Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw: The stars of Mexico have arrived! Note: they are not on this week’s show.
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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for December 30, 1996.
Best: Stone Cold Steve Austin Is The Greatest
The best moment of the entire episode (and possibly 1996, and possibly the 1990s) happens before the first match even begins. It’s supposed to be Stone Cold Steve Austin teaming with with Faarooq against “The Real Double J” Jesse James and Savio Vega. James does his normal entrance, with his very live, we swear to God, not like that liar Jeff Jarrett performance of ‘With My Baby Tonight,’ and he wanders around on the outside slapping hands. He’s taking forever, so Austin just powders, rushes over and stars beating the sh*t out of him. Just stomping him to death on the floor. And people wonder why Steve Austin suddenly got so popular.
Pro wrestling is about making people tired of one thing until you can do the opposite. Goldberg got popular because Nitro was so full of bullsh*t and talking and here was this giant tough guy beating people in 30 seconds, leaving and not saying anything. The nWo got popular because WCW had been so full of ridiculous cartoon characters like Hulk Hogan and the Dungeon of Doom, and suddenly here were these cool, disaffected guys from real life who beat people up and seemed to understand the tropes of the show. Stone Cold Steve Austin didn’t get popular because “Austin 3:16” sounded cool, he got popular because the WWF was an embarrassing wasteland of half-assed, hokey dorks doing hiptosses and chinlocks, and suddenly there was a guy in black so sick of their corny sh*t that he beat them up seemingly on the viewer’s behalf. The 90s weren’t defined by “attitude,” they were defined by years of garbage lightly sprinkled with guys who stood up and said, “okay, enough of this, let’s do something else.”
Worst: Babyface Referees
The actual match goes on until Austin chopblocks an already injured Double J on the outside, taking him out of the match. Instead of stopping it and awarding it to the heels by forfeit (like Jerry Lawler suggests, because those are the rules of pro wrestling), Bret Hart shows up in jeans and demands to take Jesse’s place. Lawler’s like WHAT NO YOU CAN’T DO THAT, and of course Vince is just like WAIT JUST A MINUTE LET’S SEE WHAT THE OFFICIAL SAYS.
Note: as you know if you watched wrestling in the 80s, the only time a substitute partner should be recognized as legal is if the original competitor gets taken out before the match, leaving someone in there alone to take a beating until the third party rushes out at the 11th hour to be all excited on the apron and take the desperation hot tag. If you sub in a new partner halfway through the match, that’s just a handicap match. It’s wrestling, Earl, not a Pokémon battle.
Anyway, Bret gets the tag, hits his five moves on doom on Faarooq without trouble and is about to put on the Sharpshooter when the Nation rushes in and attacks, drawing a disqualification. Savio and Bret get bodied for a while until Ahmed Johnson shows up wearing Terry Funk leggings, what appear to be hiking boots and a windbreaker. He’s gonna break that wind! He has a plank of wood in his hands, so the like six guys in the ring flee in terror.
Update on this important story: Faarooq is, reportedly, going down.
Worst: Good Wrestlers Wrestling Raw Matches
Up next is Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Flash Funk, and it’s a perfect example of what happens when you jam two square pegs into the round hole that is a Regular Raw Match. Three guesses as to where that round hole is located.
The match is just decor for the Goldust story happening in the background. Like last week, he and Marlena show up in the crowd to watch, only this time Lawler gets indignant trying to figure out how they got those seats when the arena’s been sold out for months. So he grabs a mic and goes over to the barricade and starts yelling at them while the match is going on, causing Goldie to run down and chase him off. This ends up inadvertently causing a distraction, allowing Helmsley to clock Funk with the Intercontinental Championship and steal the victory.
But don’t worry! As soon as that happens, Helmsley heads out to attack Goldust and gets caught by Funk, who tosses him back in and hits a 450 splash for revenge. If all of that made you go, “okay, cool,” and want to keep scrolling, don’t worry … the main-event ups the angle’s ante with kidnapping and thrown ladies.
Worst: This Guy’s Shirt
During Helmsley/Funk, I spotted this guy in the crowd. He’s wearing a jersey with the name EXPOSED on the back and the number 69. His name is THE 1990s.
Anybody know what’s up with this? Did he go to a promotional night at the strip club? Does it have a No Fear logo on it somewhere? Does the front say, IF YOU’RE PLAYING BASEBALL IN MONTREAL YOU’RE NOT REALLY EXPOSED WITHOUT YOUR BIG JOHNSON?
Followup question, which member of The Public Enemy is this?
Best: OH NO YOU DIDN’T
The centerpiece of the show is a face-to-face confrontation between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, to help set up their match at … uh, Survivor Series ’97, I guess.
First of all, the show-opening video package about the confrontation continues last week’s branding memo by having Shawn Michaels call himself, “the World Wrestling Federation’s favorite degenerate.”
Second of all, the segment itself is exactly the kind of catty, Jerry Springer affair you’d hope it would be. Bret tells Shawn that he was a disgrace at champion and ruined all the hard work he did building up the belt’s image, then throws shade at Shawn for posing in Playgirl. Bret doesn’t think ladies even read that magazine. Shawn responds with a lot of gum-chewing and disingenuous bowing, saying that he’s seen Bret on the road, and Bret’s no role model. It legitimately feels like they’re about to punch each other for real, which probably explains why Sid shows up and the whole thing turns into garbage.
So yeah, Sid interjects and says that HE IS SID or whatever, which brings out The Undertaker. Sid and Undertaker try to have a face-to-face, but that’s interrupted by Vader, who isn’t important to anyone but won’t stop fatly punching them in their ears. Eventually Shawn kicks a rope into Bret’s balls and dives out to fight Sid, because if there’s one thing that needs to happen for Stone Cold Steve Austin to become the biggest star in the company it’s every other babyface in the company becoming an actual baby.
Stay tuned for such classics as, “lately you’ve had some sunny days,” and, “I don’t think it was a girlie magazine, I think it was a gay magazine!”
Best/Worst: The Marlena Toss For Distance
Whew, finally, back to the Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Marlena stuff.
The main event is Jerry Lawler taking on Goldust, which ends with Triple H throwing Marlena over his shoulder and basically trying to kidnap and presumably sexually assault her to make good on his “she’ll know what a REAL MAN is like” boasts. He’s intercepted by Marc Mero, his ultimate cockblock, and when he realizes he isn’t going to be able to abduct Marelna, he f*cking throws her at him. All I could think while watching this was, “I wonder how far Triple H could’ve thrown her?” Dude could’ve shot-putted her into the mezzanine.
Goldust runs out to help her, so H just side-steps him and lucha pushes him into Mero and Marlena. Everybody falls down and gets hurt, and the show goes off the air with Helmsley sh*t-kicking everyone. Thank goodness he didn’t just pick up Marlena again and leave!
Only a month and a half until Thursday Raw Thursday, folks. Hold on.