Wrestling in the Clinton Years: Druidiocy

A meaningless meander among the mid-nineties by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

Before the Cornette face, there was the Lawler face.
Before the Cornette face, there was the Lawler face.

WWF Raw November 28 1994

Welcome back dear reader to a slightly bemused Wrestling in the Clinton Years. Just days after the 1994 Survivor Series its shocking to learn that the WWF Champion is someone who wasn’t even involved in the title match at the event. What a bizarre turn of events.

The show begins with still images recapping the events of Survivor Series with narration by Vince McMahon including such highlights as Diesel’s face turn after almost single-handedly destroying the opposing team in one of the Team Elimination matches only to be blasted by a mistimed superkick by teammate & fellow WWF Tag champion Shawn Michaels that sent the giant into a rage, causing a scared HBK to abandon not only the match but the arena, fleeing from Diesel in a car. The shocking shenanigans of the WWF championship match are also recapped where interference by Owen Hart & judicious use of the towel throwing stipulation conspire to rob Bret Hart of the title & gift it to Bob Backlund. Incidentally, I love the notion that Owen will do anything to screw his brother out of the championship, even more than winning it himself. Sadly, Mr Backlund has little time to celebrate his regaining the title after 10 years because we then see footage of a Madison Square Garden live show in which the newly babyface Diesel beats Bob for the belt in a mere 8 seconds in a shocking turn of events. We see the “match” in its entirety which entails Diesel hitting Backlund with the Jacknife powerbomb as soon as the bell rings followed by a swift pin for the victory. I still can’t decide if this renders the Survivor Series completely inconsequential or not based on these events so on with the show to find out.

Just look how happy he is
Just look how happy he is.

After the recap, Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler welcome viewers to the show, this week emanating live from Poughkeepsie, New York and the Mid-Hudson Civic Centre. After some trademark jibes at Helen Hart’s expense, Owen Hart’s brilliant theme plays as he makes his entrance for the first match of the show. Ever the villain, Owen comes to the ring with his shoulders draped in the pink & black towel that his mother threw into the ring to end the title match at Survivor Series. His opponent is John Paul who hasn’t been seen on Raw for a while and him & Owen have a fun little enchantment match as the two start with trading arm wringers before Owen looks like he decapitates Paul with a wheel kick. During the match Vince takes a phone call from former champion Bret Hart. Bret doesn’t seem too upset about losing the belt but he does reveal that due to ligament damage sustained in the match with Backlund Bret is taking Christmas off & will return to action in the new year. I can only imagine the tensions at the Hart family table as they sit down for a holiday meal together. I only wish there would’ve been some vignettes of that on the show. Owen finishes the match as the phone conversation wraps up with a belly to belly suplex and the Sharp Shooter for the submission victory. The lack of commentary focusing on the match was a little distracting but it was still fun to watch, although the prospect of no more Bret matches for the year is very sad, for obvious reasons.

So as this is Bret Hart’s last appearance in 1994 I think it’s time to offer up some thoughts on Bret’s 1994 on Raw and what I’ve seen while writing these articles. I think it will come as no surprise that Bret has been a true highlight on any show he appears and his feud with Owen that ran from the Royal Rumble up until SummerSlam was very enjoyable as both he & Owen worked their hardest both in the ring & out and the dynamic of brothers turning against each other was perfect to hang a feud like this on. Bret also contested great TV matches with 123 Kid, Tom Pritchard and even KWANG that sometimes despite less than stellar opposition, still provided some great matches. Goodbye until best year Hitman.

Next up, Adam Bomb returns for the second week in a row to face IRS, accompanied to the ring by Ted DiBiase and bafflingly, a hooded Druid. IRS grabs a microphone and calls out The Undertaker, promising to make him “pay”.
As the match starts IRS immediately drives his knee into Bomb’s gut as the two go to lock up, Irwin follows this by ramming Adam’s head into a nearby turnbuckle but his attempted Irish whip is reversed by the more powerful Bomb and he is sent crashing into the opposite corner. As a stunned IRS staggers out of the corner Adam Bomb sends him to the canvas with a hiptoss as the crowd roar in approval.

The two trade holds for a little until IRS rocks Bomb with a belly to back suplex while trapped in a side headlock, Irwin tries an elbow drop but Bomb rolls out of the way and as he crashes to the mat, IRS rolls out of the ring to regroup as the mysterious Druid stands stoically at ringside. Adam catches up with IRS outside and begins hammering him with punches before rolling him back into the ring and climbing up onto the apron. While there, Bomb slingshots himself over the top rope as IRS struggles to his feet and clatters him with an impressive clothesline that gets a 2 count.

Bomb makes IRS regret his choice of ring attire as he grabs him by his tie & levels the “taxman” with a hard punch that causes DiBiase to climb onto the apron to distract first the referee, then Bomb himself is drawn over to the commotion, allowing IRS the chance to attack his radioactive opponent from behind. Irwin then hurls Bomb out of the ring in front of the Druid who glares at Adam from under his baggy hood. IRS follows and begins to kick Bomb while he’s down before hauling him up onto the apron and leaving Adam draped across the top rope as Irwin himself reenters the ring and rocks Adam with what almost looks like a neckbreaker onto the top strand of rope and sending him back to the arena floor.

