What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 30, 1996

-Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels cut
brief promos on each other to hype their face-to-face segment tonight.
-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the
King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Albany, New York.

-Opening Contest:  “The Real Double J” Jesse James & Savio
Vega (and Bret Hart) defeat Faarooq & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/the
Nation of Domination) via disqualification when Crush interferes at 10:26
shown:
This
Faarooq-Austin pairing is probably the weirdest pairing I’ve ever seen.  James sings “With My Baby Tonight” on his way
to the ring and just as I tire of the song, Austin leaves the ring and nails
James in the aisle.  Awesome.  Savio works his usual midcard magic, by
scoring some near-falls on his side, but James eventually goes down with a knee
injury about an Austin chop block, bringing out Bret, who gets to substitute
for the face side.  In kayfabe world
that’s really unfair, but the referee doesn’t seem to mind.  Bret receives the momentum swinging tag and
tries to apply the Sharpshooter to Faarooq, but Crush runs in and creates the
disqualification.  This was a nice way to
further the Bret-Austin feud without having a long physical encounter between
the two.  Rating:  **½
-After the match, the Nation of
Domination lay waste to Bret and Savio until Ahmed Johnson forces everyone to
flee with a 2×4.  It looks like James got
off easy with a small knee injury here. 
Ahmed gets on the house mic and reminds Faarooq that he’s going down at
the Royal Rumble.
-Non-Title Match:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Intercontinental
Champion) pins Flash Funk (w/The Funkettes) after nailing Funk with the title
belt at 8:58 shown:
Just
like last week, Goldust makes an entrance through the crowd and takes a seat in
the lower arena section for this match.  Funk
uses his usual aerial offense here, but he’s in a styles clash with Helmsley,
who wants to wrestle a more technical encounter.  What you get out of this is a big mess that
builds to nothing until Lawler leaves the announce table and insults Goldust on
the house mic during the match.  That’s
completely distracting, but I’m not shocked that we’re putting angles before
the ring work here and it’s not like it’s unwarranted.  The distraction presented by Lawler causes
the referee to develop a premature case of adult onset ADD and Helmsley takes
advantage for the victory.  This loss
cuts off some of Funk’s momentum and Helmsley enhances his status over the rest
of the WWF’s ridiculous midcard during this period.  Rating:  *½
-After the match, Goldust comes
over the guardrail at Lawler and when Helmsley tries to attack him from behind,
Funk intervenes and he rolls Helmsley back into the ring and hits a 450 splash.
-Shawn Michaels says that no one
gets in his face and tonight is no exception to that.
-Jim Ross moderates a
face-to-face segment between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.  Bret says that Shawn never apologized for
costing him the WWF title at In Your House and rants about getting screwed out
of the title at WrestleMania XII.  Bret
takes a shot at Michaels for posing for Playgirl and accuses Michaels of
degrading the WWF title.  Michaels says
that Bret is no role model, but before he gets to go on a tangent of his own,
Sid interrupts.  Sid says he’s tired of
people talking about his title and he wants some competition, so the Undertaker
comes out.  However, as he comes down to
the ring, Vader attacks him.  The
Undertaker dispatches of him and goes eye to eye with Sid.  That doesn’t last long as Vader comes back
and the Undertaker and he head back to the locker room.  Meanwhile, Michaels crotches Bret on the
middle rope and dives onto Sid and that takes us to a commercial break.  I know the story they were trying to tell
here, but I would’ve preferred to have Bret and Shawn shoot on each other for a
while.  I can see why Michaels would be
upset by this segment because they let Bret run him down for five or six
minutes and he only got one sentence to respond.
Jerry “the King” Lawler defeats Goldust
(w/Marlena) via count out at 2:47 shown:
This
match is pure angle fodder as Hunter Hearst Helmsley and the Honky Tonk Man are
on guest commentary and Helmsley leaves the announce table minutes into the
match and carries Marlena to the locker room. 
Marc Mero cuts him off as Goldust chases after Helmsley, but Helmsley
tosses Marlena over to Mero and side steps Goldust, causing him to crash into
Mero, creating injury to Marlena and causing him to lose the match.  Helmsley pounds away on Goldust and Mero and
that plays us out.  A decent ending to
Raw, but it’s obvious that they were trying ANYTHING to put heel heat on
Helmsley.
-Tune
in next week to see Bret Hart face Vader!
The
Final Report Card:  The face-to-face
segment had promise and Bret started it off well, but it devolved into a sideshow
of egos after he finished his part.  The
opening tag match was fun, but they didn’t play with it as much as they should
have and everything else is very passable. 
Looking at this year, it’s amazing that they stuck with Helmsley because
he was generating very little heat as champion, but you can never count anyone
out in the wrestling business.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.6 for
Nitro)
Show
Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

Now that I have finished reviewing 1996, where do the readers want me to go?  I’ve got several choices, so any replies/feedback are welcomed when making the decision:

*1993, 1994, 1995, or 1997 Raw
*1994, 1995, or 1996 Superstars
*1994 or 1995 Action Zone