Monday Night Raw (02/27/95)

James Dixon: After all the ballyhoo surrounding the 1000th episode of Raw, it may come as a surprise to modern fans that the 100th went without so much as a passing mention. Then again, this isn’t even considered the 100th episode by the WWF, as they played fast and loose with which of the pre-WrestleMania and pre-SummerSlam Raws they actually counted as part of the show’s cannon.

 

To be honest, the WWF didn’t celebrate milestones like that back in the 90s really anyway, (except for WrestleMania X) because it was too busy creating history rather than paying homage to it. Plus, 100 shows is nothing really. I mean, the likes of Velocity and Jakked reached that comfortably. No, we will not be doing guide books for those… Probably. What this does mean is that we are around a 1/10th of the way through. When put into that perspective, suddenly this task is more daunting! Vince and Jim Cornette remain on commentary, as this was taped alongside last week’s show.

 

Lex Luger vs. Tatanka
Suddenly this EPISODE is more daunting, because we open with this. Attentive readers of the series will be well aware that I was not a fan of the rivalry between these two and in Volume #3 I actually chose it in my awards as worst feud. When you consider that some absolute stinkers like Undertaker vs. Kama finished behind it, it should give the uninitiated an idea as to just how bad it was. The horrid nature of it all was summed up in a match I covered for Wham Bam Bodyslam from two months prior to this, which was one of the most turgid piles of mouseshit I have ever had to suffer through. So yes, with all of that in mind, you can imagine my sheer joy when I discover that this is how we are starting the “centenary” show. I hope you all appreciate the hell we are going through to bring you these books, so you don’t have to suffer them yourselves. Pre-match, Luger cuts a “passionate” promo recapping the feud. His delivery is so monotone and cheesy that it is actually funny. “You stooped to an all-time low depth” says Lex. That doesn’t even make sense you inflated goon. Tatanka gets in on the act in the ring, telling Luger he is going to teach him the “Native American way”. Does that mean he is going to teach him how to work a boring, slow, rest-hold filled match? Because he already knows how to do that! To make matters worse, Luger is accompanied to the ring by the fat and old fake Injun Chief Jay Strongbow. Based on the stories and hearsay I have heard about Strongbow as a road agent, I have little time for him. By all accounts he was an aloof, arrogant blowhard. Tatanka brings the thrills right away by bailing as soon as Luger gets any offence in, as the crowd chant “USA” to support… well, both guys I guess. They both have “American” gimmicks, just in different ways. Wrestling fans can be real dumb sometimes. Luger and Tatanka try and bring some passion and hatred to proceedings, bless them, but their movesets are so limited that it is hard to give a damn. It is just clubbing and stalling, followed by clubbing and resting, interspersed with shots of Strongbow’s beer gut and surly, unimpressed face. “Not too much has changed” says Vince as we return from commercial. No shit pal, nothing ever changes in the matches these two have. We have fallen firmly into the usual territory that all Tatanka-Luger matches end up in, with Tatanka slowly working Lex over, and Luger just taking it and offering little in return. The crowd, who were fairly hot at first, gets more subdued as the monotony kicks in. Ah, hello bearhug, I wondered when you would show up. One positive that has sprung to mind is that by this time next year both guys will be gone, and we will never have to cover Luger on Raw again. Roll on September when he leaves! Luger makes a comeback and puts on Strongbow’s sleeper hold, which is just a riveting choice. Tatanka confronts Strongbow over it, because he never taught him it when under his tutelage, or something. What, Tatanka couldn’t learn how to do a sleeper himself!? How completely useless is he? Oh. Tatanka throws off Strongbow’s headdress and gets chopped by the veteran in return. A brawl on the outside ensues and back in the ring Luger throws some clotheslines, leading Tatanka to try and bail. Luger manages to get to him before the count out, but a slam leads to yet another Tatanka escape. Luger catches him again and hits a lazy suplex (he doesn’t even bump it) as Vince starts getting impassioned. Luger’s subsequent offence is so shoddy that even Vince comments on the lack of technical skills on display. Tatanka bails AGAIN, this time giving Luger the count out win. Yet another shallow victory for everyone’s favourite choker. Not as awful as their Wham Bam Bodyslam match by any stretch, but still really long and boring with an unsatisfying finish.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Video Control shows us highlights from a battle royal on Superstars with the focus being the ongoing reboot of the Lawler-Hart feud. In this instance, Lawler was trying to be clever and avoid elimination by hopping around the ring, so Bret trod on his foot. Hang on, isn’t Bret working Backlund at WrestleMania? Why are the WWF building to Bret-Lawler and just completely ignoring Mr. Bob? Their booking in 1995 was the pits.

 

Owen Hart vs. Larry Santo
Santo looks like either a much taller but far less talented Dynamite Kid or a much skinner and more talented Nikolai Volkoff. Take your pick. Cornette claims he is the son of El Santo, bona fide Mexican legend, but he most certainly is not. Owen does his level best to piss Santo off by slapping him, then uses the hot-headed response to school him. After a pretty muted performance compared to his usual, Hart polishes Santo off with the Sharpshooter.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Vince talks gleefully about the publicity generated from the Lawrence Taylor angle, which was of course the whole point and purpose behind using him. Taylor joins us via satellite, like The Rock, and mocks Bigelow for “losing to a 13-year old” at Royal Rumble, referring to 1-2-3 Kid. Taylor is not a good promo guy, but then he wouldn’t be, because he is a footballer. Taylor says he is weighing up his options about how to best deal with the situation. Oh come on, even the markiest mark knows by now that he is going to wrestle him. Bam Bam joins the conversation via a different satellite, and cuts a promo that sounds like the nonsense a drunk would come out with after an evening with the Rockers. Eventually he gets his act together and puts over Kid and the New Generation, before reissuing his challenge. Taylor has heard enough, and walks off. Decent and effective build actually, even if the delivery from both was less than stellar.

