The SmarK Rant for WWF King of the Ring 1996–06.23.96

The SmarK Rant for WWF King of the Ring 1996 – 06.23.96 I’ve kinda been hemming and hawing about this one, but the original rant isn’t great and it does contain one of the most important moments in the history of wrestling and all. Oddly, this is the home video version instead of the original PPV broadcast and is actually about 10 minutes longer than the PPV thanks to “Coliseum Video exclusive” material. Live from Milwaukee, WI Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Owen Hart. King of the Ring Semi-Final: Steve Austin v. Marc Mero Mero has his grumpy jobbing face on during the ring entrance. Orton gets that one a lot, too. They trade headlocks on the mat to start and Mero puts him on the floor with a headscissors. Back in, Mero starts to work on the arm, but Austin stomps him down while Owen sums up the difference between Mero and Austin: “You don’t see Austin out there with some hosebag in his corner!” Austin offers a handshake and they go to the test of strength, which allows Austin to cheat and take over. He tosses Mero and drops him on the concrete with a press slam, which is a move you don’t see out of Austin very often. Back in with a snap suplex for two and Austin drops the middle rope elbow for two. Press slam into a backbreaker gets two. Boston crab as Austin busts out every bit of wacky offense in his playbook. Mero manages to power out of that one and gets a small package for two, but Austin puts him down with an elbow and goes back to the crab again. Mero powers out again (with help from some really well-timed cheerleading from Sable, which is impressive for someone so new in the business) and they trade near-falls off that, and Mero gets a rollup for two. Austin just slugs him down and counters a sleeper with a jawbreaker, but Mero launches out of the corner with a butt-butt. Mero makes the comeback and slugs away in the corner, and a double axehandle gets two. Mero tosses Austin (who is suddenly gushing blood from his lip) and follows with a dive, and back in for a missile dropkick that gets two. They fight to the top and Mero brings him down with a rana, which gets two. Austin comes back with a stungun variation out of a powerbomb for two, and the Stone Cold Stunner finishes at 16:48. And that was Mero’s first loss, so no wonder he was grumpy. Hell of an opener, with tons of crazy stuff from Austin and heat that built consistently throughout. **** Reading the original rant, I was thinking I must have overrated it, but no, Austin and Mero were working their asses off here. King of the Ring Semi-Final: Vader v. Jake Roberts Vader overpowers him and starts working the arm on the mat, and a big splash gets two. Jake blocks a blind charge and slugs back, but Vader escapes the DDT and beats him down in the corner. Corner splash misses and Jake gets the DDT, but the ref gets wiped out and calls for the DQ on the way down, giving Jake the win at 3:38. Nothing much to this one. ½* Vader completely destroys Jake afterwards to set up the storyline for the finals. Of mild note here is Owen calling him “Big Van Vader” during the beatdown, which probably got him a dirty look from Vince. WWF tag titles: The Smoking Gunns v. The Godwinns Thankfully this version of the show omits the pre-show match with Cloudi the transvestite managing the Bodydonnas, although they do show “highlights” here. The commentary and Billy’s pre-match promo really hammer home that the Gunns are HEELS NOW, DAMMIT, SO STOP CHEERING FOR THEM! Billy attacks PIG, who has immediately spazzes out while we cut to an inset interview with Cloudi. Was “she” ever seen again? I don’t recall the character lasting much beyond this. Meanwhile, Henry works on Bart’s arm, but a cheapshot turns the tide and the Gunns beat on Henry in a dull heat segment. Henry reverses a slam for two, but Billy continues working on the back before missing a blind charge and taking what would become a trademark bump. Bart comes in and misses a flying bodypress, and Phineas gets the hot tag. We get the requisite pier-six brawl, but Bart takes off his boot and nails PIG with it, giving Billy the pin at 10:00. Not terrible, but really, really, really boring. I was reading a recap of the 28-hour Marvel movie marathon over on the AV Club while watching this match, and now I know what he must have felt like by the time Age of Ultron rolled around. * Ultimate Warrior v. Jerry Lawler Lawler does a wonderfully cheesy rundown of the crowd on the way to the ring, basically insulting everyone in the front row one by one. I have to say, the impact of Warrior’s entrance is lessened a lot by the fancy pyro, because it minimizes the chances of him just storming to the ring and destroying someone. King attacks with the royal scepter and chokes Warrior out on the ropes, and Vince notes that Warrior certainly didn’t expect those sorts of tactics. I would presume that Warrior would have watched a Jerry Lawler match at some point in his life, in which case he should have expected those and more. Finally Warrior has had enough and no-sells a piledriver, making the comeback and destroying Lawler at 3:50. And that was the last time Warrior ever wrestled on a WWF PPV, although he did a couple of house show and TV appearances after this. What a way to go out. DUD This was pretty much exactly how the match needed to go, however. Undertaker v. Mankind This was looking to be another “urn thief of the month” feud for Undertaker, but then it suddenly caught fire and ended up evolving both guys. A severely pissed Undertaker attacks out of the darkness to start and pounds Mankind down in the corner, and Mankind bails for advice from the voices in his head. That advice: “Talking to yourself isn’t crazy. It’s only crazy if you answer yourself.” Back in, Taker works on the arm with the ropewalk, but Mankind slams him and slugs away in the corner. Mankind tosses him a couple of times, but he charges with a chair and that backfires on him. Taker backdrops him onto a chair on the floor. And you wonder why Mick is in the shape he is now. Back in, Taker gives him a shot with a chair behind the ref’s back, but Mankind escapes the tombstone and puts him down with a neckbreaker to set up the Mandible Claw, but Taker sits up to block it. It’s kind of amazing that they could get a simple move over to the point where Taker blocking it could get such a huge reaction from the crowd. He’s basically sticking his finger’s into a guy’s mouth, but the crowd is horrified and fearing for Undertaker’s safety when he does it, and overjoyed when Taker blocks it. Mankind with a Vulcan nerve pinch, but Taker slugs out of it and they brawl to the floor, where Mankind debuts the running knee into the stairs. Taker, not to be outdone, smashes in the face with a chair and they head back in. Taker beats on him in the ropes and adds the flying clothesline, but Mankind pulls out the piledriver out of nowhere for two. Mick gets all riled up and steals the urn from Paul Bearer, but can’t get it away from him. Taker seemingly moves in for the kill, but Mankind applies the Claw…and Paul accidentally hits Taker with the urn while aiming for Mankind, and that’s all for Undertaker at 18:18. Great brawl that kicked off a series of matches which gave us the first big reinvention of Undertaker’s gimmick. ***1/2 Intercontinental title: Goldust v. Ahmed Johnson Much like Mankind, this should have launched Ahmed Johnson into the stratosphere, but unfortunately ended up being a peak that he was never able to achieve again instead. Ahmed bursting through the doors and knocking the poor doormen down in a great visual, as he charges to the ring and starts beating on Goldust. They head to the floor and Ahmed throws the stairs at him, which has Owen criticizing his aim. Owen was pretty great on commentary here as the snarky jerk. Finally Goldust dodges a blind charge and takes over with a lariat, slugging him down for two. Goldust goes to a chinlock, and a rather lengthy one at that, and a piledriver gets two. Back to the chinlock, but Ahmed fights out and Goldust knees him in the back to slow him down again. Goldust with a sleeper, but he releases the move so he can give Ahmed some mouth-to-mouth, at which point Ahmed wakes up, does the crazed angry black man comeback, and squashes him for good with the powerbomb to win the IC title at 15:27. Way too long in the middle leading up to Ahmed’s big comeback. Also, the whole nonsense with the Savio Vega title controversy really lessened the impact of Goldust finally losing the title. ** This was set up to be the launching pad for Ahmed, and it just didn’t happen. Not for lack of trying, however, as this felt like a big deal at the time and you could sense the rocket getting strapped to Ahmed. Brian Pillman joins us at ringside to cut a crazed promo about how Jeffrey Dalmer should have eaten everyone in the city because Milwaukee sucks so much. Pillman’s gonna rape, pillage and plunder the WWF! If only he could have. King of the Ring finals: Steve Austin v. Jake Roberts Austin wisely goes right for the ribs and throws down on them. Austin slaps him around and tears the rib tape off, which brings Gorillla Monsoon out to check on Jake personally. Owen raises a good point – Why SHOULD Austin stop the beating unless he hear a bell? Jake decides to fight back, but Austin casually blocks the DDT by going to the ribs, and the Stone Cold Stunner finishes at 4:35 to kick off the Austin Era. DUD At least they kept it short. And then, the REAL moment, as Austin cuts his coronation promo and buries Roberts for his bible-thumping promos. “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass” suddenly became the ultra-cool catchphrase for online fans everywhere, and soon there were signs all over TV. Although as awesome as this moment was, no one had any idea how big Austin would become. WWF World title: Shawn Michaels v. British Bulldog So weeks after the entire point of the match has been shelved for good (the Diana lawsuit), the main event of this show limps into the home stretch. Sadly, Curt Hennig is exiled to the outside referee position, as they can’t even resist a bait-and-switch for a guest referee stip. They trade headlocks while Owen vocalizes what we’re all thinking: We all KNOW Shawn is a gutless coward, so how can he retain his title without cheating or getting himself disqualified? I love how Owen was making no effort to get himself over as a cool hip guy here, just going all out to be an unlikeable lying jerk. Shawn dumps Bulldog and follows with a rana off the apron, and poor Cornette gets spanked with the tennis racket. Back in, Bulldog goes back to the headlock, but Shawn reverses into a cross armbreaker and then evades Bulldog’s power to stay on the arm. Shawn with a sleeper, but Bulldog runs him into the corner to break and tosses him around the ring. Shawn puts him down with an armbar and goes up with a flying axehandle to the shoulder, but Bulldog presses him and drops him straight to the floor in a crazy Shawn bump. Bulldog adds a suplex on the floor and then presses Shawn back into the ring again for two. Bulldog with a chinlock, and he whips Shawn around the ring again and hooks him with the Rito Romero Special, then bridges back for two. Back to the chinlock, and he puts Shawn down with a backdrop and legdrop for two, which gives us a rare burst of emotion from Diana at ringside. She almost smiles and emotes! Vince puts over Shawn’s fanbase and Owen goes on an epic rant about how wrestling fans are morons and Bulldog should be champion because he’s talented and a winner, like himself. He’s just such a great asshole. Shawn fights up and Bulldog puts him down with a lariat and goes back to the chinlock. Shawn escapes with a crucifix for two, but they trade finisher attempts and then Bulldog kills him with another clothesline. That’s the kind of stuff Bulldog should have been doing all along. Piledriver and Bulldog goes up, but he misses a diving headbutt in embarrassing fashion. Owen, without missing a beat, immediately accuses Jose Lothario of pulling the ropes and tripping him up. Shawn goes up and Bulldog brings him down with a superplex for two. Another one is reversed in mid-air by Shawn, for two. They slug it out and collide, and Shawn recovers first with a rana, which Bulldog turns into a powerbomb for two. Both guys are out, but Shawn makes the comeback and the ref is bumped. Shawn with the flying elbow and superkick to finish at 26:23. Perfect didn’t even factor into the match after all the buildup. **** Bulldog and Owen proceed with the heel beatdown, which turns into Camp Cornette beating down Shawn and Ahmed Johnson, and then Ultimate Warrior makes the save to set up the six-man for the July PPV that no one remembers. The Pulse This show had the misfortune to be sandwiched between two of the greatest PPVs in history on the WCW side and saddled with a main event angle that no one cared about, but it’s a pretty tremendous show during a shit time for the company. Bookended by **** matches and featuring a surprisingly great performance from Undertaker in the middle, it’s really only hampered by Jake Roberts stinking up the KOTR tournament itself. Check it out on the Network if you’ve never seen it!

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–06.17.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 06.17.96 I actually watched the new Jerry Springer “Too Hot for TV” show on the Network this morning because it was only 30 minutes anyway. The Waaaaaaaaah-ditude Era crowd will probably dig it to a certain degree because it’s absolutely raunchy and shows how tame the shows are now by comparison. Basically the first one is called “Love Hurts” and it’s a bunch of 8 minute segments covering topics like Sable & Mero, Hunter & Steph, Lita being a whore, and the Billy & Chuck wedding. Honestly, it would have been better off split into shorter “episodes” and stuck on YouTube because I got tired of it about 20 minutes in and completely lost interest by the time they were at Al Wilson & Dawn Marie. Also, almost none of the “great” moments highlighted there are available to watch on the Network, so there’s that. And even the title is contradictory, as all the “Too Hot For TV” moments already aired on TV! And then they EDITED many of them here anyway! Springer sounds vaguely bored most of the time while doing the narration, which didn’t really help either. I was kind of hoping for a new take on “Are You Serious?” with wacky hosts and Puppet H and stuff, and Springer just doesn’t come off as someone who knows or cares anything about wrestling. I don’t think they’re gonna be able to milk this concept much past 2 or 3 shows, but it’s something different, so fine. Taped from Fayetteville, NC. Yay for fourth week taping shows. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler King of the Ring Quarterfinal: Steve Austin v. Savio Vega Vega chops away in the corner and gets a leg lariat for two, and Austin flails to the outside to escape. Back in, Austin works on the leg after a cheapshot, which draws Vince’s highest compliment as a worker: He’s mixing it up in rough-house fashion! Savio returns fire on the leg while Vince tells us to “expect the unexpected” tonight and then gives away all the big developments via on-screen graphic. Wouldn’t you maybe want to keep Brian Pillman’s debut a surprise? This episode did a horrid rating anyway, and in fact saved Kevin Sullivan’s job as booker because Nitro won by such a big margin. Savio continues working on the leg and gets a kneecrusher for two. Big splash misses, however, and Austin comes back, but they collide and we take a break. Back with FISTICUFFS erupting and Savio hits the leg lariat for two. Vince is confident in Savio’s chances here, but Austin suddenly debuts the STONE COLD STUNNER out of nowhere and gets the pin at 10:00. Vince, obviously not knowing that the business had just changed forever on this shitty TV show, doesn’t even give the move a name and immediately moves onto a recap of Undertaker v. Mankind. ** King of the Ring Quarterfinal: Marc Mero v. Owen Hart Steve Austin joins us on commentary, finally showing some personality on his own now. They trade hammerlocks on the mat and Owen complains about damage to his broken wrist. So that cheating Mero goes right after the cast and takes him down for an armbar. He goes up and misses a bodypress, and Owen goes to a chinlock. This poor crowd is SO burned out and tired. We take a break and return with Owen in control with a Boston crab while Mero makes WILDMAN faces to the camera. Oh god, someone shoot this taping and put it out of its misery. Owen with a Perfectplex for two, but a flying splash misses and Mero makes the comeback and finishes with a rollup at 11:35. So dull. *1/2 Meanwhile, Vince cuts to Bulldog doing an interview at a live event, which is supposedly going on at the same time as this show. Bulldog talks some smack and Shawn runs out for a brawl. Meanwhile, on the Superstar line, who are the 5 new superstars coming to the WWF? The answer is TL Hopper, Freddie Joe Floyd, Alex Porteau, The Goon and Sal Sincere. Jerry Lawler attacks Aldo Montoya, thus robbing us of a match against HHH. And then after he already piledrives and beats him up, Jake Roberts comes out to save. Brian Pillman makes his WWF debut, signing his contract at WWF HQ just days after nearly dying in a car accident that basically ended his career as we knew it. He actually had to be pulled out of the hospital with a high fever in order to film it. Pillman gives a tearful thank you for the opportunity. Jake Roberts v. Goldust Harvey Wippleman is now suddenly a referee in the payoff of that storyline where he was taking notes at ringside. That one got forgotten almost as fast. Goldust runs away literally for the first 2:30 of the match while Jake does an inset promo promising to help the new generation not to make the same mistakes he did. Well, THAT sure didn’t turn out the way he intended. In fact he ended up doing even more drugs over the next 20 years. Goldust tries to fondle him and then continues his regimen of running away and stalling. Finally he suckers Jake into the post while we get a bizarre bit on commentary with Jerry Lawler spoiling the plot of Mission Impossible. What was THAT about? Jake comes back and slugs away and finally we cut away to Mr. Perfect, who has the SCOOP on the guest referee for Shawn v. Bulldog. But first he wants to watch the end of this match. Not me. And then we take a break. Back with Goldust slowly working Jake’s knee over, giving us some exciting laying around on the mat. Jake comes back with the short clothesline, but Marlena gives Goldust a handful of glitter and he blinds poor Jake with it and pins him at 13:35. Ah, the old Rip Taylor finish. However, justice prevails, as Harvey sees the sparkles on Jake’s face and reverses the decision. Even better! -** Meanwhile, Jim Cornette announces that the special referee is…Mr. Perfect. The Pulse Probably one of the worst episodes of the show I’ve ever seen, although I feel like I say that a lot.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–06.17.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 06.17.96 Live from Richmond, VA. Finally, back in a city big enough to warrant inclusion in the opening! Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Larry Zbyszko, now seated at the announcer’s desk to replace the injured Eric Bischoff. Was that it for Bischoff as the announcer on this show? Must be fun to be the fans in attendance who have to sit there for 5 minutes at the beginning of the show while they recap the PPV. Oddly, the Bash PPV on the Network doesn’t have “WWF” muted when Bischoff asks the Outsiders if that’s who they work for, but the clip on this show does. So I’d assume that means this was originally produced for WWE 24/7, then. Stevie Ray v. Rick Steiner I was kind of afraid we’d get this trainwreck after the great Booker v. Scott match last week. Stevie attacks and boots Rick down in the corner and follows with a BLACK DYNAMITE CLOTHESLINE, complete with kung fu pose. That gets two. That about exhausts Stevie’s moveset, so Rick takes over with an overhead suplex and the flying bulldog for two. Stevie comes back with a powerslam, but misses some ridiculous bullshit off the middle rope and the Steinerline finishes at 2:18. Wisely, this was booked to be short. *1/2 The Heat do the beatdown afterwards and Scott sacrifices himself to save his brother. The crowd was ridiculously excited for all of this. Disco Inferno v. JOE GOMEZ The Desperado debuts! Finally my life is complete again! Apparently Gomez is very outspoken about the Horsemen situation, and when Joe Gomez talks, people fucking LISTEN. Gomez dominates Disco with a bodyslam and beats him up on the floor, and then hits a dropkick back in the ring. Sadly, he misses a bodypress and clotheslines himself on the top rope and Disco takes over. My wife is HORRIFIED that Disco is messing up Gomez’s beautiful hair. I know, right? Luckily, Gomez makes the comeback while constantly touching his hair, but Disco hits the neckbreaker and stops to dance. It gets two, but Gomez rolls him over for the pin at 3:32 to complete the greatest Nitro debut in history! ******, plus another ½* for the hair. Meanwhile, Mean Gene interviews Ric Flair and his newly expanded harem, thus beginning many long years of Debra never shutting up. Arn Anderson & Chris Benoit v. The American Males Arn casually punches Bagwell off the apron in an awesome moment, but gets rolled up by Riggs for two. Arn evades a speedy Riggs and just kicks him in the gut to a big pop, but Riggs dropkicks him for two. Over to Bagwell, who gets to face a pissed off Benoit (who is also made up like he has a black eye to sell the brawl from the Bash). Bagwell uses his fancy wrestling stuff, but a splash hits the knees and the Horsemen go to work on him. Bagwell gets a backslide on Arn, but Benoit comes in with chops to take over. Backdrop suplex sets up the diving headbutt for two, and then Arn cuts off a comeback to a GIANT babyface pop. Hot tag to Riggs regardless as there’s a clear division in the crowd tonight, but Benoit suplexes Riggs on the top rope to finish at 5:48. Probably should have been even more of a slaughter to really sell the return of the Horsemen. ** Big Bubba v. John Tenta The feud too big for the Bash to contain! Bubba runs away from a slugfest and trips Tenta up to post him, and slugs him down for two. We hit the chinlock as Tony is hyping the countdown to the second hour. So we’re now counting down to the countdown? But I guess this was the start of the 82 week ratings dominance, so maybe it worked. Tenta makes the comeback with some splashes and the powerslam for two, and then a second one (with feet on the ropes) finishes at 4:30. But then we take it up ANOTHER notch to notches unheard of before, as Bubba gets his revenge with a sock full of silver dollars, as he’s apparently an old-timey prospector now in addition to wannabe biker gang member. * Hopefully it wasn’t his…private sock, if you know what I mean. Because that would be painful AND unhygienic. Meanwhile, Macho Man is ready to kick off the second hour, and gives a promo about how he’ll be out shortly to be on the second hour. He has seen a psychiatrist, and she diagnosed him with OCD: One Cool Dude. I don’t think that’s an actual medical diagnosis. Randy Savage, as promised, joins us to kick off the second hour, and thankfully it can’t be much worse than the first hour. He chases Bobby Heenan around while poor Bobby tries to join the commentary team. Randy Savage v. Ric Flair Savage attacks like some sort of vicious, primal…guy, and we immediately take a break. Back with Flair dumping him into the crowd, but Savage runs him over to the VIP table and assaults him with various high-priced food items and associated dips. That table has been an awesome running gag for months now. Back in, Savage slugs him down for two and pounds away in the corner, which gives us a Flair Flop and a Flair Flip. Savage follows with a dive and lands facefirst on the railing, and we take another break. Back with Flair throwing chops and fighting off a Savage comeback, but he goes up and gets slammed off. Flair keeps slugging and finds a foreign object, which gets two, but Savage goes low after a ref bump and drops the big elbow. Savage wants another one and the women all shield Flair, but Savage drops it anyway. Benoit runs in and gets piledriven, but Mongo gets to be the Horsemen hero and clobbers Savage with the HALIBURTON OF DOOM and puts Flair on top for the pin at 13:00. Hell of a match, with Savage just crazy intense the whole time. I know, who would have thought? ***1/2 Glacier is totally coming, you guys! We recap the Bash PPV, including a detail I had missed before: The briefcase of money given to Mongo was Macho Man’s alimony money! That’s actually pretty great. Cruiserweight title: Dean Malenko v. Rey Mysterio Rey works a headlock and does some nice flying into a moonsault press, and a rolling cradle gets two. Dean puts him down with a short clothesline and works on the back with a half-crab. Brainbuster gets two. Rey escapes to the floor, but Dean brings him back in and goes up. Rey blocks, but Malenko puts him down with an electric chair for two. He continues working on the back with wacky holds on the mat, and then MURDERS him with a powerbomb for two. Overhead throw gets two. They head to the floor and Rey whips him into the railing and then follows with a rana from the apron to the floor, which draws a gasp from the crowd. Back in, they head up top again and Rey comes down with a sunset flip for two. Rey with a crazy spinning rollup for two. He counters a slam for two, but Dean puts him down with the inverted DDT for the pin at 8:44. Dean guzzled him slightly less here, but they still had yet to grasp that “LET REY DO WHATEVER THE HELL HE WANTS” was the best way to book his matches. ***1/2 Meltzer, in the Observer, was still unimpressed with Rey’s showing at this point. The Giant v. Scott Steiner For the person who was asking on the blog previously, Dave mentions in the Observer here that the current plan is to run Giant v. Hogan for the title at Hog Wild, so that’s where they were going before the heel turn. Giant goes after Scott’s ribs, which were injured in the opener when Scott saved his brother from certain doom at the hands of Harlem Heat. Giant works him over and we take a break, returning with Giant still working on the ribs. The match is so boring they’ve even killed Super-Crowd. Suplex and Giant puts him on the floor and grabs a wooden chair. Back in, he misses a charge and Scott gets a mind-blowing backdrop suplex on Giant to wake up the crowd, for two. Scott grabs the chair and breaks it on Giant’s back, but he ignores it and chokeslams Scott to finish at 8:15. Terrible match up until the finish. * Glacier is coming…but now we have a date! July 1996! Still didn’t happen, of course, but I appreciate the effort. Mean Gene announces the three men who will face the Outsiders at Bash at the Beach: Lex Luger, Sting and Randy Savage. The Pulse A great show made all the better by JOE GOMEZ.

