James Dixon: Gorilla Monsoon and Stan Lane present, and Gorilla promises some exclusively picked bouts, which he claims are some of the hottest matches around. Hang on, isn’t that a different tape? Never mind. Having then being promised that I will feel the same way about how great and huge these matches are having watched them, we go to this:
Lex Luger vs. IRS
Yeah, really. In December 1994, IRS still has a job. This is from Raw, and the commentary team is the bizarre paring of Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. Shawn Michaels is great at a lot of things, but commentating is NOT one of them. He talks. In very. Short. Sentences. He does. Not sound at. All comfortable. In. This. Role. Vince on the other hand just purrs over Luger’s body. There is a druid at ringside, who lays the boots in to Luger when he is outside the ring. Ted DiBiase is there too. Between the four of them, none can generate any interest in this match. It is your standard IRS fare, which means the pace is incredibly laboured and if you have seen him work before, you know every spot in this. Luger mounts a clothesline-filled comeback, having managed to stay awake during the plethora of IRS rest holds, but gets slapped by the druid. This obviously distracts Luger, because he is a dumb babyface, and he goes after the mystery man. It turns out to be Tatanka. Vince is apoplectic and cannot believe it, and claims Luger can’t either. Which is strange really, when you consider that Tatanka turned on Luger, famously, just a few months prior and they have been feuding since. Luger loses via count out of course, and Shawn Michaels calls him a sap. It’s Shawn’s first good call of the match. Why the hell was Tatanka a druid?
Final Rating: ½*
Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart vs. The Headshrinkers
Or rather The New Foundation vs. The New Headshrinkers, if you prefer. Samu is gone and The Barbarian, now known as Sione, takes his place in the tandem. This is a tournament match for the vacant tag titles. To my eternal delight, Captain Lou Albano is back our lives, in the corner of the Headshrinkers. Why!? I have just sat through an IRS match for crying out loud. Give me a break! Owen Hart still hasn’t learned that Samoans have invincible heads, and tries to ram Fatu into the buckle. He gets all funky and dances, as opposed to selling. The best thing about these matches culled from Raw and Superstars is that we get clipping for the advert breaks that takes you right out of the match and causes you to lose the flow of the action… Oh. The babyface incarnation of The Headshrinkers has more in common with Fatu’s sons’ tag team The Usos than The Wild Samoans, what with their boots and jiving. Vince totally buries them by responding to Jerry Lawler’s comment that they don’t have many fans in their fan club, by saying “they probably have as many as you”. What a great boss to work for Vince is, always supportive and inspiring with his motivational words… Oh. Some shenanigans result in a DQ win for the Headshrinkers, as we go 0 for 2 for actual finishes on this tape. There was nothing wrong here as such, but it was completely unremarkable. I am starting to doubt the sincerity of Gorilla’s promise about the quality of these bouts.
Final Rating: *
My fears are not allayed when Gorilla refers to what we have just seen as a “great match”. Come on man, don’t be that guy. Stan Lane reasons that Owen and Anvil took the DQ loss because, get this, it would look better on their win-loss record. Zuh?
Jeff Jarrett vs. The British Bulldog
This has potential, though Jarrett’s outfit is an assault on the senses. He is wearing black with gold stars, as well as bizarre gold tinsel covering his crotch and hips. It is inexplicable. Jarrett spends some time strutting after each successful move, and Davey mocks him by doing the same. Davey is no dancer, let me tell you. Davey brings some quickness to proceedings with some leg scissors, and then power with his trademark stalling suplex. Jarrett keeps consulting his new manager The Roadie when things go wrong, with the future Road Dogg making his TV debut here. Michaels makes a number of references to Smith being “asleep again, like he was at Survivor Series”, which to me screams an insider reference from HBK that Davey worked the PPV while loaded or wasted or both. I lose track of what is going on after a Jarrett superplex because it gets clipped. Vince goes on a bizarre tangent about Tim Allen and The Santa Clause, and combined with Jarrett’s tinsel we sure are Christmassy on this tape. Bulldog hits a Perfectplex and Jarrett kicks out easily, as Michaels quips “that move never beats anyone, McMahon”. I guess Mr. Perfect had just left and the WWF were on bad terms with him. Jarrett goes to leave, but Davey brings him back and presses him into the ring, but fails to beat the count himself because of Roadie shenanigans and we go 0 for 3. Better than the last two matches, but still just another random and uninspired choice of bout, plucked directly from Raw.
