Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw: Bret Hart had a jean jacket with Bret Hart on the back, and The Undertaker spent like 5 minutes with a dude’s hand in his mouth. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and Justin Hawk Bradshaw broke up with his Uncle Zeb over improper branding technique. Raw was a really interesting show in 1996.
You can watch this week’s episode here, and check all the episodes you may have missed at the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag page. To watch the In Your House pay-per-view we talk about, click here. Congratulations, you’re the second person to ever watch it! Follow along with the competition here.
Up first, WWE attempts to answer the question, “¿Qué hora es?”
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about In Your House: It’s Time, the pay-per-view named after the Vader title run that never happened. Think of it like WWE doing IN YOUR HOUSE: ONE VERSUS ALL a month after WrestleMania 31 with Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar in the main event.
Goldust Is Turning Face
Despite having spent his entire WWF run until this point as a pansexual predator, Goldust is turning face. Why? Because Hunter Hearst Helmsley “made a pass” at Marlena, which in 1996 WWF is the worst thing you can do to another human being. Remember when Shawn Michaels supposedly made a pass at The British Bulldog’s wife, and they spent two months being upset about it even though she turned him down?
Goldust shows up during the Helmsley/Marc Mero Intercontinental Championship match and tries to hit H with the belt outside the ring, but misses and hits Mero. Instead of standing around making “oh no what have I done” faces like people usually do, Goldust simply waits for Helmsley to turn around and belts him anyway. That leads to a spectacularly unsatisfying finish where Mero rolls into the ring to beat the 10 count and wins the match, but doesn’t win the championship. Goldust continues to beat the sh*t out of Hunter after the match because he asked Goldust’s woman if she wanted to get it on and she said no and that makes him so mad.
Terry Gordy’s Wrestling Career Is All Washed Up
The Undertaker faced The Executioner — aka 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, at one point one of the best workers in the damn world — in an “Armageddon Rules” match. That sounds real hellfire and brimstone, but the highlight of the match is Taker and Gordy fighting outside where the cameras can’t follow them, then suddenly jumping to footage of Gordy rolling down some steps into an arena fountain. That’s Armageddon. They fight back to the ring and Undertaker Tombstones him while water sorta sadly drains out of his boots. Executioner gets dumped by Paul Bearer on a followup episode of Superstars I will probably never write about, and that’s that. It’s a really depressing end of a career for a guy who was once in a team called THE MIRACLE VIOLENCE CONNECTION.
Sid Wears His Baseball Cap Like A Kid In A ’90s Movie Set In The ’60s
“I AM THE MASTER AND THE RULER OF THE WORLD”
“You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”
Ahmed Johnson Is Back, And Faarooq Is Ready To Call Him A Bunch Of Really Concerning Names
Ahmed Johnson is back in an all-blue track suit that makes him look like post-Crisis Violet Beauregarde, explaining how his kidney injury caused him to lose his house and his girlfriend. Now he’s got nothing but these fans, and Faarooq is going down. Faarooq interrupts from the balcony to call Ahmed an “Uncle Tom.” Between this and what Jerry Lawler says to Goldust on Raw the next night, we are in for a lot of stressful paragraphs from 20 years ago.
Shawn Michaels Ruins Everything
So Sid defends the WWF Championship against Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels, who has been complaining non-stop since losing the championship at Survivor Series, decides to sit in as an impartial color commentator. He gives great insight on both competitors, and the match ends without incident. Kidding.
The fight ends up on the outside in front of Shawn, so Sid, ever the master manipulator, pie-faces Shawn. That’s the Shawn Michaels equivalent of giving a kid a pot holder in a PS4 box on Christmas morning as a prank, so Shawn of course gets on the apron and tries to interfere. Sid Irish whips Bret into Shawn, knocking Shawn to the floor, then powerbombs Bret for the win. For a guy who has “half the brain that you do,” that’s a pretty smart way to handle it.
That leads to one of my favorite moments of 1996, in which Bret decides to whomp the ever-loving dogsh*t out of Michaels for interfering. It’s a total one-sided hockey beatdown. Bret pulls Shawn’s shirt over his head and punches him into the stomach until he collapses. It’s WONDERFUL, and even though they’re pretty obviously trying to turn Bret heel already, stuff like this keeps him blue-eyed.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for Dec. 16, 1996.
Best: Bret Hart Is An Impartial Commentator
Bitter heel Bret Hart who thinks he’s a justified babyface is one of the best wrestling characters ever. It’s Time and this episode Raw are the beginning of that, which crystalizes at WrestleMania 13, and I love it.
Bret opens this week’s show in mirrored glasses that accidentally selfie the cameraman and complains about Shawn Michaels interfering in his championship match. The subtle differences between Bret and Shawn (despite them basically being the same animal, which is, “entitled guy who thinks being good at sports makes him better than everyone else”) are fun to point out. Shawn has spent a month complaining about his title loss to Sid, mostly blaming the fans for not cheering him enough because they’re threatened by his good looks sex-dancing. Bret’s complaining about his loss to Sid because Shawn can’t let his sh*t go and stay out of other people’s business. They’re both basically uptight complainers, but Bret’s beef is based on what happened in the universe of the show, not what happens around it. Bret gets there, eventually turning an entire country against him, but by then he’s a heel. Mostly. It’s complicated.
Bret says he’s gonna be like Shawn and sit in at commentary for the Raw opener. You are the Canadian Shawn Michaels, Bret. It’s just confrontational sexiness replaced by hockey jerseys and polite honor.
