Shotgun Saturday Night (02/01/97)

Lee Maughan: “Back to where it all began!” barks Vince McMahon, as if the previous four weeks have been some sort of epic journey. Out in the streets, Paul Bearer and Vader are looking through the trash for Mankind, who almost gets himself run over in the streets amidst his excitement for nightclub sex.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Vader
Vader actually ended Ahmed’s undefeated streak last summer if you’ll recall. Naturally, that isn’t referenced here, which is a shame because it might add some colour to an otherwise bland, pointless affair. It’s not bad, it’s just not particularly interesting. Typical WWF big man stuff with punches, clotheslines, shoulderblocks, you know the drill. Ahmed gets a mighty spinebuster that sends Vader packing, but back from the commercial break we find Vader in control (what a surprise) with elbows and punches. Vader charges with an avalanche in the corner but hesitates on the Vaderbomb, allowing Ahmed to punt him in the gooch and land a spinning heel kick. He goes for the Pearl River Plunge but Mankind jumps in with a steel chair for the disqualification (hell, what would Shotgun be without a DQ to really get the party rocking?) Mankind and Vader tease accidentally nailing each other with the chair a couple of times (Mankind had belted Vader with a chair by accident on RAW this past week) before Ahmed takes it and runs both guys off. Average power stuff with no real point to it.
Final Rating: **

– Back in the green room, the Headbangers are busy pouring hot wax all over themselves because “this club sucks!”

Mankind vs. The British Bulldog
“Oh, what a body!” Sunny declares of Davey Boy. A pure coincidence then that Shawn Michaels has been removed from the source tape’s opening credits this week, yes? Davey is playing a total babyface here as part of his ongoing angle with Owen Hart that was to see the duo split before Bret Hart’s heel turn caused a cataclysmic shift in the WWF’s overall direction, resulting in the formation of his new Hart Foundation stable. Mankind is still at ringside after the previous match and isn’t actually prepared to wrestle, nominating Aldo Montoya as a substitute for him since he’s just here to party. You can tell that from his clobber, bedecked as he is in a raggedy old coat, sweatpants and white sneakers. Oh, Mick.

Bulldog starts tearing those party clothes to shreds and kicks Mankind’s ass for a while, with Mankind vainly attempting to return to the broadcast booth the whole time in a funny bit.  Bulldog follows him out and backdrops him up on the stage, drawing an “ECW!” chant from the crowd. Hey, at least it’s not “bWo!” again. Mankind takes a nasty leg-first spill on the stage so Bulldog goes after it. Mankind fights back and Davey really gets into the swing of things, over-selling a charging knee to the face much to my eternal delight. Mankind drops a leg across the back of Davey’s head as Vader returns just in time for another commercial break.

Action resumes with Bulldog countering a piledriver into a backdrop up on the stage for another round of “ECW!” chants, but Mankind uses Davey Boy’s tights for leverage to pull him into the path of Vader, who drops him across the security railing a couple of times before sending him back inside, where Mankind picks up an easy pin. Vader and Mankind then double-team Davey after the match, setting up their WrestleMania 13 crack at Davey and Owen’s tag titles, before Ahmed Johnson rushes the ring with a 2×4. Where the hell did he find that in a nightclub? Davey, not quite a babyface yet despite fist bumping a bunch of dudes in the front row during his entrance, takes umbrage at the presence of Ahmed, and the two get into a shoving match to set up a match that never happens. This was fun while it lasted though, and an interesting clash of styles that really mixed well to boot.
Final Rating: **½

Savio Vega vs. Jesse Jammes
Phineas Godwinn joins the broadcast team for this one, mainly just so he and Sunny can banter back-and-forth. I know Dennis Knight comes in for some serious stick from the scribes here at History of Wrestling, but credit where it’s due – he is perfectly acceptable as the dopey bumpkin here. Savio breaks out a few more interesting moves here than he did last week, like a crescent kick and a spinning heel kick, but he’s still finding his feet as a heel and has a seeming over reliance on nerve pinches, chinlocks and chokes. Jammes does what he can to make it interesting, using a jaw buster that he actually sells himself, and rallying with mounted punches, clotheslines and a back drop. Savio manages to counter a pump handle slam attempt with a hiptoss, and finishes with another spinning heel kick. Jesse showed a lot of fire when he was on offence and Savio tried really hard to get his new heel persona across, but the majority of his offensive arsenal was a one-way ticket to snoozeville.
Final Rating:

– Pettengill tries to get another interview with the Headbangers back in the green room, but Mosh gets sick and vomits all over Thrasher’s face… before the ‘Bangers wipe the puke up and eat it all. The WWF, ladies and germs. Lowbrow comedy at its low-browiest.

