The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–12.02.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 12.02.96

We’re actually up to the point where I did about three months of the Monday Night Wars shows on 24/7 back in 2007, so I’ll start appending the original rant to the end of these ones for fun. So stay tuned to see how I felt about watching these episodes 10 years ago! I had a week long conference and some other stuff that delayed jumping back into these again, but now I’m taking a few days off so hopefully I can catch up again before Bryan & Vinny overtake me with their retro reviews. Unfortunately we are getting to the point where it gets really, REALLY bad before the big changeover in March.

In other news, I picked up (which is to say, digitally downloaded on a whim) Super Mario Maker last night after weeks of watching the Game Grumps rage through Ross’s infuriating levels, and I just had to try them for myself. My first uploaded level is pretty lame given I only have the first set of tools available, and I find the control a bit slippery with the Wii U gamepad buttons for some reason, but it’s really fun so far. As always, you can friend me at RSPWFAQ on the MiiVerse if you want to follow my stuff. Sadly, I have no Amiibos to play with (but a shitload of Disney Infinity figures and a growing collection of Lego Dimensions sets because I love that game even more than my kid does) so if anyone wants to buy me some of those, I probably won’t say no.

Taped from New Haven, CT

Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler

Flash Funk v. The Goon

It’s the RAW debut of Scorpio, although this gimmick was clearly a loser from the start and the Funkettes would be fired for cost-cutting reasons shortly into his run. Can you imagine how much better off he would have been in WCW as a part of the cruiserweight division? Goon attacks and lays him out, but Flash gets a sunset flip out of the corner for two. Goon works the arm, but Flash dropkicks him to the floor and follows with a tentative dive. Goon charges on the floor and hits the post, and Funk follows with a moonsault that looks impressive but misses by a foot. We take a break and return with Goon in control with a flying elbow for two. Goon with a Brogue Kick, but Funk tries another moonsault press and misses again, this time deliberately as a part of the spot, I think? It was ugly. Goon covers up like a pro and takes over again, but Funk puts him down with a suplex and finishes with a somersault legdrop at 8:32. This was a mess. *1/2

“Diesel” v. Phineas Godwinn

Jim Ross, on commentary, notes that Diesel still has a long career ahead of him. That’s an understatement. Big Daddy Dentist attacks PIG and pounds away in the corner, but PIG comes back with a suplex as Razor heads down for the distraction, and the powerbomb finishes at 3:35, with poor Jacobs looking like he nearly blew out his back trying to get Phineas up for the move. DUD Lawler spent the whole match making fun of the recently deceased Tiny Tim, because he’s a classy guy.

Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels doesn’t have a problem with anyone booing him, but when Sid used the camera on Jose that was crossing the line. He admits that he’s not a role model because he’s got long hair and tattoos and skeletons in his closet, and “some people” don’t like that about him, and should maybe air their own skeletons. Man, it’s really too bad we lost that Wrestlemania rematch with Shawn and Bret because you can totally see them going there.

Justin Hawk Bradshaw v. “Double J” Jesse Jammes

This is like the most 1996 show ever. Jammes hits Bradshaw with a clothesline and a pair of dropkicks to put him on the floor, but a big boot turns the tide. He pounds away for a while until JJ comes back with a suplex, but Bradshaw goes to the chinlock. Jammes comes back again with his stupid dancing routine, but goes after Zeb and walks into the CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL at 5:58. Well that pretty much tells you where they saw him already. *1/2

So in a bit that sums up their year, the Karate Fighters tournament was supposed to feature Sid v. Mr. Perfect in the semi-finals, but with Perfect off to WCW and that “match” already taped and thus unusable, it ends up with hosts Jerry Lawler and Todd Pettingill battling instead, resulting in Lawler going to the finals against Sable next week. It’s just like watching TNA at times. Now you might say to yourself “Why was it vitally important to make sure that Curt Hennig was removed from a fucking toy tournament in order to make him seem like a chicken?” but keep in mind this was the same company who thought it was vitally important to point out that Jeff Jarrett is a terrible singer.

