Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Raw #191 - December 30th, 1996

It’s the last Raw of 1996, and Bret Hart will go “face-to-face” with Shawn Michaels, who calls himself “the World Wrestling Federation’s favorite degenerate.” The opening match sees Faarooq team up with an “unlikely” partner, according to Vince, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. What’s so unlikely about the black nationalist teaming up with a white Texan with a shaved head? They are set to take on Savio Vega and Jesse Jammes in an effort to sneak in one last Savio/Austin match in 1996. Also notable is that this episode is live, breaking an eight-month streak of one live Raw per month.
Austin jumps Double J before he can finish singing, “With My Baby Tonight,” leading to Savio joining the fracas on the outside of the ring. Savio and Austin start off the match, with Stone Cold scoring a “kick to the chest-area,” a “hard right hand,” and a “Clever Maneuver,” a stun gun. Vince notes that Jerry Lawler will later tonight face Goldust, who is looking to prove what he is and “what he is not” (gay). Bret Hart looks on backstage, where a monitor gives him what Vince calls “a bird’s eye view.” Note that the monitor shows the same camera angles as the regular feed and not, in fact, an aerial view. Lawler remarks that Austin will “stomp a mudhole in ya and then walk it dry.” Savio then hits a spinning heel kick but is “unable to capitalize on the Maneuver (#2).” Savio’s 1995 King of the Ring opponent Jesse Jammes tags in but is soon tossed over the top rope and chop-blocked by Stone Cold. Bret Hart then runs down the longer-than-usual aisle to check on Jammes. Vince repeatedly expresses his uncertainty as to whether Jammes can continue or that Bret wishes to join the match. You know what I’m talking about: “I’m not so sure Bret Hart doesn’t want to take Double J’s place!”

After the break, Bret Hart has somehow been allowed to sub in for Double J, whose partnership with Vega lasted half a match. This episode of Raw should be titled, “Bad Opponents, Worse Partners.” The heels keep Vega isolated, allowing Jerry Lawler to come up with several alternatives to “kicking Savio’s ass,” such as “rear end” and “butt.” Bret finally gets the hot tag and cleans house, then very slowly applies the Sharpshooter on Faarooq. Crush attacks from behind, leading the whole Nation of Domination and Austin to jump in the ring. Fortunately, Ahmed Johnson runs in wearing clown pants and brandishing a 2x4, causing the heels to retreat. He then cuts an Ahmed promo ending with his new catchphrase, “You’re goin’ down! You’re goin’s down!” Savio and Bret celebrate with Black Doink.
Another Adam and George spot airs before Vince gets visibly flustered by fans in the front row yelling in his face. After all, who wants to have an annoying voice screaming in his ear as he tries to do commentary? Vince continues not to be so sure, this time about Bret Hart being eliminated first in the Rumble due to his status as a marked man.
Flash Funk takes on Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a non-title match. Backstage, Hunter implies that he will have sex with Marlena after the Royal Rumble, to which Vince sternly remarks, “That’s not a  nice thing to say, whatsoever.” Goldust and Marlena walk down to their seats in the arena as their theme music plays.
Marlena and Goldust are seen sitting near a group of ECW fans holding bWo signs. “How could they buy a ticket,” says Lawler. “This place has been sold out for months.” The visibly darkened upper deck belies this statement. Flash Funk gets his foot caught by Helmsley, but rather than going for an enziguiri to count, he somersaults and flips Helmsley over for a Very Clever Maneuver (#3). Flash vaults over the top rope into the ring and rolls up Helmsley for a Maneuver (#4) that is “cleverly done.” Amidst ragging on Goldust as not being a “real man,” he suggests that Goldust and Vince both shop at “Toupees ‘R’ Us,” but Vince says that he buys his elsewhere.

Vince reminds us of the debut of Shotgun Saturday Night this weekend as Helmsley hits a fist drop to Flash Funk’s “facial area.” Jerry Lawler, who faces Goldust later tonight, gets on the mic and calls his opponent a freak and complains that he is distracting Helmsley. Jerry tries to climb over the guardrail, distracting the referee and allowing HHH to hit Funk with what Vince shockingly calls a “championship belt.” Goldust then steps over the barricade and stares down Lawler up the aisle. Helmsley tries to sneak-attack Goldust, but Flash Funk cuts him off and brings him back to the ring without Goldust even noticing. Funk hits the 450 splash to get his revenge.
“This capacity crowd awaiting one Shawn Michaels,” says Vince, never explaining how many Shawn Michaelses the fans could possibly be awaiting otherwise. He does, however, explain the many reasons why people might not like Shawn Michaels, such as his long hair (which no other wrestler has, apparently), the fact that “the chicks dig him,” or that he has a pierced navel, but you can’t deny the heart he gives it his all in the ring. Both Shawn and Bret are in the ring together, but the bigger story is the fan walking back and forth with the “Sincere Rules” sign. Shawn sarcastically calls himself a “degenerate” again and Bret Hart “The Almighty One.” Bret Hart’s mic keeps cutting out, possibly because he keeps talking about the “belt.” He says HBK scraped the bottom of the barrel when he posed for Playgirl, which Bret doubts that girls even buy. Ross lends the Hitman his working microphone to allow him to continue his tirade about Michaels degrading the belt. Bret vows to kick Shawn’s ass when they wrestle each other again, which presumably will be at Wrestlemania, unless Shawn has some kind of unfortunate career-threatening knee injury between winning the title back and Mania. Shawn says that he’s seen Bret on the road and he isn’t any kind of role model (probably because of all the adulterous sex he has). Sid then comes to the ring uninvited and gets tossed the mic by HBK, catching it like a fly ball. Sid says he wants real competition after having beaten both Shawn and Bret. The Undertaker’s bell tolls, and the Dead Man saunters to the ring until his Rumble opponent Vader attacks him from behind. Shawn then crotches Bret Hart on the second rope as Hitman tries to leave the ring, then dives onto Sid as we cut to commercial.

The Honky Tonk Man is on commentary — and television — for no good reason. Also at the desk is Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who awaits the arrival of his Rumble opponent, Goldust. The match against Jerry Lawler, who holds up a fan’s “Lawler Rules” sign before the commercial, begins during the subsequent break. Honky claims to be seeking a new talent who will carry on his legacy as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time. Hunter says he could be that man. Yes, eighteen years ago, Triple H sought the approval of the Honky Tonk Man. Hunter then picks up Marlena, literally, and tries to carry her backstage but gets cut off by Marc Mero. As Goldust chases after him, Hunter tosses Marlena to Mero, then pushes Goldust into the two of them. Goldust either gets counted out or picks up the win via disqualification as Hunter beats him down. vince explains that Lawler has, indeed, won the match as Raw signs off.

Final tally:

4 Maneuvers (Final 1996 total: 206)
3 Individuals
9 Oh My Goodnesses
4 I’m Not So Sures

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