The Way We Was: 1996 Week 39

Jamie Lithgow

It’s been a busy week in wrestling back in 1996. The WWF presented In Your House 10: Mind Games on Sunday while on Monday Scott Hall and Kevin Nash appeared on a live episode of Nitro at the same time as Razor Ramon and Diesel appeared on a live episode of Raw. Find out just what the hell was going on in this week’s ‘The Way We Was‘ …

d405b229232d824bb28a023a22002978Our week in wrestling starts in Philadelphia with the WWF’s tenth In Your House pay per view; Mind Games. As is usually the case in Philly, the audience were knowledgeable, passionate and vocal. Or, in other words, there were plenty of ECW fans in attendance. It is therefore no accident that ECW alumni Mick ‘Cactus Jack/Mankind’ Foley found himself challenging for Shawn Michaels’ WWF Title in the show’s main event. With precious little else to get excited about on a mediocre under card, Michaels and Mankind didn’t have to try too hard to claim match of the night honours. That they did, and also forced themselves into the running for match of the year. As is usually the case with his title defences, Michaels wrestled his opponent’s style of match with a sprinkling of his own moveset for good measure. The result? A wild and woolly brawl that did drop in pace for its 20 minute duration. The only negative from a stellar match was the finish – a disqualification after Vader broke up a Michaels’ pinning attempt. Despite the inconclusive ending, which in this case was probably the best long term booking solution, I would still rank this is as the best and most exciting WWF match of 1996 so far.

In Other News From Mind Games –

Turn the car around; The Sandman ruins ECW's field trip

Turn the car around; The Sandman ruins ECW’s field trip

  • There weren’t just ECW fans in attendance. ECW wrestlers Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, along with ECW owner Paul Heyman, were sat in the front row just to the left of the hard camera view. Dreamer was extremely – ahem – vocal during the Free For All match between Savio Vega and Marty Jannetty. The Innovator of Violence was clearly visible in his ECW t-shirt and started a couple of “ECW” chants. So obvious was the disruption that Vince McMahon was forced to acknowledge the presence of performers from “a local wrestling group”. At the conclusion of this match Justin ‘Hawk’ Bradshaw stormed to the ring and whipped Savio with his bull rope. Bradshaw was upset that he had yet to appear in a PPV match since debuting earlier this year. Well, ask and you shall receive. The PPV proper started with an impromptu Caribbean Strap Match between the future JBL and Savio. As the action spilled to the outside, The Sandman seized his opportunity to spit beer all over Savio. This prompted quite a commotion with the ECW contingent removed from their seats as a result. In case you are wondering, this was a planned angle but was very much treated as a shoot, complete with cameras trying – not too hard of course – not to film the ECW lads. Savio won the match by the way, which was probably missed by most of the crowd as they buzzed about what, at face value, appeared to be a very real publicity stunt masterminded by Paul Heyman.
  • Savio had a busy night because he was also attacked backstage by what appeared to be Razor Ramon and Diesel. The camera didn’t get a good look, so we couldn’t be sure. When asked who attacked him Savio wasn’t too sure either.
  • Owen Hart and The British Bulldog have given the tag team division a glimmer of hope by capturing the tag titles. Sunny, as she usually does, dumped her tandem (The Smoking Gunns) after the bout. Ordinarily Sunny would now jump ship to Owen and Bulldog’s side, but that’s already a complicated matter. After being KO’d by Jose Lothario, a disorientated Jim Cornette signed his men over to Clarence Mason who claimed he “got his papers muddled”. Yeah, sure he did…
  • On the subject of Cornette vs. Lothario, Jim entered to Vader’s theme and appeared to be wearing a fat suit. It would have been funnier had he been wearing a muscle suit, oh well. Jose ‘Super Sock’ Lothario entered to HBK’s ‘Sexy Boy’ theme. Add the fact that he was topless and you have a very awkward ring entrance for fans to endure.
  • If you took a random man of Mark Henry’s size and stature off the street he could probably have wrestled as good, if not better, than The World’s Strongest Man in his match with Jerry Lawler. Granted, we were warned not to expect much from Henry who by his own admission was goaded into the match by King, but if I were strong enough to lift Lawler off the ground then I am convinced I could have done a better job. To make matters worse, Henry battered The New Rockers and Hunter Hearst Helmsley who all ran in after the match. And, as the cherry on the cake, Henry has been signed to a ten (yes, 10!) year contract…
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin, while in the company of Brian Pillman and Owen Hart, cut his “letter ‘S’ on front of Hitman” promo on Bret Hart. Looks like things have finally picked up for the 1996 King of The Ring
  • Mind Games ended with The Undertaker – who had a really dull match with Goldust earlier in the show – attacking Mankind
Mankind was still capable of hitting his finisher despite his head being trapped in the ropes

