The Coliseum Video Rant XXVII: RAW Power!
So after a months-long absence from the rant world, someone sent me a bunch of late-era Coliseum stuff in order to bring back the most-requested video rant series in HISTORY. OK, not really, but I’ve done 26 of these things, so someone must be reading them.
This month’s duo of contenders: The Best of RAW Volumes 1 and 2, released in the mid-90s to commemorate a show that was only a couple of years old at the time. I shudder to think what their definition of “best” will be, but we’ll give it a go.
The Best of RAW Volume One
– Hosted by Kevin Kelly.
– The Godwinns v. The British Bulldog & Vader. I know lots of people have written to me over the years DEMANDING that if they ever put out a “Best of RAW” set, this match be on there. The commentary places this just before the International Incident PPV in July of 1996. Henry works a headlock on the Bulldog before Vader gets a cheapshot and tags in. Godwinns are babyfaces here, by the way, which you can tell because the crowd is cheering for Vader while he beats the crap beat out of Henry in the corner. Henry reverses a suplex on Vader, but his comeback gets cut off, so Phineas gets a cheapshot in return and tags himself in. PIG splash gets two on Vader. PIG slugs away in the corner, but walks into a clothesline from Vader and gets whipped around the ring by Bulldog. He appears to be your PIG in peril. Phineas comes back with a bulldog on Bulldog (and Vince notes the irony of that), which Bulldog basically no-sells. Back to Vader, who follows with a corner splash and a really vicious looking short clothesline. That always make me smile. The Godwinns go back to some double-teaming, however, and Henry comes in with a lariat for two. I guess that was the hot tag. Henry misses a blind charge, however, and Vader levels him with another clothesline and splatters him on the mat. Bulldog comes in and grabs a chinlock, and how weird is it to hear Vince talking about how he nearly became “WWF champion.” Hearing “WWF” just doesn’t sound right anymore. Bulldog powerslams Henry and follows with a legdrop for two. Back to the chinlock, which Henry escapes, but runs into a knee. Vader comes back in and adds the big splash for two. Another one and Cornette leaves the commentary desk and yells at the ref. He can do it all! Vader keeps dropping elbows on Henry while Cornette goes back and forth from commentary to yelling at the ref. The pump splash gets two, and we’re clipped (via commercial break) to Bulldog trying and failing a suplex on Henry. Vader lays in the pain in the corner, which finally has people booing him, and he follows with a corner splash. Another one is caught by Henry and reversed to a powerslam, however, which would be more impressive if Vader hadn’t been so obvious about jumping into his arms. Tags on both ends and Phineas hammers away on Vader and dodges a charging Bulldog, who hits his own partner. PIG gets two on Bulldog off that. It’s BONZO GONZO, but Bulldog powerslams Phineas to finish at 12:04. Basically all Camp Cornette, but Vader carried the Godwinns to a pretty decent match here. 1 for 1.
– WWF title: Shawn Michaels v. Billy Gunn. This was during the initial heel push of Billy, when the Gunns were managed by Sunny. Compare and contrast what she looked like HERE to what she looks like here. I think what makes me saddest is that back in 96, she was so full of life and vitality, and it wasn’t just the fact that she was younger and thinner that made her so attractive. As compared to now, when years of the wrestling business and drugs have sucked all the beauty out of her. She looks like someone who has died inside, and the death of Chris Candido likely didn’t help that. Billy wins a test of strength with a decisively roided Shawn to start. Ahmed Johnson pops up on a cut-in interview and says something that sounds like “Wub dub wub dub Shawn Michaels muf buf Sycho Sid ” I’m serious, just try to decipher that promo. Shawn goes after Sunny and gives her some sweet lip music, but Billy is unable to attack in time to capitalize. Gunn bails, and Shawn follows with a pescado. Back in, Shawn tries a flying axehandle, and Billy nails him on the way down. Fameasser gets two. No that it was called that yet. Billy slugs away in the corner, but Shawn slides under him and posts him. Shawn slingshots in with a clothesline and hammers away, but Billy clotheslines him out of the ring. Ad break, and we’re back with Shawn fighting out of a chinlock before Billy elbows him down for two. Back to the chinlock, and Billy slugs Shawn down for two. Billy hangs him in the Tree of Woe and adds the bad mouth, then hits the most melodramatic flying clothesline I’ve seen in a while. Picture Undertaker’s version, but with another foot of hangtime. Another ad break and Shawn kips up, making the comeback with a dropkick and the flying elbow. Superkick finishes at 11:09. Well, Shawn could carry the proverbial broomstick at that point, and since Billy Gunn is arguably more talented than a broomstick, this was a no-brainer. I wouldn’t take it home to meet my parents or anything, but it made the point. 2 for 2.
