The SmarK Rant for the Monday Night Wars–12.23.96

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for the Monday Night Wars – December 23 1996

– So we’re a week away from Starrcade 96 on the WCW side of things, and in the middle of nowhere on the WWF side of things.

Monday Night RAW!

– Taped from wherever it was last week, as we’re on week 2 of the taping cycle.

Intercontinental title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Marc Mero

DQ and countout rules are waived here. Hey, cool, this is the first time they use “Ode To Joy” as HHH’s music, which was pretty much the perfect choice for him AND public domain, too! I think the use of bombastic classical music as wrestling entrance theme is a lost art these days, mainly because it’s easier to get Jim Johnston to write a nu-metal piece of crap than it is to actually find something that suits the person. Anyway, Mero attacks to start and slugs HHH out of the ring, then chases Jerry Lawler to the back for some reason. This gives Hunter a chance to jump him from behind and slam him on the floor. Back in the ring, HHH throws chops in the corner, but Mero responds with his own and follows with a corner clothesline. HHH tosses him to gain some time, but Mero slugs him down, so HHH tosses him again. He follows with a baseball slide and Mero meets the stairs. Vince and JR start talking about “Attitude” on commentary in another historic moment. Back in the ring, they do the pinfall reversal sequence off the backslide, but HHH clotheslines him and we take a break. Back with Hunter suplexing Mero and using the knee for two. Mero comes back with a flying headscissors and a kneelift. Missile dropkick gets two. Samoan drop and Mero goes up, but whiffs on the Merosault. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes clean as a sheet.

(HHH d. Marc Mero, Pedigree — pin, 6:14, ***) Wow, that one shocked the hell out of me, because you didn’t see many heels going over strong like that, especially on TV, at that point. HHH throws out insults to Goldust, watching in the audience, to set up the next feud.

– Let us take you back to last week, as Billy Gunn’s paralysis was sadly only the temporary type.

– Sunny Claus joins us for commentary, replacing Jerry Lawler for the next match.

Rocky Maivia v. Salvatore Sincere

Rocky works the arm to start and hiptosses him out of the ring, but gets caught with a cheapshot. Rocky comes back with a forearm out of the corner and dropkicks him, but Sincere drops him with a sideslam to take over. Clothesline gets two. Sincere drops a fist as this thing just grinds to a halt. Russian legsweep gets two. Rocky fights back with his goofy punches and the Hurricane DDT, and that sets up the shoulderbreaker to finish.

(Rocky Maivia d. Salvatore Sincere, shoulderbreaker — pin, 5:47, *) No wonder there was such a backlash against him in the beginning — he sucked.

– Sid joins us for an interview, as JR suddenly starts heeling all over him on commentary and he’s all “Sid’s a cheat! He cheated Bret Hart! He cheated to win the title! I hope he dies, by gawd!” Which is weird because they had been portraying Sid as the somewhat virtuous babyface and Shawn Michaels as the embittered former champ up until then. Nothing of note said here.

Pierroth & Cybernetico v. The New Rockers

This is weird. Pierroth starts with Leif Cassidy (Al Snow) and dropkicks him down, and Cybernetico comes in with an armdrag and then powers Marty Jannetty down. Leif sneaks over with a cheapshot from the apron, and Jannetty drops a fist for two. The Rockers do some double-teaming and Cassidy stomps Cybernetico down and we take a break, and return with a sunset flip for two. Tags on both sides and Pierroth chops Marty down and powerbombs him for two. Cybernetico gets a weak tope on Cassidy and Pierroth gets a flying splash on Marty to finish.

(Pierroth & Cybernetico d. The New Rockers, Pierroth flying splash — pin Marty Jannetty, 3:51, 1/2*) Obviously this was two teams who had no idea what to do with each other and the results weren’t pretty.

– And now, Honky Tonk Man returns to the WWF after a six-year absence, using his theme from Piledriver as I’m continually confused by what music they will or won’t edit out. He joins the commentary team, with his goal being finding the next greatest Intercontinental champion of all time, and that led to all sorts of really bad stuff.

Bret Hart v. “Razor Ramon”

Lockup battle to start and Bret works the arm, and a bodyblock gets two. Bret takes him down again and goes back to the arm, but Ramon clubs him down and chokes him out on the ropes. Bret slugs away in the corner but gets stomped down by Ramon, and that gets two. Ramon whips him around the ring and chokes him out, really emphasizing why Scott Hall was a star and Rick Bogner never was. Bret bails, pretty clearly having one of his “I don’t care” nights, and they brawl for a bit outside as we take a break. Back with Bret dropping an elbow to set up a Sharpshooter, and Ramon quits.

(Bret Hart d. Razor Ramon, Sharpshooter — submission, 6:01, *1/2) That was like 5 seconds back from the break, which was weird timing for the finish. Bret wasn’t just phoning it in, he was sending a text message in.

– Backstage, Shawn gives us ATTITUDE and lips off Vince. Shawn notes that if he’s gonna get beat, he’ll get beat like a man. Or cry and give up the title, either way.

WCW Monday Nitro!

