Hello everybody, welcome to the next installment of my Monday Night Raw recaps from 1996. Last time we saw the rise of Shawn Michaels and Mankind, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is still in the mid-card after cutting an all-time great promo months prior and the debut of futuristic space gladiator Faarooq (A.K.A. Ron Simmons).
With that said, the Intercontinental Championship tournament gets started and the build starts for the Mind Games pay-per-view. We also get to see some interesting matchups that are intriguing until the entrances. Let’s get started with an edition of Raw that featured a WWF Championship match.
September 6, 1996
We skip two weeks from the previous edition of Raw, as the show was preempted by tennis, as it would happen several times during this time period. This show is labeled “Championship Friday” as we see the WWF Championship defended in the main event.
The show starts off with blue blood Hunter Hearst Helmsley facing Sycho Sid in a three-minute squash match in the Intercontinental Championship tournament. It is always surreal to see the heir to the throne of the WWE get destroyed. As a side note, Sycho Sid is incredibly over. In 1996 these people can’t get enough of “The Man Who Rules the World.”
This match continues the long-running (and I stress the word long) story of Mr. Perfect coming down to the ring and taking Helmsley’s beautiful valets from the ring, distracting him and causing him to lose matches. We’ve got another month of this stuff.
In another Intercontinental Championship tournament match, Stone Cold fights Marc Mero in an average match. Nothing special really happens, and it ends when Austin shoves the referee down and gets disqualified. He then brawls with Mero and hits him with a Stone Cold Stunner before the agents come and pull them apart.
Then we get Mankind facing off against “The Pug” in an absolute mat classic. I know what you’re thinking; this is not a man dressed up like a dog fighting Mrs. Foley’s baby boy. It’s just a dude in a singlet who must love the adorable dog breed. Oh, and this was a super quick squash match.
Next up are two horrid promo segments. The first is Jerry Lawler making an ill-timed joke about the Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Olympics a month earlier that killed two and injured 11. He challenges Mark Henry to a match, and Henry gets worried due to his total lack of wrestling experience. Lawler calls him a coward, and that’s it.
Second, we see Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik in the ring, as they tell the fans that they will be managing the next WWF Champion. This man would turn out to be The Sultan and spoiler alert, I don’t believe he even had a WWF Championship match.
The highlight is the complete gibberish that Sheiky baby speaks, as no one knows what the devil he’s saying. It’s so bad that the show just goes to commercial while he’s in mid-sentence, ending the segment.
Throughout the show, JR had promised big news for the WWF, and we finally get it after this segment. He announces that Razor Ramon and “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel are coming back to the WWF. We’ll just have to see about that.
Then we get our main event, Michaels vs Goldust for the WWF Championship. It’s solid, but we only get about 11 minutes of a 25-minute match here, as two commercial breaks interrupt the match. Unfortunately, a lot of what we do see here are chin locks, and the match ends with a Michaels moonsault.
Mankind tries to attack him after the match, but Michaels is able to get away. Bearer stands on the ring apron making funny faces, and that’s all she wrote for this Raw. Not a very good one.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
September 9, 1996
We open with another first round match in the Intercontinental Championship tournament, this time champion of the Colosseum Faarooq taking on Savio Vega. It’s about as exciting as it sounds, as both men rarely leave their feet and there are quite a few chin locks abound.
However, JR has a few bad moments on commentary. He starts off the show yelling about how Sunny is a Jezebel and deserves a trip to the woodshed (I’m pretty sure that’s Oklahoma slang for being beaten). I get that Sunny is a heel, but a man stating a woman deserves to be beaten for being shameless hasn’t aged well.
Later on he doubles down and follows King’s lead from last week, making a Tupac Shakur joke just two days after he had been shot. He wasn’t even dead yet, as he would officially die of internal hemorrhaging on September 13. Also, Faarooq won after about 13 minutes of action.
After this we get a bizarre video of several WWF personalities wishing Ahmed Johnson well following his kidney injury. Heels and faces alike send messages, and the only one that really stuck out to me was Austin, who wanted Johnson to come back soon so he could “pound the other kidney.”
