(I actually have these done all the way up until March 1997 from the WWE 24/7 days , at which point WWE suddenly reset the shows back to 1995 for reasons that have always eluded me, so for those craving the RAW/Nitro reviews to continue, this should hopefully satisfy you for a bit.)
The SmarK 24/7 Rant for The Monday Night Wars – December 9 1996
– Well, this got a really enthusiastic reaction from readers last time, so we’ll do it again. (And then FOREVER!)
WCW Monday Nitro
– Live from Charlotte, NC
– Your hosts are Tony and Larry.
– So we start with Roddy Piper, who names local landmarks for cheap heat and rambles about not taking dives. Apparently that Piper v. Mr. T boxing match was a shoot. Well, you learn something new from Roddy Piper interviews each and every time. And it’s always changing, too, so you never get bored with the same facts! Piper wants Hogan TONIGHT! Yeah, I’m sure.
Mike Enos v. VK Wallstreet
Mike Rotundo was rapidly falling apart in the ring at this point. I always felt kind of bad for Enos, who was in the match that kicked off the biggest angle in history but didn’t get the least bit of boost out of it. Enos gets a powerslam while Ted Dibiase comes down to ringside with nWo contracts, and Wallstreet finishes quickly while Enos is distracted.
(VK Wallstreet d. Mike Enos, samoan drop — pin, 1:33, DUD) You know, it was that addition of Rotundo that really sent the angle through the stratosphere. (Oh GOD it’s a rant where I’m doing that stupid new format.)
Meanwhile, Chris Benoit and Nancy enjoy some wine and mock Kevin Sullivan in a pre-taped segment. (Once again, what the ever loving sweet FUCK was the endgame supposed to be for Sullivan? Why would you book your own wife to screw around on you and basically cuckold yourself on national TV? Was it like some weird sex fantasy thing and now ew I don’t even want to know.)
Hugh Morrus v. The Renegade
Larry notes that Renegade is “Mr. Perpetual Motion”. Now THERE’S a gimmick! A heel who’s so bad, he even breaks the laws of thermodynamics! Morrus grabs an armbar and gets a dropkick, but Renegade cradles for two. Morrus casually levels him again with a clothesline and pounds the back, shifting to a bearhug. Renegade fights out and gets a handspring elbow, but walks into a backdrop suplex. Morrus moonsaults to end it.
(Hugh Morrus d. Renegade, moonsault — pin, 3:00, 1/4*) Why did they feel the need to name his moonsault “No Laughing Matter”? It’s a moonsault, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s not like he’s doing anything different with it.
– Kevin Sullivan stops by ringside to verbally abuse Tony, accusing him of showing the Benoit video for ratings and stomping on his personal life as a result. Man’s got a point there.
– Mean Gene brings out Kevin Greene, who actually had potential to be a pretty decent worker if they had gotten him away from football. He’s got nothing of note to say here.
Cruiserweight title: Dean Malenko v. Jimmy Graffiti
I like “Del Ray” better because it’s at least easier to spell. They trade waistlocks to start and Jimmy gets a hammerlock, but Malenko reverses out and clotheslines him down. Malenko elbows him down and we take a break, returning with a slugfest. Graffiti wins that and gets a jawbreaker, then chokes away in the corner. Backdrop suplex gets two. Gut wrench gets two. It’s like Graffiti had all the life sucked out of him, as he’s wrestling at half-speed here with no personality at all. (Well, WCW will do that to you.) Malenko comes back with a backdrop suplex for two. Malenko puts him out with a leg lariat, but misses a baseball slide and gets dropped on the railing as a result. Back in, Graffiti puts him on top, but Malenko gets a rana from the top. Graffiti superkicks him for two as things finally pick up. Powerbomb and jackknife cradle get two, but Malenko powerbombs him for two and gets a rollup for two. Graffiti gets a hotshot out of nowhere, however, and tries another suplex, but Malenko rolls him into a cradle for the pin.
(Dean Malenko d. Jimmy Graffiti, inside cradle — pin, 7:06, **3/4) Really listless to start, but it picked up steam as it went along with the near falls at the end.
– Let us take you back to World War III, as the Outsiders, Nasty Boys and Faces of Fear combine for an epic shitty match for the tag titles.
The Faces of Fear v. The Nasty Boys
Big brawl to start before it settles down with the Nasties double-teaming Barbarian. Barbie misses a blind charge and hits Sags’ elbow, who then drops a leg before getting tripped up by Jimmy Hart. The Faces double-team him on the floor and Barbarian gives him a big boot on the floor, and back in he goes up and misses a splash. I guess the Nasties are supposed to be the faces here, but the fans don’t seem to care either way. (This was their exciting tweener period where they were forming an alliance with the Booty Man to oppose the nWo and were such losers that they couldn’t even get into the building despite working for the company. The career-ending injury that soon followed was actually a step up for them, I’d say.) Hot tag Knobbs, and it’s BONZO GONZO while the Outsiders generate more excitement than this crappy match just by standing at the top of the ramp. Knobbs gets the visual pin on Barbarian with the ref distracted, and Jimmy Hart accidentally hits Barbarian with the megaphone for good measure, but Meng hits him right back and gets the pin. Thank god it’s over.
