The first Raw I watched during this period was from July 29, 1996. I mainly chose it for the main event of The Undertaker vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It was nothing special but a really nice novelty to see both men fighting two years before they would have a big money world championship feud.
For the most part, a fun novelty is probably the best way to describe these Raws. Most of the matches are short and aren’t much to write about, due to both the lack of depth in the roster and the style used during this time. The emphasis was more on selling the pay-per-view.
However, there is a lot to love from these shows. They’re only an hour and fly by due to the rapid pace. There is usually at least one good promo or match per episode, and it is so cool to see some future stars getting their start with old goofy gimmicks, like “Road Dogg” Jesse James taking over Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick of the country music star.
The writing is also pretty spot on for these shows. There are plenty of arcs that go on for months, and most of them get a good payoff, such as the long-running feud between Mankind and Undertaker.
Without further ado, let’s go week by week and highlight the notable things that happened on Monday Night Raw.
July 29, 1996
This episode was notable for two debuts. First was the newest incarnation of Brain “Crush” Adams, who plays a prisoner given a second chance to prove himself in the squared circle. He’s flanked by Clarence Mason, a clear reference to Johnnie Cochran and the O.J. Simpson murder case, which had already ended eight months prior.
We also we greeted by the former Ron Simmons, WCW Champion, wearing a goofy, space gladiator outfit combined with a plastic helmet that could be the official uniform of the U.S. Space Force.
Flanked by Sunny, the newly christened Faarooq Asaad made his mark by attacking Ahmed Johnson and cutting a very good promo about it. It’s unfortunate you can’t look at him in that outfit without laughing.
Beyond that, the matches weren’t much to write about. Sycho Sid beat Bradshaw by DQ in a minute, and Vader squashed Marc Mero in 10 minutes. One notable spot was Mero blowing a sunset flip spot, landing about three feet away from Vader.
Then we see a match between The British Bulldog and Henry O. Godwin (the Godwins are all over these shows, lord help me) which is about as boring as it sounds. However, Owen Hart is on commentary for the match and is hilarious, talking about his Slammy Award and talking smack on his brother Bret.
We also get a fantastic Jim Cornette promo, where he confronts Shawn Michaels’ manager during the “boyhood dream” title run, Jose Lothario and makes note that he will fade into obscurity once Vader takes the title from him at SummerSlam. Michaels is watching in the back and is suddenly attacked by Mankind, conveniently planting a seed for their match at Mind Games in a month and a half.
The main event was Undertaker vs Stone Cold, and it was passable. There was a lot of brawling and rest holds, as this was a TV match. It ended with a lame finish, as Mankind attacked Take and they brawled to the back.
Nothing to really write home about, but not the worst way to spend 45 minutes.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
August 5, 1996
We start this show with Jerry Lawler facing Aldo Montoya in a quick match. Afterward, he pours a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey into the future Justin Credible’s mouth, which Vince sells on commentary as death. He goes so far to exclaim: “I can’t imagine what that must feel like! He doesn’t even drink!” What terror.
The reason for this vulgar display was for Lawler to send a message to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who King was in the middle of feuding with. The rivalry mostly featured King making several hateful jokes about Roberts’ drug and alcohol issues, which he was still going through at the time.
We then get a boring match between the Bodydonnas and the New Rockers. I kinda zoned out during this one after marveling at Al Snow’s poor start as Leif Cassidy. It ended after 10 minutes with a bunch of other tag teams interfering and fighting each other, as there was a multi-team match happening at SummerSlam.
Following this, Kevin Kelly interviews Shawn Michaels at a random dock. Michaels talks about how he’s the best and the only man who can handle the grueling schedule of being WWF Champion. He says he’s just an average joe who loves his fans.
My favorite is when he says that there is only one star shining above the rest of the WWF wrestlers and that’s him, all while WWF does some of its worst business ever. What a cocky statement made by one of the most insecure WWE superstars in history.
The show ends with an 11 man battle royal for a future WWF title shot the night after SummerSlam. It features all the big stars of Raw during this time. Undertaker, Mankind, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, Savio Vega, Stone Cold, Goldust, Ahmed Johnson, Marc Mero and Sycho Sid fought for the shot.
It was long for a Raw match, lasting 16 minutes. The pacing was a bit off, as Taker and Mankind immediately eliminate each other and brawl, while there are only four men left at the five-minute mark. We then get a nice little four-way between Austin, Goldust, Johnson and Sid.
In the end, Johnson eliminates Goldust and skins the cat to save himself. He is also sporting a MASSIVE wedgie that just looks painful. He gets interviewed post-match and attacked by Faarooq. Unfortunately, Johnson would somehow rupture his kidney during his first scuffle with Faarooq, and would be on the shelf for a period of time.
