Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Raw #95 - January 16th, 1995

One week removed from the big 2nd anniversary show live in Houston, Raw comes to you taped with the announcers standing in front of a green screen. Also, instead of Hakushi making his Raw debut like last week, Mantaur will make his Raw debut. Also, William Shatner makes another appearance. Not only is the "boy toy" Shawn Michaels there to stripper it up, but the Heavenly Bodies are in the ring to open the show with more overt references to male prostitution thanks to "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray. All in all, it looks like a stellar show.

The announcers remind us that it's 13 days until the Super Bowl, but only 6 days until the Royal Rumble. That's not a coincidence, as long time fans will note that the Rumble always falls on the bye week between the NFL conference championships and the Super Bowl, much like Wrestlemania is typically held on the Sunday between the NCAA basketball semi-finals on Saturday and the finals on Monday.
The Bodies and their opponents the 123 Kid and Bob Holly get the annoying pitch black entrance treatment. The Heavenly Bodies strike before the bell against one half of the tag team championship match at the Rumble. We are told that this past weekend on Superstars, the Kid and the Plug beat the Gigolo and the Doctor to advance to the tournament finals. Shawn does his best emulation of Gorilla Monsoon, questioning the wisdom of the Kid and Holly signing onto this match just six days before the title match. Shawn notes the "chin music" that Del Ray gives Holly with a thrust kick. Tom Prichard hits the first Maneuver (gutwrench powerbomb) of the match for a one-count, thanks to a hesitant referee Tim White. Del Ray tags in and taunts the Kid, who has been shut out of the match thus far. Holly kicks out of a subsequent pin attempt, again at the count of one, as if he suspects a Houston Screwjob. Holly rolls through a Gigolo body press (uh....) to get barely a two-count, which is still close enough to fool Vince into thinking the match is over. Tatanka and Bam Bam make their way down the aisle, which is right in front of the hard camera just as it was on last week's live episode (almost as if they were taped in the same arena, back to back). The Bodies attempt a double-clothesline, but Holly jumps at their arms, leading them to smack into each other for a Maneuver (#2). Bigelow and the "Cigar Store Indian" (which was Bam Bam's nickname for Tatanka back when the Native American was a babyface) look on. Do you think they could get Greg Valentine to come back to the WWF and feud with Bam Bam so that the big man could bring back that insult? The 123 Kid gets the hot tag and starts cleaning house with spinning heel kicks which Vince describes as Maneuvers (#3). Tom Prichard halts the Kid's momentum, leading Shawn to disagree with Vince's assessment of the Kid as a "house of fire," arguing that he is more of a "condominium of fire." The Bodies attempt a double suplex on the Kid, but Plug rushes in to spear the Doctor of Desire, allowing the Kid to hit a fisherman's suplex for another Maneuver (#4) and the pinfall. Bigelow and Tatanka are still skeptical of the "Cinderella Team," despite the fact that the 123 Kid alone has already held more WWF championships than Tatanka and Bam Bam ever will, combined.

Backstage, Bret is with William Shatner, who has come back for another week of Raw in whatever city this is and certainly has not just stayed in the same arena for two consecutive Raw tapings on a single night.... Both Bret and Bill insist that the Hitman has no ring rust. Shatner threatens the Roadie to stay away from Bret, or else his name will be "Roadkill." Somewhere out there, a young Michael Depoli is watching and discovering the nickname that will launch him straight to the top of the world of wrestling. Vince promises us the Raw debut of Mantaur, who is pictured without face paint.
A moo plays over the speakers as Mantaur, who debuted at a Superstars billed by the announcers as "Minotaur," comes to the ring without his bull head, but with black face paint and new manager Jim Cornette. Vince notes the new look. Mantaur faces Jason Ahrndt, whom Cornetter has previously called "Jason Ain't" and who would later wrestle in the WWF as Joey Abs of the Mean Street Posse. Mantaur will be one of the 30 participants in the 30-man Royal Rumble match this Sunday (unlike, say, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, Jeff Jarrett, the 123 Kid, Bob Holly, Bam Bam Bigelow, Tatanka, IRS, or the Undertaker, who are all booked in singles or tag matches and excluded from the battle royal). Here's how different the wrestling business in 1995 is from the wrestling business of 2013: The "go-home" show before one of the company's biggest pay-per-views is pre-taped, with announcers in front of a green screen, and features the announcement that a wrestling cow will be at the event. The 'Taur opens up the match with a Maneuver (#5), plowing his opponent to the turnbuckle. Vince reminds us of the bull head Mantaur wore in his debut match. Shawn and Vince discuss Cornette's eye for talent as McMahon praises the wrestling skills of Goldust's future bodyguard. McMahon promotes this Sunday's episode of the Action Zone, airing live from tampa and featuring the drawings of the Royal Rumble entry numbers. Shawn Michaels says he would prefer #30, but even if he draws #1, he says, he could still win. This is 1995, by the way, before the phrase, "Spoiler Alert" was popularized. Vince reminds HBK that he isn't the odds-on favorite to win the Rumble. Duh. Mantaur, Well Dunn, and Henry Godwinn are in it. Mantaur wears down Ahrndt with standing splash after standing splash until knocking over his opponent for a pinfall with... a standing splash.

