Shotgun Saturday Night (01/18/97)

WWE.com

Lee Maughan: Three weeks in and there’s already a change to the format, as we’re out of New York and into San Antonio, with everyone in town for tomorrow’s Royal Rumble. In another change, Sunny has been replaced with Jim Ross, so she’s off line dancing with Dok Hendrix and Todd Pettengill. Line dancing? Oh, did I forget to mention Denim & Diamonds was a country and western grill? Brace yourselves for a rootin’, tootin’ hour folks!

Rocky Maivia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Hunter arrogantly declares this a tune-up match before his meeting with Goldust tomorrow, and basically promises to f*ck Marlena once he’s done. Believe it or not, this is actually the very first HHH-Rock singles match on record (hey, they had to start somewhere), and it’s really rather good. Rocky has so much poise for a guy with so little experience at this point, and the only other guy I can think of in recent memory who managed to get just as good in a similarly short span of time is probably Kurt Angle. Credit to Hunter too, who takes a typically solid ass-kicking while leading the match. Rocky runs through his basics until Helmsley hits an inverted atomic drop, and suddenly there’s a python in the ring! And in true Saturday Night’s Main Event fashion, a mid-match incident means it’s time for a commercial break!

The action picks up with Jake Roberts at the announce desk, doing a wonderful job of selling the Royal Rumble match tomorrow. In the ring, Hunter is back in firm control, but Rocky continues to fight back with a high cross body. Helmsley fires back with a knee crusher for two, but Rocky lands a powerslam as Marlena makes her way out to ringside. A dropkick of course sends Helmsley to the floor when Goldust suddenly steps out of the shadows, and Hunter opts to flee rather than fight, giving Rocky a count-out win. Very fun stuff as it was all action-meets-angle, meaning Helmsley had no time to work in his usual chinlockery and/or other assorted tedium. Very enjoyable stuff, especially with a red hot crowd that was completely into everything here.
Final Rating: ***

 

– Elsewhere, Dok, Todd and Sunny run through a country-fied version of ‘The Macarena’. As if the song itself wasn’t bad enough, try to imagine it drenched in backwater fiddles.

– Meanwhile, the Honky Tonk Man cheats a couple of luchadores out of their pesos over at the blackjack table.

– Back in New York, Mr. Backlund is losing his mind over morality.

 

Histeria & Mini Mankind vs. Venum & Mascarita Sagrada
This is actually a mixed match as Sagrada and Mankind are minis, but Venum and Histeria are full-sized luchadores. Venum is probably best known as Venum Black, having previously worked under a mask as Power Raider Rojo. Histeria you’ll likely know better as Super Crazy. It’s the regular luchas who start, popping the crowd with a back-and-forth sequence that concludes with Venum sending Histeria to the outside with a pair of head scissors and following with a springboard plancha. The minis follow with a sequence of their own, Sagrada landing a flying crossbody to the floor on Mini Mankind, and that’s the cue for Steve Austin to hit the announce booth, which is both a blessing and a curse. He’s wildly entertaining of course, rambling on about people trying to censor him because of his foul language and promising a Royal Rumble victory tomorrow night, but the whole thing results in a split-screen that takes the focus off the actual match. It’s like someone in the production truck didn’t realise that you could still hear Austin without the need for a close-up of his mug (or more likely, figured most people would somehow find high-flying, mask-emblazoned superhero wrestlers too dull to pay attention. Kevin Dunn, I’m looking at you). At this point, they seem to start running through some of the same spots, as often seems to happen in lucha matches owing to the wildly different psychology down Mexico way, but it’s kind of hard to tell when the action is all squished into a little box at the side of the screen. Venum misses a corkscrew moonsault and Histeria lands a sitout powerbomb for the win. More good stuff here.
Final Rating: **¾

– Meanwhile, George and Adam are already at the Alamodome.

– And now for something completely different as in a total surprise, Pettengill brings out Texas legend Terry Funk, who’s determined to get himself over kicking and screaming with an incredible, out-of-control promo:

“Yeah! I’m home! This is my state! This is my town! I’m in the heart of Texas, where I wanna be Pettengill! This is where I wanna be and everyone out here knows I’m a windmilling, piledriving, neck-breaking, back-breaking, bear-hugging, wrist-locking, knee-dropping, toe-holding son of a son of a gun, meaner than a rattlesnake, tougher than shoe leather, and more dangerous than a hollow-eyed scorpion, and I am ready to rumble!

