Welcome to the second article documenting the WWF’s programming in 1996. Last time out we got the surprise announcement that Vader would be debuting for the WWF at the Royal Rumble, The Smoking Gunns won the RAW BOWL, and Diesel defeated King Mabel in less than ten seconds before leaving with the RAW BOWL QUEEN. What could possibly happen to top that this week? Other than… anything?
Just to re-iterate the reason I’ve chosen 1996 is because it’s the year that I first became interested in wrestling and I thought that going back and watching it again as the “smart” fan that I am now would allow me to see it again through a different mindset. 1996 was a difficult time for the WWF as the introduction of WCW Monday Nitro as direct television competition was giving their rivals a strong platform in what would be known as the Monday Night Wars. The WWF were watching the stars they created such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage draw in new fans and were attempting to counter-act the old roster of WCW with younger talent like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Diesel, Razor Ramon and Ahmed Johnson. It allowed for a fresh product but the lesser-known main eventers needed time to become the legends they would be known as eventually.
WWF MONDAY NIGHT RAW
January 8th 1996
Let’s get things going with the first show of the week as we join our hosts Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler NOT LIVE from the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware. Tonight – Shawn Michaels gives a press conference! A Billionaire Ted skit! A replay of a WWF Title match that people paid to see a few weeks ago! And a new superstar debuts as the Million Dollar champion!
But before all of that we have a match to kick things off…
HAKUSHI vs. JEFF JARRETT
Hakushi is already in the ring at the start of the show (his entrance was going on as Vince and Lawler spoke in the dark completely ignoring it), meanwhile Jarrett is still in his full country singer gimmick complete with his Double J hat and jacket combination. Jarrett is getting ready to face Ahmed Johnson at the Royal Rumble, Hakushi was still recovering from a loss to Barry Horowitz in the previous year. Speaking of Johnson LET US TAKE YOU BACK to In Your House in December when Jarrett smashed a gold record over Johnson’s head then assaulted him with a chair.
Hakushi, referred to as a “modern day kamikaze” in on the receiving end of an arm wringer and a scoop slam to start giving Jarrett the chance to strut, much to the displeasure of some fat men with moustaches. Hakushi catches a trip and sends Jarrett down with a leg trip, Hakushi then goes over the top rope but lands on his feet before climbing back up the top turnbuckle and connecting with a diving shoulder block. A dropkick lands for Hakushi and Jarrett decides to slide out of the ring, in fact he’s had enough of this match and is heading back to the locker room. No, he’s changed his mind. Jarrett trips Hakushi from outside the ring allowing him to take control with a short-arm clothesline when he gets back in, it’s then time for some trademark Jarrett offense as he chokes Hakushi on the middle ropes then drops a leg on his neck as we go to our first commercial break.
When we come back Jarrett is still in control with Hakushi in an abdominal stretch using the ropes for extra leverage. The referee stops him doing that allowing Hakushi to escape with a hop toss. Jarrett gets back in control almost immediately with a DDT when Hakushi leaves himself open, a spinning heel kick connects for the Japanese wrestler but when Jarrett gets whipped into the ropes he grabs on to them causing Hakushi’s attempted dropkick to fail miserably. Jarrett makes a cover but shockingly it’s not enough to get the win. Jarrett applies a rear chinlock for a while but Hakushi fights out of it eventually, some “martial arts strikes” connect before Hakushi sends Jarrett into the corner and hits a handspring elbow. Hakushi slams Jarrett and out to the apron but a springboard splash finds nothing but Jarrett’s knees. That gives Jarrett the chance to lock in the Figure Four Leglock and despite Jarrett not working over the leg at any point Hakushi taps out straight away. After the match Jarrett grabs his guitar and does some strutting.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett via Submission
Time: 6:03 (Televised)
We head off to Jim Ross to do some plugging, first up is the Royal Rumble event as we get some new entrants for the Royal Rumble match – Doug Gilbert, Jake Roberts, Jerry Lawler, Isaac Yankem DDS, MAKIN’ A DIFFERENCE FATU and Vader. We get the same Vader video package from last week, he’s still doing Vader poses in a field. More names include Henry Godwinn, Marty Jannetty, Kama and out of the blue Takao Omori from AJPW. JR then asks Scheme Gene for his opinion. He says that wrestlers are coming out of the woodwork. Terrific.
Back to the arena we go where Ahmed Johnson is walking out looking angry and it’s time for our second match after the break.