Mankind was still capable of hitting his finisher despite his head being trapped in the ropes

Full Results

  • Free For All Match: Savio Vega defeated Marty Jannetty
  • Savio Vega defeated Justin Bradshaw in a Caribbean Strap Match
  • Jose Lothario defeated Jim Cornette
  • Owen Hart & The British Bulldog defeated The Smoking Gunns (w/ Sunny) (c) to win the Tag Team Titles
  • Mark Henry defeated Jerry Lawler
  • The Undertaker defeated Goldust (w/ Marlena) in a Curtain Call Match
  • Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ Jose Lothario) defeated Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) by DQ to retain the WWF Title

90s Raw Logo

Say hello to... erm... this guy

Say hello to… erm… this guy

The unquestioned big news from Raw was the ‘return’ of Razor Ramon and Diesel. Actually, in practice, it was just Razor who returned this week. Jim Ross has been promising their return for weeks and this time he delivered. At the end of the show JR introduced The Bad Guy to a brief, optimistic pop, which was quickly followed by confusion and indifference from the live crowd. Yes, as we suspected, Razor Ramon’s old waistcoat and pants have been handed to some other guy to wear. This other guy’s name is Rick Bognar, who was signed last month at the same as a young man called Dwayne Johnson. Rick’s previous claim to fame was as Big Titan, tag team partner of The Gladiator, aka Mike Awesome, in FMW. After doing his best Razor Ramon impression, Rick, I mean Razor, was attacked by Savio Vega as Raw went off the air. No doubt next week we’ll meet Diesel, or a guy wearing Diesel’s gear at least.

In Other News From Raw –

  • Prior to introducing Razor, JR seemed to complete his heel turn by cutting a scathing worked-shoot promo on Vince McMahon and the WWF in general. Ross revealed his anger at quitting a job in the NFL only to be handed a toga on his first day with the WWF. He talked about his Bell’s palsy diagnosis and his firing soon after. He even mentioned Vince McMahon being indicted by the federal court. While watching this promo I could not help but notice the similarities in tone, delivery and content to CM Punk’s famous pipebomb promo in 2011. If Punk did not use JR’s promo as a blueprint then the similarities between the two are quite a coincidence…
  • Marc Mero is the new Intercontinental Champion. The opportunistic Mero grabbed Sunny’s purse – which was loaded with a brick – and nailed Faarooq with it. He then took an age to deliver the Wild Thing for the victory. The time it took Mero to scale the top rope and land his version of a shooting star press did Faarooq no favours
  • We saw the first Sunny vs. Sable confrontation during this match. Needless to say Jerry Lawler was very excited by this, which was fair enough
  • Following last night’s disturbance, another ECW wrestler made an unannounced appearance on Raw. A wee orange guy called Taz appeared at ringside holding a sign that said “Sabu fears Taz”. He was quickly removed by security
  • The Bodydonnas (Skip and Zip) returned for one last match. My sources tell me that they will definitely disappear this time!
  • Ahmed Johnson was on the phone and feeling much more upbeat about an in-ring return than last time we spoke to him. Moreover, I could actually understand him; something I am usually unable to do during his live promos
  • Understandably Jim Cornette was not happy with Clarence Mason for steeling Owen Hart and The British Bulldog from under his nose
  • Word has gotten out that Jeff Jarrett will soon be signing with WCW. Thus, the WWF felt the need to “expose” Double J as a phoney who lip synced during his performances of “With My Baby Tonight” back in 1995. No shit Sherlock, that was – and will continue to be – a source of heat for Jarrett whenever he plays a heel, which is most of the time
  • Mr Perfect stole another of Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s lady friends. I hope they’re actually going somewhere with this…
  • The Stalker character has been ripped apart on just its second Raw appearance. While on commentary Steve Austin wondered why he wears face paint because everybody knows its Barry Windham. Ouch!
  • In Your House 11: Buried Alive is taking shape already. Mankind will face The Undertaker in an unsanctioned Buried Alive Match, whatever that is. Elsewhere, Sid will face Vader for no particular reason… yet

