Wrestling in the Clinton Years: 300lbs of Thickly Muscled Beef in Perpetual Motion.

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Welcome one & all to the end! the final Raw episode of 1994 and the end of the first phase of Wrestling in the Clinton Years. I’ll be the first to admit it’s taken longer than I thought to get to this point but here we are, afterwards I’ll have more thoughts on the year overall and some things that stood out as especially good, surprisingly enjoyable and downright awful in a supplemental wrap up later, as well as the prerequisite thank you’s & pleasantries at the end but for now sit back, grab a beverage and prepare for 1994’s last stand.

WWF Raw, 26th December 1994

The show begins with Vince McMahon narrating hyping up the coming show and recapping the events of last week and Tatanka’s interference in the Lex Luger/IRS match before tonight’s collision between Tatanka and The British Bulldog. Also on the show WWF Champion Diesel will be the guest of Jerry Lawler in the King’s Court and for the first time in 3 months, The Undertaker will be in action on Raw. As a huge Undertaker fan I’m ecstatic that the Phenom is putting in an appearance at the tail end of the series, so too is one of my other favourites in Davey Boy Smith which is a breath of fresh air after the monotony and idiocy of last week with The Bushwhackers & Lex Luger.

After the video package Tatanka’s altered Million Dollar Corporation theme plays throughout the arena as he & manager Ted DiBiase make their way to ringside. Waiting for them in the aisle are McMahon & Shawn Michaels, again providing his insights as colour commentator. As DiBiase passes Shawn grabs him for a quick word as The Million Dollar Man promises that the Bulldog will receive “A full dose of the million dollar corporation” as the famous Raw title sequence plays.

Post titles, it’s time for Tatanka’s opponent, heralded by screaming red rocket fireworks, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. With new ring gear and hairstyle Bulldog looks like much more of a superstar it must be said at this point.

After Vince & Shawn reveal how little they know about Boxing Day the match begins as the two stocky opponents lock up and jostle & jockey for position until Bulldog traps Tatanka in a hammerlock. Tatanka scrabbles to the ropes soon after and Bulldog is soon forced to relinquish his grasp on the Native American. I reference to Tatanka’s wide frame Shawn amusingly refers to lifting Tatanka as akin to trying to lift “a wet safe” that manages to raise an eyebrow from Vince.

The two lock up once more and again Bulldog traps Tatanka in a hammerlock. Tatanka shrugs off Smith sending him bouncing off the ropes, Bulldog ducks under Tatanka’s attempt at a chop though and drops Tatanka with a hard shoulderblock. Davey then reverses an attempt at a hiptoss by Tatanka with one of his own.

“Tatanka [is] displaying molasses-like quickness” quips Michaels as a frustrated Tatanka seeks advice and respite from manager Ted DiBiase as Bulldog paces in an opposite corner. When Tatanka rejoins the action he is trapped in a side headlock by Bulldog and again he manages to shove Smith into the ropes and again he misses a clothesline as Davey runs underneath and after rebounding off the ropes leaps and wraps around Tatanka, taking him down to the mat in a crucifix that gains Davey a 2 count and an even more prestigious “What A Manoeuvre!” from Vince.

After kicking out Tatanka finally manages some offence, clubbing Smith across the back and beating him down. Picking Bulldog up Tatanka blasts his opponent with hard chops to the head and chest before whipping him to the ropes, dropping his head in preparation for a back bodydrop. Smith is too wise to this though and grabs Tatanka’s head, lifting him up for a very impressive stalling suplex. As his charge crashes to the canvas DiBiase looks disappointed and frustrated as he paces around the ring. Following the suplex Tatanka rolls out of the ring to recover after this and takes a long time getting back into the ring. His reticence is well-founded as Davey immediately assaults the Lumbee tribesman as soon as he reenters, rocking Tatanka with hard punches and a whip into the turnbuckle. Bulldog hoists a dazed Tatanka onto his shoulder in position to deliver his signature running powerslam but Tatanka has the presence of mind still to grab the nearby top rope where his flailings unbalance Smith, causing him to crumple under Tatanka’s weight into a sudden pinfall that gets a 2 count as the show reaches a commercial break (in actuality Smith just looks to fall backwards that does rob the sequence of some spontaneity).

