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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for July 8, 1996.
Worst: Gorilla Monsoon Catches Us Up On What’s Been Going On With The Warrior
Warrior’s father died around this time, and Warrior started missing house shows and taking time off to grieve. Problem is, Vince McMahon said Warrior was estranged from his father and hadn’t talked to him in a decade, so that couldn’t be the reason. Turns out the actual reason he was bailing on shows is because WWF was selling Ultimate Warrior merchandise without giving him a percentage. This is a guy who in 1996 was shilling “Warrior University,” writing himself into comic books and wearing homemade Ultimate Warrior baseball caps, so yeah, that’s a much more “Ultimate Warrior” reason.
This week, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon announces that Warrior has been indefinitely suspended for not caring about YOU, the WWF Universe. The major problem here is that it’s 1996, so Raw tapes a month’s worth of shows at once. That means Warrior’s got a match on this very episode. Monsoon notes that Warrior’s suspension will be lifted if he posts an appearance bond, which I guess is good business but from a kayfabe babyface GM character perspective is one of the lamest, most passive-aggressive responses of all time.
As a quick note, I loved Monsoon as an announcer, but hated him as an authority figure. It’s all because of the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII, man. Wrestling rules say that if a champion and a challenger reach the time limit without a decision, the champion retains. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels wrestle for 60 minutes, and the final score is 0-0. Bret should retain, right? But Monsoon wanders out and restarts the match, sending it into sudden death overtime so Shawn can nail Bret with Sweet Chin Music and pin him. How is that fair? The worst part is that Bret had Shawn in the damn Sharpshooter as time expired. If anything, they should’ve restarted with Shawn in the move in the middle of the ring, where he absolutely would’ve lost. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over that. Set the Iron Man Match on fire.
Best: Goodbye Warrior!
So yeah, there’s an Owen Hart vs. Ultimate Warrior match that takes place out of WWE’s timeline, but they have to cram it in anyway. It’s probably Warrior’s best match of this return run, because Owen Hart is magic, but it’s still very, very “Warrior.” Watching great wrestlers in the ring with Warrior is like playing a WWE video game on its hardest difficulty. Owen DISMANTLES Warrior for most of the match, hitting every move in his arsenal and just generally wrestling smart. Every time he goes for a special, though, Warrior reverses it. Owen manages to stop Warrior’s comeback and gains the advantage again, but then WHOOPS, Warrior starts no-selling everything and destroying him. It’s not that Warrior’s tougher than him or even that much stronger, he’s just realized it’s time for him to win. It’s impossibly frustrating.
Bulldog runs in for the disqualification, and Camp Cornette sends Warrior out of the company with a 4-on-1 beatdown. Announcer Vince is still neutral as f*ck about everything that isn’t Shawn Michaels, so he seems optimistic that we’ll see Warrior again. Jerry Lawler buries the SH*T out of him, though, and a picture-in-picture interview with Warrior’s upcoming pay-per-view tag team partners Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson has them pretending he doesn’t exist.
Worst: WE ALSO HAVE A THIRD MAN
Speaking of Shawn and Ahmed, WWE watched Bash at the Beach ’96 the night before Raw and decided that building drama about “who the third man will be” in ANY situation would be money. Shawn and Ahmed pop up throughout the episode to announce that they’ve found a third man, and that they’ll announce it some time tonight. The suspense is killing me, guys.
Next week, Shawn Michaels defends the WWF Championship against future D-Generation X Eskimo Brother Billy Gunn, and Ahmed Johnson takes on Bart. Ahmed calls them “Silly and Fart,” which I hope he improvised. He also tells Sunny to “stay in the hood,” and not to bring a gun unless she plans to shoot it. I’m … not sure Ahmed’s ever watched the show before.
Worst: The WWF Version Of Brian Pillman
Watching the WWF version of Brian Pillman is so sad.