Final Rating: *½
King Kong Bundy vs. Duke Droese
Oh hell no! Did the world need this match to occur? The on-screen graphic advertises it as “King Kong Bundy vs. Dumpster”. Watching Bundy attempt to dismantle an actual waste receptacle in Street Fighter II fashion might have been preferable to this. Early on they brawl outside for at least thirty seconds with no count out in sight. Come on ref, if any match should be ended early it is this one! Hey, remember when Bundy main evented WrestleMania II opposite Hulk Hogan? Here he is dominated by a Droese armbar. After a massive clothesline, Bundy them AMAZINGLY breaks out a Hadouken punch! Not really of course, he breaks out a chinlock. Droese fights out, and then struggles to knock Bundy down with shoulder blocks, despite having bumped him a few times already. Consistent selling makes matches believable… Having clearly studied ‘Mania II in preparation for this contents, Droese busts out a legdrop, a dreadful legdrop, which doesn’t pick up the win. This serves to rile Bundy, who hits some splashes in the corner and gets the pin. Finally! A clean finish! I was expecting that to be one of the worst matches ever, but it actually surpassed my expectations and romped home at “bad”. For Bundy, that is the equivalent of a 5* match.
Final Rating: *
Bob Backlund vs. Doink the Clown
Well, talk about worlds colliding! I expect there might be some clowning around in this one. Ho hum. Backlund was WWF champion just a month prior, now he is reduced to this. The WWF in 1994 was a strange place to be. You had guys like Michaels and the Harts carrying the in-ring workload, remnants from a generation gone by such as Backlund, Bundy and Nikolai Volkoff, then a few remaining cartoon characters from a few years prior. The result is wacky mismatches like this one. You might see this match on the bill and expect some frivolous but inoffensive comedy where Bob becomes exasperated or a dull but solid technical affair where the clown outwrestles the wrestler for giggles, but this is neither, it is just dire. If this was babyface Bob against heel Doink played by Matt Borne, there would be potential for a real humdinger. Alas it is not, it’s just armbars. Michaels wonders aloud how much better Dink might have fared had he competed instead of Doink. If he knows any counters for an armbar or a top wristlock, he would be just fine. Doink certainly doesn’t appear to, and just sits there in the hold as the crowd sit on their hands. Speaking of the crowd, the attendance for this is awful, clocking in at around 1400 people. It was a monster set of Raw tapings too, and in fact a lot of this tape is culled from the same event. A crowd this small really portrays the WWF in a bad light, especially when some of the card is released on video tape and thus lives eternally. They were running bigger shows at the time, so why not do the Raw tapings from one of the larger venues and at least present the illusion that the company was doing well? Oh yeah, the match. Well, it goes 14-minutes, and 13 of them are arm holds. I guess it is quite fitting then, that Backlund won with his arm hold finisher the cross face chicken wing. For some reason, the WWE felt the match was too good to forget, and included it on the Best Of Raw Seasons 1 & 2 DVD release, just in case you wanted to see it again in HD quality.
