Welcome to the Retro Express. This is where we’re taking a stroll down memory lane at wrestling history. This post is part of an ongoing series where we’re reviewing every episode of WCW Nitro from start to finish. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this post. We hope you enjoy.
Welcome the first Retro Express review of WWF Monday Night RAW. This was dated May 6th 1996 and going up (not directly head-to-head) against WCW Monday Nitro. The review for that episode of Nitro can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
The reason for this review is because when reviewing the episode of Nitro mentioned earlier as part of the WCW Nitro series, I discussed that RAW CRUSHED Nitro in the ratings for May 6th 1996. It was something along the lines of 4.1 to 1.9 in the ratings despite Nitro putting on a decent show. Therefore, I felt the RAW show was worth a watch. What was so appealing about this episode of Monday Night RAW that it got a 4.1 rating? It is extremely rare for RAW nowadays to get anything close to that in 2019. RAW’s 25th anniversary averaged about 4.5 million viewers in 2018 but other than, I can’t think of many in the past 5 years that have come close to that number.
Yet this episode from 1996 got a 4.1 to Nitro’s 1.9. I’m pretty sure WCW Nitro running an hour earlier because of an NBA game that same day was a major factor in this. The only wrestling show on the go during wrestling prime time was RAW so I assume the majority of wrestling fans just all watched RAW when nothing else in terms of wrestling was on. How it would lead to Nitro getting a 1.9 rating stills baffles me.
It baffles me because this RAW didn’t even come close to being as good as that Nitro. I’m sure someone will say that it’s unfair to compare this RAW with this Nitro when I’ve only watched Nitros up until this point which is fair. However, I’m 90% certain that if I had watched the last 33 episodes of RAW heading this episode, Nitro would have still destroyed it in my eyes.
Right now, WCW’s biggest storylines (well before the nWo arrive) are that Ric Flair has driven Randy Savage crazy and Lex Luger is trying to earn the trust of his friend Sting. These storylines are very basic but executed very well. The storyline is easy to follow and everybody’s actions make sense. What is the WWF’s response to these storylines? Their WWF Champion Shawn Michaels is in a sex scandal and Goldust has lust in his eyes fo The Undertaker. I did not make that last one up. That is the storyline and when you read the review of what happened during the main-event, it’s mind-blowing anyone ever watched a WWF show again.
Let’s get cracking with this WWF RAW review…
Date: May 6th 1996
City: Sioux City, Iowa
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The opening video package was a small tribute to Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, who had died near that time as previously discussed during the WCW Nitro review. It didn’t feel as heart-felt as the WCW tribute but they were able to show some clips of The Crippler in action so at least the fans could get a glimpse of the man in action. Either way, they were both nice tributes to Ray Stevens.
1-2-3 Kid w/Ted DiBiase vs “Wild Man” Marc Mero w/Sable
Previously known as Johnny B Badd in WCW, Marc Mero was in the ring with 1-2-3 Kid in this opening match. “The more things change, the more they stay the same” has always been a quote I’ve associated with WWE formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation. Nothing represented that notion more than this match. It was structured almost exactly like every WWE television match in 2019. Babyface runs wild earlY, the heel gets the heat, goes for a sleeper HOLD, the babyface does the comeback and then they go to the finish. Pretty much that is exactly how this match went down.
“Wild Man” Marc Mero ran wild himself early on in the match and then went for a springboard splash but 1-2-3 Kid got the knees up. 1-2-3 Kid then went for a sleeper hold, jumping on the back of Mero and bringing him DOWN to the mat. He brought him down for a chin lock, kept on the chin lock, kept on the chin lock and kept on the chin lock for a long time.
One of the announcers talked about 1-2-3 Kid putting him to sleep while this match was in real life putting me to sleep. SPEAKING of the announcers, Vince and Jerry were joined by Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Hunter Hearst Helmsley would go on to achieve amazing things in the WWF but this man did one of the worst jobs I’ve ever seen as a guest commentator since Yoshitatsu did commentary for NJPW I believe.
Helmsley’s accent changed to an absurd degree during this match. The three very distinctive accents I got out of the guy was initially the worst English accent I’ve ever heard in my whole life, Hunter talking like his usual Triple H self and then sounding like he’d been hanging out with Rob Van Dam. This was all from a guy who I believe was supposed to be French when this gimmick started!
