Wrestling in the Clinton Years: a lumbering, wheezing marathon runner struggling to reach the end of the race by Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WWF Raw 19th December 1994
1994 is drawing to a close, and the WWF is intent on seeing out the year in grand fashion as your favourite and mine Lex Luger makes his way to the ring to face IRS in a contest I doubt many were looking forward to (me included). Luger does have his moments throughout his career but his WWF tenure was less than stellar and post his failed push Lex seems less motivated every time I see him. Him being portrayed as a gullible meathead doesn’t help either. Vince McMahon & Shawn Michaels are once again on commentary duties as IRS makes his way to the ring with Ted DiBiase and the mysterious Druid in tow. This Druid is a constant source of distraction for Lex throughout the match and even before the match begins as Luger is rattled by the presence of the mysterious hooded figure.
The match proper begins and Lex grabs IRS in a side headlock, Irwin manages to shove Luger off but is felled by a shoulderblock from the Star Spangled Superstar. Vince clearly received a word-a-day calendar as an early Christmas as with no real context he describes Luger as a “Mesomorph” (def: A person with a compact & muscular physique). Not one to be outdone, Michaels refers to Luger as “The Total Package” as an unexpected nod to Luger’s NWA/WCW past. Back to the match as Luger & IRS repeat the headlock to shoulderblock sequence before IRS heads outside to recuperate/stall for time for a while to compound the very plodding nature of this match. Irwin manages to get back into the ring in due course and the two lock up once again with IRS driving his knee into Luger’s sculpted abs. He next rams Lex into an adjacent turnbuckle and then a long & slow beat down of Lex begins until Luger reverses an irish whip into a hip toss to begin a fight back that includes a bodyslam & leaping clothesline that gets a near fall.
The Druid again makes his presence felt by climbing on the apron where instead of ignoring him & finishing off IRS, Lex takes a swipe at him which misses. This ruse allows Irwin to blast Luger in the back with a high knee that sends Lex tumbling out of the ring where the Druid sneaks a few kicks on a prone Luger as the referee is distracted. Irwin heads out to retrieve Lex and the slow beat down continues before the camera zooms in on the Druid’s hand, adorned with a distinctive ring that I’m assuming we the audience are supposed to recognise given Vince’s reaction on commentary as the show breaks for commercials.
IRS’ beat down of Lex continues after the ads with a suplex, backbreaker and elbow drop that each get a 2 count in a fun section before the match settles down into a chinlock which is a staple of IRS matches. The fans chant of “USA” inspires Lex to fight to his feet and break the hold but a swift kick to the gut keeps IRS in firm control of the match which the Taxman follows with another Irish whip and running knee to the gut that sends Luger tumbling, a legdrop after this gets Irwin a further 2 count.
After Michaels reveals that Luger “punches like a girl” a backdrop begins the comeback for Lex, continuing with a terrible looking knee lift and a clothesline. As Luger winds up for another clothesline the Druid grabs Luger’s leg and as Lex turns around from yet another distraction the Druid punches Lex in the face and he stumbles into a roll up by IRS for a close 2 count. The stupid Luger opts to leave the ring to chase after & exact vengeance upon the hooded Druid, who is unmasked as Tatanka (to very little shock & surprise) and Luger and him begin to brawl at ringside as referee Earl Hebner begins to count Lex out. The hapless Luger forgets to return to the ring and is counted out, handing victory to IRS. To add injury to insult Irwin attacks Luger from behind as the villainous trio absconds leaving Lex embarrassed and beaten.
I can’t believe how little action this match contained. It was either stalling, rest holds or bad punch/kick sequences. Luger’s lack of drive and IRS’ basic and quite dull style made for a very boring match. Luger again loses through his own idiocy and looks completely ineffectual against the lame duck Corporation heel stable and I was glad when it was over.
Next footage is shown from WWF Superstars and the first match of the tournament to crown new Tag Team champions. Sadly the tournament gets off to a less than auspicious start as Tatanka & Bam Bam Bigelow defeat Men on a Mission in perhaps one of the worst finishes to a match I think I’ve seen. After hitting Mo of MoM with his “End of the Trail” finisher, Tatanka pins Mo with one finger as Mabel just stands watching on the apron, only making a lazy attempt to save his partner as the referee counts 3. To try & salvage something Bigelow leaps at Mabel to make it look like his progress was being halted but it was all a little too late to be anything other than comedic.
Howard Finkel is seen backstage enjoying some of the Bushwhackers’ hospitality which equates to having sardines rubbed into his bald spot as Luke & Butch make noises previously unknown to science.
Ha Ha! Ho Ho! It’s time for more Double J does Vegas as Jeff Jarrett is again wandering the Las Vegas strip to promote er, himself I guess. Jarrett bumps into Rip Taylor (who I must confess before this I was blissfully unaware of, for those in a similar position to mine, Mr Taylor is a veteran American actor & comedian here looking like a disco version of Zeb Colter). The two banter back & forth and yes, Jeff spells his name and does the “world’s greatest” routine like he always does before the pair disappear into a casino. Again the comedy was perhaps slightly unintentional as Rip’s of the cuff banter leaves Double J’s in the dust. While I hate Jarrett’s shtick Mr Taylor was fun when he was on screen so I couldn’t hate this little vignette entirely.
