Arnold Furious: We start off with an underrated and largely unwatched match: the Raw Bowl. It sounds like some sort of battle royal but it’s actually a four team elimination tag match with curious NFL themes attached.
Raw Bowl Match
Love that green ring. The tag teams involved are the Smoking Gunns, Yokozuna & Owen Hart, Razor Ramon & Savio Vega and Sid & 1-2-3 Kid. Each team gets one time-out. When one guy is eliminated, the team is gone, but anyone can tag anyone. Owen gets the swing of the rules immediately by tagging Billy in to wrestle Bart. They do a few friendly counters before tagging Owen AND Yokozuna. The latter, being a big fat idiot, knocks Owen over. But if he’s eliminated, so are you! Owen ends up tagging Savio. Vince and Lawler make gridiron related jokes all night. None of them are funny so they go for quantity over quality. Literally every move gets an NFL reference attached. Vega and Kid is really good because they both do a load of spin kicks and know how to bump them. Owen, not to be outdone, comes in with his own spin kick. Lawler stops off mid match to try and score with the Queen of the Raw Bowl, which is just a random blond chick. Bart mistakes Sid for someone useful and runs speedy sequences with him. The frequent tags and fast pace make the match surprisingly worthwhile. It ends up as an eight man tag as the heels all buddy up to pick on Savio. Kid allows a hot tag to Razor, which gets him his ass handed to him. Kid calls time out though. Come on! There are no time outs in wrestling! Like there’s no crying in baseball. Razor thinks the same and hits the Razor’s Edge. The ref spends a while arguing with Ted DiBiase about the rules and Sid blindsides Razor, lazily, for Kid to score the pin. The replay shows how dumb Sid is, as he totally forgets what he’s supposed to be doing in the middle of his save on Kid/attack on Razor. With one face team gone the heels continue to team up and pick off Bart. Billy gets a hot tag and wipes out everyone until Kid kicks him in the back of the head. Yoko goes up for the Banzai Drop only for Bart to drag his “brother” out. Yoko ends up accidentally squashing Owen. Urgh, what a useless fat sack of shit. He tries to call time out but he’s too fat to get on the apron and do it. Credit to the remaining two teams, they don’t drop the pace. Not even when Sid is in there. Well, maybe a bit when Sid is in there. Sid is feeling Hogan-y and hits the big boot, legdrop combo. Billy battles bravely but runs into the chokeslam. Billy has been ensuring Sid doesn’t slack off, for the most part. Razor runs back out here to cause the heels to collide and Billy rolls up Sid for the win. This was a really fun match. The time-out rule didn’t really mean anything so I’m not sure why they bothered with it. Everyone seemed motivated. Even Sid seemed game! Maybe he thought it was softball. Shame about Yoko.
Final Rating: ***½
Diesel vs. The British Bulldog
This was part of an interesting Two Dudes With Attitude vs. Camp Cornette feud they ran in early 1996 (which would end up extending into Shawn + faces vs. Camp Cornette). This match is also from Raw. Vince makes an interesting selling point that Bulldog was just in the main events a few months earlier and Diesel already has a title shot, so it’s a great opportunity for Davey to move up the rankings again. Yokozuna strolls out to illegally support Davey, as Bulldog has no shot in a fair fight. Surely Vince saw the Bulldog-Diesel matches from late 1995, did he not remember how much they sucked? Davey works the permanently injured knee of Diesel, which Nash has gotten used to selling effectively. Davey exposes the buckle but it backfires and Diesel gives him the snake eyes on it. Cornette runs interference so Yoko can crush Diesel, but he misses and flattens Bulldog, allowing Diesel to pick up the easy pin.
Final Rating: *½
Shawn Michaels vs. Yokozuna
This is an opportunity for Shawn to demonstrate his broomstick match. He does a decent job of it, combining speedy offence and quicker dodging, such as sliding through Yoko’s legs and jabbing him in the jaw. He kinda ruins the moment by bailing to high-five the entire front row. No “USA” chant while he was doing it, but the crowd oblige anyway. Bordering on parody there, Shawn. This match shows a huge change in the booking of Shawn as he gets to trade punches with Yoko and actually block some of ‘Zuna’s big shots. That should not be happening. I guess they felt Shawn, as “the guy”, shouldn’t be losing out in a fight to anyone. Owen runs in to help Yoko and spin kicks him by mistake. It’s not easy to accidentally spin kick anyone! Shawn superkicks the shocked Yoko for the win. Post match, Camp Cornette threaten to give Shawn a beating only for Diesel to run down and save his buddy. Cornette challenges the Two Dudes to a tag match.