Helmsley bantered at the fans in the crowd. Mero tries to fight out of 1-2-3 Kid’s hold but they go back to the chin lock. They got to a commercial and when they come back, Mero starts doing his comeback! Questionable decisions with the timing of these commercials. We sat through about 30 minutes of 1-2-3 Kid locking in this chin lock and we come back from the break and they’re wrapping up the match! Mero fired back with a back drop, a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a double axe handle.
I do love that Mero threw 1-2-3 Kid over the top rope and Lawler said that should have been a DQ! A subtle dig at WCW for doing disqualification finishes for wrestlers throwing each other over the top rope. I will say that Jerry Lawler did a much cleverer and better delivered shot at the competition than Eric Bischoff has done in 34 episodes of Nitro. Every one of Bischoff’s shots at RAW (and there have been many so far in the series) just came off so uncool and Lawler just casually goes “that should be a DQ” and I very much appreciated it.
Mero does dive to the outside. Hunter helped 1-2-3 Kid up and as the Kid distracted the referee, Helmsley crotched Mero on the top rope. 1-2-3 Kid goes for a superplex but Mero reversed in with a mid-air crossbody for the pin as Helmsley lost his mind. A slow match with a decent finish in my eyes with the babyface overcoming the odds and getting the win.
They showed a clip from last week where Savio Vega challenged “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to a strap match. They show Ted DiBiase cutting a promo to accept, adding a condition that if Savio lost, he would becomes his chauffeur. I guess Austin was still with DiBiase as the Ringmaster. DiBiase is with WCW shortly as part of the nWo and Austin eventually won King of the Ring 1996 in June, which I’m guessing everyone reading this would know what that would lead to for Austin!
Let’s cut to the big “main-event program” for the WWF. There’s an affair angle going on where I guess Diana Smith, wife of the British Bulldog, was accusing WWF Champion Shawn Michaels of sexual assault. This led to a video featuring a woman obscured to protect her identity. They hid her face but made no attempt to change her voice to make sure she was not identified!
Anyway, it is said this woman was the wife of an wrestler. She said that Shawn Michaels was a homewrecker who ruined her marriage and she was going to tell us the truth about Shawn Michaels. She said her ex-husband was on the road a lot and Shawn knew about this. She claimed Shawn called her wanting to discuss a problem with this wrestler but then it was clear that all he wanted to do was talk about her. She admitted it was hot and he was so gorgeous. She said they went to bed together and it was the best she ever had. Most of these notes I made when watching the show were me writing word for word what this woman said. Some writer wanted this girl to say that Shawn Michaels was the best she ever had. This was the WWF’s idea to put over the top babyface of the company.
The woman talked about how Shawn told her how special she was which turned out to be a lie. She said the next time Shawn and her husband were in the ring, he lost because he knew what happened and it messed with his mind. The idea of the storyline to me, from merely watching this one episode, is that this woman was lying. I guess that was what they wanted to tell the fans as Shawn was the babyface. However, I love the idea that Shawn would have relations with this girl just to win a wrestling match! That is a fantastic heel plot in destroying a marriage just to win one wrestling match! She said Shawn never called again. She said Shawn didn’t need her and now she saw him doing this to someone else. He knew she couldn’t resist him and he ruined her.
All I could think was that some writer wrote all this down and told this woman to say all of this about Shawn Michaels. If they did this angle with Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns or whoever the top babyface is in 2019, it’d be a sure-fire heel move. Those two would never be cheered again. In 1996, this was their way to put Shawn Michaels over. I think it’s entirely possible Shawn Michaels wrote this whole speech himself! This woman is simultaneously trying to bury the character of this man but also rave about how hot he is and how irresistible he is. This was incredible. It was horrible but it was also incredible that this was a storyline from the wrestling promotion that WON the Monday Night Wars. This was… amazing to watch.
British Bulldog w/Diana Smith and Jim Cornette Vs Fatu
They showed a clip of Shawn cutting a promo on Diana from last week I think, telling her not to flatter herself. This led to a brawl between himself and Bulldog after Diana slapped him.
Now to this next match. Seeing Fatu, who would later become Rikishi, in this good of shape blew my mind. This guy looked in good shape compared to what he’d look like about 3-4 years later. He legitimately looked likely The Rock combined with Sonny Siaki. He was able to move around pretty fast in the ring too and was a good hand in the ring during this match.
