The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 10.28.96
Taped from Ft. Wayne, IN
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler
“Double J” Jesse Jammes v. Salvatore Sincere
This is like a Pat Patterson alliterative naming wet dream. Vince actually calls him Jeff Jarrett, which surprisingly isn’t edited out in post. Jammes, dressed like a dorky country music star wannabe, was DOA as a gimmick from 3 seconds into this debut match. JJ does some jiving to keep Sincere off-balance and bumps him to the floor after a comedy spot. Back in, Sincere takes over with a cheapshot and goes up, but Jammes slams him off, to the delight of the empty seats in the arena. Corner clothesline and pumphandle slam finish at 4:10. This gimmick had “jobber” written all over it. ½*
Meanwhile, Dok runs down the Survivor Series card, but keeps getting harassed by Steve Austin in the studio in a funny running gag.
Crush v. Aldo Montoya
Why the hell does Aldo get pyro? Crush attacks and pounds away in the corner, then follows with a backbreaker while they try to get the “Jailbird” thing over. Crush presses him to the floor while JR joins us on commentary and bitches about being relegated to the “preliminary matches” with an obvious winner. Aldo makes the comeback but falls victim to the heart punch at 2:35. JR questions if the jockstrap on Aldo’s face was Vince’s idea, and then notes that the heart punch would be ineffective on Vince. 2 for 2, Boomer Sooner. Crush beats up a security geek because reasons. After going through the first season of Wentworth on Netflix I’m less than impressed by Crush’s prison cred. Speaking of Clarence Mason, it’s announced here that he’ll be taking over for Faarooq, which leads me indirectly to your Wrestling Observer newsbit of the week: “On the Live Wire show a few weeks back when Johnson was on, a caller who said he was black, asked about racism in the WWF and Johnson said there wasn’t any. It was actually a set up call as the “caller” was Kevin Dunn, a white producer of the show.” Oh Kevin Dunn.
Meanwhile, it’s the first round of the 1996 Karate Fighters tournament, as Mr. Perfect squashes PIG. This would be the exception to my Tournaments Are Awesome rule.
Meanwhile on Superstars, Brian Pillman makes the mistake of cheering on Bret Hart one time too many, and Steve Austin makes him pay via PILLMANIZING. Obviously that’s how they wrote him out after his final ankle surgery. Austin, in the studio, denies ever being Pillman’s friend and says he was pulling the strings all along, then notes that Gorilla is just Vince’s puppet and everyone knows who really owns the WWF. Austin’s gonna make a lot of money off Vince from the Bret Hart match, but he’d just as soon kick his ass for free. Austin was MAGNIFICENT here, cutting loose with all guns blazing and sounding like the biggest star in the business. Oh, and next week he’s gonna visit the recovering Brian Pillman at his house. Yeah, THAT show.
Billy Gunn v. Freddie Joe Floyd
There have been many aborted attempts to push Billy Gunn over the years, all of which were terrible, but this was the historic first one. Kind of funny that the failed singles pushes of both Billy Gunn and Jesse Jammes began on the same episode before dovetailing together like a Seinfeld payoff a year later. Billy quickly bails and hits on Sunny at the commentary desk, but Bart comes out and gets in his face, as they apparently broke up on Superstars for the 10 people who were still watching that show in 1996. Billy is distracted and Freddie get some offense, but Billy hotshots him and finishes with a god awful flying legdrop at 3:03. This wasn’t exactly Shawn Michaels breaking free from the Rockers and becoming an immediate singles star. DUD Speaking of Sunny, Chris Candido finally gave notice at this point after being asked to step down from working on the road and move to training Bracchus and Mark Henry and some new kid named Rocky Maivia instead. Who would want to be associated with training THAT guy? Ironically, had he taken that deal, he’d probably still be alive and making good money as a producer today.
Meanwhile, Bret Hart has a satellite interview from Calgary, while Austin is in Stamford. It’s such a fantastic setup because Bret is the vision of laid-back security and Austin is a tightly-wound madman who suddenly seems 100x more dangerous than the nWo. And just after I type that, a production assistant counts Austin down in a manner he doesn’t like, and Steve beats the crap out of him. To say that Austin was carrying the show at this point would be a gross understatement.
Shawn Michaels v. The British Bulldog
Shawn and Bulldog have a pretty energetic series of reversals to start and we take a break, returning with Bulldog working a chinlock and beating on Shawn. Legdrop gets two, and Bulldog counters a crucifix with a samoan drop for two. Shawn comes back with a sunset flip, but Bulldog destroys him with a lariat for two, which draws a legit huge reaction from the crowd. And we take another break and return with Bulldog missing a blind charge, allowing Shawn to make his comeback. Kip up, backdrop, but he walks into the powerslam. Shawn escapes and goes up with the flying elbow, but Owen Hart runs in for the DQ at 15:15. Great main event, which leads to Sid making the save and another shoving match between Shawn and Sid. ***1/2 So Owen stirs the pot and offers them a tag title shot next week, if they’ve got the guts.
Speaking of having guts, Steve Austin finds himself in a confrontation with the police as the show ends, but he’s confident they won’t do anything to him because Vince McMahon doesn’t want his meal ticket locked up before Survivor Series.
Next week: RAW moves up an hour earlier in a desperation attempt to boost the ratings, and we get arguably the most important angle in the modern history of wrestling. Spoiler: Neither of those things helped the ratings problem in the short-term, but we’ll have some stuff to talk about next time. Oh yes.
This was the Steve Austin Show, as it would become for years afterwards, and a hell of a main event to boot. If you want to see the genesis of what Austin would become on his run to the top of the world, start here.