The SmarK Rant for WWE Extreme Rules 2015

The SmarK Rant for WWE Extreme Rules 2015 Live from Chicago, IL Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & JBL To say there’s no buzz about this show would be a gross understatement. Chicago Street Fight: Dean Ambrose v. Luke Harper They brawl outside immediately and Dean hits him with a dive, although Cole clarifies that you have to pin your opponent inside the ring. So even in a no-rules street fight, there is in fact SOME rules. I mean, you wouldn’t want anarchy. Ambrose grabs a kendo stick and beats on Harper with that, but he gets suplexed onto an open chair in a spot that probably isn’t good for the longevity of his back. Harper beats on him with the kendo stick and drops him on another chair in the corner for two. Ambrose comes back with a slam onto the chair and a tornado DDT, and the crowd wants tables. Please, it’s not the properly approved PPV for tables yet. You might as well chant for stairs while you’re at it. Ambrose with the flying clothesline for two, but Harper counters the lariat with a big boot and they end up on the floor again. Ambrose chases him to the entrance with a kendo stick and we travel into the locker room and backstage area. Harper jumps into someone’s car and steals it, and Ambrose dives in after him as the match is apparently on hiatus at 8:30 or so. Apparently car theft laws are also suspended under the Extreme Rules banner. Nothing really to the match. ** Meanwhile, Seth Rollins continues to squabble with Kane in a segment that feels like it’s 10 minutes long. Kiss Me Arse match: Sheamus v. Dolph Ziggler Yes, they actually paid people to come up with this match stipulation. Ziggler really builds that heat here by making fun of Sheamus and his Mohawk on Twitter. Greg Valentine v. Wahoo McDaniel it ain’t. I will say, Sheamus’s new music is BADASS. I will also say that I will not be using the hashtag “KissMeArse” to discuss this match on social media. Ziggler slugs away in the corner and they head to the floor right away, but Sheamus beats on him while Jerry Lawler wonders if either guy has washed their ass in preparation for the match. Well, JBL would be the expert on THAT. Back in, Sheamus goes to a chinlock and then blocks the fameasser with a powerbomb for two. Sheamus puts him down with a pair of short-arm clotheslines and goes back to the chinlock while deriding short people. Just to be clear here, in WWE-land Ziggler is NOT tall? Because that seems weird. Ziggler slugs out, giving us our first “creating separation” of the night, but Sheamus pounds him down again and hooks the Cloverleaf. Ziggler gets a nice counter into a rollup for two and a superkick gets two. Sheamus gets the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker (which Cole is now calling the Irish Curse, something like the third or fourth move to get that name) and goes for the Brogue Kick, but Ziggler counters into a rollup for two, and a small package finishes at 9:25. This was fine, didn’t really go anywhere though and lacked a big heat sequence or climax. The crowd was shockingly into the stupid stip, however. **1/2 Seems really early to blow off the heat on Sheamus, but that’s the WWE midcard in 2015 for you. And as usual they renege on the stip, as Sheamus lays out Dolph with a low blow and Brogue Kicks him instead, then shoves Dolph’s face into his ass. This week on the WWE Network, a bunch of crappy shows that no human being would possibly want to watch. Like really, a retrospective about Mayweather v. Big Show? Gee, I wonder why they’re suddenly reminiscing about that match? I thought PPV was dead! Although apparently King of the Ring is coming back, so there’s that. WWE tag titles: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd v. The New Day The Brass Ring Club are the clear babyfaces here. Tyson controls Kofi and gets a backslide for two, and Cesaro comes in for a slam on Big E and a double stomp for two. They fight to the floor with Tyson getting a nice somersault dive on Kofi, but the New Day double-teams him to take over. Kofi with a dropkick for two as the crowd is unsure what to chant for the champions. Big E misses a charge and lands on the floor, it’s hot tag Cesaro. He throws uppercuts on Kofi in the corner and gets a clothesline for two, but tries the Giant Swing and Kofi escapes to the top rope. Cesaro suplexes him and Kidd drops the elbow for two. Big E comes back in with the spear off the apron and it’s BONZO GONZO, but Kidd blocks Kofi’s wacky kick and hooks the Sharpshooter. Big E breaks it up with a suplex on Kidd, but Cesaro cleans up and gets the Giant Swing on Kofi. Cesaro gets distracted with Woods, however, and Kofi rolls him up for the pin and the titles at 9:40. Good double-team stuff here, but the finish was pretty bad. Still, Kidd and Cesaro are on another level of awesome right now. So of course they jobbed. ***1/2 I feel like we’re through the looking glass now, in an era where they talk about how the promotion is all about entertaining the fans and then they push guys who are defined by how much people hate watching them. Meanwhile, the New Day’s victory promo is interrupted by Dean Ambrose crashing into the arena with the stolen vehicle, as they continue the match. Dean Ambrose v. Luke Harper, Part 2 Back to the ring as both guys grab some chairs from under the ring and Harper powerbombs him on one for two. He buries Ambrose in chairs and goes up, and there’s already a million logical problems with that one, but Ambrose slams him off and hits the Dirty Deeds for the pin. Did that really need the 30 minute break? I mean, it’s kind of a clever idea, but it’s not like it made for a better match or anything. US title, Russian Chain Match: John Cena v. Rusev Rusev attacks in the corner and touches two corners, but Cena quickly touches three before Rusev cuts him off. Rusev dumps him and ties him in the ropes for some punishment, then back in for two corners. There’s a major issue here in that the chain is WAY too long to build drama. The guys are just walking around the ring touching the corners, without having to sell the drama of dragging the other guy around. Cena runs Rusev into the post and touches two corners, but Rusev beats him down with the chain. At this point the announcers discuss what an underdog that Cena is, because this is Rusev’s match. A match that has never been broadcast on WWE TV before and thus is Rusev’s first time. They’re kind of contradicting themselves there. They keep hitting each other with weak shots from the chain as this has no drama to it, and the crowd is so bored that they chant for Lana. Lana waves at them, which angers Rusev and he sends her back to the dressing room. So now Cena comes back after 10 minutes of nothing and hooks the STF. And…? This match is STUPID. Cena touches two and now Rusev gets the Accolade. Again I ask, and…? Cena powers out and runs Rusev into a pair of corners, which light up for Rusev, but Cena cuts him off with the FU. Both guys are down and they crawl around the ring touching corners and then Cena gives him another FU and touches the fourth to retain at 13:33. Just because Eddie Guerrero had one good “touch all four” match 11 years ago doesn’t mean we need to ever see it again. ** WWE Divas title: Nikki Bella v. Naomi Apparently Naomi is now a Sasha Banks-esque heel and Nikki is the babyface. Because reasons. WWE: Where we’re telling stories, except when we’re too lazy to actually tell the story. Naomi controls with a chinlock and drops an elbow for two, but Nikki rolls her up for two. Naomi bulldogs her into the turnbuckle for two and a kick out of the corner for two. Nikki mounts the comeback, but Naomi gets the butt splash for two. A moonsault misses, but Naomi escapes the Rack Attack and rolls her up for two. Nikki gets a jumping kick out of the corner for two and Brie adds a shot from the outside, and the Rack Attack finishes at 7:15. This is apparently shocking behavior to the announcers. Dull and way too long. With AJ and Paige gone there’s literally nothing left in this division of interest. *1/2 Meanwhile, Rusev yells at Lana in Russian, and she goes to see the Authority. Last Man Standing: Roman Reigns v. The Big Show Roman slugs away on the Human Pee Break and dumps him before grabbing a table, but Big Show shoves it back under the ring in a cute spot. Reigns hits the apron kick and gets another table, but this time Big Show uses his frying pan sized hands to break it. Roman grabs a kendo stick, but Show slugs him down and breaks that, too. So that’s where all their budget on the Network went to – replacing needlessly broken weapons. Show punches Reigns down, but he grabs a chair and beats on Show with that. See, but we already had all the chair spots in the street fight, so why drag them out again on the same show? Reigns grabs a pair of tables, but Show hits the KO punch and Roman is up at 8. Show tries a chokeslam onto the table, but Reigns gets a samoan drop through it and Show is up at 8. Show with a spear for an 8 count and he goes up with a pump splash that misses by a foot and still gets an 8 count. My god, if that splash had actually made contact, Reigns would be DEAD! They slowly lumber to the top rope and Reigns goes down, but comes back and slams Show off. Two superman punches follow, but Show blocks a third and chokeslams him through a pair of tables at ringside. Luckily, Roman is up at 9. Show charges and goes through a table for 8, but bails to the floor and Reigns spears him through the barricade. Show is up at 9 and goes to the announce table, so Reigns spears him from one table to another and buries him under the Spanish announce table rubble to win at 19:45. Probably as good as you were going to get out of this, although the stalling early hurt it a lot and you’ve gotta wonder how many crazy beatings that they can put Reigns through in order to make up for their lousy booking of him. ***1/4 Bo Dallas joins us to tell us how smelly that Chicago is. You tell ‘em, Bo! Sadly, Ryback does not Bo-lieve and comes out to beat him up. And then to waste more time, we get ANOTHER WWE Network commercial. Meanwhile, Rusev announces that he’s facing John Cena AGAIN next month, this time in an I Quit match. Come on, really, four PPVs in a row? Why not continue Cena’s open challenge with a mystery opponent or something more interesting? WWE World title: Seth Rollins v. Randy Orton This show has really been dragging since the tag title match so hopefully this is quick. Seth tries to run right away and Orton pulls him down and slugs away. Rollins climbs for it again and Orton slugs away in the corner, but Rollins powerbombs him for two. They keep kicking and punching and Seth gets a clothesline for two as the crowd completely dies off. Orton makes a comeback and Rollins keeps trying to run away, then hits Orton with the flying knee off the top rope for two. Orton comes back with the powerslam for two, but Rollins escapes the draping DDT and gets a superkick for two. They fight to the top again and try to escape, but now J&J Security comes out to interfere in the match where no one can interfere, and Rollins is saved. Kane tells them to get lost and Orton takes over on Rollins again with the draping DDT, and a Pedigree for two. Orton tries to go for the door and Kane won’t let him out, but then Rollins goes for the door and he slams it in his face, too. So now Kane and J&J all head into the cage, where no interference can possibly happen, and Kane chokeslams the security geeks and then Orton and Rollins as well. I don’t even understand what the motivation is supposed to be at this point. Kane puts Rollins on top for two, but Orton gives Kane an RKO and then Rollins gives Orton an RKO and exits the cage to retain at 21:04. Well that was definitely not quick. Or particularly good. **1/2 So apparently due to controversy, this feud MUST CONTINUE. Because otherwise what would they fill time with? The Pulse Nothing bad tonight, although the cage match was a boring letdown and took the show down from thumbs up territory for me. I didn’t regret the three hours, particularly, so I’d call it thumbs in the middle tonight. Check out my rundown of the show at the Sporting News as well: http://www.sportingnews.com/sport/story/2015-04-27/wwe-extreme-rules-2015-wwe-network-seth-rollins-randy-orton-big-show-roman-reigns

The SmarK Rant for WCW Great American Bash 1996

The SmarK Rant for WCW Great American Bash 96 – 06.16.96 Upgraded from my Roku Streaming Stick to the brand new version of the Roku 3 today, and everything is blazingly fast now. Except for the WWE Network, which immediately crashed the Roku when I tried to fast-forward something. Because of course. Live from Baltimore, MD Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Dusty Rhodes. I totally forgot about the goofy SNME-style promos before the show, actually. They were definitely ripping off aspects of the WWF presentation style around this point. Fire & Ice v. The Steiner Brothers Ice Train overpowers Scott for two, but the Steiners clean house. Norton works on Rick, but he gets suplexed for two and Scott adds a dropkick. Norton of course is merely inconvenienced and beats Scott down, allowing Ice Train to come in for more punishment. Corner splash misses and Scott suplexes him out of the corner, then he suplexes Norton and nearly breaks his neck. He’s got a pretty thick neck anyway, I’m sure he wouldn’t have even noticed. Norton bails and Scott tries a flying bodypress in the ring, but Norton catches him with a powerslam for two. Train comes in and works on the shoulder, with Norton adding a shoulderbreaker into an armbar. Rick repeatedly kicks Norton in the face to break that up and I’m sensing some tensions here. Another shoulderbreaker, but Scott manages to tag Rick while on Norton’s back and Rick runs wild with clotheslines. Fire & Ice double-team Rick with a powerbomb into a splash, however, and they try a Doomsday Device, but Scott breaks it up and they get the flying bulldog on Norton for two. Scott with the Frankensteiner on Norton to finish at 10:31. Kudos to Flash for taking that thing. Good hard-hitting match to start. *** US Title: Konnan v. El Gato Gato is no Joe Gomez as far as challengers go. As always, I remind you that El Gato is Spanish for “Pat Tanaka”. This was typical WCW weirdness, as they decided to book a match between Konnan and a masked man named El Gato, but had no real idea of who would play the part. So instead of getting any actual Mexicans, they found Tanaka at whatever waffle house he was wrestling out of in 1996 and gave him the gig instead. And they’re not even TRYING, as Tanaka is just wearing his usual gear with a Tiger Mask gimmick stuck over his trademark hair. Gato uses his South American martial arts to take Konnan down with armdrags, but Konnan puts him down with a clothesline for two. Gato gets a superkick for two and a sunset flip for two, but Konnan takes him down and works on the leg. Konnan puts him on the floor with a powerbomb, and then finishes with a jackknife slam back in the ring at 5:57 to retain. Just a Nitro match. ** Sting goes on a huge rant against Steven Regal and his prissy mannerisms, but then completely loses his train of thought mid-promo in a funny goof and Gene has to give him a minute and jumpstart him again. That was definitely live. Lord of the Ring match: Diamond Dallas Page v. Marcus Bagwell They immediately fight to the floor and Bagwell sends Page into the front row, but DDP cuts him off on the way back in. Bagwell starts working on the arm as Tony relates a backstory about a film student finding DDP homeless on the campus of his college and then giving him the money to enter WCW again. So was that the payoff the benefactor angle? Bagwell dumps him and follows with a dive, but goes up and gets crotched as DDP takes over. Backbreaker gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Page with the abdominal stretch and some sort of half-hearted piledriver for two. Bagwell comes back with a pair of atomic drops and a slingshot clothesline for two, but a blind charge misses and DDP gets two. Bagwell comes back again with a headscissors, but DDP drops him with the Cutter at 9:36. You can see them building up the “out of nowhere” aspect of that move and really getting it over. **1/4 Pretty dull stuff here. WCW Cruiserweight title: Dean Malenko v. Rey Mysterio Jr. For those keeping track, this is where the show really takes off. This is of course Rey’s PPV debut, on par with a Joe Gomez although without the longevity or career highs to follow. They do the stalemate sequence to start and start pulling out the awesome lucha gymnastics as Dean bumps to the floor. Rey with the springboard dropkick, and back in for a sunset flip out of a knucklelock. Dean dumps him and tries a baseball slide, but Rey casually slides back in to avoid it. Back in, Dean goes to work on the arm with some vicious stuff, but Rey walks the ropes and dropkicks out of it. Dean puts him down with a clothesline out of the corner for two and goes back to the arm with a hammerlock slam for two. Dean really cranks on the arm as this stays on the mat for way too long. Dean stomps him down and starts on the arm again. What an odd choice of a match style for REY MYSTERIO to debut with. Even WWE knew enough to have him go out there and fly all over the ring when he started. Butterfly suplex gets two. Dean goes back to the arm, but Rey finally makes the comeback and puts Dean on the floor before following with an insane somersault plancha halfway up the aisle. Back in with a springboard dropkick for two. They trade pinfall reversals for two and the West Coast Pop gets two. They fight to the top and Rey takes him down with a rana for two, and reverses a backbreaker attempt for two. Dean blocks another rana attempt with a powerbomb and pins him with his feet on the ropes to retain at 17:55, however. Those last few minutes were CRAZY. **** Meltzer kind of buried the match, despite giving it the same rating, noting that Rey’s cred was pretty much shot now because he lost his debut to a midcard guy. BURIED. And he spelled his name wrong, listing it as “Oscar Gonzales”. DOUBLE BURIED. Big Bubba v. John Tenta They brawl outside to start and Tenta throws him into the stairs and then works him over in the corner. Bubba finds an international object and slugs Tenta down for two, then follows with an enzuigiri for two. Tenta tries a slam and falls back, and Bubba smothers him for a while. Bubba goes up, however, and Tenta powerslams him for the pin at 5:31. Unfortunately, this feud MUST CONTINUE. DUD Falls Count Anywhere: Chris Benoit v. Kevin Sullivan They immediately do a crazy brawl into the crowd and up the stairs, ending up in the men’s bathroom. Dusty is just in his glory here, as this is literally the greatest thing he’s ever seen, culminating with them fighting over a urinal and a woman in the men’s bathroom. Sullivan shoves Benoit’s head into the extra toilet paper and they get into a vicious slugfest before heading down into the arena again. Sullivan just dumps him down the stairs and chucks a chair at him at ringside. Benoit retrieves a table and they take turns whipping each other into it, but Benoit sets it on the top rope and they fight on top of it. And then from there, Benoit finally puts him away with a superplex at 9:52 to a huge pop. Can’t really go with the full monty any more, but it was still a great brawl with non-stop action, that set a template for Vince Russo for years afterwards. Not to mention it was Dusty’s finest hour as a commentator, even as he lost one of his oldest friends the day before. Now that’s a pro. ****1/4 Benoit goes for the beatdown, but Arn Anderson makes the save…and then turns on Sullivan and kicks the shit out of him as well. And that was an awesome payoff, too. Meanwhile, the newly rejuvenated Horsemen cut their victory promo, and they wouldn’t be done yet tonight. Apparently Benoit has now “earned his stripes” with the Horsemen and is set for life with them. Sting v. Lord Steven Regal At this point I switch to the iPad for various reasons, and the quality is pretty iffy on it tonight. Also, has anyone commented recently how “The Man Called