WWF Raw, December 12th 1994
An oft-delayed look at Wrestling’s dark past by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton Years, a look back at how WWE spent its Monday nights back in 1994. I’m now firmly in the final stretch of the year with just 3 episodes left to review it seems the year is ending on a surprising high note. I say surprising because I doubt many viewers would get excited over the prospect of wrestling’s “grumpy old man” Bob Backlund having a match against Doink the clown but I’ve seen enough of both men throughout the year to know that both men do still have the necessary skills to make for a compelling match. Under the bright colours & face paint Doink (Steve Keirn) is an accomplished wrestler and while Bob Backlund has a style that isn’t entirely anachronistic but for the time is very old school & low on thrills. Backlund needs a compatible opponent to be truly effective and the clown prince of sports entertainment could very well be just that. Fingers crossed.
The show begins in excellent fashion with a close up shot of a sweaty & irate Backlund against a plain black background as he rants and raves about how the Crossface Chickenwing will “exterminate” Doink in their match. In a neat touch Doink’s rebuttal, again filmed in front of a black backdrop is overlaid over Backlund, it’s a fun and quite stylish segment that adds quite a bit of intensity to what is on the surface a match between a crazy person & a circus clown.
After that and the opening title the show begins with Vince & Shawn Michaels (back for his 2nd week on commentary) welcoming us as Bob Backlund makes his way to the ring, still without any entrance music to complete his “man out of time” appeal and to a chorus of boos from the crowd. The mind games start early as when Doink’s music rings out eyebrows raise as only Dink, Doink’s diminutive sidekick makes his way to the ring, even going so far to prepare to face Backlund himself!
This is all a ruse however as Doink was hidden under the ring all along and uses Dink’s distraction to sneak into the ring behind Bob and trip him, gaining an early advantage. Doink follows this with a drop toehold that causes Bob some nasal discomfort as “Let’s go Doink!” chants rattle the former WWF champion, causing him to lose focus. Bob soon recovers his composure and grabs Doink in a rear waistlock and the two jockey for position until Doink manages to get to the ropes and forcing the hold to be broken. This happens once more until Doink manages to grab Backlund in a waistlock of his own from which Doink rolls Bob into a bridging pin that gets an early near fall.
The two exchange holds and reversals as Doink’s face paint begins to be smeared across Backlund’s back as Doink turns a headlock into a headscissors on the mat that keeps Bob under control. After this some great bridging pin attempts and a somewhat botched head and arm suplex get Doink another near pinfall. With the two opponents having been established as near equal wrestlers it takes a sneaky forearm attack by Backlund during a rope break gives Bob the advantage and be begins to focus his attacks on Doink’s arm and shoulder in preparation for the Chickenwing. Bob teases the dreaded hold but as he goes to apply it Doink is too close to the ropes and Backlund is forced to abandon it by the referee. Doink manages to get a near fall from a sunset flip as the show breaks for commercials and as it returns we see Backlund continuing to punish Doink’s arm with an armbar that is momentarily broken by Doink with a fireman’s carry but Bob is soon back on the attack, with another armbar. A bodyslam and small package give Doink some hope but, with even more of the clown’s makeup smearing his body and face, Backlund places his foot on Doink’s stomach and while holding his arm, falls backwards, throwing Doink over him in a painful looking move and continues to assault Doink’s arm. Doink manages another small package and a bodyslam but misses an elbow drop that gives Bob the opportunity to go once again for the Chickenwing. Doink escapes the hold attempt with a swift elbow to Bob’s head halts his momentum and Doink tries for another bodyslam but Backlund escapes, landing behind Doink and locking him finally in the Crossface Chickenwing where Doink soon fades and is forced to submit, giving Bob Backlund the victory. Bob refuses to release the hold and it takes several referees running to ringside to force Bob to relinquish his hold on Doink. Bob celebrates his clean victory as officials help an injured Doink backstage to end the segment.
I doubt many would come out and say that they enjoyed this match but I most definitely did. Backlund had a compatible & complimentary opponent in Doink and the two’s smooth chain wrestling may not have been overly flashy but was solid action and the clean finish made Backlund look strong despite his near burial at the hands of Diesel in his role as sacrificial lamb for the new “leader of the new generation” and I would call this one of the better matches I’ve seen from 1994.