Meanwhile, in London, Sid and Bret Hart get into a confrontation that also involves Owen & Bulldog, which was setting up the tag champs future split and the next PPV. Good stuff, but It’s Time still did one of the all-time lowest buyrates.

Jake Roberts & Marc Mero v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Billy Gunn

I don’t remember exactly when Hunter switched to “Ode to Joy” as his theme, but it helped immensely. His mincing blueblood theme really wasn’t fitting at this point. Speaking of not fitting, Billy Gunn switching to beige denim isn’t exactly a strong character switch for him. The babyfaces control with armbars while Vince runs down the boring card for It’s Time. Did anyone really think that Owen & Bulldog v. Razor & Diesel or yet another Mero v. HHH match would sell? The heels stall over and over while Hunter avoids Mero, who was rapidly cooling off by this point. The faces keep working Gunn over in the corner and the announcers are more concerned with Tiny Tim and the Lawler v. Sable Karate Fighters match next week. Jake tries the DDT on Gunn, but he backdrops out and plays Snake-in-peril. We take a break and return with chinlocks everywhere, but Jake suddenly (as suddenly as he could move at that point) hits Billy with the DDT and both guys are out. Hot tag Mero and heel miscommunication puts Gunn on the floor, resulting in him walking out. I have no idea what the point of that was, given it went nowhere. Shooting Star Press finishes Hunter at 14:24. Just a basic tag match to fill time. **

Next week: Undertaker v. Mankind and Jesse Jammes v. Bradshaw II. Oh boy.

And now let’s take you back to 2006, for the last time I watched this episode!

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for The Monday Night Wars – December 2 1996 (RAW Edition)

– And now for the second half of the review, as we jump over to the RAW side so you can see just how one-sided the war really was at that point.

– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler

Flash Funk v. The Goon

This is Funk’s debut, and the Funkettes who accompany him would quickly be fired for budget reasons. Flash Funk was always a perfectly good gimmick for Scorpio, but they needed to go way over the top and turn him into a total pimp who abused his funkettes. And in fact, that’s exactly what they did with The Godfather once Vince Russo took over, so they must have been thinking the same thing. The Good attacks to start and drops an elbow, and hits the chinlock. I would be remiss in not talking about the Goon, as they took Wild Bill Irwin and stuck him in a hockey jersey and fake skates and called it a gimmick. What a genius that Vince is. Anyway, Funk gets a sunset flip out of the corner for two, but Goon stomps him down again. Really, if they wanted a hockey player gimmick, they should have just brought in Brett Hull, who can cut a better heel promo than half the locker room. Goon gets tossed and Flash follows with a tope, and then dodges a charging Goon on the floor and hits him with a quebrada. Ad break and we return with Flash getting a pump splash legdrop back in the ring and working an armbar. Goon comes back with a suplex and flying elbow for two. He follows with a bicycle kick, but Funk gets his own kick and goes up, missing a moonsault press in an ugly spot. If they were looking for a way to get him over in his first RAW appearance, this was the total opposite way to go about it. Goon misses a charge and Funk gets a backdrop suplex, and finishes with a moonsault into a legdrop that missed by a foot. Good thing he left ECW for this.

(Flash Funk d. The Goon, legdrop — pin, 5:28, *1/2) Funk blew most of his big spots here.

“Diesel” v. Phineas Godwinn

You may also know this match as Kane v. Mideon. Diesel attacks and lays him out with a clothesline and sideslam, and chokes him out on the ropes. Boot choke in the corner, but PIG slugs back, so Diesel elbows him down. PIG comes back with a backdrop suplex, but “Razor” joins us at ringside and distracts Godwinn, which allows the fake Diesel to finish with the fake jackknife.

(“Diesel” d. Phineas Godwinn, powerbomb — pin, 3:19, DUD) Glenn Jacobs was not only bad at this point, but he was in way over his head with this ridiculous angle and he was being asked to carry a gimmick that was totally beyond him. Say what you will about Kevin Nash in the ring, but he had buckets of charisma and enough acting ability to pull off the complex relationship between Diesel and Shawn Michaels, which Jacobs didn’t have. He couldn’t talk and fans didn’t relate to him, which is why the Kane gimmick was perfect for him.