In WCW, they’d positioned him (partially by accident) as a “loose cannon.” He was a guy who’d run his mouth and disrespect wrestling tradition, but in a way that didn’t always feel like it was part of the show. He seemed legitimately cracked, and his attitude created a blueprint for an entire era of pro wrestling. In WWF, he’d just wander in and out on crutches and maybe scream at somebody. That’s what he does here. Savio Vega’s got a match against Justin Hawk Bradshaw, so Pillman follows him out and tries to hit him with a crutch. J.J. Dillon of all people intercepts him and nothing happens, making Pillman one of the only WWF guys ever to not be able to successfully execute a sneak attack.
I mean, it’s not entirely their fault. Pillman had just been in a Hummer accident that put him in a coma for a week and got his ankle permanently fused into a walking position, so it’s not like he could do much. He beats up a fan on Shotgun Saturday Night at some point, but aside from pulling a gun on Stone Cold Steve Austin and coining a term while getting his ankle broken, he’s mostly just a weird guy nobody pays attention to.
Worst: Metaphysically The Longest Match In Raw History
Yeah, so Savio Vega wrestles Justin Hawk Bradshaw, and it’s so damn long it’s probably still happening. They seriously go for 15 minutes, and nothing more exciting than a backdrop happens. I’ve listened to white-noise machines with more action than this. Raw was only an hour here, and somebody was like, “let’s let Savio Vega and Bradshaw do chinlocks to each other for a quarter of it.” You can actually see people in the crowd falling asleep.
Let me try to put it in modern terms. Imagine you were watching NXT. Imagine that Tye Dillinger wrestles Angelo Dawkins for 20 minutes, no story or anything. No exciting moves, no hot characters, just Dillinger working a bad armbar on Dawkins the entire time. Imagine there was a commercial break, and the announce team talks quietly amongst themselves about what’s going to happen in tonight’s main-event, via-satellite interview. Now imagine that when the match finally ends, they all stay in the ring to do a post-match thing. You’re pushing half an hour of this bullsh*t now.
That’s this match. FIFTEEN MINUTES to get to the point where Uncle Zeb accidentally trips up Bradshaw and Savio hits a spinning wheel kick for the pin. After the match, Bradshaw hits him in the head with a cowbell and Savio gets branded. It’s an angle in reverse. They wrestle for a quarter-hour and accomplish nothing so the match can be done so they can do stuff. I’m surprised wrestling fans weren’t organizing independent dog shows just to get this show off the air more often.
Worst: And The Crowd Goes Mild
The main event is Vader and the British Bulldog vs. the Godwinns. It’s fine, but feels like Amazing Red vs. Low Ki after sitting through Vega and Bradshaw. The crowd is still comatose the entire time, even when Jim Cornette starts running around the ring trying to get them into it, and even the canned heat sounds disingenuous. They cut to this wide shot and Vince is all, “WHAT A MATCHUP,” and the crowd’s roaring their asses off, but look at them. Can you find a single excited person in that screengrab?
If you don’t have WWE Network and want to experience what watching these shows is like, down two entire bottles of NyQuil and try to sit through a Smackdown. You’ll start hallucinating, and even the hallucinations are boring.
Best: Jim Cornette’s Face
Surprise! The THIRD MAN for these babyface WWF interlopers is SYCHO SID, aka Sid Vicious, aka Sid Justice, aka “that guy who tried to attack Brian Pillman with a squeegee, stabbed Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors 20 times and once quit wrestling so he could go play softball.” Cornette sells it with the power of a thousand suns, like Shawn had just brought Jesus Christ down from the Heavens and put him in a match.
The best part of the segment is that Shawn Michaels is the one who brought him in. That works out badly for him a few months later, when Sid’s punching Jose Lothario in the chest and winning the WWF Championship. If only Warrior had posted that appearance bond. FOR WANT OF A NAIL, THE SHOE WAS LOST.
Next week: Silly and Fart are in action!