Next up the Smoking Gunns take on Roy Raymond & Chris Avery in a fun squash match where the Gunns use some clever double team moves along with Bart Gunn looking particularly good with a snap suplex that even the Dynamite Kid would envy. Despite a crippling lack of charisma the Gunns are fun to watch.
Now here’s something to enjoy, Jerry Lawler’s King’s Court with special guest Mr Bob Backlund. Clad in suit & bow tie, Backlund rants and raves against subjects such as “Malapropism”, saying he had a message for “Mr McMahon” when he probably meant “Jack Tunney” as WWF president, challenges Bret Hart to a match, proclaiming that putting the Crossface Chickenwing on Hart was like putting every fan in the crowd in the hold before moving onto WWF champion Diesel, promising to regain the title, and before calling Big Daddy Cool a Neanderthal and the “Tyrannosaurus Rex of the WWF”, looks directly into the camera and refers to Diesel as shock, horror, “Kevin Nash”! Hilariously, Vince is audibly annoyed at Backlund’s faux pas and Shawn takes great pleasure in needling the secret owner of the WWF to which McMahon gives curt, surly one word responses. Shawn does cover for Bob, saying that he told Backlund a number of Diesel’s secrets & weaknesses ahead of a possible rematch. His point made, Bob storms off, leaving A dumbstruck Lawler to stare blankly as the show takes an ad break. As always I love when Backlund is allowed to rant and his little kayfabe destroying outburst here was perhaps his best. More comedic gold from one of my favourite stars of the New Generation.
Bob “Spark Plug” Holly takes on surprise enhancement talent Chris C/Kanyon next in a cool little match that entertains despite it’s squash match status. Canyon is wearing some truly horrible ring attire with gold trunks and a purple single strap singlet. Canyon’s innovation is on display as Holly’s luxurious mullet is used against him with a swinging neckbreaker. Canyon even finds time to mock Holly’s gimmick with a little driving taunt but ultimately he is pinned after a top rope elbow from the racing driver.
After Todd Pettingill gives the first Royal Rumble report, revealing Pamela Anderson’s guest appearance and a baffling summer theme for a January Pay Per View. Other highlights are Dick Murdoch’s announcement for the Rumble match and a terrible promo from Diesel about his Rumble title defence against Bret Hart. Diesel rambles about colours for a while, even vaguely mockig Hart’s pink attire. Diesel’s title reign isn’t off to the best start it seems.
And now the match I’ve been dreading. I hated it last time so lord knows what I’ll make of the rematch between The Bushwhackers and Well Dunn. Dunn have their regular manager Harvey Whippleman in tow and the Bushwhackers have a new friend in Howard Finkel, here in full “Bushwhacker” garb and robbed of all dignity as him & the gruesome twosome bounce & stomp their way to the ring.
I may seem a bit hard on the Bushwhackers as I often on here profess my love for craptacular characters such as KWANG but that comes from nostalgia, even as a kid I hated the former sheepherders and that still carries through to this day. I always disliked how they always seemed to pose & stall instead of wrestle. Hogan could get away with that because he was after all Hulk freaking Hogan! the Bushwhackers were impossible for little me to enjoy so as a jaded, cynical 30-something their chances of becoming ironic favourites are non-existent I’m afraid. After some lame and clumsy action with both teams the comedy finish occurs as Steven Dunn tries a sunset flip on Butch, as the ref is distracted with a brawl between Timothy Well & Luke Harvey Whippleman reaches into the ring to ensure that a teetering Butch falls into the pin (in actuality Whippleman looks like he’s keeping Butch upright for the finish). Howard dashes over to save his friends, pulling Harvey down from the apron by the trousers, exposing Harv’s underwear for all to see & laugh at as off screen Butch pins Dunn to win the match. The faces pose & celebrate as the embarrassed heels leave with their tails between their legs as Vince (who of course found this all hilarious) chortles on commentary. Utterly wretched.
After a disturbing cutaway involving Mabel sitting on Santa Clause’s lap, Jim the Anvil Neidhart demolishes poor Nick Barberri easily submitting him with a camel clutch that makes Barberri hum-bell.
This signals the end of the show and the reveal that on the next episode, the last episode of 1994 the Undertaker will be on the show! Along with Tatanka facing the British Bulldog for what could be a very strong finish to the series.
This episode had awful matches but plenty of unintentional comedy throughout left me entertained by the antics of Bob Backlund’s “shoot” promo as unplanned as it was. McMahon’s displeasure is hilarious to hear and makes for an amazing highlight of this show and it does make for an entertaining trainwreck.
Thanks for reading