 

Doink the Clown vs. Bob Cook
Dink is of course with Doink and he comes in and shakes his ass in front of Cook while he is locked in a hold, making me wish he was dead. Then he comes in and starts pissing around, standing on Cook and rolling on him. Why does the referee allow that little twerp to do that? Come on Tim White, get it together. The officiating has been a shambles these last few weeks. Christ, Cook looks a lot like Typhoon, which makes me hate this match even more. Doink spends the vast majority just standing or sitting in arm holds; he is IRS levels of bad. The Whoopie Cushion finishes things. This Raw is not going well.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Fast out-of-place rock music plays over the top of a highlight video going over the Michaels-Bulldog issues they have had since Royal Rumble. They will face each other next week, which is of course March, and means yet again Furious gets a good match. This is getting beyond a joke now.

 

Kama vs. Ken Raper
I’m sorry, his name is what!? Ken RAPER!? What exactly are the WWF playing at here? I am actually surprised they didn’t turn that into a gimmick. I guess they were confused as to whether he was the raper of Ken, or Ken the Raper. This is my first time with Kama, lucky me. Cornette discusses the potential of a Mantaur-Kama match, which makes me throw up in my mouth. Kama tells the camera that he wants more competition over and over, but he has taken 5 minutes just to beat Ken the Raper, which he does with an STF. Horrible.
Final Rating: ¼ *

 

Another satellite interview closes the show, this time with the British Bulldog. He says he wants to bite Shawn Michaels. There may have been more to it than that…

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Jim Cornette. Great behind the announce desk, and entertained me with his comments.

 

Least Entertaining: Kama. I’m glad he went on last, because I am about to fall asleep after watching him.

 

Quote of the Night: “You have won the prize” (Vince) “What did I win?” (Cornette) “Erm, weight watchers, or something” (Vince) “Hey, I’m not overweight, I’m under tall” (Cornette). An amusing exchange, but one that highlights what a bastard Vince can be, even when he is trying to be a babyface straight guy.

 

Match of the Night: I refuse to give one.

 

Summary: Back to form we go, as 1995 continues to be a bumpy ride. This was horrific in the ring, with nothing breaking a single star. The only good thing on the entire show was the Bigelow-LT confrontation, and that had numerous flaws. I swear, April had best be a lot better.
Verdict: 14

Monday Night Raw (02/20/95)

James Dixon: We are live in Macon, Georgia, as Raw returns from its dog show induced hiatus. Or high anus, if you are Randy Savage. Tonight it is champion versus champions as Diesel takes on Jeff Jarrett. In the pre recorded hype comments, Jarrett claims Roadie has an “extra shoulder” for the WWF title belt, and Diesel says the WWF will be unplugged tonight. What does that even mean? Are they going to run the show without any lights and music? How will anyone be able to see?

 

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Gary Sabough
This is the return of Bigelow after a “thirty day suspension” following his assault on Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble. We spend the first few moments of the match in split screen, as we see comments from LT’s lawyers, basically pussying out of Bigelow’s challenge. Oh hey, Jim Cornette is sharing commentary duty with Vince tonight! Awesome! In a strange alternate reality twist, Vince shares some facts about Sabough’s past amateur career, while Cornette throws in a strange snippet of information about Sabough being able to eat a pound of spaghetti in 30 seconds without using his hands. Ok then! The match is ignored, naturally, as Vince and Jim focus on the LT situation. Cornette tries three times to get in some relevant storyline points, but Vince rudely talks over him, getting overly excited about the match when in reality nothing is really happening. After Bigelow gets the inevitable win, he cuts a promo on Taylor and calls him a punk and a wimp, and says he will take him on any time and any place. Cornette smells a lawsuit!
Final Rating: ½*

 

Adam Bomb vs. Rip Rogers
Bomb has reverted to his red and yellow garb following a stint in blue. Interestingly, Bomb claims that he was promised the WWF Intercontinental championship and a sustained push, but that it was quashed from above and he got annoyed, which is why he wound up leaving later in the year. I hear a lot of this kind of thing from wrestlers, which leads me to ascertain that they are either all liars, or that they were all promised various riches in order to keep them sweet, meaning all the road agents and bookers were liars. Either way, someone is fibbing. Rip Rogers was in WCW a few years prior to this, and even competed for them on the BattleBowl ‘93 pay-per-view, teaming with Roadwarrior Hawk to defeat Davey Boy Smith and Stevie ‘Kole’ Ray. He is now a trainer in OVW, so as far as enhancement guys go his résumé is pretty solid. He is also incredibly flamboyant, with pink boots and a glittery jacket. He looks like a Freebird. Of course, he doesn’t fare particularly well against Bomb, and after some Mike Sharpe-esque loud selling he falls victim to the flying clothesline. The crowd actually pops, which surprises me, because I don’t remember Bomb ever being over.
Final Rating: *

 

Video Control gives us highlights from Superstars of Bret Hart receiving an award, and he cuts his “memories outweigh your dreams” promo that he has done a few times.

 

Tangent: I like that the WWF has changed the Raw logo slightly, and that it is now blue. Sadly this doesn’t last long, but there is a definite different feel to things in 1995 than there was last year, and the same between 1994 and 1993. Unfortunately, modern Raw has become so over-produced and homogenized that you cannot differentiate between 2009 and 2013. Everything looks the same and has done for years. Even the arenas are the same, at least in the way they are set up. For example, WWE did a show recently in Boston Gardens which had me excited, because I love the uniqueness of that venue. However, they managed to destroy all of that and just make it look like any and every other show. Blame Kevin Dunn folks.

 

The King’s Court
Oh my god. Anyone who has read last year’s edition of this series will be well aware of my feelings towards this interminable and endless talk show segment. For those unfamiliar, let me reiterate: I HATE it. I cannot stand Jerry Lawler as an active performer in the WWF and I find his promos and matches to be beyond boring. It wouldn’t be so bad, but this talk show gets unreasonable amounts of airtime every single week. It is overexposed on John Cena levels. At least tonight’s show should be interesting, because Shawn Michaels is out to reveal his new bodyguard, so at there is a point to this whole shebang for once. Lawler manages to get a few words before Michaels comes out, and rips on Bret Hart for his award and makes wild accusations that he is a racist. This is all there to kick start the horrid feud the two had back in 1993, and the matches this time are even worse. Michaels comes out and rambles on for a while about being a marked man, before bringing out Sid. Jim Cornette loses his mind, before putting him over well. I love Sid; he just drips with charisma and intensity. He cuts one of his usual maniacal wild-eyed promos and says that he and Michaels will rule the world together.