Now, I wanna know what number I’m going to be in that ring. What number am I going to be? Am I going to be number 1 or am I going to be 29? To hell with number 15, I wanna walk out there with that first man. George Bush and the representatives of Texas designated me as their Texas member. I wanna start the Rumble, and I wanna end the Rumble, and I wanna start that Rumble not tomorrow night, how ‘bout a one-sided rumble with you right now Pettengill? How about a rumble with you?

 

Well is there somebody else out there? I am looking for anybody! Where’s a person that wants to rumble with me? There’s not a person in the WWF that wants to rumble with me! Not a person in the WCW, those bunch of snake-sucking scumbags, they don’t have an athlete enough for me! I’m looking around here, where’s Vince McMahon? That Yankee BASTARD!

I realise this is live! Hey Pettengill! Give me the microphone! How about rumbling with you? Your mother’s a whore! If you don’t like that, why don’t you rumble a little bit? You wanna rumble Pettengill? No! No you don’t! Is there anybody here? Where are you Jim Ross? Where are you, you Oakie asshole! Where are you?!


Oh. Oh. Come on ‘Stone Cold!’ ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin! Do you wanna rumble? Do you have the guts to get in the ring? How about you? This is live! How about you? I’ll lay here on the ground for you Austin! Come on! Yes! Nobody’s got the guts! I’m staying out here for the rest of the show! Come on! Where’s your guts Austin? I want a rumble! I wanna rumble!”

Austin finally responds to the challenge with a brief brawl into the commercial break. This was exactly the kind of segment Shotgun was crying out for, not that goofy karaoke shit with Pettengill the last couple of weeks.

Faarooq vs. Jesse Jammes
I guess I spoke too soon, as Pettengill joins Jammes for his latest rendition of ‘With My Baby Tonight’, joy of joys. Hilariously, as well as this might play out in an actual country and western bar, Jammes’ mic isn’t working so nobody can hear it anyway. Brilliant. And then the WWF further endears themselves to the hometown crowd by having Faarooq squash Jammes with a spinebuster and the Dominator in around two minutes after some token offence from Jammes. I know why you’d put Faarooq over with his Royal Rumble showdown against Ahmed Johnson just a day away, but why would you have the country bumpkin be the one to do the honours in a hillbilly bar when so many other perfectly sacrificial guys were in town?
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)

 

Steve Austin vs. Goldust
Goldust’s on-screen graphic comes complete with the caption “What does his daddy think?” Chuckle. Once again, timing issues with the show mean this main event will only have about four minutes before going off the air, which exactly doesn’t bode well after last week. And speaking of last week, we never did see the finish to Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. the Headbangers (Furnas & LaFon won), and what happened to Goldust’s pregnancy anyway? Not that I particularly wanted to see such a thing, but that’s such a blatant bait and switch. JR does at least address it by calling the rumours “off the mark”, and Vince calls it “an attempt at a little humour.” Yes, very little humour.

Austin starts by stomping his usual mudhole before Goldust fires back with a clothesline and takes over, but astonishingly, there’s still a commercial break that needs to be shoehorned in. Back from that, Terry Funk returns and attacks Austin, causing the disqualification, then Faarooq, the Headbangers and the Godwinns all dive into the ring for a mini Rumble. Hunter Hearst Helmsley soon slithers out and chokes out Goldust with a pool cue, as Austin backdrops Funk into a Bud Light beer tub.

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: How could it be anybody but Terry Funk?

Least Entertaining: Not an easy award to give out this time, but we’ll go with Jesse Jammes for his microphone problems. A blessing to many no doubt, but he had his target audience right here, only for his equipment to crap out just in time for him to get his head caved in by Faarooq. Good going, Jesse!

Quote of the Night: Terry Funk’s promo, as transcribed in its entirety above.