Final Rating: **
Shawn Michaels & Diesel vs. Yokozuna & British Bulldog
Owen and Bulldog would have been better but that wasn’t the storyline. Boo-Urns. Yoko is just a slug and grinds away with painfully slow rest holds. At least they work heat on Shawn and when Davey is in there, it’s all good. Well, apart from Davey’s kung-fu dancing. I have no idea what that was about. Probably a wager. Hot tag to Diesel is way early and both heels cave to the abuse too quickly. Shawn gets another tag and splashes Yoko off Diesel’s shoulders. Bulldog misses with the save and Shawn superkicks Yoko out of the ring. He’s too fat to get back in and the Dudes take it via count out. A quick demonstration of run-on booking on a weekly TV show, albeit rushed.
Final Rating: **
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Razor Ramon
Hunter’s valet is Shae Marks. Aye Caramba! Go and look her up, stat. I didn’t realise just how many centrefolds HHH used to know. This is the only time I remember seeing HHH vs. Razor and it’s not bad. Razor is game for selling everything Hunter has, which makes a huge change from HHH’s usual matches. 1-2-3 Kid shows up, yet another Clique member, which awakens Razor’s rage. He gives HHH a shoeing, but chases Kid and gets counted out. Damn, that was short. This was Hunter’s best showing, for chemistry, up to that point. If he’d been programmed against his buddies more often he might of improved quicker.
Final Rating: *
Bret Hart vs. Goldust
Again, it’s Raw from early 1996. Goldust was IC champ while Bret was WWF champion. Goldust has got Marlena and his usher. Bret has fan support and experience. Goldust attempts histrionics, but Bret just grabs an armbar. But the thing about Goldust was that he could actually wrestle, so he gets out and we have a nice little wrasslin’ match. Bret tries brawling only to discover that Goldust is capable of that too. It’s a rude awakening for the champ. Goldust doesn’t just have one tactic. He tries to walk out, just to mess with Bret’s head, but Razor throws him back in. Five Moves of Doom sets up the Sharpshooter and Goldust quits. I believe his first WWF loss. It’s a great little TV match. Goldust may have lost his unbeaten record, but this is easily his best match in the WWF to date.
Final Rating: **¾
Fatu vs. The Ringmaster
Yep, Steve Austin is just going by the name “Ringmaster” here against “Make a Difference” Fatu. Say, I wonder why WCW was killing the WWF in the ratings in 1996? I persist that the “Ringmaster” was not a bad gimmick but calling him “Ringmaster” instead of using his name was utterly dumb. Plus they gave to the wrong guy. Austin was technically superb, but that wasn’t his best attribute. At the time his anger was and they just don’t utilise that here. Eventually Austin found a way to get that hate out in public and he was immediately a star. They don’t even let him promo, instead letting DiBiase talk and limiting him to boring, monotone muttered words. Two years later he was the biggest star in wrestling. How the hell did that happen? He runs through an assortment of technical holds, mainly on the big leg of Fatu, and including the Funk Spinning Toehold. Fatu mounts a comeback and Austin needs DiBiase to crotch him up top. Million Dollar Dream finishes. Austin was a great wrestler regardless of gimmick. Given a decent enough opponent, he could perform at the highest level.
Final Rating: **¼
Diesel (c) vs. Yokozuna
Oh, f*ck you WWF. Why would you want this to happen? We’re back in late ’95 with Diesel still champion and Yoko still heel. Diesel isn’t particularly bright and tries for the Jacknife. Not a brain surgeon. Yoko goes up for the Banzai Drop but misses and Diesel hooks the leg to retain. Well, at least they knew it’d be shit and kept it short. But short or not, it was still shit.