The Headbangers vs. The Godwinns
Yes, we’ve actually come full circle. And what a second half-hour this has been, huh? The crowd are now dead for this, but then if you will insist on booking pig farmers as babyfaces in New York nightclubs, you deserve everything you get. The Godwinns decide to work the arm as Vince decides to amuse himself by claiming Hillbilly Jim has gone duck hunting in Central Park. Back from commercial and nothing much is going on in the ring, though Vince does seem to get a zinger in on Sunny – “Well it is the flu season… and you should know!” Is that a reference to the fact she was knocking off Shawn Michaels, who had worked the Royal Rumble show despite being sick as a dog? Henry gets a supposed hot tag but nobody reacts to it, then all four guys spill to the floor and brawl into the crowd as the bell rings for a double DQ or a double count-out or a double something. It’s never adequately explained what the actual finish is, as the show goes immediately off the air, but I guess that’s better than just saying you’re out of time and promising to air the finish next week despite having no intention of ever doing so.
Final Rating:

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mankind scoops the award for the second week running as his humour really shone through in his opening skit, his comedy and his match with Davey Boy Smith.

 

Least Entertaining: Savio Vega becomes another two-time award winner here, and on a 60-minute show with the Godwinns too! Shameful.

Quote of the Night: “I like how this headphone feels against my missing ear!” – Mankind joins Vince and Sunny for commentary during “The Man I Call My Friend” Vader’s match.

Match of the Night: Mankind also takes another consecutive award here for his match with Davey Boy Smith.

Summary: Remember when Ahmed Johnson powerbombed D’Lo Brown on the hood of a car? Remember when Marlena got her norks out and gave the Sultan a thrill? Remember when Terry Funk went on a profanity-laced tirade at the expense of WCW and everyone in sight? In less than a month’s time we’ve gone from that to lengthy, heatless matches with ring wizards like Savio Vega and the Godwinns, and the disturbing sight of the Headbangers blowing chunks into each other’s mouths. True enough, Davey Boy was working hard and Mankind provided some wacky fun, but this show has already jumped the shark. Hell, Todd Pettengill doesn’t even look like he’s having much fun out there any more, and Vince McMahon has clearly given up, having already dumped his casual WWF letterman jacket in favour of a much more conservative formal suit. The end is nigh.
Verdict: 21

In Your House 8: Beware Of Dog

 

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Arnold Furious: Originally this In Your House pay-per-view (given the terrible subtitle “Beware of Dog”) was a bit of a disaster. Whilst airing live in Florence, South Carolina, a massive storm wiped out the arena’s power and subsequently, the broadcast, leaving viewers at home with just the opening match and the main event. Looking to repay Beware of Dog buyers for their patience, the WWF kindly ran all the missing matches the following Tuesday at a television taping in Charleston, broadcasting them live during the replay. This tape has the two matches from the original broadcast (along with a UK exclusive dark match) and the rest of the card from the replay. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings

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Arnold Furious:

 