AHMED JOHNSON vs. JEFF BRETTLER
Brettler immediately clotheslines Johnson’s chest but ends up selling his own arm which I found quite amusing. Johnson ducks a second clothesline and catches Brettler in a head-and-arm suplex which is basically Johnson throwing him in a terrifying manner across the ring. Johnson then delivers a ridiculously stiff clothesline and an axe kick, he then nearly falls over delivering a pump kick. I think Johnson is angry that Brettler’s outfit appears to be a skirt made from curtains. Johnson sends Brettler off the ropes and hits a spinebuster which is the one move he does that doesn’t look like it could cause a fatality, Johnson then hits the Pearl River Plunge for a 3 count. Yummy, yummy squash. Jeff Jarrett is back out and swings his guitar at Johnson, but Johnson dodges and Jarrett runs his life. Maybe he saw that suplex and decided to cut his losses and run. Johnson smashes the guitar for good measure.
Winner: Ahmed Johnson via Pinfall/Murder
An advert for next week’s show presents us with an Undertaker/Isaac Yankem match. Why do brothers always fight? Speaking of brothers it’s time for the Brother Love Show with his guest Ted DiBiase as we find out who the new Million Dollar Champion is. DiBiase has apparently been searching for years to find the perfect man to hold the title, and here he is… THE RINGMASTER. This young man looks like he might have a bright future ahead of him. DiBiase crowns Ringmaster as the Million Dollar champion. Ringmaster cuts his first WWF promo as he offers everyone at home the chance to put their hand on the screen and touch greatness. Ringmaster declares his entry into the Royal Rumble even though the WWF Title is no match for the Million Dollar title. Ringmaster keeps ending every sentence with “man” which sounds very weird. DiBiase signs off with his catchphrase and trademark laugh, and that is how Steve Austin debuted in the WWF.
After a commercial break including a promo for CAMPUS COPS (apparently it’s a sitcom that lasted for 13 episodes) we head in to our third match of the show.
GOLDUST vs. ALDO MONTOYA
Goldust is at his most… flamboyant during his first year in the WWF, Aldo Montoya would go on to be Justin Credible when he took his god-awful mask off. Goldust attacks Montoya from behind and sends Montoya flying into the corner at a high velocity, he follows that up with a back suplex. Goldust throws Montoya into the ropes and lands a diving clothesline, then uses the weirdest move I’ve ever seen where he sticks Montoya’s head between the legs and drives his legs down. Montoya sells his ears so I assume that’s where the damage was done. Goldust kicks the downed Montoya in the ribs a few times, but Montoya manages a brief comeback with a clothesline and a back body drop. Montoya tries to get the crowd going but they’re intelligent enough not to get behind him, another attempt at a back body drop is blocked by Goldust who nails him with the Curtain Call to pick up the victory. It’s another squash but that’s perfectly fine by me. Goldust does his usual risqué poses after the match to rile up the crowd.
Winner: Goldust via Pinfall
It’s back to JR in the Slam Jam as we get news on the press conference held by Shawn Michaels earlier in the day. Michaels explains that the doctors say he shouldn’t compete any more, but he’s going to enter the Royal Rumble anyway. He’s also going to win apparently. Scheme Gene promises us a new name for the Royal Rumble if you call his hotline, he ends up telling us it’s Vader anyway. You see, Gene Okerlund’s WCW hotline is out of date, so don’t call it. We get some reactions from other WWF superstars about Michaels entering the Rumble, Diesel has no problem in throwing his friend out to win, Razor Ramon says it’s too soon to come back, Owen Hart knows that Michaels isn’t ready and wants to make sure he never wrestles again.
Next up is a replay of the Bret Hart/British Bulldog WWF Title match from the last In Your House PPV, and just like the Hog Pen match on the previous show I’m not going to transcribe this. The match did have its fair share of controversy backstage due to Bret bleeding during a time when blood was banned in the WWF. Bret claimed he had been busted open accidentally but everyone else seemed to think it was deliberate. Either way it was an excellent match as you’d expect from these two and the blood added a lot to it, According to his book the winning pinfall, a La Majistral cradle, was suggested to Bret by Chris Jericho when Bret asked him for something new that Jericho had learned during his time wrestling in Mexico.
From the highs of a Bret Hart/British Bulldog ****+ match we end the show with the lows of a Billionaire Ted skit. This week he’s looking for a new slogan, and apparently “Not Believable” and “Where The Old Boys Play” is too close to the truth. The skit actually ends with Nacho Man and Huckster discussing how they don’t have to worry about being tested for steroids in what was the biggest shot fired by either company in the Monday Night Wars up until that point. Whilst the WWF’s drug policy was pretty flimsy it was at least real due to the steroid scandals of the early 1990s, WCW on the other hand weren’t testing any of their roster at the time. The WWF even throws up a website address afterwards that described the WWF’s drug testing programme and a defence of their accusation in this skit.