Match of the Night: Rocky Maivia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

 

Summary: Good wrestling, wild brawling and crazy promos made this by far the best episode of Shotgun yet, and in truth, I can’t imagine that status ever changing once things move back to NYC.
Verdict: 73

Shotgun Saturday Night (01/11/97)

WWE.com

Lee Maughan: And we’ve got bad news right from the off this week as the Sisters of Love were arrested for soliciting outside the Disney store earlier today, so they’re already history after debuting just last week. Bang goes that dream Flying Nuns vs. Flying Elvises match then.

 

Diesel vs. Marc Mero
Just to reiterate for those not paying close enough attention, this would be the second incarnation of Diesel, with Glenn Jacobs under the leather. Before the action even gets underway the differences between last week and this are obvious, as the Café, a sports bar, comes across like a somewhat more upmarket venue (as in, it’s actually lit), but since the walls are curved and there’s a big structural plinth in the middle of the room, the ring is very awkwardly positioned off to one side with a floating camera on a jib. Diesel goes after Sable on the outside so she shoves a cake in his face for a lame “he really takes the cake!” joke, like they basically blew their wad with last week’s high calibre gag quotient. Razor Ramon soon shows up and goes after Mero, but Rocky Maivia arrives to make the save.

Back from a break, Diesel goes to work with a vertical suplex and a top rope flying clothesline. Far be it from me to underline yet again the reasons for the failure of the revived Diesel and Razor Ramon personas, but when did Kevin Nash ever vertical suplex anyone, or fly off the top rope? Obviously there were much greater problems with the gimmick than the move set, but sometimes it’s the little things that need the most attention. The Nash-originated spinning sidewalk slam does however make an appearance before Mero makes a comeback with a flying head scissors and a leaping lariat. Which would be fine if not for the fact he showed absolutely no fire whatsoever before that and just took his ass-kicking. Again, it’s the little things. Mero hits a tasty moonsault press but gets distracted when he spots the Honky Tonk Man of all people pursuing Sable on the outside. Diesel wallops Mero from behind with a double axehandle, and the Jackknife gives him something of a surprise win. Although, he would also go on to place highly in next week’s Royal Rumble, so the WWF clearly had some kind of plan for the guy.
Final Rating:

Post match, Mero berates Sable for the loss and bails out, leaving her crying in the ring. Honky of course figures now is the best time to hit on her, so Rocky returns for his second save of the day, but that brings out Mero for a heated shoving match. “Let them go!” demand the New York crowd. I concur.

Faarooq vs. Savio Vega
Hinting at problems to come, we get the entire rap introduction of the Nation of Domination from JC Ice and Wolfie D here, but join the match in progress after commercials. Faarooq dominates (har har) in the early going until he decides to work in his electric chair bump that he always loved taking. That’s pretty business-exposing if you think about it, since nobody in the promotion was doing that move unless they were specifically against Faarooq, and how dumb do you have to be to allow yourself to wind up in a position where that keeps happening to you, time and time again? I suppose the same could be said of Ric Flair’s big slam off the top, but I always put that down to his own arrogance and determination to actually hit the damn thing, psychologically speaking.

Savio runs through some of his more exciting offense (back body drop, side-Russian legsweep, spinning heel kick) that would vanish following his impending heel turn (throughout the local New York feed of these shows, promos were airing for an upcoming card at Madison Square Garden that would see Savio turn on his partner that night, Ahmed Johnson, and actually side with the Nation, although there’s no hint of Savio’s dark side here). PG-13 soon get involved on this night of outside interference, and Faarooq takes over with a snap suplex for two. Savio comes back with a chinbreaker but misses a charge into the corner and eats a spinebuster for the three. Pretty good back-and-forth stuff actually.
Final Rating: **½

– And now, in response to her disgruntlement with Marlena’s breasts last week, it’s the world premiere of Sunny’s home sex tape! And if you’ve ever wondered about the coitus techniques of Chris Candido, Shawn Michaels or Davey Boy Smith, well, you won’t find your answer here I’m afraid. No, her secret lover is none other than… Fondle Me Elmo, which is basically some guy dressed like the hottest pre-schooler’s toy of 1996, Tickle Me Elmo, complete with a thong and an irritating laugh. Because what’s funnier than sexualizing a Sesame Street Muppet aimed at infants?