During Double J's entrance, Vince mentions that Raw is in Houston tonight, leading me to wonder whether William Shatner flew out to Houston two Mondays in a row just booked a hotel for eight days and stayed in town all week so he could manage Bret Hart. Vince questions the wisdom of Hart and Jarrett taking this match so close to the Rumble. If everybody needs to rest up before the event, maybe they should have just cancelled tonight's show and aired a clip show like they used to do the Raw before a pay-per-view. The Roadie is in the ring with a microphone and a water bottle, just as he would in three years' time, only this time he's just testing the mic and not telling people to "suck it." William Shatner gets his own graphic with his name on it as the Shatman and the Hitman come to ringside. Don't mix those two names up.  Shawn says that Roadie vows to turn Shatner into "pavement pizza," much to McMahon's confusion, before making a "Legends of the Fall" reference. Shawn doesn't make a good mouthpiece for his future D-Generation X teammate (and by "future," I mean 2012; despite both being members of the group for years, Michaels and Road Dogg would never be members concurrently until the DX reunion on Raw's 1000th episode show).
The match gets off to a slow start as the two men hesitate to lock up, but Bret soon shows a more aggressive side, atomic dropping Jarrett, stomping the #1 IC title contender, and raking his eyes across the ropes, a move I would never recall seeing until watching "Exposed! Wrestling's Biggest Secrets Revealed." The Hitman keeps an arm bar/wrist lock on Jarrett while Roadie and Shatner trash-talk each other from across the ring. Jarrett finally breaks out with a belly-to-back suplex for the first Maneuver (#6) of the match. Double J follows this up with a dropkick and a neckbreaker (or as Gorilla Monsoon would call it, a reverse neckbreaker).