– Live from somewhere not mentioned. But we’re LIVE.  (Fargo, ND)

– We kick things off with Hour #1, which won “Most Minutes” at a convention of time units in 1996, easily beating out a half-hour and a pair of quarter-hours.

US title tournament semi-finals: Chris Benoit v. Eddie Guerrero

They exchange chops to start and Eddie works a headlock and they reverse off that, while DDP joins the commentary team. I love how they stick the commentators as far away from the ring as possible and point them in the opposite direction. I know it doesn’t mean anything because they work off the monitors anyway, but it’s just a very WCW thing. Back in the ring, Benoit reverses a kneecrusher into a sunset flip for two, and Eddie goes back to the headlock. Benoit shoves him off to break, but Eddie kips back up and takes him down with the headlock again. Benoit reverses to a wristlock to take him down for two, and we take a break as they do the pinfall reverse sequence. Good timing, jackasses. Back with a collision and Benoit dropping Eddie on the top rope in dramatic fashion, and snapping off the backdrop suplex for two. He lays in the quality smack talk on the mat and MURDERS him with a powerbomb for two. (Hey, how about that local sports team?)  Man, why doesn’t he do that one anymore?  (This was written about a month before everything went down, oddly enough.)  I LOVE Benoit’s powerbomb. The bad mood continues as he puts the boots to Eddie and then helps him up, but clotheslines him down again and goes to a chinlock. Chops are thrown, but Eddie comes back with a backbreaker and goes up, but Benoit is all over it and brings him down with a superplex for two. Eddie tries a sunset flip, but Benoit punches him in the face, so Eddie cradles for two instead. Benoit is really good and riled now and they exchange chops, with Benoit losing that one, but he comes back and suplexes Eddie onto the top rope. That gets two. The ref accuses him of using the ropes for leverage, because he’s obviously racist and anti-Canadian, and Benoit is so upset that he falls off the top rope while trying a superplex, and allows Eddie to frog splash him.

(Eddie Guerrero d. Chris Benoit, frog splash — pin, 9:50, ***1/4) Typically great match with these two.

– The Four Horsemen, without Jeff Jarrett hanging around, join us for an interview. Arn wants to know why Benoit keeps abandoning them, especially when he’s out there taking a beating from Kevin Sullivan on Benoit’s behalf. Benoit actually tells Debra to “talk to the hand” without a hint of irony, and Mongo gets all in face, but Flair dances to calm things down. Good lord. And people wonder why the nWo looked so much cooler in comparison to these clowns?

– Speaking of clowns, Hollywood Hogan and his crew are out to emphasize what a coward that Piper is and how people will only see Hogan 100 years from now when they look back on wrestling and blah blah blah bathroom break time.

Lex Luger v. Tombstone

In the ultimate example of WCW signing someone away from ECW just for the sake of doing it, Tombstone is The Artist Formerly Known as 911, whose only use even for Paul Heyman was coming out and chokeslamming people 5 seconds at a time. Luger can’t overpower him, but clotheslines him to the floor instead. Back in, Tombstone comes back with a clothesline and drops an elbow for two. Blind charge hits boot, however, and Luger comes back with clotheslines and finishes with the Torture Rack.

(Lex Luger d. Tombstone, torture rack — submission, 3:26, 1/2*) Tombstone, when in any kind of position where selling is required, was terrible and totally exposed why Heyman used him in the role he did.

– Let us take you back to last week, as Sting obviously and beyond any shadow of a doubt revealed that he’s with the nWo, and only an idiot would argue otherwise. Obviously. Never mind that the WCW guys all attacked him first, the video tape speaks for itself!

Rey Mysterio v. Mr. JL

I don’t think anyone will ever figure out the identity of the mysterious JL, he was just that well hidden. They trade hammerlocks to start and JL stops to yell at the fans, so Rey takes him down with armdrags. Flying headscissors follows, but he goes to the apron and gets dropkicked to the railing. JL follows with a pescado, but misses badly, and Rey hits him with a rana off the apron. JL tries to catch him coming in, but Rey legdrops him between the ropes and gets two. JL comes back with a powerbomb for two. Backbreaker and he tries another powerbomb, but Rey escapes and gets a moonsault press for two. JL drops him with a backdrop suplex for two and gets another backbreaker, and follows with a corner clothesline, but misses another charges. Rey sends him out of the ring with a rana and then hits him with a tope suicida. Back in, JL won’t die, faceplanting him and rolling him up for two. To the top, but Rey brings him down with the rana to finish.

(Rey Mysterio d. Mr. JL, top rope rana — pin, 6:02, **1/2) Not as much chemistry as you’d expect from Rey Mysterio and Jerry Lynn (whoops, gave away the big secret) but obviously a very watchable TV match.

– Rey stops by the announce position to plead for Sting’s case, pointing out that he jumped on Sting’s back first and Sting was only defending himself and not trying to injure anyone like the nWo did. Tony and Larry stubbornly insist that Sting is part of the nWo and it’s a done deal.

– And now, it’s Hour #2, which was signed away from a successful off-Broadway play to become a part of WCW!