 

The Blu Brothers vs. Leroy Howard & Mark Starr
This is the Raw debut for the Harris brothers, who are portraying “mountain men” in yet another of the WWF’s horrible 1995 gimmicks. The people running this company are so completely stuck in the land of simplistic stereotypes that it is embarrassing. So far this year we have seen Mantaur, Man Mountain Rock and now these, and over the course of the year it doesn’t get much better, believe me. The Blu Brothers are managed by Uncle Zebekiah, otherwise known in proper wrestling companies as Dutch Mantel. I am a fan, though not under this guise. However, I did enjoy his controversial yet entertaining portrayal of one Zeb Colter on WWE programming in 2013. The guy was a riot alongside Jack Swagger and he helped breathe life into a career that seemed dead and buried. Here he is just another generic southern yokel and this run achieved nothing of note. The Harris brothers are hard work to watch, be it in this gimmick or any other (they were also Skull & 8-Ball in the late 90s). Vince can’t be bothered with this either and cuts to The Toad in the studio, as we get split screen for the second time this evening. Todd tells us that Lawrence Taylor will be on Raw next week to respond to Bigelow, and he marks out like a goofball: “Isn’t this amazing!?” he squeaks. There is a match going on too. Well, it loosely resembles one. Vince gets excited at the prospect of cartoon gimmicks colliding if the Blu Brothers were to meet the Smoking Gunns. Wow, that sounds like a piss-break match if I ever heard one.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

WWF Championship
Diesel (c) vs. Jeff Jarrett
Diesel doesn’t get the opportunity to “do a Warrior” here, because only his title is on the line. I am hoping that Jarrett will bring a little more enthusiasm and motivation to this than he does in the majority of TV matches I have seen him in. Diesel is the aggressor in the early going, and overmatches Jarrett with his size and power, but gets caught out logically by Jarrett’s speed. Jarrett gets his brief momentum curtailed by an over-enthusiastic referee pulling him down from a ten punch, and wouldn’t you just know it, it is Earl Hebner. You know, Hebner is often praised as one of the best referees ever, but he frequently went outside of his remit and did things that he had no right to do, be it changing the rules of how titles can change hands of putting his hands on wrestlers. While Jarrett is remonstrating, Roadie gets on the apron, but is drilled into the post by Diesel and sells it like a trooper. Diesel throws Jarrett over the top to the outside onto Roadie, as he continues to dominate what has been a very energetic match. Roadie tries to hold on to Jarrett and prevent Diesel bringing him back in the ring, and Hebner goes beyond his job description again by kicking Roadie in the stomach to get him off! What the hell does he think he is playing at!? I am outraged by his insubordination. Jarrett finally gets a period of control after some Roadie shenanigans, and Diesel bumps around for him, probably more than you might expect. Jarrett gets a near fall after a top rope crossbody and this serves to rile Diesel, who catches a sidewalk slam and goes into his comeback. Snake eyes is followed by the big boot, and Hogan, sorry Diesel, completes his routine with the Jacknife for the win. Pretty good show from both guys, but fairly formulaic and nothing out of the ordinary. Perfectly acceptable for a TV match though. Shawn Michaels and Sid turn up ominously in the aisle, but Diesel is not especially concerned.
Final Rating: **½

 

Michaels and Sid hang around in the aisle after the commercial break, yet Diesel somehow manages (off camera) to leave the ring and walk past them without a confrontation. Cornette, who is frightened, is forced by an amused Vince to interview Michaels. He rambles on as we go off the air.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Diesel. He showed plenty of energy and fire and clearly being WWF champion has him enthused about his job. This is the Kevin Nash I like to watch.

 

Least Entertaining: The Blu Brothers are a chore.

 

Quote of the Night: “What has Shawn Michaels done” – Vince McMahon. Not a particularly memorable quote, but the way Vince delivers the line after Michaels introduces Sid, does a great job in getting him over as an unpredictable monster. It is the wrestling equivalent of pressing the nuke button to solve your problems.

 

Match of the Night: Diesel vs. Jeff Jarrett. The marquee usually wins this by default anyway, and this week it was a fun watch and worthy of the accolade.

 

Summary: Well thank God this week didn’t continue on from the last show, which was an all-time stinker. A lack of Million Dollar Corporation slugs (other than Bigelow, who is not a slug) combined with the welcome return of Sid and a decent marquee match, made this a breezy, if unspectacular, watch. A marked improvement.
Verdict: 33

Monday Night Raw (02/06/95)

James Dixon: Hosted by Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels, who have quite obviously been superimposed over a shot of the crowd in an attempt to make the show seem live. What’s worse than that, is that I can hear Oscar attempting to rap in the background. Oh hell, what a way to start.

 