This was another hit and miss show, as a fan of squash matches I didn’t mind the three new matches that were shown, but despite being really good the Bret/Bulldog match took up nearly the entire second half of the show which seems a bit much considering it was just a replay from the last PPV. It’s also been two shows without a single mention of the WWF Title match at the Royal Rumble, although I’m expecting that to change with Undertaker appearing on the next week’s show.
January 13th 1996
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect are your hosts again this week as we get the B show started with a contest between two very recognisable superstars…
OWEN HART vs. HENRY GODWINN
Owen was riding the momentum of being the man who “knocked out” Shawn Michaels with an enziguri. Henry Godwinn had been embroiled in a long feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley but that ended in defeat during the hog pen match that was discussed last time. Owen is accompanied by Jim Cornette, Godwinn is accompanied by a bucket full of slop. They lock up and Godwinn is able to use his strength to come off the ropes and shoulder block Owen all the way out of the ring, Godwinn then uses the top rope to flip Owen back in. Another lock up is won by the stronger Godwinn who simply lifts Owen up and tosses him across the ring, Owen gets back up and tries for a hip toss but Godwinn blocks it and clotheslines Owen. A scoop slam from Godwinn connects but a running elbow drop misses its mark giving Owen control. Owen sends Godwinn off the ropes where he gets tripped by Cornette, Godwinn tries to grab Cornette but the distraction allows Owen to catch him with a spinning heel kick as he turns back around. Owen heads to the second rope and lands an elbow to the sternum for a 2 count, Owen then hits a neckbreaker which also gets a two count. Owen keeps on the pressure with a leg drop and a stomp to the chest, Owen then rakes Godwinn’s face across the top rope. Owen rakes the eyes of Godwinn but his attempt to whip Godwinn into the corner gets reversed and Owen stumbles into a back body drop. Godwinn nails a couple of clotheslines to knock Owen down, he then sends Owen off the ropes and gets Owen up for a military press slam… eventually. To say that Godwinn nearly didn’t get him up would be an understatement. Godwinn lines up for the Slop Drop but Cornette gets up on the apron, Godwinn goes after Cornette which gives Owen the chance to hit the enziguri, Owen covers with his feet on the ropes (with Cornette holding them down too) and gets the three count for the victory. Owen and Cornette celebrate together afterwards but their joy is short-lived as Godwinn has his bucket of slop, Owen ducks but Cornette takes it right in the face and gets the bucket on his head for good measure.
Winner: Owen Hart via Pinfall
THE SMOKING GUNNS vs. JASON AHRNDT & PHIL APOLLO
That’s a lot of consonants in Jason’s name. Billy Gunn starts off against Ahrndt and we get a series to show off Billy’s athleticism, Ahrndt gets sent in to the ropes allowing Billy to do a drop down, a leap frog, and eventually a Japanese arm drag. Ahrdnt drives a knee into the gut of Billy and tags Apollo in, but Apollo runs right into an arm drag from Billy. Apollo heads outside and Billy chases him like the standard dumb babyface, when Billy gets into the ring Apollo knees him in the face. Apollo sends Billy off the ropes but Billy leaps over him with a sunset flip for a two count before connecting with a hard right hand. Billy grabs a headlock and lands another punch before tagging Bart in, Bart whips Apollo into the corner and catches him with a powerslam when he stumbles out. Billy gets tagged in and the Gunns connect with a double team back suplex/neckbreaker combination (think the reverse 3D that the Dudleys used) which is enough to get them a three count. It’s been a good 1996 for the Gunns after their RAW BOWL success.
Winners: The Smoking Gunns via Pinfall
Dok Hendrix takes us into the Slam Jam with more Royal Rumble hype, we finally get some hype for the WWF Title match as Paul Bearer and The Undertaker let Bret Hart know that his title is coming to the dark side. Bret responds by giving us his catchphrases and vows to win himself. Well they can’t both be right. We see the Vader promo again, and he’s still punching the air in that field.
We get a recap of the Shawn Michaels press conference that announces his return during the Royal Rumble, as well as an advert for the WWF Title match at the Royal Rumble and a commercial for the RUSH LIMBAUGH TV SHOW. Next up on Superstars is a contest between the Intercontinental Champion and a future World Champion…
RAZOR RAMON vs. JEFF HARDY
Yes, that Jeff Hardy, at this point in time just an 18 year old working as an enhancement talent. Jeff doesn’t get an entrance whilst Razor gets his usual full pyro treatment. It’s amazing to think that the jobber here would become a WWE Champion and Razor would never win a world title. We get an inset promo from Goldust hyping his match with Razor at the Royal Rumble with his usual homo-erotic verbiage, meanwhile Razor is throwing Jeff around the ring, especially when Jeff tries a crossbody which he catches and delivers a Fallaway Slam. YOU CAN’T CROSSBODY RAZOR RAMON. Razor hits a super back drop from the top rope which seems a little excessive for a squash match, Razor goes for the Razor’s Edge but is distracted by Goldust’s Usher coming to the ring carrying a “provocative” photo of Goldust. Razor goes out to meet him and in the process gets himself counted out. JEFF WINS! JEFF WINS!! JEFF WINS! Well, he wins the battle but not the war as Razor takes out his anger with three Razor’s Edges, each one very well sold by Hardy.