– Let us take you back to, oh, 30 minutes ago or so with Hogan’s boring speech, which is introduced by a funny line from Tony: “If you want to see a pack of lies, let’s take a look at segment #3.” I don’t know why it amused me to hear him say that, but it just sounded really funny.

Glacier v. Buddy Lee Parker

Glacier legsweeps Parker to start, and kicks him on the mat for two. He keeps using the KUNG FU OF DOOM and kicks Parker to the floor, then throws more kicks on the floor. Back in, an inverted snapmare and more kicks set up another kick, and a kick finishes.

(Glacier d. Buddy Lee Parker, kick kick kick kick — pin, 2:23, 1/4*) Tony notes that he can only get better. That’s not saying much. If Goro had turned into the breakout star of Mortal Kombat instead of Sub-Zero, I can only imagine what character they would have tried pushing instead.

The Public Enemy v. The Amazing French Canadians

The Canadians sing the French version of the national anthem, and Tony and Mike ignorantly accuse them of “not knowing the words”. God they’re idiots. Of course the Enemy attack during the singing and clean house, but aren’t able to put Jacques through a table. The Canadians regroup and stomp down Grunge in the ring, and the Rougeau Bomb gets two. Jacques stomps away and they get a Boston crab into a Ouelette flying legdrop, but they stop and retrieve a table while Rob Parker distracts the ref. They take too long and Rocco Rock breaks things up, and it’s a DQ.

(The Amazing French Canadians d. The Public Enemy, table — DQ, 2:46, -*) Public Enemy was somehow getting worse by the second at this point.

Big Bubba v. Konnan

Bubba attacks and gets an elbow, then goes out to threaten Jimmy Hart, which allows Konnan to hits him with a tope and whip him into the stairs. Back in, Nick Patrick holds Konnan while Bubba slugs him down, and then Bubba chokes him out with a bandanna. Konnan bails and Bubba stomps him down on the way in, and follows with a clothesline. Bubba chokes away while Tony and Bobby blather on about the nWo and everything unrelated to the match as this just goes nowhere. Clothesline, but Jimmy Hart trips up Bubba, so Nick Patrick throws him out of the match. Oh lord. Konnan comes back, just because, and tosses Bubba, but that’s a DQ.

(Big Bubba d. Konnan, over the top — DQ, 5:43, -*) God, two negative star matches on the same show is not a good sign. This was a lot of standing around and felt like it would never end.

WCW World TV title: Lord Steven Regal v. Dean Malenko

This is an interesting match. They do a wristlock sequence to start and Regal takes him down and into a facelock, while Sonny Onoo takes pictures at ringside. Regal snapmares him down while holding the facelock, and that gets two. Malenko tries to slam his way out of it, but Regal hands on in impressive fashion until Malenko spins out of it. Regal keeps him on the mat with a crucifix submission move. Malenko makes the ropes and comes back with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Regal throws a double knee and goes back to the arm, turning an armbar into a variation of the Stretch Plum, but Malenko hiptosses out. Regal uses a full nelson, but Malenko gets to the ropes, so Regal headbutts him low and tries a boston crab. Malenko escapes from that and reverses to the Texas Cloverleaf, but Regal makes the ropes. He leapfrogs over Regal, who responds with a dropkick to the back of the head and follows with a butterfly suplex for two. Tenay points out that this is a 10:00 time limit, at the 9:00 mark, which pretty much gives away the finish. Malenko gets a brainbuster but time expires 30 seconds early.

(Steven Regal time limit draw Dean Malenko, 9:30, **) Both guys were heels, so the crowd didn’t care about any of this. Pretty dull stuff with a lot of submission holds and not much else.

Rick Steiner v. Jeff Jarrett

Jarrett gets an armdrag and struts to start, but Steiner ties him up on the mat and runs him into the turnbuckles. Elbowdrop, but Jarrett comes back with a clothesline off the middle rope. Steiner pretty much ignores that and fires off a belly to belly, but nWo Sting saunters in and attacks Jarrett, who quickly pins him at 2:31. Zuh? Was that even a finish?

– And yay, it’s time for more Hogan. But it gets better, as Eric Bischoff comes out dressed vaguely like Roddy Piper and doing his impression of him. He lays down for Hogan and then worships at his feet as this drags on, but then the real Piper comes out, just in time for an nWo beatdown. Really weak way to set up Starrcade on the go-home show, which is probably one reason why Starrcade didn’t even break a 1.0 buyrate.  (Well THAT’S kind of petty. It did 0.95, the highest of the year for WCW and second only to Wrestlemania overall.) 

The Pulse:

Nitro didn’t do anything that would have made me want to see Hogan v. Piper back in 96, and while it had the best match of the week with Benoit v. Guerrero, it didn’t make me want to see the US title tournament final with Guerrero v. DDP so it ended up being pretty pointless. Plus the good-to-crap ratio was pretty bad this week, with a couple of decent matches and an entire second hour that was pretty much a throwaway. RAW at least was focused and had all clean finishes, and nothing I’d call bad, so we’ll give them the win this week.

Next time: Starrcade fallout, and Jerry Lawler v. Goldust live on RAW!