Final Rating: ¼*
The Allied Powers vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka
This is actually before they were known as the Allied Powers, but what the hell. Michaels makes yet MORE references about Bulldog sleeping in the back, as he comes out separately from his partner. This is from the same taping that the last match came from, but they have moved the set around ever so slightly so it looks different. It is the old USWA trick. Michaels continues to mock his inferior co-workers, asking what Luger would do without the clothesline (suggesting it is his only move) and calling Tatanka fat (though not in as many words). Tatanka decides that slowly clubbing Luger in a drawn out heat section is too much excitement, so he puts on a bearhug. Davey has done nothing whatsoever in this. Maybe Shawn is right about him. Luger doesn’t show any fire as a babyface, but he is too cumbersome to lead a match as a heel. Basically, he can work with Flair and Sting but no-one else. That is an issue, with neither being in the WWF. Luger’s feeding for everything is incredibly telegraphed too, and if this were a legitimate sporting contest he would have been well scouted before every move. It looks like we are getting another Coliseum finish as they fight to a double count-out, but in a first, the match gets restarted later on and they go again. The second match starts off identically to how the first one spent the majority, with Luger getting slowly worked over by Tatanka. Jesus, couldn’t they have at least changed things up a bit and had Davey take the heat the second time around? Michaels continues with the jibes, ripping Luger for being slow and predictable, and secretly mocking them for sticking strictly to formula by commenting about the match being “easy to follow”. He is right though, because this heat on Luger over the course of both matches has lasted for an eternity. You could watch the two versions of this match side-by-side and genuinely not know they were different. At least we do get a finish, when Davey pins Tatanka after running him into Bam Bam. Is that really enough to keep him down? This isn’t Survivor Series! Tatanka hit him back-first but then sold it like he had been knocked out. He is just bad. The two matches combined went a few seconds shy of 20-minutes, and genuinely 17 of them were spent with Luger taking heat and offering no hope spots, comebacks or much in the way of selling to keep it interesting. An utter chore and completely deserving of a low score.
Final Rating: DUD
The action is fast and furious, Gorilla? Really!? If a single tape can shatter a man’s credibility, then this has done it.
Fatu vs. Jeff Jarrett
Match number two for both of these guys. My question is WHY? Much like the majority of the bouts on this tape, no-one in the world wants to see this. Fatu comes out in boots, presumably for the first time, because he is very perturbed about having to wear them. Captain Lou and Afa convince him they are ok. I guess this is what passed for a storyline in 1994. Vince thinks it is an absolute riot, and Todd Pettengill makes copious unfunny jokes about the situation as Vince guffaws away. Owen Hart and Jim Neidhart make their way down the aisle a few minutes in, with the former demonstrating just how far he had fallen down the totem pole following his epic series of matches with brother Bret, by having to be involved in a feud with The Headshrinkers. His and Neidhart’s presence at ringside suggests to me that shenanigans are afoot. The finish is a strange one; Fatu has Jarrett beat so Owen gets on the apron to distract the ref, allowing Neidhart to come in and attempt to double-team Fatu with Double J. It backfires as Neidhart nails Jarrett with an inadvertent clothesline, and Fatu gets the win anyway. The match was exactly what you would picture a TV match between Jarrett and Fatu to be like. It was solid, technically fine, but instantly forgettable. Jarrett and the New Foundation have a confrontation after the match, but Diesel comes out to break it up before it gets physical. This is not as random as it sounds, as the match comes from a few days before Survivor Series ’94 where the quartet (along with Shawn Michaels) made up ‘The Teamsters’ and battled Razor Ramon’s ‘Bad Guys’.
Final Rating: *
Men on a Mission & Lex Luger vs. IRS, Tatanka & King Kong Bundy
There is no-one in this match I would pay to see wrestle. This is now the third Lex Luger match on the tape, and IRS and Bundy’s second each, but yet Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart are no-where to be found. I guess that explains why nothing has even broke ** yet. Was there a worse faction in history as far as in-ring talent goes than the Million Dollar Corporation? The group reads like the who’s-who of bad workers. IRS has the urn with him, which he repossessed from The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. Who thought that feuding those two was a good idea? This is IRS’s fifth year with the group. HOW? Surely someone must have realised in that time that he wasn’t over and his matches ALWAYS sucked! Bundy and Mabel start things off, and Shawn Michael’s sums it up by calling it “ugly”. He is being polite because it is a family show. Bundy’s attempt to bump a drop toe-hold is a sight to behold. Mo comes in, and like every dumb babyface against a fat guy, he tries a slam. It fails. The Corporation work a heat on Mo, but the editor of this tape gets bored and we cut to the hot tag. The way Vince is talking on commentary suggests that the heat lasted a while, but it was all of a minute or two here. Who is this editor? I want to buy him a drink for saving me from having to watch that. Luger comes in and decides that the best thing to do to his hated rival Tatanka, is pose at him. Yeah, that will show him. I take back what I said a few moments ago, because they do a second heat on Mo. You know what this tape needed more of? Long sections of Tatanka controlling the heat. You know what it needed even more than THAT? IRS doing an abdominal stretch. I hate him. I actually hate him for being such a boring wrestler. Isn’t this supposed to be entertainment? This heat section is unreasonably long. When Mo finally makes the tag some two years into the match, Luger nails Bundy with a slam. Vince seems impressed but he shouldn’t be, after all Luger slammed Yokozuna once. That probably seems like a long time ago to Luger now, as he jobs to Bundy after a Tatanka DDT. Hey, remember when Luger was going to be the “next Hulk Hogan”? That didn’t quite work out, did it? This was unacceptably long-winded and yet another worthless inclusion from Raw.
