Shotgun Saturday Night (01/04/97)

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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

Quick Cuts: Monday Night Raw (05/29/17)

This week’s episode of Raw was a mixed bag, with two strong television matches counterbalanced by one of the worst segments of the year.

After the obligatory show-opening talking segment to set up a throwaway, feud-combining multi-man (in this case Miz-Ambrose and Hardys-Sheamus & Cesaro), we were given the first chapter in an unfolding mystery. Announcer Corey Graves sh*t-stirred with GM Kurt Angle by showing him a text message which called the Olympic Hero, “A disgrace and embarrassment to the WWE and besmirched (WWE love that word) his reputation as a gold medalist.” The full contents of the message were not revealed, however, though evidently there was more to it as Angle said that if true it could ruin him. It’s been a while since WWE did a good old episodic whodunit, and having an intriguing thread running through a few weeks of television should lead to at least a degree of spirited online speculation as to where the angle is going next. Chances are it could result in a return to the ring for Angle, though one expects WWE might prefer to save that for WrestleMania, unless those low recent ratings really are starting to concern them.

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Elias Samson took us back in time to 1995 with both his pre-match concert (stirring up memories of Man Mountain Rock, albeit without the amazing logo guitar that MMR used to have) and his quick destruction of jobber Zac Evans. One can only assume that Samson is being built for an eventual WrestleMania showdown with SmackDown Live’s own musical maestro Aiden English… Perhaps not.

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One of two excellent matches on the show took place next as Samoa Joe defeated Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor in an excellent three-way match, designed to build up to the Universal Title number one contenders match at Extreme Rules. If you apply WWE’s formulaic booking logic then Joe’s win removes any chance of him winning on Sunday’s pay-per-view. The match was very good, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would have been stronger had Wyatt pulled up his rocking chair at ringside and observed rather than competed. As decent as he is in the ring, he simply cannot hold a candle to Joe and Balor.

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On Sunday, WWE will presents a mixed tag match featuring the odd pairing of Sasha Banks and Rich Swann (who appear to have been thrown together because they both enjoy a spot of dancing) against Noam Dar and his main squeeze Alicia Fooooooox. The prospect of this bout is sure to cause headaches for WWE’s ring crew when they try to work out what colour ropes to put around the ring. With the cruiserweights competing convention dictates they be purple, but the women’s involvement throws a spanner in those works. Maybe they will go half and half. To set up the match Swann defeated Dar, practically ensuring that Dar and Fox will emerge victorious at the weekend.

In a brief segment, The Revival denied all knowledge of having attacked the glass-jawed Enzo Amore last week, even after being presented with footage showing them hastily departing the scene of the crime. For the second time in the night Corey Graves stuck his nose in, implying that Enzo’s partner Big Cass had done the deed, an opinion he quickly backed down from when Cass came out to confront him. Later in the night, Enzo was attacked again. The plot thickens! This, and the Angle mystery, both signify a small change in ethos from WWE’s usually-prosaic writers. For years every “angle” on Raw has been drab and uninspired, usually seeing two parties fighting for the sake of it, with no semblance of storyline progression to further the issue. This is a much-needed step in the right direction; long may it continue. My front-runners for who committed the attack are the Hardy Boyz, Corey Graves himself, and The Fashion Police (teaching Enzo a lesson for his terrible fashion sense). This being WWE, it will be who we all thought it was in the first place: The Revival.

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After a worthless Titus O’Neil squash win over the unbearable Kalisto, we were given a segment which smacked of desperation from WWE: Alexa Bliss presenting This Is Your Life – Bayley. As everyone knows, WWE champions a This Is Your Life segment with The Rock and Mick Foley in 1999 as its highest rated segment on Raw ever (it wasn’t, the highest was a WWF Title match between The Undertaker and Steve Austin), and with ratings down this seemed like a futile attempt to recapture that elusive lighting in a bottle. Unfortunately, the skit failed on every level. Bliss is usually one of the star performers on the show but the material she was given to work with here was WWE’s badly-scripted verbiage at its unflattering worst. Bliss struggled through the lame attempts at comedy as she mocked Bayley for among other things still playing with dolls and for winning a trophy for “sportsmanship”, all of which felt forced and fell incredibly flat. The introduction of characters purportedly from Bayley’s past dragged things down further. The acting from the presumably trained professionals was some of the worst ever seen on WWE TV, which is saying something. After what seemed like half an hour of being insulted by Bliss, Bayley finally came out to defend herself… then got her ass kicked again by the Raw Women’s Champion. What a mess WWE has made of the Bayley character, who at one point looked set to be this generation’s female role-model for the masses. Bayley will almost certainly retrieve the weaponry first in their Kendo Stick On A Pole showdown at Extreme Rules in order to exact her revenge, though I see absolutely no reason why WWE would take the title off Bliss at this stage.

In the second callback to 1995 of the evening, Goldust continued with his retro Hollywood act, making vague threats from his director’s chair towards former tag partner R-Truth. In response, Truth interrupted the vignette with one of his own, playing Goldust at his own game by quoting Pulp Fiction. This was the most tolerable Truth has been in months, perhaps years. Rather than goofy, he came across like something approaching a bad ass. Goldust going back to the glory days of his character is a definite positive too. Maybe this feud won’t be so bad after all.

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In the main event, former Shield partners Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins went at it full tilt in a pay-per-view quality match. The pair have great chemistry and assembled a spirited battle that fans were fully invested in. The result – Reigns over clean with a spear – like the three-way earlier, perhaps telegraphs the result of the Extreme Rules main event. Reigns is not going to face Lesnar at Great Balls Of Fire – WWE are saving that showdown for WrestleMania – so they gave him a win here to keep him ticking over. If we once again apply WWE logic then Rollins came out of Raw weaker than the other likely winner, Finn Balor, in the sense that he was pinned whereas Balor was simply out of the ring when Joe won the three-way. In other words, put your money on Rollins in the five-way on Sunday.

Overall this was a much better episode of Raw than in recent weeks, with strong matches and intriguing storyline progression throughout. It’s just a shame it was dragged down by that horrific segment.

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.

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: **

 

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.