Fatu got a USA chant going which I laughed at. He danced around as he worked on the Bulldog. Bulldog dropped Fatu on the top rope. Bulldog posed in the ring with press ups, a great-looking handstand flip and a parody of the HBK entrance.
Jim Cornette at ringside choked Fatu with the tennis racket as Bulldog took control. Fatu’d family members came out to watch the match who may have been The Samoan Gangsta Party.
Fatu got back into the match but as soon as he does, Bulldog pulls off a low blow. I assume Earl Hebner was distracted but they didn’t actually show it on-screen. Of all the replays they showed in the first match (and they showed a replay of a 1-2-3 Kid doing a dropkick for example) they didn’t show that important spot with Earl as part of the Fatu/Bulldog match.
Cornette stomped on Fatu on the outside. Bulldog missed a leg drop. Fatu ran wild and and they pulled off a sloppy back drop. Fatu hit a cutter which spiked Bulldog for a near fall. Bulldog accidentally knocked Cornette off the top rope. Bulldog pulled a big lariat turning Fatu inside out for the near fall, which I think Jerry Lawler bought as the finish. Bulldog hit the powerslam for the pin. This was an average match which picked up a little by the end but a lot of the stuff looked decent to me.
Fatu argued with his family and he talked about the WWF being his family which the nearby fans that picked up on this line loved. I actually loved that line and the way this was pulled off and Fatu’s delivery was very good.
“The Bodydonnas” Skip and Zip w/Sunny vs “Techno Team 2000” Travis and Troy in a non-title tag team match
Can you imagine that WCW had Lex Luger and Sting reigning as the WCW Tag Team Champions at this time in the wrestling. In response to this, three of the tag teams involved in the WWF tag title picture were the Bodydonnas, Techno Team 2000 and the New Rockers? The levels of star power in the tag team divisions of WWF and WCW were just incredibly different at this time!
Not a lot happened in the match but a lot of the tag team stuff they did were actually pulled off moderately well. There was a double hip toss from the Techno Team for the 2 count. The Techno Team did an elevated Stinger Splash for a 2 count which actually looked decent in execution.
Harvey Wippleman was shown making notes on the WWF refereeing according to the announcers. The Bodydonnas pulled off a decent double flapjack. They cut to The New Rockers cutting a shockingly bad interview during the match where they just mumbled on through about being The Rockers and… it sucked. Jerry Lawler mentioned that Marty Jarnetty said his new partner Leif Cassidy was a better partner than SHAWN MICHAELS ever was.
I was going to make a joke about this but then I actually looked up who Leif Cassidy was… it was AL SNOW. When I Googled this guy and then figured out it was Al Snow of all people, it absolutely stunned me. If you look at everything Al Snow has done in wrestling and still does today with Ohio Valley Wrestling, I think it is safe to say that even with “The New Rockers” Marty Jarnetty was still the Marty Jarnetty of the team!
Zip from the Bodydonnas did a Northern Lights suplex for a near fall. The Bodydonnas did a double suplex for the two count. Zip positioned himself like he was gonna do a moonsault and Jerry exclaimed that he was gonna do a moonsault but then he just fell down and hit his head. It did not look pretty.
Travis got the hot tag. In the middle of this, Jerry Lawler started talking about gas prices going up. Vince asked what that had to do with anything… and then they dropped that conversation. This was actual commentary during a wrestling match.
The Bodydonnas took control. Skip did a double axe handle to a floored Travis I think for the 3 count and for the win. Sunny was the best thing about this tag match by a country mile. There was not enough of her during this match. Everything else about this match was just there and unimpressive. There were some decently executed spots here and there but that’s about it.
Jim Ross interviewed Jim Cornette and Vader. They showed a clip of Vader pillmanising Yokozuna. Cornette cut a promo hyping up Vader and his match with Duke “The Dumpster” Droese next week. Not a lot to this other than Jim cutting a very-fast paced promo that acknowledged that Yokozuna was a top guy but Vader was that much better. I was fine with this promo.
Goldust came down to do commentary with Vince and Jerry. Goldust got uncomfortably close up to Vince’s face. He stroked Vince a little bit. Goldust then found out he was in a casket match with Undertaker and was all mad and then he sat back down.
The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer vs Owen Hart w/Jim Cornette
When I saw the match card for this episode of RAW, I actually got excited at the possibility of Undertaker vs Owen Hart. This is no disrespect to any of the wrestling credentials of either of those men but this was an absolute nothing match. I say this because their entire main-event match was secondary to the antics of Goldust on and off commentary.