– WWF tag titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Shawn Michaels & Ahmed Johnson. This is from the next week, as this is the tag champions against the World champion and Intercontinental champion. And in a historical note, unless I’m totally mistaken this was also the very first RAW to be shown on TSN, back when the show being on TV in Canada was a big deal. Big brawl to start and the Gunns immediately lose that and bail. So the match starts properly with Billy against Shawn, who gets a rollup for two right away. He slugs Billy down and clotheslines him out of the ring. Shawn grabs an armbar and we cut to Bart missing an elbowdrop. Ahmed comes in and works on Bart’s arm, but Bart gets a hotshot. And then we cut again to Shawn getting what appears to be a hot tag, hitting Billy with an axehandle for two. However, a pair of flying headscissor attempts leads to the Gunns dropping him on the top rope and taking over. Bart presses him onto the top rope again and stomps him down, and the Gunns do some double-teaming. Shawn fights back, but Billy whips him into the corner and into a Flair Flip out of the ring. Back in, the Gunns work him over in the corner, and we take an ad break. Back with Billy getting the stinger splash for two and going to the chinlock. Shawn finally comes back with the old double noggin knocker, and it’s hot tag Ahmed. And holy cow is he over. He destroys the Gunns, hitting Billy with a spinebuster, but Bart dumps him and the debuting Faarooq (30 pounds overweight and wearing a gladiator outfit) runs down and destroys Ahmed for the DQ at 10:08. Ahmed injured himself before the Summerslam showdown could happen, however, and never returned to the heights he was at here. Really bad finish. 2 for 3.
– Sid v. Justin Hawk Bradshaw. The crowd goes apeshit for Sid’s big return to TV. I still have trouble wrapping my head around Bradshaw as World champion 8 years after this. Slugfest to start and Sid gets the chokeslam early, so Bradshaw uses the bullrope for the DQ at 1:01. Truly this was the best of RAW. 2 for 4.
– The Undertaker v. Steve Austin. Although years later this matchup would be beaten into the ground and become such a running joke that even Kevin Nash was able to score by riffing on it, this was their very first meeting. Undertaker was still in his original purple garb, as he didn’t retool the outfit into the leather look until Survivor Series 96. Austin grabs a headlock to start and nearly walks into a chokeslam, but escapes in the corner and tries an arm wringer instead. UT slugs him down, but Austin pounds him in the corner. This just annoys Taker, and the result is a flying clothesline. There was a time when Taker’s act showcased a frightening intensity instead of just being a grumpy old man. Taker tries the ropewalk, but Austin drops him on the top rope to counter, the first time anyone got to counter that move. Austin chokes him down on the ropes and then goes low to really subdue him. He stomps a mudhole in the corner, but fails to walk it dry. And Jerry Lawler actually coins that phrase, so there you go. Austin drops the elbow from the middle rope, and gets two. They slug it out in the corner, and Taker wins that battle, allowing him to wrap up Austin in the ropes. He pounds away on the helpless Austin until the ref frees him. Taker misses the elbow, however, and Austin takes over with choking and a necksnap on the top rope. Chinlock time, but Taker fights out of it…and then walks into a piledriver. Oh, NICE. Austin goes up to finish, but Taker slams him down and goes for the tombstone. However, Mankind wanders down and brawls with him, and Austin wins by countout at 9:04. Well, this was going along nicely until that crappy finish. 3 for 5.
– Battle Royale: Winner of this gets a title shot. Mankind and UT eliminate each other right off the bat, and Vince declares it a donnybrook. Them’s strong words. Looks like we’ve got Bradshaw, Goldust, Savio Vega, Austin, Bulldog, Owen Hart, Sid, Ahmed Johnson and Marc Mero. Bulldog gets dumped in a melee, and it’s a whole lot of kicking and punching in the corners. Sid dumps Bradshaw, but gets attacked by Austin. Mero dumps Owen, but he hangs on and comes back in, so Mero clotheslines him out again. Ad break and we’re back with more standing around, but Mero charges Goldust and ends up on the floor. Savio hits Goldust with the leg lariat in the corner, but his momentum carries him right to the floor and thus out. Undertaker and Mankind brawl out of the crowd and through the ring to liven things up, but disappear again and it’s more dull kicking and punching in the ring. So we’re down to Ahmed, Austin, Goldust and Sid. Sid fights to get Austin out, but Goldust saves. Kick, kick, punch, punch. Ahmed powers Goldust over the top, but can’t get him to the floor. So he hits him with a spinebuster and tries the powerbomb, but Goldust wiggles free and we’re clipped again. Back with guys hitting their finishers, as we keep cutting back to Mankind brawling backstage with Undertaker. So back to the ring for more thrilling action, as Ahmed seemingly passes out while Austin gets rid of Sid thanks to distraction from Bulldog & Owen. Goldust and Austin double-team the injured Ahmed before Goldust turns on Austin. He tosses Austin, but can’t get him down to the floor, and Austin is able to go low and pound away. They fight on the ropes until Ahmed attacks from behind, looking like the walking dead at this point. Ahmed and Goldust team up and get rid of Austin, and that leaves them one-on-one. Ahmed gets a slam and he just looks horrible. Goldust goes to work on the injured kidney and adds a piledriver, as we’re clipped via another ad break and return with Ahmed holding a bodyscissors on Goldust. However, they collide and Goldust falls out while Ahmed hangs on, thus winning the match at 16:42 and earning a title shot the night after Summerslam. Of course, since he didn’t make it to Summerslam, he never wrestled Shawn in the promised title shot. Really slow and dull battle royale. 3 for 6.
– Shawn Michaels v. Owen Hart. From the week before Summerslam. This is a pretty narrow view of what “The Best of RAW” comprises, I’d say. I mean, I’m sure this will be good, but a two month period from July – September of 1996 isn’t exactly the peak period of the show or anything. They exchange wristlocks and kip ups to start, and Owen gets the cheapshot to take over right away. Owen looks about to try the enzuigiri, but Shawn counters with a legsweep. Owen dumps him, but Shawn skins the cat and then pulls him out with a headscissors, followed by a pescado. Back in, Owen misses the leg lariat and Shawn gets a bodyblock for two. He grabs a headlock and it goes into a hiptoss-armbar sequence for Shawn, leaving Owen on the mat again. Owen escapes with a slam, but misses an elbow and Shawn goes right back to the armbar again. Owen fights up, so Shawn whips him into the turnbuckles and follows with a clothesline for two. Back to the armbar, but Owen counters out of it with the belly-to-belly and he takes over. We cut via an ad break to Owen getting a camel clutch. Shawn fights out, and walks into a leg lariat that gets two for Owen. Owen hits the chinlock, but Shawn fights up and gets a rollup for two. Owen cuts off the comeback with a clothesline and legdrop, however. Neckbreaker and Owen goes up with a missile dropkick, and we take another break. Back with Owen setting up for the enzuigiri, but Shawn ducks and makes the comeback. Powerslam and he goes up with the flying elbow. Superkick seems inevitable, but Vader breaks it up. Shawn gets rid of him, superkicks Owen once (but misses) and then does it again properly for the pin at 8:47. Kinda short, but these two were incapable of having a bad match together. 4 for 7.
