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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night RAW for May 6, 1996.
Best: The Crippler (No, Not That One)
This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw is dedicated to the memory of Ray Stevens, which makes sense as ‘The Ballad Of The Blue Cyclone’ is easily the best country music parody song about a mark getting beaten up by a wrestler in a parking lot ever recorded.
Worst: I Hope You Like Chinlocks
Most people think the Attitude Era changed the WWF forever by making the product edgy and “in your face,” and utilizing crash TV to keep viewers tuned in. Here’s a secret you’ll learn by going back and watching these shows on WWE Network: all the Attitude Era did was cut 8 minutes out of every match.
That’s the difference in ’96 Raws and ’97 Raws. In ’97, a match between the 1-2-3 Kid and ‘Wildman’ Marc Mero would be about 2 minutes long and end when Triple H runs out and tries to cost Mero the match. In ’96, they add 8 f*cking minutes to the middle and have the 1-2-3 Kid chinlock Mero for 6 of them. When the chinlock doesn’t work, he goes for a sleeper. That’s every match on the show. Guys are doing the least amount possible, and when something DOES happen, they cut to commercial. There’s your crash TV. Just complete inactivity, then somebody hits a dropkick and Vince is like AH GAHD WE GOTTA SELL PIZZA ROLLS SHIT WE’LL BE BACK. It’s insane.
In my head Nitro didn’t start winning the ratings war because of the nWo, they won using the underhanded mission statement of “stuff should happen on the show.”
Best: What’s Best For Business
The best part of the opening match is the fact that a baby-faced, not-ready-to-talk-on-television Triple H sits in on color commentary. He’s still Hunter Hearst Helmsley at this point — “his name isn’t the only thing that’s LONG” says a cock-obsessed Jerry Lawler — and he’s doing this wonderful “British accent” when he talks. I put British accent in quotes because he’s not even approximating it, he’s just stretching out his vowels when he remembers. “I don’t care about Wildman MAAAAHK Mero!” 80% of it’s just Triple H voice. Sometimes he just mumbles into the microphone and you have no idea what he’s saying. It’s precious to see the future Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative back when he had no visible upside. Dude was CJ Parker in a puffy shirt.
He sits in on commentary because he’s feuding with Marc Mero, and tries to help the 1-2-3 Kid win the match. I’d make a joke about Triple H cheating to help X-Pac, but it’s far too early to be making D-Generation X jokes.
Best: A CURRENT AFFAIR
If you missed last week’s episode, Shawn Michaels allegedly cornered The British Bulldog’s wife backstage in the middle of a show and sexually propositioned her. She’s a Hart, so she’s got honor and remembers a time when people had heroes and heroes mattered or whatever and is irate.
This week’s followup is the GREATEST THING EVER and features a WWF WAG with a protected identity speaking candidly about the time she and Shawn got busy and he never called her back. It’s supposed to incriminate Shawn for being a homewrecker, I guess, but she puts him over strong, talking about how gorgeous he is and how good he smells. It gets close to just being full-on Shawn Michaels fan fiction in the middle of Raw. The big reveal is that Shawn only hooked up with her to get a psychological advantage over her husband, and that it worked.
Shawn wrestled IRS in his last WWF match in ’95, so I’m gonna pretend this is Irwin R. Schyster’s wife and he was f*ck-shamed out of the company. I’m also going to pretend that he got her pregnant, and that Shawn is Bo Dallas’ biological father. Come on, tell me that doesn’t make sense. Bo’s real-life age doesn’t work with the timeline, but the Bo Dallas character’s age has never been specified. Why do you think he’s so different from the rest of his family? Why do you think he’s so arrogant, and so open to religious messages? Why do you think his hair’s so long? He’s got that HBK blood, you guys.
Worst: Anyway, Back To The Chinlocks And Sleepers
Match two is The British Bulldog vs. Fatu. Fatu is Rikishi’s second evolution. He started as a mindless savage, evolved into an urban street tough “making a difference” his community, and ultimately evolved into a dancing, asshole-obssessed sumo. If you use a Sun Stone on him he turns into The Sultan.
Anyway, it’s more of the inactivity and non-stop chinlocks you love from Monday Night Raw. Bulldog tries to inject a little personality into things when Fatu falls out of the ring, but otherwise the presence of a second wrestler means they have to hold each other and lie on the ground. It’s like, ten minutes long. The Attitude Era version of this is Fatu pulling down his pants, finding actual dog shit at ringside, rubbing it on his butt and rubbing his butt in the Bulldog’s face while Jerry Lawler screams. That’d be the first 20 seconds of the match. By the 40 second mark, the match would be over and a bunch of bikini girls would be in the ring doing the Electric Slide. I can’t really figure out which era is worse.
