10 WCW PPVs worth watching on the Network

Hey Scott,

Not that you need a primer, but I wrote this for the younger fan looking to dip their toes into the WCW realm. Wouldn’t mind hearing some of your picks.

Hell of a list.  I’d throw Halloween Havoc 89 on there, and 95 for the Horsemen deal and pre-Russo prescience of what the business would become under him.  Also 98 was an amazing undercard with one of the worst advertised main events in history.  I think Bash 91 and Uncensored 95 are also required viewing for the same reasons as Souled Out is.   

A Solution to Watching WWE Network Overseas?

Hi Scott,

Guess what? We're able to unblock WWE with the DNS. There's still some streaming issues but that seems more to be from the WWE side.

For more info, please read here:

If its working for you, feel free to pimp away. 🙂

Best,
Kenneth

Unblock-US is also working for me at the moment, but I'm happy to throw some business your way!  

Change of perception after watching DVDs

Hey Scott, I was wondering if you ever have completely changed your perception of a wrestler after watching their DVD? I’ve found this happening to myself. I used to love CM Punk because of his straight edge lifestyle (which I still admire that aspect of him) but after watching his DVD I just think he’s a whiny little bitch that cries when he doesnt get his own way. On the other hand, I use to despise HHH but after watching Thy Kingdom Come, he seems like a really hard working, smart guy and a great father to his girls. Any similar experience for you?

Certainly not like yours.  

Things That Made You Stop Watching

Scott,


Are there any instances where you just got so made at the product you stopped watching for an extended period of time? Thought it'd make some great blog discussion as well! My personally reason from lapsing from 03-06 was the HHH overkill.

Mike


Well obviously speaking from personal experience I had a bit of a meltdown in the summer of 2006 and basically couldn't watch or especially recap the product anymore due to Cena overkill and a general feeling that the product was passing me by as a fan, but then I had WWE 24/7 to fall back on anyway.  Thank god I did or I probably wouldn't have come back and likely would have just switched over to UFC full-time.  

What the World Was Watching: WrestleMania XIII

by Logan Scisco
As a random note,
this is Todd Pettengill’s last time doing the WrestleMania preview show. This
is also the last year that the original WrestleMania logo was used.
-Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Chicago, Illinois
.

Free for
All:  Billy Gunn pins Flash Funk (w/the
Funkettes) after a tornado DDT at 7:06:
So we celebrate the one year anniversary of the Free for All with this match.  Keep in mind that while you had some entertaining
superstars at the top of the card in 1997, you also had stuff like this
lingering in the midcard.  As you might
expect, Funk works a quick pace at the beginning, but Billy really slows things
down in the middle.  Funk pulls out a
victory roll off the top rope, which looks nasty and I’m surprised Billy agreed
to take it considering his neck issues.  The tornado DDT should’ve been Billy’s
finisher, since the name already tied into his gimmick as a Texas cowboy and
you would think it would be more reliable than a flying leg drop.  For those that aren’t fans of Billy Gunn,
keep in mind that this was the first attempt at giving him a decent singles
push.  There would be two more attempts
after this one failed.  Overall, this was
a good opener that had a hot finishing sequence after the dry middle
portion.  Rating:  **½
If you have some
spare time, you should YouTube the opening video package for this show.  It’s a perfect representation of the early
Attitude Era.
-Pettengill interviews
the New Blackjacks, who cut a quick generic promo about how they are the best
before heading to the ring.
Opening Four Team
Elimination, Number One Contender Contest: 
The Headbangers defeat The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly Jim), Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon & The New Blackjacks at 10:40:
Order of
Elimination:  The New Blackjacks and
Furnas & LaFon are disqualified for brawling on the floor at 4:47; The
Headbangers eliminate the Godwinns when Mosh pins Phineas following a Stage
Dive at 10:40
For the third consecutive year, WrestleMania begins with
a tag team encounter.  The winner of this
gets a tag team title shot the next night on Raw.  The Headbangers are both tagged in to fight
each other, but they lightly slap each other and do a small dance instead.  You would think with the promo that they just
cut that the Blackjacks would fare better in this match.  The same can be said of Furnas and LaFon, who
had just feuded with the tag team champions. 
Instead, we get the Godwinns, who were more than stale at this point and
the younger Headbangers, who had done little to distinguish themselves in the tag
team division, as the final two teams.  Despite this somewhat
lackluster matchup, both teams put together a good match, with the Headbangers
using a diverse and unique series of double teams to maintain the advantage
until Thrasher misses a moonsault. 
Phineas tries to finish Thrasher with a Slop Drop, but Mosh breaks it up
and the Headbangers emerge victorious after all hell breaks loose.  For their part, the Chicago crowd approves.  I enjoy elimination matches, but if they were
going to get rid of the New Blackjacks and Furnas & LaFon so quickly, they
might as well have just booked the Godwinns and the Headbangers in a number one
contenders match and called it a day. 
That silly booking aside, the Godwinns-Headbangers encounter saved this
from being a disaster.  Rating: 
**½
The Honky Tonk Man
comes out to do guest commentary. 
Captain Lou Albano and Tony Atlas are shown in the audience
.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “The Rock” Rocky
Maivia (Champion) pins The Sultan (w/The Iron Sheik & Bob Backlund) with a
schoolboy at 9:44:
McMahon must’ve been on a history kick before this show,
since he showed clips of the original Blackjacks before the opening match and
goes through some early 1980s WWF history when talking about Maivia’s
roots.  It’s puzzling that when Marc Mero
went down that the WWF’s backup plan was to use the Sultan, but in retrospect they really didn’t have anyone else to turn to in the singles ranks since most
of the midcard talent and above was already involved in other feuds.  Honky screams a lot during this
match about Maivia’s mistakes and then goes on a small rant about Maivia’s
relationship with Cindy Margolis.  Maivia
must’ve watched some Tatanka footage prior to this show, since he uses parts of
Tatanka’s war dance when making his comeback and no selling the Sultan’s
blows.  The Sheik prevents Maivia from
winning with a flying body press by distracting the referee, but Maivia
survives a piledriver and catches the Sultan off guard to retain the
title.  They couldn’t have given Maivia a
stronger victory than that at WrestleMania? 
A questionable way to treat a guy you see as the future of the
company.  After the match, the heel crew
lays out Maivia, the Sheik humbles him with a camel clutch, and they do the
same to Rocky Johnson who tries to make the save.  However, father and son rally and stand tall
at the end.  Some people call this the
worst Intercontinental title match in WrestleMania history, but that’s really
unfair.  It’s not a terrible and
is less ridiculous than the WrestleMania II affair between Randy Savage and
George Steele.  Rating:  **
Pettengill
interviews Ken Shamrock, who says that he was just trying to teach Billy Gunn a
lesson on Raw.  He says he won’t be
intimidated by Bret Hart or Steve Austin in tonight’s submission match.
-Dok Hendrix
interviews Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna. 
Helmsley awkwardly starts his promo like a face, saying WrestleMania is
an awesome stage and he’s glad to be in CHICAGO, but quickly reverts back to
form in warning Marlena to keep clear when he faces Goldust in the next match.
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley (w/Chyna) beats Goldust (w/Marlena) with a Pedigree at 13:10:
While the matches were never great, this was an important
feud for Hemsley since it began the process of establishing him as a credible
midcard talent.  Sometimes people don’t
appreciate what this feud did for Helmsley, especially when it comes to introducing
Chyna, because of the more memorable feud Helmsley had with Mankind after
this.  The match really goes downhill
after the three minute mark, as Helmsley’s offense does little to capture the
imagination or sustain interest.  Goldust
goes to nail Helmsley with the Curtain Call, but is distracted by Chyna
threatening Marlena.  Goldust pulls
Marlena onto the apron, but that enables Helmsley to knee him in the back and
give us a great visual for the finish whereby Chyna catches Marlena and shakes
her like a ragdoll and Helmsley Pedigrees Goldust for his first WrestleMania
victory.  You would think these two could
put together at least one good match, but they failed to do it again here.  If not for the finishing sequence, this
would’ve been rated much lower.  Rating: 
Jim Ross
interviews WWF Tag Team Champions The British Bulldog & Owen Hart on their
way to the ring and asks them who the captain of their team is.  Owen insists that it is him and Ross needs to
quit stirring up trouble.
WWF Tag Team Championship
Match:  The British Bulldog & Owen
Hart (Champions) wrestle Vader & Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) to a double count
out at 15:51:
This is really a match of dysfunctional partners, since
Owen and the Bulldog had their problems coming into this one and Vader and
Mankind didn’t function effectively as a team when they wrestled together prior
to this show.  The challengers dominate
much of the match, with Owen being on the receiving end of a powerbomb at the
hands of Vader and the Bulldog getting nailed in the head with the urn behind
the referee’s back.  Owen has a nice
little comeback sequence against Vader, giving us a glimpse of what the 1997
version of babyface Owen Hart would look like, but he soon runs into Vader,
which is like running into a brick wall. 
Stu and Helen Hart are sitting at ringside and Mankind mauls Owen in
front of them.  Helen looks concerned,
but Stu just stoically sits there, which is a nice reflection of his
personality.  It’s like he’s telling Owen
to take his punishment like a man. 
Mankind puts the Bulldog in the Mandible Claw to avoid a running
powerslam and Lawler promises that Owen will think of a solution.  Owen proceeds to get nailed by Vader, though,
but he bumps into Mankind and the Bulldog, who fall to the floor, where Mankind
reapplies the Mandible Claw and gets them counted out.  This match was more of a wild brawl, since
there were very few near-falls, and the finish was very disappointing, since
all signs were pointing to Vader and Mankind winning the titles here.  In fact, that was booked to happen until Bret
Hart convinced the booking team to change its mind for the upcoming Hart
Foundation angle.  I like the Bulldog and
Owen so that’s not so bad, but it likely robbed us of a fun Legion of
Doom-Vader & Mankind feud.  Rating: 
**
A video package is
aired for the Bret Hart-Steve Austin submission match
.
Submission Match
with Ken Shamrock as Guest Referee:  Bret
“the Hitman” Hart defeats “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after Austin passes out to
the Sharpshooter at 21:54:
After months of going back and forth since their last
one-on-one encounter at the Survivor Series, Bret and Austin face each other
once again in a submission match, a forum that would seem to favor Bret since Austin’s character was not exactly renowned as a submission
specialist.  This is actually Bret’s
second submission match in the last three WrestleMania’s since he faced Bob
Backlund in an “I Quit” match at WrestleMania XI.  The crowd is completely into this one, as
both men quickly take their battle into the crowd.  While there, some idiot has some obsession
with rubbing every combatant, including Shamrock on the head.  I’m surprised Shamrock just didn’t knock him out.  He fails to rub
Austin’s head, so I suppose he didn’t win the lottery the next week.  This match is simply timeless as you can
watch it fifteen years later and it still generates the same emotions the first
time you watched it.  This is also a
contest where the smaller arena setting works best because it creates a more
intimate and grittier feel, something today’s stadium crowds can’t
replicate.  Everyone also plays their
role well here, with Bret acting as someone who wants to extract maximum
punishment to get his revenge, Austin flips off Shamrock when he’s asked if he
wants to give up, and Shamrock does a great job staying out of the way and only
getting close when it’s called for.  I
know I’ve railed against the ring post figure-four spot before, but it’s
appropriate for this match since it’s no disqualification and the crowd pops
big for it.  Austin opens up a huge cut
after brawling on the floor and he gushes all over the ring.  Bret eventually overwhelms Austin by blasting
him with the timekeepers bell to avoid getting choked out with some microphone
cables and then applying a Sharpshooter, but Austin honors his word by
refusing to submit and when his attempt to power out of the Sharpshooter fails,
he passes out.  After the match, Bret
continues the attack and Shamrock has to give him a waistlock suplex to keep
him from applying another Sharpshooter. 
The crowd wants to see Bret-Shamrock, but Bret walks away to a chorus of
boos.  Austin, meanwhile, refuses
assistance, gives a referee a Stunner, and walks out to chants of his name,
thereby completing the planned double turn and sending the rest of 1997 down a
different course than what was anticipated in January.  When ranking the most important WWF matches
of all time, this one has to be considered as either number one or number two,
depending on where you place Andre-Hogan from WrestleMania III.  It officially made THE star of the late 1990s
and laid the foundation for the WWF to overtake WCW within the next thirteen
months.  I think the rating of this match
speaks for itself.  Rating:  *****
The announcers put
over Steve Austin’s effort in the last match.
Chicago Street
Fight:  Ahmed Johnson & The Legion of
Doom defeat Faarooq, Crush & Savio Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) when Animal
pins Crush after Crush is clotheslined by a 2×4 at 10:45:
Ahmed is an honorary member of the Legion of Doom for the
evening and comes out with his own spiked shoulder pads.  Someone on the booking team had a funny bone,
as the faces bring a kitchen sink with them to the ring.  The Nation tries to use D-Lo Brown, PG-13,
and Clarence Mason to weaken their opponents, but they are easily
decimated.  Animal goes to piledrive
Faarooq through a table in what would’ve been a cool spot, but he loses his
balance and they fall off.  The crowd is
disappointed, but credit to Animal for just bailing out there.  I cringe each time Ahmed hits someone with
something since you know he’s going all out and those blows have to hurt.  Somehow a hangman’s noose gets introduced and
placed around Ahmed’s neck, as D-Lo and Clarence try to hang him.  I can assure you that you will never see that
done in today’s WWE for obvious reasons.  After
some mindless brawling that kills much of the crowd, Crush is put away with a
Doomsday Device and a triple team with a 2×4. 
After the match, PG-13 are killed with a cool double Doomsday
Device.  One might think this would end
the Nation-Ahmed feud, but it kept going after this show.  This was a fun brawl, but everyone got gassed
at the end and ran out of things to do so that really hurts it.  Faarooq would probably disagree with me,
though, since he suffered a punctured lung and a separated shoulder from this
match.  Rating:  **¾
Shawn Michaels
comes out to do commentary for the WWF title match, giving the Kliq’s symbol
and using it to high five some fans that are doing it.
WWF Champion Sid
says he’s not scared of the darkness or the Undertaker because he’s the master
and ruler of the world.
No
Disqualification Match for the WWF Championship:  The Undertaker pins Sid (Champion) with a
Tombstone to win the title at 21:23
This match wasn’t hyped as a no disqualification match,
but McMahon informs us that the participants agreed earlier in the day to make
that stipulation for this match.  The
Undertaker is wearing the attire he wore the last time he won the title, with
his old school black outfit and grey gloves. 
This is the last time that he would ever wear that attire as well.  Ross puts over the Undertaker’s undefeated
streak on commentary, although the WWF wouldn’t use that to sell WrestleMania
until the next decade.  Bret Hart comes
out to stop the beginning of the match and he runs down Michaels quasi-injury
and lost smile, says that he’s no longer a friend of the Undertaker after the
last Raw, and tells Sid that the WWF title belongs to him.  Sid doesn’t take kindly to that and gives
Bret a powerbomb, which is a great spot, but that still doesn’t make him the
face in this title match.  Like
WrestleMania XVIII, the crowd is completely out of it, having wasted its energy
on Austin-Bret and some of the Chicago street fight.  There’s also very little investment by the
crowd because they can sense that the Undertaker will win, so they are just
waiting for that to happen.  Both guys
don’t really help matters by slowly working through their offense and using a
bevy of rest holds.  You just will not
hear a crowd as quiet for a WrestleMania main event as they are for this
one.  After what feels like ten
lifetimes, Bret comes back out and smacks Sid in the back with a chair and then
later stun guns him into the Undertaker’s Tombstone to cost him the title.  So after five years of fighting fat men and a
deranged opponent with one ear, the Undertaker has finally regained the WWF
title.  For Sid, softball season soon
beckoned and this was his last WrestleMania appearance, which might’ve been for
the better as it saved the fans coma-inducing gems like this one.  Without question the worst WrestleMania main
event of all time.  Rating:  ½*
The Final Report Card:  This show is usually lumped into the category
of “worst” WrestleMania’s and saved from being THE worst by the Bret-Austin
submission match.  The undercard
won’t put you to sleep, but most of its matches either leave you disappointed
(the tag title match) or wondering why they couldn’t have been better
(Helmsley-Goldust).  For an In Your
House, this show might’ve garnered a neutral or even a thumbs up rating from
me, but with WrestleMania you expect a whole lot more.  You should just watch Bret-Austin and look
for the Chicago street fight and then leave the rest of the show alone, unless
you are just compelled to watch the whole thing as part of a desire to see all
of the WrestleMania’s or watch them all prior to WrestleMania each year.  In terms of buyrate, this is the worst WrestleMania,
so if you ordered the show back in 1997 you were among a small minority of
fans.  As a point of comparison,
WrestleMania XIV more than tripled the buys that this show
received.  This was the WWF hitting rock bottom after a poor 1995 and 1996, but sometimes you have
to go into the deepest valley to start moving back towards the top and the WWF
would use the momentum of the Bret-Austin feud to right the ship.  Among my readers, I’m wondering whether you
think they should’ve booked Austin-Bret to go on last or whether it was
appropriate to end with Sid-Undertaker. 
It’s something that I’ve always wondered about this show and I’d like to
hear your thoughts. 
Attendance: 
18,197
Buyrate: 
0.77
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 30, 1996

-Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels cut
brief promos on each other to hype their face-to-face segment tonight.
-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the
King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Albany, New York.

-Opening Contest:  “The Real Double J” Jesse James & Savio
Vega (and Bret Hart) defeat Faarooq & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/the
Nation of Domination) via disqualification when Crush interferes at 10:26
shown:
This
Faarooq-Austin pairing is probably the weirdest pairing I’ve ever seen.  James sings “With My Baby Tonight” on his way
to the ring and just as I tire of the song, Austin leaves the ring and nails
James in the aisle.  Awesome.  Savio works his usual midcard magic, by
scoring some near-falls on his side, but James eventually goes down with a knee
injury about an Austin chop block, bringing out Bret, who gets to substitute
for the face side.  In kayfabe world
that’s really unfair, but the referee doesn’t seem to mind.  Bret receives the momentum swinging tag and
tries to apply the Sharpshooter to Faarooq, but Crush runs in and creates the
disqualification.  This was a nice way to
further the Bret-Austin feud without having a long physical encounter between
the two.  Rating:  **½
-After the match, the Nation of
Domination lay waste to Bret and Savio until Ahmed Johnson forces everyone to
flee with a 2×4.  It looks like James got
off easy with a small knee injury here. 
Ahmed gets on the house mic and reminds Faarooq that he’s going down at
the Royal Rumble.
-Non-Title Match:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Intercontinental
Champion) pins Flash Funk (w/The Funkettes) after nailing Funk with the title
belt at 8:58 shown:
Just
like last week, Goldust makes an entrance through the crowd and takes a seat in
the lower arena section for this match.  Funk
uses his usual aerial offense here, but he’s in a styles clash with Helmsley,
who wants to wrestle a more technical encounter.  What you get out of this is a big mess that
builds to nothing until Lawler leaves the announce table and insults Goldust on
the house mic during the match.  That’s
completely distracting, but I’m not shocked that we’re putting angles before
the ring work here and it’s not like it’s unwarranted.  The distraction presented by Lawler causes
the referee to develop a premature case of adult onset ADD and Helmsley takes
advantage for the victory.  This loss
cuts off some of Funk’s momentum and Helmsley enhances his status over the rest
of the WWF’s ridiculous midcard during this period.  Rating:  *½
-After the match, Goldust comes
over the guardrail at Lawler and when Helmsley tries to attack him from behind,
Funk intervenes and he rolls Helmsley back into the ring and hits a 450 splash.
-Shawn Michaels says that no one
gets in his face and tonight is no exception to that.
-Jim Ross moderates a
face-to-face segment between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.  Bret says that Shawn never apologized for
costing him the WWF title at In Your House and rants about getting screwed out
of the title at WrestleMania XII.  Bret
takes a shot at Michaels for posing for Playgirl and accuses Michaels of
degrading the WWF title.  Michaels says
that Bret is no role model, but before he gets to go on a tangent of his own,
Sid interrupts.  Sid says he’s tired of
people talking about his title and he wants some competition, so the Undertaker
comes out.  However, as he comes down to
the ring, Vader attacks him.  The
Undertaker dispatches of him and goes eye to eye with Sid.  That doesn’t last long as Vader comes back
and the Undertaker and he head back to the locker room.  Meanwhile, Michaels crotches Bret on the
middle rope and dives onto Sid and that takes us to a commercial break.  I know the story they were trying to tell
here, but I would’ve preferred to have Bret and Shawn shoot on each other for a
while.  I can see why Michaels would be
upset by this segment because they let Bret run him down for five or six
minutes and he only got one sentence to respond.
Jerry “the King” Lawler defeats Goldust
(w/Marlena) via count out at 2:47 shown:
This
match is pure angle fodder as Hunter Hearst Helmsley and the Honky Tonk Man are
on guest commentary and Helmsley leaves the announce table minutes into the
match and carries Marlena to the locker room. 
Marc Mero cuts him off as Goldust chases after Helmsley, but Helmsley
tosses Marlena over to Mero and side steps Goldust, causing him to crash into
Mero, creating injury to Marlena and causing him to lose the match.  Helmsley pounds away on Goldust and Mero and
that plays us out.  A decent ending to
Raw, but it’s obvious that they were trying ANYTHING to put heel heat on
Helmsley.
-Tune
in next week to see Bret Hart face Vader!
The
Final Report Card:  The face-to-face
segment had promise and Bret started it off well, but it devolved into a sideshow
of egos after he finished his part.  The
opening tag match was fun, but they didn’t play with it as much as they should
have and everything else is very passable. 
Looking at this year, it’s amazing that they stuck with Helmsley because
he was generating very little heat as champion, but you can never count anyone
out in the wrestling business.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.6 for
Nitro)
Show
Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

Now that I have finished reviewing 1996, where do the readers want me to go?  I’ve got several choices, so any replies/feedback are welcomed when making the decision:

*1993, 1994, 1995, or 1997 Raw
*1994, 1995, or 1996 Superstars
*1994 or 1995 Action Zone

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 2, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are continuing the taping in New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Contest:  Flash Funk (w/The Funkettes) pins The Goon after a Tumbleweed variation at 5:31 shown:

2 Cold Scorpio was one of those guys that didn’t need to be repackaged during this era because around this time the WWF was already adopting a grittier feel.  Then again, the WWF wants to put its stamp on things, so that’s probably what ushered in the pimp gimmick.  This is a standard TV match, with the Goon controlling a lot of the offense and Funk getting a few high spots like a moonsault and a leg drop off the second rope.  There’s not really any psychology, but the point is to build momentum for Funk and let Bill Irwin collect checks for putting over the stars of the New Generation.  Rating:  *½

-Steve Austin rants about people getting involved in his business in London, England.

-The Fake Diesel defeats Phineas Godwinn (w/Hillbilly Jim) with a Jackknife at 3:43:

Jim Ross joins the commentary team since he’s the quasi management partner for these fake characters.  As the match starts, McMahon takes the time to reflect upon the recent death of Tiny Tim and they show clips of Lawler breaking his ukulele back in 1993.  This is a match that you think Phineas might win, but then you realize that the Fake Razor and Diesel have a tag team title match at the next In Your House so you are quickly relieved of that notion.  Diesel still needs outside interfere from the Fake Razor to avoid a Slop Drop, though, and he nearly kills Phineas with the finisher.  This wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but that’s not saying a whole lot.  Rating:  ½*

-Shawn Michaels talks to Vince McMahon from a WWF studio somewhere.  He says he doesn’t mind that Sid used a video camera on him at Survivor Series, but that he takes exception for when it was used on Jose Lothario.  He says that he’s a man’s man, which is an angle the WWF is really trying to sell right now for Michaels character.  All of this hype about Shawn being a “man’s man” is coming off really forced.

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to hear who won big and who lost big on the recent Middle East tour!

Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/Uncle Zebekiah) beat “The Real Double J” Jesse James with a lariat after Zebekiah grabs James’ foot when he runs the ropes at 5:55

If you didn’t get enough of “With My Baby Tonight” in June and July 1995 you can hear more of it when watching some Jesse James matches in 1996 and 1997.  This starts as a very sloppy midcard match, with James botching a body press and Bradshaw not doing a blind charge in the corner when he’s supposed to.  It builds from there into a decent encounter, but the WWF doesn’t seem to be abandoning the Bradshaw experiment, despite not knowing what to do with him.  This marked for the fans that James character had hit a ceiling and he was going to be permanently relegated to the midcard.  I’m not complaining about that, though, because there’s only so far you can go with a gimmick like that.  Rating:  *½

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament we have a scheduled semi-final between Sid and Mr. Perfect.  However, Sid has left the tournament after becoming WWF Champion and Mr. Perfect isn’t in the company anymore because Hunter Hearst-Helmsley got the better of him, so Lawler and Pettengill are going to replace them.  Lawler beats Pettengill and gets a spot in the finals next week.

-Steve Austin’s attack on Bret Hart on last week’s show, which was interrupted by the British Bulldog, is shown.  A subsequent confrontation between the Bulldog and Austin in London is shown along with Bret saving the Bulldog from a Sid powerbomb at the same show.  Austin, the Bulldog, Bret Hart, and Sid cut promos against each other, which explain why they don’t like each other.

-Leif Cassidy’s moonsault on Scott Taylor on WWF Superstars is the Footaction Slam of the Week.

-“Wildman” Marc Mero & Jake “the Snake” Roberts (w/Sable) defeat Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion) & Billy Gunn after Mero pins Helmsley following a Wild Thing at 12:09 shown:

This match is a result of the end of last week’s match between Mero and Gunn, but its purpose is to continue to build the Mero-Helmsley issue.  Helmsley spends a great deal of the match avoiding Mero and the heels make Roberts take most of the punishment.  Mero gets to come to the rescue after the hot tag and scores another pinfall on Helmsley in a tag match, continuing a pattern that began at the Survivor Series a couple of weeks ago.  Roberts just can’t go anymore by this point and it made the match tough to get into until Mero made the hot tag.  Rating:  *

-Tune in next week for a no holds barred match between the Undertaker and Mankind!  Also, Sid faces Hunter Hearst-Helmsley in a champion vs. champion match, Jesse James faces Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and Uncle Zebekiah in a handicap match, and Goldust collides with Bart Gunn!  That’s a pretty loaded card for a 1996 edition of Raw.

The Final Report Card:  This was the failed characters of 1996 episode of Raw as the Goon, Flash Funk, the Fake Diesel, and the “Real Double J” Jesse James saw action.  The tag team main event also wasn’t anything to write home about, but it’s really tough to criticize the guys involved because they were at a four show TV taping and had other matches to wrestle on the card.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 2, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are continuing the taping in New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Contest:  Flash Funk (w/The Funkettes) pins The Goon after a Tumbleweed variation at 5:31 shown:

2 Cold Scorpio was one of those guys that didn’t need to be repackaged during this era because around this time the WWF was already adopting a grittier feel.  Then again, the WWF wants to put its stamp on things, so that’s probably what ushered in the pimp gimmick.  This is a standard TV match, with the Goon controlling a lot of the offense and Funk getting a few high spots like a moonsault and a leg drop off the second rope.  There’s not really any psychology, but the point is to build momentum for Funk and let Bill Irwin collect checks for putting over the stars of the New Generation.  Rating:  *½

-Steve Austin rants about people getting involved in his business in London, England.

-The Fake Diesel defeats Phineas Godwinn (w/Hillbilly Jim) with a Jackknife at 3:43:

Jim Ross joins the commentary team since he’s the quasi management partner for these fake characters.  As the match starts, McMahon takes the time to reflect upon the recent death of Tiny Tim and they show clips of Lawler breaking his ukulele back in 1993.  This is a match that you think Phineas might win, but then you realize that the Fake Razor and Diesel have a tag team title match at the next In Your House so you are quickly relieved of that notion.  Diesel still needs outside interfere from the Fake Razor to avoid a Slop Drop, though, and he nearly kills Phineas with the finisher.  This wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but that’s not saying a whole lot.  Rating:  ½*

-Shawn Michaels talks to Vince McMahon from a WWF studio somewhere.  He says he doesn’t mind that Sid used a video camera on him at Survivor Series, but that he takes exception for when it was used on Jose Lothario.  He says that he’s a man’s man, which is an angle the WWF is really trying to sell right now for Michaels character.  All of this hype about Shawn being a “man’s man” is coming off really forced.

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to hear who won big and who lost big on the recent Middle East tour!

Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/Uncle Zebekiah) beat “The Real Double J” Jesse James with a lariat after Zebekiah grabs James’ foot when he runs the ropes at 5:55

If you didn’t get enough of “With My Baby Tonight” in June and July 1995 you can hear more of it when watching some Jesse James matches in 1996 and 1997.  This starts as a very sloppy midcard match, with James botching a body press and Bradshaw not doing a blind charge in the corner when he’s supposed to.  It builds from there into a decent encounter, but the WWF doesn’t seem to be abandoning the Bradshaw experiment, despite not knowing what to do with him.  This marked for the fans that James character had hit a ceiling and he was going to be permanently relegated to the midcard.  I’m not complaining about that, though, because there’s only so far you can go with a gimmick like that.  Rating:  *½

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament we have a scheduled semi-final between Sid and Mr. Perfect.  However, Sid has left the tournament after becoming WWF Champion and Mr. Perfect isn’t in the company anymore because Hunter Hearst-Helmsley got the better of him, so Lawler and Pettengill are going to replace them.  Lawler beats Pettengill and gets a spot in the finals next week.

-Steve Austin’s attack on Bret Hart on last week’s show, which was interrupted by the British Bulldog, is shown.  A subsequent confrontation between the Bulldog and Austin in London is shown along with Bret saving the Bulldog from a Sid powerbomb at the same show.  Austin, the Bulldog, Bret Hart, and Sid cut promos against each other, which explain why they don’t like each other.

-Leif Cassidy’s moonsault on Scott Taylor on WWF Superstars is the Footaction Slam of the Week.

-“Wildman” Marc Mero & Jake “the Snake” Roberts (w/Sable) defeat Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion) & Billy Gunn after Mero pins Helmsley following a Wild Thing at 12:09 shown:

This match is a result of the end of last week’s match between Mero and Gunn, but its purpose is to continue to build the Mero-Helmsley issue.  Helmsley spends a great deal of the match avoiding Mero and the heels make Roberts take most of the punishment.  Mero gets to come to the rescue after the hot tag and scores another pinfall on Helmsley in a tag match, continuing a pattern that began at the Survivor Series a couple of weeks ago.  Roberts just can’t go anymore by this point and it made the match tough to get into until Mero made the hot tag.  Rating:  *

-Tune in next week for a no holds barred match between the Undertaker and Mankind!  Also, Sid faces Hunter Hearst-Helmsley in a champion vs. champion match, Jesse James faces Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and Uncle Zebekiah in a handicap match, and Goldust collides with Bart Gunn!  That’s a pretty loaded card for a 1996 edition of Raw.

The Final Report Card:  This was the failed characters of 1996 episode of Raw as the Goon, Flash Funk, the Fake Diesel, and the “Real Double J” Jesse James saw action.  The tag team main event also wasn’t anything to write home about, but it’s really tough to criticize the guys involved because they were at a four show TV taping and had other matches to wrestle on the card.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 25, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and are in New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Contest:  Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats Owen Hart (w/Clarence Mason) via disqualification after Steve Austin interferes at 9:25 shown:

You can’t opt for a better opener than this, but there’s nothing that stands out about this one being any better than average.  They work in some basic wrestling before the commercial break and Bret eventually gets Owen ready for the Sharpshooter before Steve Austin interferes.  Austin tries to Pillmanize Bret’s ankle, but the British Bulldog runs out and makes the shocking save.  Owen isn’t happy about this, but puts those feelings aside when Austin whacks the Bulldog with the chair.  This sowed the seeds of dissension between Owen and the Bulldog, which led to some nice comedic moments in early 1997, and also defined Austin’s character as someone who just didn’t care about anyone but himself.  Rating:  **

-McMahon recaps the end of the Owen-Bret match that we just saw.

The Executioner (w/Paul Bearer & Mankind) defeats Freddie Joe Floyd via submission with the Asian spike at 3:02:

We’re treated to a rare Executioner singles match here, which is meant to build him up for the Undertaker at the next In Your House pay-per-view.  The Executioner is facing the Undertaker in an Armageddon match, but we don’t get any clarification about what the rules are going to be for that.  Floyd actually manages to score a near-fall in this match, but he’s quickly finished off with the Asian spike.  Gordy needed a better finisher than that, but the WWF was not going to let him use the powerbomb when Sid was already doing it.

-McMahon interviews Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario, who are in Lothario’s home in San Antonio, Texas.  Lothario says he feels guilty for costing Michaels the WWF title at the Survivor Series and that he’s going to have a procedure done on his heart.  Michaels says that he’s lost his edge since he won the WWF title and he lays into Sid for attacking Lothario at the Survivor Series.  A pretty intense interview, but it went on too long.

-Sunny comes out to do guest commentary and McMahon dances with her as we cut to a commercial break.  1990s McMahon would really get a kick out of Brodus Clay.

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament we have semi-final action between Sable and Sunny.  So did these two brawl before or after they filmed this segment?  Sunny wins, which makes me happy, but the referee discovers that Sunny put gum on the foot of her Karate Fighter and reverses the decision.  In response, Sunny punches out the referee, which gets an accompanying side effect.

-Rocky Maivia pins Salvatore Sincere with a shoulderbreaker at 4:27:

Sunny says she has her eyes on Maivia, showing that she does indeed have an eye for talent.  Tom Brandi holds the distinction of being Maivia’s first major opponent in the WWF, as these two had a small feud on WWF TV through the rest of 1996.  Maivia’s offense is very basic and doesn’t show a lot of flavor, which is why the crowds began to turn on him.  Maivia gets the victory after Sincere’s blind charge sends him shoulder-first into the ring post.  This could’ve been a good match on the house show circuit, but they needed to speed it up for TV.  Rating:  *½

-Marc Mero tells Vince McMahon that he isn’t worried that Hunter Hearst Helmsley sitting at ringside for his match with Billy Gunn tonight.  Sable is sporting a more realistic look here, as she isn’t wearing as much makeup and has straightened her hair.

-Call 1-888-WWF-SHOP to get a piece of the 1996 Survivor Series ring for $59 (plus $8 shipping and handling)!

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to find out where Mr. Perfect is.  That’s a ripoff because they can just tune into Nitro to find that out!

-Hendrix says that he heard the British Bulldog tell Owen Hart that he wants a piece of Steve Austin.

-Flash Funk’s 450 splash on a jobber is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.

-“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) defeats Billy Gunn via disqualification when Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who is doing guest commentary, interferes at 7:58 shown:

This is a decent contest that serves as filler for the larger Mero-Helmsley feud.  They make Billy look strong, as he is able to kick out of some of Mero’s trademark moves like the slingshot leg drop from the ring apron.  However, the crowd doesn’t buy Billy as a threat or even on Mero’s level and quite frankly I don’t either after watching WWF television for the entire year of 1996.  It would’ve helped Billy’s case to have a better gimmick and to squash some jobbers for a month.  The WWF had conditioned fans to accept the fact that tag team wrestlers were well below their singles counterparts, so tossing Smoking Gunn Billy into the mix and expecting the crowd to respond to him in matches like this is ludicrous.  Helmsley ruins the finish, with Mero ready to hit the Wild Thing, and this prompts Jake Roberts to come out and come to Mero’s aid, thereby setting up a possible tag team match next week.  Rating:  **

The Final Report Card:  Another acceptable wrestling episode of Raw, so no real complaints.  The WWF was having some decent ring work carry the shows, but the problem during this period was that outside of a handful of guys, the crowd didn’t care about the roster.  For example, there was a dead crowd for the Mero-Billy match that ended the show and that’s a reminder that you can put on great wrestling, but if the fans don’t feel any connection to the talent then they aren’t going to tune in and watch.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.1 (vs. 3.1 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 25, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and are in New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Contest:  Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats Owen Hart (w/Clarence Mason) via disqualification after Steve Austin interferes at 9:25 shown:

You can’t opt for a better opener than this, but there’s nothing that stands out about this one being any better than average.  They work in some basic wrestling before the commercial break and Bret eventually gets Owen ready for the Sharpshooter before Steve Austin interferes.  Austin tries to Pillmanize Bret’s ankle, but the British Bulldog runs out and makes the shocking save.  Owen isn’t happy about this, but puts those feelings aside when Austin whacks the Bulldog with the chair.  This sowed the seeds of dissension between Owen and the Bulldog, which led to some nice comedic moments in early 1997, and also defined Austin’s character as someone who just didn’t care about anyone but himself.  Rating:  **

-McMahon recaps the end of the Owen-Bret match that we just saw.