Men on a Mission & Lex Luger vs. Tatanka, IRS & King Kong Bundy
After recovering from the seizure the flashing lights in MOM’s entrance gave me, I open my eyes to the sight of THIS match. Ok, this has got to be some sick joke, because I saw Furious chuckling away at his desk while covering January, where he seemed to get decent to good matches and segments every other week. What do I get to start February? A collection of all my least favourite wrestlers in one match! Tatanka reminds me why I wanted to set him on fire in 1994, by doing the least intimidating “pissed off tough guy” stare I have ever seen. Seriously, he looks like a complete idiot. Mabel and Bundy start things out, continuing their horrible TV feud. The action is indescribable, and a Mabel enzuigiri blows my mind, but not in a good way. Mo comes in and tries to slam Bundy, because he is a tool, and Michaels mocks him for it. Rightfully so! IRS comes in, and I look away, continuing my boycott from 1994 of anything involving IRS. I am tempted to add Tatanka to that list, because he makes me feel violent when I watch him. He and Mabel run a bad sequence with some incredibly blatant telegraphing of moves, and then the corporate Injun bails when Luger finally tags in. Thank god for that; I cannot tolerate seeing anymore matches between those two. Of course, the alternatives are equally awful, but at least IRS coming in gives me the chance to sip my coffee. The one positive I can say for this is that at least the resting spots one would associate with all of them, have been limited due to the sheer number of participants. Six-man tag matches are hard to make boring, and while I detest five of these guys (my favourite of the lot is Mabel!), they are tagging in and out frequently enough to keep this on the cusp of acceptable. Well, not acceptable, tolerable. Mo takes the heat because he is by far the most expendable, as things slow to a crawl with Bundy back in. There is not a huge difference in size between Bundy and Mo, though Bundy is bigger, yet the difference in the way they carry themselves and impose themselves is huge. As I said in 1994, Mo moves, sells and works like a much smaller guy. I don’t mean that as a compliment as I would if I were describing Bam Bam Bigelow, but more that he manages to make himself appear smaller and thus less intimidating than he actually is. Bundy does the opposite, and while he is horrid to watch at least he works like the big fat bastard he is. You would never have seen Mo challenging Hulk Hogan for the title in the 80s, that’s for sure. Luger gets the hot tag as Vince lies that “this will be most interesting”. Luger slams Bundy and that brings in Tatanka, as a pier sixer breaks out. Tatanka hits a DDT on Luger in the melee, which Vince seems to think is out of order, despite Mabel being in there as well, and Bundy pins him for the win. That was no-where near as bad as I feared, but some of the action was almost laughable in places.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Man Mountain Rock, he of backstage documentary (that has never been made) fame, gets an MTV Behind the Music style promo vignette and it is actually pretty good! The character wasn’t dreadful, I mean he was a rock star, but he pissed a lot of guys off with his video camera, and thus had no chance of getting pushed, especially with the Kliq ruling the roost.

 

Lawrence Taylor’s lawyer says he doesn’t want to be a pro wrestler but that he respects the industry. Swell.

 

Man Mountain Rock vs. Charlie Hunter
This is the debut of Rock, and Michaels actually does a good job putting him over on commentary before things start. Rock’s attire can be politely described as “gaudy”. He is wearing wild tie-dye trousers and shirt, with dreadlocked red hair. He screams “dirty hippy” more than rock star. His WWF logo shaped guitar was one of the coolest props of all time, though he doesn’t have it here yet. Michaels puts Rock over again, saying how well he moves for a big guy, but rightfully buries his gear. If memory serves, it does get better. Vince, clearly on a quest to get Rock’s name in as many witty puns as possible, describes him as a “mountain of a man” and after his inevitable victory, says he “rocked the house”. He is such a cad.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Video Control gives us footage from “yesterday’s” Action Zone! show, as Diesel beats Owen Hart with the Jacknife in a fun little *** match. Shawn Michaels gets involved as their WrestleMania build rumbles on, and Vince interviews Diesel in the studio. Diesel puts over the skills of both Owen and Bret, and then discusses his dodgy knee and the nine operations he has had on it. Way to give your opponents the inside scoop there pal! He dismisses the challenge of Jeff Jarrett in two weeks time and says there is no way he will lose.

 

Tangent: You know, sometimes we are a little hard on Kevin Nash, and even a little dismissive of his ability. For example, if he is involved in a good or great match, praise always goes to the other guy. I am just as guilty of doing this as my writing partners. I am going to attempt to change my way of thinking when it comes to Nash, because he was involved in many good to great matches in 1994-95, and it is foolish and plain ignorant to think he was carried in every one of them. He was limited, absolutely, but I can’t think of another guy his size even close to as talented. Nash was lazy by the time he went to WCW, no doubt about it, but he deserves a lot more credit than he gets for his WWF run as Big Daddy Cool.

 

Mantaur vs. Leroy Howard
Is it fat bastard night on Raw? Managing Mantaur has to be considered a career lowlight for Jim Cornette. Were they ribbing him? Actually the way Jim tells it, he didn’t even know he was going to be managing him. Having noticed this big strange guy walking around with a moose head on, he wondered what the hell was going on, and was told “you’re going out with him”. Apparently it was so last minute that he didn’t even question it and just went with the flow. Mantaur is one of the dumbest gimmicks of all time (for those who don’t know, he was basically supposed to be a Minotaur, half-human and half-animal) and it made no sense at all for his character to be paired with Cornette’s character. The two were not compatible. Mantaur suffers from what I am now labelling Mo-syndrome, which I touched upon earlier, in that he is a fat guy but fairly short. The problem is he wrestles like a fat guy who is fairly short and is not imposing at all. Howard looks far better than him and Mantaur takes an age to get the job done. He has absolutely no structure or pacing to him whatsoever, everything he does is just randomly thrown in and his offence is primarily stomps. What a colossal pile of shit.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Razor Ramon vs. Frankie Lancaster
Finally, a real wrestler! Razor is sporting a rather fetching all-yellow number this evening, and he looks good in it. He should have worn it more. Razor schools Lancaster in the early going, but being the generous in-ring worker that he is, he lets Lancaster get a few shots in. Of course, the jobber makes the mistake of taking liberties by chopping Razor, and the receipt is fittingly vicious. Razor runs through the rest of his usual TV squash repertoire, but the top rope back suplex is fairly pleasant tonight. The Razor’s Edge finishes it, and if you have seen one Razor squash, you have seen this.
Final Rating: *

 

Henry Godwinn vs. Billy Weaver
The fat pig farmer completes the set of awful talent I have had to endure tonight, and frankly, I am losing my cool. I think I have done fairly well tonight to keep calm and rational in the face of the parade of tripe I have been forced to endure. Scufflin’ hillbillies are my least favourite gimmick in wrestling, and it seems the only person who wants to see them is Vince. He sure loves his “big ol’ hog farmers”. The crowd is completely silent as Godwinn wins with the Slop Drop. It’s embarrassing.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Raw next week is cancelled because of the dog show. My wife overheard this and couldn’t fathom why they didn’t just move it to a different day, or indeed, why Raw would ever be cancelled for a dog show anyway. She has a point. It was a different time…

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Shawn Michaels. He is usually pretty bad behind the announce desk, but here he entertained me, certainly more than the wrestling did. He is no Randy Savage, but hey, you take what you can get. I would much prefer to have seen him actually WRESTLE mind. This show needed him in the ring.