After the match the elephant in the room of the vacant WWF Tag Team championship (which had been vacant since the day after Survivor Series) is finally addressed as a video announces a tournament to be held across episodes of Superstars. The sorry state of the tag division is laid bare as Well Dunn and The Bushwhackers are both entrants in the tournament that sadly won’t be a factor for me going forward as none of it looks to take place away from Raw. Still, it’s great that something is being made of the situation that will cross multiple episodes of TV, adding a sense of purpose to the “B” show.
Next we see Jeff Jarrett on the Las Vegas strip talking about…….something…. Sorry it’s just that Jarrett is deeply boring when he isn’t wrestling as his gimmick is so one note it’s unreal. “He’s supposedly a country singer, he spells his name, he says his whole worlds’ greatest shtick over and over again”. The point seems to be that Jarrett is trying to play a concert in Vegas and supposedly has a litany of possible suitors but the only thing of note here is that in the background, a sign advertising the “Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch” can be seen in hilarious contrast to the family friendly WWF of the time.
Next up Razor Ramon takes on Mark Starr in a surprise of a match in which Starr is allowed a lot of offence against “The Bad Guy” to sell a storyline knee injury ahead of his match with Jarrett at the Royal Rumble. Starr’s, er, star burns out quickly though as Razor soon wins with the Razor’s Edge despite his injury. Very quick but surprising due to Starr getting so much to do with Razor other than bump & sell. Starr himself did look good even with his awful mullet.
Oh no, It’s an IRS interview. Jerry Lawler’s Kings Court is back and yes, the taxman does indeed cometh, this time with two hooded Druids in tow. IRS takes some shots at Daryl Strawberry and other famous sportsmen for avoiding paying taxes before listing the Undertaker among them. Hearing The Undertaker being referred to as an athlete very weird however true that may be given his supernatural character. This very boring interview then turns to Lex Luger, and due to Luger’s saving of Adam Bomb from a Corporation beat down IRS issues a challenge for next week. IRS returns to the subject of The Undertaker l, promising that IRS has “friends” that will help him and then this dull segment ends with little fanfare. It’s safe to say that I’m not a fan of this story of this choice of opponent for Taker.
I finally get to see Aldo Montoya after his debut on Raw was derailed by technical issues a few weeks prior. Here “The Portuguese Man O’ War” takes on Nick Barberri in a short match that Aldo easily wins with a 2nd rope bulldog. The future Justin Credible did look good with a well done plancha but his ridiculous mask severely curtails my ability to take him seriously. Even Shawn Michaels on commentary alludes to Montoya’s mask resembling a jockstrap. During the match Harvey Whippleman slinks down to ringside to again bully Howard Finkel ahead of his being in the corner of the Bushwhackers for their rematch with Well Dunn next week. Whippleman pushes Fink who barely manages to retain his composure. This is another “feud” I’m tired of as I care little for Harvey Whippleman’s sneering bully routine and the continued use of Fink as a foil/target for him is wasted seen as the Bushwhackers are his backup. The Bushwhackers?! I’m really not looking forward to the next episode.
In the last match of the show, King Kong Bundy demolishes Bob Knight in a “methodical” (read: slow) fashion. Only a nasty looking spill outside of the ring for Knight is of any real note before a corner avalanche and his signature 5 count signal the end of the match.
Seen as its December, Santa Claus appears live on Raw to hand out a gift for a very special person, that person being Shawn Michaels. Shawn eagerly awaits his gift only to be incensed when Santa reveals his present of a foam replica WWF Women’s Championship. Shawn throws a temper tantrum as Vince gloats and finds it all hilarious before the show fades to black.
I enjoyed large portions of this episode, the Backlund and Doink match had an odd charm to it and the Razor Ramon squash match was surprising given that it existed to further a storyline injury to Ramon. Usually all continuity is absent from these enhancement matches so to see some plot development is very welcome. I look forward to probably not seeing anymore of this going forward. If you can get past the odd and old school trappings of Backlund vs Doink this show is very entertaining and I can recommend the first half of this one, just maybe give the last half a miss and you’ll be fine.