Wrestling in the Clinton Years: An Off-Brand Great Sasuke.

A lonely trek though wrestling’s darkest hour by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

Screenshot (66)

WWF Raw November 7th 1994

Last week I bemoaned the departure of Macho Man Randy Savage from the company but the Federation isn’t giving me much chance to grieve too much with this episode of Raw as it really hits the ground running with the first & featured match as WWF Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart & British Bulldog make their entrance amid loud cheers & fireworks even before the title sequence as they prepare to face Owen Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart in a match I was really looking forward to.

After the titles were introduced to the new commentary pairing of Vince McMahon & Jerry “The King” Lawler, which will be the most consistent pairing I’ll see going forward in this series. Lawler plugs his upcoming King’s Court segment with 123 Kid as Owen Hart’s amazing theme rings out signalling their entrance. Poor Howard Finkel doesn’t get a chance to introduce the pair as soon as they enter the ring, Bret & Davey can’t wait for the bell and immediately start attacking their brethren, whipping Owen & Jim into each other before Neidhart is the recipient of a double clothesline that sends him rolling out of the ring. Bret then whips his brother Owen into the waiting arms of Bulldog who easily lifts him up in a gorilla press slam, effortlessly dumping him over the top rope onto Neidhart at ringside in a hot opening segment that has the crowd in a frenzy.

Hilariously Owen shrieks that he thinks his arm is broken but this draws very little (read: no) sympathy from the crowd. Anvil tries to climb back into the ring but Bret gives him no quarter, slingshotting him over the top rope the hard way and then sets about drilling Anvil with punches and a hard lariat. The momentum changes briefly as Neidhart catches Bret coming off the ropes with a bearhug but Bret quickly bites his brother-in-law on the forehead in a less heroic move than I’d expect from Bret at this point in time but it works and Anvil quickly releases the hold.

Bret tags in Bulldog and the two power men of each team square off. The two clash together in a lock up where Anvil shoves Davey off into the ropes where he returns with a shoulder block but neither man moves nor do they a second time but at the third attempt, Bulldog manages to send Anvil crashing to the canvas.

From his knees, Neidhart manages to turn the tide of the match in his favour at last as a sneaky uppercut to Davey’s eyes rocks the Bulldog, and Anvil goes to work with clubbing blows to the back before Owen gets to get into the match, tagging in and hitting a couple of headbutts before Bulldog manages to reverse an Irish whip and level “The King of Harts” with a hard clothesline. Bulldog then whips Owen into a turnbuckle, following up with a backdrop as Owen staggers out.

Owen struggles to escape a suplex attempt by Bulldog but to no avail as Davey muscles his Hart compatriot over in a brief stalling suplex that gets a 2 count for the heroes before trapping Owen in an armbar. Vince on commentary talks about Owen & Bulldog’s upcoming roles at Survivor Series as cornermen for Bret & his challenger Bob Backlund as the dastardly Lawler proposes that Bulldog’s muscular arms will be handy for throwing in the towel for Bret in the match. Owen eventually fights out and hits a spinning wheel kick, grounding the Bulldog and allowing Anvil to tag in and begin beating down the former intercontinental champion.

The heels keep Bulldog grounded with chinlocks in between clubbing blows from Anvil & a double clothesline up until Bulldog literally throws Owen off from a pin attempt, powerfully sending him clear over the referee but the resourceful King of the Ring is quickly back on the attack as Vince talks about George Foreman’s recent boxing world title victory, paralleling it with Bob Backund and his title hopes as he reaches his forties. Anvil tags in and rocks Bulldog with an impressive gutwrench suplex just before the show breaks for commercials with a sneaky Owen choking Bulldog with a tag rope behind the ref’s back.

Back from the ads we see Bulldog hitting a sunset flip on Owen that does get a close near fall, but a powerslam from Neidhart once again grounds Davey and a front facelock keeps a tired Bulldog under control. Ever powerful though, Bulldog still manages to power forward to tag an eager Bret, chomping at the bit to get into the match. Mere inches separate the brothers in law but the rascally Owen rushes over to attack Bret, goading his brother into a chase around the ring. It must be said that Owen’s comical expression is priceless as he sprints away from his irate older sibling. As the referee leaves the ring to calm Bret and get him back into his corner, Owen slinks back into the ring as him and Owen perform the Hart Attack, the double team finisher of the original Hart Foundation, in a moment that your humble writer couldn’t help but smile at. Davey is saved from the subsequent pin attempt only by Bret entering the ring. As Owen continues to attack Bulldog, Lawler finally makes a good impression on commentary by hilariously saying that the only reason Stu & Helen Hart aren’t in attendance is that they’ve been cast in “Cocoon 3”.

"run run run run, to run away from you......"

Following this jibe, Owen takes to the skies with a flying crossbody, but Davey manages to use Owen’s own momentum against him, rolling through and getting a 2 count on Owen. Bulldog desperately reaches to Bret for a tag but Owen grabs him by the hair, pulling him back into the centre of the ring, sitting down on Bulldog’s back in a chinlock but with almost the last of his strength, Bulldog stands up and backs into a corner, breaking the hold but again Owen immediately fights back with a series of European uppercuts until Bulldog counters one of the blows beautifully, catching Owen in a backslide for another close 2 count. Owen keeps his momentum however, sending Bulldog into Anvil’s waiting boot over in their corner as the shows goes to an ad break once again.

