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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for July 15, 1996.
Worst: Bart Gunn, Man Of 1,004 Holds
Over on WCW Monday Nitro, Chris Benoit’s wrestling Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko’s putting on a wrestling clinic every time he gets within 10 feet of another person, and Hulk Hogan has just threatened to change the business forever by forming the New World Order. Exciting talent from Japan, Mexico and Europe are debuting every week.
On Raw, Bart Gunn is holding an armbar on Ahmed Johnson for FIFTEEN F*CKING MINUTES.
I don’t want to seem like the world’s most pessimistic dude on a Monday morning, but this might be the worst-ever episode of Raw. It seriously starts with Bart Gunn vs. Ahmed Johnson, and is just Bart lying on the ground holding Ahmed’s arm for a quarter-hour until Ahmed pretends none of it happened and Pearl River Plunges him for the victory. Sunny’s out there in what appears to be a Texas-themed cavegirl costume, but it barely helps. We joke a lot these days about Raw being in a “holding pattern” between big shows, but July ’96 Raw isn’t even in that. It’s an inanimate object. Raw isn’t “war” yet, it’s a bowl of plastic fruit.
Worst: And Now, A Wrestling Plumber
Match two introduces us to T.L. HOPPER, pro-wrestling plumber. The “T.L.” stands for toilet. His intro video is him working on plumbing with his ass-crack hanging out, which is the entire joke. Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler can’t get enough of the ass-crack jokes, and when Hopper uses a rag to wipe his exposed ass you’d think Carol Burnett had just walked down a stairwell with a curtain rod across her shoulders. Like a lot of occupational gimmicks at the time, you’ve got to wonder why these guys with good day jobs would moonlight as pro wrestlers. Wouldn’t Hopper make more money as a plumber than as a 1996 WWF jobber?
Speaking of literal sh*t, Hopper wrestles the Wildman Marc Mero.
This one will make you long for the halcyon days of Bart Gunn vs. Ahmed Johnson. It’s a plumber with his ass hanging out working a headlock on the cis-washed Johnny B. Badd, and it’s 10 more minutes we could’ve spent on basically anything else. Just show me Vince McMahon at the announce table holding up a bag of Burger King while Lawler smiles and points at it for 10 minutes –it’ll add as much to the show as Marc Mero KO punching the Elseworlds Dirty White Boy.
Worst: The Superstar Line
“He’s going to make him team with Sid and Ahmed Johnson.”
Worst: KEEP STALLING
If you’ve been following the column, you know that The Ultimate Warrior is gone from the company only a couple of weeks after being inserted into the upcoming pay-per-view main event. You may also know that Raw tapes 80 episodes at once — this may be an exaggeration, or I may be thinking of Impact — so aside from last week’s match with Owen Hart to write him out, they’ve got to prune any remaining Warrior content.
That means they’ve got a lot of time to fill, so hey, enjoy this 5-minute video of Undertaker highlights. As backup plans go, it’s better than most. Seriously though, it’s just five minutes of Undertaker’s TitanTron video. Not sure what I’m supposed to say about it, other than “it’s better when there’s a tiny Undertaker walking under it.”
Best: If You’re Not Down With That, We Got Two Words For Ya
Best is relative.
In the only thing attempting to be an entertaining segment on the show, Shawn Michaels wrestles future D-Generation X Eskimo Brother Billy Gunn in the main event. The crowd actually seems to like Shawn, which differentiates him from everyone else on the episode, and Billy’s starting to show some personality. “Cocky weirdo in an airbrushed South Park shirt” was a better character for the time than “one of two cowboys,” and he figures that out soon. Shawn chases Sunny around the ring for bonus laughs, and it absolutely does not remind me that we just got finished with a story about how he’d been lecherous to women. Only in WWE is a familial cowboy the heel, and a flamboyant pretty-boy sexual predator is the face.
Anyway, Shawn finishes off Billy with Sweet Chin Music, and I assume Bart greets Billy backstage all, “I TOLD YOU TO WORK THE ARM.”
Worst: THIS IS LIVE, WE PROMISE
I say “worst” for this, but it’s actually pretty funny. A soaking wet Shawn Michaels shows up backstage in a segment that is absolutely part of the pre-taped program and gives Ahmed Johnson a celebratory “we beat the Smoking Gunns” hug. Jim Cornette runs up and just hurls a full cup of coffee in Shawn’s face, and THE CHASE IS ON.
Jim Cornette’s master plan, I guess, was to throw his drink in their faces and lure them into a backstage ambush, like when they trap Titans on Attack on Titan. Camp Cornette beats them up for a few seconds, but WAIT JUST A MINUTE, here comes Sycho Sid driving into the arena at the very end of the show in a reasonably priced, mid-sized Sedan to save the day. The best part is that someone stood up a wooden pallet so he’d have something to drive through on the way in.
That’s an entire episode of Raw, I sh*t you not.