The Executioner (w/Paul Bearer & Mankind) defeats Freddie Joe Floyd via submission with the Asian spike at 3:02:

We’re treated to a rare Executioner singles match here, which is meant to build him up for the Undertaker at the next In Your House pay-per-view.  The Executioner is facing the Undertaker in an Armageddon match, but we don’t get any clarification about what the rules are going to be for that.  Floyd actually manages to score a near-fall in this match, but he’s quickly finished off with the Asian spike.  Gordy needed a better finisher than that, but the WWF was not going to let him use the powerbomb when Sid was already doing it.

-McMahon interviews Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario, who are in Lothario’s home in San Antonio, Texas.  Lothario says he feels guilty for costing Michaels the WWF title at the Survivor Series and that he’s going to have a procedure done on his heart.  Michaels says that he’s lost his edge since he won the WWF title and he lays into Sid for attacking Lothario at the Survivor Series.  A pretty intense interview, but it went on too long.

-Sunny comes out to do guest commentary and McMahon dances with her as we cut to a commercial break.  1990s McMahon would really get a kick out of Brodus Clay.

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament we have semi-final action between Sable and Sunny.  So did these two brawl before or after they filmed this segment?  Sunny wins, which makes me happy, but the referee discovers that Sunny put gum on the foot of her Karate Fighter and reverses the decision.  In response, Sunny punches out the referee, which gets an accompanying side effect.

-Rocky Maivia pins Salvatore Sincere with a shoulderbreaker at 4:27:

Sunny says she has her eyes on Maivia, showing that she does indeed have an eye for talent.  Tom Brandi holds the distinction of being Maivia’s first major opponent in the WWF, as these two had a small feud on WWF TV through the rest of 1996.  Maivia’s offense is very basic and doesn’t show a lot of flavor, which is why the crowds began to turn on him.  Maivia gets the victory after Sincere’s blind charge sends him shoulder-first into the ring post.  This could’ve been a good match on the house show circuit, but they needed to speed it up for TV.  Rating:  *½

-Marc Mero tells Vince McMahon that he isn’t worried that Hunter Hearst Helmsley sitting at ringside for his match with Billy Gunn tonight.  Sable is sporting a more realistic look here, as she isn’t wearing as much makeup and has straightened her hair.

-Call 1-888-WWF-SHOP to get a piece of the 1996 Survivor Series ring for $59 (plus $8 shipping and handling)!

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to find out where Mr. Perfect is.  That’s a ripoff because they can just tune into Nitro to find that out!

-Hendrix says that he heard the British Bulldog tell Owen Hart that he wants a piece of Steve Austin.

-Flash Funk’s 450 splash on a jobber is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.

-“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) defeats Billy Gunn via disqualification when Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who is doing guest commentary, interferes at 7:58 shown:

This is a decent contest that serves as filler for the larger Mero-Helmsley feud.  They make Billy look strong, as he is able to kick out of some of Mero’s trademark moves like the slingshot leg drop from the ring apron.  However, the crowd doesn’t buy Billy as a threat or even on Mero’s level and quite frankly I don’t either after watching WWF television for the entire year of 1996.  It would’ve helped Billy’s case to have a better gimmick and to squash some jobbers for a month.  The WWF had conditioned fans to accept the fact that tag team wrestlers were well below their singles counterparts, so tossing Smoking Gunn Billy into the mix and expecting the crowd to respond to him in matches like this is ludicrous.  Helmsley ruins the finish, with Mero ready to hit the Wild Thing, and this prompts Jake Roberts to come out and come to Mero’s aid, thereby setting up a possible tag team match next week.  Rating:  **

The Final Report Card:  Another acceptable wrestling episode of Raw, so no real complaints.  The WWF was having some decent ring work carry the shows, but the problem during this period was that outside of a handful of guys, the crowd didn’t care about the roster.  For example, there was a dead crowd for the Mero-Billy match that ended the show and that’s a reminder that you can put on great wrestling, but if the fans don’t feel any connection to the talent then they aren’t going to tune in and watch.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.1 (vs. 3.1 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 18, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening “Tough Man” Contest:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) via disqualification after the Executioner interferes at 9:00 shown:

Yokozuna injured Vader’s shoulder last night at the Survivor Series so Mankind is taking his spot.  This match continues the WWF’s move away from strictly having face vs. heel matchups and this is billed as a “tough man” contest, where both men are fighting for pride.  That works for me.  Ross does a fantastic job selling the intensity of the match on commentary and we get lots of wild brawling that goes into the crowd.  The crowd senses that this is something different than what they usually get at a WWF event and they eat it up with a silver spoon.  This is a pure war of attrition that is unfortunately cut short by the Executioner’s interference when it appears that Austin might have the match won after getting a near-fall from his second rope elbow drop.  The Undertaker runs down to make the Executioner and Mankind flee, but Austin clotheslines the Undertaker over the top rope instead of saying thank you.  Rating:  ***

-We get a replay of the Austin-Undertaker encounter at the end of the Austin-Mankind match.

-Ahmed Johnson takes a seat in the crowd and Sunny comes down to the ring.  She welcomes Faarooq, the leader of the Nation of Domination, to the ring.  PG-13 does the cool NOD rap as Faarooq makes his entrance with Clarence Mason.

-Rocky Maivia’s performance at the Survivor Series is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.

-Faarooq (w/Nation of Domination) pins Savio Vega after PG-13 hit Savio with a 2×4 at 8:10 shown:

Savio has a chance to get revenge on Faarooq here for beating him in the first round of the Intercontinental title tournament a couple of months ago, but the announcers focus is on Faarooq’s new Nation of Domination cult of personality.  Faarooq and Savio play to each other’s strengths, with Savio taking great bumps from Faarooq’s power offense and Faarooq allowing Savio to get enough hope spots to break up the monotony of long beat down segments.  There is a scary part of the match where Savio goes for a superplex and either he or Faarooq botch something and dangerously fall off the top rope and to the floor.  I’m surprised Faarooq didn’t break his neck.  Although the pacing of this was slow, both guys gave a great effort and ended up looking good as a result.  Rating:  **½

-After the match, Ahmed Johnson runs down to ringside, takes out PG-13, grabs the 2×4 and forces Faarooq and Clarence Mason to flee into the crowd.  Ahmed gets on the house mic and says that Faarooq is going down, which the crowd chants with him.  Scott makes fun of Ahmed’s enunciation in this segment, but Ahmed is easily understandable here.

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament Sunny defeats Bob Backlund, which sets up an interesting semi-final match with Sable.

-McMahon narrates photographs of last night’s Sid-Shawn Michaels title match at the Survivor Series.  McMahon reflects on Michaels title reign and takes a few subtle shots at the fans who booed him last night at Madison Square Garden.

Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon defeat Leif Cassidy & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly after LaFon pins Cassidy following a side suplex out of a cobra clutch at 5:56 shown:

Owen Hart and the British Bulldog appear in the split screen and say that they were impressed with Furnas and LaFon last night, but that they weren’t ready so the win that the newest tag team in the WWF scored was worthless.  It’s really odd that they paired Cassidy and Holly together, but after Jannetty’s injury at the pay-per-view they probably didn’t have a lot of reliable options at their disposal.  The roster was thin enough at this stage of 1996.  Furnas and LaFon look more comfortable than they did last night at the pay-per-view, which is understandable.  Everyone worked well together here, but the whole purpose of the contest was to showcase Furnas and LaFon, so it’s not like this match was very competitive or ever in doubt.  Rating:  **

-Call 1-88-WWF-SHOP to get a piece of the 1996 Survivor Series mat for $59!  I guess these didn’t sell well because the WWE doesn’t do this today.

-Ross interviews WWF Champion Sid.  The crowd showers Sid with applause and Sid says that Jose Lothario intervened in the match last night and when he stepped into the game, he deserved every bit of what he got.  Sid says he’d give Shawn Michaels a rematch and that he will be a fighting champion on behalf of the people.  Sid addresses Bret Hart, who he will face at In Your House, and accidentally says “Bretman” instead of “Hitman” and then corrects himself.  Ross should’ve just ended the interview after the people part because the part about Bret didn’t flow with the rest of the interview.

The Final Report Card:  People tend to complain that Raw didn’t offer a lot of great ring work during this time period, but this show proves that generalization wrong.  With a new influx of talent like Furnas and LaFon, and Flash Funk, the WWF was bolstering the number of guys on the roster who could go out and put on solid matches.  This is a great wrestling show, with guys giving it their all in each match and doing everything they could to entertain the crowd.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.4 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 18, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening “Tough Man” Contest:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) via disqualification after the Executioner interferes at 9:00 shown:

Yokozuna injured Vader’s shoulder last night at the Survivor Series so Mankind is taking his spot.  This match continues the WWF’s move away from strictly having face vs. heel matchups and this is billed as a “tough man” contest, where both men are fighting for pride.  That works for me.  Ross does a fantastic job selling the intensity of the match on commentary and we get lots of wild brawling that goes into the crowd.  The crowd senses that this is something different than what they usually get at a WWF event and they eat it up with a silver spoon.  This is a pure war of attrition that is unfortunately cut short by the Executioner’s interference when it appears that Austin might have the match won after getting a near-fall from his second rope elbow drop.  The Undertaker runs down to make the Executioner and Mankind flee, but Austin clotheslines the Undertaker over the top rope instead of saying thank you.  Rating:  ***

-We get a replay of the Austin-Undertaker encounter at the end of the Austin-Mankind match.

-Ahmed Johnson takes a seat in the crowd and Sunny comes down to the ring.  She welcomes Faarooq, the leader of the Nation of Domination, to the ring.  PG-13 does the cool NOD rap as Faarooq makes his entrance with Clarence Mason.

-Rocky Maivia’s performance at the Survivor Series is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.

-Faarooq (w/Nation of Domination) pins Savio Vega after PG-13 hit Savio with a 2×4 at 8:10 shown:

Savio has a chance to get revenge on Faarooq here for beating him in the first round of the Intercontinental title tournament a couple of months ago, but the announcers focus is on Faarooq’s new Nation of Domination cult of personality.  Faarooq and Savio play to each other’s strengths, with Savio taking great bumps from Faarooq’s power offense and Faarooq allowing Savio to get enough hope spots to break up the monotony of long beat down segments.  There is a scary part of the match where Savio goes for a superplex and either he or Faarooq botch something and dangerously fall off the top rope and to the floor.  I’m surprised Faarooq didn’t break his neck.  Although the pacing of this was slow, both guys gave a great effort and ended up looking good as a result.  Rating:  **½

-After the match, Ahmed Johnson runs down to ringside, takes out PG-13, grabs the 2×4 and forces Faarooq and Clarence Mason to flee into the crowd.  Ahmed gets on the house mic and says that Faarooq is going down, which the crowd chants with him.  Scott makes fun of Ahmed’s enunciation in this segment, but Ahmed is easily understandable here.

-In the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament Sunny defeats Bob Backlund, which sets up an interesting semi-final match with Sable.

-McMahon narrates photographs of last night’s Sid-Shawn Michaels title match at the Survivor Series.  McMahon reflects on Michaels title reign and takes a few subtle shots at the fans who booed him last night at Madison Square Garden.

Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon defeat Leif Cassidy & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly after LaFon pins Cassidy following a side suplex out of a cobra clutch at 5:56 shown:

Owen Hart and the British Bulldog appear in the split screen and say that they were impressed with Furnas and LaFon last night, but that they weren’t ready so the win that the newest tag team in the WWF scored was worthless.  It’s really odd that they paired Cassidy and Holly together, but after Jannetty’s injury at the pay-per-view they probably didn’t have a lot of reliable options at their disposal.  The roster was thin enough at this stage of 1996.  Furnas and LaFon look more comfortable than they did last night at the pay-per-view, which is understandable.  Everyone worked well together here, but the whole purpose of the contest was to showcase Furnas and LaFon, so it’s not like this match was very competitive or ever in doubt.  Rating:  **

-Call 1-88-WWF-SHOP to get a piece of the 1996 Survivor Series mat for $59!  I guess these didn’t sell well because the WWE doesn’t do this today.

-Ross interviews WWF Champion Sid.  The crowd showers Sid with applause and Sid says that Jose Lothario intervened in the match last night and when he stepped into the game, he deserved every bit of what he got.  Sid says he’d give Shawn Michaels a rematch and that he will be a fighting champion on behalf of the people.  Sid addresses Bret Hart, who he will face at In Your House, and accidentally says “Bretman” instead of “Hitman” and then corrects himself.  Ross should’ve just ended the interview after the people part because the part about Bret didn’t flow with the rest of the interview.

The Final Report Card:  People tend to complain that Raw didn’t offer a lot of great ring work during this time period, but this show proves that generalization wrong.  With a new influx of talent like Furnas and LaFon, and Flash Funk, the WWF was bolstering the number of guys on the roster who could go out and put on solid matches.  This is a great wrestling show, with guys giving it their all in each match and doing everything they could to entertain the crowd.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.4 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)

Show Grade:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Survivor Series 1996

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New York, New York.

Free for All:  Bart Gunn (Captain), “The Real Double J” Jesse James, “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly defeated Billy Gunn (Captain), the Sultan, Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, and Salvatore Sincere when Bart was the sole survivor after pinning Billy with a forearm at 9:02 shown:

Other Eliminations:  Sultan eliminates Montoya via submission a Camel clutch at 3:55; Bart pins Sincere after a sidewalk slam at 5:11; Bradshaw pins Holly after a lariat at 6:51; James pins Bradshaw with a schoolboy at 7:02; James pins the Sultan with a small package at 8:00; Billy pins James after a Rocker Dropper at 8:15

Today, the WWE would’ve thrown Bart and Billy onto the pay-per-view as a singles match in the undercard, but back in 1996 you often had to settle your disputes in teams.  If we were to look at things from a kayfabe perspective, I think Bart’s recruiting was a lot easier than Billy’s.  I just don’t see Billy approaching the Sheikh and asking if the Sultan wants to be on his team.  McMahon and Ross make the Sultan out to be the Bad News Brown of his team, but it he never walks out of the match.  That might’ve added a much needed dimension to the Sultan’s character as well.  This is an abbreviated Survivor Series match, as the last four eliminations happen within rapid succession.  It’s not good or great, but it’s not terrible either.  The crowd was into the encounter between the Gunns, though, which was surprising considering the lack of heat it was generating on television.  Since this came down to Bart and Billy anyway, it’s pretty silly that they made this a tag team elimination match, but they must’ve felt the elimination concept might rope in a couple of new buys before the show.  As a final note, I consider this the blowoff of the Gunns feud because their match on RAW a few weeks after this had an unsatisfying conclusion.  Rating:  **

-Now onto the pay-per-view, where Jerry Lawler has joined the commentary team despite being involved in a match later in the evening…

Opening Contest:  The Godwinns (Captains), Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon (w/Hillbilly Jim) beat The British Bulldog, Owen Hart (Captains) & The New Rockers (w/Clarence Mason) when Furnas & LaFon are the survivors after Furnas pins Owen with a release German suplex at 20:42:

Other Eliminations:  Henry pins Jannetty after a Slop Drop at 8:12; Owen pins Henry after a spinning heel kick at 8:17; Bulldog pins Phineas after a running powerslam at 9:04; LaFon pins Cassidy after an inverted superplex at 13:43; LaFon pins the Bulldog after a sunset flip at 17:30

This is the debut of Furnas and LaFon and their presence is more than welcomed in a tag division that had grown stale by late 1996.  Jannetty legitimately tweaks his ankle in the early going against LaFon and he tries to fight through the pain, but he’s pretty much useless in the ring on one wheel.  This would be Jannetty’s last career appearance in the ring at a WWF pay-per-view.  After the Godwinns are eliminated, the crowd loses interest in the match despite the solid action that begins to develop in the ring.  The only thing that they pop for is LaFon’s insane elimination of Cassidy.  There wasn’t ANYTHING that Al Snow wouldn’t do to get over.  This is a textbook way to put over a debuting team strongly, as Furnas and LaFon not only hang with the champions but beat them head-to-head (albeit in an elimination format).  It’s just a shame that they never got over with the WWF fan base.  I remember loving this match in 1996, but time has not been kind to it.  I never realized as a young fan how silent the crowd was during this match and how Jannetty’s injury messed up the first half of the contest.  Rating:  **½

Ray Rougeau interviews Ahmed Johnson, who pledges to harm Faarooq and win back the Intercontinental title.  Don’t forget to call 1-9—737-4WWF to hear more comments from Ahmed!

Kevin Kelly interviews Mankind and Paul Bearer and Bearer is freaking out about being locked in a cage during the Mankind-Undertaker match.

-The Undertaker defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 14:53:

The stipulation here is that Bearer will be locked in a cage and suspended above the ring during the match.  The logic goes that if the Undertaker wins, he will destroy Bearer when the cage is lowered back into the ring following the match.  This is the third reincarnation of the Undertaker, as he’s ditched the colored gloves and hat and gone with a black leather ring attire.  He makes his entrance by being lowered from the rafters, an entrance technique that still gives me chills nearly thirteen years after the tragic death of Owen Hart in Kansas City.  The Undertaker is also much more mobile than previous versions and works in some mat wrestling, like drop toe holds and fireman’s carries.  If you watch your WWF footage in sequence from the Undertaker’s debut to 1996, seeing this is pretty surreal.  Much of the match centers on Mankind taking some vicious bumps on the arena floor and the Undertaker working over the Mandible Claw hand.  This does have a payoff, as the Undertaker is able to break out of the Mandible Claw and catch Mankind with a Tombstone as Mankind is over top of him in the corner, jabbing a foreign object in his face.  The crowd expects a payoff to the Bearer issue, but before the Undertaker can extract revenge, the Executioner comes to Bearer’s rescue and sets up a match with the Undertaker at the next In Your House pay-per-view.  They tried to go for a different type of match between these two, but I found this incredibly boring.  I liked some of the nuances, like the Undertaker learning that he needed to target Mankind’s Mandible Claw hand, but the rest of the action fell flat.  Rating:  **¼

Log on to the WWF’s America Online website to chat with Doug Furnas, Philip LaFon, and other WWF superstars!

Sunny comes to ringside and Vince looks like a dork trying to dance with her.  Ross is apoplectic about this behavior near the sacred realm of the announce table.  Ross is like the square you’d have at a party while everyone else is trying to have fun.  Ross takes some funny shots at Sunny throughout the match.  Sunny tries to retaliate, but Ross owns her.

Dok Hendrix interviews Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler, Crush, and Goldust.  They say nothing of note.

“Wildman” Marc Mero (Captain), Rocky Maivia, the Stalker & Jake “the Snake” Roberts (w/Sable) defeat Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion & Captain), Goldust, Crush, and Jerry “the King” Lawler (w/Marlena & Clarence Mason) when Maivia is the sole survivor after pinning Goldust with a shoulderbreaker at 23:44:

Other Eliminations:  Roberts pins Lawler after a DDT at 10:00; Goldust pins the Stalker after a Curtain Call at 12:44; Mero pins Helmsley with a Merosault at 19:20; Crush pins Mero after Mero misses a pescado at 20:32; Crush pins Roberts after a heart punch at 20:55; Maivia pins Crush after a crossbody at 23:13

Mark Henry was supposed to be on Mero’s team, but suffered his first WWF injury prior to the show, so he was replaced by Roberts.  Again, the Stalker wears no face paint and a WWF t-shirt, which is not in tune with his gimmick.  That could why this is the only use of the Stalker gimmick on pay-per-view.  This is the Rock’s debut and this match puts him over in a big way, as he defeats a veteran of the company in Crush and a prior Intercontinental champion.  You can’t send a clearer signal than that to your fan base that you think a guy is the future of your company.  The match as a whole is well booked and paced as Maivia gets an early shining moment in his career, Roberts finishes off his feud with Lawler, the WWE reminds the fans that Mero can beat Helmsley for the title in a fair matchup, Goldust ends his short feud with the Stalker, and the heels dominate the young and inexperienced Maivia for much of the match.  Crush also came off looking strong in this match, as he got a small rub from Roberts and pinned the Intercontinental champion.  However, the WWF did nothing with any of the momentum he might have generated from this match.  Rating:  ***¼

A video package recaps the Bret Hart-Steve Austin feud.

Todd Pettengill interviews Steve Austin, who says that he isn’t intimidated by Bret Hart heading into this match.

Bret “the Hitman” Hart pins “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after reversing a Million Dollar Dream at 28:37:

This is Bret’s return to the company after his self-imposed exile following his defeat at the hands of Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII.  It was announced on the Free for All that the winner of this match would receive a WWF title shot at the next In Your House pay-per-view, which always seemed unfair to me since Bret was gone for eight months.  He’s the former champion and all, but other than that, what catapults him up the ladder to suddenly become the number one contender?  There’s an interesting bit on commentary, when Ross argues that neither man has submitted in his career, which sets up the WrestleMania XIII submission match, and when McMahon says that it would be humiliating for Bret to be forced to submit to the Sharpshooter on such a grand stage, which is one of those eerie statements in retrospect.  The match boils down into three phases:  a mat wrestling phase, a phase where both guys have a crazy brawl outside of the ring, and a phase where there are false finishes galore and Ross starts losing his mind on commentary.  It should be noted that Bret earns the distinction of becoming the first person to kick out of the Stone Cold Stunner in this match.  Although fans mostly remember these two having an outstanding match at WrestleMania, this is the match that really made Austin a legitimate singles threat.  His King of the Ring victory got him into the conversation as a rising star, but he floundered without a clear direction after that victory.  This match showed that he could hang with the main event talent in the WWF and helped his gradual build into the star that he became.  The finish was a nice touch as well, as Bret used his experience to outwit Austin and achieved a narrow victory.  There is one sad point in the match, though, and that is that you see how great Austin was as a technical wrestler before his injury at SummerSlam nine months after this, which would force him to become a brawler.  Rating:  *****

Hendrix interviews Sid, who says that he will do whatever it takes to become the WWF champion tonight.

Captain Lou Albano comes out to join the Spanish announce table.  He stops by the U.S. booth to shake hands with Ross, but not McMahon and Ross makes fun of McMahon for it.

Vader (Captain), Faarooq, The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel (w/Jim Cornette & The Nation of Domination) battle Yokozuna (Captain), Flash Funk, Savio Vega & “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to a double-disqualification at 9:45:

Other Eliminations:  Diesel pins Savio after a Jackknife at 8:34; Snuka pins Ramon after a Superfly Splash at 9:28

This match sees the debut of Flash Funk, the WWF’s attempt to turn 2 Cold Scorpio into a pimp.  Cornette is on commentary for the match and is outraged at Funk’s entrance.  Rumor has it that the WWF had hoped to sign Randy Savage from WCW and use him as Yokozuna’s mystery partner on this show, but the plans fell through and the WWF had to bring in Snuka, who was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame the night before, as a last second replacement.  The crowd pops for it, but the pop for Savage would have been insane.  It would’ve been awesome to get Savage back into the company just before the Attitude Era kicked off, but there’s no guarantee that he would’ve played a prominent role.  This would be Yokozuna’s last pay-per-view appearance, as he’s bigger than he was at SummerSlam and was such a health risk that the WWF could not use him in the ring.  Funk gets an “ECW” chant going when he moonsaults Vader on the floor, but I wonder why you’d toss a newcomer in there against Vader if you wanted to make them shine.  Cornette actually refers to Ramon’s fallaway slam as the SOS, which is the name that Scott Hall had for the move.  The double DQ occurs after Snuka pins Ramon with the Superfly Splash and Diesel starts wearing him out with a chair, causing the faces to rush to Snuka’s aid and pay no heed to the referee.  I have no idea why the company thought that this type of finish did anything for anyone involved.  If anything, it weakened Vader’s status in the eyes of the fans since this was his third consecutive pay-per-view appearance where he failed to notch a victory.  Rating:  *

A video package hypes tonight’s Shawn Michaels-Sid WWF title match.

