The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 11.18.96
Live from New Haven, CT
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
“Toughman contest”: Steve Austin v. Mankind
This had been advertised as Austin v. Vader last week, but Vader was out with another injury and so we get the first of many Austin v. Foley matches to come. They immediately pummel each other in the aisle as we get a sign in the background that clearly says “FUCK”. I guess that’s what the content warning was about? So it’s a crazy brawl before the bell and Mankind sends him into the stairs as referees try to break them up, but finally they get into the ring and start the match. And then Austin immediately chases him to the floor again and they slug it out in the corner before Austin hits him with a lariat and it’s back to the floor for more brawling. Austin whips him into the railing for a trademark insane Mick Foley bump, and back in Mankind gets the Mandible Claw, but Austin kicks him in the nuts to break. And we take a break. Back with Austin coming off the middle rope and getting nailed, and they fight to the floor again. Mankind suplexes him back in and gets a legdrop for two, but Austin comes back with a sleeper and Mankind dumps to the floor to break. Mankind tries to come back in via the top rope, but Austin hauls him down and stomps the hell out of him, and it’s back to the floor again. They brawl out there and Austin hits him with a middle rope elbow in the ring and pounds away in the corner. Mankind bails to the floor to escape, and finally Executioner just runs in for the DQ at 11:20. Undertaker comes in for the save, but you can imagine how Austin deals with someone saving him. After laying out Undertaker, Austin wisely backs off and leaves. This was an EPIC crazy brawl that foreshadowed a whole new main event style soon to come. ****
Faarooq v. Savio Vega
Faarooq’s Nation of Domination entrance and look was immediately fresh and interesting, even if the Nation of Farrakhan stuff was pretty heavy-handed parody. Savio tries a hammerlock and gets pounded, but comes back with a bodypress for two. Faarooq gets the spinebuster and goes to work on the back, and that drags on as we take a break. Back with Faarooq still working the back as we cut to random shots of Ahmed Johnson watching in the audience. Hopefully he didn’t injure himself ordering a beer or signing autographs. Savio gets a small package for two and makes the comeback, but Faarooq cuts him off and goes up. Savio brings him down with a superplex attempt, but they fuck it up and both bump to the floor off the attempt. That was UGLY. Savio comes back again with the leg lariat, but misses a charge and hits the floor, allowing PG-13 to hit him with a 2×4 to give Faarooq the pin at 11:14. This was a major bore. * Ahmed Johnson comes in and cleans house with the 2×4 afterwards, because he cares so much about Savio Vega. Well, that one would come back to bite him in the ass pretty quick. Ahmed informs us afterwards that “YUB GUBBA DUB!” Well, thanks, I’ll be sure to take note of that.
Vince McMahon reflects on the title reign of Shawn Michaels, as yes he’s flamboyant and charismatic, but he’s also a MAN’S MAN. Well, that Playgirl spread certainly implied that. Vince apparently was not taking the Shawn backlash in New York very well and this was attempt at damage control.
Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon v. Leif Cassidy & Bob Holly
Marty Jannetty injured himself at Survivor Series, so we instead get the beta version of the JOB Squad. Al Snow is making zero effort to continue on with the Cassidy character at this point, basically just being himself now. LaFon does a nice wrestling sequence with Leif, and puts him on the floor with a kick. Back in, Furnas controls Holly with armdrags, and then suplexes Cassidy out of his boots. LaFon with a sidekick for two. Cassidy takes over with a clothesline to the back and we take a break. Back with Holly hitting his dropkick for two. Flying elbow misses and Furnas gets the hot tag, and dropkicks Holly for two. Rana gets two. Leif comes in and gets caught with a lariat, but he comes back with a dragon suplex for two. Another try on LaFon, but Phil reverses to a sick cobra clutch suplex to finish at 9:00. Boring match, but that finisher was nuts. **1/4
Sid gives his victory speech, and he’s got nothing much to say. Bret Hart is the next target, which brings up an interesting point in that Meltzer’s working theory at that point was Bret winning the title at “It’s Time” and setting up the rematch with Michaels at Wrestlemania. I don’t know if that was just speculation on his part or a working plan at that point, but I thought it was interesting.
The Mankind-Austin match is something to see, but the rest is typical boring 1996 RAW matches. You can start to see hints of stuff creeping in, however, and we know where THAT change comes from. Cesaro, of course.