Meanwhile, at WW(bleep) headquarters, Shawn Michaels apologizes, insincerely, for being so controversial lately and for stirring things up, and promises to regain the title from Sid. His heel turn proceeded nicely, until he actually won the belt, at which point it was dropped abruptly with no explanation.

Justin Hawk Bradshaw v. “Double J” Jesse Jammes

This was JBL very early in his WWF career, back when he was still wishing he could be Stan Hansen instead of Ted Dibiase. Give him credit, though, because he stole from the best. He gets a lariat to start, but Jammes dumps him. Back in, Jammes keeps dodging him, but walks into a big boot and Bradshaw drops an elbow and rolls him up for two. Corner clothesline and Bradshaw pounds away on him and tries a suplex, but Jesse reverses to his own. However, he makes the cardinal error and Bradshaw hits him with a neckbreaker and hits the chinlock. Jammes makes the comeback and gets his own big boot, but makes the mistake of chasing after Zebekiah and walks into the CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL, which was not yet named as such by JR yet.

(Justin Hawk Bradshaw d. Jesse Jammes, lariat — pin, 5:56, 1/2*) Bradshaw’s lariat was the best thing about him at this point, and this match was so formula that they could have just stood at ringside yelling out the moves.

And now, it’s time for the highlight of the show: The Karate Fighters tournament. It was supposed to be the semi-final match between Sid and Mr. Perfect, but Sid no-shows and Perfect left for WCW, so instead we get Jerry Lawler v. Todd Pettingill, which puts Lawler into the finals against Sable next week. Yes, things were so bad at this point that they couldn’t even book a KARATE FIGHTERS TOURNAMENT without guys jumping to the competition. I wonder if Eric Bischoff wanted to book a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots tournament and see if it could beat RAW’s ratings?

– Let us take you back to England, as Sid mixes it up with Bret Hart after a title match with Steve Austin, leading up to a PPV that few bought and even less remember. As a clue to why, one of the marquee matches was Owen & Bulldog defending the tag titles against “Razor” and “Diesel”. All the sideline stuff with Owen & Bulldog’s involvement was leading to their split, before Bret Hart interjected himself and changed the history of wrestling. But we’ll come to that in a few months.

Marc Mero & Jake Roberts v. Billy Gunn & Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Wow, what a main event. Kind of cool to have the proto-DX on one side, I guess, even though they were a cowboy and a blueblood at this point, respectively. Gunn escapes a quick DDT attempt from Jake to start, and Jake brings Mero in for some double-teaming of Gunn. Jake works the arm, and we get Mero v. HHH for a bit before Gunn saves Hunter. The heels regroup as the crowd dozes and/or goes for nachos. Jake comes in and stays on Gunn’s arm, getting him in pinning combo for two. Over to Mero for a backdrop that gets two, and Jake gets the short-arm clothesline, but Gunn backdrops out of the DDT attempt and brings HHH in, while Vince seems more intent on hyping the matches for next week, the fourth week of the taping cycle. God, remember THOSE days? Hunter chokes him out in the corner, and we take an ad break. Back with Gunn holding a facelock on Jake, but he counters with the DDT and is unable to take advantage. Hot tag Mero and some heel miscommunication puts Gunn on the floor, and they argue. DRAMA! DX is breaking up, and they haven’t even formed yet! Gunn walks out, leaving Hunter 2-on-1, and the result is academic from there.

(Marc Mero & Jake Roberts d. Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Billy Gunn, Mero shooting star press — pin Helmsley, 12:07, **) Wake me when this taping cycle is over. Hunter runs away from the snake, back in the days before he would be booked to beat both guys with a Pedigree and then kill the snake with his sledgehammer and take Sable home with him.

The Pulse: C’mon, is there any doubt who was putting on the better show at that point? And things would continue to be bad until early in 1997, when USA would finally green-light RAW going live every week with a two-hour show to compete with Nitro. This week, however, Nitro still wins easily, even with a bad show.