– Skip Bodydonna v. Faarooq. Skip is of course Chris Candido, being given the heave-ho from the promotion and passing Sunny’s managerial torch from him to Faarooq. Faarooq attacks to start and beats on Skip outside the ring. Back in, Skip walks into a blockbuster slam and Faarooq chokes him down. The dull squash continues as Faarooq gets a powerslam, but Skip fights back. That lasts about two seconds, as another powerslam and finishes with the move that would be known later as the Dominator at 4:32. Total massacre. 4 for 8.
– British Bulldog v. Owen Hart. Joined in progress, this is the first match in the tournament for the Intercontinental title. Owen works on the knee and quickly gets the Sharpshooter, but Bulldog makes the ropes. Owen dumps him and tries a suplex back in, but Bulldog reverses and suplexes Owen to the floor, apparently playing babyface here. They brawl on the floor and Bulldog gets counted out at 3:44. They tease dissension, but would win the tag titles at the next PPV and hold onto them for nearly a year. 4 for 9.
– Interview with Mankind and Paul Bearer, as Undertaker quickly returns from the dead and chases them off.
– Shawn Michaels v. Yokozuna. I believe this is Yoko’s last appearance before his release and eventual death. Yoko of course overpowers Shawn to start, but Shawn slugs him down. Cornette lays out Jose Lothario, which distracts Shawn and allows Yoko to take over with the belly-to-belly. Big splash misses, and Shawn hits him with the forearm and flying splash for two. Superkick is countered with a samoan drop, however. Yoko misses the Hulkbuster, though, and the superkick finishes his career at 3:52. 4 for 10.
The Bottom Line #1: If you spend your days pining for the return of Ahmed Johnson and telling friends how the two month period from July 1996 until September 1996 was the greatest period in wrestling’s history, then this is the tape for you. All others, pass.
The Best of RAW Volume Two
– And yes, they made a SEQUEL.
– Once again hosted by Kevin Kelly, as we get the period from September – October 1996.
– WWF title: Shawn Michaels v. Goldust. Goldust is using the title shot won by Ahmed Johnson in the previous volume, since he was the runner-up. Goldust attacks during the pre-match dance, but gets dumped and allows Shawn to finish his dance. Shawn quickly tries to take advantage with a flying axehandle, but gets caught coming down. He keeps coming, hammering away in the corner and backflipping into a hiptoss, but Goldust slugs him down and necksnaps him on the top rope. Shawn gets whipped into the corner and to the floor, and Goldust follows up by dropping him on the railing. Terri Runnells, still “Marlena” back then, adds some cigar smoke in the face and Goldust gets a suplex back into the ring for two. We take an ad break and return with Goldust hitting the chinlock. That goes on for a while and they clothesline each other for the double KO. Shawn comes back with the flying forearm and tries a high cross, but Goldust rolls through for two. Another cut and Shawn is setting up for the superkick, but he stops to go after Marlena and gets caught with the Curtain Call as a result. He reverses out of it, however, and the moonsault press finishes at 7:20. Not exactly either guy’s finest hour or anything. 0 for 1.
– Salvatore Sincere v. The Undertaker. I still maintain that Sincere was 5 years ahead of his time, as the Sopranos set off a mafia craze that they could have cashed in on. Sincere attacks to start and gets nowhere with that, as Taker whips him around and chokes away in the corner. Sincere gets some token offense and a rebound clothesline for two. Russian legsweep gets two. We hit the chinlock. Sideslam gets two for Sincere as the “token jobber offense” portion is going on forever. They actually take an ad break during this dog and we return with Sincere getting a powerslam and some elbows for two. However, he stops to salute the crowd, and Taker does the zombie sit up and thankfully goes through the motions to finish at 7:34. Next. 0 for 2.
– Owen Hart v. Marc Mero. This is the semi-finals of the Intercontinental title tournament, which was not exactly a thrilling series of matches. They trade wristlocks to start and Mero takes him down into an armbar. Mero hits him with a hiptoss and another armbar to retain control, but Owen gets the leg lariat and takes over. The whole match proves to be a backdrop for Jim Ross arguing with Gorilla Monsoon about the “return” of Razor Ramon and Diesel, and I hope to god that isn’t considered part of the “Best of RAW.” Anyway, Owen gets a missile dropkick and goes to the chinlock. Mero escapes and gets dumped, and back in Owen gets two. Ad break and we return with Mero getting an atomic drop and backdrop, then a somersault plancha on the retreating Owen. Back in, the slingshot splash gets two. They collide for the double KO, but Owen recovers and uses the cast behind the ref’s back. That gets two. Mero steals the cast , hits him with it, and advances to the finals at 6:54. Really weak match for both guys, and the crowd was obviously burned out at the end of a long taping and needed canned heat to sound excited. 0 for 3.
