Inspired in part by Jamie’s weekly ‘The Way We Was‘ jaunt through the 1996 world of wrestling, and keeping an eye on the product at the time, it would be amiss of us not to have a proper look at the fake Razor Ramon and Diesel angle. So, let’s have a look at the why and why of that angle.
Ah, the WWE in 1996. What a crazy place with the ever moving landscape of the world of wrestling and Vince McMahon’s WWF being left behind by their southern rivals. Regular readers will be enjoying Jamie’s trawl through that year, weekly taking in episodes of Raw and Nitro as well as both companies PPVs.
Unless you live under a rock, a rock not The Rock, you will also be aware of one of the biggest wrestling stories of the year – Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and Kevin Nash (Diesel) leaving the WWF and forming the New World Order (nWo) over in WCW.
The WCW’s capturing of two of the WWE’s biggest names – Hall a multiple time Intercontinental Champion and Nash a former WWF, IC and Tag champion – would go on to help that promotion turn their business around. It would also allow them to take the war, a term we’d hear used a lot, to Vince McMahon’s promotion.
But that was early June that the pair joined Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. A few months down the line, and the WCW were romping ahead of the WWF with the nWo, which now included Holywood Hogan, proving to be a huge ratings hit.
As the old adage goes, desperate times call for desperate measures and boy did the WWF stoop pretty low when they responded. It was just over 20 years ago, on the company’s USA Championship Friday special that Jim Ross announced that, based on his “most trusted sources” that Diesel and Razor Ramon were returning.
It is worth noting that Diesel and Razor Ramon are character names owned by the WWF and Good Ol’ JR was very careful not to mention Scott Hall and Kevin Nash by name… As Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring for his bout against Marc Mero on the show, Jim Ross announced: “I’ve been in this great sport over 20 years and right here tonight I am going to the biggest story of my broadcasting career. Certainly the biggest story of the year in the WWF. This is going to be shocking and we’ll have it right here.”
Later on in the evening, Ross stated: “The breaking story we talked about earlier in the show that I really believe will be the biggest story of the year here in the World Wrestling Federation is this. Big Daddy Cool Diesel and the Bad Guy Razor Ramon are on their way back to the World Wrestling Federation. I have that on good authority from some very reliable sources.” JR added: “My sources tell me, and they’ve been very reliable sources, I’ve had them for years, and that is the fact that Big Daddy Cool Diesel and the Bad Guy Razor Ramon are on their way back to the World Wrestling Federation.”
Jim Ross then used this story to promote WWF Mania, broadcast on a Saturday, and the company’s 900 line.
After spending a weekend looking at bringing in different wrestlers to portray Diesel and Razor Ramon, on the Monday on America On-Line, Vince McMahon asked Ross to apologise with JR stating he would have more to say later that night on Raw. WCW vice president Eric Bischoff spoke ahead of the September 9 episode of Nitro by confirming both men were under WCW contract and weren’t going anywhere.
Jim Ross would eventually introduce Rick Titan as “Razor Ramon” and Glenn Jacobs as “Diesel”. It was a storyline designed to turn Jim Ross heel but proved to be so unpopular that it was immediately dropped.
At November’s Survivor Series, the fake Razor Ramon and Diesel were paired with Faarooq and Vader against the somewhat random team of Flash Funk, Jimmy Snuka, Savio Vega, and Yokozuna in a match that ended in a no contest.
Despite receiving a WWF Tag Team Championship match against Owen Hart and The British Bulldog at the In Your House 12: It’s Time pay-per-view, the gimmick’s television lifespan lasted only until the 1997 Royal Rumble.
The purpose was to get fans talking and get viewers to tune into the WWF product. But the result wasn’t pretty, especially not once the big reveal was made. Still, some people did believe it… As Scott Hall said on the Scott Roberts podcast: “I’m barely paying attention to what’s happening on [WCW Monday] Nitro, so I’m not watching [WWE Monday Night] RAW at all. But Eric Bischoff called Kev and I in and we got a raise and a contract extension because he believed it. And then after that, he went, ‘I thought you guys didn’t care about the lawsuit and you were just going to go back there!’”
But looking back, you can see easily why the WWF fans, and wrestling fans more generally, were left feeling short-changed by this announcement by the WWF. The company clearly felt that due to owning the gimmicks, they could put anyone in the role and the fans would accept it. Whilst the company were able to get away with it by replacing the masked Sin Cara, in no small part due to the second incarnation being superior, it was never going to work with Razor Ramon and Diesel.
Whilst Diesel’s reign as WWF champion didn’t prove to be a cash cow, he was a hugely popular act and while Ramon flirted with sitting just under the upper midcard role, he was a dependable and popular act for a number of years.
It showed an element of arrogance from Vince McMahon and the WWF thinking they could simply replicate that success with two other superstars occupying the role. It was short-lived, too. Sure, the fake Razor Ramon and Diesel would get a tag title shot but even the team of Owen Hart and the British Bulldog couldn’t carry the pair.
It turned out alright for Glenn ‘Fake Diesel’ Jacobs in the end and within 12 months he would return as Kane, a character he portrays to this day. Bognar didn’t fare so well. When his contract expired, he called Vince and was “Rick, please don’t call me at this number again.”. He eventually retired after a neck injury in 1999. In terms of wrestling in America, fake Razor Ramon was really the highlight of his career…