The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 12.16.96
By Scott Keith on 3rd October 2023
The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 12.16.96
Live from…hold on, here’s Bret Hart, and he’s pissed. He should be WWF champion RIGHT NOW, and he’s pretty sick of the way things are changing in the WWF. There’s NO RULES. And Shawn Michaels promised him that he wouldn’t interfere, but he turned out to be as complicit as Ivanka Trump. So everyone is a bunch of jackals out to get him, and he’s entering the Royal Rumble, reluctantly.
Steve Austin v. Vader
It’s the TOUGHMAN CONTEST, as they very slowly flirt with ECW-ish shades of grey. Vader beats on Austin in the corner and pounds him down as I wonder what Vader v. Brock Lesnar would look like. Austin gets all riled up and fights back with a Thesz Press and slugs Vader out of the ring as the crowd goes crazy for him, and we take a break as they brawl on the floor. Back with Vader just teeing off on Steve outside, boxing him into the crowd and following with a chairshot. Back in, Vader cuts off his comeback and goes up, but Austin hits him right in the nuts and they slug it out again until Vader dumps Austin over the top rope. This prompts Bitter Bret to leave the commentary position and take out Austin with a clip and Sharpshooter, drawing the DQ at 6:34. If you listen to Bret’s commentary here, there’s more than a few kernels of reality behind the character. Vader kind of half-heartedly pulls Bret off Austin, before Jim Cornette pretty much advises his client to mind his own damn business, and Bret goes right back to putting Austin in the Sharpshooter again until the Usual Gang of Idiots rescues him. Well this was 10 minutes of complete craziness. ***
Meanwhile, last night, Ahmed Johnson just has three words for Faarooq: YUB GUBBA NUB!
OK, now we can start again.
Live from Tampa, FL
Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Good Ol’ JR.
Razor Ramon & Diesel v. The Godwinns
PIG overpowers Razor and slams HOG on him. Over to Diesel and he takes over on Henry as the Imposters cut off the ring and Razor can barely be bothered to maintain his ripped-off character. It’s rather telling that they bent over backwards to keep repackaging Glen Jacobs, but Bognar was thrown out of the Royal Rumble like a piece of garbage and never returned to the WWF, even during an era when they made sure to lock up every available piece of talent just to spite WCW. Anyway, Razor sets up Phineas for the Edge, but Henry breaks it up with a Slop Drop. Sadly, the ref ejects the illegal Henry from the ring, and Diesel powerbombs Phineas and puts Razor on top for the pin at 6:13. I have no idea why they bothered putting them over here. *
Meanwhile, Sid is pretty confident about his chances at the Royal Rumble against Shawn Michaels.
Meanwhile, Shawn is suddenly all upset about what happened to Jose Lothario again two months later, and also Bret Hart can kiss his ass.
Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon v. TL Hopper & Dr. X
X would be Tom Pritchard under a mask, if you care. Dirty White Boy & Dr. Tom would be a hell of a tag team in Smoky Mountain, but decidedly less so here. We’re joined in progress for some reason, as Furnas works the arm of Hopper and LaFon comes in for a monkey flip but gets flapjacked instead. And then they do a messed up finishing sequence with everyone colliding and someone blowing a cue, before LaFon hits Dr. X with a leg lariat or whatever and pins him at 3:14. I don’t know why this was so terrible, because everyone involved is a totally competent pro wrestler, but it sure was. DUD
MILTON BRADLEY KARATE FIGHTERS TOURNAMENT FINALS: Sable v. Jerry Lawler
Sable wins as they somehow manage to rig a toy. After her triumph, Marc Mero gets attacked by Lawler and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, which brings out Goldust for the save, as he chases Hunter into the crowd and Mero sends him running back to the dressing room. This leaves Goldust in the ring with Lawler, who can’t figure out why Goldust is getting so worked up about Hunter making a pass at Marlena. After all, Hunter is a REAL MAN and Goldust is somewhat fruitier. You know, uh, you know, “a queer.”
And with that, Goldust slugs Lawler, denies all accusations, and turns babyface by virtue of not being gay. Not Lawler’s finest moment, and it didn’t exactly set Goldust’s career on fire, either. Regardless, this segment was actually fascinating from a narrative standpoint, because it started as the Lawler-Sable toy segment and somehow morphed into a Lawler-Goldust feud by the end. Hey, remember that awesome Lawler v. Goldust blowoff at Royal Rumble? Oh yeah, neither do I, because it happened on that other PPV called “Figment Of Your Imagination” along with all the shit Russo started and then never followed up on.
Billy Gunn v. Bart Gunn
It’s the Final Deletion, but with fake brothers. Bart attacks and slugs away on the mat and we take a break right away. We return with Billy doing a chinlock as Vince explains that there were “technical difficulties” with the PPV and a bunch of people were unable to order on Direct TV. Oh, so THAT’S why it got the lowest buyrate in history! Because of all the technical difficulties! Speaking of technical difficulties, Bart escapes the chinlock with a stungun and Billy is STUNNED. In the neck. The ref stops the match at 3:44 because everything you see is fake, but what you’re watching right now is real. And how many times would we have to deal with THAT bullshit line of thinking over the next three years? Anyway, Vince thinks it’s a Stinger. Oh great, now they’re trying to pretend that HE’S on the show along with Razor and Diesel. Pretty low, Vince, the man is obviously paralyzed for life and you’re trying to blame it on Steve Borden. Then we get Billy’s “wife” in the ring yelling at Bart about how he’s a terrible person for causing this while they haul away Billy on a stretcher. Geez, what a nag. Anyway, this led to the exciting blowoff on the “Figment Of Your Imagination” PPV discussed earlier, along with all the other fucking stupid hotshot angles that Vince Russo introduced and then never mentioned again. In fact, next time we saw Billy, he was completely fine and quickly got repackaged into Rockabilly, seemingly unconcerned about ever getting his revenge on Bart. By the way, Bart was the babyface and Billy was the heel, so what the FUCK was this supposed to accomplish in the first place? RATINGZ, I guess. Kids love the shades of grey, where the motivations and angles don’t make any sense, but you just hurl bullshit at the screen so fast that people won’t stop to think about how stupid it all is.
Hey, some stuff happened on this show. Whatever else you want to say about the long-term damage done by phasing Russo into the product or how brain-meltingly stupid he could be at times, at least you didn’t feel like nothing happened. (Man this one sure made me angry back in 2017. To be fair, we can’t really blame Russo full stop until about four months from now. He still would have been more along the lines of just an influential voice in the writer’s room at this point.).