After the ads we see that Tatanka is still on control of the match as he blasts Smith with a running knee to the gut that sends Bulldog spiralling into the air and crashing to the mat. Tatanka then begins to stomp Smith as he lays injured on the mat before picking Davey up, whipping him into the ropes and dropping him with a hard knife edge chop that gets another 2 count. The pace then slows as Tatanka traps Smith in a rear chinlock as the fans chant “Bulldog!”. Smith begins to fade as referee Tim White begins to raise his arms to check his ability to continue the match. Smith’s arm drops limply twice but just as it seems all is lost and White raises Smith’s arm for the third & final time and lets go, A sudden surge of adrenaline rushes through Bulldog and he fights his way to his feet and out of the hold. Davey runs at Tatanka, again dodging a chop and levelling his opponent with a flying body press for an awfully close near fall. Tatanka has a rush of adrenaline himself though and his powerful kickout sends Davey rolling out of the ring where he spends some time recuperating. He eventually returns to the ring but is soon slammed to the canvas by Tatanka who then climbs to the top rope.

As Tatanka leaps, Smith springs to his feet and catches Tatanka with a punch to the gut as he flies past him, sending him crumpling to the mat in pain. A snap suplex by Davey and a pair of clotheslines level Tatanka but as Davey hits the ropes for another lariat, the sneaky DiBiase pulls the top rope, and Bulldog is sent crashing to the arena floor once more. This causes Lex Luger to appear at ringside and tend to the fallen Brit before turning his attention to DiBiase, stalking him around the ring as Ted begs off. Tatanka aims to save his evil employer by leaping off the apron at Luger as he has his back to him. Lex is a graduate of the same anti air school it seems as he catches Tatanka in mid air with the same punch to the gut and Lex then begins to attack Tatanka, rolling him into the ring to continue his assault. Fellow corporation member Bam Bam Bigelow appears seemingly from nowhere to attack Luger and as a suddenly rejuvenated Bulldog joins the 4 man melee, the referee is forced to call for bell and abandon the match. As a small army of referees appear to calm the situation down, we are told by the ring announcer that both wrestlers have been disqualified and the match is a no contest.

Aside from the dumb ending (again Luger proves to be not only stupid, but a bad friend as he caused Davey the match) I really enjoyed this match. Both men wrestled at an entertaining pace and filled the match with some enjoyable moves & sequences. It did lack some thrills & spills but Bulldog is such a good babyface and him & Tatanka made for a great TV match that is a good high note to be the last featured match of the year.

Next, Todd Pettengill is back with another Royal Rumble report. The tropical theme of the January pay per view is still very odd to me even though I get the event taking place in Florida and having Pamela “Baywatch” Anderson as a celebrity guest many of the audience would have been experiencing cold winter temperatures at this point. Aside from my issues with the thematics of the Rumble the highlight is Bret Hart making his return to the Federation in a pre taped promo from his home. While wearing a lovely all denim ensemble (a “Canadian Tuxedo” so I’m led to believe) Bret earnestly (and rather blandly) promises to beat Diesel for the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble and it’s great to see “The Hitman” on this last WiTCY.

A strong theme running through this Raw is new arrivals, later another Hakushi hype vignette is shown but first Arkansas pig farmer Henry Godwinn makes his Raw debut, taking on Mark Khoury in a very slow and very boring squash match. Godwinn decimates Khoury for what seems like an age before Godwinn wins with a reverse DDT called “The Slop Drop”. Godwinn didn’t show me a lot of promise here. He’s a big guy sure but this is the land of the giants so he doesn’t look remarkable and his lame occupation gimmick is everything this period of WWE is vilified for. One could argue for Doink the clown as a talented grappler using mind games to unsettle opponents but a pig farmer in overalls, stained shirt and carrying a slop bucket? Jerry McDevitt would have a hard time defending this one. I also have a special hate for Godwinn’s atrocious theme, comprised of banjo picking and pig squeals that particularly offends my ears.