Owen fired away to little effect and then Taker turned it around and ran wild with a frenzy with punches. Then after being scared out of his boots of the possibility of a casket match, Goldust then starts lusting for the Undertaker. Goldust’s commentary included him remarking about how Taker’s so tall and he wanted to touch him. He dropped the line of “look at the death in his face.” The storyline for possibly the second biggest angle in the WWF in early May 1996 was Goldust getting turned on by THE UNDERTAKER
Goldust talked about what he wanted to do with the urn. This was all happening during the main-event of RAW effectively unopposed in the hour they were in. Goldust then got up and… they cut to a commercial.
I assume this was taped because they cut to the commercial at the exact moment Goldust was going to do something and then we they come back, Goldust is near Paul Bearer. Goldust walked up to PAUL BEARER and tried to grab the urn. He tried to frisk Paul and Lawler flat out said Bearer had been goosed. I swear to you this all happened.
Owen worked on the leg of Taker and Owen did a top rope dropkick. The announcers tried to tell this story that Undertaker was vulnerable when Paul Bearer wasn’t there with the urn, which suggested to me the viewer that Owen Hart got heat by Goldust feeling up Paul Bearer on the outside!
Owen went for the sharpshooter but Taker grabbed the throat to bring himself up. Taker lifted Owen over the top rope and threw him out with a choke. It was effectively Darth Vader choking someone with the force and then pushing them back, except there was physical contact from the Dead Man.
Goldust tried to throw Owen back in the ring, getting a good grab of the tights as he attempted to do this. Taker did a HUGE jumping tombstone for the pin. It was like the tombstone from WrestleMania 26 where he jumped HIGH in the air with Michaels and came crashing down. It looked great.
Bearer brought out a casket and Goldust ran away to end the show.
This show did a 4.1 rating for Monday Night RAW against a 1.9 from Nitro. This was a horrendous show when compared to Nitro from May 6th 1996. I could think of possibly one Nitro that was worse than this episode of RAW but I’m sure even within the worst episodes of the Nitros I’ve reviewed so far, there were probably moments from those shows that were better than ANYTHING from this episode of RAW.
If there’s any solace from watching this episode of WWF Monday Night RAW… Nitro would go onto crush them for 83 weeks in the ratings war. If this was what turned the tide initially in the Monday Night Wars, then the WWF only had themselves to blame.
I also have to say one other thing since I know WWE always claims that WCW turned things around as they bought all of the stars from the WWF, portraying themselves as the underdogs I guess. Of course WCW had the money to hire big stars but the storytelling and the quality of the shows just didn’t compare when literally comparing their shows for one week.
This episode I think will be the last episode of Monday Night RAW we will be reviewing on the Armbar Express for a long time! Next up on the agenda for the Retro Express is WCW Monday Nitro from May 13th 1996 and then WCW Slamboree 1996.
WCW Nitro Reading Order
- #1 – September 4th 1995
- #2 – September 11th 1995
- WCW War Games 1995 – September 17th 1995
- #3 – September 18th 1995
- #4 – September 25th 1995
- #5 – October 2nd 1995
- #6 – October 9th 1995
- #7 – October 16th 1995
- #8 – October 23rd 1995
- WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 – October 29th 1995
- #9 – October 30th 1995
- #10 – November 6th 1995
- #11 – November 13th 1995
- #12 – November 20th 1995
- WCW World War III 1995 – November 26th 1995
- #13 – November 27th 1995
- #14 – December 4th 1995
- #15 – December 11th 1995
- #16 – December 18th 1995
- #17 – December 25th 1995
- WCW Starrcade 1995 – December 27th 1995
- #18 – January 1st 1996
- #19 – January 8th 1996
- #20 – January 15th 1996
- #21 – January 22nd 1996
- #22 – January 29th 1996
- #23 – February 5th 1996
- WCW Superbrawl VI – February 11th 1996
- #24 – February 12th 1996
- #25 – February 19th 1996
- #26 – February 26th 1996
- #27 – March 11th 1996
- #28 – March 18th 1996
- WCW Uncensored 1996 – March 24th 1996
- #29 – March 25th 1996
- #30 – April 1st 1996
- #31 – April 15th 1996
- #32 – April 22nd 1996
- #33 – April 29th 1996
- #34 – May 6th 1996 (Nitro)