Arnold Furious: June 18, 2017. We’re in St Louis, Missouri. Hosts are Tom Phillips, his airline erection, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina vs. Carmella vs. Natalya Some solid advice from one of the fans; “Climb Faster”. Carmella has a distinct advantage as she’s got James Ellsworth at ringside. She is the only one with help. The match is billed as a ‘historic first ever’ women’s MITB match. Which would mean a lot more if the belt they’re looking for a shot at was so unestablished. It didn’t exist at the start of last year. Part of what makes the Money in the Bank concept so important is that it virtually guarantees you a world title. Which is tough to attain in the business. The structuring is always going to be tough because none of these women have been in anything like this before. The result is a lot of awkwardness, nasty looking bumps and overselling. Oh and glacially slow climbing. The do pander to the fans with traditional ladder spots, which somehow feel fresh because it’s women that are taking them. There are some gutsy bumps in there. Nobody phones the bumps in. Tamina and Carmella don’t take good bumps but they don’t phone them in. The match has definite car crash appeal. Charlotte and Becky are the stand-outs. Both in terms of the bumps they take and the spots they execute. The finish is so bad it’s untrue. James Ellsworth climbs the ladder and drops the briefcase down to Carmella. What? How must Carmella feel about that? It screams ‘we don’t trust you to climb up a ladder’. Worse still is this historic first ever women’s MITB match was won by a man. You couldn’t make this up. Do WWE not realise that goes against everything the Women’s Revolution was about? Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Lana is interviewed regarding her title shot. Which makes the last match a laughing stock (which is already was) as Lana has virtually no wrestling experience and already has a title shot.
Lee Maughan: And with the whole Shotgun concept dead in the water, the WWF was unable to locate an actual nightclub for its final edition, instead setting up stall in Penn Station of all places, a public venue that resulted in the promotion being unable to make any cash back through ticket sales. Hey, maybe TNA could look into running here sometime?
Crush & Faarooq vs. The Godwinns What an absolute armpit of an opener this promises to be. Still, if this truly is a celebration of all things Shotgun, one big final blowout, who better than these two cornerstones of the program? One can only hope Savio Vega is still to come. And yes, the fans are soon chanting “bWo! bWo!” as if just for old times sake. And how about a new one? “Nation sucks dick!” As all this is going down, the camera cuts to a split screen where Todd Pettengill can be found making fun of a bloke without any teeth. Really. What a jerk. And indeed, (drumroll please), Savio is here! Yay! An Irish whip and a double clothesline set up the hot tag and Phineas runs wild on both guys until Savio trips him from the outside. Phineas goes after Savio which sets him up for a charge from Crush, but he moves just in time and Crush decks Savio instead, so Phineas looks to follow with a Slop Drop but alas, Faarooq rips his head off with a clothesline to give Crush the three. Not bad given what I was expecting. Final Rating: *½
WWF Intercontinental Title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. The Undertaker A title match! On Shotgun! This really IS a big final blowout! Helmsley arrives in a stretch limo, and Undertaker makes his way out through the crowd after showing up at the building in Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’. Time of course for a commercial break just as the match begins, but back from that comes a full replay of Helmsley jumping Undertaker to start, but Undertaker no-selling it and destroying Helmsley in the corner instead. A whip into the corner sees the referee get bumped in just the spot Shotgun has been crying out for all these weeks, and Helmsley bashes Undertaker with the belt as we take another commercial break! Already?!
Back again with Helmsley going to work with choking, a snapmare, a face buster and series of stomps in the corner, but Undertaker gets the best of a slugfest. Helmsley comes back off an Irish whip with a swinging neckbreaker for two, and brings the belt back into play but misses on a big swing. Undertaker grabs the belt and uses it himself for (you guessed it) the disqualification. After the match, the crowd chant for a Tombstone but Undertaker gives them a chokeslam instead. Helmsley then tries to make a dash for it but Undertaker catches him on the way up the stairs and gives him a Tombstone onto an escalator, which an unconscious Helmsley rides all the way back to the ring in the closest thing to an iconic image this wretched show ever got. Fun, energetic stuff here. Final Rating: **½
Savio Vega vs. Aldo Montoya You know, if you asked me for my dream line-up before this show, as in “How do we go out with a bang on the last ever live edition of Shotgun?” I’d have hoped against hope that you’d book the guy with two “Least Entertaining” awards to his name against the bloke debuting on the show, with a yellow jockstrap on his head.