Back in the ring Bomb avoids an IRS clothesline and retaliates with a very impressive crossbody, leaping as high as IRS’ head to deliver the move. Sadly this only gets a 2 count as the show goes to a commercial break.

As the show returns we find Adam Bomb trapped in IRS’ signature abdominal stretch with added rope grabbing until referee Earl Hebner catches Irwin’s cheating and forces him to break the hold. IRS continues to slow the pace with a rear chinlock to rest as sweat pours off him. Irwin’s love affair with the ropes continues as he drapes his legs across the bottom rope for added evil leverage until Bomb fights back up to his feet only for Shyster to ram Adam’s head into a turnbuckle again although a second attempt is blocked by Bomb and the two begin to trade punches in the middle of the ring until with a surge of adrenaline, Adam hiptosses IRS once more and rocks him with a pair of clotheslines.

Continuing his comeback, Bomb climbs to the top rope and prepares to leap off onto IRS but before he can take flight, the Druid makes his move and pushes Adam off, sending him crashing to the canvas where IRS hits a legdrop onto the back of Bomb’s head before rolling him over for a count of 3 and a pinfall victory. Following the bell, IRS and the Druid stomp Bomb repeatedly until Lex Luger rushes to the ring to save Adam, sending the heels running for the entranceway.

This wasn’t a bad match overall but the silent crowd took much away from it & sadly I’m no longer a fan of IRS’ very basic in-ring style. The match ended amid total silence and the result was met with apathy from an audience full of fans sat with arms folded. Poor Bomb was also defeated not by his opponent but a hooded stranger whose identity is never questioned or even alluded to.

I think NXT’s Bull Dempsey may be a time traveller because in the next match Bob “Sparkplug” Holly takes on a man named Tony Devito who bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Mr Dempsey with similar gear, a similar physique and even hailing from New York City. Devito even has a similar presence in the ring, moving with a grace and speed belying his frame. That said, he is an enhancement wrestler and he is soon felled by Bob with a flying crossbody but only after delivering an impressive leaping European uppercut. I must admit to wanting to see more of Devito and it’s a shame he is relegated to “jobber” status.

"You got a purty mouth..."
“You got a purty mouth…”

It’s time for a new superstar on Raw as we are taken to an Arkansas Pig Farm and are introduced to Henry Godwinn, due to make his Federation debut. Godwinn explains his gimmick as a wrestling Pig Farmer for the audience and promises that he is the meanest hog you could ever meet. This is a dark reminder that this is still the age of the occupational gimmick and I’m not hugely anticipating yet another “Wrestling blank” gimmick but who knows I may come around once I see him in action.

Lex Luger returns to face Bert Centino in the next match easily won by Luger in double-quick time with his Torture Rack move as Vince reveals that Tampa will play host the Royal Rumble in January. Poor Centino manages a few kidney punches but nothing more as Luger steamrollers him on way to victory. Lex even gets a huge amount of fireworks upon winning too. Sadly this was a dull as it appears reading this recap. I’m still no fan of Luger in the WWF.

There's no reason for this being here, I just love Luger's expression.
There’s no reason for this being here, I just love Luger’s expression.

Vince takes to the ring to interview new WWF Champion Diesel and presumably provide some much needed exposition on the sudden title switch and face turn of “Big Daddy Cool”. Diesel blandly calls out Shawn Michaels over his actions at Survivor Series, talks up a potential rematch with Bob Backlund and after putting Bret Hart over like a verbal Ricky Morton and promising to also be a fighting champion, offers The Hitman a championship match whenever he wants one. So far Diesel is proving to have lost his edge as a babyface champion, instead falling into the mold of the humble, overly earnest champion. Diesel punctuates the interview with “On lives the new generation and the world wrestling federation” which I hope never catches on as a catchphrase.

Next, The Heavenly Bodies face the duo of Gary Scott and the superbly named Buck Quartermaine in the last match of the show as Bob Backlund joins Vince & Lawler on commentary. Pritchard & Del Rey easily beat the two opponents, using their amazing double team manoeuvres as Vince accuses Backlund of possibly having “gone off the deep end” as Bob calls for Diesel’s “extermination”. In the ring The Heavenly Bodies finish off their opponents with a legdrop from the top rope by Jimmy Del Rey as Pritchard suspends Gary Scott horizontally in the air. After the match we’re shown the entire Backlund/Diesel match again as an incensed Bob threatens to put McMahon in the Crossface Chickenwing before storming off around ringside as Lawler giggles at the idea of Vince being attacked by Backlund as they say their goodbyes and the show ends.

Even without the Survivor Series to build towards the show still managed to move storylines although perhaps more by necessity than design given that the company had to explain the sudden and un-televised title change. The ever crazy Bob Backlund remains a highlight of the show, perhaps even more so now he has lost the title once more. Sadly as I said before Diesel has lost most of his attitude that made him so popular, at least from this first interview and that doesn’t bode well for his championship tenure. Owen Hart & Bob Holly had fun matches and I’m now a confirmed fan of Tony Devito. So all in all this was a good episode of Raw that is definitely worth 45 minutes of your time.

Behind this caption's beard is another caption.
Behind this caption’s beard is another caption.

Once again thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far & please share this if it’s your first time reading and you’ve enjoyed it.

Martin Dixon

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