The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.01.96 It’s the post-Wrestlemania edition of RAW, as requested! From 1996, sure, but it’s the thought that counts. Live from San Bernadino, CA, as the Shawn Michaels era has begun! Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Mankind v. Bob Holly And so Mrs. Foley’s baby boy debuts on RAW. Mankind attacks in the corner and beats Holly down, but Bob fights back with a dropkick. Mankind dumps him and follows with a hotshot into the apron. Back in, Holly gets hung in the Tree of Woe and dropkicked, and Mankind finishes with the MANDIBLE CLAW at 4:00. This was a case where everyone was dismissive of the character beforehand (“Oh, it’s just Cactus Jack in the WWF, big deal”) and then Mick Foley came in and hit the character out of the park in his first shot, using a new finisher (lifted from the real life doctor that The Fugitive was based on) and playing a totally different kind of psychopath. Also, Bob Holly chewing an Alka Seltzer to foam at the mouth and really sell the move was badass. ** Meltzer just COMPLETELY undersold this one in the Observer at the time. His summation: “They opened with Mankind, who got no reaction except for a half-dozen ECW fans in the front row chanting “he’s hardcore,” beating Bob Holly with the finishing move of sticking his fingers down Holly’s throat.” Come on, 1996 Dave, be cool. This was the debut of one of the most successful characters in wrestling history! Isaac Yankem v. “Wildman” Marc Mero So this gives us the RAW debuts of Marc Mero, as well as Sable at ringside. Mero quickly dropkicks Yankem to the floor and follows with a dive, and a slingshot legdrop gets two. Flying headscissors and a double axehandle gets two. This brings Hunter Hearst Helmsley out to harass Sable, and Mero is distracted enough for Yankem to take over with a backdrop suplex. It’s an Authority conspiracy! Mero comes back with a crucifix for two and a reverse rollup for two. The knockout punch puts Yankem down and a flying sunset flip finishes at 4:55. ** The Bodydonnas v. Barry Horowitz & Aldo Montoya The Donnas the new tag team champions, having defeated the Godwinns in the tournament final at Wrestlemania…in the pre-game show no less. If you had said even a year before that Chris Candido and Tom Pritchard would be tag team champions, you probably couldn’t have imagined a dumber way for them to end up in that spot. And of course it would get worse. So I should note at this point the combination of a shitty internet connection and Network problems combine to make the show unwatchable, so we are now picking things up a day later after I shut it off in frustration and played Path of the Warrior DLC on WWE 2K15 instead. That was pretty rad, I will say. Even as shitty at the game as I am thus far, I still managed to make it all the way through to Macho King before getting my ass irrevocably kicked. I’m sure Honky Tonk Man is flattered that you literally only have to do two Quicktime events to unlock him. The Hogan match is also really, really fun. Anyway, back to this match, as this kicks off the epic “Sunny as tag title whore” storyline which culminated in the Smoking Gunns’ heel turn. Aldo dominates with his high flying Portuguese martial arts and headlocks and shit, as Vince has trouble telling Skip and Zip apart. As a hint, if Ahmed Johnson is banging his girlfriend in exchange for coke, it’s probably Skip. The Bodydonnas double-team Aldo to take over, much like the double-teaming that occurred when…never mind, let’s just leave it alone. Aldo gets beat up in the corner, but comes back with a sick suplex on Skip from the apron to the floor, and he follows with a dive on both heels. Didn’t he get the note that TV jobbers didn’t need to give a shit? Barry Horowitz gets the hot tag and runs wild with a rollup on Skip for two, but that train has sailed. Aldo comes in and gets caught with a german suplex for two and Skip powerbombs him, then follows with a top rope rana into a Zip cannonball for the pin at 5:31. This was like a real match and everything. **1/2 After the break, we get a big ol’ RSPW sign on camera. How about that. Shawn Michaels joins us as the WWF champion for the first time, and he’s going to have to wrestle Jerry Lawler next week and then Diesel at the next PPV. Shawn’s use of “the Kliq” for his fanbase is about as forced and obnoxious as “WWE Universe” today and about as effective. This was kind of a bland, bad start for Shawn as champion. Undertaker v. Justin Hawk Bradshaw Baby JBL attacks and beats on his future cult leader, into a powerslam for two. Taker immediately sits up, so Bradshaw drops him with a lariat and puts him on the floor as we take a break. Back with UT making the comeback until a sideslam gets two for Bradshaw. Bradshaw goes aerial with a shoulderblock for two. Another try is reversed into a powerslam for two, but Bradshaw just levels him with another lariat. If he didn’t have the body of Chris Hero at this point he probably would have been World champion by Summerslam. A third lariat misses and Taker puts him away with the chokeslam and tombstone at 6:20, as Mankind runs in and attacks Undertaker. Fun, hard-hitting match. **1/2 And then Mankind just completely destroys him, dropping the Cactus elbow off the apron and putting him out with the Mandible Claw. This was pretty big for Undertaker, as the feud really humanized him and finally gave him something to do that wasn’t just “goofy heel steals the urn and something something magic powers” over and over. The Pulse This was a pretty awesome and historic post-WM show. Hopefully it doesn’t turn to dogshit again for a while.