A misanthropic meander through the mire of the mid nineties by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WWF Raw October 31st 1994
Mwahahahahahahaha! A very spooky and belated Halloween to you dear reader, welcome back to that place from which no light can escape & from where no traveller returns unscathed, the charnel house of enjoyment otherwise known as the New Generation. A most frightening evening is in the offering as the much feared enemy of entertainment Lex Luger will wrestle, and The Lord of Darkness The Undertaker will grace us mere mortals with his illustrious presence. This show will be so scary not everyone’s career will survive to appear on further shows so as lightning splits the sky and thunder shakes the earth, onto the ghastliest Wrestling in the Clinton Years episode yet.
After a creepy opening video of a graveyard, accompanied by narration by Vince McMahon detailing Mr Bob Backlund’s descent into abject insanity the show begins. Still coming from the Burlington Memorial Auditorium from Burlington, Vermont. Lex Luger is on his way to the ring for his featured match with the aforementioned Backlund. New Generation Project Podcast fans should also note that the first thing Luger does upon entering the ring is adjust his tights, true to form as fireworks erupt from the arena ceiling. Hilariously, Backlund makes his entrance as Luger’s music is still playing, so eager does he appear to be for the match.
As the bell rings and the match begins, Luger immediately surprises Backlund with an armdrag, taking an opportunity to mock Bob by imitating his old school “knee walk”, angering the former WWF champion. Another armdrag from Lex and several leg trips embarrass Backlund by showing fans that Lex can beat Bob at his own game, that being technical wrestling ability. This version of Lex Luger is far more entertaining to me, showing hitherto unseen levels of personality and prowess making me wonder how Lex’s WWF career would have panned out had he never donned the Red, White and Blue of Americana in the summer of 1993.
Lex once again frustrates Mr Backlund with a rear waistlock from a lock up where Lex successfully takes Bob to the mat where they struggle before both men regain an upright position and square off once more. After a long stalling period, the two lock up again where Backlund spins behind Lex, taking him down for the first time and attempts to lock Luger in the dreaded Crossface Chickenwing, a wily Lex escapes the submission attempt though, leading to Backlund hurting his nose on the ring canvas in a decent display of mat wrestling by the pair.
Following another lock up, Bob traps Lex in a wrist lock that successfully keeps Luger at arm’s length. Lex reverses the hold and takes Bob down to the mat but Backlund kicks Luger away, armdrags him down & again applies a wristlock to slow Lex’s momentum. Bob wrenches Luger’s shoulder repeatedly which looks extremely painful thanks to some good selling by “Made in the USA”. Luger only escapes the hold when Backlund loses his grip tugging on Lex’s arm but this only sets up an increasingly maniacal Backlund to stare at his hands, eager to apply the seemingly inescapable Chickenwing, Luger scrabbles out of the attempt by Bob but can’t capitalise and is whipped into the turnbuckles before a hugely impressive overhead belly to belly suplex by Bob gets a very close near fall. A few stomps to the small of Luger’s back precede a return to the wristlock as on commentary Randy Savage (more on him later) conjectures that Backlund is so “out there” that he might actually not exist & Luger is wrestling himself right now. Vince’s response to this is a very confused “errrrr” as Bob changes tack and begins to attack Luger’s shoulder with a hammerlock slam, driving own Lex’s bodyweight down on his upper arm. Just after this we’re shown a mysterious & ominous figure watching from the shadow of the entranceway. Spoiler Vince reveals that the mystery man is Tatanka as the show breaks for some commercials. I really feel that the obscured figure’s identity would have been better served if it had remained a mystery if only to give Savage & McMahon something to talk about during the match.
Back from the ads, we find Lex Luger trapped in a bearhug by Backlund, who in a neat touch had Luger’s injured arm trapped behind his own back, actually keeping him locked in the hold. Backlund tries to switch from the bearhug to the Chickenwing but Lex once again scrabbles to the ropes, frustrating Backlund once more. Bob manhandles Lex back to the centre of the ring and again applies his bearhug until Luger extricates himself with a headbutt and begins to comeback, hitting what Randy hilariously describes as “almost a powerslam” to try to cover for Lex’s affinity for twisting his opponent by 90 degrees during the move.
At this point the aforementioned Tatanka runs down to ringside causing Luger to lose focus momentarily and allowing Bob to finally trap Lex in the Crossface Chickenwing. After much flailing by Lex, Tatanka enters the ring at the point that Luger and Backlund fall to the mat from where escape is impossible. From here chaos & confusion are the order of the day as the ref calls for the bell just as Tatanka enters the ring, leading to much confusion as to wether Lex did indeed submit or Backlund was disqualified due to interference. We never find out the result as Tatanka begins to stomp Luger while he remains trapped by Backlund as an army of officials try to quell the situation. Finally, incensed by what he’s witnessing, Randy Savage leaves the announce table, entering the ring to attack Bob Backlund, causing him to flee the ring as Vince on commentary says that as a non wrestler getting involved, Savage stands to be heavily fined or suspended for his actions. The truth would actually be much worse. As Savage returns to the desk, he vents some frustrations at being relegated to commentary, teasing a return to the ring to face Bob Backlund down the line which I would have paid a ton of money to see but sadly, this would not come to pass.