– Meanwhile, Todd Pettengill is up on the stage to belt another one out in week two of his apparently ongoing series of karaoke klassics. At least it isn’t another parody effort this time as he instead has the Honky Tonk Man with him for a very lengthy run-through of ‘Honky Tonk Man’, a brand new song that Honky has trouble keeping pace with. They should have done ‘Hunka Hunka Hunka Honky Love’ and just made do. You know, I never thought I’d say this, but where are the Bushwhackers when you actually need ‘em? Thankfully, Rocky Maivia arrives to end the misery.

Rocky Maivia vs. Razor Ramon
And another thing; why would you knowingly book your Diesel and Razor imposters in front of an intimate, smart-ass New York crowd anyway? I mean, I say smart, they again start chanting “bWo! bWo!” just like last week, for reasons I remain unable to fathom. Back from a quick commercial, Razor dominates with some rest holds (come on man, you’re doing a six minute TV match in a rowdy nightclub, ramp it up!) but Rocky fires up with dropkicks and a crossbody. Out on the floor, Honky Tonk gets a few licks in as payback for Rocky’s earlier intervention on Honky’s apparent attempts to make a sex tape of his own with Sable (and if you’ve ever been subjected to Honky’s shoot interview alongside New Jack and the Iron Sheik in which all three drop their pants, bend over and pull their arse cheeks wide apart, you’ll know that is something that should never ever see the light of day), and Razor goes for the Razor’s Edge, escaped by Rocky and countered with a match-winning shoulderbreaker.
Final Rating: *

– Out on Times Square, Pettengill cracks a few jokes at the expense of a poor homeless man who’s fallen on such hard times that he’s taken to living in a cardboard box. “Look at that hobo!” he may as well have shouted. “Come on! Let’s kick him to death!” Okay, Toad’s lines might not have been quite as mean-spirited as that, drifting as they did more along the lines of “Hey, he’s even got a box room for when the mother-in-law comes to stay!” And then out from the pile emerges Nikolai Volkoff! Ha! I believe Virgil moved into a plush beer crate/tarpaulin combo crib next door to Nikolai not long after this.

– Back in the club, Vince produces a copy of Vanity Fair and announces that Goldust is pregnant and scheduled to give birth on next week’s show. Why yes, this is the Attitude Era we’re in.

Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. The Headbangers
Time is running short now (thank goodness for all those silly skits, eh?) so this is joined in progress with a jawbreaker to Mosh from LaFon, and Thrasher crashing into Doug Furnas with a flying clothesline, but it’s already time for a commercial break so you can kiss goodbye to what little flow this match has going for it. Things pick up with a snap suplex and a standing senton from LaFon to Thrasher, then all four guys get in the ring for a brawl as things completely break down… and that’s it. TV time is up, and Vince promises the conclusion next week. Impossible to rate under the circumstances.

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Marc Mero. His psychology was as spotty as the moves he delivered, but at least those moves were exciting, and his proto-’Marvellous’ face/face showdown with Rocky Maivia showed a lot of potential. A shame he blew his knee out a few weeks later, only to return a shell of his former self.

Least Entertaining: Fondle Me Elmo. An atrocious skit that just felt like it would never end.

Quote of the Night: I did consider giving it to Sunny for bamboozling Vince McMahon with her recounting of Doug Furnas’ and Phil LaFon’s multiple All-Asia tag team title reigns in All Japan Pro Wrestling, but I’ve instead gone for: “Honky Tonk man was looking at Razor Ramon… I don’t think he’s going to be looking at him after this match…” – Vince’s apparent shoot admission that he’d finally cottoned on to what everybody else already knew – that Rick Bognar was a terrible pro wrestler.

Match of the Night: Faarooq vs. Savio Vega.

Summary: Another largely rotten episode that still managed to fly past and leave you wanting more. The wrestling overall was pretty bad but it was short enough to never outstay its welcome, and the skits were brutally bad, albeit like a car crash you can’t tear yourself away from. Yes, the New York crowd was its typically irritating self, but the different look and feel to these shows offers such a different vibe from anything else going on in wrestling in early 1997, except perhaps for ECW at the Arena, that no matter how bad the shows are, they’re still masochistically entertaining.
Verdict: 33

Shotgun Saturday Night (01/04/97)

WWE.com

Lee Maughan: 1996 has morphed into 1997 and WCW are winning the war with Monday Nitro, a New World Order-powered juggernaut on wrestling’s televisual landscape. ECW are continuing to make a big noise in bingo halls across the east coast, punching above their weight with a provocative product aimed squarely at an adult audience. And the WWF? They’re in deep trouble. Attendance has dropped, numbers have plummeted and things are about to get edgy.