-WWF Championship Match:  Sid defeats “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (Champion w/Jose Lothario) for the title after a powerbomb at 20:02:

After months of beating bigger and stronger opponents, Michaels first reign as WWF champion comes to an end at the hands of his friend Sid, who has the Madison Square Garden crowd in the palm of his hand for this match.  The men in the MSG crowd don’t take to Michaels at all and boo him out of the building, while the shrieks of women are the only support that he has.  An apt comparison would be the WrestleMania XXII encounter between John Cena and Triple H because every time that Michaels goes on the offensive he is booed out of the building.  While the entrances are taking place, I can’t help but think of how Michaels sexy boy routine is so out of place when you look at the mood of the show and the intensity of the Bret-Austin encounter earlier in the show.  This is one of Sid’s better matches, as Michaels provides a perfect foil for Sid’s power moves and knows the right times to make his comebacks.  Sid has an awesome spot in this match where he hot shots Michaels on the guardrail in the aisle and takes the time to fist bump with a few of the fans.  Sid continues to cut off Michaels comebacks, but decides to grab a camera and this is where the match falls apart.  Instead of letting Sid use the camera and let his man win by DQ, Lothario hops on the apron, so Sid hits him with the camera and Lothario feigns a heart attack on the outside.  Referee Earl Hebner is then KO’d by a Michaels reverse body press and this allows Sid to nail Michaels with the camera when he goes to check on Lothario.  Sid then hits his powerbomb and wins the title after a dramatic three count, with a lady near the hard camera screaming “NOO!” between the counts of two and three.  I could’ve done without all of the overbooking at the very end, especially the distasteful heart attack ploy, which was not necessary and ruined the flow of a good contest.  Still, the crowd dynamics mitigate some of this, as most of the fans go home happy that their national nightmare of Shawn Michaels as WWF champion is over, albeit temporarily.  Rating:  ***½

The Final Report Card:  This is almost a perfect pay-per-view, with everything but one match clocking in at **¼  or over thereby making it the best WWF pay-per-view of 1996.  At the time, I considered Sid’s victory in the main event to be a huge upset.  Michaels had been overcoming the odds all the time during his title reign against bigger opponents and I thought that Sid would be another notch in his belt.  I never thought that the company would have the faith in Sid to give him the title, since they didn’t give him the title in 1992 or 1995.  Aside from the main event, this show did a great job building up new stars like the Rock and Doug Furnas and Philip LaFon.  Although only the Rock proved a success in the long run, Furnas and LaFon did provide Owen Hart and the British Bulldog with some much needed competition in the tag ranks, so their presence on this show was not for naught.

Attendance:  18,647

Buyrate:  0.58

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up 

What the World Was Watching: Survivor Series 1996

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New York, New York.

Free for All:  Bart Gunn (Captain), “The Real Double J” Jesse James, “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly defeated Billy Gunn (Captain), the Sultan, Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, and Salvatore Sincere when Bart was the sole survivor after pinning Billy with a forearm at 9:02 shown:

Other Eliminations:  Sultan eliminates Montoya via submission a Camel clutch at 3:55; Bart pins Sincere after a sidewalk slam at 5:11; Bradshaw pins Holly after a lariat at 6:51; James pins Bradshaw with a schoolboy at 7:02; James pins the Sultan with a small package at 8:00; Billy pins James after a Rocker Dropper at 8:15

Today, the WWE would’ve thrown Bart and Billy onto the pay-per-view as a singles match in the undercard, but back in 1996 you often had to settle your disputes in teams.  If we were to look at things from a kayfabe perspective, I think Bart’s recruiting was a lot easier than Billy’s.  I just don’t see Billy approaching the Sheikh and asking if the Sultan wants to be on his team.  McMahon and Ross make the Sultan out to be the Bad News Brown of his team, but it he never walks out of the match.  That might’ve added a much needed dimension to the Sultan’s character as well.  This is an abbreviated Survivor Series match, as the last four eliminations happen within rapid succession.  It’s not good or great, but it’s not terrible either.  The crowd was into the encounter between the Gunns, though, which was surprising considering the lack of heat it was generating on television.  Since this came down to Bart and Billy anyway, it’s pretty silly that they made this a tag team elimination match, but they must’ve felt the elimination concept might rope in a couple of new buys before the show.  As a final note, I consider this the blowoff of the Gunns feud because their match on RAW a few weeks after this had an unsatisfying conclusion.  Rating:  **

-Now onto the pay-per-view, where Jerry Lawler has joined the commentary team despite being involved in a match later in the evening…

Opening Contest:  The Godwinns (Captains), Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon (w/Hillbilly Jim) beat The British Bulldog, Owen Hart (Captains) & The New Rockers (w/Clarence Mason) when Furnas & LaFon are the survivors after Furnas pins Owen with a release German suplex at 20:42:

Other Eliminations:  Henry pins Jannetty after a Slop Drop at 8:12; Owen pins Henry after a spinning heel kick at 8:17; Bulldog pins Phineas after a running powerslam at 9:04; LaFon pins Cassidy after an inverted superplex at 13:43; LaFon pins the Bulldog after a sunset flip at 17:30

This is the debut of Furnas and LaFon and their presence is more than welcomed in a tag division that had grown stale by late 1996.  Jannetty legitimately tweaks his ankle in the early going against LaFon and he tries to fight through the pain, but he’s pretty much useless in the ring on one wheel.  This would be Jannetty’s last career appearance in the ring at a WWF pay-per-view.  After the Godwinns are eliminated, the crowd loses interest in the match despite the solid action that begins to develop in the ring.  The only thing that they pop for is LaFon’s insane elimination of Cassidy.  There wasn’t ANYTHING that Al Snow wouldn’t do to get over.  This is a textbook way to put over a debuting team strongly, as Furnas and LaFon not only hang with the champions but beat them head-to-head (albeit in an elimination format).  It’s just a shame that they never got over with the WWF fan base.  I remember loving this match in 1996, but time has not been kind to it.  I never realized as a young fan how silent the crowd was during this match and how Jannetty’s injury messed up the first half of the contest.  Rating:  **½

Ray Rougeau interviews Ahmed Johnson, who pledges to harm Faarooq and win back the Intercontinental title.  Don’t forget to call 1-9—737-4WWF to hear more comments from Ahmed!

Kevin Kelly interviews Mankind and Paul Bearer and Bearer is freaking out about being locked in a cage during the Mankind-Undertaker match.

-The Undertaker defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 14:53:

The stipulation here is that Bearer will be locked in a cage and suspended above the ring during the match.  The logic goes that if the Undertaker wins, he will destroy Bearer when the cage is lowered back into the ring following the match.  This is the third reincarnation of the Undertaker, as he’s ditched the colored gloves and hat and gone with a black leather ring attire.  He makes his entrance by being lowered from the rafters, an entrance technique that still gives me chills nearly thirteen years after the tragic death of Owen Hart in Kansas City.  The Undertaker is also much more mobile than previous versions and works in some mat wrestling, like drop toe holds and fireman’s carries.  If you watch your WWF footage in sequence from the Undertaker’s debut to 1996, seeing this is pretty surreal.  Much of the match centers on Mankind taking some vicious bumps on the arena floor and the Undertaker working over the Mandible Claw hand.  This does have a payoff, as the Undertaker is able to break out of the Mandible Claw and catch Mankind with a Tombstone as Mankind is over top of him in the corner, jabbing a foreign object in his face.  The crowd expects a payoff to the Bearer issue, but before the Undertaker can extract revenge, the Executioner comes to Bearer’s rescue and sets up a match with the Undertaker at the next In Your House pay-per-view.  They tried to go for a different type of match between these two, but I found this incredibly boring.  I liked some of the nuances, like the Undertaker learning that he needed to target Mankind’s Mandible Claw hand, but the rest of the action fell flat.  Rating:  **¼

Log on to the WWF’s America Online website to chat with Doug Furnas, Philip LaFon, and other WWF superstars!

Sunny comes to ringside and Vince looks like a dork trying to dance with her.  Ross is apoplectic about this behavior near the sacred realm of the announce table.  Ross is like the square you’d have at a party while everyone else is trying to have fun.  Ross takes some funny shots at Sunny throughout the match.  Sunny tries to retaliate, but Ross owns her.

Dok Hendrix interviews Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler, Crush, and Goldust.  They say nothing of note.

“Wildman” Marc Mero (Captain), Rocky Maivia, the Stalker & Jake “the Snake” Roberts (w/Sable) defeat Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion & Captain), Goldust, Crush, and Jerry “the King” Lawler (w/Marlena & Clarence Mason) when Maivia is the sole survivor after pinning Goldust with a shoulderbreaker at 23:44:

Other Eliminations:  Roberts pins Lawler after a DDT at 10:00; Goldust pins the Stalker after a Curtain Call at 12:44; Mero pins Helmsley with a Merosault at 19:20; Crush pins Mero after Mero misses a pescado at 20:32; Crush pins Roberts after a heart punch at 20:55; Maivia pins Crush after a crossbody at 23:13

Mark Henry was supposed to be on Mero’s team, but suffered his first WWF injury prior to the show, so he was replaced by Roberts.  Again, the Stalker wears no face paint and a WWF t-shirt, which is not in tune with his gimmick.  That could why this is the only use of the Stalker gimmick on pay-per-view.  This is the Rock’s debut and this match puts him over in a big way, as he defeats a veteran of the company in Crush and a prior Intercontinental champion.  You can’t send a clearer signal than that to your fan base that you think a guy is the future of your company.  The match as a whole is well booked and paced as Maivia gets an early shining moment in his career, Roberts finishes off his feud with Lawler, the WWE reminds the fans that Mero can beat Helmsley for the title in a fair matchup, Goldust ends his short feud with the Stalker, and the heels dominate the young and inexperienced Maivia for much of the match.  Crush also came off looking strong in this match, as he got a small rub from Roberts and pinned the Intercontinental champion.  However, the WWF did nothing with any of the momentum he might have generated from this match.  Rating:  ***¼

A video package recaps the Bret Hart-Steve Austin feud.

Todd Pettengill interviews Steve Austin, who says that he isn’t intimidated by Bret Hart heading into this match.

Bret “the Hitman” Hart pins “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after reversing a Million Dollar Dream at 28:37:

This is Bret’s return to the company after his self-imposed exile following his defeat at the hands of Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII.  It was announced on the Free for All that the winner of this match would receive a WWF title shot at the next In Your House pay-per-view, which always seemed unfair to me since Bret was gone for eight months.  He’s the former champion and all, but other than that, what catapults him up the ladder to suddenly become the number one contender?  There’s an interesting bit on commentary, when Ross argues that neither man has submitted in his career, which sets up the WrestleMania XIII submission match, and when McMahon says that it would be humiliating for Bret to be forced to submit to the Sharpshooter on such a grand stage, which is one of those eerie statements in retrospect.  The match boils down into three phases:  a mat wrestling phase, a phase where both guys have a crazy brawl outside of the ring, and a phase where there are false finishes galore and Ross starts losing his mind on commentary.  It should be noted that Bret earns the distinction of becoming the first person to kick out of the Stone Cold Stunner in this match.  Although fans mostly remember these two having an outstanding match at WrestleMania, this is the match that really made Austin a legitimate singles threat.  His King of the Ring victory got him into the conversation as a rising star, but he floundered without a clear direction after that victory.  This match showed that he could hang with the main event talent in the WWF and helped his gradual build into the star that he became.  The finish was a nice touch as well, as Bret used his experience to outwit Austin and achieved a narrow victory.  There is one sad point in the match, though, and that is that you see how great Austin was as a technical wrestler before his injury at SummerSlam nine months after this, which would force him to become a brawler.  Rating:  *****

Hendrix interviews Sid, who says that he will do whatever it takes to become the WWF champion tonight.

