Friday, November 10, 2017

Raw History: Episode #124 and Reliving Nitro: Episode #1

Raw History
Episode #124
August 14th, 1995 | Worcester Auditorium in Worcester, Massachusetts

Things start with a video package showing Shawn Michaels getting attacked by Mabel, possibly injuring himself heading into the big SummerSlam match. Jerry Lawler cuts a short promo about finishing what Mabel started. He faced Shawn tonight. With Lawler in action tonight, Vince McMahon is joined by Ted Dibiase on commentary.

Doink the Clown vs. Waylon Mercy
Before the gimmick dies, Doink gets to play enhancement talent. Commentary talks about Henry O. Godwin being a new acquisition of the Million Dollar Corporation. Dibiase is livid that Vince would suggest that, stating he’s not part of the team, but does some dirty work for them. Meanwhile, Mercy puts away Doink with a sleeper, continuing to be great at the facial expressions he has to deliver. Oh my, there were “kill the clown” chants during this.

Winner: Waylon Mercy in 3:06
The stuff I’ve come to expect from Waylon, which is always rather enjoyable.

Out first look at Goldust now. He’s standing in front of a green screen set to be Warner Bros. studios. At the time, my mother’s mind was blown that this was Dustin Rhodes. He looks like a giant Academy Award, in all gold. He talks about Diesel’s gold and how he was born as a star.

Ted Dibiase continues to badmouth Henry Godwin’s odor and things like that. Henry strolls out, upset that Dibiase is saying these things. Dibiase tries to calm him down but ends up getting slopped, starting the HOG face turn. Dok Hendrix shows up to replace Dibiase on commentary.

The Smoking Gunns vs. Bill Garrett and Cody Wade
Garrett and Wade look like an actual team, getting matching gear. I don’t know who is who, but one of them looks like a swollen version of the other. I guess that one is Garrett, who can’t bump. Wade gets tagged and doesn’t fare much better. The Sidewinder ends it.

Winners: The Smoking Gunns in 1:34
Not good. At least it was short.

Dean Douglas brings us the Report Card this week. He critiques a match between Bret Hart and Jimmy Del Rey. Dean grades Bret a good old fashioned “F” and calls him the Foundation of Failure instead of the Excellence of Execution.

Shawn Michaels cuts a quick promo from the back, hyping the main event.

Next week, Tatanka battles Undertaker. Undertaker is still pissed at the Million Dollar Corporation since Kama stole his urn and melted it down into a chain or something.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Jeff Hardy
Oh look, its two future World Champions. Who would have predicted that? Hardy shows off his speed early and often. Helmsley weathers the storm and ends him with a Pedigree. The same thing would happen again with these two in 2001 and 2008.

Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley in 2:07
Fine enough squash.

Todd Pettengill brings us the SummerSlam Report. The additions to the card are Skip vs. Barry Horowitz and 1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi.

Henry O. Godwin vs. Russ Greenberg
Vince calls him Ross, but his nameplate is shown as Russ. This is joined in progress s Godwin slams Greenberg. Henry wins in under a minute with the Slop Drop. Then he slops the poor jobber.

Winner: Henry Godwin in 0:51
I never really got into the Godwin character.

We get another bad clip of Jerry Lawler and Isaac Yankem where Yankem is being really aggressive with a patient. Nothing about these segments were any good.

Non-Title Match
Jerry Lawler vs. WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels

We’re still early in Shawn’s babyface run and he does that thing where he makes his opponent look like an idiot before taunting outside. Vince McMahon finds pure bliss in these antics. Shawn finds a really neat way to block the piledriver, putting his hands down and preventing his head from hitting the mat. Sid shows up and gawks at the Intercontinental Title at ringside. Shawn takes his signature corner bump heading into the commercial. Returning, Lawler remains in control until it’s time for the HBK babyface comeback. As he starts to set up for the finish, Sid enters the ring and the bell sounds.

Winner via disqualification: Shawn Michaels in 6:04
Typical Lawler match for the era. Mostly dull until Shawn started to do his thing and then we got the ho-hum finish. 

The action continues as Shawn and Sid go at it. Sid plants him with a Chokeslam and Razor Ramon shows up. Dok Hendrix questions this strategy since Razor meets Shawn at SummerSlam. Shawn goes for Sweet Chin Music but Razor tosses him aside to hit Sid with the Razor’s Edge. Lawler grabs Sid and pulls him to safety. Now alone in the ring, Razor and Shawn have a bit of a tug of war over the title. Razor goes to give it back but drops it at his feet just as they fade out. Coming back from break, Diesel is here to keep things calm. Gotta keep the Kliq in check.

Overall: 4/10. I wanted that episode to be better. I always want that for the live shows. None of it was particularly bad and most things were kept short at least. It wasn’t very entertaining though, with the marquee match being a drag and some of the squashes being bad.

Raw History
Episode #125
August 21st, 1995 | Worcester Auditorium in Worcester, Massachusetts 

The WWF signature with the whole “...for over 50 years, the worldwide leader in sports entertaining” spiel debuts here. Then, footage from Superstars airs. One of the Undertaker’s “creatures of the night” jumped the guardrail and got taken out by Kama, who Undertaker is scheduled to face at SummerSlam.