The opener itself is Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vader, which should make your ears perk up if you’re familiar with either guy’s pre-WWF career. Vader has already entered the “womp womp” stage of his career and Austin’s still a Bret Hart match away from mass fame, so it’s interesting. I’d critique the match more, but it’s just an excuse for the fight to end up on the outside and for polite impartial commentator Bret Hart to leave the booth to put Austin in a Sharpshooter. It makes sense — Bret is pissed about the state of the WWF, and Austin jumped Davey Boy Smith again at It’s Time — but I love that the shocking double-turn from Mania 13 was already happening like a full quarter before the show.
Worst: Jackknife Powerbomb Dangerous
Remember a few weeks ago when Fake Diesel tried to powerbomb Mideon Godwinn and almost dropped him on his head? They try it again here, and it’s just as sketchy. If you ever wanted to know why Kane never threw powerbombs, here’s your evidence. Either Faux Diesel doesn’t have the core strength to complete the motion or Phineas can’t do a sit-up (or some combination of the two), but it’s bad. I don’t want to see any Ganso Bombs on Raw. At least not outside of a Furnas and Lafon match.
Not Diesel and Not Razor Ramon had a surprisingly solid tag-title match at It’s Time — thank you for your contributions as a miracle worker, Owen Hart — and they tried to keep the momentum going here with a win over Pig Farmer Uno and Dos. “Momentum” and “The Godwinns” aren’t compatible ideas.
Best: EVERYTHING DANGEROUS
Speaking of Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon, they get a badly clipped match against the dream team of T.L. Hopper and Dr. X.
If you’re new to the column, T.L. Hopper is a wrestling plumber. I don’t know why he plumbs and wrestles. Plumbing pays way better than wrestling. I also don’t know why he’s named like a southern sheriff in a 1970s comedy. He’s teaming with Dr. X, who joins WCW’s El Technico as the laziest masked gimmick of the year. Sometimes the guy you wanted to use doesn’t show up, and you’ve got to send out Tom Pritchard in a mask to fill a spot. A character named “Dr. X” would’ve seemed passé in a wrestling magazine from 1983, much less on a Raw in 1996.
The good news is that Hopper X is only here to get dropped on their f*cking heads by The Can-Am Express, who haven’t yet noticed that they’re in gentle kick punch kick punch WWF land and don’t need to literally murder dudes with head-drop cobra clutch suplexes. Fake Razor Ramon just won a match and he can’t convincingly throw a punch. Imagine how he’d feel if he pulled his Scott Hall-approximating bullsh*t against Doug Furnas and got Tiger Driver’d.
Watching these guys slum it on Raw with a plumber and a sitcom-quality jobber is like finding out Bryan Cranston was on Power Rangers.
Worst: This Guy Is Still Complaining
The reason the tag match loses several minutes at the beginning is because we need to devote a quarter hour of our one-hour show to the fifth instance of Shawn Michaels complaining about losing his championship. The fans just don’t get it, guys! Here, he says the fans should like him because he never makes excuses when he loses a championship. No, I didn’t write those sentences out of order.
Look at his face. How could you not want to pull that guy’s shirt up over his head and punch him in the stomach?
Best/Worst: The Most 1996 Moment Of 1996
Hahah, okay, so … holy sh*t.
We finally reach the finals of the hastily rebooked Karate Fighters toy-fighting tournament, and it’s Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. Sable. Lawler has Hunter Hearst Helmsley in his corner, Sable has Marc Mero. You can probably guess where this goes. King assures Sable that “no king has ever lost to a woman,” and Sable confidently whispers a retort nobody can hear. They play toys, and Sable wins. I wonder how you work a toy tournament? Was this a shoot? Was this a SHOOT TOY TOURNAMENT? Like the world’s worst Real Steel? Like Brawl For It All for babies?
Anyway, Sable wins, which leads to Lawler and Helmsley attacking Mero. Goldust ends up making the save, continuing his face turn and setting up one of the most Vince Russo moments in the history of Vince Russo. Lawler tries to reason with Goldust, saying that sure, Helmsley made a pass at Marlena, but that should be fine … Helmsley is a handsome, heterosexual man, and Goldust is, well, you know. Goldust makes him finish his sentence, and Lawler says Goldust is “queer.” WWE Network captions it as “–.” and they are so not ready for the Attitude Era. Goldie assures us that he is not that and punches Lawler in the face to cheers.
It’s worth noting that the connotation of “queer” in 1996 as the World Wrestling Federation might use it is not the modern connotation of queer. It’s also worth noting that in the eyes of the people writing the show, being a pansexual predator who makes out with you while you’re unconscious or whatever makes you a heel, but pretending to be a pansexual predator because mind games makes you a face. I don’t know. I bought a copy of Hootie & The Blowfish’s Fairweather Johnson album in 1996, what the f*ck did any of us know?
Worst: The Gunn Family Disaster
So, Bart Gunn takes on his dastardly, black-wearing brother Billy in the main event. You’d think they’d run Austin vs. Vader in the main and open with this garbage fire, but whatever.
The selling point of the match is the finish, in which Bart hits Billy with a Stun Gun and kills him. Billy goes limp, the referee stops the match, medics and crying family members fill the ring and Bart just kinda kneels there pulling at his hair, screaming WHY GOD WHY. Figuratively. Mostly. If you’re wondering if this was the beginning of some big angle to get the Gunns back together, haha nope, it’s just a way to end the storied singles run of Western Villain Billy and begin the epic story of Rockabilly. More on that when we get to it.
But yeah, this week’s show is main-evented by a cowboy sad that his bad transitional move choke-murdered his brother. ¯_(ツ)_/¯