Sting” and “Steinerized” are basically the same song? Because they totally are. This was actually a pretty fantastic little feud built up on Nitro and WCWSN, with Regal being all kinds of a British super-dick and Sting being all “America is awesome, derp derp” and damn if it didn’t work great. Sting attacks to start, but Regal takes him down and pounds him with forearms, but Sting fights him off and Regal goes to argue with the front row for a bit. Thankfully the crowd is aware of their location in the USA and informs Mr. Regal. Back in, Steve offers a heartfelt handshake and smile, Sting THRUSTS HIS CROTCH at him. Is this how America treats visiting dignitaries and great men like Mr. Regal? No wonder he hates all the fans. Regal takes him down and rubs his knee in his face, then goes into a cobra clutch and pounds away with forearms. Regal controls him with a full nelson, but Sting takes him down with a sunset flip for two. Regal, who is a great professional wrestler, makes faces while fighting the move and threatens to take out his frustrations by punching the referee in the face at the same time. Regal was on another level of greatness at this point. Unfortunately we’re getting close to the point where he indulged in the drink and got fat and lazy for a long time. Regal with a dropkick for two and he goes to a headlock, but Sting suplexes out. Regal stays on him with a wacky armbar while yelling at the bloody fools in the front row and using the ropes. MULTITASKING~! Sting comes back with an abdominal stretch, but Regal slugs him down and shows his dance moves. Regal puts him in a headscissors and gets two off that, and he goes back to cranking on the arm. Sting fights up, so Regal hits him with rabbit punches (Dusty: “He needs to hit him with that open hand…NO NOT YOU, REGAL!”) and Sting goes down again. Regal goes for a crossbody out of the corner and Sting hits him with a dropkick with AWESOME timing and makes the comeback. They fight to the top and Regal takes him down with a butterfly suplex for two and hooks in the Regal Stretch, giving him the quality demoralizing trashtalk at the same time. Finally he just beats on Sting in the corner with backhands, and Sting has HAD ENOUGH. Sting beats the hell out of him with an awesome camera angle in the corner, but Regal blocks the Stinger splash with double knees. Sting isn’t taking more of Regal’s shit, however, and just hooks him in the Deathlock (with Regal kicking and screaming the whole way) to finish for good at 17:10. LOVED IT. Regal was just an insufferable dick the whole time and Sting got his revenge. FOR MURICA. **** Ric Flair & Arn Anderson v. Steve McMichael & Kevin Greene Most people were expecting a by-the-numbers celebrity trainwreck, which makes what we got all the better. The crowd already hates Mongo and some dudes managed to bring in a huge “Mongo Sucks” sign on a bedsheet. They’re not wrong. Arn does some football drills with Mongo and that goes badly for him. Tony relates a conversation with the football players, where he learns that rattlesnake hunting is a profession in Texas. Dusty is flabbergasted. “Of course! We all hunt rattlesnakes in Texas!” The football team does a beatdown on Arn in the corner at Savage’s behest and the Horsemen regroup, and Kevin Greene comes in for his debut. Greene is having a blast and Flair comes in and matches energy with him, then waits for Greene to go into the three-point stance and kicks him in the face. Greene comes back with shoulderblocks, however, and the Horsemen run away again. And this time Savage kicks Flair’s ass and tosses him back in. Flair is so great that he actually makes two green rookies look like killers and makes the crowd cheer for them. Mongo tags in and Arn pulls back from Flair’s tag in a funny bit. Mongo keeps overpowering Flair as they keep it simple and effective, and Mongo no-sells the chops and does his own, then adds a backdrop as Flair is just bumping like crazy here. Flair goes up and gets slammed off, and we get stereo figure-fours from the football players as the crowd goes crazy for it. The women all head back to the dressing room after an argument and Arn finally turns the tide with a cheapshot on Mongo, and the Horsemen go to work. Mongo gets dumped and Bobby gets his shots in, and back in Flair goes low and drops the knee to make sure the heels get no sympathy from the crowd. Kevin Greene as the babyface who is incredulously angry at the rampant cheating is just amazing for someone having his first match. The Horsemen cut off the tag to continue building sympathy for Mongo as face in peril, but he rams the Horsemen together off an atomic drop and makes the hot tag to Greene. Powerslam on Flair and you can see Flair leading him through the positioning for the next spot, but doing it totally naturally. Greene suplexes him in from the apron, but Arn clips him from behind like a dick and goes after the knee. The Horsemen cut off the ring and Flair tries the figure-four, but Greene reverses into a small package for two. Flair stays on him with the kneecrusher and this time gets the move, complete with help from Arn in the corner. Finally Savage can take no more of these shenanigans, but Chris Benoit joins us and beats on him. And then the evil women return with newly glammed out Debra and the Halliburton case filled with cash, which Mongo considers carefully…and then hits Greene in the face with it. Flair gets the pin at 20:50 of an insanely entertaining tag match. ***1/2 And the Four Horsemen are complete again! We get an epic beatdown of Randy Savage and Kevin Greene for good measure. Mongo was a terrible worker but fit in perfectly with the group as a character. Given that everyone assumed it would be the usual goofy match and celebrity going over Flair formula, this was awesome. This would have been the capper on any other PPV as it is. But wait, there’s MORE! Eric Bischoff brings out the invading Hall and Nash, so that WCW can formally answer their challenge. Bischoff still won’t use their names, which is another nice touch. So the match will happen at Bash at the Beach, and Bischoff specifically asks if they work for the WWF, trying to get the lawyers off his back. Bischoff promises the reveal the WCW team on Nitro, so Hall kicks him in the gut and Nash powerbombs him off the stage and through a table, which has the crowd freaking out. This was amazing on so many levels, not the least of which was that Bischoff had never been touched to that point, and it was the first acknowledgement that Bischoff was the guy in charge of the company, a year before Vince came out as owner of the WWF on TV. Needless to say, I was losing my shit at this point and this was one of the biggest angles in the history of the company. It was suddenly a totally different atmosphere, with two guys who weren’t playing by the arbitrary rules of the wrestling “universe” coming in and just doing what they wanted in ways that fans didn’t know how to react to yet. It was DIFFERENT and off-putting and suddenly made everything must-see and dangerous. Really, the World title match should have been stuck in the middle of the show somewhere because nothing was going to top that, but they go ahead with it anyway. WCW World title: The Giant v. Lex Luger Really, these guys have no hope of following anything that came before. Luger slugs away on the Giant to start and clotheslines him to the floor, then does a clumsy leap onto Giant’s back with a sleeper. Jimmy Hart tries to break it up with the megaphone, but Sting comes out and chases Jimmy to the back. Giant beats Luger down in the corner to escape and whips Luger around the ring, as Luger somehow grunts even louder when he’s selling than when he’s on offense. Giant puts him in a body vice and tosses him down for a surfboard and the crowd is just totally dead. Can’t even blame them. Giant slowly pounds away on the back. Lex makes the comeback with the offense grunts instead of the defense grunts and pounds away on the Giant, who charges and ends up laying on the top rope somehow. Luger uses that contrived position to put him in the Rack, but Giant falls on top of him and finishes with the chokeslam to retain cleanly at 9:30. I think with hindsight they should have put the title on Luger here and passed it to Hogan that way, since it would have ripped the hearts out of the fans that much more and Luger had earned it anyway. *1/2 The Pulse If not for the main event, this is the greatest PPV in WCW history and probably one of the greatest of all-time, period. As it is, it sits comfortably below Bash 89 on my list. Taken with Bash at the Beach three weeks later, it’s a hell of a one-two punch that nearly destroyed the WWF in the process and really, probably should have. Strongest recommendation!

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–06.10.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 06.10.96 Taped from Sioux City, IA. Week three of a 1996 RAW taping cycle. Feel the excitement. I don’t think there’s much this show could do to top the batshit craziness of Nitro this week, ether. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler King of the Ring Qualifier: Owen Hart v. Yokozuna Owen attacks and pounds Yoko with the broken arm, showing what a badass he truly was. He’s like Tara on SOA! Yoko chops him down, but misses a legdrop and Owen takes over after a cheapshot from Cornette. Owen hits him with a leg lariat, but goes up and misses a dropkick to allow Yoko to make the comeback. Banzai Drop misses and Owen pins him with his feet on the ropes at 4:03. The end was rapidly approaching for Yokozuna’s career. This was OK thanks to Owen bumping all the place. ** Meanwhile, Jake Roberts has some big problems, man. Choking on his own vomit due to coke and pills and such. But then among us hasn’t been there? That’s why it was such a relatable character. King of the Ring Qualifier: Bodydonna Skip v. Marc Mero Mero has been hanging around for three months now and I still have no idea what his character is supposed to be. I kind of wish he had just come in as Marvellous Marc Mero instead of having to fall back on that gimmick after the injury. Mero sends Skip running with some armdrags and a dropkick, but Skip suplexes him on the top rope to take over while Jake continues his sob story on commentary. Skip with a flying fistdrop and Vince plays “What’s in the news?” to show how LIIIIIIIIIVE they are. Skip goes up top after 15 years of this barnburner and Mero dropkicks him on the way down, but Skip goes to a devastating surfboard. Skip misses a top rope rana, but recovers with an enzuigiri to the shoulder for two. And we take a break. Goody. Back with Skip holding a chinlock and he follows with a gutwrench for two. Another chinlock and a slam gets two. Skip dumps him and misses a dive, and Mero gets his own five and finishes with a top rope rana at 12:34. Way too long for what it was. *1/2 Jerry Lawler presents Ultimate Warrior with the infamous framed portrait, while Warrior RUINS the whole angle with that damn baseball cap. They could have drawn millions and outdone the nWo, but Warrior’s baseball cap sunk the whole thing. And in fact Lawler hits him with the portrait, Warrior basically ignores it, and then runs off. Wow, what an angle. Also, Meltzer rips the lid off the whole comic book lie in the Observer this week, noting that Vince made up the whole “#1 comic in the world” thing and that most major distributors don’t even carry it. Shocking. Note to Jerry Lawler: This feud didn’t work because it was STUPID and no one bought Lawler as any kind of threat, not because of any baseball caps. British Bulldog v. Undertaker Also, this week in the Observer, Bulldog clears up his issues with the WWF thanks to promises of dropping the entire Diana angle, despite getting a “big money offer” from WCW, and he basically agrees to stay after all. Whew. So now the heat shifts to Jim Cornette being given the right to select a guest referee for the title match instead. Bulldog slugs away in the corner, but Taker chokes him out and Bulldog runs away. Back in, Taker goes old school and drops the leg for two. Bulldog hammers away on him and hits the delayed suplex, but Taker sits up, so Bulldog powerslams him for two. We take a break and return with Bulldog holding a chinlock, but Undertaker makes the comeback. Bulldog cuts him off with a neckbreaker and legdrop for two and goes back to the chinlock again. That goes on for a long time, with Bulldog making O Faces for some reason to really sell the exertion, but Taker finally suplexes out. Bulldog with the powerslam, but Taker escapes and they slug it out. And then we take another break to really stretch things out. Back with Taker hitting the chokeslam and they fight to the floor, but Mankind pops out of the ring apron and holds Taker’s foot, giving Bulldog the countout win at 17:19. Wow, way to really build up Bulldog for that title match in two weeks. Mankind beats the hell out of Undertaker again and we’re out. Does it kind of weird anyone else out thinking about Undertaker as a part of these shows that seemed like a lifetime ago, with everyone dead or retired, and yet Undertaker was just wrestling Bray Wyatt third from the top at Wrestlemania a few weeks ago? I guess it just shows the effectiveness that his character retoolings have had over the years that he can still be a believable part of the show today. ** The Pulse You literally missed nothing if you skipped this one.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–06.10.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 06.10.96 Uh oh, content warning. Must be a Benoit episode. HOUR #1! Live from somewhere. But our main event tonight is the Horsemen v. Joe Gomez & Renegade, so that’s pretty exciting. Apparently it’s Wheeling, WV. Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Larry Zbyszko Booker T v. Scott Steiner A little less than five years later, and these two would be closing out the history of WCW as World and US champion. No wonder WCW died, they gave away the last ever World title match on a free Nitro five years beforehand! They fight over a backslide and counter each others’ suplexes, but Scott hits him with the butterfly powerbomb. They fight to the floor and HOLY COW who is the hot blonde sitting at the table with Tony and Larry? Back in, Booker with the ax kick for two and he goes up with a nice crossbody for two. Scott reverses a suplex into a Slop Drop and they slug it out, but Booker runs into a boot. Scott with the belly to belly , but Booker dodges the frankensteiner and puts him down with a sidekick for two. Booker goes up and misses a flying splash, and Scott hits him with an overhead suplex for the pin at 5:55. Anticlimactic finish, but a really good TV match, with all action! *** Not as good as Gomez & Renegade v. The Horsemen will be, but pretty good. Debra McMichael interrupts Scott Steiner’s post-match promo because she’s so upset about Steve. He might go crazy and hurt someone! As long as neither Joe Gomez nor Renegade get hurt before our main event tonight, I’m fine. Diamond Dallas Page v. Jim Powers It’s the Nitro debut of Powers, where clearly they have no steroid testing. He looks an overinflated parade balloon for pete’s sake. Powers gets a pair of rollups and Page takes him down by the hair and stomps away. Gutwrench powerbomb gets two and Page chokes away, but Powers makes the comeback with the dropkick for two. Page finishes this goof with the Diamond Cutter at 4:00. DDP is now fully slimmed down and sporting the look that would make him a star later in the year. Almost as big of a star as Joe Gomez. Meanwhile, Konnan is ready to face the “legendary” El Gato, who is well known all over South America. No part of the continent in particular, of course. Maybe it’s like these Nitro shows where they don’t announce the country that El Gato comes from unless it’s over a certain population? They really had no idea what to do with Konnan at this point, did they? You know who they did have clear plans for, at least? Joe Gomez and the Renegade. Sting v. Meng Meng fires away in the corner, but Sting comes back and then misses a dropkick. Meng continues beating him down, but Sting slugs back and bulldogs him. Meng sneaks in with a small package for two, but Sting rolls him up for two. Meng goes up and Sting brings him down and hooks the Scorpion Deathlock (sort of) for the submission at 3:00. This was pretty shitty. DUD Hopefully Joe Gomez and Renegade can save this show. Meanwhile, Debra tracks down Bobby Heenan, trying to stop the match before Sunday. Heenan slams the door on Okerlund, and Debra runs out of the dressing room screaming. Flair and Arn are apparently so fired up that they beat up Joe Gomez and Renegade right there in the hallway, thus robbing us of our advertised main event tonight! FUCK YOU, HORSEMEN! DAMN YOU TO HELL ON BEHALF OF JOE GOMEZ AND THE RENEGADE! Hacksaw Jim Duggan v. David Taylor Apparently our new main event will be Flair and Anderson now challenging for the tag titles against Sting and Luger. That’s still a pretty big step down from Joe Gomez and Renegade. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE GOMEZ’S NITRO DEBUT! Duggan hits the three-point stance for two while I’m mourning the loss of the main event, and finishes with the taped fist at 2:20. This gets one-half Joe Gomez out of five. Meanwhile, we get a video package for Dean Malenko’s upcoming title defense against some midget from Mexico. Ron Mysterian or something. This video apparently takes place two weeks ago on Nitro according to the random graphic overlay. Meanwhile, Big Bubba feels like John Tenta might actually be a fish…a BEACHED WHALE. Well, that’s a mammal, but I appreciate the effort. Scott Norton gets promo time. Just accept it. HOUR #2! Your hosts are Eric Bischoff & Bobby Heenan WCW World title: The Giant v. Scott Norton At least the booking of Norton last week makes a bit of sense now. Norton attacks Giant in the corner and gets nowhere, bumping to the floor off a shoulderblock. Giant follows him out, chokeslams him on the floor, and pins him to retain at 1:40. OK, that booking makes less sense again. DUD Lex Luger runs out to make the save and he gets his ass kicked as well, but comes back by using Flair’s VIP bucket as a weapon. This makes Giant very angry, but not angry enough to chase after Luger while he cuts a promo at the announce desk. Lord Steven Regal v. Billy Kidman And now we get Kidman’s debut as the babiest babyface who ever babyfaced. Regal destroys him after surviving a flurry of offense and a missed 450, quickly finishing with a Liontamer at 1:00 while STEPPING ON HIS HEAD. Sting makes the save with a vicious backhand in retribution for last week, and Regal’s besmirched reaction is the greatest thing ever. What a magnificent human being. The Nasty Boys v. The Public Enemy Same goofy brawl they always have. Except with no weapons and the announcers completely ignoring the match and talking about the Bash main event. We take a break and I scour the Observer for interesting stuff because there’s nothing in the match to talk about. Oh, here’s something from this week in history: “I think they are going to keep the identity of the third member of the Nash & Hall team a secret until the 7/7 show. There are things that lead me to believe it may not be Lex Luger after all, which is a mistake. Rumors are flying it’ll be Jeff Jarrett since Vince McMahon on the WWF hotline brought up Jarrett’s name with Diesel and Ramon as expecting him to join WCW. Jarrett gave notice to Titan and is working out his notice in USWA and he is WCW bound, however his WWF contract doesn’t expire until the fall so it probably won’t be him. The WCW team will be Sting & Savage and either Flair or Luger.” Holy god can you imagine a world where Jeff Jarrett was the mysterious third man? They would have been out of business by January! Anyway, we take a break and return with another Glacier promo and more stuff happening. We’re at, what, three months now for those Blood Runs Cold promos with nothing evident? All the split-screen cameras in the world can’t make this match not suck. Finally someone throws in a garbage can and the ref calls for the DQ at 11:00. I was literally paying no attention to this match, but DUD seems fair. Hulk Hogan still has the red white and blue running through his veins! Although Hogan’s legal team would like to stress that it’s only running through his veins for medical reasons, and it was legal in the states where it was running through his veins at the time, and was only obtained with a legal prescription for the red white and blue. WCW World tag titles: Sting & Lex Luger v. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson Bischoff apologizes for not delivering the debut of Joe Gomez here. Leave the memories alone, Eric. Just stop saying words! Flair throws chops on Luger and gets nowhere, as Luger clotheslines everyone. Flair bails and then gets dominated by Luger again. Flair getting repeatedly press-slammed and beat up is just great no matter when. Over to Arn and he fails to outsmart Sting and gets bulldogged. Sting joins the press-slam party on Flair, who retreats to his VIP table to regroup. And Giant already ate all the fancy cheeses! Flair asks for a timeout, so we take a break and return with Sting in control of AA again. Arn gets pinballed for two, but Sting misses the Stinger splash on Flair. Flair stupidly goes up and gets slammed, and Sting gets a flying clothesline for two. Superplex gets two. Arn comes back with a spinebuster for two to take over, and the Horsemen go to work. Flair can’t get a suplex because his back is injured, so Arn cheats on his behalf and keeps Sting in the corner. Flair’s figure-four is reversed for two and we take another break as Heenan desperately wants to go to ringside and manage. Back with Flair chopping the shit out of Sting, but he comes back with a sunset flip for two. They do the pinfall reversal sequence, but Flair tags out on the backslide and Arn puts Sting down again. Arn misses a pump splash and it’s HOT tag Luger, who just no-sells everything and goes to town. Powerslam on Flair gets two. He puts both Horsemen on the floor with a clothesline, but Giant heads into the ring for the DQ at 17:37. Great match, as you’d expect. ***1/2 The babyfaces go crazy and attack him with chairs, but Giant no-sells all of it and casually walks away. He promises Mean Gene that Luger goes out on a stretcher on Sunday. Eric Bischoff goes to wrap things up with a fired-up Heenan…but Scott Hall returns to cause more trouble. Bobby running off in terror is such a great reaction. Bischoff wants to know where the big surprise is hiding…and here’s Kevin Nash to remind us what the adjective in “Where the big boys play” is. LOOK AT THE ADJECTIVE. Nash wonders if they could actually get three of their fossils cleared long enough to work a match between Slim Jim commercials and crappy TV shoots. So this Sunday, if the Outsiders want to show up at the PPV, Bischoff will bring them their match. Oh man, this was AWESOME. And also the Bash PPV was one of the greatest of all time, so there’s that. The Pulse Yeah, I’m gonna redo the Great American Bash 96 this week, don’t worry. Definitely the best of the two-hour Nitros thus far, a really entertaining show aside from the bad spot with the Nasties and Public Enemy. I just hope Joe Gomez can weather this setback in his career and become the main eventer that we all know he can.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–06.03.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 06.03.96 HULK HOGAN’S ROCK N WRESTLING is added! You know I’m gonna review the SHIT out of that. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Taped from Fayetteville, NC Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler King of the Ring Qualifier: Bob Holly v. Stone Cold Steve Austin Austin is now running solo after deliberately losing to Savio Vega at Beware of Dog 2, which Meltzer at the time complained made no sense but in fact ended up changing the course of wrestling. They trade headlocks and Vince talks about how they’re going to “break with tradition” and show footage from the PPV. They just showed the entire main event of IYH5 a few months before this! Holly rams into the turnbuckles, but Austin fires back with chops, so Holly takes him down with a chinlock. Austin powers out with a backbreaker and drops the knee, and the middle rope elbow gets two. He tosses Holly and necksnaps him on the way back in, then drops another knee for two as we take a break. Back with Holly making the comeback with an elbow for two and he slugs away in the corner, but Austin drops him and finishes with the Million Dollar Dream at 11:00 to advance to the second round. The crowd was really getting into Austin here. *** Mankind v. Barry Horowitz Mankind beats Barry down and hangs him in the Tree of Woe for a dropkick, and they head to the floor for more abuse of Horowitz. And we take a break. Really? For THIS match? Back with Mankind finishing with the Mandible Claw at 5:45. Total squash. Meanwhile, we get RARE footage from the PPV, as they do an incredibly lame double-pin finish to build to a rematch at King of the Ring. And then, to continue the comedy of errors that was this year, British Bulldog gave 90 day notice after this episode and actually could have left for WCW at the end of the summer had he wanted to. That’s probably where the nWo third man rumors about him came from. He of course re-signed and got the tag titles in September instead. Meanwhile, a naked Goldust lounges in his den and assures us that he saved Ahmed Johnson’s life last week. Also, he loves chocolate in his mouth. The Godwinns v. Tekno Team 2000 This show is sliding downhill rapidly. Speaking of downhill, the Bodydonnas are on a search for a new manager, and we all know where THAT ended up. Tekno Team works on PIG with some pedestrian stuff and Erik Watts gets a standing moonsault for two. Troy drops elbows and we TAKE A BREAK?! Back with Phineas making the “hot” tag to Henry, who dodges a charge from Fortune and finishes with the Slop Drop at 8:11. The crowd was literally silent for the entire match before mysteriously cheering loudly for the finish. ½* Meanwhile, Clarence Mason clarifies that he’s now suing Gorilla Monsoon, as they suddenly drop the Diana angle due to her objections and Davey’s possible departure, and shift the heat to that storyline instead. So by the time we got to King of the Ring, the main event angle was beyond dead. King of the Ring Qualifier: Jake Roberts v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley It was stated explicitly in the Observer at the time, for those wondering, that this is the beginning of Hunter’s punishment for the Curtain Call and it’ll probably last for a while. So it wasn’t just something that we found out retroactively. Hunter escapes an early DDT attempt while they let his valet talk to Lawler for some reason. Vince just BURIES her on commentary in a really funny bit, deadpanning that she’s part of the “Rocket scientist of the week program”. Speaking of burials, Vince then goes off (for legal reasons) on a long explanation about how Razor Ramon and Diesel are in fact not under contract to the WWF and are “perpetrating a ruse” while under contract to a rival promotion. Well, that pretty much puts an end to that invader angle over on Nitro, I’d say. Of course, the more he made those claims, the more it made people think that he was being a lying carney and they were actually working for the WWF. You’d think the smart thing would be to just shut up and let the lawyers do their thing. The stalling just goes on FOREVER here, as Hunter keeps evading an armbar and we take a break after 5:00 of literally nothing happening. Back with Hunter working him over in the corner as Vince talks more ridiculous bullshit about Warrior’s comic, which has now exploded into one of the highest-selling comics of all time. Meanwhile, Hunter goes to a chinlock, but Jake fights out and gets the short clothesline, but Hunter elbows him down for two as we take another break. Back with Jake hitting the DDT out of nowhere for the pin at 13:40. Hunter on his back looking at the lights would quickly become a familiar sight. -* The Pulse Terrible show this week aside from one good Austin-Holly match.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–06.03.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 06.03.96 Live from somewhere. HOUR #1! Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Larry Z. Big Bubba v. John Tenta Before the match, Tenta clarifies that he’s not a fish or an avalanche, but a real live man! A man with a stupid looking haircut now. Bubba still has his hair for some reason, so Tenta attacks and then RUNS WITH SCISSORS. Bubba wisely runs away at 1:00. Amazingly this feud would get worse from here. DUD HIGH VOLTAGE v. The Faces of Fear It’s the epic debut of future WCW tag champion Kenny Kaos, although his partner was dubbed “Ruckus” here instead of Rage, as the world would soon come to know and love and remember forever. And yet, still better names than Konnor and Viktor. High Testosterone double-teams Barbarian, but he gets sick of that shit and powerbombs Robbie Ruckus to a big pop. Ruckus gets repeatedly slammed by Barbarian and he hits a top rope belly to belly, and DOUBLE FLYING HEADBUTTS and the mafia kick from Meng finish at 3:20. Consider those geeks SQUASHED. * Meanwhile, Sting and Luger accuse the Steiner Brothers of taking cheapshots last week. This was obviously all leading to something that never was going to pay off due to the dramatic change in direction of the company a month later. Disco Inferno v. Sgt. Craig Pittman Pittman goes for the arm immediately and Disco freaks out and makes the ropes, but Pittman suplexes him for two. Pittman goes for the armbar, so Disco gives up before he can lock in the move at 1:40. That would be a smart move in MMA. Plus, as Disco notes, if he suffered a broken arm he couldn’t disco dance. DUD There were some spectacularly ugly people dancing along with Disco here. Just saying. Lord Steven Regal v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan Regal walking around reacting to the bottom-feeding hicks at ringside is worth the price of admission. This show HAS to be in the South given the toothless morons cheering for Duggan tonight. There’s literally a guy in coveralls at ringside! A quick check of the Observer confirms that this was in Asheville, North Carolina, which has to be the least surprising thing I’ve read all day. Duggan quickly overpowers Regal and he bails, and back in for more abuse from Duggan as Regal bumps all over the place. This brings the Bluebloods out to surround the ring while Duggan tapes his fist, but Regal rolls him up for the pin at 4:24. * for Regal’s facial expressions. Not exactly a stellar way to get him ready for Sting at the Bash. Regal cuts a great promo afterwards, however, detailing how he wants Sting mean and nasty and rude for the match. Kevin Sullivan v. Prince Iaukea A video package before the match helpfully recaps the Sullivan-Benoit feud thus far. This is Iaukea’s debut, by the way. Sullivan blitzes the poor guy and hangs him in the Tree of Woe, then finishes with the double stomp at 1:20. Meltzer at the time clarifies that this isn’t “Rocky Iaukea” but might be his younger brother because he kind of looks like him. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson v. The Rock N Roll Express Jesus, the Road Warriors leave and they bring in the Rock N Roll Express to replace them? We almost had the greatest tag team division in history! We almost had Sting & Luger, The Steiners, The Road Warriors, The Faces of Fear, The Four Horsemen, The Nasty Boys, Public Enemy, The Rock N Roll Express, Harlem Heat and the Outsiders all in the same promotion at one time. For some reason they do the second hour pyro a minute into this match, complete with countdown on the screen, and switch to the Bischoff/Heenan announce team. After the frou-frou, Flair gets down to beating on Morton, but the RNR double-team him in the corner and the Horsemen bail. Gibson hits a flying bodypress on Arn for two and puts Flair in the figure-four, and we get double figure-fours because it’s apparently 1986 every day in this arena. Flair and Randy Anderson even do the shoving gag for old time’s sake. Flair and Arn bail again and we take a break. Back with Morton controlling Arn in the corner, but Flair comes in and chops Morton for some dramatic selling. Finally a blind charge misses and Ricky Morton is face-in-peril. Arn stomps on his head and Flair runs him in the railing on the floor. Back in, Arn goes to work on the arm and Flair gets a suplex. We actually get Morton on camera appealing to a fan in the front row to help him, as he just pulls out every trick in the book here. Speaking of which, Morton comes back with a sleeper, but AA drops him with a backdrop suplex and Flair comes in for the figure-four, which Morton reverses for two. Sunset flip is blocked by Flair and they cut off the ring as Bobby Heenan heads down to ringside to give some advice to the women. I’ll skip the advice gag because otherwise it’ll get pretty dark. Hot tag Gibson and the RNR hit the double dropkick, but Woman pokes Gibson in the eye and Arn finishes with the DDT at 18:02. This should have been really entertaining and stolen the show, but it just felt like a sad retread of the 80s for the RNR and completely lost steam at the end. **1/2 Still, for the most part I enjoyed it for what it was. Bobby Heenan confirms the rumors that he will indeed be managing the Horsemen at the Bash. This was pretty great. Hulk Hogan is still a thing that exists. WCW World title: The Giant v. Ice Train Ice Train yells at Jimmy Hart like a moron, and Giant chokeslams him at 0:30. DUD Scott Norton comes out to defend his partner, so Giant chokeslams him twice as well. Scott Norton v. Hugh Morrus Norton is still out, so Morrus legdrops him for two and drops elbows while talking trash. Morrus goes up to finish, but Norton catches the moonsault and pins him after…something…at 1:10. Kind of looked like a powerslam, maybe, sorta? Gotta keep Norton strong. Because reasons. DUD Meanwhile, Mongo and Kevin Greene discuss strategy at the Power Plant and decide to hire Randy Savage as their coach. Well that decision didn’t exactly work out well for them, did it? WCW World tag titles: Sting & Lex Luger v. The Steiner Brothers Randy Savage calls in as they split-screen the match with the announcers for some stupid reason, so we basically lose the first two minutes of the match and take a break. Back with Luger getting double-teamed by the Steiners and Rick hits the bulldog for two. Sting comes in with the Stinger splash and Scorpion, but Scott saves and suplexes Sting. Top rope ran gets two, but Sting gets the Deathdrop and Luger comes in with the Rack. It breaks down again and everyone brawls for the no-contest when Giant chokeslams everyone at 8:40. But then everyone teams up and fights back on Giant, allowing Luger to clothesline him out of the ring. Lots of action but the match didn’t go anywhere. ** Scott Hall interrupts the wrap-up (amidst vicious legal threats from Titan) and his accent is already changing. Sting tries to save and challenges him RIGHT NOW, but hall doesn’t like to be told what to do. So next week, a BIG SURPRISE for Sting. And for once, that would be a surprise that would pay off. And we’re out. The Pulse A much better-paced show than the first two-hour effort, although the wrestling was still crap outside of a pretty decent Horsemen v. Rock N Roll match. The booking just feels like on-the-fly nonsense at its worst, though.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–05.27.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 05.27.96 Anyone have experience with the Amazon Fire TV? I know they don’t have WWE Network on it yet, but apparently it’s a lot more powerful than the Roku Streaming Stick that has been steadily flaking on me for the past year now and it’s not like I have any shortage of devices that can access the Network anyway. The other problem is that they don’t technically ship to Canada, but there’s ways around that as well. Live (THANK GOD!) from Fayatteville, NC Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler King of the Ring Qualifier: Goldust v. The Ultimate Warrior Hopefully this will be better than their atrocity at In Your House. Vince throws me off yet again by noting that the tournament will happen on the “WWF Network” but in this case he was referring to this show and Superstars. Goldust runs away for the first minute , but Warrior hits him with a pair of atomic drops and Goldust bails. Back in, Warrior no-sells all of his offense and chases him out of the ring again. They fight on the floor and Warrior sends him into the post, which gets two. Vince claims that Warrior #1 is the highest-selling comic book in the world at that point. Given that it was pretty much impossible for any of the indy presses in 1996 to ship more comics than your average Batman or X-Men issue at that point, I would find that statement highly dubious. Plus Diamond sales figures were delayed by months. I mean, it would have been impressive to sell [x] number of copies or whatever, so why did it have to be “the #1 selling comic book in the world”? Goldust runs away again and we take a break as Ahmed Johnson chases him back to the ring again. Warrior misses a charge and Goldust dumps him to give us MORE stalling. Back in, Goldust works on the arm, but Warrior backdrops him for two. Warrior with a belly to belly for two as he’s loudly calling spots right on camera. Goldust takes him down for a neck vice as Vince notes how bad the officiating has been “lately”. Has he not been watching wrestling for the past 100 years?! Goldust goes to a lengthy chinlock, but Warrior powerslams him for two. Warrior makes the comeback and Goldust runs away yet again, with Warrior following this time for the world’s more boring double countout finish at 14:47. So both guys are tragically eliminated from the King of the Ring tournament. I guess this was slightly better than their first match? -* Jerry Lawler tries to attack Warrior with a chair, but gets nowhere, and that’s the kickoff of THEIR feud. Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase is so confident in Steve Austin that he’ll leave the WWF if Austin can’t beat Savio Vega at Beware of Dog II. The Smoking Gunns v. The Bodydonnas For those keeping track, the idea is now supposed to be that the Gunns are heels with Sunny as manager and the Bodydonnas are now babyfaces, but this was all so poorly executed that fans continue giving them the reverse reactions. The Gunns dominate Zip with power moves and Skip comes in for some nice reversals with Billy as we take a break. Back with Zip apparently saying “fuck it” and going heel again with a low bridge on Bart to take over, and Skip gets a legdrop for two. Zip with a Doctorbomb for two. Skip with an elbow for two as the Godwinns come out to confront Sunny as the long beating on Bart continues. Billy comes in and gets double-teamed, and the Donnas hit Bart with a slingshot suplex, but Skip tries a flying bodypress and Bart rolls through for the pin at 11:37. The heel Gunns ended up being an effective act, but this wasn’t a good start for it. ** King of the Ring Qualifier: Ahmed Johnson v. The Man They Call Vader Slugfest to start and Ahmed beats the hell out of Vader in the corner as the crowd goes BATSHIT for him. Finally Vader pokes him in the eyes to escape and returns fire with his own beating, but Ahmed clotheslines him out of the corner and takes him to the floor with a Cactus Clothesline. Cornette finally whacks him with the tennis racket to slow him down, but Ahmed shrugs it off and we take a break. Back with Vader going to the middle rope with a splash for two. They slug it out again in the corner and Vader hits him with a corner splash, but Ahmed suplexes him. Vader puts him down again and goes up for the Vadersault, but it misses and Ahmed makes the comeback with clotheslines. Powerslam and Ahmed hauls Cornette in for a beating, but a disgusted Owen Hart runs in from the commentary table and nails Ahmed with his arm cast, giving Vader the win at 11:00. That arm took the better part of a year to heal! Really fun match with Vader happy to let Ahmed lay into him as hard as he wanted. *** Meanwhile, the doctors haul Ahmed to the back on a stretcher, but Goldust intercepts it and gives him mouth-to-mouth. A horrified Ahmed wakes up with gold paint on his lips and kills the first fool who gets in his way, in this case Bob Holly. He drives some poor geek through Goldust’s dressing room door, takes out the cameraman, and then stalks off to end the show. That was a GREAT angle and made me want to see Ahmed destroy Goldust and get his revenge. Which he did. The Pulse Really solid live show aside from whoever had the brilliant idea of having Warrior go 15:00 with Goldust.