Monday Night Raw (08/01/94)
James Dixon: Having almost boycotted this book after the awful June shows I had to endure, I have been coaxed back having looked at the line-up for this episode. Let’s hope it delivers. Vince McMahon returns to commentary after his “neck surgery”. That was just a cover of course, the real reason he was off Raw was due to the ongoing steroid trial, which was in its final phase. Vince was acquitted, and returned to TV a relieved man. Time to turn this sinking ship around… In three years…
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
I have already seen this match, having covered it on the excellent UK exclusive ‘Shawn Michaels – Hits From The Heartbreak Kid’. It is another chapter in their storied rivalry and another rare non-ladder singles match between the two. The start of this is incredible, and they run spots at a breathtaking pace. It is some of the finest work I have seen from the era. Razor beats Michaels all over the ring until Shawn catches a neckbreaker, but his offense doesn’t last long as Razor hits an SOS and finally slows the pace with an armbar. The rest is very brief though, and they go right back to hell-for-leather soon afterwards. The highlight of the next few minutes is Razor slingshotting Michaels out of the ring onto Diesel, who sells it by almost giving Michaels an O’Connor Roll on his catch of him and subsequent sell. The advert break causes merry hell for Video Control, as they wipe the screen to show a replay of what happened during commercial, meaning we miss what is going on “live”. Are they just going to keep showing replay after replay until it is over so we don’t miss anything? They avoid formula here for the most part, as Razor works Shawn over with a bearhug and almost does a heat on him. Diesel’s interference puts paid to Razor’s control, as he clotheslines him on the outside. There is so much stuff in this, and the pace changes throughout, slowing for them to rest and work holds then quickening into exciting sequences and high impact stuff. Michaels tries to win it with the Razor’s Edge after the superkick only gets two, but he is too fatigued to lift him Razor, who back body drops him out of it. Razor goes for it himself but Diesel gets on the apron for the distraction, so Razor twats him. Michaels takes this as an opportunity to nail Razor with the title but misses and gets back body dropped at speed, while still holding the belt. Razor ends up running into a Diesel boot and Michaels rolls him up for the win. Post match, Diesel and Shawn lay a beating on Razor, but a bunch of officials come out to stop Shawn hitting the Razor’s Edge. This was really rather excellent, with the momentum shifting back-and-forth and both guys working hard throughout. There were rest spots, but they went near enough 20-minutes so you can’t really blame them. Pretty damn epic, and one of the best TV matches you are likely to see from the era, certainly the best that I have covered this year. Tremendous stuff.
Final Rating: ****
SummerSlam is coming exactly four weeks from today. I still can’t get my head around the WWF running pay-per-views on a Monday evening. It just seems completely unfathomable now. The Todd runs down the card, and calls the battle of The Undertakers a “mystifying, maniacal, mysterious match”. It sure was. It somehow manages to challenge The Undertaker’s Royal Rumble “death” angle for the tag of “most idiotic angle of the year”, despite the Rumble nonsense being so many worlds beyond bad that it has its own wing in the annals of the (fictitious) Anti-Wrestling Hall of Fame. Despite that, I actually really enjoyed the spectacle of Undertaker vs. Undertaker. There is a sick part of me that loves wrestling when it is so incredibly bad, it actually goes full circle and becomes entertaining again. Don’t get me wrong, the match was awful, but there is a perverse pleasure to be had in watching it. So, that’s my credibility shot to hell anyway… SummerSlam actually turns out fairly well considering how terrible the TV product was this year. That is a bit of a running theme actually, because all of the pay-per-views from 1994 had at least one thing worth seeing on them, and far surpassed the Raw product. The Todd cuts back to Vince and Savage, who are sat waiting for their cue and clearly not ready. Ho ho.