– Intercontinental tournament finals: Faarooq v. Marc Mero. Faarooq is looking a little leaner already. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and Curt Hennig is on commentary. Mero gets a quick sunset flip for two to start, but Faarooq gets a surprising enzuigiri. He misses a blind charge, however, and gets dumped as a result. Mero follows with the somersault plancha, and then back in with a Merosault for two. Man, someone’s fired up tonight. He misses a charge, however, and Faarooq pounds him on the apron and shoulderblocks him into the railing, as Mero starts bumping all over. Back in, Faarooq gets a powerslam for two. They head up as Faarooq gets a samoan drop from the middle rope and gets two. Choking follows and Pat Patterson sends Sunny away, because he has no use for women. Ad break and we return with Faarooq getting a clothesline for two and hitting the chinlock. Mero comes back with a sunset flip, but Faarooq goes back to the chinlock. Sign: “We love rest holds”. This was indeed the dawn of a new era for smart-ass fans. Mero fights out with a flying clothesline, but Faarooq slams him and goes up. Mero crotches him and brings him down with a rana, which gets two. Double clothesline as Sunny returns to ringside, with the dreaded loaded purse. The result is a catfight between her and Sable (and who was the idiot who failed to book THAT feud?) and Mero uses the loaded purse to KO Faarooq and finishes with the shooting star press at 9:36, to win the I-C title and basically hit the peak of his career in the process. Faarooq was just so bad during this period that even the red-hot Mero couldn’t carry him to anything. 0 for 4.
– And then the moment I was dreading to see again, as Jim Ross begins his ill-fated heel turn and rants about the front office. This was notable for being one of the first times that Vince McMahon was named as the owner of the WWF. Jim actually cuts an awesome heel promo here, and then the whole thing is flushed down the toilet when he introduces “Razor Ramon”…and out walks indy wrestler Rick Bogner doing a bad imitation. After weeks of buildup, this turned into a groan-inducing mess. In fact, you could argue that if you wanted to pinpoint the exact moment when the WWF hit rock bottom in the Monday Night Wars, this might be it.
– Savio Vega v. Fake Razor Ramon. Vega chokes him out in the corner to start, but Fake Razor chokes away in the corner. Blockbuster slam follows, as the commentary with JR and Gorilla arguing about Scott Hall and Kevin Nash hits new levels of surreal. Fake Razor slugs away in the corner and dodges a crossbody, stomping Vega down. “Razor” slugs Vega down and grabs an armbar, but Savio rolls him up for two. We take an ad break as this thing actually breaks the laws of time and space and exists in another dimension of suck. Back with Savio making the comeback and Gorilla Monsoon defending Doink the Clown. And then Big Daddy Kane makes his debut and it’s a DQ at 6:47. If I could subtract a point, I would. 0 for 5. Amazingly, Fake Diesel would actually recover from this travesty and get repackaged into Kane within a year of this.
– Shawn Michaels & Jose Lothario v. Jim Cornette & Vader. Shawn slugs away on Vader to start, but gets powered down. Vader follows with a corner splash and a short clothesline. Vader uses kind of a blockbuster slam and sets up for the Vader Bomb, but Shawn slugs out of it and reverses it to a rana. Shawn crotches him on the post and comes back in with a senton, but charges and splats on the floor. Back to the punishment from Vader, as he works Shawn over in the corner in a beautiful sight, and now Cornette wants in. So of course Shawn pops up and tag in Lothario, but Vader comes in, so it’s back to Shawn again. Shawn quickly fires off the flying forearm and flying elbow, but the superkick is ducked by Vader, and he flattens Shawn with a clothesline for two. We take an ad break and return with Vader in position for the pump splash, but he teases the Vadersault too long and hits knee. Shawn makes the comeback and slams Vader, and it’s superkick time again. Vader dodges it, however, and Shawn’s back gives out trying a slam. Powerbomb, and it’s good night Irene at 7:41. The total non-involvement of the managers meant a good match, albeit an abbreviated one. 1 for 6.