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–05.27.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 05.27.96 OK, so now that both sides are caught up from the beginning, we can start doing the alternating reviews that I envisioned all along. Until I run out of Nitros again, although current rumor is another dump around June or so. LIVE from somewhere. Kind of funny that the show which changed wrestling forever wasn’t important enough to warrant a mention of the city. Hour #1! Hosted by Tony Schiavone and Larry Z. They’re at ringside, which immediately gives the show a different look and feel. Tony is LEAGUES above Bischoff as an announcer at this point, and immediately the show feels more important and sportlike. The American Males v. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson Fun fact: My favorite color is teal, and Liz’s dress tonight makes it even more so my favorite color. Riggs overpowers Flair to start, but the Horsemen quickly double-team him on the floor to take over. Another great touch from the classic heels: They specifically make sure NOT to tag, just to be dicks and force the referee to do his job. Bagwell quickly has enough of these shenanigans and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA as the Males clear the ring. Flair bails and goes for a bottle of champagne from the VIP table (paid for the Macho Man’s money, in case you forgot) to regroup, but Arn accidentally punches the post and Bagwell is in control as we take a break. Back with Bagwell fighting off both Horsemen. His timing and presence were improving by leaps and bounds at this point, actually. Over to Riggs, who quickly gets clipped by AA because he’s not very smart. Arn works on the knee and Flair serves the announcers some champagne in between beating up Riggs. That’s class out the ass. The Horsemen continue flagrantly disregarding the rulebook and working Riggs’ knee, but Scotty comes back with an enzuigiri to put Arn on the floor. Hot tag Bagwell, who gets a missile dropkick on Flair for two and a small package, but Arn rolls him over and Flair gets two. Riggs rolls them over again and Bagwell gets two. Perfectplex on Flair, but Arn comes in and kicks Bagwell in the face to break, and then Woman pokes him in the eye and Arn hits a DDT to finish at 11:46. That was some glorious cheating at the end there. *** Flair is so excited that he dumps champagne all over himself and poor Elizabeth can’t help but crack up at it. Afterwards, Arn lets us know that he has no respect for anyone who wears protective gear, and Flair sings “Afternoon Delight” in tribute of the women. Also, he clarifies that Savage’s money makes Liz his Sugar Mama. I’m impressed that Liz was able to keep it together as good as she could with that maniac cutting a nutty promo. Meanwhile, Mongo and Kevin Greene lift some weights in preparation for the Horsemen. They’re coming hard all day long! Sure, anything sounds incredibly homoerotic out of context, I guess. Steve Doll v. The Mauler That’s right, Colonel Parker is now managing Mike Enos, which must be the earth-shattering thing that changed wrestling. Half of Well Dunn clashing with half of the Beverly Brothers! Mauler beats on Doll and hits a fallaway slam from the top, and they fight to the floor where Mauler runs him into the post. And we take a break. Back with the crowd all distracted by Razor Ramon coming into the ring in his Canadian tuxedo, and we know who he is, but we don’t why he’s here. The match just stops as Hall declares war on Billionaire Ted and “dubya see dubya” and promises to return tonight to issue a challenge to “weatherman wannabe” Eric Bischoff. I can see where Titan’s lawyers would take issue with this, because this was clearly Hall playing the Razor Ramon character and insinuating that he was representing the WWF. This was pretty brilliant as an angle, though, because Hall referenced “Scheme Gene” and “The Nacho Man” and all the “characters” that the WWF themselves used as their cheapshots at WCW, and here’s WCW turning it around and making actual money off it. Meltzer’s take on all this: “However, amidst the attempt at a cure for insomnia was the debut of Hall, done in a manner that is almost certain to be one of the biggest money angles of the year.” Even that ended up being a massive understatement. Diamond Dallas Page v. Sgt. Craig Pittman Page and Pittman exchange pushups to start and Pittman overpowers him for two. Pittman has now found his manager in the form of Teddy Long, for those of you who were wondering if that angle ever paid off. Pittman headbutts Page and he bumps to the floor off that, but comes back with a necksnap on the way back in to take over. Pittman quickly takes him down and hooks the armbar, but Page makes the ropes and shoves Long down in the process. Pittman is concerned, and that proves to be his weakness as Page finishes with the Diamond Cutter at 3:00. Fulfilling managerial relationship = loser. Got it. ½* Meanwhile, The Shark has to cut a serious promo against the Giant while wearing a shark costume with his face painted like a shark. HE’S A SHARK! Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan is more than just the greatest champion in history! Well that’s a relief. HOUR #2! The only hour tougher than Chuck Norris. Your hosts are Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan. Eric is not even going to dignify the previous attempt at an invasion with a response. WCW World title: The Giant v. The Shark Am I watching a Syfy original movie now? Shark attacks in the corner and fires away with a jumping double sledge, but Giant no-sells it and slams him. They wander slowly around the ring and Giant runs into a boot in the corner, but Shark goes after Jimmy Hart and gets chokeslammed at 4:00. This brings out Big Bubba, who has been repackaged yet again into a cleaner version of a SAMCRO prospect, and he shaves off half of Shark’s hair. DUD World TV title: Lex Luger v. Maxx (Muscle) I’d say that Maxx must be off steroids and has lost his Muscle, but clearly that would be the furthest thing from the truth. Luger is 100% babyface now, finally, and Maxx grabs a headlock and flexes a lot. Luger comes back with clotheslines as Bischoff notes that he’ll have to be careful or Maxx will “eat him up like yesterday’s lunch”. I miss Tony already. Maxx gets a slam for two as you hear Bischoff telling a stage hand off-camera that someone “can wait until the end of the hour” if he wants to talk to him. Oo, nice touch. This boring shitfest continues with Maxx on what you might laughably call offense, reminding me a lot of what Sting and Warrior were like as rookies. Without the potential. Luger comes back with the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DEATH (which took out Yokozuna, Eric points out) and finishes this goof with the Rack at 5:44. This might have been the worst match I’ve seen in about two months. Maxx literally looked like some guy they found on Venice Beach lifting weights and decided to make into a wrestler. -** Afterwards, Lex points out to Mean Gene that he doesn’t make the matches and didn’t steal DDP’s title shot at the Bash, and also he’s gonna beat the shit out of every big guy WCW has to offer while tuning up for the Giant. Sound strategy. Hardwork Bobby Walker v. Brad Armstrong Clearly this show is already desperately in need of the cruiserweights to fill up the running time if this is what we’re putting out there. Bischoff notes that he’s not going to use any names of any interlopers, so as not to incur the wrath of the WWF’s legal team. TOO LATE! So these guys do some armbars and stuff and no one gives a shit, as the arena is quieter than a Roman Reigns main event. I’m really not seeing the hard work evident in Bobby Walker’s name here. Perhaps WCW should have countersued his racism claim with a false advertising one. Brad with a small package for two, but Walker gets a backslide for two. Walker jumps up to the top rope, nearly slips and breaks his neck and does it again, and finishes with a shitty Buff Blockbuster or shoulderblock or whatever at 4:44. -* Lord Steven Regal v. Alex Wright Wright uses a headscissors to put Regal on the floor and we take a break. Back with Regal working the arm, and pounding away with forearms. Wright fires back as the Bischoff/Heenan commentary duo continues getting worse before our eyes. I think Heenan was pretty loaded on this show, actually. They continue having a boring match and Wright gets a comeback with a heel kick for two, but Regal takes him down in the corner with a bridge for the pin at 10:00. Bischoff and Heenan would NOT SHUT UP about their stupid bullshit for this whole thing and ruined an already marginal match. * Afterwards, Regal notes that here on Memorial Day, his father would be proud of him beating “Junior Adolf” out there. He throws out a challenge to Sting, so that he can get a shot at the circus freak we call a champion. Sting v. Scott Steiner Sting’s hair is fully un-dyed and growing out now. Scott pounds him down and gets a press slam, but Sting recovers with a nice dropkick and an elbow out of the corner that puts Steiner on the floor. He follows with a dive. Back in, Scott catches him with the butterfly bomb and follows with the belly to belly, and Sting bails to escape. Scott follows with a double axehandle to the floor, and gets two. Scott misses a charge, but keeps coming with an overhead suplex for two. STF, which is slightly worse than Cena’s, and then he switches to a cross armbreaker. Heenan is just on some other planet here, mixing up names and completely forgetting the history between them. Scott tries a suplex and Sting reverses into what I believe would be the first Scorpion Death Drop, but the Stinger splash misses. Scott comes back with the dragon suplex as Lex Luger joins us at ringside, as does Rick Steiner. Scott with a samoan drop off the middle rope, but the Frankensteiner misses and Sting hooks the Scorpion. Scott makes the ropes and they trade tombstones, and Sting gets two. They fight to the apron and suplex each other to the floor, which triggers a big brawl between the two teams for the double DQ at 10:18. Really dull stuff. ** Eric and Bobby wrap things up, but Scott Hall interrupts a second time, and he wants WCW to find three of their best guys and have a match. WE’RE TAKING OVER! How true it was. The Pulse Aside from the biggest angle in the history of history launching here, the rest was pretty crappy this week. However, once the luchadors started finding their way into the midcard, the pacing of these shows would get much better.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–05.20.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 05.20.96 Taped from Sioux City, IA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Stone Cold Steve Austin v. Wildman Marc Mero It’s the battle of bitter Bischoff firings! Austin works on the arm and they trade hammerlocks on the mat, and Mero gets a crossbody for two and they exchange more mat wrestling until Mero dropkicks him to the floor. Back in, Mero charges and walks into a stungun in the corner. Austin takes over with choking on the ropes and we take a break. Back with Mero getting a rollup for two, but Austin takes him down and drops the middle rope elbow for two. I should note that this is either really early in the taping or really late because there are dozens of empty seats on camera side and you can see people getting up and leaving during the match. Austin goes to a lengthy chinlock, but Mero fights out and hits a double axehandle for two. Clothesline gets two. Dibiase trips up Mero and Austin goes up to finish, but Savio Vega runs in for the DQ at 12:00. *1/2 Meanwhile, things are bad in Kuwait, but AHMED JOHNSON and America team up to rescue them from devastation. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be walking around the Middle East wearing American flag themed Zubaz at the best of times. Savio Vega v. 1-2-3 Kid Yay, more Savio. He tosses the Kid and goes to a chinlock back in the ring, and that goes on for a while. Finally Savio gets distracted by Ted Dibiase and Kid takes over with a spinkick for two. Vince and Ted discuss the merits of being a chauffeur while the Kid gets a flying splash for two. Hey, maybe if Savio had gone with the chauffeur gig he could have ended up in the Hall of Fame like James Dudley! Kid goes to the chinlock as we take a break, and we return with Kid getting a legdrop for two. They slug it out and Kid chokes him out on the ropes, but Savio hits a kick for two. Savio with a nice uranage for two, but Kid spinkicks him again and then misses another flying splash. Savio rolls him up for the pin at 9:43. And then Steve Austin attacks in revenge for the last match. Slightly less boring than the opener, I guess. ** Meanwhile, at Madison Square Garden, the Godwinns win the tag titles from the Bodydonnas and Sunny tricks PIG into signing a contract for her managerial services. And so the Godwinns will now defend against the Gunns during the PPV pre-show, thus giving them a tag title reign of a little over a week. Why they didn’t just have the Gunns return and beat the Bodydonnas directly, I have no idea. Undertaker does an interview from a casket, and yet again Mankind attacks him and seals him into the casket. Well really he was kind of asking for that one. The British Bulldog v. Jake Roberts We get a bunch of silliness before the match with Diana filing a restraining order against Shawn Michaels, so Gorilla sends her back to the dressing room so that Shawn can come out and do commentary. In the Observers at the time, Meltzer was really white-knighting this storyline, pointing out how strong business was and how great of a heel reaction that Davey Boy was getting all over. Jake quickly gets the kneelift, but Bulldog bails for advice from Jim Cornette. That advice? “If the people in the Dairy Queen drive-thru screw up your order, stand up for yourself!” Bulldog works on the knee for a while as we get some thrilling action of both guys laying on the mat and selling. Bulldog stays on the knee while Jerry assassinates Shawn’s character on commentary. They really should have done more with the subplot where Marty Jannetty also threatened to come clean with Shawn’s dirty laundry from the Rocker days. They actually could have gone somewhere with that and had him blackmailing Shawn or something along those lines. Jake finally fights back and sets up for the DDT, but Bulldog takes out the knee again and goes to a half-crab now. Jake makes the ropes, so Bulldog drags him out again and goes back to working on the leg to slow down the torrid pace of this classic encounter. And then with a minute left in the show, the damn Network starts lagging and buffering again. As if to punish me by elongating this shitty, boring match on this shitty, boring show. Back to the half-crab, but now Diana wanders out as we take a break. Back with Shawn beating up Jim Cornette and no apparent finish after 13:00 of “action”. DUD Great way to build up Bulldog for that title match on Sunday. The Pulse God damn fourth week taping cycle shows. Next week: Everything up until now was basically a prologue to what happens on Nitro. THE MONDAY NIGHT WARS BEGIN!

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–05.13.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 05.13.96 Kudos to the people behind the Network who have finally cleared up all the issues with buffering and crashing as far as I can see. I guess whatever upgrades they did for Wrestlemania have been left in place and I can now use the Roku without wanting to hurl my remote through the screen in anger. I mean, aside from the shitty booking on these shows, but that’s a totally different issue. Taped from Sioux City, IA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler

Ahmed Johnson v. Zip the Bodydonna Hey, using the tag champions as TV jobbers, why not? Actually, the Observer at this point notes that the WWF hired Sal Sincere, Freddy Joe Floyd, TL Hopper and Alex Porteau to fill exactly this sort of position, so at least they were aware of the problem. This match provided me with the perfect opportunity to relate the infamous story about Candido and Ahmed and the hotel room and the bag of coke to my wife. And indeed, Sunny interrupts an Ahmed “promo” before the match and tries to rub baby oil on him. I think he’s already at maximum saturation per square inch of skin. Ahmed quickly overpowers Zip and Sunny distracts the ref, which allows Skip to switch off and take over. Ahmed escapes a chinlock with an electric chair, but the Donnas switch off again, and this time the ref won’t allow it. Ahmed finishes Skip with the powerbomb at 2:28, just like he finished Sunny…well, let’s just move on. * Meanwhile, The Ultimate Warrior wants YOU to come learn the principles of Destrucity at Warrior University! Kind of like Scientology, but slightly less insane. The Man They Call Vader v. Duke Droese Droese valiantly uses his lame offense to go after Vader and they tumble to the floor as we take a break. Back with Vader destroying him with a splash before going to a lengthy chinlock, but Duke fights back with a spinebuster and goes up with a flying splash, which misses. Vaderbomb finishes at 7:42. Why in the blue hell was Vader selling ANYTHING for this goof? Droese was little above a TV jobber by then. Apparently they had Vader doing jobs to Warrior all week at house shows as well at this point. And then they wondered why he didn’t draw on top against Shawn. ** Undertaker and Paul Bearer join us with their gold casket for Goldust. What a lazy feud this was. You’d think they’d at least have Goldust steal the urn and melt it down into an Oscar statue or something. Goldust tries to seduce him and Taker throttles him, but Mankind pops in and lays out Taker again with the Mandible Claw, which kind of foreshadowed the finish of the casket match on the PPV. And then Goldust goes way over the top by straddling Undertaker and licking him, which results in a massive jump cut to Undertaker sitting up and chasing him off. Vince was getting massive heat from the network and sponsors over the Goldust stuff, and rightly so. Justin Hawk Bradshaw v. Aldo Montoya Apparently there’s a big house show at MSG on the upcoming weekend, featuring the last appearances of Diesel and Razor Ramon. Wonder if anything significant will happen there which will get buried for 15 years and then overexposed to death in documentaries for years after that? I mean, I doubt it, but you never know. Bradshaw tosses the jellyfish around the ring like a piece of garbage while we get a funny bit with Uncle Zeb introducing himself to Jerry Lawler at the commentary table. See, they already know each other very well after years of feuding and teaming. That’s the joke. Aldo dodges a blind charge and comes back with the Portuguese martial arts, but the CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL finishes him at 3:42. Total squash. Meanwhile, in Kuwait, Vince is still trying to sell the story of the peace-loving innocent Kuwaitis who yearn for freedom, five years after the Gulf War. Anyway, Bulldog attacks Shawn Michaels on the beach and Ahmed wins a tournament. Shawn Michaels v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley OH MY GOD I’M SO SICK OF THIS FUCKING MATCH…oh wait, I guess this is the first one. Never mind. This of course marks the last time HHH would get anywhere NEAR the main event for a long time afterwards. Hunter uses some scientific wrestling to frustrate Shawn, and we take a break. Back with Shawn taking him to the floor with a Cactus clothesline, and Shawn stops to hit on Hunter’s arm candy. Now, keeping in mind that the main storyline is that Shawn is supposed to be falsely accused of going after Bulldog’s wife, how does that possibly help his cause? Clearly he’s a womanizing sleazebag. Those kind of details drive me crazy. Back in the ring, Shawn hits Hunter in the nose a few times and showboats, but Hunter dumps him as Mr. Perfect joins us at ringside and we take a break. How many fucking angles that consist of “Some guy comes down to ringside to scout some other guy” can they run at the same time? COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS! Back with Hunter getting two and he slugs away in the corner before going to a chinlock. Shawn fights out and Hunter punts him in the ribs to put him down again. Shawn makes the comeback, but Hunter hammers him into the corner. Gee, Shawn is sure happy to sell for HHH for some reason…is the headline of the Obvious News Weekly. We take a THIRD commercial break and return with another chinlock for Shawn to fight up from. HHH tries the Pedigree, but Shawn catapults him into the corner and makes the comeback for real. Flying elbow gets two. Hunter actually tries a powerbomb, which Shawn reverses into a rana, and Hunter turns that into a sunset flip for two. Vince trying to call that sequence was the most brain-meltingly stupid thing I’ll see this week, I’m sure. Shawn backdrops out of another Pedigree and finishes with the superkick at 19:01. This was pretty great, and I feel like they might even have something better in them if they, say, wrestle sixty million more times over the period of a decade to work out the bugs. ***3/4 The Pulse Definitely check out the Shawn v. HHH match, but you can probably skip the rest without feeling too bad about it.