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

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