Savio runs through his usual, though thankfully forgoes the nerve pinching, and Aldo keeps it rolling with a hiptoss, two dropkicks to the outside and a plancha. Back in he gets two off a flying body press off the top but Savio takes control with knees to the midsection and some wicked chops. He works in his spinning heel kick in the corner and adds a delayed suplex, but soon enough he resorts to choking. In the meantime, roving reporter Pettengill has found a man named Terry who’s carrying an LJN Vince McMahon action figure in his pocket. “You still have the same jacket? 1985, you were like 40 then, right?” The rapture is upon us – Shotgun is coming to an end, and Todd Pettengill cracked a decent joke!
Back from a commercial, Savio is firmly in control as the crowd chants “We want 2 Cold!” I do too, but Flash Funk is the best you WWF fans are going to get I’m afraid. And NOW it’s time for the nerve pinch! Vince uses the dead spot to promote an upcoming Hector Camacho fight on pay-per-view, and before you know it, the Nation are brawling with the Godwinns at ringside. And you know what that means? Six-man tag team match, playa! Final Rating: *½
The Nation of Domination vs. Aldo Montoya & The Godwinns Back from the final mid-match commercial of the Shotgun era, and the Nation are busy getting heat on Aldo as Pettengill finds a woman in the crowd who wants to beat up another woman for stealing her man! “We already have midget wrestling!” decrees Todd. Back in the ring, Aldo catches Faarooq with a swinging neckbreaker after having eaten a backbreaker from Crush, and he goes for the hot tag but Savio cuts him off as the NYC crowd finally win me back over with a hearty chant of “Boring!” that even Vince himself can’t ignore. Aldo actually gets a false tag, so I guess we’re going all-in on this one, and the Nation give him another shit-kicking in the corner. He catches Savio with a missile dropkick off the top and it suddenly all breaks down, with Savio scoring the pin on Aldo amidst the chaos with a spinning wheel kick. The Godwinns did absolutely sod all in this, which was probably for the best. Final Rating: *½
Back from one last commercial, and the actual purpose of the Godwinns’ presence is made clear – Phineas chases the still unidentified D’Lo Brown backstage and wildly throws his slop bucket all over Pat Patterson, stationed at the Gorilla position. Given the state of his Bill Cosby-style sweater, I’d say he deserved it. He threatens to come down to ringside and make out with Sunny since she thinks its so funny.
– And finally, Pettengill catches up with Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels who sends out a threat to the Nation. That would equal Faarooq vs. Ray Traylor in some other far off nightmare.
THE SHOTGUN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: It’s a toss-up between the Undertaker and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Undertaker dished out the ass-kicking, but Helmsley took the ride down the escalator, so take your own pick there.
Least Entertaining: I didn’t really want to single any one person out tonight, but Savio Vega did use that fucking nerve pinch of his again…
Quote of the Night: “Welcome to Amtrak’s night train to hell! Ha ha ha!” – The Undertaker works in some corporate sponsorship in his own inimitable style.
Match of the Night: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. The Undertaker.
Summary: And so to its chilling conclusion comes the WWF’s month-and-a-half experiment with producing a mildly risqué yet ultimately directionless live broadcast from a dingy New York dive. In actuality, the show continued on for several more years, though under a much different make-up. The next week’s show was simply a “greatest hits” from previous episodes (that’s right folks, it’s six sensational weeks of the Shotgun Saturday Night show!), while week eight saw content entirely regurgitated from the final Superstars taping. With RAW then switching to a two-hour weekly format and the cessation of all other WWF TV tapings, Shotgun was soon being recorded before (and occasionally after) RAW, a taping method that would continue with the addition of programming such as Los Super Astros, Sunday Night HeAT, Metal, Jakked, Velocity, Main Event, NXT and the revived Superstars. Verdict: 35
Bret Hart vs. Mankind Owen Hart joins Vince McMahon and Sunny at the announce table for this one, tights and all even though he’s not actually wrestling tonight. He and Bob Holly did lose to the Godwinns earlier in the day however. Mankind starts by crawling after a pair of go-go dancers in assless chaps until Bret makes the save and gives Mankind a pounding. Another dancer swinging around on a rope prompts Sunny to declare the scene “not for my virgin eye!”
They brawl around ringside for a while in uninspired fashion, though admittedly the guardrails are so close to the ring that it’s practically impossible to do anything out there, so they head inside where Bret breaks out a snap suplex and a leg drop. Mankind’s in the mood for a fight however, so they brawl up to the commentary position where Bret hits a suplex on the stage. Mankind quickly takes over and gets a legdrop for two, but Bret evades a charge and Mankind hits the deck again as we head to a commercial.
