Shotgun Saturday Night (01/11/97)

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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

In Your House 7: Good Friends… Better Enemies

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Arnold Furious: This show was released as Mega Matches ‘96 in the United States, and is one of the rarest Coliseum releases there is. In the UK release and on PPV at the time, this was In Your House: Good Friends… Better Enemies! Now that’s what we needed; a PPV with punctuation in the title! It was an attempt to spice up the In Your House brand, which had delivered low, low buy rates, and showcase an enormous PPV main event. Previous IYH’s had subtitles, but this was the first one where the subtitle was how the show was described. Diesel is all pissed off because he can’t get his title back and now finds his buddy Shawn as the champ. He turned on Shawn and kicked his ass, then provoked him into a No Holds Barred match one PPV after Shawn’s title win in an Ironman match. Of course, Shawn should have nothing to worry about because Diesel is off to WCW, but hey, hindsight is 20-20. We’re in Omaha, Nebraska. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

In Your House 6: Rage In The Cage

 

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Arnold Furious: Seeing as the WWF had gained a busier PPV schedule, this In Your House PPV event would be the first “Road to WrestleMania” style show (though it is rather uncunningly released post-‘Mania by Coliseum). Shawn, having won the Rumble, now faces a challenge from the man who put him on the shelf: Owen Hart. He still doesn’t know his WrestleMania opponent as Bret Hart defends tonight against Diesel. An added twist is that it’s a cage match to stop potential Undertaker interference. This would becomes important later in the evening. The rest of the card? Razor and 1-2-3 Kid finally get it on in a “crybaby” match. Also, Yokozuna has turned face and now opposes Camp Cornette. The WWF has so little else going on that the other live match is HHH vs. Droese in a re-match of the dreadful Free for All bout at the Rumble. And the WWF’s hottest property Vader? He’s suspended for crushing WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. Roddy Piper has taken over the position until Monsoon is fit again. So no Vader match tonight. Boo! Jim Cornette does show up with Vader on the Free for All to promise Vader’s involvement this evening though. We’re in Louisville, Kentucky. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

 

WrestleMania XII

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Arnold Furious:

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
The Bodydonnas vs. The Godwinns
This is from the pre-show Free For All. Sunny reminds us she was a 2-time winner at the Slammy’s last night. Her voice grates a touch. The Smoking Gunns had established themselves as the company’s top tag team, only for Billy Gunn to suffer an unfortunate neck injury and the belts were vacated a month ago. Now Sunny is out to prove her managerial skills by winning her first tag titles. The Godwinns have “critters” with them. Goats, specifically. The storyline in this one is classic speed vs. power. Henry can tell that story in his sleep. Likewise both Skip and Zip. As long as Phineas doesn’t get much ring time it’ll be ok. Of course, he has a good character where he gets his dander up if suitably provoked. Only Henry can calm him down when he goes off on one of these rampages. The ‘Donnas bail and then play the numbers game thanks to Sunny’s ability to distract. And how! The crazy thing is that both teams are good but just aren’t over, so this era is remembered as a nadir for tag wrestling, but it had simply become out of date. I think the ridiculous nature of both gimmicks didn’t help at a time when fans were turning off the more cartoonish characters. They goof a few times on counters, but Sunny remains the secret weapon as she reveals her undies, in the New Generation heel version of Elizabeth at SummerSlam ’88. Phineas’ mind is suitably blown, as the ladies from his part of the world don’t have butts like that, and he’s rolled up. The Bodydonnas win the tag titles and Sunny gets her first taste of gold. Oddly enough, winning the tag titles was the beginning of the end for Candido. The storylines presented Sunny as more and more whore-like and drove a wedge into their own relationship. He’d end up leaving in the middle of the year while Sunny remained a WWF Superstar. An early diva template and the most prominent female in the company, until Sable arrived. Which, incidentally, is tonight.
Final Rating: **

 

Royal Rumble ’96

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Arnold Furious: This show has a special spot in my heart. It was the first WWF PPV that I saw live. Living in England meant having to pay for almost everything wrestling related. Before obtaining Sky TV I used to watch PPVs that my friends had taped and I used to watch WCW Worldwide for my wrestling fix. But in 1995 I bit the bullet and bought Sky for myself. It was too late to watch Survivor Series, although I caught a repeat, but the Rumble was there to be watched, which is why the Rumble has always been a special match for me. It also explains why I was a big Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels fan. I loved them both anyway but when I started into the PPV world I could see just what made them so special… live, and that added an aura of unpredictability. Given my inexperience with big wrestling events, I went into the 1996 Royal Rumble not knowing what to expect. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious Shawn is going to win. All the hype surrounds him. All the long-term planning is blatantly aimed at getting Shawn over. Hell, he comes out for an in-ring interview before the event, where he renamed his fanbase “The Kliq”. Hindsight is 20-20.

 

We’re in Fresno, California. Sadly the tape contains the Free For All in full. Only two good things about that: 1. Jim Cornette hyping Vader in the Rumble. 2. A Jake friggin’ Roberts promo! Unfortunately Jake’s 1996 comeback tour was lame. Mainly because he was clean, but also because he was in horrible shape. At least it stopped jobbers using the DDT as a transitional move for a while. Every cloud has a silver lining. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect.

 

Survivor Series ’95

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Arnold Furious: This kicks off a run of shows that I really like. The booking was getting more intelligent, moving forward from show to show and giving people genuine reasons to care about the talent. Coherent booking (or writing, whatever you want to call it) is key to enjoying the WWF’s product. Not every company has problems with incoherent booking as they can generally cover for uneven angles with great matches. Although it’d be fair to say that, in general, the best matches are combined with a good storyline. This PPV is littered with sprouts of recovery. It’s the hope that makes the difference. By this point the WWF was becoming aware of how badly it’d been sucking. It’d take time to adapt to the modern audience and transition into the Attitude era but at least they can’t re-do King of the Ring ’95. That monstrosity is in the books.

We’re in Landover, Maryland. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and a returning Mr. Perfect. He’s been out of the WWF, and wrestling in general, since mid ’94 with his back injury. Hennig won’t compete during this WWF run, but he would become a handy extra member of the commentary team, thus denying Dok Hendrix the opportunity to ruin any more PPV’s.

 

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.

SummerSlam ’95

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the hottest show of the summer. I think the WWF realised the card for this one might suck and switched out Shawn-Sid for Shawn-Razor in a ladder rematch late in the game, just to give the workrate fans and the spot fans something to get excited about. The rest of the card leaves a lot to be desired. Mabel takes his shot at WWF champion Diesel in the main event. Vince McMahon was considering switching the title here too until the Kliq got their way. I assume the discussion went like this:

Mabel wins WWF title.

???

Profit!

Even the sure-fire, go-to stars were lumbered with horrible matches. Bret is stuck with Isaac Yankem, the wrestling dentist, which is Kane pre-mask and pre-talent. Alundra Blayze’s run of exciting matches against Bull Nakano ends with new challenger Bertha Faye. Vince can at least get his “fatty” jollies from booking the women’s title on a plump lump. Taker wrestles Kama… again. In a casket match… again. The matches I’m most looking forward to are Triple H’s debut against Bob Holly and Skip vs. Barry Horowitz, as that had the best storyline attached to it. Sad state of affairs, really. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. Dean Douglas will be providing analysis. That’s Shane Douglas, wasted in his home town, with a professor (or something) gimmick.