Quote of the week

“Razor is a little bigger than last time we saw him”

Jerry Lawler

In Backstage News –

The newest issue of Playgirl is the talk of the ultra macho WWF locker room

The newest issue of Playgirl is the talk of the ultra macho WWF locker room

  • JJ Dillon is said to be leaving (or has already left) the WWF to return to WCW. Thus, changes are afoot in the WWF front office. Bruce Prichard and JR have stepped up to fill the void. Jake Roberts has also been earmarked as someone who could move into a creative role which would also allow him to reduce his in-ring activities
  • Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned that the WWF were in talks with Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle? Well, they’re not anymore. Angle is still said to be interested in becoming a pro wrestler though
  • There’s a growing confidence that Bret Hart will re-sign with the WWF. He’s even been pencilled in for the Survivor Series against Steve Austin
  • Shawn Michaels has been the butt of locker room jokes after posing for Playgirl magazine. Having posed for the photos some time ago, it has only recently become public knowledge and thus dawned on HBK that the magazine is a predominantly gay publication. The issue will be released in a couple of weeks, and I’m sure a copy will find its way into the WWF locker room…

Full Results

  • Marc Mero (w/ Sable) defeated Faarooq (w/ Sunny) to win the vacant WWF Intercontinental Championship
  • Vader defeated Henry Godwinn
  • The British Bulldog & Owen Hart defeated The Bodydonnas
  • The Stalker defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Nitro Logo

Spray paint? Well, a good idea's a good idea...

Spray paint? Well, a good idea’s a good idea…

There’s pretty much just one story in WCW this week; while the cat’s away the mice will play. With the bulk of the WCW roster on a tour of Japan, the only substantial resistance to the New World Order was Macho Man Randy Savage. Alas, as just one man he could not defend on his own and the nWo seized control of Nitro for the second hour. The group had even advertised this coup in USA Today by printing a ‘nWo Nitro’ advert. Following Macho Man’s now weekly outburst on his opponent, Hall, Nash and Syxx hit the ring to attack Savage and seize control of the show. A smartly dressed Giant soon appeared and introduced Hollywood Hogan. The group would then attack Savage again, with Hogan spray painting Macho Man’s bald spot. From this point the group did not leave the ringside or announce positions, they even took Eric Bischoff hostage to call the action. As for the matches, they hijacked them. Thus, unless I’m mistaken, we got to see the first matches on Nitro for Nash, Hall, Syxx and Fake Sting. The theme of this hour long angle was that of chaos. I obviously don’t know how it was perceived at the time, but in hindsight it almost worked. Scott Hall had some good one liners while at the announce desk and The Giant was good as the group’s MC/ring announcer. However, Hogan’s rhetoric was lame and Kevin Nash wasn’t particularly funny, despite his best efforts. That said, this was something different, new and a great way of advancing the nWo storyline.