Welcome to the Attitude Era.

Reminiscent of the first RAW back in January 1993, the show kicks off on the streets of New York City. Back then, an edgy New York vibe meant gentile corporate shill Sean Mooney exposing Bobby Heenan’s Les Dawson ‘Cissie and Ada’ tribute act. Times have changed. Here, Mary Whitehouse… sorry, I mean Bob Backlund, is protesting the perceived vulgarity on offer tonight – “There’s decadence going on in there, ladies and gentlemen! There’s sexual activities going on in there! There’s violence! There’s crime! What is this?! What is this television?! Shotgun Saturday Night, who’s that good for?! That’s a disgrace! Shotgun Saturday Night, should be banned! It should be banned! New York City should be banned! Matter of fact, Saturday night should be banned!” If they did ban Saturday night, Gary Lineker would cease to exist as a worthwhile entity, left to float aimlessly through the ethers of time with nothing but a replica FA Cup and a gigantic bag of Walkers crisps.

The Flying Nuns vs. The Godwinns
Quite the auspicious way to kick-start the new show, no? The Nuns are Sister Angelica and Mother Smucker, better known to you and I as Mosh and Thrasher, the Headbangers. The gimmick was all part of an elaborate angle to introduce the ‘Bangers to WWF audiences, but it was dropped after this initial outing, largely owing to how touchy some Christians have a tendency to be about these things. Not that it was any great loss to professional wrestling, mind you.

Instantly the show has the feel of a underground Indy group, albeit one with million dollar production. The small but rowdy crowd are packed onto the nightclub stage, checking out the action in what looks to be about a 14×14 ring, if that, with police tape-yellow ropes, much like those that would adorn NXT rings in years to come. Now, you might be wondering why a show as edgy and as northern as one set in a New York nightclub would book a couple of hillbilly pig farmers as babyfaces here, but Todd Pettengill (yes, he’s still here) rears his ugly mug to accuse them, and by association everyone from Kentucky, as inbred. And as if this show wasn’t already subversive enough, who should show up at ringside but Brother Love, in his first appearance since late 1995. And wouldn’t you just know it? The fans start chanting “ECW! ECW! ECW!” at all of this, which just makes no sense whatsoever.

Vince McMahon (doing commentary with Sunny) calls this match “gruelling”, which it certainly is, though perhaps not quite in the way he meant it. Sister Angelica misses a legdrop off the top and Phineas begins his comeback to a resounding chorus of boos. Ah, New York. The big gag revolves around Phineas refusing to grab the Nuns’ crotches on bodyslam attempts, and then Brother Love smashes him in the face with a Bible, giving Angelica the pin. Post match, Love cuts a promo full of masturbatory references and redubs the Nuns ‘The Sisters of Love’. I can see why the Christians would complain about this. And not for religious reasons, either.
Final Rating: *

 

– Over in the VIP lounge, Backlund rails against Marlena’s tits, while Vince makes sure to stress the fact that Backlund used the word “cleavage.” Edgy!

 

Goldust vs. The Sultan
Neither guy gets an entrance in the traditional sense here, but they do get to stand around while a laser light show breaks out to the pulsating beat of some techno tripe. And after the transsexual tag team in the opening act, Vince now makes sure that everyone remembers Goldust’s coming “in” the closet after Jerry Lawler previously demanded to know if he was a “queer”. Remember when the WWF was a delightfully mom ‘n’ pop, family-friendly pro ‘rasslin promotion full of strongmen and superheroes? Vince wonders aloud if Backlund is a “pervert” and Backlund claims he can’t hear anything because he doesn’t have his glasses on. The Sultan slaps on a chinlock and the crowd decides to amuse itself by chanting for the “bWo”. Oddly enough, they’d get them just a few weeks later. They then decide to prove how “smart” they all are by chanting “Fatu sucks!” and “We want Raven!” The Fatu chants I get, but what does ECW have to do with any of this? The referee takes a steel chair off the Sultan (edgy!) then Marlena jumps up on the ring apron mid-Camel Clutch, and whips out a couple of handfuls. For some reason, that’s enough to give Goldust the win. Not that I’m complaining, but did Lou Thesz ever suffer those sort of consequences? “How did you lose, Lou? DQ? Count-out? Honkers?”
Final Rating: *