Winner: Jeff Hardy via Count Out
JEFF JARRETT vs. MARTY GARNER
We get a recap of the confrontation between Jarrett and Ahmed Johnson from RAW, if you need a reminder of what happened then read above. Marty Garner is best known as the guy who nearly got his neck broken taking a Pedigree from Triple H in a match I expect will be later this year. They lock up and Jarrett takes control with an arm wringer, he follows that up with a hip toss giving him the opportunity for a strut. Jarrett somehow manages to cut an inset promo at the same time as wrestling, in the promo he just issues a fairly tame threat to Ahmed Johnson, in the ring he delivers a scoop slam to Garner and struts again. Jarrett sends Garner into the ropes but Garner ducks a clothesline and attempts a sunset flips, Jarrett misses a punch but stops Garner from pinning him all the same. Jarrett stomps away at Garner before sending him into the corner, Garner impressively leaps on to the top rope but misses with a crossbody. Jarrett sets up and delivers a superplex (what’s with all these highspots in squashes?) before locking in the Figure Four Leglock which causes Garner to tap out almost immediately.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett via Submission
DUKE ‘THE DUMPSTER’ DROESE vs. THE SPIDER
I’m pretty sure that’s not Fabulous Moolah under the mask, but it’s more than likely the same Spider that faced Ahmed Johnson last week. For some reason Droese threatens Spider with his trash can without any provocation. What an angry man. Spider wins the initial lock up but goes off the ropes right into a monkey flip, that gives Droese control and he wrings the arm of The Spider before knocking him down with a shoulder block and stomping his face. Droese sends Spider into the corner and hits a back body drop, Droese then drops an elbow to the spine of the Spider (which doesn’t make much sense) and locks in a bearhug. It’s not a very good bearhug as Spider elbows his way out before connecting with a dropkick and gets a few shots in to Droese in the corner. Spider tries a charge but runs straight into the boot of Droese, the garbage man then sends Spider off the ropes and scores with a decent powerslam. Droese pulls down his braces and off the ropes goes Spider again, this time Droese catches him with the Trash Compactor (Tilt-a-whirl powerslam) to get the three count.
Winner: Duke Droese via Pinfall
Time for some ROYAL RUMBLE PROMOS in the Slam Jam! Dok Hendrix runs through a few of the entrants until we reach Jerry Lawler who has a promo for us. He’s going to win because he’s royal and it’s a Royal Rumble. Next up is Diesel who cuts a wooden promo claiming to be the favourite for the Rumble match. Marty Jannetty is next and he explains the whole concept of going to WrestleMania and he wants to win because that “gets him big money” which means “good times for MJ”. So many jokes, so little time.
GOLDUST vs. BARRY HOROWITZ
Goldust gets his full entrance, Vince McMahon tries his best to convince us he’s not portraying any kind of negative stereotype whilst Goldust is in the ring stripping his robe and taking off his long blonde wig. Razor is backstage watching a monitor muttering under his breath. Goldust attacks Horowitz with some hard right hands and a clothesline, he hooks Horowitz up and delivers a suplex then comes off the ropes with a knee drop. Goldust sends Horowitz off the ropes but Horowitz ducks a clothesline and nails a crossbody for a two count, apparently you CAN CROSSBODY GOLDUST. Goldust gets back on the attack right away but Horowitz slams his face into the mat and hits a Manhattan drop and a back suplex, however Goldust avoids a dropkick. That’s the end of Horowitz’s offense as Goldust delivers a Curtain Call and takes the three count. Goldust celebrates by fondling his chest and licking his lips which McMahon deems as “disgusting”. Goldust pulls down his top to display a “tattoo” of a heart with Razor’s name inside, backstage Razor gives us “disgust” which is the same face he gave us for “anger”.
Winner: Goldust via Pinfall
Superstars is the show with more wrestling content and whilst it’s mainly squash matches that works for me. It’s a nice combination of storyline development with the inset promos as well as some decent in-ring action albeit with a predictable result each time. It makes me wish that I had more access to the old Superstars shows even it’s at the expense of the RAW shows.
WWF 1996 Video Highlight
Anyway, that’s it for this article covering the week in the WWF between the 8th and 14th of January 1996, I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading!