Wrestling in the Clinton Years: The Invisible Title Change.

by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

 

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Monday Night Raw January 17th 1994

Welcome back to my odyssey through WWF television through 1994, we are 5 days away from the Royal Rumble and one week removed from that great tag team title match between the Quebecers and the team of “Fireball” Marty Jannetty and The 123 Kid. At the end of last week the rematch was announced and I can’t wait to see some more action between these four as i greatly enjoyed their first match. Wait, what? That’s a house show match and I’m not going to get to see it? Oh man.
The reason behind the invisible rematch is due to this show being pre taped, emanating from Richmond Virginia, the same location as last week, not that the viewer is made aware of this, the actual location of Raw is never acknowledged on air, and the illusion of the show being live is perpetuated by special reports by phone from Stan Lane, who is apparently watching the WWF tag title match unfold from Madison Square Garden and calling in with updates throughout the show. Even putting myself in the mindset of a eleven year old, which is how old I would’ve been at the time (yes, I really am that old.) why a live show couldn’t have had a feed from MSG is beyond me, especially something as important as a WWF tag team championship rematch of all things! But enough griping, here’s what we did get to see on Raw.
Our commentary team for the show is Vince McMahon and Crush, complete with evil face paint and sleeveless check shirt, complete with faux accent and punctuating every point with “brudda”. The reason for Crush being on commentary is made clear later but geez, the man is no good. His opening garbled tirade about how he’s the biggest and toughest in the WWF sets the tone for his contributions to the show.
Our first contest is Owen Hart accompanied by Bret, taking on Terry Austin. The crowd are electric for the Hart’s entrance, so much so it threatens to drown out the announcers who have to fight to be heard over them. Just as the match begins Vince takes a call from Stan Lane for the first time on the show as MSG prepares for the big title match that we can’t see but was hyped at the end of the last show I know I’m being bitter at this attempt to drive house show attendance but I feel it cheapens the belts to have them change hands in an untelevised setting. Anyway, this is a great showing for Owen who hits all his big moves on Austin, including an enzugiri, a missile dropkick before getting the win with the sharpshooter as Bret looks on approvingly. A good jobber match, but Austin really gets nothing in the way of offence. I’m not asking for much, but I get slightly turned off during very one sided matches.  After the match, Vince grabs a few words with the brothers about the tag title match we aren’t getting to see (grumble, grumble), Owen tries to remain diplomatic but reveals he’d like the Quebecers to win thus making the upcoming Rumble match for the titles once more. Bret however refuses to commit to an answer, instead saying he hopes the winners would grant them a shot, to which Owen seems a little frustrated. I’m looking forward to seeing their impending feud play out as I’ve only really seen their Wrestlemania 10 match and have heard great things about it, and this was a neat subtle little way to kick it off in earnest.
I’d be remiss to not mention the “Don’t fall for cheap imitations” ad the WWF ran at the time, WCW was nearly eighteen months away from debuting Nitro, and was still barely nipping at the WWFs heels at this time, but they ran this veiled shot anyway, which is a awful paranoiac move.
Next up, Tatanka makes his way to the ring to take on George South, but not before Stan Lane is back on the line to tell us that the tag match has started. This was a much more even match between the two as South even manages a near fall after dropping Tatanka with a fine clothesline (and finding time to mock Tatanka a little too). This is where Crush being at the commentary desk all show starts to grate, as he quickly resorts to generic promo cliches and the phrase “credit where credit’s due, but I hate his guts, brudda!” Tatanka takes the win after hulking up with his “war dance” and a top rope chop as Vince hypes the upcoming Rumble match between Tatanka and Ludwig Borga. As I said, the slight back and forth made this match quite fun, even for a Jobber match, which reinforced to me my belief that predictable outcomes don’t really matter if the body of the match or story is enjoyable.
After an incredibly 90s Alundra Blayze video package Diesel makes his way to the ring accompanied by Shawn Michaels to face Scott Powers. Poor Powers is the very definition of cannon fodder for the future Outsider, only managing a dropkick against Diesel’s onslaught while on commentary, Crush brings up the Tonya Harding scandal in an effort to reference something topical. This is something WWE does even now, and it goes down just as well. Stan Lane calls in one more time to tell us that the tag team match is over and due to some Johnny Polo shenanigans, the Quebecers are WWF tag team champions once more, restoring the status quo ahead of the Hart brothers’ match against them at the Rumble. it’s during this call that Diesel hits a huge doctor bomb in the match’s sole highlight, but the Powerbomb isn’t Nash’s finisher yet, so a big boot and elbow drop get the job done & end this really rather dull contest, designed to show off Diesel’s power going into the PPV. It’s the same criticism I had with the Undertaker match from the previous episode but at least that match had the whole Urn comedy stuff beforehand to soften the edges.
That brings us to the main event pitting Macho Man Randy Savage (the Joe Montana of the WWF according to Vince) against IRS. This is why Crush had been on commentary, as he jaw jacks with Macho to further the feud brewing between him & Savage. It must be said the crowd are going ballistic for Savage’s entrance. The match starts at a frenetic pace, with Savage attacking IRS as he slides into the ring, beating him down until IRS hurls him over the top rope. It’s here the match takes an odd turn, as Savage actually is selling for almost the remainder of the bout, with IRS looking surprisingly dominant over Macho ahead of his Intercontinental title match with Razor Ramon. Savage does get some comebacks throughout including a nasty looking snapmare over the top rope sending IRS into the ring that had me wincing. Not long after Crush completes his night of cliches by proclaiming “stick a fork in him, he’s done!” as Irwin climbs the ropes for a dive. The dive is unsuccessful as Savage gets a foot up for Irwin to crash into allowing Savage to climb to the top for the elbow drop, but before he can fly, Crush leaves the commentary desk to push Savage from the top, DQing IRS in the process. As boos rain down, the two dastardly heels begin to attack Macho, cueing Tatanka to sprint down to ringside to even the odds. Then we get the now standard Royal Rumble build up trope as the locker room empties for a mass brawl as the show goes off the air, Yokozuna, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Lex Luger (who gets a great reaction, although with the show being pre recorded, this must be taken with a grain of salt) and lastly Bret Hart, who all fight amongst themselves as Vince utters the standard “Is this a preview of what’ll happen at the Royal Rumble?” as the show goes off the air.
This wasn’t a particularly great episode of Raw, the matches on offer weren’t that enjoyable save the Tatanka match and the main event overall except the ending. At least all the run ins weren’t preceded by each wrestler in turn cutting a “I’m going to win the Rumble & go to Wrestlemania” promo and the schmozz was kept brief. The absence of the Rumble Report vignettes was a little baffling too, as this was one of the last attempts to hype the Pay Per View this didn’t feel like a “go home” show too much.
My first sighting of Owen in this series was enjoyable though, as he’ll be a driving force of story lines throughout the year. Also of interest was seeing Savage in his elder statesman role presented as the veteran amongst the New Generation before his departure for WCW and I’m anxious to see how his story plays out.
There was some good here, but the absence of the tag match due to the show being pre recorded torpedoed my enjoyment of the show overall, but nevertheless it wasn’t totally offensive, just something I can’t recommend anyone seek out, maybe the Royal Rumble itself, the 1st PPV event I’ll be tackling in this project can soften the blow of this forgettable episode.
Before I leave I just want to quickly say how touched I am about the great responses and feedback I’ve had to these articles so far. It really means a great deal to me and if you’re new to these articles and have any feedback of your own, positive or negative, I can be reached predominantly through twitter on my account @BunnySuicida
Once again thanks for reading and remember to have fun with wrestling, because that’s what it’s all about.
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