Next up is the King’s Court with Jerry Lawler’s special guest, WWF Champion Diesel. Lawler goes on and on at Diesel, berating the champion to his face about Bob Backlund, Bret Hart and in particular Shawn Michaels (subtly laying the groundwork for Wrestlemania) as Diesel stands stoic & silent, menacingly staring at Lawler & Michaels at the announce desk. Eventually Diesel has enough of Lawler’s tirade, snatching the microphone from Jerry and stealing King’s crown right off of his head. The champ then throws Lawler out of the ring to huge cheers and places the crown on his own head, looking utterly ridiculous as he poses and takes a seat on Lawler’s cheap throne to end the segment, the show breaking for commercials as he raises a gloved fist.

Time for a nice surprise for me, my ironic love of bargain basement Great Muta knock off KWANG is well documented as the Puerto Rican ninja takes on Rich Myers. KWANG treats us to both the Red and Green mist (one of my favourite gimmicks in wrestling) before easily finishing Myers off with his signature spin kick.

Vince then takes some time to speak to boxer Vinny Pazienza about his upcoming match with Roberto Duran. Vinny has better promo skills than most of the WWF roster as he hypes the match as be shadow boxes & skips but stumbles when he mistakenly refers to voodoo dolls as “Smash up dolls” and has to try the line again.

He’s “tougher than Tyson, more menacing than Seagal and faster than Van Damme” he’s Kama the extreme fighting machine and he has his very own vignette showing him training and beating up opponents to hype his impeding arrival in the Federation.

The former Papa Shango & future Godfather is also hilariously referred to as “300lbs of thickly muscled beef in perpetual motion” in what may be the best tag line of all time.

After an irate Ted DiBiase accepts a proposed tag match pitting Tatanka & Bam Bam Bigelow against Lex Luger and British Bulldog next week it’s time for the final match of the show and the last match of the series as The Undertaker returns to Raw to take on the Brooklyn Brawler.

Undertaker always cuts an impressive figure and here is no exception, his entrance still raising chills 20 years on. We’re treated to a fun callback to January and the second ever WiTCY article as Earl Hebner is handed the Urn by Paul Bearer to hold as be removes Undertaker’s coat. Once ready Undertaker begins to stalk Hebner as he holds the sacred vessel, Earl being surprised as he turns around to find the imposing Taker leering over him and quickly hands the urn back to Bearer before the monstrous Taker can harm him.

The theatrics & comedy over with, Brawler tries to get the upper hand right at the start, charging at Undertaker at the opening bell but all he is successful at is getting kicked in the face as Taker raises his foot and levels Brawler. It only gets worse for Mr Brawler from then on as he is utterly destroyed by the Phenom until he is finally put to rest with the Tombstone Piledriver to end the match in Undertaker’s favour. After the match IRS appears in the aisle with 2 hooded druids in tow and a staredown ensures between Undertaker, Bearer and the three villains as the show fades to black and ends.

What a great way to finish the year. Bulldog & Tatanka had a great match until Lex Luger ruined everything, KWANG gave me a gift of green mist as a goodbye and Undertaker made the last show memorable by his mere presence. It wasn’t all good, Henry Godwinn’s match was deathly dull but that couldn’t spoil my enjoyment of this episode that I can highly recommend.

So that was WWF Raw in 1994. Sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes downright diabolical but always noteworthy. As I ponder what direction to take Wrestling in the Clinton Years after this I just want to extend a huge thank you to anyone & everyone who has read, reblogged and retweeted the series and gave me the drive to keep going and finish the year. I hope I’ve managed to entertain you dear reader at some point and you’ll continue to support the series going forward whichever direction I choose to take it.

Until next time readers, thank you for reading.

Martin Dixon.

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