Back from that, Bret crotches Mankind on the guardrail before the annoying New York fans start chanting “HBK!” just to piss Bret off, and then wouldn’t you just know it? The now-standard “bWo! bWo!” chants break out, lead by Lenny the Superfan, a/k/a Faith No More Guy, who you might recognise from many WWF and ECW front rows of the late 90s. And yes, Vladimir is stationed next to him, just as he was in Texas last week. Bret clotheslines Mankind and sends him into the steel steps, just in time to cutaway to Todd Pettengill who’s found a woman in a fuzzy bra, which in his mind somehow makes her “Princess Leia.” Ugh. Mankind gets a crappy double arm DDT which Bret just basically forward rolls through, then misses another charge in the corner as Bret goes into the big finishing sequence: Side-Russian legsweep, bulldog headlock, spinning neckbreaker, side backbreaker, clothesline, Sharpshooter. And then Owen jumps in for the lousy DQ finish, the plague of Shotgun Saturday Night. Pretty average match if all be told. Final Rating: **¼
Savio Vega vs. Rocky Maivia Earlier today in Madison Square Garden, Savio turned his back on tag team partner Ahmed Johnson and apparently sided with the Nation of Domination. Savio apologises for his actions, claims to really like Rocky, and promises a good, clean match. The crowd immediately start on the “Rocky sucks!” chants, and one guy has the temerity to shout “Boring!” less than a minute into it. What a tail end. And then the “bWo!” chants break out again! Who knew the Blue Meanie was such a clubhead? Faarooq and Crush arrive at ringside in time for a round of “Die Rocky, Die!” chants, and then the crowd decides it wants the Legion of Doom back. Give it a month, lads. Rocky shows the same fire he has the previous couple of weeks, but Savio keeps dragging things down with a series of trapezius holds and armbars. In fairness to the guy, he’s already wrestled once today, but it’s a real comedown after his energetic performance two weeks ago. Savio throws Rocky over the top to the floor and Rocky injures his knee for the count-out (the kind of finish you might expect them to run before the Royal Rumble, not after it) to cap off a truly crappy match. Savio joins Faarooq and Crush in destroying Rocky after the match, then throws up his fist in support of the Nation. Bleh. Final Rating: ½*
– Elsewhere, Jake Roberts makes out with Revelations. I know this is late-night but do we really need bestiality on the show?
This is not for my virgin eye!
Jake Roberts vs. Salvatore Sincere Hunter Hearst Helmsley (whose friends call him “Bob” according to his comical on-screen graphic) joins the commentary team to mock Jake’s demons (and why would you book an alcoholic in a nightclub anyway?), and throw out a series of snappy lines. “This is the World Wrestling Federation, where the big boys don’t have time to play!” he declares in a pot-shot at WCW. “Hey McMahon, that Rocky Johnson had a real good match earlier on! Good play-by-play too.” Vince apologises for messing Rocky’s name up before an odd discussion on New York sexuality arises – “Around here, straight’s not the way to go… from what I hear.” Responds McMahon, “Yes, there are some luminaries around here.” Luminaries?! The crowd starts chanting “bWo” yet again, which has long since grown tiresome, and Jake finishes a routine squash with the DDT in what would actually prove to be his final televised match in the WWF. Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)
– During the break, Helmsley gives poor Sal a Pedigree after declaring himself “second best”, owing to his status as Intercontinental Champion. Quite the night for old Bob.
Crush vs. Sycho Sid This might have held some intrigue if it had been 1992. Sadly it’s 1997, so Sid just kicks his ass for a while until it’s time for a commercial break. Well of course it is, what with time running so low yet again. Back from the break and the Nation have found their way out to ringside, giving Crush the advantage. He goes for the heart punch but Sid goozles him instead for a chokeslam. He follows that with a powerbomb but the Nation get involved, leaving Sid to grab a chair which he absolutely belts Crush with, causing the DQ. Way too long for what it was, even with time running out and the adverts eating up a good three minutes of it. Final Rating: ½*
THE SHOTGUN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Mankind. His match with Bret was nothing to write home about but he was still willing to get bumped around on wooden stages and steel guardrails for my viewing pleasure, plus he provided amusement with his pre and post-match pursuit of a couple of strippers.
Least Entertaining: Savio Vega by a country mile. His shifting personality work was fine, but man alive were those rest holds ever tedious.