Bulldog & Owen crash into each other as the show returns, and with both of them down, Davey crawls on his stomach over to Bret, but Anvil enters the ring, distracting the referee and causing him to miss Bulldog tagging Bret, frustratingly meaning the tag is void. During the confusion Anvil grabs Bulldog in position for Owen to attack him. As always though, Bulldog moves and Owen crashes into Neidhart with a running front kick. Bulldog uses the opportunity to finally, at long last tag in Bret who runs wild on both opponents, blasting his former tag partner with a running bulldog, a back breaker & elbow from the 2nd rope before Owen manages to kick Bret in the back as he hits the ropes, allowing Anvil to lift Bret in his arms for a slam position. Bulldog makes the save for Bret, dropkicking him into Anvil, causing him to fall onto Jim in a pin, but the ref is too distracted with Bulldog to notice Owen clambering up to the top rope, crashing down on Bret with an elbow drop and placing a lifeless Neidhart on top of his brother. Bret kicks out though to huge cheers from the crowd and the heels attempt a double clothesline. Bret ducks it and as a waiting Bulldog grabs Owen on the rebound, pulling him out of the ring as Bret levels Neidhart with a clothesline then locking him in the Sharpshooter for the submission as the crowd explode for the popular win.

This was an amazing little match, full of fast paced action and crisp tag team storytelling. Then again I wouldn’t expect anything less from a family affair such as this. This all Hart affair was so much fun to watch and I can highly recommend seeking it out.

The mid 90's in one screenshot
The mid 90’s in one screenshot

Phew, that was a great opening. Sadly the pace slows considerably from here on as next we get a Survivor Series report with Todd Pettengill wearing quite possibly the ugliest T-shirt on this or any other planet as he introduces an honest to god Chuck Norris promo, a pretaped video of him beating up extras in a dark gym with Chuck himself talking about the toughness of the WWF superstars that is surreal and amazing all at the same time.

This caption can open a revolving door.
This caption can open a revolving door.

Things take an oddly dark turn to as Vince reveals that two WWF technicians had suffered an accident earlier in the day and are currently in hospital as the show airs live and wishes them a speedy recovery. That really put a weird spin on watching the show before the next match where Bam Bam Bigelow takes on Tyron Knox in a deathly dull match neither the crowd or I cared about, the only highlights being a “Vince for senate” sign in the crowd (so THAT’S where he got the idea) and the announcement that this Raw is sponsored by Sega which pushed a few nostalgic gaming buttons for yours truly.

The odd tone continues after another ad break as Vince takes the time to talk to the camera & the audience directly, announcing the departure of Randy Savage as I discussed last time. Vince does appear to speak with some sincerity as he thanks Randy for his contributions to the WWF and wishes him all the best. Given that Vince himself recently revealed that Savage will find a place in the WWE hall of fame, this is very timely watch but is very odd 20 years on.

Next is the King’s Court segment with 123 Kid where King takes some time to insult Kid’s haircut & physique before revealing that next episode, Kid will face Bob Backlund in a match I can’t wait to see actually. As Kid cuts the most babyface promo ever, a suit-clad Backlund attempts to attack Kid from behind with is feared Cross Face Chicken Wing but the wily Waltman dodges and blasts Mr Backlund with his signature kicks that send him tumbling out of the ring. Referees try & force Bob back to his padded cell as Bret Hart reappears to stand alongside The Kid in a show of solidarity.

In the last match, Doink with Dink, Pink & Wink in tow takes on Pat Tanaka, one half of that most legendary of tag teams, The Orient Express, no wait that’s wrong they were never legendary. Badd Company, that’s the one. Pat is dressed in his most comfortable black sweater and baggy slacks here, and looks incredibly like an off brand Great Sasuke in his all black attire. A clown versus a martial artist? what is this, Mortal Kombat? Anyway, This isn’t half bad as a match, Pat hits a dragon screw which is a move I’m always a fan of bit ultimately Doink wins with a belly to back suplex followed by the Whoopie Cushion from the top rope.

Afterwards as Doink & his diminutive pals celebrate the victory, Vince begins to mess around with Lawler’s crown, allowing Doink to grab it & place it on his head as Lawler crows about how unfunny he finds this slight against him. He isn’t the only one.

Lawler eventually gets his beloved crown back as Vince tells us of an exciting debut next week, that of Aldo Montoya, the Portuguese Man-O-War. I wonder how he’ll do in the future? Back from the ads we see Lawler admonishing his trio of midget royalty for allowing his crown to be pilfered, this is followed by Dink, Wink & Pink returning to ringside to square up to their Survivor Series opponents for no real reason. I can’t believe that this dreck is getting more of a build up than any other match on the Survivor Series card. Lastly, Vince talks to Bret who reveals that he will be looking out for the 123 Kid in his match with Backlund.

"we can dance, we can dance, everybody look at your hands"
“we can dance, we can dance, everybody look at your hands”

This was a weird show, the revelation of the crew accident & the somber moment of reflection for Randy Savage were oddly placed alongside the “comedy” of Doink & company and the excellence of the opening tag match, but that match was very good and may very well be of “Pay Per View” quality, especially for the time. The four Hart Family alumni put on an amazing display & made this a very worthwhile watch. Once again 1994 is providing yet more little gems in its final weeks and I hope for a few more before this first season of WiTCY is over and done with.

It beats Linda for Senate.
It beats Linda for Senate.

Thank you once again for reading if you’ve made it this far & please give me any feedback you’d care to leave through social media & I’ll be back soon with more Wrestling in the Clinton Years.


2 thoughts on “Wrestling in the Clinton Years: An Off-Brand Great Sasuke.

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