– Sid v. Goldust. We’ve gone from “best” matches to just showing highlights of each RAW during September 1996. Sid, as usual, is hugely over, which is probably why he got the belt in November. Goldust attacks to start and hammers away in the corner. Sid takes him out of the corner and clotheslines him to set up the chokeslam, but changes his mind, allowing Goldust to bail. Some distraction from Marlena allows Goldust to take over with some kicky-punchy stuff. Powerslam gets two. We cut to Sid making the comeback and chokeslamming him, and the powerbomb finishes at 3:19. Typical Sid fare. 1 for 7. Vader lays him out, but Sid no-sells it all.
– Shawn Michaels v. Steve Austin. Man, Shawn actually had quite the lineup of matches during this period. The amount of canned heat would indicate that we’re in week 3 or so of a taping block. Austin grabs a headlock to start and takes Shawn down for two. They trade hammerlocks and Shawn takes him down to the mat. They exchange a couple of stiff shots and Shawn takes him down again with a headlock, and hangs on through a reversal attempt. Austin breaks free and tries to grab his own headlock, but Shawn reverses him down and goes back to his own. Austin gets the Thesz Press for two, and they go into a pinfall reversal sequence and fight over the backslide. Shawn walks the ropes to escape and teases the superkick, but Austin ducks out of the ring. This leads to a chase, and Austin catches him with the stun gun. Stunner is blocked by Shawn, and we take a break. Back with Shawn hammering away, but Vader runs in for the DQ at 5:20. Can’t give it the point at 5 minutes. 1 for 8.
– Intercontinental title: Marc Mero v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Ah, the days when HHH was a skinny cruiserweight who needed a manager to talk for him. This was the template for the angle done a million times on RAW since, as Mr. Perfect was mentoring Mero and tormenting Hunter, so leading up to this title match Hunter attacked Perfect in the locker room to take him out. Thus, there could be no Hunter v. Perfect match as advertised, and instead Perfect offered up Mero as a substitute, with the title on the line. So we’re joined in progress with Mero backdropping Hunter and grabbing an armbar. Hunter makes the ropes, so Mero dumps him and tries a dive. However, Hunter hides behind Sable, who promptly nails him and allows Mero to stay on offense. Back in, Mero gets a sunset flip for two. Hunter reverses for two. Mero backslides him for two. Hunter USES THE KNEE with a backbreaker for two. Suplex and Hunter USES THE KNEE again with a kneedrop for two. High knee gets two. He sends Mero into the corner, but Mero reverses him to a catapult for two. Slingshot legdrop gets two. Samoan drop and Mero goes up, but Hunter uses the ref to crotch him and follows with a superplex attempt, which is blocked by Mero. Merosault gets two. Next, the inevitable ref bump, which draws Perfect into the ring, as he steals a chair from Hunter…and then turns on Mero. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, and HHH wins his first ever title at 6:22. This was brilliant for the time and would have revived Perfect’s career, but he opted to take a deal from WCW instead, leaving HHH in the cold and on the receiving end of a job to Rocky Maivia. This was a great TV match, though. 2 for 9.
– And back to the lame again, as we meet “The Real Double J,” Jesse Jammes, way too late for the angle to mean anything. Thankfully a repackaging as the Road Dogg would save his career.
– Salvatore Sincere v. Jesse Jammes. Jammes takes Sincere out of the ring on a hiptoss attempt, but gets necksnapped. He gets a bodyblock for two, and knocks Sincere off the apron. Back in, Sincere takes over with a slam and goes up, but gets slammed off. Jammes comes back with a corner clothesline, and finishes with a pumphandle slam at 4:12. 2 for 10.