Quote of the Night: “I know you would do anything keep Bret Hart in the World Wrestling Federation!” – Sunny adds fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists everywhere as she address Vince McMahon after Bret “quit” the WWF last Monday on RAW.
Match of the Night: Bret Hart vs. Mankind. Outside of a few house show matches in England and Germany and a handful of six-man tags on RAW and at live events, this is actually the only high-profile in-ring meeting between Bret Hart and Mick Foley caught on film, giving it a curiosity value above its actual quality.
Summary: Not a good show this week as everyone looked to be on autopilot after pulling double duty at MSG earlier in the day, and that Savio Vega match was interminable. Verdict: 22
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
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: *½
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
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
Last night on Raw, WWE showed a graphic announcing the return of “free agent” John Cena on the July 4 episode of SmackDown Live.
It’s a strange show for Cena to return on. WWE TV broadcasts on July 4 tend to have low ratings due to the holiday, so it is unclear why WWE are wasting what would surely otherwise be a ratings spike any other week by having Cena come back on that date.
The graphic is the first time that Cena being a free agent has been mentioned, which has naturally led to much speculation about his future. It seems clear that WWE would not promote Cena’s newfound status if it did not mean something.
According to the Wrestling Observer, Cena will be transcending the brand split and appearing on both Raw and SmackDown Live. This is obviously a response to the tumbling ratings – Cena is the only real numbers mover on the roster.
Of course, having Cena appear on both shows completely destroys any semblance of perceived competition between the two brands, bastardising the idea of two rival shows battling for supremacy. WWE did this last time they split the brands and the result was a watered down mess which eventually failed. If the company do not handle Cena’s brand bouncing correctly then this incarnation of the split will go the exact same way.
What a shame, they were doing so well with it too.
A story broke by the Daily Mail claims that Bray Wyatt’s wife Samantha has filed for a divorce after five years of marriage, accusing the former WWE Champion of having an affair with ring announcer JoJo Offerman.
While JoJo is not named in the court documents submitted to Hernando County in Florida, Samantha’s lawyer Ray Rafool told the tabloid that he obtained phone records showing Wyatt maintaining “continuous contact” with the former Total Divas star.
Wyatt, represented by attorney Jim Knox, has filed an injunction in an attempt to force his wife to keep quiet about the split, in which she is accused of making “defamatory statements about the husband to several people in the community in an effort to ruin his reputation.”
Samantha bit back via her representation, saying that “it is a a shame that [Bray] would make such false claims and attempt such media gaming” adding that Wyatt’s allegation and claims were nothing more than a “media ploy and endeavour to create an offense to defend his adultery and misdeeds.”
Neither Wyatt nor JoJo have publicly responded to the claims, with the former directing all comments through his lawyer and Offerman yet to publicly comment.
It will be interesting to see if either of the accused are part of tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw.
The decades-long ill-feeling between Vince Russo and Jim Cornette shows no sign of abating following a recent public spat on their podcasts and social media.
On the latest edition of his podcast The Jim Cornette Experience, the opinionated industry veteran dismissed Russo’s talk on other podcasts of the two getting together for the sake of charity to put their differences aside, grumbling:
“You know that ain’t gonna happen ’cause we got nothing to talk about.”
Cornette instead challenged Russo to a legitimate fight, telling him:
“If you give me a date, time and an address, I will meet you there and I will bring five grand in cash. As long as the rules are no cops, no guns, and no knives. And what happens, happens.”
Cornette continued the tirade, ripping into Russo for, among other things, stabbing everybody in the back who he has ever worked with, killing careers with goofy gimmicks, and making the wrestling business into a joke.
Russo was unable to resist the bait and responded in turn by posting a video on his social media accounts. During the 12-minute rant he refused Cornette’s offer of a fight, mocking his “barn door wide ass”, “Kamala belly”, “Gumby-like arms” and “ripped chiseled stomach”, then arrogantly dismissed $5000 as “not a lot of money”.
Russo then sarcastically apologised to Cornette, stating:
“First and foremost, I want to apologize for you blowing out your knees when you fell off that scaffold because you are a mark who didn’t know how to take a bump.
I want to apologize Jim for you putting Smoky Mountain Wrestling out of business.
I want to apologize Jim for you being fired from Ring of Honor for a public emotional outburst.
I want to apologize Jim for being fired from WWE for assaulting another employee.
I want to apologize Jim because I’m from New York.
I want to apologize Jim because in my entire life I was never fixin’ to do anything.
I want to apologize Jim that I don’t believe the Dukes of Hazard is a reality show.
I’d like to apologize that I never went on national television and dressed like the village idiot.