 

Least Entertaining: Oh there is a veritable smorgasbord of options this week. I will go with Mantaur, because the gimmick is just so fucking dumb and his performance was abhorrent.

 

Quote of the Night: “Easy with the head-banging McMahon, you might throw that rug off” – Shawn Michaels. So that is where the rumours started! Maybe.

 

Match of the Night: Not to discredit Scott Hall, but his routine squash match and fetching shade of yellow, is not enough to warrant MOTN honours. Yet it wins by default because nothing else even broke *. The roster should all be ashamed of themselves.

 

Summary: It is the worst episode of Raw I have ever seen, with nothing redeeming about it whatsoever. Usually there is a semi-decent promo or a passable bout, something to drag things above the gaping jaws of wrestling hell. Not this show. No, what we get is terrible gimmicks, a marquee match full of the worst main roster talent they had and nothing else. What is there to recommend? I thought 1994 was bad, but if 1995 continues like this (for me at least) it will be even worse. Holy shit that was a bad show.
Verdict: 10

Monday Night Raw (01/30/95)

Arnold Furious: We’re in Palmetto, Florida, with this filmed after last week’s live Raw. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels.

WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)
Two-man Rumble
Mabel vs. King Kong Bundy
They booked this after the two big men collided during the Royal Rumble match. To win you have to throw your opponent over the top rope and both feet must hit the floor. Given that the Rumble rules are in effect, both fat bastards just hug the ropes for the whole match. This does not meet my basic standards for “wrestling”. If it was called the World Fat Guys Hugging Federation then this would be a title match. But it’s not. IRS and Tatanka get bored watching something so horribly tedious and just jump in there to throw Mabel out, although it takes ages. To call this a match would be an insult to actual wrestling matches.
Final Rating: -**

 

Backstage, Vince McMahon gets words with Bam Bam Bigelow. The Bammer calls his defeat to 1-2-3 Kid a fluke because every dog has his day. Vince asks Bigelow about Lawrence Taylor laughing at him. Bam Bam calls Taylor’s laughter disrespectful. Athletes should show respect for each other. Bigelow refuses to apologise to LT and instead challenges him to a fight. Vince’s reactions combined with Bigelow’s aggression made this good fun.

 

Hakushi vs. Ricky Santana
Santana looks like a chunkier Ricky Steamboat. He’s decently mobile and is able to take Hakushi’s strikes, including a killer back kick to the jaw. Shawn has fun again cutting Vince down by correcting his pronunciation of “Shinja”. Santana continues to keep up but Hakushi’s spots are on another level, like a flying shoulderblock off the top. A cartwheel standing moonsault finishes. Hakushi’s flipping always looks nice, but isn’t high impact enough for my liking. He is a great wrestler, but on the softer side of the spectrum.
Final Rating:

 

Aldo Montoya vs. David Sierra
Sierra is a bearded Latin veteran. Aldo throws some awful punches. Nobody punches a guy in the top of the head Aldo, nobody. That’s the hardest part of the head. Stop aiming for it! Aldo is just abysmal here; so sloppy. The only remotely worthwhile spot is a pescado that Sierra has to move in order to catch Aldo on. The finish is a botched diving bulldog. I’ve only ever seen one decent Aldo Montoya match. I’d have switched him back to job duty ASAP.
Final Rating: DUD

 

The King’s Court
Lawler’s guest is Mr. Bob Backlund. Lawler runs through Backlund’s interview material for him but Backlund shows disdain for Lawler. Backlund says from now on he won’t let people out of the Crossface Chickenwing unless the victim screams “I quit, Mr. Backlund”. Lawler pushes his luck by saying he could get out of it. Backlund should have put him down, Lawler should know his place: “No one is exempt from that policy”. Backlund points out the King is NOT exempt and he should shut up. Lawler still doesn’t get it so Backlund slaps him in the CFCW. “I quit Mr. Backlund”. As Backlund leaves, Lawler backs up and claims he just quit doing the interview. Backlund comes back down and Lawler takes a powder. This was awesome. It blurred the lines and tried to do away with all that Heel Club bullshit the WWF had been running forever.

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
The Smoking Gunns (c) vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly
Keep in mind this was signed “last week” but it’s actually the same night, so this is the second time this crowd has seen this match. Kid and Billy work some tidy chaining before the challengers bring some double teaming, then Kid comes back in to eat the Gunns’ double teaming. Then the tide changes again and it’s like they’re taking it in turns to demonstrate double teams. Curmudgeon Bob Holly gets a little salty with Billy and fisticuffs ensue. Like last week, or earlier tonight depending on your perspective, the crowd is divided so deeply that they like both teams but can’t bring themselves to cheer for either. Kid’s kicks raise the tempo. A few of his front leg back kicks are terrific. Eric Bischoff would be having kittens. Kid misses a senton but lands on his shoulder and stops moving. The ref rings the bell and a hush comes over the crowd as they suspect a serious injury. It’s just an injury angle and a very poor way to end the match. At least they had a clean switch last time but this match was going better until the finish. Matters are made a thousand times worse by Vince “I hate making money” McMahon who announces the Kid just got up and walked to the back during an ad break. Way to go Vince. Bad finish that leads nowhere. Perfect.
Final Rating: **¼

 

Kama vs. Jumbo Beretta
Kama is a big dude, the former Papa Shango, making his Raw debut. Jumbo is appropriately named as he’s a blubbery lardass. “A kick to the blubber” calls Shawn after Kama boots his tubbier opponent in the abdominal area where Jumbo’s abs would be if he had any. Abdominal folds, maybe. Vince runs the last match into the ground further by pointing out that the 1-2-3 Kid is 100% fine. So he’s just a pussy then? If I was Bob Holly I would kick his ass for that. Back in the Kama match nothing much is happening. Kama has ok kicks but doesn’t know when to use them, so most of his offence is rest holds and dull stuff. He calls for a finish and hits the belly-to-belly. Nobody cares Kama, nobody cares. He finishes with an STF with a chinlock instead of a facelock. Possibly because that was the only way to get fat boy Beretta’s neck to bend right.
Final Rating: DUD

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Bob Backlund. His craziness exploded before an assault on Jerry Lawler. Great segment.