 

Ahmed Johnson vs. Crush
As a white supremacist biker throws up his right fist in a salute of black power, I suddenly consider if the WWF could have possibly booked a worse singles match at this point and how I wish Backlund had gotten his way at the start of the show. The tag match earlier in the night may have contained twelve of the longest minutes you’ll ever see, and the previous bout suffered from a despicably long rest hold that killed any flow it may have had, but they were at least competent. This is strictly amateur hour stuff, and to make matters worse, they top it off with a lousy disqualification finish when an unnamed member of the Nation of Domination (who you’d most likely recognise as D’Lo Brown) jumps in for a beat-down of Ahmed. Crush finishes the job with a disturbingly stiff chair shot to the head before Goldust and the Godwinns make the save, which allows Ahmed to stop selling, chase the Nation out of the arena, and give D’Lo a Pearl River Plunge on the hood of a car.
Final Rating: ½*

 

– To the Port Authority bus terminal next, where Jim Cornette collects an already-dressed Mini Vader, fresh from Mexico City and in serious need of a piss. The big gag was supposed to be that the urinals were too high for him with Cornette lifting him by the armpits, but the porcelain was already so low to the floor that the visual didn’t work in the slightest, ruining the joke. The solution? They cut away from the shot just after they’d gone into the bathroom, and just had Vince explain the joke instead!

– And now things take a turn for the worse (that’s right), as Todd Pettengill jumps in the ring to belt out that karaoke classic, ‘The Macarena’, complete with his own set of parody lyrics. ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic he ain’t.

Mascarita Sagrada vs. Mini Vader
Or “Mascarada Sagrita” as Vince calls him. This would be the shortest match of the night (oh, har har) which is a shame, because it’s the one with the most action. For anyone who’s seen more than two matches with the luchador minis, you’ll know that action is mostly made up of dives, huracanranas and head scissor takeovers. One of those takeovers comes from a leap off the top rope, which gets a big reaction from the crowd (who for some reason don’t chant Rey Misterio, Jr.’s name, despite how wacky and “inside” they fancy themselves as tonight), and Mini Vader breaks out a brutal powerbomb just to mix things up. There’s not much story going on though, just a natty exhibition of moves, and then Sagrada finishes it with a missile dropkick off the top.
Final Rating: **

 

Post-match, Cornette challenges Sagrada to a fist fight and berates Mini Vader for being such a “knucklehead”, so Vader and Sagrada trip him up and strip him down to his boxers. That was so corny. In more ways than one.

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mascarita Sagrada. He may have travelled all the way from Mexico, but he was just about the only guy on this show who actually brought his working boots.

Least Entertaining: Amazingly, despite this sub-60 minute show only “boasting” four matches and a crew of guys that included Phineas Godwinn, Ahmed Johnson and Crush, none of that unholy trinity scoop the award! No, the dubious honour instead goes to the Sultan for his interminably tedious chinlock on Goldust. Edgy? That hold wasn’t even edgy in the 70s, never mind the 90s!

 

Quote of the Night: “They’re virginal! Their bodies have never been touched by human hands… other than their own, of course!” – Brother Love on the Flying Nuns.

Match of the Night: Mascarita Sagrada vs. Mini Vader.

Summary: It is terrible. The WWF’s misguided “we just can’t help being a complete cartoon show” version of down n’ dirty, cutting-edge wrestling for the 18-30 crowd of the 90s. But damn, did it ever feel fresh. It was grimey, it was dingy, it was small… and it was so refreshingly different to anything the promotion had done before, or indeed, has done since. Especially when you think about WWE in the John Cena years where every single show looks the same, the same set-up, the same arenas, the same camera angles. Here was something unlike anything else you could find on TV, all wrapped up in an easily digestible hour, no matter how crappy the matches may have been.
Verdict: 24

NXT TakeOver: San Antonio

WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)

Arnold Furious: January 28, 2017. We’re in San Antonio, Texas. Hosts are Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Percy Watson. Corey is making his final Takeover appearance before permanently graduating to the main roster.