In Other News From Nitro –

Shang Tsung takes on Sub-Zero

Shang Tsung takes on Sub-Zero

  • In all the chaos the nWo gained yet another new member. The new guy is called Vincent aka Virgil from the WWF and he is the group’s new head of security. Yes, his name is a reference to one Vincent Kennedy McMahon, just as Virgil was a reference to a certain Virgil ‘Dusty Rhodes’ Runnels. Vincent/Virgil did nothing and said nothing, but still got paid
  • The group could announce two new members next week too. After a conversation with Hogan, The Nasty Boys were invited to talk business with him after the show
  • Sting, who appeared to walk out on WCW last week, wrestled alongside Lex Luger in tag matches during the company’s tour of Japan. We’ll just keep this little plot hole between us  😉
  • Liz again showed sympathy for her estranged husband, Macho Man. She appeared briefly as he was being attacked, but was too scared to get involved
  • Away from the nWo, Glacier vs. Pat Tanaka resembled a Mortal Kombat fight, only nobody was decapitated
  • Babyface Chris Jericho received more heat, just for being a nice guy
  • Big Bubba and Kevin Sullivan attacked Konnan as part of K’Dogg’s initiation into The Dungeon of Doom
  • The Public Enemy captured the Tag Titles from Harlem Heat after a small package that could have seen both men pinned. However, Nick Patrick awarded the win to PE who will head to Halloween Havoc to defend the titles against The Outsiders
  • Speaking of Nick Patrick, he felt it his duty to bring some calm to the situation by refereeing the nWo’s matches after Randy Anderson had walked out. Heroic company man or nWo bitch? The jury is still out
  • Heading back to the nWo and they unveiled their own Nascar car, which did look cool in all honesty. It will be driven by Kyle Petty, who I’m told is a pretty good driver

Quote of the week

“Is Andre really your Dad?”

Scott Hall to The Giant

Full Results

  • Kevin Sullivan & Konnan defeated Juventud Guerrera & Brad Armstrong
  • Chris Jericho defeated Mike Enos
  • Glacier defeated Pat Tanaka
  • Public Enemy defeated WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat to win the titles
  • Greg Valentine defeated Randy Savage via disqualification
  • Syxx defeated Jim Duggan
  • nWo Sting defeated Bo LeDeau
  • Scott Hall & Kevin Nash defeated High Voltage

Ratings

The supposed returns of Razor Ramon and Diesel did absolutely nothing to move viewers from Nitro to Raw, or from anywhere else to Raw for that matter. Elsewhere, Friends drew a massive 18.4 with The One Where Nobody’s Ready on Thursday night

You can read all previous ‘The Way We Was’ pieces here.

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2 thoughts on “The Way We Was: 1996 Week 39

  1. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 40 | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. Have always had a soft spot for mind games since I think this is where WWF started pulling their shit together and got on the road to the attitude era.

    That and the mankind HBK match was some fine wrestling from the pair, easy to see why Mick still rates this match as one of his best.

    There’s still some of the stupid stuff like the fake razor and diseal (Glenn really got so much shit to handed to him in the last twenty years at wwe.) That is still one of those things I really wonder what the hell went through the vince’s mind when they did this.

    JR would continue this heel thing til Buried Alive, it led to a few interesting comments form him, but really no one wanted Jim to be a heel. We love him too much for that.

    I remember at the time of the JR promo, being shocked that goofy person on the commentary table was the actual owner of WWF. That this annoying nerd actually ran the company, from here we will see the slow burn of his character becoming Mr Mcmachon, rest of 96 and all of 97 is basically the start of darkness for vince’s character on WWF programming.

    Steve’s promo at mind games is a personal favourite of mine, this is where he really got rolling with the stone cold gimmick and the next two months of raw will see him develop fully into the gimmick we all know and love.

    Savio really had the strap match being his gimmick at the time, was really the only interesting thing to him, quite like Takanka having his undefeated streak. Few fans really wanted to see them, but they got their spots on TV and PPV and did what they did.

    Lord Mark Henry is still at WWE today? Can’t believe he’s still there after 2 decades, took him fifteen years before he came good for WWE, but I will give credit to him and WWE for finding mutural ground to do business for that length of time.

    Same with that skinny big nose wrestler, he would know where to nose himself in the years to come.

    Oh Shawn has never lived down the playgirl gig, it’s been used by pretty much every heel or face against him at some point. The biggest from Bret in 97 from what I remember.

    ECW would do a few more appearances on WWE TV into 97. nothing brilliant was done, but hey it gave paul exposure and likely got Vincce a bit of money that he Sorley needed at this point.

    I think Cornette was wearing Yoko’s wrestling tights at Mind Games, or at elast it looked like Yoko’s tights.

    Yes that backstage gig for Jake led to a few things.

    Like

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