 

Least Entertaining: Kama. Boring debut from a guy with no visible personality. This would continue until he switched gimmicks to the Godfather.

 

Quote of the Night: “No one is exempt from the Crossface Chicken-wing, including yours truly” – Bob Backlund says something crazy about submitting himself.

 

Match of the Night: The Smoking Gunns vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. Ok little title contest but with a terrible finish, straight from the School of Lame Finishes. Vince’s burial of whatever angle they had going just increasing the uselessness of it all.

 

Summary: Two interviews highlight this poor wrestling show. Bigelow’s verbal attack on LT and Backlund’s physical attack on the King. The wrestling was worryingly subpar around those two incidents. Bundy-Mabel was beyond awful and two squash matches both featured inadequate talents: Aldo and Kama. The tag title match was fine but the finish stunk. So all in all a poor show for in-ring but a good show for talking.
Verdict: 38

Monday Night Raw (01/23/95)

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Palmetto, Florida at the Manatee Civic Center. Between this and Houston the WWF looks to be expanding into larger arenas for Raw and wider territories. Vince McMahon opens the show to apologise for the actions of “Scott Bam Bam Bigelow” for his scuffle with Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble. Vince does it in his serious voice to make it sound like a real life incident, not an angle. Bigelow eats an unpaid suspension, storyline, but will end up headlining WrestleMania. Hosts are Vince McMahon and 1995 Royal Rumble winner Shawn Michaels, who gets his own entrance.

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly (c) vs. The Smoking Gunns
This is one day after Kid and Holly’s upset title win. That was the final of a tournament after Shawn and Diesel vacated the belts back in November. Originally the Gunns were booked to win but Bart got injured, hence the re-tooling of the tournament for the underdogs victory. Because both teams are faces they start with handshakes and niceties. The Kid seems to be the most popular guy and yet Bart still gets popped for powerslamming him. The crowd are willing to back both teams. Normally the bigger team ends up slightly heel. That’s evident with Billy getting a blind tag and hitting a bulldog on the unsuspecting Holly. The Gunns appear to have superior tag team skills until Holly shoves Bart into Billy up top and the champs hit a double team superplex for two. Billy starts shrugging off Kid’s chops so Kid switches to more effective kicks. The crowd’s responses start leaning towards the underdogs and the Gunns spots start getting popped less. The crowd’s reaction is muted. Kid gets caught with a Rocker Dropper and again the crowd don’t respond. Bart manages to just about get heat on his hot tag. Against the 1-2-3 Kid. The Gunns bust out the double teaming to get heat on Kid. How on earth are they still managing to work formula in a babyface tag? Shawn starts riding Billy Gunn for delaying his pins and not hooking the leg. Holly’s hot tag is decidedly lukewarm as the fans can’t really decide who to root for. They pop spots but not anything else. Holly misses off the top and Billy takes it with the Sidewinder. The crowd pop a title switch but do they actually like the Gunns? Based on this it’s really hard to say. Match meandered a bit thanks to the Gunns moveset being so weak. Compared to the Kid/Holly match against the Heavenly Bodies last week, there’s no comparison.
Final Rating: **½

 

Post Match, Kid says he’s disappointed and Holly blames a tough match the previous night. Kid asks for a re-match next week. We head to the commentary position where Shawn Michaels announces he’s looking for a bodyguard to watch his back into his WrestleMania title shot.

 

IRS vs. Buck Quartermaine
Because this match will be completely boring, Vince throws to Roddy Piper via telephone. Piper is on shill duty and claims the 1995 Royal Rumble was the best ever. Shawn and Piper have a nice back-and-forth due to their ability to think on their feet. The match isn’t long enough to cover the phone call as IRS finishes with the Write Off. Piper continues to ramble. He’ll be providing new commentary on Encore Plus for the Rumble re-run and promises an exclusive interview with “that jerk” Shawn Michaels.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The King’s Court
Lawler’s guest is NEW Intercontinental champion Jeff Jarrett. He offers Razor Ramon a re-match anytime. Jarrett isn’t content with the IC strap though and challenges Diesel to a WWF title match. Vince calls him greedy before proclaiming the British Bulldog as the Rumble winner. Oops. Jarrett’s title aspiration bombshell made this meandering promo worthwhile. Not that anyone considered Jarrett world champion material at the time.

 

The British Bulldog vs. The Black Phantom
The jobber is David Heath aka Gangrel, who gets in a few nice moves before Bulldog takes over. Phantom takes a few slick bumps off clotheslines and such. Davey lacks imagination though and hooks a chinlock to eat up his time in charge. Running powerslam finishes.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Backstage, Bam Bam Bigelow is due to apologise for his actions at the Royal Rumble. However the WWF’s crack technical crew can’t get his earpiece to work so he can’t hear his cue to start talking. I don’t know why the WWF so persisted with the incompetence of their tech for plot points. It’s embarrassing.

 

Instances in 1995 that the WWF used technical incompetence of their own people as a plot point:
Two. And counting.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Shawn Michaels. Shawn was on form on commentary, continuously gloating about his Rumble win and criticising everybody else for their mistakes. I’m surprised they didn’t make more of his win on this show, as instead they focused on Bigelow.

 

Least Entertaining: IRS. But at least they knew he was going to be boring and instead got Roddy Piper to talk over his match.

 

Quote of the Night: “I have plans up my sleeves. And that’s not easy for a guy who never wears sleeves. That’s just how sneaky I am” – Shawn Michaels.

