May 29, 2010
Jack Stevenson

WWF Monday Night Raw
January 8, 1996

We’re going way back to 1996, a strange year for the WWF. Sandwiched in between the creative nadir of 1995 and zenith of 1997, 1996 was a year for phasing out the stupidity and bringing in some great wrestling, led by Shawn Michaels who put on an amazing string of matches this year. Of course, since this is only the second Raw of the year, it probably won’t be up to much.

Tonight, Shawn Michaels makes a revelation, Ted Turner plans a “Raw rip off” and we get another look at the British Bulldog Vs Bret Hart from the previous In Your House.

Taped from Newark, New Jersey
Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler

Jarrett hits a body slam early, and the sound quality on my tape is so poor I’m going to mute it for the matches and just put it back on for promos, so if I miss some insightful commentary from McMahon and Jerry, that’s why. He backdrops Hakushi to the floor, but takes his eye off the ball and gets caught with a flying shoulder block and a dropkick. Jeff bails to the floor. Back in he gets a short arm clothesline as we head to commercials. When we come back, Jeff has in an abdominal stretch and is devilishly grabbing the ropes. He hits a spinning neckbreaker but gets caught with a spin kick. Hakushi goes for a dropkick but Jeff dodges. He also dodges a springboard crossbody and gets two off a cover. Hakushi fires back with a cartwheel back elbow and a flying forearm for two. He goes for a springboard splash but Jarrett gets the knees up and locks in a figure four leglock for the win!
Rating- ** ¾- Pretty good match actually. It was fast paced and I whole heartedly enjoyed the clash of styles.

In the back, Jim Ross hypes the Royal Rumble, and we get a goofy hype video for Vader that makes him look like an angry overweight person rather than the slaughterer we know and fear. Scheme Gene knows some entrants into the Royal Rumble, but he won’t tell us until later. A little dig at the WCW hotline for those who weren’t around in the time period.

As usual this fine site comes to the rescue by confirming the jobber name for me. Johnson dumps Brettler with a T-Bone suplex, and then follows it up with a deadly lariat. He hits a sloppy bicycle kick, but makes up for it with a vicious looking spinebuster. Pearl River plunge does it.
Post match Jeff Jarrett comes into the ring but misses a guitar shot on Johnson and bails to the floor in terror. Ahmed destroys the guitar.

Next week, the Undertaker faces “the demented dentist with a sweet tooth for pain” Isaac Yankem DDS, and Marty Jannetty Vs Owen Hart. I hope I have that Raw on tape, because Marty-Hart will be solid and it will be fun to see the first ever Undertaker-Kane match.

Ted DiBiase is Brother Love’s guest on the Brother Love Show. Ted has been searching all year for a protégé in 1995, but couldn’t find anyone. But, now, he’s got someone, and introduces the Ringmaster! And out comes Steve Austin in turquoise tights and a haircut that makes him look like Ken Kennedy. Certainly an odd look for him. Ted crowns Ringmaster the Million Dollar Champion, who thinks he’s destined for success. He came out to prove how good he is because he is in the Royal Rumble, and he will get the shot at the WWF Title, not that it means anything compared to the Million Dollar Title! Thus, history is made.

Goldust attacks from behind to get the match underway. He hits a back suplex and a clothesline, then poses for the crowd. Aldo Montoya gets the crap kicked out of him but fires back with a baaaaaaaaaaack body drop. Goldust counters a hip toss into a “devastating manoeuvre” though, and that gets the victory.
Rating- ½ *- Almost a squash match. Goldust from 1996-1998 was a really interesting character though, and people should admire the great work Dustin Rhodes did with it.

Earlier today in Fresno, California, Shawn Michaels conducted a press conference, where he announces he won’t be retiring. Huh, Shawn Michaels not retiring, that’s a novelty. He promises to carry the WWF into the new millennium.

Scheme Gene says he has a huge name for the Royal Rumble, but will only tell us on the hot line. After Jim Ross pleads though, Gene tells us it is Vader.

We get wrestler’s comments on Shawn Michaels’s return. Razor Ramon thinks Shawn’s going to win, Diesel says all friendships will be put aside, and Owen Hart wants to hurt Shawn.

Slick bit of mat wrestling to start as you’d expect. Bulldog breaks it up with a leg drop though, and Jim Cornette well and truly kills the technical opening with a sneaky racket shot. A back body drop gets two for the Bulldog, who is able to keep control by going back to a rear chin lock. Hart finally comes back with a monkey flip and an inverted atomic drop. A bulldog (ha, Bulldog) gets two. Piledriver is beautifully executed for another two. He hits a Russian legsweep and the elbow from the top takes us to a commercial break.
We come back with the two battling on the top turnbuckle. Bulldog crotches Bret on the top rope, who spills to the floor. There, he gets clotheslined into the steel steps and spinebustered into the steel post, causing his semi infamous blade job. Back in Bulldog gets a piledriver of his own for two. Throughout the match, they have been showing clips of Diana Hart’s reaction to the action, but I haven’t been mentioning them because it’s mostly just wincing. A vertical suplex by Bulldog gets a two count. Bret gets lifted high into the air with a press slam. Next up in the Bulldog’s arsenal is a diving headbutt off the top rope to the leg of Bret, though I’m not sure whether that was intentional or a minor botch. Bulldog ties Hart up in the Bow and Arrow, Bret immediately counters into the Sharpshooter but this time it’s Davey’s turn to hurry on out. He shoves Bret out the ring while he recovers.
Bulldog tries to suplex Bret back in but Hart goes out the back door and drops Davey with a German suplex for two. Simultaneous clotheslines leave both men lying. They battle back to their feet and Bret back drops Bulldog over the top rope to the floor. A slingshot crossbody to the outside knocks Davey down and Bret is just drenched in blood. He tries...... something off the top rope to the floor but gets caught and dropped with a running powerslam. Is there any way back for Bret Hart as we head to the final commercial break?
We come back with Davey removing the padding at ringside. He tries to suplex Bret onto the concrete but instead gets crotched on the guardrail! Back in, Bret pulls out a side back breaker for two. Bulldog goes heads over heels into the turnbuckles, and now Bret gets his superplex. That gets two, and Bret’a argument with Earl Hebner allows Bulldog to initiate a roll up sequence. Bulldog misses a flying shoulder block, and Bret gets a La Magistral roll up for the anti climactic win in a move that Chris Jericho apparently taught him. Funny how things work.
Rating- **** ½- Slightly crappy finish shouldn’t detract from an amazing match. You could compare it to the Summerslam bout from 4 years prior, but it wouldn’t really be fair being as they are two completely different matches. An overlooked classic, probably the North American match of the year along with the Michaels-Ramon ladder match II at Summerslam 1995, although being as it was 1995 that isn’t saying much.

At Royal Rumble 1996, Bret faces the Undertaker, and Undertaker wants the WWF Title. Next week, it’s Undertaker Vs Isaac Yankem DDS, the Ringmaster in action, and Marty Jannetty Vs Owen Hart.

But before we go, it’s time for Ted Turner’s wrasslin’ war room. They effectively call Ted dishonest and criticise him for not having a drug program, which considering the WWE’s more recent steroid problems is really ironic. Dumb segment but a fun curiosity.

Overall- If you can find it, watch it. In one hour you get a fantastic Hart-Bulldog match from the IYH 5 PPV for free, and since it’s the only worthwhile bout from that event that is far from shoddy. Plus, wrestling history is made as Steve Austin debuts, and the Jeff Jarrett-Hakushi match is solid stuff as well. There would be better Raw’s in the future, but I can’t think of many with a better match or more absolutely crucial history. Thumbs way up.

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