Captain Lou Albano comes out to join the Spanish announce table.  He stops by the U.S. booth to shake hands with Ross, but not McMahon and Ross makes fun of McMahon for it.

Vader (Captain), Faarooq, The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel (w/Jim Cornette & The Nation of Domination) battle Yokozuna (Captain), Flash Funk, Savio Vega & “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to a double-disqualification at 9:45:

Other Eliminations:  Diesel pins Savio after a Jackknife at 8:34; Snuka pins Ramon after a Superfly Splash at 9:28

This match sees the debut of Flash Funk, the WWF’s attempt to turn 2 Cold Scorpio into a pimp.  Cornette is on commentary for the match and is outraged at Funk’s entrance.  Rumor has it that the WWF had hoped to sign Randy Savage from WCW and use him as Yokozuna’s mystery partner on this show, but the plans fell through and the WWF had to bring in Snuka, who was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame the night before, as a last second replacement.  The crowd pops for it, but the pop for Savage would have been insane.  It would’ve been awesome to get Savage back into the company just before the Attitude Era kicked off, but there’s no guarantee that he would’ve played a prominent role.  This would be Yokozuna’s last pay-per-view appearance, as he’s bigger than he was at SummerSlam and was such a health risk that the WWF could not use him in the ring.  Funk gets an “ECW” chant going when he moonsaults Vader on the floor, but I wonder why you’d toss a newcomer in there against Vader if you wanted to make them shine.  Cornette actually refers to Ramon’s fallaway slam as the SOS, which is the name that Scott Hall had for the move.  The double DQ occurs after Snuka pins Ramon with the Superfly Splash and Diesel starts wearing him out with a chair, causing the faces to rush to Snuka’s aid and pay no heed to the referee.  I have no idea why the company thought that this type of finish did anything for anyone involved.  If anything, it weakened Vader’s status in the eyes of the fans since this was his third consecutive pay-per-view appearance where he failed to notch a victory.  Rating:  *

A video package hypes tonight’s Shawn Michaels-Sid WWF title match.

-WWF Championship Match:  Sid defeats “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (Champion w/Jose Lothario) for the title after a powerbomb at 20:02:

After months of beating bigger and stronger opponents, Michaels first reign as WWF champion comes to an end at the hands of his friend Sid, who has the Madison Square Garden crowd in the palm of his hand for this match.  The men in the MSG crowd don’t take to Michaels at all and boo him out of the building, while the shrieks of women are the only support that he has.  An apt comparison would be the WrestleMania XXII encounter between John Cena and Triple H because every time that Michaels goes on the offensive he is booed out of the building.  While the entrances are taking place, I can’t help but think of how Michaels sexy boy routine is so out of place when you look at the mood of the show and the intensity of the Bret-Austin encounter earlier in the show.  This is one of Sid’s better matches, as Michaels provides a perfect foil for Sid’s power moves and knows the right times to make his comebacks.  Sid has an awesome spot in this match where he hot shots Michaels on the guardrail in the aisle and takes the time to fist bump with a few of the fans.  Sid continues to cut off Michaels comebacks, but decides to grab a camera and this is where the match falls apart.  Instead of letting Sid use the camera and let his man win by DQ, Lothario hops on the apron, so Sid hits him with the camera and Lothario feigns a heart attack on the outside.  Referee Earl Hebner is then KO’d by a Michaels reverse body press and this allows Sid to nail Michaels with the camera when he goes to check on Lothario.  Sid then hits his powerbomb and wins the title after a dramatic three count, with a lady near the hard camera screaming “NOO!” between the counts of two and three.  I could’ve done without all of the overbooking at the very end, especially the distasteful heart attack ploy, which was not necessary and ruined the flow of a good contest.  Still, the crowd dynamics mitigate some of this, as most of the fans go home happy that their national nightmare of Shawn Michaels as WWF champion is over, albeit temporarily.  Rating:  ***½

The Final Report Card:  This is almost a perfect pay-per-view, with everything but one match clocking in at **¼  or over thereby making it the best WWF pay-per-view of 1996.  At the time, I considered Sid’s victory in the main event to be a huge upset.  Michaels had been overcoming the odds all the time during his title reign against bigger opponents and I thought that Sid would be another notch in his belt.  I never thought that the company would have the faith in Sid to give him the title, since they didn’t give him the title in 1992 or 1995.  Aside from the main event, this show did a great job building up new stars like the Rock and Doug Furnas and Philip LaFon.  Although only the Rock proved a success in the long run, Furnas and LaFon did provide Owen Hart and the British Bulldog with some much needed competition in the tag ranks, so their presence on this show was not for naught.

Attendance:  18,647

Buyrate:  0.58

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up 

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 11, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and are wrapping up the Raw taping in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Opening WWF Tag Team Championship Contest:  The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (Champions w/Clarence Mason) defeat “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels & Sid (w/Jose Lothario) after the Bulldog pins Sid after Shawn Michaels accidentally Sweet Chin Music’s his partner at 10:14 shown:

Steve Austin appears in the split screen and says that he isn’t going to apologize for his actions on last week’s show.  They use the standard tag formula, with Sid and Michaels dominating the first few moments and Owen and the Bulldog pounding on Michaels after cheating.  The only thing that stands out is the ending, where Michaels goes to hit the Bulldog with Sweet Chin Music, but the Bulldog ducks and Sid eats the move for the finish.  You would’ve expected more here from three of the four participants, but they didn’t do a good job selling the idea that Sid and Michaels had a chance to walk out as the champions.  Today, Sid and Michaels probably would have won the titles heading into Survivor Series, but the WWF had a little more respect for the tag titles and was unwilling to hot shot them onto an awkward pairing just for the hell of it.  As another side note, this is another big victory for Owen and the Bulldog in a tag team match against Shawn Michaels this year, but they never could get the best of him in a singles match when the WWF title was on the line.  Rating:  **

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to find out who the mystery partner for Yokozuna’s team will be at the Survivor Series this weekend!  This was SUCH a letdown back in 1996.

-Kevin Kelly is backstage and he says that WWF officials have placed Sid and Shawn Michaels in separate locker rooms.

-Dok Hendrix gives the Survivor Series report.

Mankind (w/Paul Bearer & the Executioner) defeats Freddie Joe Floyd via submission with the Mandible Claw at 2:41:

Floyd continues to play the role of a jobber to the stars, as he jobs to Mankind in less than three minutes.  The WWF really wasted Tracy Smothers with this gimmick, but I’ve said that more times than I can count.

-After the match, the lights in the arena go out and a cage with a dummy of Paul Bearer hanging upside down is lowered.

-Kelly announces that Killer Kowalski and the Valiant Brothers will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

-Rocky Maivia video package.  Maivia was the WWF’s first third generation superstar.

-Kelly interviews Sid backstage.  Sid says that he’s tired of giving Shawn Michaels the benefit of the doubt and that he will end Michaels title reign at the Survivor Series.

-Steve Austin says that he’s going to give Bob Holly a quick wrestling lesson and tells Bret Hart that he’d better watch the match so that he’s ready for their match at the Survivor Series.

-The Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament sees Sable defeat Dok Hendrix in first round action.

-Shawn Michaels appearance on the Regis & Kathy Lee show is shown.

-Kelly interviews Shawn Michaels in his locker room.  Michaels tells Sid that tonight was a mistake, but even though it was a mistake it showed that he can knock Sid out with his finishing move.

-“Stone Cold” Steve Austin pins Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly with the Stone Cold Stunner at 6:01 shown:

Although Holly is also a jobber to the stars at this stage of his career like Freddie Joe Floyd, he was higher on the pecking order and he’s allowed to work in some significant offense against Austin, which includes his hurricanrana and dropkick.  Of course, the outcome of this match wasn’t in doubt, but you had two veterans that gave it a good effort considering the time constraints and their positions on the card.  Rating:  *¾

-Austin walks to Bret Hart’s locker room, but decides not to charge in.  Austin yells through the door that he’s going to make Bret suffer at the Survivor Series this Sunday.

-Tune in next week to see Steve Austin face off with Vader!

The Final Report Card:  A disappointing first match set the stage for the rest of the show, but this provided a good build for the Survivor Series pay-per-view.  It’s nice to look back at the beginnings of the Bret-Austin feud and see how their first encounter at the pay-per-view was a straight wrestling match and didn’t need any gimmicks to sell it.  Oh, the good old days.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.5 (vs. 3.7 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: WWF Monday Night Raw – November 4, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon and Jerry “the King” Lawler recap the Bret Hart-Steve Austin feud and tell us that Kevin Kelly will be live from Brian Pillman’s home in Walton, Kentucky, where Austin is expected to make an appearance this evening.

-Kelly gives us an overview of the situation at Pillman’s home:  Pillman is immobile after an attack by Austin on a recent edition of WWF Superstars and that his kids have been sent elsewhere because of Austin’s threats.  Wouldn’t you want to call the police too if someone threatened to break into your home?  It’s not like live television is going to save you.

-McMahon and Lawler are in the booth and they are still in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

-Opening Contest:  Goldust (w/Marlena) and The Stalker wrestle to a double-disqualification at 4:36 shown:

Mr. Perfect, Crush, and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley come down to ringside because they are going to team with Goldust at the Survivor Series.  In response, the Stalker brings Marc Mero, Rocky Maivia, and Mark Henry out with him.  Windham isn’t wearing the Stalker face paint, which I guess he figures is silly.  He’s also wearing a WWF t-shirt, which doesn’t match his camouflage ring pants.  These two had been having a feud on the house show circuit that was triggered by the Stalker merely watching some Goldust’s matches from afar and Goldust making some lewd comments about the Stalker.  Goldust has an interesting counter for the superplex, as he kisses his opponent to avoid the move.  The ending features one of the least intense brawls you have ever seen, as the two Survivor Series teams square off, and the crowd quietly applauds when the faces win.  This was just a paint by the numbers match and it didn’t do anything for either guy.  Rating:  *½

-Dok Hendrix does the Survivor Series report.

-Kelly interviews Pillman and his wife in their home.  Pillman says that Austin has made their feud personal.  McMahon hijacks the interview and asks Pillman if he feels like a hostage in his own home.  Pillman pulls out a gun in response and a friend tells him that Austin is here as we cut out for a commercial break.

-The Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament sees Sid beat Marlena.  Last week, Mr. Perfect beat Phineas Godwinn.

-Two of Pillman’s friends try to restrain Austin, but he beats them up in the drive way, using a red jeep and some kid’s toys as weapons.  Austin then tries to get into the house, but the doors are locked.

-The Sultan (w/Bob Backlund & the Iron Sheik) defeats Alex “the Pug” Porteau via submission to the camel clutch at 2:07 shown:

A simple squash for the Sultan here, but he’s still not over with the crowd.  They really gave up on the Porteau experiment early in his run.  I think he got a couple of victories on WWF Superstars and was jobbed out to all of big heel names after that.

-Austin breaks into Pillman’s home and enters the living room, where Pillman points a gun at him.  Kelly and his wife scream as the camera feed cuts out.  Lawler is the most rational one during the entire segment by saying that someone should call the police.

-Ross hosts a face off segment between WWF Champion Shawn Michaels and Sid.  Michaels said that he forgave Sid for powerbombing him three times after WrestleMania XI, but Sid says that’s bull.  Ross tries to rile things up between the two and Michaels says Sid is not in his league and Sid says that’s true because he’s not in the “little” league.  Good comeback.  Both men destroy the podium and start shoving each other, but Jim Cornette comes down with Vader, Clarence Mason, Owen Hart, and the British Bulldog.  Sid and Michaels join forces to clear the ring, but after they do so they get into a staredown until they get separated by a sea of WWF officials.

-A summary of the Pillman-Austin segments is shown.

-The Fake Razor Ramon (w/The Fake Diesel) defeats Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) with the Razor’s Edge at 7:47 shown:

The commentary isn’t concerned about the match as Ross takes jabs at McMahon for putting Pillman’s life in danger.  Mero runs through some of his normal moves, but his heart isn’t in this one and he’s lethargic out there.  It doesn’t help that he’s wrestling the Fake Razor, who moves as slow as molasses.  Perfect and Helmsley interfere and Razor goes over in a puzzling booking decision.  Sure, it’s not a clean victory, but the Fake Razor had hardly beaten anyone at this point and having Mero job to him in any fashion makes him appear weak and undeserving of the Intercontinental title.  Rating:  ½*

-We get another recap of the Pillman-Austin issue.