Final Rating: DUD
Hakushi vs. 1-2-3 Kid
Naturally this is awesome, and the crowd don’t care. This is not SummerSlam ’95 but rather a Raw match from early 1996, so the roles are reversed and Kid is heel, with Hakushi face. Hakushi makes a headscissors escape epic. They run counters at speed until Hakushi thrust kicks Kid in the throat. Kid bails and immediately realises he’s in position for the Space Flying Tiger Drop and has to scurry around the post while Hakushi is in mid-tumble. Kid throws Hakushi over the top and follows with a slingshot hilo. Again, NO reaction from the crowd. Are they not seeing the same match as me? Kid roughs up Hakushi with kicks, but when he comes off the top Hakushi dropkicks him in the chest. The kicking continues until morale improves. Kid gets kicked HARD in the face, allowing Hakushi to follow up with a springboard plancha. Kid plants a diving shoulderblock by landing bang on his shoulders and finally the crowd are biting. More kicking sets up a rana from Hakushi, still called a Frankensteiner by McMahon. Hakushi goes up top to finish, but Kid crotches him and finishes with a double underhook superplex. Great TV match, arguably better than their SummerSlam ’95 bout, as Kid emoted more as a heel than Hakushi. No Space Flying Tiger Drop, but you can’t have it all.
Final Rating: ***¼
Diesel vs. Isaac Yankem
We’re back to January ’96 and pre-Rumble. Both these guys got into the latter stages of that match, but only one was a contender. There is a lot of punching in this match. A lot. Two big muscleheads punching each other is also known as New York Style or WWE Main Event Style. Unless done extremely well, it leads to incredibly poor wrestling matches, like this one! They do keep a reasonable pace though, and there are no Sid-esque lengthy rest holds. Yankem hits all his stuff and it gets him nowhere, then Diesel starts hitting all his stuff only for Yankem to duck the big boot and a drop a leg for two. Diesel retorts with a backbreaker. That’s the second new move he broke out in early 1996. Yankem stumbles into the Jacknife and that finishes. The match was better than expected once they’d got past the punching. Glenn Jacobs was really impressive in the Isaac Yankem role but the character sucked. To reward his efforts he got a new gimmick soon after this: Diesel. So effectively this match was Diesel vs. New Diesel.
Final Rating: **
Jake Roberts vs. Tatanka
This is from the Free For All at In Your House VI, which is shit. I’m appalled they put this on another tape. This is so bad it didn’t even make it onto the WWF’s Free For All tape, designed to showcase the FFA matches. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Despite Jake being washed up and in horrible shape, he’s the guy they’re pushing. Mainly because he’s actually over. That’s because he’s been gone for three years and when he left he was over huge. It helps that he didn’t go and embarrass himself anywhere, instead causing riots in Mexico. Meanwhile Tatanka has about a month left on his contract, so he’s on jobbing duty. Jake still brings the psychology and he tries like hell to tell a story, but he’s just a fat guy in a terrible turquoise vest with a grey moustache. His timing isn’t particularly good either. So the story they opt for is Jake going after the DDT for five minutes solid. I do like that Jake goes after Ted DiBiase, perhaps remembering his feud over the Million Dollar belt. Most of the kids watching will not remember that. Jake throws all of three punches before getting blown up. Jesus Jake, you could have at least done some cardio before appearing on TV. Tatanka goes for his finish but Jake slips out and the DDT finishes. The crowd pop the finish HUGE, which goes to show how much good you will get from being awesome before getting fat and useless. This was sad to see. Jake was once a great wrestler and a one of the greatest characters in all of wrestling, but from 1996 onwards he is just an embarrassment. This shows the WWF’s levels of desperation; they parade a former 80s star while simultaneously bashing WCW for doing the same. The hypocrisy!