Sid & 1-2-3 Kid vs. Razor Ramon & Marty Jannetty
Survivor Series caused a rift between former tag partners Kid and Jannetty. The Kid had joined the Million Dollar Corporation but pissed Jannetty off when Sid helped him win the opening Survivor match. Ramon is still the IC champion and Goldust is just starting to get enamoured with him, thus leading to their IC title angle. Jannetty and Kid have decent chemistry and run some fun sequences. There’s no heat on it though, because the fans are eager to see Razor put a beating on the Kid. The Kid can’t get anything without help from Sid, which sums up their angle. The WWF went a bit far with it all and it damaged the Kid’s reputation, where he was totally humiliated every time out, to the point where he got legitimately depressed. The fans are strangely heel, which shows you how outdated the WWF was at the time. They chant loudly for “Sid” and one ringside fan has a sign marked “Marty must die”. The WWF get a bit bored and cut to Goldust for a promo where he wigs everyone out with his admiration of Razor Ramon. Vince doesn’t get it but it’s a killer promo. McMahon also turns on his own wrestlers by calling a slam from the Kid “sloppy”. It was, but it’s very strange hearing Vince actually say so. Kid started getting a bit loose going into 1996, which would lead to a de-push and his eventual move to WCW. Most people seem to put it down to drugs, but Kid isn’t the same talent from this point onwards. Hot tag to Razor and he cleans house. Bulldog finishes Sid off and the faces go over. Sid would promptly get fired/injured (depending on who you believe) and wouldn’t return until the summer. The match was decent to begin with but the Kid started making mistakes and Sid was incredibly lazy at the time. The WWF wasn’t keen on either of them, hence the job in a curtain jerker.
Final Rating: **¼

In Your House 4: Great White North

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Arnold Furious:

Fatu vs. Hunter Heart Helmsley
Fatu is rocking his colourful gang attire because he’s “Make A Difference” Fatu. Watching HHH from 1995 makes it hard to even relate him to the DX era Triple H. Both guys are around the same level and traded wins in late ’95. Triple H bumps around, selling like a drunk nobleman. The idea behind all of Triple H’s early feuds is they were against common men. Triple H hits a piledriver, which makes no sense to me because his finish has the same setup. So why not do it? He also hits it really soft, to the point where Vince says he got “most” of it. Triple H was originally an old fashioned grappler. He believed in absorbing lengthy chunks of the match with his own heat and following the formula. Fatu can take a few tasty bumps so the match isn’t completely dull. The crowd already hate Helmsley because of his snobbish attitude. Fatu backdrops out of the Pedigree and no-sells a DDT. The Samoan hard head thing is too unevenly booked for my liking. Why no sell a DDT but sell a piledriver? Especially when Fatu no sold the better applied hold. Fatu finds a Diamond Cutter (!) from somewhere but then misses off the top and walks into the Pedigree. A passable outing from both guys. The effort was there but Triple H still didn’t have his structuring down. So he’s really rough around the edges. Hanging around with Shawn Michaels improved him drastically. Henry Godwinn shows up afterwards to threaten a slopping and naturally Triple H sells his presence like the Grim Reaper.
Final Rating: **¼

In Your House 3: Triple Header

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Arnold Furious: As 1995 started to wind up, you could see where the WWF experiment was going. Vince had spent all year injecting new blood. The dark matches for this show included bouts for Triple H, Ahmed Johnson and Goldust. Not all the new blood were talented, but the WWF were at least coming up with ideas and switching things around. Shawn Michaels was undoubtedly part of the driving force behind some major changes. That included a big push for himself, as the showstealer, and he was edging his way into the main events. The only problem being his buddy Diesel; the WWF champion. With this IYH it was decided that gimmicks were required to market and sell the show. The gimmick here sees a main event with all the titles on the line, with Diesel & Michaels defending both of their singles honours against the tag champs; Yokozuna & Owen Hart. But Owen is injured so cue shenanigans. We’re in Saginaw, Michigan. The crowd for this event was barely over 5,000 strong, which even for the WWF at a low ebb, is pretty poor (although this is a smaller venue, it’s not full). Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, with the Oklahoman joining the announce team officially after bumming around doing interview jobs and such. I suspect this comes about based on Vince’s lack of knowledge when it comes to PBP and he’d certainly be better off just handing over to JR right here and now. I guess Vince figures he’s a better shill man. Everyone predicts Shawn Michaels will lose his IC title so that’s not happening.

 

Tangent: The In Your House music, done all country style at IYH2, is re-done as a bluesy number here, which immediately reminds me of The Wire where they’d re-jig the theme music each series. Same song, different approach. It’s actually fairly ahead of its time and I like it. Plus it’s not country music now, which is always a bonus.