-The satellite feed is restored to the Pillman home and Pillman is being restrained by his friends.  Austin charges back into the living room and as he is restrained by Pillman’s buddies, Pillman comes after him with a gun and curses and points a gun at him.  All Kelly can do is scream “call the police” because grabbing Pillman or the gun isn’t too important.  That plays us out.

The Final Report Card:  The Pillman-Austin stuff was the focal point of this show and was very controversial for its time period.  After the angle aired, the WWF and Pillman had to apologize for the threatened use of the gun and the cursing that wasn’t edited out.  The WWF was also criticized because people flooded the northern Kentucky 911 lines to report Austin breaking into Pillman’s home.  Some of this still holds up in that it’s not as corny as when HHH invaded Randy Orton’s home a few years back, but they might’ve done better if they sent Jim Ross to do the interview instead of Kelly.  His shrieking like a school girl during the serious parts was very annoying and unmanly.  The wrestling on this show is bad, but if you are interested in the Pillman-Austin stuff you can YouTube it because several people have put the different segments together.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – October 28, 1996

by Logan Scisco

Note:  Thanks to Bobby Daniels for sending me a copy of this show to review.

The announce crew discusses Steve Austin’s assault on Brian Pillman on WWF Superstars.

Opening Contest:  “The Real Double J” Jesse James pins Salvatore Sincere with a pump handle slam at 4:14:

McMahon accidentally calls James “Jeff Jarrett” and Lawler has to correct him early in the match.  Both of these guys are serviceable workers, but it’s tough to take them seriously with these gimmicks.  Both men do a great job getting the crowd involved, with Sincere taking a few big bumps to the floor to get a reaction.  James is the new guy on the block and needs a victory and he gets it here after blocking Sincerely Yours and immediately transitioning into his finish.  Rating:  **¼

Dok Hendrix tries to run down the Survivor Series card, but Steve Austin arrives and curses him for taking up TV time.  Austin complains that Bret Hart is in Canada and he flew up from Texas to be at the show to confront him.

Marc Mero calls into the show and hypes the Survivor Series match between his team and Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s team.

Crush (w/Clarence Mason) defeats “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya with a heart punch at 2:42:

The only person that Montoya can beat at this stage of his WWF career is occasional talent like Jerry Lawler, so he stands zero chance here.  Crush pulls out one of my favorite spots by gorilla press slamming Montoya out of the ring and Jim Ross arrives to do commentary and cracks me up by complaining about this “preliminary match.”  Ross does point out that Mason is now Faarooq’s manager after Faarooq consulted him for legal advice regarding Ahmed Johnson.  That last piece of information is the only reason this match is notable, but it was fun to see Crush toss Montoya around like a ragdoll.

After the match, Crush gets mad at being called a jailbird by the fans at ringside, so he pulls a “security guard” over the railing and beats him up.

McMahon says that next week they will interview Brian Pillman from his home and Austin interrupts and says that he’s going to show up at Pillman’s house next week. 

-Kevin Kelly presents a segment that covers Austin’s attack on Pillman on Superstars.  Kelly also discusses Ahmed Johnson’s attack on Faarooq before the last In Your House pay-per-view and how WWF President Gorilla Monsoon has suspended Ahmed pending an investigation.

-Austin promises to show up at Pillman’s house next week and says that the WWF lets him say what he wants because he will bring in money to the company for his Survivor Series match with Bret Hart.

Sunny comes down to ringside to watch our next match.

Billy Gunn defeats Freddie Joe Floyd with a flying leg drop at 3:06:

The Gunns had officially broken up at this point, with Billy ditching part when they faced the New Rockers on WWF Superstars.  Bart interrupts the match and challenges Billy to a match, but WWF officials come out and make Bart go to the locker room.  This is a quick squash for Billy, which disguises his lack of singles offense.  Sunny is unimpressed with the win, though, but Billy doesn’t care.  Rating:  ½*

McMahon moderates a face off segment between Bret Hart, who is in Calgary, and Steve Austin, who is in the WWF studio.  Austin brings the intensity to this segment, while Bret is more reserved.  This is pretty tame based on where this feud will go, but it suffers from most face-off segments in that there can’t be any physical interaction between the participants so it gets awkward as both men run out of stuff to talk about a couple of minutes in.  The best part is the end, where Austin gets mad that the segment is cut off and he assaults a production assistant.

Non-Title Match:  “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (WWF Champion w/Jose Lothario) defeats The British Bulldog (w/Clarence Mason & Owen Hart) via disqualification after Owen Hart interferes at 7:55 shown:

An added treat is that Owen is on commentary.  At least Owen brings up the In Your House:  Beware of Dog pay-per-view, where the Bulldog was WWF champion for about a minute.  That’s probably a pay-per-view McMahon wants to forget.  Owen gets really indignant when Michaels busts out an enziguri, which Owen claims is his move.  The crowd dynamic is split, with the older, male fans in the crowd supporting the Bulldog and younger fans supporting Michaels.  Michaels and the Bulldog mesh together well, as per usual, but since there’s nothing on the line it detracts a little from the atmosphere.  The Bulldog’s relegation to tag ranks also makes him look like less of a singles threat and the only person that pushes him as a threat in this match is Owen.  Owen grabs Michaels leg when he tries Sweet Chin Music, drawing the disqualification, which is an unfortunate finish to what was an exciting contest.  Rating:  ***

Sid runs out to help Michaels when Owen and the Bulldog start to double team him, but Michaels doesn’t appreciate the gesture.  Owen gets on the mic and challenges them to a tag team title match at a later date and Sid and Michaels accept.

Austin is forced out of the studio by a police officer and appears to be headed for jail.  I guess you could consider this a practice run for some of his exploits during the Attitude Era.

The Final Report Card:  While the card on paper doesn’t look like much, most of the superstar showcased brought the goods and it made for an exciting episode.  Michaels and the Bulldog always put together a solid match and anytime that you can have Owen on commentary it’s a bonus.  It’s a shame that he passed away because he could’ve been the Jesse Ventura/Bobby Heenan of his generation after his career ended.  Next week we get the crazy gun angle with Austin and Pillman, which also features a screaming Kevin Kelly.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.0 (vs. 3.6 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – October 21, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon narrates a video package concerning Bret Hart’s absence from the World Wrestling Federation.  Jerry “the King” Lawler discusses the in-ring return of Mr. Perfect tonight, as he is scheduled to face Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

-McMahon and Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to hear why Sid will be the next WWF champion!

-Opening Contest:  Sid beats Owen Hart (w/Clarence Mason) via disqualification after the British Bulldog interferes at 6:40 shown:

They work a small guy vs. big guy formula for this one and Owen spends most of the match working the leg.  However, Sid eventually stops selling it when he makes the comeback.  Sid gets ready to win the match with a powerbomb, but the British Bulldog runs in and assists his partner to draw the disqualification.  The tag team champions try to do damage to Sid, but Shawn Michaels hits the ring and drives them off.  Owen employed a good strategy against a larger opponent, but the long work on the leg went nowhere.  Rating:  *½

-McMahon and Lawler narrate pictures from last night’s buried alive match between the Undertaker and Mankind are shown.  O Fortuna is played in the background for effect.

-The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly Jim) defeat The Smoking Gunns when Henry pins Bart after a Slop Drop at 4:12 shown:

Talk about feuds that never die.  This is meeting #275 or so between these teams this year.  Jim Ross joins the announce team and McMahon tries to get him to reveal what Bret Hart is going to say tonight.  The problem is that if Ross is supposed to be the point man for this segment later in the show, who is going to believe him after that Razor Ramon debacle a few weeks ago?  Ross says that the winner of this match may get a match with Owen Hart and the British Bulldog for the tag team titles.  Haven’t the Gunns had enough shots by now?  They don’t give this one a lot of time, not that I am complaining, and shortly after we return from a commercial break the Godwinns whip Bart into Billy, who is on the apron, and Henry finishes Bart off.  After the match, Billy and Bart argue about the loss.  This was the end of the Gunns-Godwinns feud and is the only time the Godwinns got a clean win over them on television.  Rating:  *

-Kevin Kelly announces that Pat Patterson, Jimmy Snuka, and Vince McMahon Sr. will be inducted into this year’s WWF Hall of Fame.

-Mr. Perfect is shown warming up backstage.  Hunter Hearst Helmsley appears and rams an equipment cart into his knee.

-Ross interviews Bret “the Hitman” Hart about his future.  He says that a rival organization offered him a lot of money and treated him with respect.  McMahon plays the role of an anxious boss sitting at the announce table waiting for an answer until Bret says that he’s going to return to the WWF.  He said that Shawn Michaels beat him fair and square at WrestleMania XII, but says that Michaels gets under his skin.  During this interview, it’s pretty funny to see the guys cheering for Bret and the girls cheering for Shawn.  He says that he will accept the challenge of Steve Austin, who he considers the best wrestler in the company, for the Survivor Series.  The camera cuts to the backstage area, where Brian Pillman is ecstatic about the news, but Austin quickly looks through him and Pillman settles down.  He talks about his nephew who recently passed away and how he promised him that he would make a comeback.  Bret’s promos were always good when he was just himself and wasn’t trying too hard.  This promo also begins to set the stage for Bret’s feud with Shawn that would last until he left the company at the end of 1997.

-Todd Pettengill and Lawler host the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament segment.  The matchups for this year’s tournament are:  Bob Backlund-Sunny, Dok Hendrix-Sable, Sid-Marlena, and Mr. Perfect-Phineas Godwinn.

-Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mr. Perfect:

Perfect comes to the ring with Intercontinental Champion “Wildman” Marc Mero, Sable, and WWF President Gorilla Monsoon.  Ross asks Perfect what is going on and Perfect reveals that Monsoon will not allow him to wrestle tonight because of the knee injury he suffered earlier in the show.  Perfect says that Mero has volunteered to take his place, but Helmsley says that the only way that he’ll wrestle Mero is if he puts the Intercontinental title on the line.  Mero says that Perfect helped him win the Intercontinental title so he’ll put the title on the line.  Monsoon makes sure that’s cool and proceeds to sanction the match.

-Intercontinental Championship Match:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeats “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) after a Pedigree to win the title at 6:36 shown:

There probably wasn’t a mark at home heading into this contest that gave Helmsley a chance and I wonder how many smarks turned their TV sets to Nitro when they found out Perfect wasn’t wrestling.  Since there isn’t a lot of time left in the show, both guys go through a quick series of near-falls and rehash some sequences from their previous battles on pay-per-view.  Mero goes through most of his signature spots (slingshot leg drop from the apron and Merosault), but Helmsley inexplicably keeps kicking out and that should’ve been a signal to the crowd that this was not the old Helmsley.  Mr. Perfect gets a hold of a chair after a ref bump, but clocks Mero and Helmsley takes advantage to win his first title in the company.  After the match, Helmsley and Perfect embrace as McMahon calls this the “Perfect hoax.”  The crowd is completely shocked and devastated at the result and Helmsley is now officially out of the doghouse and is resuming his push to the top of the midcard.  Rating:  **½

The Final Report Card:  This was a very important edition of Monday Night Raw as Bret Hart returned to the company and Hunter Hearst Helmsley scored an upset Intercontinental title victory over Mero.  I was always surprised at how quickly they took the title off of Mero and was even more surprised that they had him drop the title to Helmsley, who had won only a handful of televised matches against top talent in recent months.  Perfect and Helmsley were supposed to be partners for a while, but Perfect bolted to WCW shortly after this and they had to change the storyline.  Nevertheless, this was a great ending to the longstanding feud between Perfect and Helmsley.  As a side note, the return of Bret and Perfect was a definite ratings draw for this show, as it came within .6 points of beating Nitro, the closest margin the WWF had produced since August 19th.  The WWF would not manage to pull this close again until February 3, 1997.  Our next review will take up to November 4th (featuring the Austin-Pillman gun angle) since my copy of October 28th will not play.

Monday Night War Rating:  2.6 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up