– Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can read about previous episodes on the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag page. As a reminder, we’ve jumped ahead three years to coordinate these columns with the Best and Worst of Nitro.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night RAW for June 10, 1996.
Best: Owen Hart Vs. Yokozuna
I don’t care if they just stood still in the ring and crotch-chopped at each other for 5 minutes, I’m not going to give Owen Hart vs. Yokozuna a Worst.
That’s this week’s opener, a round-one King of the Ring tournament match built around the story that Yokozuna is so obsessed with getting his hands on Jim Cornette that it’s costing him wins. There’s a weird thing that happens in Yoko matches where he’ll have to lose but there’s no reasonable way for a regular-sized guy to trounce this 600-pounder that can dunk a basketball, so Yoko has to go up for a Banzai Drop and just f*ck it up. Seriously, there are so many Yoko matches from this era that end with him having the match won, climbing the ropes, slipping off of them and falling backwards into unconsciousness. Owen doesn’t even do anything to him, he just suddenly wobbles and falls and loses 100% of his HP. Owen tries to make it engaging by putting his feet on the ropes — and putting one in the air for extra, extra leverage — but Yoko’s down for a 30 count no matter what. His weakness is SHORT FALLS.
Another weird thing from this era is Yokozuna’s face run, which (like a lot of face runs) eliminates all logic and removes whatever we liked about the guy enough to make them want to turn him face. Let me put it to you this way: Yokozuna is a 600-pound former WWF Champion who wrecked Bret Hart at WrestleMania and, for all intents and purposes, ended Hulkamania. Now he’s a good guy, so 230-pound Owen Hart has a broken hand and is kicking Yoko’s ass. Jim Ross interviews him after the match and Yoko’s basically reduced to a sad Uso, mumbling about how he has to “find himself.” All you need to do is shave and find an old man to throw salt at people, dude, it’s not that severe. You’re YOKOZUNA.
Owen moves on to round 2 to face the winner of Skip vs. Marc Mero, which is kinda like going into a flower shop and buying a bucket of dirt.
Best: I Lahk His Snakes, I Lahk His Stahl
For the record, I’m not Besting Jake The Snake’s personal problems, I’m Besting this for three reasons:
1. It’s the ancestor to the Jake segments in Beyond The Mat, which makes me think about watching Beyond The Mat, which makes me think of Dennis Stamp on a trampoline and New Jack being Denzel’s friend.
2. The contrast of the subject matter and Vince McMahon’s shouty enthusiasm for everything else on the show.
“AHHHNBELIEVABLE ACTION LADIES AND GENNAMEN UP NEXT HERE’S JAKE THE SNAKE RRROBERTS”
“I almost died from doing cocaine. I didn’t want to be alive.”
“jake the snake roberts everybody, now GIVE IT UP FOR THE WIIIIILEMAN MARC MERO AND THE oh my THE SEXY SABLE”
3. You think the people at Action Zone are pissed that Raw aped their exclusive?
Worst: A Bad Omen
Vince McMahon, during Mero’s entrance: “There you see the beautiful Sable, I would suggest in my estimation the most beautiful lady EVER here in the World Wrestling Federation!”
I’ve been waging the Sable vs. Sunny wars (on the losing side) since 1996, so hearing Vince be like SABLE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PERSON HERE I THINK while Sunny is in the middle of her cosplaying tag team championship hoarder phase makes me want to flip a table. He goes on to straight-up call her a possession, saying “Owen Hart brings a Slammy to ringside, Hillbilly Jim brings a good luck horseshoe charm and Wildman, well, he brings Sable to ringside!”
Sunny is not featured on this episode.
Worst: Anything Approaching A WWF Cruiserweight Division
So yeah, Wildman Marc Mero wrestles Skip of the Bodydonnas in our next King of the Ring tournament match. Not to throw too much shade at Chris Candido — he’s trying his best — but WWF’s attempts to have “good wrestling” on the show that wasn’t that exact same kind of good 1996 WWF match were disasters. Wildman and Skip are supposed to be these dynamic, exciting young athletes, and aside from a couple of really terrible dives to the outside, it’s just chinlocks and wristlocks and headlocks for days.
