This Raw kicks off 1996, which would be a long year for WWF fans. This was a rebuilding year for the company and they brought in Vader, Mankind, and Steve Austin to balance out the roster. Although this is a great nucleus to build around, the WWF also introduced characters like the Goon, Who, and T.L. Hopper and those characters make fans have a less than favorable view of this period. 1996 would be the year that the WWF would fall behind WCW in the Monday Night Wars and it would not be until April 1998 that they would regain the advantage. However, the seeds of the Attitude Era are planted at this time so itâ€™s a fun year to watch if you keep that in mind.
For those that have never seen this show, it is called the â€œRaw Bowlâ€ because it is taking place on January 1st. To give the show a college football-type atmosphere, the show has cheerleaders, a Raw Bowl queen, a pep band, and a ring mat that looks like a football field. The show is headlined by a four corner tag team elimination match, with lots of football-type rules, but weâ€™ll get to that later. Iâ€™m interested to see how this show holds up because I remember liking it as a kid.
-Vince McMahon narrates a video package for tonightâ€™s show. Itâ€™s a really poor imitation of a college football game preview.
-McMahon and Jerry â€œthe Kingâ€ Lawler are in the booth and are coming to us from Newark, Delaware.
-Raw Bowl Match: The Smoking Gunns (WWF Tag Team Champions) vs. Owen Hart & Yokozuna (w/Jim Cornette & Mr. Fuji) vs. Razor Ramon & Savio Vega vs. Sid & the 1-2-3 Kid (w/Ted DiBiase):
Brother Love is shown practicing his annoying gig backstage in the side screen for no reason. All of the teams are wearing t-shirt jerseys for the match and McMahon and Lawler waste no time making tons of football references. Earl Hebner is dressed like an NFL referee, which just makes this thing look completely ridiculous. As Ramon makes his way to the ring, Goldustâ€™s usher brings him some flowers and Ramon doesnâ€™t take kindly to that and beats him up. Here are the unique rules for the match:
*A team is eliminated when one of its members is pinned, submits, is counted out, or disqualified.
*Each team is given one time out that they can call at any time.
*You can tag in any other wrestler who is on the apron and after wrestlers are tagged physical contact must be made before they can tag out.
Oh, and the tag titles arenâ€™t on the line here. Bart and Owen start the match because they won the coin toss. I didnâ€™t know you could toss a coin four ways. Bart gets the better of Owen so he tags in Billy and the Gunns do a quick running of the ropes sequence and tag in Yoko and Owen at the same time. They didnâ€™t waste any time exploiting this concept. I thought theyâ€™d wait a while and build to it. Owen is reluctant to lock up and when he runs the ropes Yoko knocks him down and Owen quickly tags Savio. Yoko slams Savio and tags in the Kid as Goldust is shown watching in the aisle. Savio clotheslines the Kid for two. A spinning heel kick gets two before Sid interrupts. The Kid tags Owen and Owen catches Savio with a spinning heel kick of his own for two. Lawler flirts with the Raw Bowl Queen as Razor, Savio, and Sid beat on Bart. Bart nails Sid with a clothesline for two. A vertical suplex gets two. Bart misses an elbow drop so he tags in Savio. Sid falls on top of Savio on a slam attempt for two. Owen gets tagged in and hits Savio with an enziguri for two as we go to a commercial break.
When we return, the two heel teams take turns working over Savio. The Kid screws it up for the heels and Ramon gets the tag, which pops the crowd. Ramon gives the Kid a fall away slam, but before Ramon can give him a Razorâ€™s Edge the Kid calls time out. Ramon looks at Hebner like heâ€™s high and gives the Kid the Razorâ€™s Edge anyway. Ted DiBiase jumps up on the apron and Hebner throws a penalty flag at his feet, which means absolutely nothing as far as the rules go, and Sid clotheslines a distracted Ramon in the back of the head and the Kid covers him for the pin at 8:55. Evidently Savio was trying to call time out from the apron, but it didnâ€™t work. The pep band starts up for some reason and we go to a commercial break.
We start â€œ2nd downâ€, which is the most obvious reference McMahon and Lawler could make for a match like this, but they donâ€™t make the connection. Go figure. The heel teams work over Bart, but Bart gets a fluke cradle off the ropes on Owen for two. Owen misses a flying headbutt off the top rope and we have double KO #1. Bart makes the tag and Billy takes out all four heels. Jim Cornette even gets caught up in the action, but the Kid kicks Billy in the head when he runs the ropes and Yoko goes for the Banzai Drop. However, Bart pulls Billy out of the corner, trips Owen, and Yoko Banzai Drops Owen instead. Bart knocks Yoko out of the ring and Billy covers Owen for the pin at 12:37. Like Savio, Yoko tried to call time out and Hebner didnâ€™t see it. This is the most poorly officiated game Iâ€™ve seen since that Seahawks-Steelers Super Bowl.