Bull Nakano vs. Alundra Blayze
This is Nakano’s Monday Night Raw debut, complete with generic Orient Express entrance music. Blayze is the WWF Women’s champion, but this is non-title. Vince mentions Nakano’s dominance of women’s wrestling in Japan, but falls short of namedropping AJW. I am a big fan of Nakano, and having seen a few excellent matches between these two, I am looking forward to this. Nakano dominates Blayze from the get go, showing more intensity and physicality than most of the guys on the roster. Blayze can just about keep up, and is able to take all of Nakano’s big moves, which makes for a stellar contest. You can see why Vince went with Nakano ahead of some of the other, even better Japanese women wrestlers around at the time, because she is huge. Even with his women he goes for size above all else, only in this case there is substance too. Nakano brings a level of brutality that Vince and the crowd didn’t seem to be expecting, and a piledriver is the exclamation point on that. Nakano follows up with a vicious powerbomb, but goes to the well too often and gets caught with a sunset flip for a near fall. A missed dropkick gives Nakano an opening, but she misses her big legdrop from the top, and nearly gets beaten by Blayze’s German suplex. They go at it at full pace here and even Vince and Savage are impressed. Seriously, they put most of the guys to shame with the speed, counters, moveset and lack of rest holds. They even take things to the outside where Blayze is sent into the post but then counters with a back body drop on the concrete. “We have two female 1-2-3 Kid’s here” says a clearly impressed Macho Man. Unfortunately the bell rings and both are counted out, but this was a helluva teaser for what is to come, and at this point was the best women’s match on WWF TV since The Jumping Bomb Angels some half a decade earlier. A high octane debut from Nakano, and a match that perhaps changed some opinions in the Western hemisphere about what female wrestlers can do.
Final Rating: ***¼
The King’s Court
Oh for the love of God, I thought that by the time August rolled around, this obsession with The King’s Court would have ended. How does this crap get so much airtime? Furious didn’t have to suffer it every week in July though I notice! Lawler prats around in the crowd for ages as some skinny dude with a bad haircut (Mike) asks his incredibly embarrassed girlfriend with a Triple H nose (Andrea) to marry him. Mind you, Lawler had already ruined the surprise by introducing her as his fiancé in the first place. What an oaf. Lawler takes the girl into the ring and starts making bad jokes, before she says “yes”. Lawler gives some wedding advice and then mocks the couple. First he say’s Mike’s ex-girlfriend was a slut: “she’s been around more than a carousel” and then calls them both dogs: “If you two ever become parents, let me have one of the puppies, ok?” Hilariously, Savage turns it dirty by cheekily asking: “right or left?” clearly referring to Andre’s (perfectly adequate) waps. Lawler goes to kiss Andrea, who dives out of dodge as her new fiancé looks on, livid. This was maybe the worst thing on TV all year, and not just in wrestling. Sadly it is not over, because Lawler brings out “Mr. Boring” Bob Backlund, who he introduces as the WWF champion, because he never properly lost the belt. Backlund cuts a robotic promo about how he tried to improved everyone’s lives, and says how people have changed in the decade he has been away. Yeah, the WWF has changed a lot as well, pal. You wouldn’t get Typhoon in 1984, that’s for sure! Though there was Uncle Elmer not long after… Hmm, maybe nothing has changed. Well, the arenas were bigger then… Video Control shows footage of Backlund slapping Bret Hart after losing to him and then locking him in the chicken wing submission hold, as Vince talks over Backlund’s promo. I have no idea what he really said, but I guess this was an extension of his heel turn. Unfathomably, this actually led to a Backlund title run, for all of a week. The appalling proposal nonsense combined with the monotony of Backlund’s delivery and the now immense overkill of Jerry Lawler and The King’s Court, combined to make this one of the worst things on Raw all year. What a shame, because this show had been absolutely superb prior to that.
The Smoking Gunns vs. George Anderson & Tom Bennett
And now, because Raw always has to counter it’s excellent stuff with some drek, we have The Smoking Gunns. Anderson is fairly bulky for an enhancement guy. Bennett is just tubby. The Gunns run through their stuff quickly because we are almost out of time, and win the match with the Sidewinder as the show goes off the air. That is exactly how I like my Gunns matches.
Final Rating: SQUASH (not rated)
THE RAW RECAP
Most Entertaining: Shawn Michaels. Some incredible work from the WWF’s MVP, though we were spoilt for choice tonight and the award could have gone to a handful of worthy winners.
Least Entertaining: Jerry Lawler. Overkill is the word.
Quote of the Night: “Yeah, they’re (The Smoking Gunns) a great tag team, but the best tag team in legal history is Jerry McDevitt and Laura Brevetti” – Randy Savage, referencing Vince’s steroid trial legal team who incredibly managed to get him off, despite the evidence stacked against him. “Oh boy, you just won’t let up will you tonight!?” – Vince McMahon in response. It’s nice that we can joke about it now!
Match of the Night: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels takes it, but Blayze-Nakano would have on nearly every other show this year.
Summary: The entire first half of the show is one tremendous 4* match, and that is followed with another belting contest right after. The Jerry Lawler thing was useless, as it is week after week, but too much good had already gone down by then for this to be anything other than a tremendous show, and far and away the best of the year. At this point, it is actually one of the best ever. I guess this is my reward for sitting through months worth of complete crap, and it is actually almost worth it.