This episode marks the last WWF appearance of Macho Man Randy Savage before his departure for WCW where Randy would make his debut in early December of 1994 and return to his lauded in-ring career, no doubt much to McMahon’s chagrin. Macho represented the last huge name of the Hulkamania era not to jump ship to WCW and his defection (whatever the circumstances rumoured to surround it) was a huge statement to the wrestling audience as it was one more legitimatising factor in WCW’s march to compete with the WWF, especially as Savage had great feuds and matches despite being in Vince’s mind “past it”.
This seems as good a time as any to offer some thoughts on Randy Savage’s tenure in Wrestling in the Clinton Years, predominantly as a commentator but I did have a couple of chances to see Savage in the ring in 1994 as a participant in the Royal Rumble and challenging Yokozuna for the WWF championship on Raw. As someone who prior to watching these shows for the first time (for those who came to the series late, I wasn’t watching any wrestling in 1994, so the whole New Generation is largely outside my knowledge save for the pay per view events) I had heard horror stories about Savage at the announce desk but in all honesty, he isn’t that bad. Sure he’s a little rambling at times and makes little sense but in small doses he’s actually enjoyable, fun even and I have certainly heard a lot worse announcers over the years I’ve watched wrestling. I will miss hearing Savage all over these shows but I do look forward to when the WiTCY timeline will encompass WCW Monday Nitro in late 1995 and I get to watch Randy Savage the motivated wrestler, instead of Randy Savage the bored announcer. Au Revoir Mr Savage, till next we meet.
Oh yes, the match. I’m incredibly surprised at just how good the Luger/Backlund match is. It’s by no means a classic but Luger has his working boots on and in a surprising turn of events, has found a very complimentary opponent in Backlund who looked every bit an equal technician to Bret Hart ahead of their WWF title match. The lack of a finish does hurt the match as a match on its own, but the bulk of it was so fun it’s very easy to overlook the non ending.
Back to the show for the next match and the first enhancement match as 123 Kid (sporting an epic mullet) takes on Tony Devito. For a “squash” match this is very back & forth, with Devito hitting a very impressive powerslam but ultimately a series of vicious kicks and a top rope legdrop hand victory to the Kid. As always this is filler but enjoyable filler nonetheless.
After Todd Pettingill gives us a Survivor Series report in which he reveals that Chuck Norris will be the peacekeeper at ringside for the Undertaker/Yokozuna casket match and Todd likens Survivor Series to E.R. that had just debuted in TV (on a side note I loved that show & miss it to this day), we get the next match in which King Kong Bundy takes on Bert Centreno. Bundy is no superlative worker, even for someone of his frame and sadly what was supposed to be a dominant beat down by Bundy comes off as boring as Centreno just bounces around for a sluggish Bundy who wins with a knee drop & his signature 5 count. What was entertaining was Bundy’s verbal exchange with a fan at ringside, culminating with the amazing “Shut your mouth, Scumbag”.
Things take a turn for the vaguely distasteful next as IRS returns in another pretaped promo, this time talking to the gravestone of the deceased we saw in the hearse from last week. IRS goes so far to repossess the flowers from the graveside due to the deceased’s tax cheating in life. I’m no Puritan about these things but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about these segments personally. I’ve lost a lot of people I care about in my life & death is a bit of a touchy subject with me. I’m not about to decry these segments and call for censorship, but I hope that if you like these vignettes, you can understand why I don’t care for them and eagerly await their end.
It wouldn’t be a Halloween episode without an appearance by The Undertaker and Paul Bearer and although they aren’t featured in a match, a King’s court segment is more than welcome. Focusing on the upcoming casket match Lawler talks of déjà vu & history repeating itself to which an animated Bearer has a rather odd rebuttal, a WWF magazine special on the history of The Undertaker and all the wrestlers that have faced the Phenom and subsequently left the WWF. Without showing photos or naming names Paul alludes to a previous opponent who may or may not be Hulk Hogan before Taker himself takes the mic & promises to make Yokozuna pay for his transgressions back in January. This segment was pure pantomime but so enjoyable to a person like me who adores Undertaker, Bearer & all the theatrics that accompany them. A very welcome addition to the show.
Lastly, Jim Neidhart beats up poor jobber Tony Roy for a few minutes before submitting him with a camel clutch in a poor squash match that only serves to hype next weeks tag match pitting Owen & Anvil against Bret Hart & The British Bulldog that had toured the house show circuit at the time & is something I’m eager to see in all honesty.
The show closes with a rather somber moment in retrospect as technical difficulties torpedo a backstage interview between Vince & Lex Luger leaving it without audio & forcing Randy Savage to carry the broadcast by talking over the pictures and trying to salvage the storyline at play. This is some of the best announcing from Randy I’ve ever heard and it’s sad that this is the last thing Savage ever did on WWF TV, trying to save this throwaway Luger interview amid a chaotic ending to the show.
Away from the importance of this being Randy Savage’s last WWF appearance, this show is a decent episode of Raw, the march to the Survivor Series is well underway, and with a sense of purpose the shows hang together better. Backlund and Luger’s match was surprisingly good despite the age and ability of those involved and as 1994 enters it’s final weeks it looks like Raw may be ending on somewhat of a high note, albeit one without Randy Savage and that’s quite a shame to type.
As always thank you if you’ve read this far, please share it if you’ve enjoyed it, feel free to get in touch with me on twitter if you’ve stumbled across this and have any feedback and if I don’t hear from you, hopefully you’ll be back for more Wrestling in the Clinton Years