Final Rating: ¼*
1-2-3 Kid vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Finally, something that might be worth seeing! In an effort to counter Bigelow’s size, Kid goes to town on him with kicks, but as soon as he gets caught he is in trouble. That is exemplified when Bigelow sends Kid corner-to-corner with a massive hiptoss. He absolutely FLIES on it. From there this is your standard cat-and-mouse encounter, with Kid using his speed and opting for strike attacks, and Bigelow having a great time throwing him around in return. For some reason, Kid tries a slam. Realistically, why would he ever go for that? Obviously it doesn’t come off, and Bigelow hurls him to the outside for his impertinence. Bam Bam keeps the heat interesting with more big throws, but then he blows up and resorts to the chinlock. Kid’s escapes, but his attempts at a roundhouse are blocked by Bigelow, who hits a sick enzuigiri of his own and a high impact suplex. Kid really did bump his ass off to make his opponents look good. Kid gets a near fall from a one arm powerbomb off the ropes (!) but gets caught in a slam off a crossbody attempt, and Bigelow wins it. This was a really fun contest, and far more competitive than you might expect. The action never slows other than the aforementioned chinlock (which was fairly brief) and an awkward looking torture rack towards the end, and this is far and away the best thing on the tape.
Final Rating: ***¼
The Smoking Gunns vs. The Heavenly Bodies
There is some crazy bad lazy editing in the early going of this one: as Gorilla and Lane are hyping the upcoming Survivor Series show, a cut and pasted voiceover chimes in saying it will be exclusive on Sky Sports in the UK “this Sunday”. Could Coliseum really not have rerecorded the commentary for this to at least give the illusion that they had any pride in their work? I am watching the UK version here, but I am very curious as to what the US version has there. If it is just the original commentary advertising the show on pay-per-view, then it means that they PURPOSELY used the version with the spliced in section. Why on earth would they do that? There is no logical reason to change it, in order to advertise a show that at the tape’s release was some six months prior. In the midst of this madness, there is a match going on, and a fairly ok one at that. The Bodies were very technically proficient and a well oiled machine of a team, but I cannot stand them. I don’t know why, because they are good workers, there is just something about them that grates on me. I think it is Jimmy Del Ray’s face. And hair. And name. And look. Just the whole package other than his in-ring stuff. I think the Heavenly Bodies actually get overrated by some fans because of their work in SMW and association with Jim Cornette. To me they are a good team, but not a great one. They are light years better than what the WWF had a few years prior, but they are no Brain Busters. The heat in this goes way too long and the match goes from ok to laborious. Billy gets the hot tag after over 10-minutes of Bart being worked over, and soon after he uses a crucifix into a sunset flip to get the win. I probably disliked this more because I have had to sit through nearly 20-minutes of Luger taking formula heat already, and that was more than enough for one tape, and indeed lifetime.
Final Rating: *½
Summary: At the start of the tape I was assured that by the end I would be gushing about the quality of what I had just watched. I’m not. In fact it is, unsurprisingly, the complete opposite. This was a dreadful effort, with workrate and/or excitement no-where to be found in nine of the ten matches. Only Bigelow and Kid showered themselves in any glory, and they saved this release from being among the lowest rated we have done. Where was Shawn Michaels? Bret Hart? Where was the star-power? This was a bunch of nothing matches from Raw featuring lower card talent, and not a lot else. Three Luger matches? Give me a break!