Men on a Mission vs. Roy Raymond and Joe Hancock
With an unfortunate WWF Title match coming up for Mabel, this was clearly a dominating performance from Men on a Mission. Vince tells us that Mabel is 568 pounds. Wow. He hits a piledriver and taunts, allowing Raymond to sneak in with some shots. It has no effect. Mabel wins via belly to belly suplex.

Winners: Men on a Mission in 3:48
Typical stuff from MOM. Both winners are visibly gassed despite the short runtime.

After the match, King Mabel cuts a promo and challenges the Allied Powers to a tune up match. They get no response and leave.

The Report Card sees Dean Douglas in the production truck. He reviews the previous match and says that Mabel will dominate Diesel at SummerSlam. And we’re supposed to believe this guy is smart?

The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Brooklyn Brawler
The Brawler leaps off the apron to attack the Kid during his entrance. Even with this early assault, the Kid comes back and pulls him into an Oklahoma roll for the quick victory.

Winner: The 1-2-3 Kid in 1:32
I wish Kid got longer squash matches.

Tatanka w/ Ted Dibiase vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
They play it like going after a “creature of the night” is the most heinous act you could do to the Undertaker. He comes out pissed and kicks Tatanka’s ass. Undertaker looks to have possibly hurt himself and Tatanka takes over, doing some of his dull offense. Undertaker gets out of a chinlock and starts to rally heading into the break. Returning, he hits the big diving clothesline. It leads to the Tombstone, ending things.

Winner: The Undertaker in 5:43
This is not the best era for Undertaker matches and Tatanka, especially as a heel, is a giant snore. Not a good combination. ½*

Jean-Pierre Lafitte vs. Scott Taylor
It’s another one of those instances where the enhancement talent ended up having a career that was better than the guy he’s jobbing to. Taylor looks game tonight, hitting some quick offense and even a cross body off the top. Lafitte quickly turns the tide and lays a pirate flag over Taylor before coming off the top with LE CANNONBALL for the 1-2-3.

Winner: Jean-Pierre Lafitte in 3:06
Actually pretty fun. Both guys played their roles and it was entertaining.

Our second Goldust vignette airs. This time, he’s near the famous Hollywood sign and his promo targets Shawn Michaels.

WWF Champion Diesel comes out for an in-ring interview with Vince McMahon. Diesel puts over the run that Mabel has had in recent months but promises to keep the gold at SummerSlam. Nothing of note happens until the British Bulldog shows up. He wishes Diesel good luck and says that Lex Luger had a medical emergency. Men on a Mission challenged the Allied Powers but with no Lex, Bulldog wants Diesel to be his partner. Diesel agrees.

British Bulldog and WWF Champion Diesel vs. Men on a Mission
Diesel beats up Mo at the start and hits the big boot. Vince is already calling for the finish. Diesel signals for the Jackknife and Mabel gets in the ring. Bulldog then levels Diesel from behind right into a slam by Mabel.

No Contest…I guess in 2:19
More of an angle than a match.

Vince is appalled that British Bulldog would do such a thing. Mabel holds Diesel in place for Bulldog to slap him. Diesel gets free of Mabel but just eats a powerslam from Bulldog and leg drop from Mabel. Jim Cornette joins in on the fray, presenting the WWF Title to Bulldog. Umm, why would Mabel be cool with that? Bulldog realizes this, handing the belt to Mabel. After the break, Jerry Lawler interviews the group in the back though they don’t say much.

Overall: 2.5/10. For the most part, this didn’t work well as a go-home show. Outside of the closing segment, nothing really meant anything and the Undertaker/Tatanka match blew hard. Surprisingly, the best match on the episode was the Lafitte/Taylor squash.

SummerSlam 1995 Results
Hakushi def. 1-2-3 Kid
Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Bob Holly
The Smoking Gunns def. Jacob and Eli Blu
Barry Horowitz def. Skip
Bertha Faye def. Alundra Blayze to win the WWF Women’s Championship
The Undertaker def. Kama in a Casket Match
Bret Hart def. Isaac Yankem via disqualification
Shawn Michaels def. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match to retain the Intercontinental Title
Diesel def. King Mabel to retain the WWF Championship

So, here’s where things get interesting. There was no episode of Raw on Labor Day in 1995. However, the wrestling world was changed forever as WCW debuted Monday Nitro and the Monday night wars began. From here on out, “Raw History” will be accompanied by “Relieving Nitro”, a series of reviews for WCW’s weekly Monday night program.

Relieving Nitro
Episode #1
September 4th, 1995 | The Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael handle commentary. This show taking place inside of a massive mall really gives it a different feel, which it really needed.