 

Tye Dillenger vs. Eric Young
Tye is over huge with the Perfect Ten gimmick and I’m confused as to why he’s gotten no discernable push in NXT whatsoever. As soon as that “TEN” gimmick caught on he should have been pushed hard. With EY, I’m glad he’s been given something to do as all the former TNA boys are struggling to differentiate themselves. With SAnitY there’s at least something different happening. I also approve of Big Damo’s re-branding as Killian Dain. It’s weird that Eric is backed, entirely, by European wrestlers. I’d be fully in favour of Tommy End kicking Young out of his own stable and turning it into a filthy Eurograps ensemble. SAnitY play the numbers game and somehow Young isn’t disqualified for all the heels running into the ring during the match. At least Tye gets the clean win with the Tyebreaker and the visual pinfall, even though SAnitY cheat to keep EY alive. Tye comes across like a genuine star and has the presence of one right up until Young pins him, which is a great move for SAnitY but not for crowd reactions. Personally I think Tye has been treated horribly during his time in NXT. If this is it for him and he’s away to the main roster I wish him all the best.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Speaking of main roster; Samoa Joe is ringside.

 

Andrade Cien Almas vs. Roderick Strong
Roddy is probably too good to be jobbing around in NXT. However he’s so good that he’s one of the guys who can get over someone who’s struggling like Almas. For what he lacks in adapting to American wrestling Almas certainly has the personality to succeed as a heel. It’s almost ridiculous that they tried him as a face first. Presumably because he’s so devastatingly handsome. They tell a tidy story with Strong going after backbreakers and Almas using innovative lucha counters to avoid more of them. Almas really ups his game here, backed into a corner by Roddy’s violence. I love a hard-hitting match and this is that in spades. Roddy survives being kneed in the face and hits the Sick Kick for the win.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

NXT Tag Team Championship
#DIY (c) vs. The Authors of Pain
This is a major challenge for Gargano and Ciampa. Authors of Pain have looked good in short matches but have yet to be tested in a major match. The champs tell an intriguing story where they try different tactics to take over the match. Whether it’s technical wrestling, countering, quick tags or hitting and moving. It’s really well done as they try such a range of tactics but nothing works. The match slows down with AoP actually take over on offence but because it’s a long match they’re not their usual aggressive selves. Everything has to slow down and it removes a lot of what makes AoP fun to watch. Ciampa gets all fired up with German suplexes and that shows a crack in AoP’s gruff exterior. If you’re running the ‘Road Warriors’ gimmick you can’t show much ass but this is enough, to show they’re human. It opens the window of possibility. The biggest shock is that this is a great match. It relies heavily on #DIY and their workrate and creativity but AoP are no slouches. They do fine work in running their big spots and having the champs make desperation escapes. The double submission spot is a nice call back to Toronto and #DIY’s title win. This time it doesn’t get the job done. AoP power out, avoid the double strike and bully Ciampa into the pin. This was shockingly high-quality and it’s Authors of Pain first truly great match. I’ll need to see them wrestle other teams at this level to be convinced they belong here but it takes two (or four) to tango.
Final Rating: ****

 

Promo Time: Seth Rollins
“Show’s called Takeover right? Well I’m taking over”. He gets a huge pop for coming out of the crowd, grabbing the microphone and calling Triple H out. It was only a matter of time before main roster feuds crept into NXT and I like how this was presented. The crowd do too, which is a good sign. Wouldn’t it be weird if Hunter forced Seth to wrestle in NXT for a while?

 

NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) vs. Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce vs. Billie Kay
The money match here is Asuka vs. Nikki but putting the two Australians in here allows us to tease that match without delivering it. Nikki Cross looks totally nuts. I love her character. She’s easily the best character in SAnitY. The two Aussies help each other out but even that’s no use against the skills of Asuka. It’s Nikki who takes it to Asuka and their sequences are a delight. Cross even lays Asuka out with a neckbreaker off the apron. The Aussies remove Nikki from the match though, ending the best part of it, with a suplex off the announce table. This allows them to double team Asuka. The Aussies don’t take advantage and Asuka kicks them both in the head to retain. Peyton eats the fall but it could have been either. I thought Peyton looked the better of the two Australians in personality terms and for work.
Final Rating: ***

 

Video Control takes us ringside where UK Champion Tyler Bate is seated. That’s not the money shot though as behind him is Matt Riddle, wearing a Progress scarf, giving the thumbs up, bro.