This was at least three minutes too long.
Worst: DID SOMEBODY SAY THREE MINUTES?
Okay, this isn’t actually 3-Minute Warning, it’s Headshrinkers Samu and Alofa as the “Samoan Gangster Party.” I think the idea is that Fatu was a former Samoan gang member trying to better his community or whatever and these guys were the “gangsters” who were still gangin’ it up. They’re mad at him for dressing like a character from ‘A Different World’ and telling kids they should stay in school when they should actually LEAVE SCHOOL and DO GANG THINGS. This is all conjecture, sadly, because nothing ever came of it and the angle was dropped, and Fatu got repackaged as an Arabic guy.
Worst: Tekno Team 2000
how the f*ck am I supposed to explain these guys
Meet Travis and Troy, Tekno Team 2000. Yes, that was their name. No, they didn’t make it to the year 2000. I know they look like a couple of white dudes cast as “Indians” in a Hollywood epic, but they’re supposed to represent “the cutting edge of cyberculture.” No idea. This is the same company that turned Edge and Christian into vampires because they heard young people were into “bite clubs,” so if none of that makes sense to you, “it was the 1990s.”
Travis and Troy are Chad Fortune and Erik Watts. Fortune is a guy who kept getting racing and monster truck gimmicks until he gave up wrestling entirely to race and drive monster trucks. Erik Watts is notable for turning nepotism into 20-year wrestling career, throwing the worst dropkick in human history and putting Arn Anderson in the STF at a gas station. WWF wanted to turn them into the Hardy Boyz before they knew what the Hardy Boyz were, but instead of a dynamic, young, exciting tag team they got two gangly awkward guys in Blade Runner makeup and skintight Zubaz. Their idea of “the future” was tandem hip-tosses. Seriously, no idea.
They’d already been forgotten by this point, and this was sort of their “return” match. The Bodydonnas were tasked with making them look good. They did not complete that task, and Tekno Team 2000 because Garbage Team 1996 about a month later.
Best: Sunny, You Guys
The best compliment I can give Sunny is that when she’s onscreen, you don’t care about anybody else in the world, especially not Chad and Brad Tekno.
(I’ll be in my bunk.)
Best/Worst: EXTREME GAY PANIC AT ALL TIMES
Okay, to clarify, a character being able to terrify ever other character because he’s gay (or “acting gay”) is not great. It’s a relic of a different time, and pro wrestling should have (and has, mostly) moved on by now. You can still go to bad wrestling shows at sports bars and see guys in pink trunks hugging each other for heat, but most promoters with brains have abandoned it.
It’s funny in retrospect, though, to watch how these characters overreact to someone making a gay pass at them. You’ve got Goldust, a guy who is very clearly just doing this to get a reaction and “play mind games,” causing an instant, severe reaction in everyone he comes in contact with. He sits down to do color commentary with Vince and just kinda leans into him, and Vince freaks the hell out. It’s not even kayfabe freaking out, it’s Vince McMahon The Dude saying “hey. hey. hey. hey. hey.” until Goldust stops.
There’s also a great moment where Goldust decides he’s going to put the moves on Paul Bearer, and starts unbuttoning Paul’s shirt. Paul reacts by SCREAMING AND RUNNING AWAY IN TERROR. The finish is a gay panic finish, too, which Goldie “helping” Owen Hart back into the ring by putting his fingers up his ass. It’s so weird, especially that they had to have him to do it to EVERYBODY INVOLVED, good, bad or otherwise. They were just like, “hey Dustin, go out there and put the fear of Gay God into everything that moves,” and he’s really good at his job.
Seriously, I should give this a Worst, but watch Paul Bearer get goosed as he’s running away and tell me it’s not absurdist magic.
Worst: Wrestling Double Standards
Owen Hart can’t have another man’s hands on his butt, but he can be held in a 69 position and basically hold himself up with dick-to-mouth friction and it’s totally fine. You’re weird, wrestling.
Note: the actual Worst for this comes from the fact that it’s an Owen Hart vs. Undertaker match that is 90% restholds and ends with a heel gay-panicking another heel into a distraction finish. There shouldn’t be a world where Owen Hart vs. The Undertaker is a bad match, but I have to remember it’s the same world where Taker didn’t have a good match before he became a biker.
Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey.