The teased mega-feud between him, Rob Van Dam and Sabu in early 2000 sadly never happened after RVD got injured and ECW parted ways with Awesome and Sabu. Sadly neither WCW or WWF had Heyman’s ability to cover a wrestler’s weaknesses (something that still hurts WWE today) and Awesome took on humiliating gimmicks and became a Heat regular. Awesome was able to turn back the clock at One Night Stand 2005 and stole the show against preferred rival Tanaka in what would be his final match. To me and many others, it didn’t matter that Heyman presented him as an evil traitor or WCW decided he should be That Seventies Guy, he’ll always be remembered as Mike Fucking Awesome.

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Smackdown – July 11, 2002

Smackdown
Date: July 11, 2002
Location: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the week after a big show and the top story is the return of the Rock. It’s not clear what he’s going to be doing here but odds are it’s something rather simple that is going to be considered amazing because it’s the Rock. If nothing else he needs to start the build towards Vengeance when he challenges for the World Title. Let’s get to it.

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