To put it another way, this show happens like two weeks before WCW’s Great American Bash ’96. That show features Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Dean Malenko, and they do it again on Nitro the next night. WWF is throwing a handicapped-by-a-facetious-bodybuilder-gimmick Chris Candido in the ring against a trying-too-hard Johnny B. Badd. Retconned histories aside, it seems biologically impossible for me that someone could watch this episode of Raw and pretty much any episode of Nitro from this era and think Raw’s better. It’s insane. They have some talented people on the roster, but it’s just the safest, most boring, going-through-the-motions wrestling you’ve ever seen. Marc Mero running cock-eyed cross the ring and doing a front flip like 3 inches past the ropes to the outside and bashing his asshole into somebody’s shoulder is not goddamn Rey Mysterio. Skip grabbing a hammerlock and yelling “shut up” at a crowd is not Dean Malenko. It’s like Lutz being able to pick a restaurant for lunch on 30 Rock and ordering from the gas station.
Mero wins, and celebrates by doing the Batusi:
Best?: Jerry Lawler Dies On Raw
On September 10, 2012, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler suffered a heart attack during Raw and was clinically dead for 20 minutes. The good news is that it’s a lot harder than that to kill the King, so he was fine.
That’s all I could think about when this King of the Ring 1996 commercial aired, and featured Jerry Lawler choking on food and dying.
He goes to Heaven and finds peace, only to be attacked by Elvis, King Tut and other dead people claiming to be King. Eventually he realizes that something’s up, and they reveal that he’s actually in Hell. Seriously.
… and that’s the end of the commercial. “Hey wrestling fans, Jerry Lawler is dead and went to Hell. Order King of the Ring, live on pay-per-view!” Maybe the other verses in the Book of Austin deal with the afterlife, and King of the Ring was a long con to tell us The Good News.
Best: The Portrait Of The ALLtimate Woyer
Continuing the theme of “Jerry Lawler’s going to die,” he’s set for a match against The Ultimate Warrior at King of the Ring. If you watched last week’s episode, you’ll remember that Warrior had a first round King of the Ring tournament match against Goldust, and both men were eliminated form the tourney via a double-countout. Goldust bailed on the match, Warrior followed him out and they got counted out. After the bell rings, Lawler jogs up behind Warrior to “protect Marlena,” so Warrior chases him around the ring and sends him scurrying. Apparently that translates to Lawler “costing Warrior his shot at King of the Ring” even though he was counted out before Lawler even got over there, so I guess somebody missed their cue or Tim White counted too fast or whatever and they messed it up.
Anyway, the story now is that Lawler cost Warrior the match and there’s hell to pay. Lawler tries to apologize to Warrior and get out of the match by presenting him with a legitimately amazing Velvet Elvis Ultimate Warrior painting, and it’s so good that Warrior has to acknowledge it being rad before saying he doesn’t want it. Lawler then smashes it over Warrior’s head, sending glass flying everywhere and causing Warrior to shake the ropes and stop paying attention. I don’t know how Warrior’s attention span works. Thank God he was wearing a baseball cap, though, or else the cardboard on the back of that frame would’ve really done a number on him.
Jokes aside, this was great. Every episode of Raw should feature Jerry Lawler giving someone a portrait and then trying to kill them with it.
Worst: All This Wrestling For Nothing
Our main event is a 20-minute match (!!) between The Undertaker and the British Bulldog, but don’t worry, it is basically booked to drive you insane: there are multiple commercial breaks, Jim Cornette’s on commentary still screaming about Shawn Michaels’ sex life, nothing really happens and the finish is Mankind grabbing Undertaker’s leg from under the ring to get him counted out. Lord loves a count-out finish on Raw in 1996.
There’s some great stuff AFTER the match with Mankind KO’ing Taker with a piledriver and referees having to get between them to keep Taker from dying via Mandible Claw, but it really didn’t need 19 minutes of British Bulldog working a chinlock to make it relevant. I complain a lot about the short matches on Raw that hustle through the work to get to the post-match stuff, but the ones that meander for the sake of basic-ass wrestling aren’t any better.
Next week: Brian Pillman shows up but can’t do anything, the Portuguese Man O’ War shows up but can’t do anything, and Jake the Snake jobs to a middle school art project. Stay tuned!