Monday Night Raw (05/16/94)
Arnold Furious: We’re, once again, in Burlington, Vermont. After doing all the build up for it, the actual Yokozuna-Quake match is on this show. Burlington has seen the whole angle in one night and will now get the blow off. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Randy Savage.
King of the Ring Qualifier
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Thurman “Sparky” Plugg
Bigelow made the final of the King of the Ring in 1993 so it’d be an upset if he lost here. Sparky, which Vince insists on calling him at all times, is therefore the underdog. Even though he’s a new guy I always felt someone with a “second job” outside of wrestling, for their character, was always inferior to a dedicated pro-wrestler like Bigelow. Savage spends the entire match making driving jokes, which Vince bites on too; pit stop, chequered flag, etc. They have a decent storyline with Sparky bringing speed and pluck against Bigelow’s power and big moves. Vince runs into verbal trouble: “King of the Ring, everyone wants to be the King of the, uh… ring”. Nailed it, mate. The match is tidy and energised because both guys are solid hands, it’s just a shame about Bob’s gimmick. Sparky sets up a crossbody with the DDT before resorting to a series of flash pins. The fans aren’t particularly enthused but it has been a long night. Luna trips Sparky up to turn the tide. Bigelow brings improvisation on the finish, Holly having fallen into the wrong spot, and hits a slingshot headbutt instead of the top rope version. Impressive. Another thrilling match for the King of the Ring qualifiers. I enjoyed it.
Final Rating: ***
Diesel vs. Mike Moraldo
Nice to see Moraldo has recovered from that superkick in 1993. Diesel is not compassionate and throws Moraldo around like a sack of spuds. Dies could finish in 30-seconds or so but prolongs the agony with a bearhug. He was still a shitty worker at this point in his career. Diesel was making his squashes more entertaining though, and throws his entire moveset into this match before the Jacknife finishes. Vince spent the entire match trying to make enough topical references to convince the fans this wasn’t taped weeks ago.
Final Rating: ¾*
The King’s Court
Lawler’s chat show strikes again. They sure ran this angle into the ground. Lawler stops off to shill his old man match with Roddy Piper at King of the Ring. The guest is Ted DiBiase, along with his new manservant Nikolai Volkoff. The big Russian was broke and remains a babyface, but Ted owns him. I’m not quite sure why Ted bothered with a broken down old Russkie. Volkoff had been a joke for years so he’s not exactly a good starting place for a stable. Ted starts out by giving Volkoff some new threads. As Vince continues with the topical references, he namedrops Mark Henry some two years before signing him. This was way too long, though after one segment I do already want to see Volkoff turn face. But hang on a minute, he’s been ringside for loads of tapings recently… where did he get that ticket money from if he was broke? Maybe if he was working instead of loafing around in his pimp brown suit he’d have some green in his pockets. Slacker!
Owen Hart vs. Tony Roy
Tony Roy is another dual forenamed jobber. Vince spends the opening of the match shilling the first Hall of Fame ceremony. Owen takes Roy apart with a mixture of flying and suplexes. Roy doesn’t last long before Owen finishes with the Sharpshooter. Owen’s post match antics are sensational as he slaps Roy around and puts Bret’s sunglasses on the jobber. As Owen holds Roy’s grimacing face up to camera, he shouts “he looks just like you Bret”. I swear Roy is trying like hell not to break.
Final Rating: ½*
Video Control takes us to Duke Droese who’s asleep in a dumpster. Geez, how did this not get over? It must have been pure gold in the writer’s room.
Yokozuna vs. Earthquake
Howard Finkel runs us through the rules of sumo wrestling. It’s pretty straightforward. You push the other guy out of the ring. The ropes having been removed for the contest. I watched a bit of sumo when I was in Tokyo, it’s a good sport, though I’m not sure how much fun it is worked. Quake is an actual former sumo wrestler, whereas that’s just Yokozuna’s gimmick. Holy shit, Vince actually calls Quake by his sumo name Kototenzan. I did NOT expect that. I guess if it was another sport something CAN happen outside of the WWF. Normally the pre-match warm up is entertaining in sumo, as it’s all mind games ahead of the eventual contact. When it’s worked, you just want them to get on with it. Even Vince gets bored as Quake tries like hell to get the psychology over. I love how Vince’s papers over Yoko’s lack of actual sumo knowledge. Yoko basically imitates Quake, the actual sumo wrestler. Unlike a normal sumo match, which is fast and furious, this is plodding and deliberate with teases instead of action. The problem with promoting a one-off sumo match is making it into an event, when in reality sumo is a series of quick contests featuring many participants. After an eternity of the two hugging in the middle of the ring Yoko gets pushed over and takes a bizarrely huge back bump. This was the pinnacle of Quake’s comeback and his biggest success as a singles babyface. As a match however, the less said the better.
Final Rating: ½*
THE RAW RECAP
Most Entertaining: Sparky Plugg. His gimmick might suck but Bob Holly put his all into the Bigelow contest, demonstrating his wide range of wrestling skill. Shame it took the WWF three years to actually notice what he could do and that his personality was not that of a race car driver.
Least Entertaining: Yokozuna. If he was of any use, at all, he’d have learned how to work a sumo match. I felt bad for Quake as they stood around hugging for five minutes.
Quote of the Night: “I’m glad I’ve got sunglasses on coz I’d be blinded by the liyuts, yeeeh!” – Randy Savage during Bigelow’s entrance, which contains no flashing lights of any kind.
Match of the Night: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Sparky Plugg.
Summary: The King of the Ring qualifiers seem to be a highlight of Raw. I’m glad they’re using the show to have good long matches that enhance the reputation of the forthcoming PPV. That way Raw is improved by being connected to the PPV event and the PPV event becomes more important because you have to qualify for it on Raw. Over the years this concept would get diluted but here it’s good, honest entertainment. The whole sumo gimmick had an ok build up, thanks to Cornette, but the actual match was a non-event. But then, you can’t really work a sumo match.