 

NXT Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Bobby Roode
Roode is over on entrance and music alone. Tonight he’s not accompanied by a choir but he does have eight valets. Eight! Nakamura is relatively low key by comparison. My expectation levels are quite low for this because Nakamura has been coasting a little in NXT and Roode doesn’t do much for me. We were debating Roode in the office and the general feeling is that he’s a vessel, largely empty coming into WWE, and has allowed himself to be filled with WWE ideas. There’s no baggage here, which is why he’s been so successful. I don’t buy into Roode besting Nakamura in a straight up fight so they wisely create injury angles to sell the match up. Nakamura does good work in selling the shoulder but it doesn’t really impact the match. The match picks up when Nakamura stomps the piss out of Bobby and catches him with a flying armbar. This is the match I wanted to see. Roode running largely generic heat wasn’t. Nakamura injures his own knee doing a flying knee on the apron and that changes the match. Nakamura generally doesn’t sell his knee, even if it’s been worked over, so this is a change of gears for him. It’s interesting that it happens on an offensive move and looks like a fluke. The match from then is totally different with Roode destroying the knee in brutal fashion. It helps massively that Nakamura sells everything and even looks like tapping out. Roode can’t get a submission but the Glorious DDT finishes and Bobby takes the title.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Summary: A rock solid outing from NXT. I probably went into this Takeover at my least hyped for a major NXT show but it did deliver. Especially in the tag title match, which blew my expectations out of the water. I should probably never forget that whoever is competing on NXT is young (mostly) and hungry and want the exposure. That’s as true here as on any other show they’ve put out.
Verdict: 92

Extreme Rules 2017


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Arnold Furious: June 4 2017. We’re in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T. This is a solid announce team.

 

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz
The stipulation here is that if Dean is disqualified he loses the title. That’s not particularly ‘extreme’ is it? The Miz had a great run with the IC title on SmackDown. Ambrose’s run has been significantly less memorable. Despite this he is the longest current reigning champion in WWE. That’s more of a reflection of WWE booking than Ambrose’s title run. Miz’s tactic is to provoke Ambrose into getting disqualified. It gets in the man’s head because he has to think about what he’s doing. Ambrose’s strengths, as a character, is that he doesn’t think he just ‘does’ stuff. The stipulation neuters him. It’s fine work from Miz, routinely outsmarting Dean. Miz runs a lot of heat during the match, which would be fine if the crowd were biting on it more. However Baltimore wants more action and the reactions are only there when they speed things up. After that they switch to a leg match, with Miz focusing on Dean’s left pin. Miz continues to cheekily steal Daniel Bryan’s spots, even though they’re now on separate brands (corner dropkicks, Busaiku Knee, Yes kicks). Maryse slaps Miz in an attempt to force a DQ but the ref instead ejects Maryse. It’s a clever spot and if the referee followed logic it is an actual DQ. Ambrose gets thrown into the ref moments later teasing another DQ but it’s merely a chance for Miz to blindside Dean with the Skull Crushing Finale and that finishes. They did a lot of clever stuff here. Miz’s various attempts to get Dean disqualified were entertaining but also he had an underlying run of stuff designed to weaken Ambrose for a finish other than the unsatisfying DQ. It was a very long match but ultimately it arrived at a satisfying conclusion.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Tangent: Miz now has seven IC titles, the second largest number in WWE history, behind Chris Jericho, moving clear of Rob Van Dam and Jeff Jarrett. If he holds the title for two months he’ll move into the top ten of all time for combined days.

 

Video Control takes us backstage where Bayley is interviewed and Baltimore gives her heat. In Baltimore’s defence it’s a poor promo. Bayley loves wrestling but her delivery on promos is still shaky. You’d think they’d have worked past that in NXT but since Dusty Rhodes died the weaknesses in promos have not been addressed in developmental. They need a promos guy in there ASAP. Personally I’d go with Jake Roberts.

[continued on next page]

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.

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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