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–05.06.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 05.06.96 Taped from Sioux City, IA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Wildman Marc Mero v. The 1-2-3 Kid Mero wins a slugfest and grabs a headlock to start, then goes to work on the arm while HHH tries to maintain a snooty accent on commentary. Mero dropkicks Kid out of the ring and follows with a dive, but slingshots in and hits knee. The Kid uses CRANE STYLE to take over and gets a good dropkick into the corner. Kid with a sleeper while the announcers are already mocking Sable’s unchanging facial expression. I will say, those who complain about the terrible acting of the Total Divas crew probably didn’t have to live through Sable’s push on top. Mero fights out of the sleeper, but Kid hits him with a kick combo until Mero takes him down with a legdrag. Kid puts him down again with a spinkick for two and drops legs on him, setting up another sleeper. Kid uses the ropes like a good asshole heel and we take a break. Back with Mero making the comeback, and they both end up on the floor, but Kid tries to bring him back in with a superplex. Mero grabs the top rope and falls on top for the pin at 11:40. Kid was another one cranking it up to another level just before he bailed for WCW and a big contract. ***1/4 Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase and Steve Austin accept Savio Vega’s strap match for the PPV, but if Savio loses he has to be become their chauffeur. Meanwhile, some ring rat claims that Shawn Michaels also fucked her while her ex-husband was on the road. I wonder if that was supposed to be some kind of clever allusion to Elizabeth? The British Bulldog v. Fatu Bulldog makes the fatal error of ramming Fatu’s head into the turnbuckles, which only makes him dance. Bulldog bails for advice from Diana and Cornette. That advice? “Always check the ring for trap doors before taking any flat back bumps.” Back in, we get the test of strength, but Bulldog crotches Fatu on the top rope and dumps him. Back in, Bulldog whips him around the ring and mocks Shawn Michaels, while Cornette chokes Fatu out with the racket. And then another angle that went nowhere, as Fatu’s family, the Samoan Gangsta Party, watches from ringside. That one was just totally abandoned. That would have been Samu and some other Anoia relative, I believe, playing OG Samoans who were trying to win Fatu back to the dark side. Sika had a shitload of kids, obviously. Fatu comes back with a sleeper, but Bulldog goes low to escape. Fatu makes the comeback, but walks into a clothesline and we get a patented 180 flip sell. Powerslam finishes clean at 8:00. This was fine. ** The Bodydonnas v. Tekno Team 2000 Apparently the Rockers won the rematch to earn a title shot, but the Godwinns were the ones who ended up with the tag titles. So I don’t know where the hell they unearthed Tekno Team 2000 from after their short and hilariously bad introduction in 1995, but here they are again. TT2K manages to double-team Skip while Harvey Wippleman takes notes on the refereeing at ringside, which actually led to Wippleman becoming a referee for a while. Zip comes in and gets double-teamed, but we take a break and Watts takes a flapjack when we return. I don’t even remember which was Troy and which was Travis. It’s Erik Watts and Chad Fortune, whatever. Watts fights back and misses a blind charge, knocking himself silly on the top turnbuckle. Bodydonnas with a slingshot suplex for two and Skip works the arm. Vince clarifies that Erik Watts is in fact Troy. Zip goes up and misses an elbow, and it’s hot (?) tag Travis. He quickly gets clobbered by the champs and Zip finishes with a terrible looking flying axehandle at 8:53. I have no idea how that was supposed to be painful. He basically landed on the mat and then did a double axehandle while sitting on his ass and pinned the guy. This was a thing that happened to fill 10 minutes. * Like really, TEKNO TEAM 2000? These are the guys getting TV time? Undertaker v. Owen Hart Apparently Goldust now has to defend the title against Undertaker in a casket match at the PPV, because reasons. Man, after Ramon left Goldust really was a completely directionless character. Like really, did I totally miss the issue behind this feud between last week and this week’s show? Owen runs away for a couple of minutes and we take a break, returning with Goldust harassing Paul Bearer as the camera totally ignores the match. Paul runs away as Owen works on the leg for a while, but he tries the Sharpshooter and gets chokeslammed. Taker throws out of the ring and Goldust assists Owen back in with a squeeze of the ass, and Undertaker finishes with the tombstone at 8:35. I sense Owen was getting ribbed there for some reason. Nothing match. * The Pulse A pretty blah show with a bunch of meandering plotlines, but the Kid-Mero match was damn good.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–04.29.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.29.96 Live from Sioux City, IA, as we’re in the rather sad era following the departure of Bret Hart, Diesel and Razor Ramon all at once, with 1-2-3 Kid soon to follow. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Bart Gunn v. Mankind Mankind pounds on Bart in the corner, but charges and hits the post. There’s suddenly blood in a variety of places on Mankind’s face and Bart’s shoulders, so obviously there was a shot that hit harder than intended somewhere. Bart bails and they slug it out on the floor and back in for more punching. What a weird match so far. Bart works on the arm and they head outside again, where you can see blood staining Bart’s pants and Mankind’s hands. We take a break and return with more dull brawling as Mankind controls, but Bart slugs back to polite applause. Bart goes up with a missile dropkick for two. Flying elbow gets two. Bart does some ground and pound, but Mankind applies the Mandible Claw from the bottom and finishes at 10:46. What an odd choice for an opener on the live show. * Jim Ross stops Bart on the way out asking for insight on what the Claw feels like, but Mankind attacks him again and lays him out. I should note that the WON for this week details the tour from hell in Germany, which resulted in the Kliq literally taking a shit in Chris Candido’s food among other wackiness. At least Randy Orton kept it confined to gym bags. Stone Cold Steve Austin v. Scott Taylor Austin stomps a mudhole in the corner while Savio Vega challenges him to a CARIBBEAN STRAP MATCH on commentary. Austin with a Giant Swing and middle rope elbow for two while Jerry Lawler insults Puerto Ricans in general while hiding behind Vince. Austin wraps him up in a really bad STF and then finishes with the Million Dollar Dream at 2:30. The British Bulldog is out, and he wants a word with Shawn Michaels. Shawn puts himself over, and then Cornette makes scandalous accusations of trying to seduce Diana Hart-Smith at the PPV. HE’S A FORNICATOR! Shawn is all “Don’t flatter yourself” and Diana slaps him, triggering a brawl. Meltzer went gaga for this angle and feud at the time, but it completely fizzled out by King of the Ring and was never actually paid off. The New Rockers v. The Godwinns Winner of this gets a title shot. There’s your summation of the tag division right there. First 2:30 is stalling before Jannetty controls PIG with armdrags. The Godwinns chase them out of the ring (Leif: “Hold me back!” Vince: “No one is stopping him!”) and we get, you guessed it, another two minutes of stalling as now Sunny joins us to show off the belts and we take a break. Back with the Rockers getting the heat on HOG as this drags on. Marty misses a fistdrop off the middle rope as Vince points out their dorkiness. I think the problem was that they didn’t go far ENOUGH with their gimmick. They could have done vignettes like the American Males where the 30-something goofs were trying to be a boy band or something like that. Sunny distracts both teams and it’s a double countout at 9:51. The crowd is shocked into silence by this development. And silent for the entire match as well, so I can only conclude the whole match was pretty shocking. DUD So no one gets the title shot. Sounds fair to me. Meanwhile, Mankind is interviewed in the basement and wants to demonstrate the Mandible Claw on Jim Ross. JR wisely declines. The Ultimate Warrior v. Isaac Yankem DDS Correct me if I’m wrong, but this would be the one and only in-ring appearance on RAW for the Warrior, would it not? Vince starts plugging the Warrior University nonsense at this point, which was part of Warrior’s deal to come in. Warrior hits Yankem with a pair of corner clotheslines and tosses him as we take a break. Back with Warrior apparently making a comeback with more clotheslines before finishing with the big splash at 3:44. DUD Lawler is so upset that he decides to take care of the Warrior himself, but sadly the director can’t give him any more slack on the headset cord and he’s confined to the desk area. The Pulse I was never really into that Bulldog angle, and of course we know what a disaster the Beware of Dog PPV turned into, although not through any fault of theirs. Star power was seriously lacking at this point and it really shows.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–04.22.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.22.96 Taped from San Bernadino, CA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Intercontinental title: Goldust v. Savio Vega So this is the rematch from last week’s ref bump/beltshot screwjob, with the title held up. Fourth week of a taping cycle so we’re really scraping the barrel now. This would also be a week where Bischoff gave away the results at the start of Nitro to be a dick, so Goldust’s triumph here wasn’t exactly a secret. Savio attacks and gets a powerslam for two and they fight to the floor, but Goldust brings him back in for a corner splash. Savio pounds on him in the corner, so Goldust goes low to take over. I bet the people in attendance were THRILLED to get a pair of Goldust v. Savio Vega matches in the span of an hour. We take a break and return with Goldust working the leg while Lawler provides inane chatter about Marlena’s boobs. Goldust goes to a chinlock while Lawler continues playing “What’s in the news?” Goldust works a lengthy chinlock while Warrior does an inset interview about how he’s going to bust into Goldust’s house and wreck it. My wife points out how rude that is. Goldust continues slowly working the leg and slugs away in the corner, but Savio suddenly makes the comeback and we take ANOTHER break. Fuck me. We return with Savio getting a small package for two as clearly there was no actual edit there and they just stuck a commercial in the match. Goldust tries the Curtain Call and Savio reverses out for two. Marlena distracts the ref and Steve Austin appears to waffle Savio with the Million Dollar belt, which gives Goldust his own gold belt back at 15:08. So one ref distraction/belt shot screwjob is resolved by doing another belt shot screwjob? * Vader v. Fatu Joined in progress after the entrances with Vader beating on Fatu, but Fatu shoulderblocks him and takes him down with a sloppy Diamond Cutter. Fatu to the top with a flying splash, but Vader no-sells it and kills him with a clothesline, then debuts the VADERSAULT to finish at 1:55. Total squash. This was an incredibly weird feud, too, because the entire thing was built up without Razor Ramon ever appearing on TV. Imagine if they tried to do that for a Wrestlemania! That would just be…oh, wait, never mind. Meanwhile, in Germany, the British Bulldog attacks Jake Roberts. And then Jake DDTs him and puts the snake on him. Vince is like “He’s just giving him a taste of what Bulldog might expect at the PPV this Sunday!” Uh, Jake already hit his finisher and put the snake on him, what exactly is left for fans to see? The Godwinns v. YOSHIHIRO TAJIRI & Tim Patterson Uh, yeah, this is a thing that is happening. Tajiri actually gets a standing moonsault on PIG, but he tags out to the other geek and HOG bearhugs him while Hillbilly Jim chases Sunny away with his dog. How does that make him the babyface? “Yay, make the hot woman leave ringside so we can enjoy the inbred hicks unabated! Yay!” HOG finishes Patterson with the Slop Drop at 4:00, but the Bodydonnas attack and slop Phineas. This was one of the many low points of the tag titles. Mankind v. Aldo Montoya They show clips of Mankind attacking Undertaker, which seems like forever ago, but it was at the same taping! These four week cycles are just brutal. Aldo gets a dropkick, but Mankind proceeds to beating him down in the corner and follows with the running knee. Mankind pounds away while we take a break. Really? For this match? Back with Aldo making the comeback with a corner dropkick, but he comes off the top and gets punched in the face on the way down. Piledriver and the Mandible Claw finish at 5:30. I always loved the touch of the creepy entrance music, and then the calming piano music when he won. That was also a reference to his dropped backstory as a piano prodigy. * We finish with a video package recapping the Shawn v. Diesel feud, and then a promo from Diesel in Germany that sounds like he’s a few beer steins into his evening. The Pulse Super weak go-home show for the PPV, although I bought it anyway in 1996 on the strength of the Shawn-Diesel match. But really, a 10 minute chinlock from Goldust is supposed to make me want to see that show so badly? Thanks but no.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–04.15.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.15.95 Taped from San Bernadino, CA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Marc Mero v. Leif Cassidy Sable is now Mero’s manager, while Leif gets Marty Jannetty. Both relationships ended up pretty badly. Sign at ringside: “Leif Cassidy, WWF champion in 7 years.” Well, Hardcore champion, sure. Mero controls with armdrags and dropkicks Cassidy to the floor, and back in Cassidy goes with the eyepoke and gets slugged off the ring apron as a result. Cassidy goes to Marty for advice, and that advice? “If the cops catch you with something in your gym bag…start a fight with them!” That’s terrible advice, fake Marty Jannetty! Back in the ring, Cassidy takes over with a clothesline and declares how much he loves being a Rocker, and we take a break. Back with Cassidy hitting a dive on Mero and stopping to dance. Back in, Leif tries a full nelson and Mero flips it into a spinning headscissors, into a dive to the floor. Back in, Mero with a sunset flip from the top to finish at 8:46. They were definitely getting more comfortable throwing Snow out there as someone to have a good match with the top guys. Unfortunately that never translated into anything for him. **1/2 Diesel, via phone call from Germany, lets us know that he’s the smartest man in wrestling. No doubt. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN v. Bart Gunn Vince notes that this is “two raw boned, rugged individuals going at it.” I wouldn’t describe Bart as either of those things. Gunn works the headlock on Austin, who responds by tossing Bart and follows with an axehandle off the apron. Vince relays the info that Ahmed Johnson has managed to break his thumb in a worked arm wrestling contest. That should have been a sign right there that maybe he’s too easily injured. Back in, the HEARTLESS Steve Austin works on the neck and goes to a chinlock while the crowd visibly gets up and leaves for the concession stands. Bart fights up and Austin dumps him as we take a break. Back with Austin going to another chinlock, but Bart comes back with a bulldog and SHOOTS THE HALF for two. Cross body gets two. Dibiase trips him up and Austin attacks, but gets rolled up for two. Small package gets two. Bart tries a sleeper, but Austin reverses to a jawbreaker and then viciously throws him into the ringpost before finishing with the Million Dollar Dream at 10:45. Good ending, but the match was way too long. **1/4 The Man They Call Vader is going to engage in sports entertainment with Razor Ramon at the PPV and he feels like his chances are good. Sunny knows that we want her and expresses it in music video form. I’m sure many a teenage boy had that video taped for posterity, if you know what I mean. Intercontinental title: Goldust v. Savio Vega So a couple of days before this, Goldust blew out his knee in Germany and obviously couldn’t make the PPV, so of course they continued heavily promoting his title defense against Ultimate Warrior anyway. Goldust fondles Savio off a lockup and gyrates in the corner, leading to Vega chasing him down the aisle. Vince feels that Savio is tired of these shenanigans. Back in, Savio with a sideslam for two and we take a break. Back with Goldust hitting an atomic drop out of the corner, as the edit didn’t actually delete anything and literally picked up where the previous cut ended. Goldust takes him down and goes to a rear chinlock, then stops to cut a promo on the crowd, declaring that if they don’t quiet down he’ll go out and kiss every one of them. He did that bit on house shows at the time as well. Not surprising since this whole show has seemingly been composed of leftover dark matches anyway. Savio comes back and tries a superplex, but Goldust bites him to block and then lands on Vega’s foot on the way down. Vega makes the comeback and we take another break. Back with Vega getting a rollup for two, but the ref is bumped. Marlena gives Goldust the belt, but Savio superkicks it out of his hands and hits him with it for the pin at 15:18 to apparently win the title. However, another ref saw Savio using the belt and feels that a DQ should have been called. So Gorilla comes out and vacates the title, pending a rematch NEXT WEEK. Weak. Much like this match. *1/2 I don’t even get the reasoning with this, as Savio was feuding with Austin and Goldust was supposed to be having this big program with Warrior, and you suddenly do a two week angle where Goldust loses and regains the IC title before the PPV? On a pair of taped shows? What sense did this make? Bret Hart comments on the Iron Man match and his future plans, which at the time was put on the show to refute rumors that Bret was going to WCW along with Hall and Nash. Perish the thought. The Pulse Not a fan of this one.