Brian Pillman vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Now, this is the right move to open the show. Two guys that can do great things in the ring and they instantly give you an alternate feeling to what you’d see over on Raw. Quick start as they work a short wristlock and Liger hits a rolling kick in the corner. He gets two on a moonsault that didn’t look great. Pillman comes back with a rana off the second rope for a near fall of his own. They continue to work at a fast pace before Liger applies a surfboard. It gets a better reaction from the crowd than everything I saw on the last episode of Raw. Mongo continues to insult Heenan throughout the match. Liger does a cannonball dive outside but Pillman gets his turn to dive out onto him as well. They fight to the top where Liger nails a superplex for a near fall. Pillman catches a diving Liger with a dropkick for two. He then also manages to kick out of a good old fashioned Liger Bomb. A top rope rana from Liger somehow also only gets a near fall. More high impact offense as Pillman gets two on a tornado DDT. With actual moves not being enough, it takes a sweet rollup for Pillman to earn the win.

Winner: Brian Pillman in 6:55
Whoever booked this as the opener for the big TV debut was a genius. Sure they got a bit sloppy at points but they worked very fast, which they needed to so they make sure it felt so different from everything else, and it was exciting. Pretty much the ideal opener for WCW here. ***¼

PASTAMANIA IS RUNNING WILD BROTHER! Hulk Hogan did indeed have a damn restaurant in the Mall of America known as Pastamania. Eric Bischoff interviews him there about the main event tonight. Hogan says that he’ll retain the WCW Title against Big Bubba because Pastamania is running through his brain. I did not make any of that up.

Non-Title Match
Ric Flair vs. WCW United States Champion Sting

Another great idea for this show as both guys are staples of WCW and well known. Things get really interesting as right before the bell, LEX LUGER is seen in the aisle. Commentary, especially Eric Bischoff, sells this magnificently. They shout for the camera to get off of him because he doesn’t work here. Its nuts because Luger had just appeared at SummerSlam a week earlier. The match begins and they go through standard stuff for these two. Sting press slams Flair all over the place while Flair goes after the eyes and delivers a bunch of chops. Even when things spill outside, Flair gets press slammed back in. There’s a few too many press slams for my taste. Arn Anderson casually strolls out. He’s in the midst of an angle with Flair where he was fed up with always helping him and getting nothing in return for it. Sting no sells Flair’s offense and clotheslines him after he struts. Sting hits a superplex but ends up in the Figure Four. He uses the ropes for leverage and doesn’t break it at the five count, resulting in the DQ.

Winner via disqualification: Sting in 8:44
A small sample size of the stuff they’re known for. Pretty fun but a few too many press slams for me. I did like the advancement of the Arn angle though. **¾

Arn Anderson gets in the ring and takes off his windbreaker, looking to go after Flair. Flair quickly scurries and heads to the back. The action doesn’t stop because a pissed off Scott Norton appears and shouts about wanting Randy Savage. This brings Savage out to confront him and Savage wants to rumble right now. Security keeps them apart, setting the stage for a future Nitro match. Very well done.

A video package for Sabu airs. He’ll be coming to Nitro soon.

Oh man, they promote WCW Saturday Night. The card doesn’t sound too though. Sting and Savage team up against the Blue Bloods, but Johnny B. Badd faces Dick Slater. Somehow that’s a “double main event”.

Goddammit. We get a backstage promo from Michael Wallstreet, also known as IRS. Like I didn’t get enough of his boring ass everything on Raw.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Big Bubba

Three for three in smartly booked matches. Your main event features your top star and a very recognizable face from his WWF days as the Big Bossman. As the bell rings, Bischoff informs everyone that next week, Randy Savage meets Scott Norton. If you’ve seen these two work before, you know what you’re getting here. Bubba does some typical big man offense, Hogan sells for a while with false hope spots before doing the real Hogan comeback. Bubba tries to harm Jimmy Hart for no real reason, opening the door for Hogan. Now, with Hart’s distraction, Hogan does what Hogan does and cheats, choking Bubba with Jimmy’s jacket. Hogan ends up kicking out of a side slam and it’s Hulk Up time. Big boot and Leg Drop end it.

Winner and Still WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan in 7:10
About what you’d expect here. Nothing fancy but the crowd was in a frenzy for pretty much all of it. 

Ugh, the Dungeon of Doom run out and Hogan just hands them their asses. They all sell poorly for him. Lex Luger comes in and helps Hogan clean house. They bump into each other’s backs and end up face to face. Sting, Jimmy Hart and Randy Savage enter the ring to try and calm things down. Gene Okerlund gets in the ring with them to try and sort things out. Luger says he’s here to take Hogan’s WCW Championship and that he’s tired of playing with kids. He’s here to play with the big boys. Hogan takes a while with his response but it basically ends up being an announcement that next week, he’ll give Luger the shot.

Overall: 9/10. That’s what we call a grand slam on the first pitch you see in your career. This was a one hour show where things moved rapidly, everything had a purpose and the show had a real feeling of “can’t miss TV”. The opener was a great way to show people that you could see something different on Nitro. The next two matches had star power and you give everyone the great Norton and excellent Luger surprises. Viewers had to be hooked. I can’t think of another wrestling show that got off to this great of a start.