Overall, not a bad Raw. The only really bad thing was the tag match, and I really enjoyed the battle royal.
Rating: 3 out of 5
August 12, 1996
This was the go-home show for SummerSlam, and I don’t know if it would’ve coaxed me to buy it if I was a fan at that time. It started with Faarooq squashing Skip (Chris Candido) of the Bodydonnas in five minutes.
Sunny was on commentary for this one and teased a striptease for later in the night, which got Jerry Lawler as revved up as a dog seeing its master after three years of isolation. What followed was just Sunny faking taking her top off behind a silhouette. Nothing of note there.
After this, we are treated (poor word choice) to Crush making his re-debut after being arrested on steroid and gun possession in real life. Clarence Mason was on commentary and he faced Savio Vega in a brutal eight-minute squash. Most of the match was Crush applying nerve holds on Vega. Riveting.
Then, Kevin Kelly interviews Ahmed Johnson in his home, wearing a huge red robe. He speaks some gibberish about not knowing if he can defend the Intercontinental Championship due to his injured kidney. I’m not even trying to be rude, but he must have been half asleep as nothing he says makes sense.
Next we are given the privilege of watching The Godwins face the team of T.L. Hopper (a wrestling plumber) and Who. Who was Who? It was Jim Neidhart in a cheap Lucha mask and a pair of way too small bright yellow trunks.
This is just painful to watch, especially since King and McMahon do a five minute “Who’s on first” bit. Also, just to reinforce the fact that this match is stupid and pointless, Gorilla Monsoon is piped in on the screen and announces that the Intercontinental Championship has been vacated and a tournament to crown a new champion will begin next week.
Following this was a short interview with Bret Hart, who said that he was still enjoying his hiatus, and was weighing his options on whether to return to the WWF, or jump ship to WCW. He said he would make his decision in two or three months.
Then we get our main event of Shawn Michaels vs Owen Hart. It’s nothing special, as it’s short and we’ve seen much better versions of this match before. In about seven minutes, Michaels avoids interference from Vader and hits two Sweet Chin Musics on Hart for the win.
After this, Vader attacks Michaels and hits two Vader Bombs, sending one last message before their showdown at SummerSlam. The main event was passable, but everything else on this show was trash. Not good.
Rating: 1 out of 5
August 19, 1996
This Raw is the aftermath of SummerSlam, where nothing of real note happened, besides Shawn Michaels screwing over Vader’s WWF run because of a hissy fit.
We’re welcomed to the show by a new commentary team of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jim Ross and… Kevin Kelly. He plays the third wheel here, and only stays on the show for a few weeks.
The show starts with first-round matches in the Intercontinental Championship tournament. The first one we get is Owen Hart facing the British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith.
Jim Cornette shows up in a backstage promo talking about the injustice that his two clients and close friends have to fight each other. However, you wouldn’t guess these guys were friends after watching this match. They leave it all in the ring for 10 minutes, and this is the best match I’ve seen from these Raws thus far.
Then we get to the finish, which is just Bulldog kind’ve walking over to Sunny and then he gets counted out. Sunny yells at Bulldog for being a pervert, and Cornette comes out and calls Sunny a slut for some reason. A very fun match with a poor finish.
We then get a Vader squash, as he beats up Freddie Joe Floyd in five minutes with two Vader Bombs for good measure.
Throughout the show, we get static effects signaling the return of The Undertaker, who was betrayed by Paul Bearer at the end of the boiler room brawl at SummerSlam. It comes to a head when Jim Ross interviews Bearer in the ring, and he claims that Taker won’t be coming back. Then we get more static and Take emerges being carried by druids. He sits up and makes fire come out of all four corners. Spooky.
Next up is a four-man battle royal to earn the shot at the WWF title Ahmed Johnson won two weeks ago but had to relinquish due to injury. It’s Stone Cold, Savio Vega, Sycho Sid and Goldust. It’s a solid affair that ends with Dust eliminating Vega in eight minutes.
The main event is a random match between Michaels and Yokozuna, who lost a pre-show match the night before after breaking the ropes. This is the last time we’d see Yoko wrestle on WWF TV, as he would pass away four years after this.
It was a short six-minute match that told a nice story. Michaels avoids a leg drop and hits the Sweet Chin Music at the end to leave with a victory and a one-up over Camp Cornette.
Overall, not a bad show, as it opened and closed on a high note and it built up several feuds and storylines for the following weeks.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Tune in next time, as we continue the journey through these Monday Night Raws, where we’ll see more Faarooq, more incoherent promos and the build to the Mind Games pay-per-view.