The SmarK DVD Rant for The Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection

The SmarK DVD Rant for Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection One of my faithful readers bought this for me a while ago, and I figured it was an interesting counterpoint to the Randy Savage documentary, in that Savage didn’t live long enough to come crawling back to Vince and thus got a begrudging DVD set and Hall of Fame induction. Plus the guy has been waiting very patiently for me to find 7 hours to do this one, and since I was working Easter weekend while the others in the family went out of town for festivities, I figured tonight was perfect. Well, plus Furious 7 was sold out tonight anyway. So anyway, whereas Warrior gave them the narrative of the guy changing his ways and worldview and coming back home, and so now he gets a friggin’ STATUE and yearly award named after him. Yeah, he was always one of my favorite guys growing up, but Randy Savage ate steroids and shit money for the company year in and year out, and always did business when asked. Warrior was such a nutjob that they dedicated an entire DVD to talking about what a cancer on the sport he was, and now suddenly he’s a saint? Come on, man. And he’s getting ANOTHER set later this month! I think this set was available on Netflix a while back, by the way, although I haven’t looked for it in a while. Hosted by WARRIOR. This is a “show and tell” set, with Warrior introducing matches and telling his story. His introduction basically says that this DVD set is to set things right again after the previous hatchet job. Disc One Warrior talks about studying to be a chiropractor and getting into bodybuilding, but getting lured into wrestling by some of the guys at the gym. They started out as the Freedom Fighters: Jim Justice and Flash Borden. If you ever read Meltzer’s old Observers from that time, his burials of them are legendary. And the footage is hilarious here, as both guys were doing ALL of the steroids and were greener than grass. The Blade Runners v. Harry Jackson & Sean O’Reilly From the UWF in 1986. Whatever terrible music they were using is clearly overdubbed here. So at this point they were Sting and Rock, as Jim’s hair was starting to regrow and Eddie Gilbert was managing them. They do a quick Road Warriors style squash and flex a lot. A lot a lot. Rock presses one of the geeks and Sting finishes him with a splash at 1:00. These guys made the Ascension look like the stars of the future. DUD Warrior talks about all the money he was losing in the UWF, so he moves to World Class and reinvents himself as the Dingo Warrior. The Dingo Warrior v. Chris Adams From World Class, later in 1986. The Warrior look is starting to take shape now, with the tassels and facepaint added and the steroids toned down a lot. Percy Pringle stops by to cut a promo on Adams and really up the depressing death factor of the match. Adams goes to attack him and gets whacked with the cane as a result, and Warrior presses Adams onto the top rope to take over. Warrior chokes him out and Adams fights out of it and hits the superkick, putting Warrior onto the floor. Back in, Adams grazes him with another superkick and adds a piledriver, but he goes up and gets caught in a shitty powerslam. Dingo drops an elbow for the surprise pin at 4:55, which was a pretty big upset considering Adams was World champion and all. Warrior was just terrible here, sloppy as hell, but he looked like a superstar. ½* Warrior talks about getting the call from WWF, and he was on his way. Ultimate Warrior v. Barry Horowitz From Wrestling Challenge, in 1987. Warrior quickly finishes with the press slam at 1:33. Ultimate Warrior v. Steve Lombardi From Superstars, November 1987. Another quick squash as Warrior beats Lombardi all over the ring and does an inset promo as well. I actually remember going to a house show in Vancouver around this time and getting this match. Press slam and splash finishes at 2:00. Warrior talks about practice, practice, practice as his philosophy. And then a gross story about sucking the pus out of a staph infection in his leg because he was worried about losing his push. He talks about working with Harley Race and how Race saw what the business was becoming but wasn’t bitter or angry about it. Ultimate Warrior v. Harley Race From Boston, March 1988. Warrior was starting to become a really big deal by this point, although the yellow and green color scheme here makes him look like Billy Jack Haynes’ slightly less crazy cousin. Warrior overpowers Race and dumps him. Race takes a funny bump, as Warrior punches him on the apron and Race kind of slides down the stairs in slow motion. Back in, we get the usual Race spot where he “accidentally” headbutts Warrior low to take over. Warrior shakes it off and chops away on the ropes until Race goes over the top. Back in, Race hits a piledriver to take over again and then tosses Warrior out and suplexes him back in. Warrior lands on his feet, rolls Race up, and gets the pin at 4:50. Not much to this one. *1/2 Warrior talks about upgrading the look and feel of the character, going more over the top with the superhero styling and altering his body shape to be more chiseled and cut. He had a lot of fun doing the weasel suit matches with Bobby Heenan. Ultimate Warrior v. Bobby Heenan From July 1988 in the Los Angeles Arena. And is that Dave Meltzer in the aisle when Bobby Heenan runs away to start? We get an astonishingly long stall to start, as Heenan runs away for the first 3:00 before Warrior hides behind a post and catches him. Back in, Warrior takes Heenan and runs him into three of the corners, but Bobby finds a foreign object and uses it to gain the advantage. Finally Warrior just grabs it away from him, ragdolls him all over the ring, and finishes with a sleeper at 7:25. Poor Bobby gets stuffed into a weasel suit and doesn’t deal with it very well, sadly. Just a goofy comedy match, but that’s fine. * Warrior moves onto the IC title win over Honky Tonk Man, and thought it was a really cool time. Intercontinental title: Honky Tonk Man v. Ultimate Warrior From Summerslam, of course. You know the drill here. Still one of the all time greatest payoffs to a storyline ever, as Honky escaped every challenger for 18 months and then stupidly puts his title on the line with an open contract and gets destroyed once and for all. Say what you will about Honky, but when it came time to do business, he put Warrior over like the biggest killer in history. Intercontinental title: Ultimate Warrior v. Honky Tonk Man From Philly, December 1988. That is one empty arena, although the results show attendance of 5,000 so it’s an OK crowd. Warrior attacks Jimmy Hart and hauls him back to the dressing room right away, and takes over on Honky with a bearhug before throwing him around the ring. Jimmy Hart emerges from exile and nails Warrior with the megaphone on the floor, and Honky adds a guitar to the back for good measure. Honky continues cheating outrageously in the ring and choking away on the ropes with any object handy. Honky chokes him down with tape, but Warrior makes the comeback, blocks Jimmy Hart’s attempt to throw powder, and tosses Honky into Jimmy for the pin at 7:10 to retain. Honky had to go to crazy lengths to get any kind of believable heat on Warrior. ½* Warrior talks about his relationship with Randy Savage and how much coffee that Macho used to drink. I am so not surprised. Warrior absolutely loved his intensity and gonzo demeanour. I am so not surprised by that either. Title v. title: Randy Savage v. Ultimate Warrior From Boston, February 1989. So yeah, this was just after The Main Event and Randy Savage was a massively hated heel, suddenly on fire as champion and the biggest star in the industry again. Warrior wins a slugfest and puts Savage out with a shoulderblock, then chases him out and presses him back into the ring again. Savage keeps running and tries a flying bodypress, but Warrior catches him and drops him with a powerslam that looks exactly as bad as the one he did to Chris Adams at the beginning of this disc. Warrior keeps beating on Savage in the corner, but misses a charge and gets put on the floor. The heat for this match is just crazy, with the crowd booing everything Savage does and cheering everything Warrior does. Back in, Savage necks him on the top rope for two and chokes away for two. Macho goes to a chinlock and drops an elbow for two. I’m no fan of Rod Trongard to say the least, but he’s selling this like the biggest match in history, which I appreciate. Warrior fights out of a chinlock, but runs into a clothesline and Savage gets two. Double axehandle gets two, and Warrior makes the comeback with a suplex for two. This brings Rick Rude down to the ring for some posing, and Warrior gets an atomic drop for two. Savage rolls him up with a handful of tights for two. Warrior gets the splash, but hits knees and Savage gets two. Rude continues posing while Warrior makes the full comeback and lays Savage out with clotheslines. Now Warrior finally goes after Rude, and Savage hits him with a cheapshot from behind and wins by countout at 10:35. Rude and Savage do their own Megapower handshake (with the crowd chucking garbage at them) and Warrior comes back and destroys both guys afterwards. Too bad they never went anywhere with that Rude-Savage deal. This was a hell of a match, by the way. ***1/2 Warrior never had a problem dropping the title to Rude. “This too shall pass” was always his motto. He didn’t need the belt or really care about it. Intercontinental title: Ravishing Rick Rude v. Ultimate Warrior. From Summerslam 89. So of course Rude screwed Warrior out of the belt at Wrestlemania V, in what was Warrior’s first good PPV match, well, ever, so they had a lot to live up to here. Warrior was already starting to feud with Andre and Rude was programmed with Roddy Piper, so it was obvious that this feud was over one way or another after tonight. This matchup was kind of like the Batista-Undertaker of its time, as they just had freakish chemistry against each other for whatever reason. Rude tries slugging away to start, and gets nowhere. Warrior clotheslines him to the floor, but Rude comes back in with a sunset flip, which Warrior blocks by punching him. Gorilla press follows, and Warrior opts to dump Rude on the floor for a nice bump. They brawl outside and Warrior hits him with the belt, triggering a classic rant by Jesse Ventura about whether it’s legal to shoot someone outside the ring and how Tony is even stupider than Gorilla Monsoon. But tell us what how you really feel, Jesse. Warrior brings him in, then changes his mind and tosses him again. Back in, Warrior goes up with a double axehandle for two. He whips Rude into opposite turnbuckles and slams him for two. Suplex gets two. Warrior gets an inverted atomic drop, giving Rude a chance to do his tailbone sell, and Warrior drops him on his ass for good measure. Back to the top for LUCHA WARRIOR~!, but Rude brings him down the hard way to take over. Rude starts working on the back and a suplex gets two, then he goes to the rear chinlock. He stomps the back and goes for the Rude Awakening, but Warrior powers out of it, so Rude goes with a rare sleeper instead. Criss-cross and the ref is bumped, but Heenan manages to shake Rude out of it first. Warrior hulks up and powerslams Rude after the three clotheslines, and of course there’s no ref. Piledriver, and that gets two. Running powerslam sets up the big splash, but Rude gets the knees up to block. Rude gets his own piledriver, almost a powerbomb, for two. To the top for the fistdrop, and that gets two, but now Roddy Piper joins us. Another piledriver gets two and Rude gets all distracted by Piper, who moons him in response. And that was six years before Braveheart! Warrior suplexes the distracted Rude, and it’s shoulderblock, gorilla press, big splash and we have a new champion at 16:03. The reaction for this was GIGANTIC and anyone who wouldn’t have taken a shot with Warrior as World champion after seeing this is nuts. Even more than Warrior! And this one of the few times, I might add, where Rude got what was coming to him and did a clean job. Definitely one of the best matches of Warrior’s career. ***1/2 Warrior talks about how great all the jobbers that put him over were. He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful when he was doing stuff like pinning guys with one foot or leaving the belt on, he was just asserting dominance. Ultimate Warrior v. Bob Bradley From Superstars, September 1989. This would be an example of the previous notes, as Warrior leaves the belt on, beats on Bradley all over the ring area before taking the belt off. Press slam and splash finish at 2:32 as Warrior strikes a Comic Book Guy-as-Lorne Greene pose while making the pin. Ultimate Warrior v. Brian Costello From Superstars, December 1989. Another example of jobber abuse, as Warrior chases the poor guy all over the ring and finishes with the press slam and splash at 1:33, complete with barbarian pose this time. Brother Love presents Andre the Giant, from July 1989. He dislikes Ultimate Warrior, you see. Warrior talks about his brief feud with Andre and how it was set up to get Warrior to the next level in preparation for the World title run. Warrior has an entirely different view on the feud than Bobby Heenan did on the previous Warrior DVD. Intercontinental title: Ultimate Warrior v. Andre the Giant From MSG, August 1989. Heenan gets thrown out of the arena before he even does anything. That seems a bit unfair. Andre decides to mock the rope shaking, so Warrior hits him with three clotheslines and splashes him to retain at 0:30. Andre protests that the timekeeper never even rang the bell, but it falls on deaf ears. Nothing to it as a match, of course, but I’m glad they put one of these on a DVD for historical sake. Intercontinental title: Ultimate Warrior v. Andre the Giant From SNME, November 1989. This is pretty legendarily bad. You can actually re-enact this classic in the Warrior DLC for WWE 2K15 if you’d like. Andre chokes him out on the ropes and they actually edit the match to cut to the crowd! Are you fucking kidding me? Warrior comes back and misses a clothesline, landing on the floor. Back in, Andre works on a surfboard hold, but Warrior fights out and clotheslines him to the floor, and we take a break. Back with Andre finally crawling back into the ring, but Warrior goes to a bearhug until Andre escapes with a headbutt. Andre goes back to the corner and just totally ignores Warrior’s attempts at offense and then goes to his own bearhug, as he obviously wants no further part of this match. Warrior fights back and Andre cuts him off again, but Warrior ties him in the ropes and Bobby Heenan runs in for the DQ at 7:46. A giant mess, one of the worst matches in SNME history, as Andre wasn’t selling anything properly and Warrior had no idea what to do with him out there. -** Disc Two Onto the World champion era now. Warrior was in Stamford doing some stuff when Vince presented him with the idea of doing the Wrestlemania match with Hogan. Ultimate Warrior v. Mr. Perfect From MSG, March 1990. Non-title match, apparently. Hennig tries to interrupt Warrior’s entrance and ends up taking a stunt bump over the top as a result. Perfect tries to match strength and goes flying again, and Warrior drags him around the ring by the hair and ragdolls him. Random note: Who seriously thought that a commentary team of Gorilla Monsoon, Hillbilly Jim and Lord Alfred Hayes was something that should happen? Perfect gets a cheapshot and blocks the splash with the knees to take over. He gets some heat on Warrior on the ropes, but Warrior slingshots in with a sunset flip for two. Perfect goes back to working Warrior over with a lengthy rear chinlock. Warrior fights out and hits his clotheslines before finishing with the press slam and splash at 10:03. They couldn’t have been phoning this one in any more without actually paying two other guys to wrestle the match for them. * Warrior talks about the Hogan match and annoying Vince by running to the ring instead of riding the cart. WWF World title v. Intercontinental title: Hulk Hogan v. Ultimate Warrior The heat for this is UNREAL, with the crowd divided 50/50. Staredown to start and they do the shoving match, and then the lockup, which Warrior wins to start. Another lockup, and Hogan wins that one. The crowd is popping for everything. Warrior wants a test of strength, so they do that, and Warrior gets the advantage, but Hulk fights up from one knee and powers him down again. Warrior fights it off, so Hogan legsweeps him and drops an elbow for one. They do the CRISS-CROSS OF DOOM and Hogan slams him, but Warrior no-sells it. So they try it again, and this time Warrior slams him, and Hogan stays down. Clothesline to the floor, and Hogan whines to Hebner about hurting his knee. Hulk Hogan: Bumping Maniac. The selling is Oscar-worthy material. Warrior smartly goes right after the knee, as Hogan bravely fights off the fake pain and they head back in. Warrior goes for the knee, but Hogan rakes the face to hold him off, and they choke each other as the knee injury disappears for good. Hogan slugs Warrior from behind and clotheslines him in the corner, then hammers away on him. Hogan drops a pair of elbows for two. Front facelock, as Warrior is now blown up and Hogan has to carry the match. Let me repeat that: HOGAN has to CARRY a match. He gets the small package for two and hits the chinlock. He hammers on Warrior while down there, and then slugs away in the corner and chops him down. Axe Bomber gets two. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Back to the chinlock, as Warrior is sucking wind. Hogan works on the back and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Back to the chinlock, as we wait patiently for Warrior to join us back in the world of oxygen-breathing mammals again. Warrior fights out with elbows and they clothesline each other and both guys are out. Warrior is the first up, as he shakes the ropes to recharge his batteries, and Hogan is FLUMMOXED. Warrior slugs away on him and gets the THREE CLOTHESLINES OF DEATH and some chops in the corner, and Hogan is begging for mercy. Suplex gets two. Guess he’s feeling better. And now it’s bearhug time. But man, once you’re not watching it live with a coliseum full of people on closed-circuit TV, the drama is reduced a lot. Ref is bumped on another criss-cross, and Warrior goes AERIAL, baby, hitting Hogan with a double axehandle. He misses a shoulderblock, however, and Hogan faceplants him, but there’s no ref. Warrior recovers with a backdrop suplex, and the ref is still out. Man, criss-crosses are a hazard to referees everywhere. The ref finally recovers and Warrior gets two. Hogan gets a rollup for two. Hogan slugs away and elbows him out of the ring, and they brawl outside. I was getting visions of a double-countout at this point in 1990, but it just ends with Hogan hitting the post as they head back into the ring. Warrior hits him with a clothesline and botches the gorilla slam (I mean, how do you screw that up?) and the big splash gets two, as it’s Hulk Up Time. Punch punch punch, big boot…but the legdrop misses, and Warrior splashes him for the pin and both titles at 22:46. I can actually appreciate Hogan’s efforts in carrying, and really the rest spots don’t hurt it that much compared to the awesome drama of Pat Patterson’s intricately booked spots here. And after all these years it’s still one of my personal favorite matches of all-time, regardless of the star rating. ***1/2 Warrior thought it was neat to see how far he could push himself on the road while touring with the title. Here’s a randomly nerdy note: The clips between the matches are all done 16×9 instead of the original 4×3, but the ones backstage at WM6 look like they opened up the frame on the sides instead of their usual cropping. I don’t think that would be the case because they wouldn’t be shooting film, obviously, and they definitely didn’t compose for widescreen until 2009. WWF World title: Ultimate Warrior v. Ted Dibiase From the Tokyo Dome, April 1990. Now where is THIS show on the Network? I’ve never seen the whole thing and I’d love to because it’s such an oddity, mixing New Japan and All Japan guys. Attendance was 53,000, but with exchange rate it was closer to 70,000. This was on a previous Coliseum video but I forget if I’ve reviewed it before. Warrior puts Dibiase on the floor and throws him around the ring to start, but Dibiase takes over with a cheapshot and gets a clothesline for two. The crowd is of course completely behind Dibiase, cheering along with every punch. Dibiase with a snapmare and fistdrop, and a suplex gets two. Piledriver gets two. Warrior comes back with the press slam and splash to finish at 6:10. Whole lot of nothing here. *1/2 WWF World title: Ultimate Warrior v. Rick Rude From SNME, July 1990. I didn’t like this match on my first review, so we’ll see how it holds up. Rude attacks and Warrior whips him around the ring and clotheslines him to the floor, then sends him back in for a clothesline that Rude sells like death. Warrior to the top with a flying axehandle, but the splash misses and Rude grabs the belt and nails Warrior with it to take over. Back in, Rude goes up and gets caught and Warrior tries a corner clothesline, but misses that. Rude takes over again, but Warrior blocks a slam attempt and Rude tries a sleeper instead. We get the weird deal where the ref checks Warrior’s leg and he fights out at two, so Rude drops elbows on Warrior’s neck and tries the Rude Awakening. Warrior blocks it and fights back, but Rude gets it on a second try and gets two. Warrior makes the comeback with the shoulderblock and splash, but Bobby Heenan breaks up the count and Warrior beats on him outside. Rude saves his manager and Warrior presses him onto the floor, then beats up Heenan in the ring and wins by countout at 9:43. This was supposed to make us want to see the cage match at Summerslam? No wonder his title reign was such a flop. Good, fast-paced match that I enjoyed way more here. *** WWF World title: Ultimate Warrior v. Ted Dibiase. From The Main Event #4, November 1990. Warrior was tanking badly as champion by November and a title change was imminent, while Dibiase was a non-factor by this point and was reduced to feuding with his own hired help by Wrestlemania VII, so that shows you how well this one was destined to do. Warrior powers Dibiase into the corner to start, but he slugs back, so Warrior dumps him with a clothesline. Back in, Warrior clotheslines him off the top and slugs away in the corner. Blind charge hits knee, however, and Dibiase takes over with the middle rope elbow. Piledriver gets two. Another is reversed and Warrior shoulderblocks him down, but gets dumped. We take a break and return with Dibiase dropping a fist for two. He grabs a side headlock, and clotheslines Warrior down. Warrior comes back with a backslide for two, but Dibiase suplexes him for two. Another is reversed to a sunset flip for two by Warrior, and Dibiase tosses him. Back in, Warrior reverses a suplex and starts no-selling, and they collide for the double KO. Warrior recovers and comes back with some rope-shaking, and the clotheslines and shoulderblocks follow, so Virgil runs in for the DQ at 9:50. Pretty energetic effort from Dibiase here. *** WWF World title: Ultimate Warrior v. Sgt. Slaughter No talking head from Warrior about the whole Iraq angle? You’d think he would be ALL OVER that shit. This is from a Superstars taping in January 1991, not the Royal Rumble match. I guess they didn’t want the Warrior loss on the set, because they’re weird like that. Slaughter pounds away in the corner to start, but Warrior chases him out of the ring and slingshots him back in. Slaughter takes his trademark bump to the floor and Warrior chops away in the corner, but he misses a blind charge and hits the floor himself. It’s like rain on your wedding day. A free ride when you’ve already paid. Back in, Slaughter pounds away in the corner, but Warrior comes back with a backdrop that nearly misses completely due to Slaughter not being able to flip over for it. Warrior catapults him into the post, but Slaughter gets a neckbreaker for two and a backbreaker for two. Slaughter drops elbows on the back, clearly blown up at this point, and gets two. Slaughter with the camel clutch, but Warrior is in the ropes and makes the comeback. Shoulderblock and splash finish at 9:22 to retain. Kind of a dull mess that mostly seemed like a walkthrough for their PPV match. ** Disc Three OK, Warrior finally talks about the Slaughter deal here. He liked the retirement match angle and didn’t give it much more concern. Cage match: Ultimate Warrior v. Randy Savage From MSG, March 1991. Warrior goes crazy and beats on Savage all over the floor and then sends him into the cage and beats on him some more. Finally Savage sends him into the cage in desperation, and that puts him down. They collide off a clothesline and Savage gets two, but Warrior fights back until Savage runs him into the cage again. Savage pounds on him and goes up with the big elbow, but Warrior tosses him off at two and makes the comeback. Big splash hits knee, however, and Savage climbs out of the cage, only to be foiled by Warrior grabbing a handful of hair. That’s a dubious gameplan at this point in Savage’s career. Sherri decides to run in and help, so Warrior drops Savage and goes after her instead, giving Savage the win at 10:35. Well Warrior owed him a bunch of jobs anyway. This was pretty cookie cutter for them, but totally fine. **1/4 And then Warrior puts an epic beatdown on Savage in the cage until the Nasty Boys run in and make the save, trying to calm him down. Finally Sherri gets back in the ring, hits Warrior with the scepter, and gets Savage the hell out of there. And then Warrior beats the hell out of HER, too. What a maniac. Brother Love interviews the Ultimate Warrior, March 1991. Brother Love thinks that Warrior is just a has been, so Warrior puts an end to the Brother Love Show and destroys his set, then grabs the fleeing Love and chases him to the ring, beating him to a pulp and sending him into (nearly) permanent retirement as a character. Poor Bruce just got MURDERED with clotheslines here. And with that, the Funeral Parlor replaced Brother Love. After three years it was time to kill off the character anyway. Retirement match: Randy Savage v. Ultimate Warrior From Wrestlemania VII, of course. Hey, isn’t that the lovely Elizabeth at ringside? More importantly, who’s her date? Man, that guy is about to get cock-blocked in the worst way. Warrior’s entrance is pretty reserved as compared to his usual, which was kind of the point. Savage goes with the cheapshot to start and pounds away, but Warrior puts him down with a shoulderblock and follows with a clothesline. Warrior chokes him down and gets an atomic drop from both ways, then tosses Savage into Sherri before slugging Savage down again. Macho gets tied in the ropes, but gets free and puts Warrior down with the hooking clothesline, then goes up with the flying bodypress, but Warrior catches him and sets him down to really egg him on. Oooo, BURN. Savage gets frustrated and tosses a chair in for the distraction, then blindsides Warrior, but Warrior calmly pounds him down and stomps a mudhole in the corner. Blind charge misses, however, and Warrior hits the floor, giving Sherri a chance to torment him. Savage follows with a flying axehandle to the floor, and sends Warrior into the post. Another shot from Sherri and they head back in for a Savage kneedrop that gets two. Warrior gets a backslide for two and Gorilla informs us “we’ve just been informed that this is the largest audience in the history of pay-per-view”. Really? In the middle of the show they got those numbers? Warrior tries the flying shoulderblock, but Savage moves and gets two. That was a weak spot, actually. Savage goes to a sleeper, but Warrior fights out of it and they criss-cross into the double-clothesline. Warrior reverses a slam into the small package, but the ref is distracted by Sherri and it only gets two. Ref is bumped and Sherri gets more directly involved, but hits Savage with her shoe by mistake. Warrior goes after her, allowing Savage to get a rollup for two. Warrior slugs him down, but Savage sends him into the turnbuckles and it’s looking bad for Warrior. Slam gets two and Savage drops the big elbow, then gets really dramatic and drops FOUR MORE of them. You’d think that would do it, but it only gets two. Warrior powers up and makes the comeback with the three clotheslines and gorilla press, but the big splash only gets two. Maybe he should have done FIVE of them like Savage did. Warrior appeals to the gods for help, or maybe just the photographer in the rafters, who knows with this guy. No answer is forthcoming so he decides to walk out of the match and think it over, but Savage makes the decision for him and attacks. Savage tries to drop an axehandle onto the Warrior’s throat ala Ricky Steamboat, but he misses and splatters himself on the railing. And Warrior apparently has his message (perhaps God had voice mail and was just on another call at the time) because he heads back in and spears Savage out of the ring. Back in, second verse same as the first. One last shoulderblock and Savage is retired (with a bazillion more World titles yet to come) at 20:45. Still awesome, although the occasional goofed up spot and slightly anti-climactic ending leave it well short of perfection. ****1/2 And of course, Machiavellian Sherri attacks her former meal ticket afterwards like Lady Macbeth, leaving Elizabeth to make the unlikely save, finally getting physically involved on behalf of Savage after years of being the distraction and nothing more. And so they are reunited again and would have been the happy ending to Savage’s career, had it actually been the ending. The retirement proved to be pretty inconvenient because suddenly Savage was the #2 babyface in the promotion again and could have easily carried the belt. Anyway, I think I have dust in my eye, let’s move on… Warrior talks about his program with Undertaker and how people were going nuts for Undertaker, which worried Mark Callaway because he was supposed to be the heel. The Funeral Parlor with Ultimate Warrior, as Warrior insists that he’s not scared of Undertaker or the creepy Warrior casket with his paint on it, which prompts Undertaker to pop out of another casket and attack Warrior. And then he locks Warrior in the Warrior-themed casket and seals the lid, and that’s…pretty squicky. Especially considering Warrior was dead shortly before this was released. I think I might have deleted this segment from the DVD if I was them. They’ve delayed DVD releases before for far stupider reasons. Anyway, we get the awesome braintrust of Rene Goulet, Tony Garea and Jack Lanza trying to open the casket with a crowbar and chisel and failing spectacularly. Were I trapped in an airtight container with two minutes to live, that would not be the team of experts I would want rescuing me. Anyway, they finally break in and Warrior is unconscious after trying to claw his way out. Hebner tries to give him CPR and Warrior revives. OK, this is very, very wrong to watch for so many reasons and definitely should have been taken off. The Undertaker v. Ultimate Warrior From Toronto, June 1991. Warrior clotheslines Taker to the floor, but gets necksnapped from the apron. Taker casually grabs him in a smother hold and that goes on forfuckingever. Taker misses an elbow but doesn’t sell anyway, and Warrior makes the comeback while Taker sits up after every clothesline and then catches Warrior with the tombstone for two. Undertaker gets frustrated and grabs the urn for the DQ at 7:50. Undertaker was such a unique and bizarre character for the time. And then we get ANOTHER uncomfortable bit, as Taker seals Warrior into a body bag until he fights out and sends Taker back to the dressing room. DUD They should have left this one off because it SUCKED. Warrior talks about the big return at WM8 and how fun it was. Kind of skipped over a pretty important piece of the story there, no? Macho Man and Warrior have an interview showdown leading up to their Summerslam match…which isn’t on this set. Admittedly three Macho Man v. Warrior matches on this DVD might be enough, but that match was one of the best they ever had! Anyway, Ric Flair comes to the ring and gets the line of the DVD set (“I’ve been beating up guys in face paint since you were in diapers! I specialize in it!”) Savage charges in and gets beat up by Perfect and Flair, and Warrior saves…but he gets a Gollum-like look in his eyes when he sees the belt on the mat and that triggers a fight between them. Warrior talks about how he was going to get the title back again, but, you know, stuff happened. Warrior doesn’t know where the Survivor Series thing was supposed to go because he left and didn’t care what happened after that. WWF World tag team titles: Money Inc. v. Randy Savage & Ultimate Warrior Big brawl to start and the, ahem, Ultimate Maniacs clean house and toss the champions twice. This gives Bobby a chance to work in a lame telestrator joke, and we’re back with Savage getting two on Dibiase. Necksnap and it’s over to the Warrior as the canned crowd noise is REALLY obnoxious here, like something from the early 80s. I mean, the crowd isn’t even MOVING and yet the sound is off the charts. Warrior suplexes Dibiase for two, but misses a shoulderblock and lands on the mat. IRS comes in with a sleeper to take advantage, which gives us a chance to hear from Razor Ramon and Ric Flair backstage, as they hype Survivor Series. So they’re using the tag champions to warm up the babyfaces for another team. That’s swell. Dibiase comes in and gets the Million Dollar Dream, but Savage breaks it up with a knee to the back. Warrior and Dibiase clothesline each other, but it’s hot tag Savage. And now at least the crowd is excited to see him for real. Clotheslines for Money Inc and he drops the big elbow on IRS, but Dibiase breaks it up and we’re BONZO GONZO. Warrior dumps Dibiase with a clothesline and IRS goes out from an atomic drop, and they’ve had enough tonight and walk out at 6:10. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Ramon and Flair and Perfect beat the crap out of the Maniacs on the way back to the dressing room. They might as well have put this together from a store bought kit. ** So Warrior leaves again at that point and goes off to run a gym and his other business ventures. Years later, Vince tries to woo him again and Warrior gets a funny line about that (“So he sent me a contract that was the basic normal contract and I told him to F off or whatever I said at the time, and it’s always funny when I tell Vince to F off…”) but obviously they worked out the details. Ultimate Warrior v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley From Wrestlemania XII, as we jump ahead 4 years. You have to wonder if HHH would have as much of an inferiority complex as he ended up having if this hadn’t gone down the way it did. The story is pretty famous, as Hunter went to Warrior before the match and laid out all kinds of ideas and potential spots and Warrior completely shot him down and said they’d do a one minute squash, done deal. And Hunter carried a LOT of bitterness over that for a lot of years. And as promised, Hunter attacks and hits the Pedigree, but Warrior pops right up and squashes the shit out of him with the usual at 1:30. Warrior claims that he didn’t care about getting the title back, which conflicts with what most others said at that point about how he was whining and wanting Vince to promise him the belt back around the time of his departure. From RAW April 1996, Warrior returns and tells Goldust that he doesn’t give a shit about what Goldust is into. From RAW June 1996, the infamous baseball cap promo where Jerry Lawler presents Warrior with a framed picture and breaks it over his head, then bitches about it on the first Warrior DVD because you couldn’t see the picture breaking properly with the cap in the way or some stupid shit. This feud was a huge waste of both guys. Ultimate Warrior v. Jerry Lawler From King of the Ring 96, a show we’ve all been trying to forget aside from one notable promo. I guess there’s not really much else you can choose from for his 1996 comeback. Lawler insults most of the front row on his way to the ring and attacks Warrior on the floor, then chokes him out with wrist tape. Piledriver is no-sold and Warrior comes back to finish Lawler with the usual at 3:35. DUD I feel like they should have just stopped at 1992. And now we’re off to WCW, as Warrior talks about Hogan talking him into making a deal to come there, and how the first night was electric and then they just had no ideas for him to follow up. Well, aside from Hogan getting his win back after 8 years, but then it’s not like they cared about anything else. From Nitro, August 1998, Hulk Hogan cuts his usual promo about how he’s the greatest and no one can beat him, and that brings Warrior back from Parts Unknown to challenge him. Hogan’s “I thought you were dead!” is a nice touch. The crowd goes crazy for Warrior but this promo is WAAAAAY too long and he loses the crowd the longer it goes. And then it goes LONGER as Warrior’s words get bigger and bigger. Dude, this DVD is only three hours long, wrap it up already. I’ve seen New Japan PPV shows that were shorter than this promo. This makes the Authority look efficient and selfless with their RAW segments by comparison. Warrior talks about how the only idea they had for him was to pin him, pay him, and had he known what a shitshow it would be, he never would have bothered. From Nitro, October 1998, another Warrior promo, this one addressing the loss at Halloween Havoc. Unlike John Cena, he is quite angry at losing a big match and wants revenge. Sadly, he wouldn’t get it, because this was the end of his WCW run. The nWo comes out to confront him, but he beats them up by himself and that was that. Warrior wraps things up, and notes that his full story is yet to come. One week after this DVD was released, he was dead of a heart attack at 54. The Pulse Well obviously this was worlds better than the Self Destruction DVD, although in this case they probably should have put the two Savage matches onto the first two DVDs in this set and just scrapped the third disc all together, because this one goes off a cliff after the retirement match. Still, it was an enjoyable watch and I didn’t regret sitting through it, so I’d call it recommended.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–04.08.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.08.96 They have thankfully fixed the server issues with the Network and Roku is working perfectly tonight, so apparently some of that new budget actually went to dealing with the problems they were denying having. Taped from San Bernadino, CA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Mr. Perfect Yokozuna v. The Man They Call Vader This would be the first time they pulled out that name for Vader, I think, as he had been off TV for the past couple of months with shoulder surgery. I can just hear Art Donovan on commentary yelling HOW MUCH DOES THIS GUY WEIGH over and over for this match. Of note: Mr. Fuji is now at ringside waving the American flag. OK then. They exchange slaps and Yoko puts him down with a samoan drop, but Vader clotheslines him as Vince promises that they’ll start the show early every week from now on. That can’t have lasted long. Vader beats Yoko down in the corner, but Yoko comes back with a uranage and legdrop, and Vince declares it a “clash of BOHEMETHS”, which is a unique Vince-ism. Yoko pounds away in the corner, but Vader trips him up and splashes his ankle and the ref calls for the bell at 3:27. Vince sells it as a broken leg, and we get weird overdubbed ring announcing from Finkel declaring Vader the winner by ref stoppage. In a cool visual, they bring out a forklift to take Yokozuna away and tend to his broken leg. Nothing as a match, but it made Vader look like a killer. The Ultimate Warrior makes his RAW debut, cutting a nonsensical promo that pops the crowd anyway, until Goldust interrupts his maniacal ramblings because he wants to play superheros with him. Warrior’s response: “What is, is, and whatever you’re into, I don’t give a shit.” In other words, QUEERING DON’T MAKE THE WORLD WORK. Warrior punks him out and sends him running to end the segment. This show has Vince Russo written ALL over it. Meanwhile, we return to Yokozuna’s treatment, where Vader interrupts and smashes a chair into his already-broken leg because he’s kind of a jerk. Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Duke Droese Really, Duke was still getting TV time at this point? Droese attacks and sends Hunter fleeing, and back in we get a Flair Flip from Hunter. Press slam follows, but Duke charges and hits the floor. Hunter sends him into the stairs to take over and comes back in with a double axehandle for two. Perfect notes that Hunter might be focusing too much on his valets and should focus on the match more, which actually turned into an angle that paid off pretty big later in the year. We take a break and return with Droese escaping the Pedigree and making the comeback. Atomic drop into a spinebuster and he follows with a powerslam, but Hunter escapes the Trash Compactor and finishes with the Pedigree at 6:33. Hunter was actually improving tremendously at this point, moving past his initial snob character and becoming more of a snotty heel in general. Good TV match. **1/2 Meanwhile, Yokozuna gets loaded into the ambulance (“Like Free Willy”, notes Perfect). Arm Wrestling match: Ahmed Johnson v. British Bulldog Owen Hart is hilarious here, bitching about everything Ahmed does. Why didn’t anyone think of putting Owen and Bulldog together as a team before now? Finally Jack Doan has enough of Owen and sends him away, and with no further stalling Ahmed quickly wins the actual match. And then Bulldog of course attacks him and just destroys him with chairshots and whips him into the table, which is so loaded up with Ahmed’s oil that it doesn’t break. So Bulldog does it again. Still no breakage, so he just drops the table on him whole. That table is so fired. Probably a WCW spy. Great angle and Owen Hart as the insufferable little bastard was tremendous. Of note, the Observer reported on the tapings and specifically listed Shane McMahon as the referee, but it was actually Jack Doan and Vince even called him by name, so I have no idea where that came from. Shawn Michaels v. Jerry Lawler Big D is on commentary, wearing a Shawn Michaels shirt, as Vince works hard to get “Good Friends, Better Enemies” over as a catchphrase. Smart move, since In Your House VII was the first one to be officially subtitled. Nash was just on fire at this point, just before jumping to WCW. Shawn wins a comedy slugfest with Lawler and stops to high five fans at ringside. Back in, Lawler finds his phantom foreign object and takes over with a cheapshot. He chokes away as we take a break, and return with Lawler hammering away from the floor while Shawn sells on the apron. Piledriver gets two. Lawler goes up and gets nailed coming down, and Shawn makes the comeback with the flying elbow. Shawn stops to jaw at Diesel and Lawler goes to the tights again, but charges into a superkick for the pin at 10:34. You’d think this would be a huge trainwreck, but it was totally fine. **1/2 Diesel goes in and slugs it out with Shawn, and Perfect tosses him the title belt to really lay Shawn out. I love that Diesel made sure to take off his watch and sunglasses before kicking Shawn’s ass. The Pulse Best episode of the show in ages, actually. Three strong angles and some good wrestling make this one a solid thumbs up show.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–04.01.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 04.01.96 It’s the post-Wrestlemania edition of RAW, as requested! From 1996, sure, but it’s the thought that counts. Live from San Bernadino, CA, as the Shawn Michaels era has begun! Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Mankind v. Bob Holly And so Mrs. Foley’s baby boy debuts on RAW. Mankind attacks in the corner and beats Holly down, but Bob fights back with a dropkick. Mankind dumps him and follows with a hotshot into the apron. Back in, Holly gets hung in the Tree of Woe and dropkicked, and Mankind finishes with the MANDIBLE CLAW at 4:00. This was a case where everyone was dismissive of the character beforehand (“Oh, it’s just Cactus Jack in the WWF, big deal”) and then Mick Foley came in and hit the character out of the park in his first shot, using a new finisher (lifted from the real life doctor that The Fugitive was based on) and playing a totally different kind of psychopath. Also, Bob Holly chewing an Alka Seltzer to foam at the mouth and really sell the move was badass. ** Meltzer just COMPLETELY undersold this one in the Observer at the time. His summation: “They opened with Mankind, who got no reaction except for a half-dozen ECW fans in the front row chanting “he’s hardcore,” beating Bob Holly with the finishing move of sticking his fingers down Holly’s throat.” Come on, 1996 Dave, be cool. This was the debut of one of the most successful characters in wrestling history! Isaac Yankem v. “Wildman” Marc Mero So this gives us the RAW debuts of Marc Mero, as well as Sable at ringside. Mero quickly dropkicks Yankem to the floor and follows with a dive, and a slingshot legdrop gets two. Flying headscissors and a double axehandle gets two. This brings Hunter Hearst Helmsley out to harass Sable, and Mero is distracted enough for Yankem to take over with a backdrop suplex. It’s an Authority conspiracy! Mero comes back with a crucifix for two and a reverse rollup for two. The knockout punch puts Yankem down and a flying sunset flip finishes at 4:55. ** The Bodydonnas v. Barry Horowitz & Aldo Montoya The Donnas the new tag team champions, having defeated the Godwinns in the tournament final at Wrestlemania…in the pre-game show no less. If you had said even a year before that Chris Candido and Tom Pritchard would be tag team champions, you probably couldn’t have imagined a dumber way for them to end up in that spot. And of course it would get worse. So I should note at this point the combination of a shitty internet connection and Network problems combine to make the show unwatchable, so we are now picking things up a day later after I shut it off in frustration and played Path of the Warrior DLC on WWE 2K15 instead. That was pretty rad, I will say. Even as shitty at the game as I am thus far, I still managed to make it all the way through to Macho King before getting my ass irrevocably kicked. I’m sure Honky Tonk Man is flattered that you literally only have to do two Quicktime events to unlock him. The Hogan match is also really, really fun. Anyway, back to this match, as this kicks off the epic “Sunny as tag title whore” storyline which culminated in the Smoking Gunns’ heel turn. Aldo dominates with his high flying Portuguese martial arts and headlocks and shit, as Vince has trouble telling Skip and Zip apart. As a hint, if Ahmed Johnson is banging his girlfriend in exchange for coke, it’s probably Skip. The Bodydonnas double-team Aldo to take over, much like the double-teaming that occurred when…never mind, let’s just leave it alone. Aldo gets beat up in the corner, but comes back with a sick suplex on Skip from the apron to the floor, and he follows with a dive on both heels. Didn’t he get the note that TV jobbers didn’t need to give a shit? Barry Horowitz gets the hot tag and runs wild with a rollup on Skip for two, but that train has sailed. Aldo comes in and gets caught with a german suplex for two and Skip powerbombs him, then follows with a top rope rana into a Zip cannonball for the pin at 5:31. This was like a real match and everything. **1/2 After the break, we get a big ol’ RSPW sign on camera. How about that. Shawn Michaels joins us as the WWF champion for the first time, and he’s going to have to wrestle Jerry Lawler next week and then Diesel at the next PPV. Shawn’s use of “the Kliq” for his fanbase is about as forced and obnoxious as “WWE Universe” today and about as effective. This was kind of a bland, bad start for Shawn as champion. Undertaker v. Justin Hawk Bradshaw Baby JBL attacks and beats on his future cult leader, into a powerslam for two. Taker immediately sits up, so Bradshaw drops him with a lariat and puts him on the floor as we take a break. Back with UT making the comeback until a sideslam gets two for Bradshaw. Bradshaw goes aerial with a shoulderblock for two. Another try is reversed into a powerslam for two, but Bradshaw just levels him with another lariat. If he didn’t have the body of Chris Hero at this point he probably would have been World champion by Summerslam. A third lariat misses and Taker puts him away with the chokeslam and tombstone at 6:20, as Mankind runs in and attacks Undertaker. Fun, hard-hitting match. **1/2 And then Mankind just completely destroys him, dropping the Cactus elbow off the apron and putting him out with the Mandible Claw. This was pretty big for Undertaker, as the feud really humanized him and finally gave him something to do that wasn’t just “goofy heel steals the urn and something something magic powers” over and over. The Pulse This was a pretty awesome and historic post-WM show. Hopefully it doesn’t turn to dogshit again for a while.