I want to apologize that I never asked a wrestler to chew on an Alka-Seltzer so it would appear like he’s foaming at the mouth.
I want to apologize that even the great Terry Funk didn’t get over when you had him come out of a box.
I want to apologize for setting ratings records at both the WWE and TNA and also raising the ratings at WCW the whole nine months that I was there. I sincerely apologize for that.
And last but not least, Jim, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for both Dixie Carter and Vincent Kennedy McMahon for choosing me over you. Because at the end of the day, 18 years later, that is what this is all about. It sticks in your craw because no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what asinine promo you cut, it does not go away. From a creative standpoint, the numbers clearly dictate I was better than you, and I know that is hard for you to accept and I know that is hard for you to deal with so that is why from the bottom of my heart, I apologize, I am sorry, and I hope from this point on we can move forward.”
We will not get into the personal spat part of things, which amounts to little more than handbags at dawn he-said-she-said playground level silliness, but some of Russo’s claims require some dissection.
Firstly, those living in glass houses should not throw stones. Having the gall to criticise Cornette’s famous scaffold bump when he doesn’t have a lick of wrestling experience himself (and no, booking yourself to play wrestler does not count) is one thing, but more importantly, let’s not forget who it was that penned Owen Hart’s Blue Blazer storyline in 1999. Unable to fathom how to get a real wrestler over, Russo made one of the finest technical grapplers on the planet descend from the rafters dressed as a superhero buffoon, resulting in him plummeting to his death when the stunt went wrong. I wonder if Russo considers him a “mark who didn’t know how to take a bump” too?
Russo’s claim that he set ratings records in WWE are fanciful. While he was head writer for Raw’s highest rated show (8.1 on May 10, 1999) it was far from the highest rated WWE TV show ever. That accolade belongs to The Main Event I in 1988 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. The broadcast pulled a phenomenal 15.2 rating, which equated to an unheard of 33 million views.
Russo’s constant claims of having improved the Nitro rating during his WCW tenure are propped up by strawman logic too. Russo is always quick to point out that the ratings were 3.0 when he took over and 3.4 when he left. Well, that’s true, but little over one month earlier WCW was hitting 3.4’s and above regularly – the 3.0 was a dead rubber show in a holding pattern awaiting the new regime. And the 3.4 he drew was also the highest number he managed in his three months at the helm.
The key is, those ratings were on three hour shows, which average out to smaller numbers than the two hour broadcasts Russo was penning by the end. To put that into perspective, had Nitro been two hours the week before Russo took over, it would have pulled a 3.3 rating. So the difference is negligible.
Not only that, but in cutting the show to two hours, WCW lost out on a fortune of ad revenue. Ratings points are far less important than people – Russo in particular – think they are compared to concrete figures of actual revenue being generated (live attendance, merchandise, pay-per-view buy rates, ad revenue). Russo also fails to acknowledge that pay-per-view buy rates tanked when he was in charge. People might have been willing to watch his car crash booking for free, but they sure as hell weren’t paying for it. WCW’s biggest show of the year, Starrcade only managed a meagre 0.23 buy rate under Russo, down from a 1.15 the previous year.
Russo also defends his decision to put the WCW Title on actor David Arquette, justifying it based on the media they got off the back of the decision. But media coverage is only any use if it results in more eyes on the product. When Arquette won the belt, the next episode of Nitro fell from a 3.0 to a 2.5. Similarly, the pay-per-view where Arquette defended the title pulled a 0.14, down from a 0.25 the previous month. People turned off the show when Russo made that ridiculous call. And that’s before we even get into the small matter of the millions of dollars WCW hemorrhaged during his time at the top.
As far as we are concerned, this round goes to Cornette.
After two weeks of consecutive record low ratings, Raw bounced back on Monday with its highest viewership number since April.
Credit goes to the interest coming off the pay-per-view Extreme Rules, in which Samoa Joe won a five-way match to become the new number one contender for the Universal Championship. The first hour number of 3.11 million suggests that there was a lot of interest in how WWE would follow up from the night before.
That WWE retained the number for the second hour shows that fans were invested in what they were seeing. With Samoa Joe’s segment with Paul Heyman coming in the second hour, it seems that the fresh Joe-Lesnar match-up being hyped was what kept the audience.
After dropping almost 20% from last year’s numbers over the past two weeks, Raw this week was down only 7.8% from this time in 2016, the 7th lowest drop of the year. WWE will be hoping they can sustain the momentum over the next four weeks in the build-up to the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view.