We are then presented with the debut of The Stalker. Poor Barry Windham, one of the original four horsemen and a very talented worker, was reduced to wearing camo face paint and hunting gear. He was announced as being from “The Environment” and wrestled the biggest moneymaker in the WWF, the wrestling plumber T.L. Hopper.
Stalker wins after a crappy superplex and two months later he will become a babyface. Odd. We’re then treated to one of the great technicians of the time, Crush, facing Freddie Joe Floyd in a two and a half minute squash that was two and a half minutes too long.
He wins with the deadliest maneuver in all of wrestling: the heart punch. He punches people in the chest after some theatrics and people sell it like they were shot.
The main event of this show was The Undertaker fighting Salvatore Sincere, a stereotypical Italian who had just debuted and was on a winning streak. This was the deadman’s first appearance since being betrayed by Paul Bearer at SummerSlam, and these guys wrestled for around nine minutes. NINE MINUTES!
During this whole affair, JR is still yelling about Diesel and Razor coming back, before this match has its merciful end.
That’s it for this one. It was an abysmal show, and I do apologize for all the sarcasm in this recap, but some parts of these Raws are unbearable. Specifically whenever Crush is on screen.
Rating: 1 out of 5
September 16, 1996
After last week’s poor display, will this Raw be any better? Enter The Sultan making his in-ring debut, so I am doubtful. He faces Jake Roberts and we get to hear King make more hurtful alcoholic jokes for five minutes.
We also learn the backstory of The Sultan. He was a man captured during the tensions between the U.S. and Iraq, and had his tongue cut out. However, he was such an inspiring athlete that he brought two mortal enemies, Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik together to manage him to a world championship.
His ring work was anything but inspiring. The match ends in three minutes when the former Fatu and future Rikishi submits Roberts with the camel clutch, the first choice move of all foreign heels.
Then we see Jim Cornette decked out in a Vader shirt and blue sweatpants stretched to his belly button, getting ready for a wrestling exhibition in preparation for his match against Jose Lothario. He fights Tony Williams, a jobber guy, and gets beat by him until Vader comes and cleans house.
This was a fun segment as the Cornette and Vader duo always entertains. Plus it was short and sweet.
Then we get more build for the Mind Games pay-per-view, as The Smoking Gunns with Sunny face the dream team of Bob “Spark Plug” Holly and Alex “The Pug” Porteau.
Camp Cornette (Jim, Owen Hart and Bulldog) show up on ringside to scout out their competition. Then this match ends with Owen throwing soda at one of the Gunns and the team of Pug and Plug get an upset victory and never team again.
Owen sticks around for a semi-final match in the Intercontinental Championship tournament, facing Marc Mero. Rather than focus on the match, we see and hear JR arguing with Gorilla Monsoon about the legitimacy of Diesel and Razor coming back to the company.
They spend almost 10 minutes arguing and shouting about an angle with a horrible payoff, while King and Kevin Kelly are trying to talk about the halfway decent match happening. It ends with Mero taking off Owen’s cast and hitting him with it for the win.
Main event time: we get Sycho Sid vs Faarooq in a semi-final match in the tourney. It’s a slow affair that’s nothing to talk about until Faarooq hits Sid with a chair and gets a two count.
Because Sid cares so much about getting an Intercontinental Championship he gets right up, grabs the chair and beats the space gladiator with it in full view of the referee, giving Faarooq the win. He advances to the finals to take on Mero next week on Raw, instead of on the pay per view six days away.
This was another sad Raw, and I can definitely see why they were losing hard to WCW Monday Nitro in the ratings. We have the NWO angle going on at this point in time, and WWF’s response is to bring back two stars they lost as inferior clones (no disrespect to Glenn Jacobs or Rick Bognar, no one could make this work).
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
That’s it for this edition of the recaps, next time we’ll look at the build toward the Buried Alive pay-per-view and the finals of the Intercontinental Championship tournament and the debut of Fake Diseal and Fake Razor Ramon. Riveting stuff, no doubt about it. Have a great weekend and check back on Monday for the next installment of Raw reviews.