After the commercial, Hart tries a sunset flip on Jarrett, attempting to pull his pants down to roll him into a pin. Fortunately, Double J wears lots of suspenders, so we don't get to see any of his Tennessee moonshine, even though Bret manages to reverse a pinfall with a Maneuver (#7). Michaels and McMahon throw in a plug for Shatner's new series, Tech War, before Hart unleashes a flurry of punches on Jarrett. The Hitman hits a Russian leg sweep that Gorilla Monsoon would call a "side Russian leg sweep" but that Vince simply calls a Maneuver (#8). That and a vertical suplex both fail to put away Jeff, so he follows it up with a backbreaker and an elbow smash before attempting to lock in the Sharpshooter. Double J rakes Bret's face to escape, so Bret retaliates by locking Jarrett up in the ropes. The Roadie releases Jeff, leaving Hart to jump into the ropes. Jarrett locks Bret in the figure four, but William Shatner pushes the bottom rope toward Bret so that the Hitman can force a rope break. The Roadie tries in vain to point this blatant cheating out to the referee, but Jack Dohn would probably be too amazed that William Shatner knows the rules of wrestling to care. Bret and Jeff get into a series of roll-ups until Hart pins Double J down with a handful of tights for the three count, then adds a slap to the butt for good measure. The Roadie steps into the ring and approaches the Hitman, but Shatner has his back just like he promised, flooring the Roadie with a forearm, then dodging an aerial attack, ramming his head into the turnbuckle, and throwing him over the top rope. Vince delivers his immortal line, "WIlliam Shatner is taking it to the Roadie!" Forget LT; Vince should get WIlliam Shatner to main event Wrestlemania against Bam Bam. Shawn Michaels says the following, and I quote, "Well, the Hitman may have scored a victory tonight, but this Sunday night, he's not gonna have William Shatner in his corner to help him against Big Daddy Cool!" If only he would, then we would be spared ten more months of Kevin Nash as champion.
Ted DiBiase is in the ring with his Corporation and his druids for the King's Court. Except Nikolai Volkoff; maybe he's one of the druids. A fan holds up a sign reading, "You can't make the scene without the green," which is the exact same sign that the exact same fan held up from the exact same seat seven days ago. It must be a coincidence. We then get a close-up of the 78 dollars in black-and-white copies of bills. DiBiase promises that the Royal Rumble will be the night of the Million Dollar Corporation, as IRS will beat The Undertaker, Bam Bam and Tatanka will beat Bob Holly and the 123 Kid for the tag team titles, and King Kong Bundy will win the Royal Rumble. Wrong on all counts. In fact, the first pay-per-view match (or dark match) won by a member of the Corporation in the year 1995 would be Sycho Sid beating Henry Godwinn at the September In Your House. He also promises the Smoking Gunns a tag team title shot on the Raw following the Rumble. Ted promises that King Kong Bundy will win the WWF title at Wrestlemania. King Kong Bundy in a Wrestlemania main event? That's almost as stupid as putting a football player in there. Fortunately, WWF would never, ever carry out either idea.

Oscar and Mabel (collectively known as "OM"?) make their entrance while the camera man zooms in and out. Remember when Mabel had a tag team partner? Vince discusses Diesel's participation in MTV's Rock 'n' Jock Baseball (which is a celebrity sporting event, rather than a stable consisting of Man Mountain Rock, Aldo Montoya, and Abe "Knuckleball Schwartz"). NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro was there, so I can only guess that Vince used the event as an opportunity to enlist as many C-level celebrities as he could for Wrestlemania. He will also appear on this Friday morning's Live with Regis and Kathy Lee (and by "this Friday," I mean the Friday in 1995 after this episode aired, so don't tune it this Friday expecting to see Kevin Nash. Or Kathy Lee Gifford. Or Regis Philbin). Mabel knocks down his unnamed jobber opponent, then choke-tosses him to the mat. Vince wonders how Shawn is going to eliminate Mabel in the Rumble if he's going to win, reminding Shawn that it's every man for himself, like on OJ's defense team. I have no idea what that analogy is supposed to mean, but Vince has been running short of his token pop culture reference quota this week. Mabel hits a dropkick that strongly resembles him falling to the mat. Lee Tobin, the previously-unnamed jobber, attempts a comeback with a series of punches. All of a sudden, Vince keeps using Tobin's name, as if he had just found the index card with the man's name on it and is trying to squeeze in enough mentions of his name as humanly possible. Mabel crushes Tobin with a splash for the pin, then celebrates with flashing lights and a camera angle that changes literally several times per second, no doubt inducing seizures in viewers at home.
Vince and Shawn then interview Mabel at ringside, now appearing in the arena itself without a green screen. The continuity people at Titan Tower made sure to dress Shawn in the same clothes tonight as he wore in Houston, except for the stupid leather hat he is wearing in the arena. Mabel promises to win the Rumble, but Michaels naturally disagrees. King Kong Bundy comes to ringside to argue that he, not Mabel, is the "biggest and baddest" in the Rumble. I think he means, "fattest and worst," but then again, Mantaur is in the Rumble, too. Mabel challenges Bundy to a fight right then and there, which doesn't materialize.

Next week's Raw will feature the Smoking Gunns vs. the new tag team champions, as well as the winner of the Rumble match (on his own, that is, not teaming up with the champions against the Smoking Gunns). We close the show with clips of Diesel, set to his new theme music, which has several advantages over his old theme, including instruments and a melody.

Final Tally:

8 Maneuvers (Year total: 17)

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