Final Rating: ¼*
Bret Hart, Savio Vega & Razor Ramon vs. Yokozuna, Owen Hart & Hakushi
This is from WrestleFest ’95. Cheapskate WWF, recycling their 6-men tag matches. Grrr: Early Camp Cornette, FTW! This is right on the back of King of the Ring ’95 where Savio had a good run, so he’s hanging around with the big boys. Yoko is heading up towards 700lbs so he’s at the very end of his usefulness. Tagging with Owen gave him another year in the spotlight. Everyone else in this *can* be great. Well, Savio isn’t quite there yet. All his reversals look obvious and he does rest holds when they aren’t required. In a six-man tag they should NEVER be required, especially when you’ve got Owen Hart. He wrestles circles around Razor only to get a smashmouth beating for it. Owen was just too good to win matches; he made everyone else look sensational. Bret and Hakushi is solid and Hakushi opts to head spike a DDT. I love that exclamation point sell. Hakushi comes back with the broncobuster. SUCKA MAH BALLS HITUMAN! Hakushi’s selling was somewhat limited, but he was always fun, which counts for a lot. Especially in these disposable six-man matches. They work heat on Bret, which makes a world of sense as he’s light years ahead of the other two in selling. Savio and Hakushi work some good stuff at pace after Hitman’s hot tag, with Savio even rocking a pumphandle Octopus stretch into the bout. Badass submission hold. Both Yoko and Owen make saves. The heels try to double team but Razor punches Yoko out of the ring and Owen is tripped while Savio finishes Hakushi with a clothesline. Anytime I catch one of these multi-person tags I know I’m in for a good time as long as there is talent on both sides. In this match Yoko and Razor just kicked back and let everyone else do the work. Their cameos were fine and the match delivered. Savio did somewhat drag down his segments, but saved it with the Octopus stretch.
Final Rating: ***¼
Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett
These guys had a lot of matches in 1995, but this is from early 1996 as we get a revisit of the feud. This is one of their quicker paced matches where Razor throws a tonne of right hands while Jarrett thinks of ways to not get hit. I’ve seen a match that went about 6-minutes and Razor was gassed after a minute. In this one he looks better conditioned as they make it about 2 ½ minutes in before Jarrett resorts to a chinlock and he doesn’t even lie around in it. I’m not sure Hall entirely understands the concept of resting. He may have a been a bit inebriated… all the time. Hey, if it means you can’t feel the bumps then f*ck it, right? Get me some tequila. I don’t have a knife to cut the limes but luckily they don’t grow in the desert… They keep going until a double down, which allows 1-2-3 Kid to stroll out with baby stuff to mock Razor. Naturally Razor bails to punch his face. That’s all Razor really understood; “Bad Guy punch face, drink beer. Happy times! Once punch beer… sad face. Could not drink.” Kid tries for more heel antics and vaguely attempts an assault with a stroller, which is LAAAAAAME. That’s a DQ. But Jarrett doesn’t look bothered. Ahmed makes the save. These guys could have a good match in their sleep by this point after the 200 or so bouts they had in ’95. This is pleasantly fast-paced and they busted ass considering how unimportant the match was. Especially as there was no finish.
Final Rating: ***
Bret Hart (c) vs. Undertaker
This was the Raw title match from early in ’96. February 5th, to be precise. The match exists because Diesel screwed Taker out of the title at the Rumble, so they had a rematch ahead of the Diesel PPV match. It was clever booking because they had three guys knocking around the main event so kept the fans guessing by constantly defending the belt ahead of ‘Mania. Taker works away methodically until the Ropewalk when Diesel walks out to observe and commentate. Bret dissects Taker’s leg, given the opening, while Diesel claims that Bret is getting worn down by all these big matches. He also makes the valid point that Bret can take a beating. He should know, as Diesel was upset by Bret back at Survivor Series. Both participants get banged up and struggle with leg injuries. Taker goes for the Tombstone but accidentally bumps the ref. Bret escapes anyway and gets a roll up but there’s no ref. Nice sequence. Total oversell by Timmy White though. He drops dead and stays face down on the mat like a submissive in a buggery party. If such a thing exists. Bret continues to destroy Taker’s knee, but he pisses Diesel off and gets himself laid out. Taker sees the interference and takes offence. Diesel’s response is an almighty chair shot to the spine. Jacknife. Diesel LAUGHS at the zombie sit up, which shows you his disregard for the Dead Man. Another Jacknife and Diesel celebrates having destroyed this match. Anything can happen in the WWF, says Dok Hendrix, including non-finishes in the tape’s main event!
Final Rating: **½
Summary: A pretty tasty tape. A lot of speedy Raw matches with good action, for the most part. The two hours flies by. Some of the recycling from WrestleFest ’95 (and the crap from IYH6’s Free For All) was a smidge frustrating but at least the WrestleFest match was good. I dig the Raw Bowl so I’m glad that made it onto a tape. Also, I’m very happy to see another Kid-Hakushi match. The WWF never had much faith in them to tell a longer, fuller story but their matches had fun moments.