Royal Rumble ’95

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Tampa, Florida. The WWF was struggling in 1995. No one had kicked the company up the ass yet and the only major change the company faced was its title situation. Shawn Michaels’ Kliq was beginning to dominate. Diesel had the world title and Shawn was in line for the Rumble victory, but it was a company lacking in big star names. Vince McMahon opted to build his own. The title match sees Bret Hart challenging Diesel. Bret never really lost the WWF title, thanks to his brother Owen, and Diesel beat Backlund before Hitman could get a re-match. The pre-show is hosted by Todd Pettengill and Stephanie Wiand, who are both truly awful at their jobs. A highlight of the pre-show is Man Mountain Rock. I love that guy! We also have a slew of pre-WrestleMania celebrities. Lawrence Taylor is at ringside and Pamela Anderson is one of the guest celebrity stars. Pammy was a big selling point by the time WrestleMania rolled around, as she married Tommy Lee in between and became a major star for a while. Of course she was already a Baywatch babe, but as anyone knows; if you pair up two big celebrities they become even more famous. Coliseum Video shows her arriving at the arena, greeted by the entire locker room, complete with porn star music. Hosts for the main show are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

SummerSlam ’92

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Arnold Furious: The WWF had all manner of booking conundrums in 1992. The steroid allegations had forced Hulk Hogan to take a leave of absence, one that seemed necessary to protect his babyface status as well. Crowds were finally starting to turn on the image of Hulkamania, one perhaps suited to the 80s more so than the cynical 90s. The WWF’s original plan was to simply replace Hogan with Sid Justice. They were both big, blonde muscular guys who could connect with the crowd. No worries. Just swap one for the other. But Sid failed a drugs test and that was the last thing the WWF needed with the federal government breathing down their neck. Sid ended up quitting rather than taking his suspension and the WWF found themselves with a main event void, a Hogan-sized hole that was damn near impossible to fill. They resorted to bringing back The Ultimate Warrior. In desperate times, men do desperate things. In the interim they decided Randy Savage, a former champion and one of the few babyface main eventers the company had left, would be champion. So he took the belt off Flair and the WWF pondered their next move. The one they went for was somewhat radical. They’d turn Warrior heel, align him with Ric Flair and start throwing babyface challengers at him, reversing their standard “superman face champion” routine, quite possibly until the actual return of Hulk Hogan. A genuine saviour who could bring the WWF back to the promised land and a third bout of Hulkamania. Of course we’ll never know how any of this would have been greeted by the fans. Warrior decided he didn’t want to turn heel, after this show was already booked, and the bookers opted instead to turn the setup into a big Flair scheme. Sometimes booking on the fly creates a more interesting picture. This way Flair’s faked support for one of Savage or Warrior turned into his own campaign to reclaim the title, which is exactly what happened. Savage’s injuries during SummerSlam resulted in him losing the belt to Flair shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, because of Warrior’s impending, but not really, turn, they had to book an alternative main event for SummerSlam too. At the time a heel simply didn’t go over in a main event. Send them home happy remained the mantra. As luck would have it, SummerSlam was in England at Wembley Stadium. So the incredibly popular British Bulldog got picked to go on last. His popularity was such that the WWF felt the need to put his matches last on almost every British tour and felt he could hold up his end in a main event. Bret Hart, on the grounds that he was IC champion, happened to slot into the main event. The plan was never to put the WWF title on Bret, as far as I can tell, but rather seek other options. However his performance against Bulldog was so spectacular, so earth-shatteringly awesome, that he forced his way into contention and was WWF champion before their next PPV, Survivor Series. 1992 was a time of great change, but it’s Bret’s performance on this show that effects the greatest change in the WWF’s policy. With the steroid monsters unable to compete in Vince’s perfect world, he has to rely on the workhorses. This show proved he could. We’re in London, UK at the historic Wembley Stadium, so this is the first WWF PPV to take place outside of North America. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan.

Battle Royal At The Albert Hall

James Dixon: This is another tape release that has its ordering screwed up by the strange UK catalogue system. It is a UK exclusive show from the historical Albert Hall on October 3rd 1991. Wrestling (and boxing) were both banned from the venue for a number of years until it was once again permitted in 2012. It is certainly an historical venue with a very distinctive and unique look. It almost seems wrong to have the WWF running a show there, and the opera boxes in the background amplify that somewhat.

