Hi Scott, hope you are well.
The recent post about the ’96 episode of Live Wire, and some of the resulting discussion, made me think about the Raws of 1995 and 1996. General consensus regards those years as thoroughly bland and having had no edgy moments that made the audience say “Woah!” Being a fan of the mid-90s, I would have to disagree, and state that there were a number of segments that served as a precursor to the aggresive product which characterized the Attitude era. Here are 10 examples to illustrate my point.
1. Steve McMichael Throws Down (Mar. 20, 1995)- Yes, the list starts with Mongo. During the buildup to WM XI, McMichael joined a number of fellow NFLers in supporting Lawrence Taylor during the preparation for his match with Bam Bam Bigelow. As Mongo offered commentary during an episode of Raw, Bigelow stablemate Kama came to the announce table and challenged McMichael. The resulting brawl, which was not something you saw either guests or announcers generally do at that point in time, showed the future Horsemen displaying more intensity than seen during his entire WCW career. (09:45 in)
2. Bret Gets Pissed (May 22, 1995)- And you thought Bret Hart bull rushing announce tables or swearing into microphones wasn’t done until 1997. When Bret wanted to get his hands on Jerry Lawler, he REALLY wanted to get his hands on Lawler. (9:30 in)
3. Diesel On A Tirade (Nov. 20, 1995)- The night after losing his title, Diesel interrupts a match to conduct a spirited promo, delivering some of it about and towards Vince McMahon, who was still known mainly to the public as just an announcer.
4. HBK Collapses (Nov. 20, 1995)- You knew this had to be here. Worked shoots may have been common during the Attitude days, but not so much in ’95. The silence which completed the show really sold it as something different. (6:10 in)
5. Goldust Wants Some Machismo (Jan. 15, 1996)- Get used to this guy. An angle that had many parts which could fit on the list, this particular interview kind of summed up what they were doing with the feud. Definitely an “Are they actually going there?” sort of moment.
6. Vader Has An Authority Problem (Jan. 22, 1996)- Beating up an authority figure may have been old hat a few years later, but at this point, it just wasn’t done in the WWF. Monsoon was a beloved figure, and as reviewer J.D. Dunn put it, this was like seeing your grandpa get beat up.
7. Goldust Fondles…The Undertaker?!? (May 13, 1996)- Would you feel up Taker? Do you like life? But they went there, albeit in edited form. (starts 19:00 minutes in, goes for about 3 1/2 minutes)
As mentioned above, this segment was edited down as the show had been taped 2 weeks earlier. A detailed summary was printed in the May 6, 1996 edition of the Wrestling Observer. From the Observer:
“Goldust started pawing at Undertaker, but Undertaker stopped him and they had a stare down. Mankind attacked Undertaker and did the mouth hold on him to paralyze him. With Taker out, Goldust got on top of him and started making out with him including licking his leg going up with the idea he was going to start sucking him. Goldust started rubbing his own crotch before moving in for the kill when Undertaker sat up and Goldust got out of there. I was told this angle was far, far beyond anything that has ever been done before and the fans were literally stunned.”
8. Goldust Kisses A Black Man (May 27, 1996)- Because groping a dead man wasn’t enough. (47:20 in)
9. Jim Ross Lets Loose (Sep. 23, 1996)- Yeah, the attached angle sucked. But this promo was a blistering blast against one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. In 1996!
10. Pillman’s Got A Gun (Nov. 4, 1996)- Going out with a bang. Still one of the most controversial angles they ever did, and it nearly got them tossed off the USA network.
Now I’m not saying that ’95 & ’96 had as many aggressive moments as ’97 or ’98. That would be foolish. But I do think it necessary to point out that the Attitude era didn’t come out of nowhere. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Even during a tame period, there can be some pretty wild, memorable moments which lead to something greater. Hope everyone enjoys. Take care.