After Owen gets pinned, Sid wastes no time going to work on Billy and a clothesline gets two. Chinlock time and Billy eats a big boot when he escapes. A leg drop gets two. Billy gets a fluke small package for two. Sid knocks Bart off the apron with a big boot and holds Billy in place for a Kid missile dropkick as DiBiase distracts the referee, but Ramon runs down to ringside, tosses the Kid off the top rope, and Billy cradles Sid for the win at 16:44 shown. I canâ€™t fault them for trying something new and this was a really fun elimination tag match. Grade: B-
-McMahon and Lawler discuss what Shawn Michaels might say about his future next week on Raw.
-Dok Hendrix brings us a Halftime Report. He runs down the Royal Rumble card. Remember, no one does pay-per-view like the World Wrestling Federation!
-For filler, they show the Henry O. Godwinn-Hunter Hearst-Helmsley hog pen match from In Your House 5. One day Iâ€™ll recap that pay-per-view so I wonâ€™t recap this match here.
-King Mabel (w/Sir Mo) vs. Diesel:
Jeff Hardy is one of the wrestlers carrying Mabel to the ring and it doesnâ€™t look like heâ€™s having an easy time of it. Yokozuna must have taught Mabel how to escape the dark side because Mabel came back really quickly after losing to the Undertaker in their casket match at In Your House. Also, Kidman must be timing this show because we are almost out of time. Diesel attacks Mabel before the opening bell and a big boot gets the pin in eight seconds. After that, Diesel throws Mo into the ring and gives him a Jackknife. This is how SummerSlam 1995 shouldâ€™ve endedâ€¦.well, maybe not since it wouldnâ€™t be a good idea to end a pay-per-view with a squash match, but I wish it wouldâ€™ve ended this way. Lawler invites Diesel over for an interview, but Diesel just takes the Raw Bowl queenâ€™s hand and takes her to the back.
-The Smoking Gunns are celebrating their Raw Bowl victory in the locker room with Ahmed Johnson, Hakushi, and Marty Jannetty when Steve Lombardi (a.k.a. the Brooklyn Brawler) comes in and gives them a cardboard trophy that has his picture on it. You see, they won the Raw Bowl so they get the â€œLombardiâ€ trophy. The Gunns donâ€™t like the trophy so they stomp on it and when the Brawler gets physical, all of the faces beat him down and dump the contents of a water cooler on him.
-McMahon announces that Diesel, Owen Hart, the British Bulldog, Dory Funk Jr., Savio Vega, King Mabel, Bam Bam Bigelow, Barry Horowitz, Yokozuna, and Tatanka will be in the Royal Rumble. McMahon also says that Vader will be in the Royal Rumble and a video package introduces Vader to the WWF audience.
-We get our first Billionaire Ted â€œWrasslinâ€™ Warroomâ€ segment. Ted says he wants improvements in the product, but the Huckster and the Nacho Man say they canâ€™t do new moves. These were quite silly and petty, but the guy who plays Ted Turner never failed to make me laugh.
-Tune in next week to see the Bret Hart-British Bulldog main event from In Your House 5! Also, Jeff Jarrett faces off with Hakushi.
The Final Report Card: For all intents and purposes, this was a one match show, but that one match delivered and made this a very entertaining Raw. There were several important things that came out of this Raw as well: the announcement of Vaderâ€™s debut at the Royal Rumble, the continuation of Dieselâ€™s tweener character, and the Billionaire Ted segments that showed that the WWF was going to take the gloves off when it came to the Monday Night Wars. All around, a good show and the Raw Bowl match is worth checking out.
Monday Night War Rating: 2.6 (vs. a 2.5 for Nitro)
Show Grade: B
Tags: Ahmed Johnson, Bam Bam Bigelow, Barry Horowitz, bart gunn, Billionaire Ted, Billy Gunn, Bret Hart, brother love, Diesel, Dory Funk Jr., Earl Hebner, goldust, Hakushi, Henry Godwinn, Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, In Your House 5, jeff jarrett, Jerry Lawler, Jim Cornette, King Mabel, Mankind, Marty Jannetty, monday night raw, Mr. Fuji, Owen Hart, Raw, Razor Ramon, Savio Vega, sid, Steve Austin, Tatanka, ted dibiase, the 1-2-3 Kid, the British Bulldog, the Brooklyn Brawler, the Huckster, the Nacho Man, The Smoking Gunns, triple h, Vader, vince mcmahon, WWE, WWF, Yokozuna