 

The Nasty Boys vs. The Rockers
Imagine a night out on the town with these guys! The Rockers were coming towards the end of their run as a team, with Shawn in line for a big singles push. The Nasty’s were former WWF tag team champions, having lost the belts to LOD not long before the show. They act like they are working the holiday camps, as they do the old “boo/yeah” spot to start with, seeking fan approval. The crowd is rabid though and bites for it. You can feel the excitement in the air at having the WWF in the country, when it used to still be a novelty. The Rockers start things quickly as ever, and they send the Nasties reeling twice with their speed. The Nasty Boys threaten to leave and argue with the crowd, and this has very much been played for and aimed at the live audience. They are stalling and using cheap tactics to provoke a reaction, because that is all they need to do. Jannetty outwrestles Knobbs, so Sags tries his luck and fares little better. The Rockers have dominated completely here, with the Nasty Boys barely getting an offensive move so far. Jannetty takes Sags down with an armdrag before locking on an arm stretch. Michaels comes in and does the same thing without making the tag. In a first, the ref questions the lack of tag and asks the crowd if they really made one, to which they reply in the affirmative. The ref believes them! Those lying British swines! They do a really convoluted spot next where Shawn runs the ropes only for Knobbs to pull them down and send Shawn tumbling to the outside. The problem is, Knobbs pulled them down WAY too early and clearly in Shawn’s line of sight, yet he carried on running and fell out anyway. The Nasty Boys control Shawn following that, and Sags slows it down by putting on a bearhug. Michaels fights out but gets quickly cut off. Knobbs comes in and drops an elbow across the back and puts on a chinlock, but Shawn stands up in it and falls backwards to escape. He makes the tag, but the referee is distracted by Sags so it doesn’t count. Michaels manages the tag soon after anyway, and Jannetty comes in and takes on both Nasties on his own. Sags accidentally elbow drops Knobbs and then everyone is in there. The Nasties are whipped into each other, and that is enough for the win… Only it isn’t, because they make a real hash of the finish. The ref counted and the crowd cheered, but it wasn’t the fall. Clearly someone was out of position somewhere. The Rockers quickly improvise and go for the cover again, and this time Jimmy Hart gets involved, allowing Sags to drop a megaphone shot onto Jannetty’s head for the win. Shame about the finish, because the match was energetic. They took as many shortcuts as possible because the crowd ate it up, but it was entertaining regardless.
Final Rating: **¼

UK Rampage ’91

James Dixon: This was a UK only show from the London Docklands Arena and it was televised live in the country on Sky Movies +. Roddy Piper and Vince McMahon are your hosts. Even though it took place prior to all the UK releases before it, the catalogue system is all over the place and it is out of sequence.

 

The Warlord vs. Jim Neidhart
We start off embarrassingly, with Mel Phillips announcing Jim Neidhart as the Warlord comes down to the ring. He even notices him coming, stops halfway through the announcement, but then clearly just thinks: “screw it, we are only in the UK” and carries on! Bush league. This is also available on the World Tour ‘91 tape, and I have reviewed it there also. It’s the battle of two big bulky guys. Neidhart was capable of decent matches, but only against opponents that could carry him. Warlord has never had a good singles match in his life. They have a power battle to start, and Anvil controls with a headlock. Tackles move no-one a few times, until a flying one sends Warlord through the ropes and to the outside. “Warlord does scratch a lot” says Piper insightfully. That gives you an indication of the quality of the match. Outside the ring, and Warlord throws Neidhart into the steps and follows it up with a bearhug. Jesus, Warlord was so one-dimensional. Generally the rule is: if a wrestler applies a bearhug, he is the shits. This has been so slow and boring, it doesn’t even really matter what they do next, they can’t save this now. Anvil escapes and hits a clothesline for two. Ten punch in the corner and a double axe off the middle get another two. Anvil goes for a splash, but Warlord gets his knees up. A sneaky O’Conner roll wins it for Anvil out of no-where. Nearly 15-minutes is an absolutely crazy amount of time to give a match featuring two such limited guys. This was all rest-holds and not a great deal else.
Final Rating: DUD