by Logan Scisco
-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New Haven, Connecticut.
-Opening “Tough Man” Contest: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) via disqualification after the Executioner interferes at 9:00 shown:
Yokozuna injured Vader’s shoulder last night at the Survivor Series so Mankind is taking his spot. This match continues the WWF’s move away from strictly having face vs. heel matchups and this is billed as a “tough man” contest, where both men are fighting for pride. That works for me. Ross does a fantastic job selling the intensity of the match on commentary and we get lots of wild brawling that goes into the crowd. The crowd senses that this is something different than what they usually get at a WWF event and they eat it up with a silver spoon. This is a pure war of attrition that is unfortunately cut short by the Executioner’s interference when it appears that Austin might have the match won after getting a near-fall from his second rope elbow drop. The Undertaker runs down to make the Executioner and Mankind flee, but Austin clotheslines the Undertaker over the top rope instead of saying thank you. Rating: ***
-We get a replay of the Austin-Undertaker encounter at the end of the Austin-Mankind match.
-Ahmed Johnson takes a seat in the crowd and Sunny comes down to the ring. She welcomes Faarooq, the leader of the Nation of Domination, to the ring. PG-13 does the cool NOD rap as Faarooq makes his entrance with Clarence Mason.
-Rocky Maivia’s performance at the Survivor Series is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.
-Faarooq (w/Nation of Domination) pins Savio Vega after PG-13 hit Savio with a 2×4 at 8:10 shown:
Savio has a chance to get revenge on Faarooq here for beating him in the first round of the Intercontinental title tournament a couple of months ago, but the announcers focus is on Faarooq’s new Nation of Domination cult of personality. Faarooq and Savio play to each other’s strengths, with Savio taking great bumps from Faarooq’s power offense and Faarooq allowing Savio to get enough hope spots to break up the monotony of long beat down segments. There is a scary part of the match where Savio goes for a superplex and either he or Faarooq botch something and dangerously fall off the top rope and to the floor. I’m surprised Faarooq didn’t break his neck. Although the pacing of this was slow, both guys gave a great effort and ended up looking good as a result. Rating: **½
-After the match, Ahmed Johnson runs down to ringside, takes out PG-13, grabs the 2×4 and forces Faarooq and Clarence Mason to flee into the crowd. Ahmed gets on the house mic and says that Faarooq is going down, which the crowd chants with him. Scott makes fun of Ahmed’s enunciation in this segment, but Ahmed is easily understandable here.
-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament Sunny defeats Bob Backlund, which sets up an interesting semi-final match with Sable.
-McMahon narrates photographs of last night’s Sid-Shawn Michaels title match at the Survivor Series. McMahon reflects on Michaels title reign and takes a few subtle shots at the fans who booed him last night at Madison Square Garden.
–Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon defeat Leif Cassidy & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly after LaFon pins Cassidy following a side suplex out of a cobra clutch at 5:56 shown:
Owen Hart and the British Bulldog appear in the split screen and say that they were impressed with Furnas and LaFon last night, but that they weren’t ready so the win that the newest tag team in the WWF scored was worthless. It’s really odd that they paired Cassidy and Holly together, but after Jannetty’s injury at the pay-per-view they probably didn’t have a lot of reliable options at their disposal. The roster was thin enough at this stage of 1996. Furnas and LaFon look more comfortable than they did last night at the pay-per-view, which is understandable. Everyone worked well together here, but the whole purpose of the contest was to showcase Furnas and LaFon, so it’s not like this match was very competitive or ever in doubt. Rating: **
-Call 1-88-WWF-SHOP to get a piece of the 1996 Survivor Series mat for $59! I guess these didn’t sell well because the WWE doesn’t do this today.
-Ross interviews WWF Champion Sid. The crowd showers Sid with applause and Sid says that Jose Lothario intervened in the match last night and when he stepped into the game, he deserved every bit of what he got. Sid says he’d give Shawn Michaels a rematch and that he will be a fighting champion on behalf of the people. Sid addresses Bret Hart, who he will face at In Your House, and accidentally says “Bretman” instead of “Hitman” and then corrects himself. Ross should’ve just ended the interview after the people part because the part about Bret didn’t flow with the rest of the interview.
The Final Report Card: People tend to complain that Raw didn’t offer a lot of great ring work during this time period, but this show proves that generalization wrong. With a new influx of talent like Furnas and LaFon, and Flash Funk, the WWF was bolstering the number of guys on the roster who could go out and put on solid matches. This is a great wrestling show, with guys giving it their all in each match and doing everything they could to entertain the crowd.
Monday Night War Rating: 2.4 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)
Show Grade: Thumbs Up