(The Faces of Fear d. The Nasty Boys, Meng megaphone — pin Knobbs, 5:21, -*) This was a car wreck, and not in the fun way. (Like that weird movie about the people who have sex in car crashes? This episode is stirring some uncomfortable feelings in me.)
– Ric Flair is out with Mean Gene to remind us that we’re in Charlotte and put over the Carolina Panthers. And then he brings out Roddy Piper and gives an incredibly long-winded introduction, but Piper still doesn’t want help from the Horsemen.
HOUR #2 (the hour “that has set the standard for our sport,” according to Tony, not like the hours used by those other guys up north, I guess)
– Your hosts are Tony and Mike and Bobby.
– Just in case you missed it earlier, let us take you back to Roddy Piper at the beginning of the show.
Bobby Eaton v. Chris Jericho
Hard to believe that Jericho was still a whole year away from his career-defining heel turn at this point. Eaton shoulderblocks him down to start and quickly goes up with a flying knee for two. Nice touch from Mark Curtis, as he mimes to Eaton that he was “that close” to the pin. I miss Mark Curtis. Jericho comes back with a suplex and Lionsault for two, but tries to go up and gets brought down with an electric chair. Eaton goes up to finish, but misses the Alabama Jam and Jericho superkicks him down again. To the top for a missile dropkick, and that ends it.
(Chris Jericho d. Bobby Eaton, missile dropkick — pin, 2:32, *1/4) Obviously too short to be worth anything, but man did they ever waste Eaton in his later years.
– Let us take you back to last week’s “main event”, as Sting and Rick Steiner have a quickie. This leads into an interview with the Steiner Brothers, as they await a message from Sting.
Sgt. Craig Pittman v. Arn Anderson
Pittman’s t-shirt slogan, “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves”, is one of my favorites ever, and I had totally forgotten about it. They trade wristlocks to start, but Arn retreats to the ropes and confers with Mongo. Yeah, that’s a brilliant strategy. What’s he gonna advise? “Uh, good work, Arn.” (Apparently if you needed drugs smuggled into Nitro, Mongo was your guy, though.) We take a break and return with Arn wrapping the arm around the post, and he goes up and gets slammed off as a result. Cross armbreaker follows, but AA makes the ropes. They fight outside and Mongo finally makes himself useful, clocking Pittman with the briefcase, and Arn gets the easy win off a DDT.
(Arn Anderson d. Craig Pittman, DDT — pin, 2:58, *) Most of the match apparently happened during the break.
US title tournament quarter-finals: Diamond Dallas Page v. Jeff Jarrett
Page and Jarrett try to out-cool each other to start, and Page hammers him in the corner. They work off a headlock and we take a break. Back with Page hitting a backdrop suplex and a tilt-a-whirl slam for two, but Jarrett comes back with a jawbreaker and enzuigiri, into a neckbreaker, and he chokes away on the ropes. Page comes back with a sunset flip, but Jarrett recovers with a clothesline for two. Slingshot suplex and middle rope fistdrop gets two. Page cradles for two, but Jarrett slugs away in the corner. Page is playing face here, but was still transitioning from heel to face, so the crowd is pretty dead. Jarrett gets the Stroke for two, before it meant anything. Sleeper, but Page fights back with a discus lariat and both guys are out. Page slugs him down and goes up with a pretty nice flying clothesline, which gets two. Page charges and lands on the floor as a result, and that draws Scott Hall out to lend a hand, as he hits Jarrett with the Outsider Edge, unbeknownst to Page, who covers for the pin.
(DDP d. Jeff Jarrett, outside interference — pin, 9:14, **1/2) This puts Page in the finals at Starrcade on a bye, as the nWo spent weeks courting him before he turned on them and became the hottest star in wrestling for a while.
Rick Steiner v. Scott Norton
No, wait, instead it’s a Piper interview, as Eric Bischoff comes out to answer on Hogan’s behalf, before the nWo hits the ring. Kevin Greene comes out to back Piper up as the show ends.
The Pulse: A lot of the roster was touring Germany at this point, so much of this show was C-level stuff, but even then the pacing was so good that it didn’t seem like a depleted roster.
Monday Night RAW
– Taped from wherever.
– Your hosts are Vince & Jerry.
Sid v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Although Sid was World champion and HHH was I-C champion at this point, neither belt is on the line here. I never liked Hunter’s original WWF theme, and his character was 100% cooler when he switched to the Beethoven entrance instead of the generic stuff. Sid presses him to start after a cheapshot, but Hunter evades the big boot, so Sid dumps him. On the floor, HHH eats railing, and back in it’s powerbomb city. Hunter is pretty much done and he takes a walk (or, more accurately, a crawl) and gets counted out. And that’s it. DUD Total squash for Sid. (Wait, why did I switch back to the older format in mid-rant? Is this somehow related to weird Kevin Sullivan sex stuff, too?)