 

Match of the Night: The Smoking Gunns vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. A decent title match up. Shame they went with the Gunns, based on looks, rather than a good team to boss the tag division. This is actually the shortest of their three tag title runs, ended for Owen Hart to achieve the first of his golden goals at WrestleMania.

 

Summary: Nothing dragged and the tag title match was decent, but it’s not what you’d call a good show. At least they set up a tag title rematch for the following week, but the hour showed it had limitations here. If the big marquee match isn’t a stunner then the rest of show can’t make up for it. That really puts the pressure on the marquee match to deliver.
Verdict: 31

Monday Night Raw (01/16/95)


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Arnold Furious: We’re in Houston, Texas. This show was taped after the live Raw the previous week. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. The latter makes a load of Gridiron references ahead of the Super Bowl.

 

The Heavenly Bodies vs. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly
The Bodies were sadly towards the end of their WWF run so, despite Jim Cornette still being their manager, they’re on job duty here. That means there can’t be many more Jimmy Del Ray showcases remaining. A pity as he’s the greatest short and fat wrestler in the history of the business. Holly gets double teamed by the superb Bodies offence. If there was ever a team -other than the Brainbusters- who made their heat fun, it was the Bodies. They show that in spades in the dismantling of Holly. Oh, how I wish they’d been given a proper push. Doctorbomb for Holly but he miraculously kicks out. I do not agree with that, it should have been a Kid save. Tatanka and Bigelow stroll out to watch as they’re facing Kid and Holly for the straps at the Rumble. Given those two choices, how on earth were the Bodies not selected instead? I’m not being biased here; they were fantastic. Kid tags in and gets double teamed too, but Holly spears Pritchard allowing Kid to finish Del Ray with a sweet bridging fisherman suplex. Amazing high bridge on that from the Kid. It might have been a short match, under five minutes, but it was awesome stuff from bell-to-bell. I once again plead with the Time Lords to get rid of that goddamn tag division booking in late ’94 and early ’95 and just put the belts on the Heavenly Bodies. This match alone should have been evidence in their favour. Kid and Holly were a fun tandem, but the Bodies were the finished article and could have a blast against any babyface teams the WWF could dig up to face them.
Final Rating: ***½

 

Backstage: Vince and Shawn get an interview with Bret Hart and Bill Shatner. Vince asks Bret if he’s rusty but he claims not. Shawn infers that Shatner should watch his back but The Shat is not concerned. Of course not; he’s a robot from the future. He calls Roadie “Roadkill”. The WWF seamlessly switches from this interview to Vince plugging the Raw debut of Mantaur. NO SHAME.

 

Mantaur vs. Jason Arndt
Jim Cornette somehow got saddled with Mantaur, whose entrance music is a cow mooing. A cow. Mooing. MOOOOO! Why is Mantaur a heel? He moos. Arndt tries hard (as you’d expect, he is the future Joey Abs while he was still being mentored by Matt Hardy). Mantaur’s main source of offence is running his big fat belly into Arndt. One of those finishes when accompanied by a big fat splash. In case you missed him; Mantaur was one of the WWF’s dumbest ideas but he was also terrible in the ring.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Jeff Jarrett vs. Bret Hart
Jarrett is cornered by the Roadie. Bret, who’s hardly been on TV since his Survivor Series title loss, is cornered by William Shatner. Bret gets a huge pop. He’s on his way to a WWF title shot against Diesel at the Rumble while Jarrett has a shot at the IC strap. Jarrett brings the Memphis stalling, which on an hour long show is uncalled for. When the action kicks in Jarrett is in the mood to take big bumps while Bret laces in his perfect strikes. Every time Jarrett tries for a move Bret has a counter lined up. It’s a wrestling masterclass from the Hitman, countering slams into armdrags or hip tosses into backslides. It’s beautiful. Jarrett finally gets something with his own counter; a back suplex out of a sleeper. They go to the near fall counters, not quite at the Malenko-Guerrero level just yet but smooth. Jarrett slows things up a touch on offence but Bret is in no mood to let him, so whenever Jarrett stalls too long Bret throws in a comeback. He has enough moves to get the majority of the match and Jarrett can bump around all day. The pace is unrelenting. Jarrett goes to the eyes to prevent the Sharpshooter but he can’t follow up quick enough for Bret’s liking and they run a spot on the ropes afterwards where Roadie interferes to actually change the tide. Jarrett gets the figure four on, but Shatner pushes the ropes in for Bret to reach them. They rock in another near falls reversal and Bret scores the duke this time. Post match Shatner kicks the Roadie’s ass. Awesome. Bret and Jarrett busted their asses in this one. It’s a minor classic. I’m surprised it’s not made its way onto more tape releases.
Final Rating: ****

 

The King’s Court
Lawler has the whole Million Dollar Corporation on. Ted DiBiase calls the fans “mongoloids”. Not sure that’s a PC term, Ted. DiBiase promises IRS will bury the Undertaker. “The only dead thing I like is Dead Presidents”. Nice. Ted promises the Million Dollar Corp will take the tag straps too. He’s so enthused about it that they’ve already signed a title defence against the Smoking Gunns. The final ridiculous claim from Ted is that King Kong Bundy will win the Royal Rumble. Is he serious with this? Bundy was his title aspiration guy? What he was saying was bullshit, but the way he said it was incredible. Superb promo work from Ted DiBiase.

 

Mabel vs. Lee Toblin
Toblin looks like Bret from Flight of the Conchords. Mabel plods through his moveset. Whoomp there it is, etc. The moves are impressive from a big fat guy, but the speed he’s doing them at is offensively slow. When Toblin starts whaling on him the difference in speed is really noticeable. Toblin is ok; decent kicks, good bumps. Mabel legdrops him for the win.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Post Match: the commentators pop up to ask Mabel about the Rumble match. Mabel points out he’s the biggest so he’ll win. King Kong Bundy strolls out to have a word about size. Mabel wants a Battle of the Fat Bastards RIGHT NOW but Bundy is too fat to get in the ring. Shawn claims he’ll win the Rumble while all of this is going on and Vince throws to a Diesel promo video.