Goldust v. Bart Gunn
Goldust tosses, well, gold dust in Bart’s eyes to start and drops him on the top rope, then tosses him. This was apparently during the breakup of the Smoking Gunns, which I barely even remember. (Sadly 2015 me has been reliving it week after awful week.) They brawl on the floor and Bart meets the stairs, and Goldust suplexes him back into the ring. Gunn comes back with a rollup for two, but gets slugged down again. Goldust gets two. We hit the chinlock while Billy Gunn cuts a promo on Bart from backstage. In the long run, Bart got the better end of that breakup, although Billy probably made more money off the New Age Outlaws for a while. (Mike Barton was pretty successful in Japan, but Billy Gunn now has a cushy job for life as a HHH crony, so Billy wins.) Goldust misses an elbow, but Bart misses a charge and we take a break. Back with Bart getting a crossbody for two, which sets up a bulldog for two. Bart goes up and misses a body press, and Goldust clips him to finish. Nothing of note here. *1/4
– The ridiculous Karate Fighters tournament finally looks to be wrapping up, but no, it’s just the preview of the Lawler-Sable finals. Well, you wouldn’t want to give away a money match like that on a taped show! (Yes, THIS is the match they choose to put real buildup behind.)
Justin Hawk Bradshaw & Uncle Zebekiah v. “Double J” Jesse Jammes
Jammes attacks both to start and backdrops Bradshaw, and fights off a double-team attempt by the Texans. He gets rid of Zebekiah and legdrops Bradshaw for two. They slug it out, but JJ gets caught in the heel corner and double-teamed. Zebekiah comes in, but takes a kick and tags out again. Bradshaw comes in with a backdrop suplex and drops an elbow off the second rope for two, but Zebekiah comes in again and gets cradled as a result. Bradshaw saves and comes back in. Jammes fights them off again, but walks into a sideslam that gets two for Bradshaw. It annoys me when JR says that people have “unlimited potential”. Everyone’s potential is unlimited, that’s why it’s POTENTIAL. Talent and charisma, on the other hand, have definite limits. Bradshaw goes for the Clothesline From Hell, but Jammes reverses to the pumphandle, and Zebekiah tries to come in with the branding iron. Shockingly, Jammes ducks, and Bradshaw takes it instead, giving Jammes the win at 5:46. *1/2 The Jesse Jammes experiment was an abysmal failure. Bradshaw turns on Zebekiah afterwards and brands him, although he was still about 2 years away from doing anything really notable.
– Bret Hart joins us for the hard sell of the match against Sid coming up at In Your House: It’s Time. When Sid snaps, they call him psycho, but when Bret snaps, they’ll call him WWF champion. That doesn’t even cover the half of it. (Again, the progression of Bret’s character in retrospect was so brilliant, leading up to Montreal like it was planned.)
Mankind v. Undertaker
This is No Holds Barred, presumably the most dangerous of their long series, according to Vince, I guess because each man has some hold that normally would be barred which they can now do. Taker quickly goes old school and chokeslams Mankind, but Executioner runs in and draws Taker away before he can finish. We take a break and return with Taker tossing Mankind into the railing and hammering on him, then stomping the claw hand on the stairs to take that away from him. He drops the stairs on the hand for good measure, although the camera angle is too close to preserve the illusion of damage, and they head back in with Taker working over the hand. Mankind clips him and stomps him down, then puts him out with a Cactus clothesline and sends him into the stairs. With the knee now hurt, they do a crazy spot with Undertaker’s knee on a chair and Mankind dropping the elbow off the apron onto it. Back in, Mankind goes to follow up, but Taker boots him out of the ring and then uses his legs to shove him into the railing. They brawl on the floor, and Mankind gets slammed on the table, and we take another break. Back with Undertaker’s knee in trouble again in the ring, as Mankind counters the chokeslam with a drop toehold, and he grabs a chair. He charges with it and gets it back in the face as a result, but evades the tombstone and gets the Mandible Claw. UT escapes with a bearhug, and sets up the fastest tombstone I’ve ever seen from him, which is of course enough to finish at 9:50. Quite a nice little violent brawl. *** Of course, the Executioner attacks and puts Undertaker down with the Asiatic Spike. Really, if they’re going to be calling it that, why not just admit it’s Terry Gordy? The match with Undertaker was pretty much the end of his WWF run anyway.
RAW was on the fourth week of a taping cycle and everyone looked like they were running on fumes, whereas Nitro was fast-paced and focused as ever, so the win easily goes to Nitro this time around. But best match of the week goes to RAW, with Undertaker-Mankind edging out DDP-Jarrett, if that makes them feel better.
Next time: The fallout from It’s Time on RAW, and more Hogan-Piper on Nitro.