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Bret Hart. Absolutely phenomenal in his first TV match since November. He lit a fire under Jeff Jarrett’s ass and they had an early contender for Raw MOTY.

 

Least Entertaining: Mantaur. Moo!

 

Quote of the Night: “Nobody needs to watch my back, I can take care of myself” – William Shatner.

 

Match of the Night: Bret Hart vs. Jeff Jarrett. Brilliant free TV match. PPV quality action from two technical masters.

 

Summary: Sensational Raw. Two great matches, a couple of decent interviews and very little to hate on. If every Raw had wrestling action this good, I’d have virtually nothing to complain about. Sometimes the hour length can put limitations on the WWF but their product came across really well here. Shame Shawn is stuck at the announce desk for these shows.
Verdict: 78

Monday Night Raw (01/09/95)

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Arnold Furious: We’re LIVE in Houston, Texas at the Summit for the second year anniversary of Monday Night Raw. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. They run down the card including Bill Shatner on King’s Court, Owen Hart getting an IC title shot and Bret Hart in the house. William Shatner has pre-recorded comments where he basically cuts a promo on Jerry Lawler and claims he’s here solely to promote Tech War and “not wrestle”. They’ve set the Summit up with the entranceway at the back, which makes it look a bit like MSG.

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Razor Ramon (c) vs. Owen Hart
This is part of Owen’s campaign to win all the WWF titles. HBK brings the history by pointing out that Owen beat Ramon to win King of the Ring. Vince gets in on it by talking about WrestleMania X and the Shawn-Razor ladder match. Razor combats Owen’s speed with his usual smashmouth brawling style, but his opening shine is overly long and he spends too much time working Owen’s arm, although Owen does incorporate some superb counters. I like how Owen’s stuff blends into Razor’s stuff, like an attempt at a crossbody being a genuine Owen move and Razor countering into the fallaway slam. However, I resent that every time Razor sets for the Edge anywhere near the ropes, it telegraphs a backdrop over them. Owen adds in a tope at speed before Razor rolls through a second crossbody into a pin for 2. I like them mixing it up. Owen on offence is nowhere near as boring as the staple heel offence commonplace during the era. Just compare his stuff to say Tatanka or IRS. Owen mixed up high risk and technical offence, with just enough cheating in there to stop him wrestling face. Also, a chinlock. Owen’s creativity won’t allow him to sit in it long, but it does set up a Princess Bride sleeper moments later. Razor fights out and starts throwing those famous right hands. They slightly botch the set up for a chokeslam, with Razor having to grab it a second time. Minor issue. Owen dumps Razor groin first on the ropes to set up a missile dropkick and ‘the Rocket’ straps on the Sharpshooter with Vince calling for a DQ on account of the nut shot. Bret Hart promptly runs in for the DQ. Really good match, which Owen usually had with anyone who was game. Razor was, and the BS finish was needed to protect Owen to keep him strong. They basically gave up on that as the year continued.
Final Rating: ***¼

 

Backstage, Jerry Lawler has words for William Shatner, promising to “beam him so far up he’ll never come down”. I think he meant to punch him.

 

Hakushi vs. Matt Hardy
Hakushi is making his debut and has Shinja in his corner. Matt flubs an early trip to the ropes so Hakushi flips around to show him how it’s done. Hakushi nails Matt with a diving elbow smash and finishes with a tame slingshot splash. Not what you’d call a stunning debut and certainly not the match you’d expect from the names involved.
Final Rating: ½*

 

The King’s Court
Jerry’s guest is William Shatner, in case you missed him. Shatner acts without saying anything. Wonderful stuff. King shills Tech War, which follows Raw on USA every Monday night and was written by Shatner. Shawn makes Star Trek jokes while Shatner claims chewing gum is more interesting than the King’s Court. Lawler gets into Shatner’s personal space and a ruck is impending, as Shatner claims everyone in this crowd watches Tech War. Um, guess again Bill. King tries to charge The Shat but gets taken over with a monkey flip. Bret Hart strolls out to “save”, despite the fact that Lawler is so toothless that he was taken out by an actor. Still, the segment was a lot of fun and Shatner was game for the wrestling monkey business.

 

King Kong Bundy vs. Gary Sabaugh
Sabaugh is the guy who looks like Garry Shandling. Bundy corner splashes him and pins in 9 seconds. Wait, that seems very familiar. The only real highlight is Shawn calling Bundy “love chunks” post match when the big man claims he’ll win the Royal Rumble.
Final Rating: SQUASH

 

Tuxedo Match
Howard Finkel vs. Harvey Wippleman
Both guys are cornered by tag teams. Fink has the Bushwhackers while Harvey has Well Dunn. This feud has been rumbling on for a while, with Fink taking exception to the loudmouthed and irritating Wippleman. Tuxedo matches are so gay. Who on earth wants to watch two ugly men tearing each other’s clothes off? Especially when Tuxedo matches traditionally involve the less manly men in wrestling. Let’s face it, no one wants to see a couple of middle aged skinny guys stumbling around the ring with their trousers around their ankles. “I’ve seen two chicks fight better than this” – Shawn Michaels criticises women’s wrestling. Howard manages to retain his cummerbund to win. On the upside, at least no one was wearing a thong. On the downside, every Tuxedo match is horrid.
Final Rating: DUD

 

THE RAW RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Owen Hart. Tempted to go for Shatner for that slick monkey flip, but Owen was on form.

 

Least Entertaining: Whoever decided to book a Tuxedo match as Raw’s main event.

 

Quote of the Night: “I’ve been impressed a lot but this isn’t one of the most impressive times I’ve had” – William Shatner is not impressed to be on Raw.

 

Match of the Night: Razor Ramon vs. Owen Hart. I’m glad we have a decent match after just two weeks of the new year. It bodes well.

 

Summary: Tuxedo nonsense aside, the second year anniversary Raw show was ok. Good IC title match, good celebrity involvement and nothing outstayed its welcome.
Verdict: 50