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.
IT’S RAW VS NITRO TIME! This is a WCW exclusive review series but this week, we’re reviewing WCW Monday Nitro as well as WWF Monday Night RAW from November 4th 1996 as they go head-to-head. I will review both shows as they went down and then I will pick a winner and a loser! We’re changing it up for this week but there is a reason as to why we are watching RAW this week…
…this is the week where RAW actually moved its time slot to an hour earlier. They were head-to-head with Nitro’s second hour for years and remember, RAW was still a one hour show at this point. They were getting creamed by Nitro in the ratings during the second hour so they changed it up. The direct head-to-head competition between RAW and Nitro would happen during hour one instead.
I wonder if the idea was that previously, Nitro were destroying them because they had an hour advantage leading into the second hour clash with RAW. Therefore, the Nitro fans would either stay or switch over the channel and if they’re hooked enough they would stick around for the second hour. Alternatively, something big would be promoted for the second hour on Nitro so they would feel the need to stick around to see what it is rather than watch RAW.
So now with RAW starting at the same time as Nitro, perhaps it would convince some fans to watch RAW and then watch the second hour of Nitro once the big angles of RAW are done. There’s a lot of ratings stuff to consider when they got that time slot. They got the time slot and they wanted to start off with a big angle. As I will get into when I review the RAW review, they ended up producing one of the most controversial segments in wrestling history!
To read my review of the Nitro episode also from this week click on the link below:
Date: November 4th 1996
City: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler
I’ll do a bit of a recap as to the main storyline on RAW at this point. They did show a recap video themselves from last week where they showed Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret “The Hitman” Hart having a studio face-to-face confrontation and Sid and Shawn Michaels not being able to trust each other. What happened on this show is sort of a B Plot to the build for Austin vs Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1996.
A few weeks before this episode of RAW, Austin broke the ankle of Brian Pillman with a chair which coined the wrestling term “pillmainising” for when a wrestler breaks another wrestler’s leg/ankle in an angle. Pillman was initially aligned with Austin but after showing some favouritism towards Bret, Austin turned on him. Brian Pillman had an interview in his house scheduled for the November 4th 1996 edition of RAW which Austin had vowed to interrupt, promising to go to Pillman’s house and finish what he started.
I hope that pretty much gets everyone up to scene. If you’re new to the series, I’ve not been watching RAW regularly alongside Nitro so this is going off what I remember of the story and what they explained on RAW.
RAW started with a cut to WWF Interviewer Kevin Kelly who was outside of Brian Pillman’s home in Walton, Kentucky. He said he would be doing an interview with Brian Pillman. They mention again that Austin had threatened to show up to Brian Pillman’s home so Pillman’s children been sent to their grandparents but Pillman’s wife stayed by her husband’s side. I guess behind every great man is a great woman so kudos to his wife for staying at his side I guess!
The way the show was shot saw the matches being taped while Vince cut in to live feeds of what was going on with Pillman and Austin. It was very weird because there’s an incident where either Austin or Pillman’s livelihoods are at risk but they have these segments with Shawn Michaels and Sid where the wrestlers are completely oblivious to what was going on.
Goldust w/Marlena, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Curt Hennig and Crush vs “The Stalker” Barry Windham w/Rocky Maivia, Marc Mero and Mark Henry
I’m hoping I got everybody who was at ringside for this match when writing that heading explaining what the matc wash. There was literally everybody that was in the Survivor Series match between these two teams (as well as Mr Perfect and Marlena who were managers) out there supporting either Windham or Goldust. Jerry Lawler at one point left the announce booth to be with his team.
It is really understated but this match is very historic in its own right for having the first live WWF appearance of Rocky Maivia, who would later become The Rock. He was amongst a large crowd of men that surrounded the ring for this match.
Before we get into the match, what a weird heel stable heading into this Survivor Series the WWF had put together. Working together as a team was Goldust, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler and Crush! You have the creepy Jerry Lawler character who is into the women, you have the creepy Goldust character who is into anything that moves and you have Hunter Hearst Helmsley who was a high class snob. These guys are working together as part of a team? Quite a mismatch!
Goldust and Windham throw hands to start of the match. It is clearly from Windham’s alignment with guys like Rocky and Mark Henry that Windham was I guess the babyface with Goldust as the heel. Did the WWF not see a problem with Barry Windham, whose nickname was “the STALKER”, being a babyface?
Windham takes Goldust down with an arm drag. We get an update where Stone Cold phoned in to talk to Vince. Austin said this was all Pillman’s fault, taking this interview and he will strike down upon his ass with great vengeance.
Windham locked on the Figure Four Leg Lock. I think Marlena blew smoke in Windham’s face as she was smoking at ringside. Goldust was in worse condition in 1996 than he is in 2020. I honestly, on the day of me writing this review, watched Goldust in a tag title match with Kenny Omega and Hangman Page and his energy blew me away. Goldust in 1996 was a clear far cry to the worker he would eventually become.
Goldust got thrown outside but the babyfaces threw him back in the ring, despite this not officially being a lumberjack match. Windham hit a gutwrench suplex as Lawler came to ringside from the announce booth.
Goldust and Windham battled on the top rope, with Goldust doing a kiss to knock the Stalker down. The wrestlers suddenly fight on the outside and get into a big brawl. Crush gets into the ring and the referee threw out the match with a double disqualification. This match was best match of the show but it set the bar very low. I would not call this a decent match or anything. It was just… a match and everything else could only get worse.
The key spot was Rocky took out Crush and Goldust with the double crossbody from the top rope to turn the tide in the fight as the babyfaces cleared the ring. So yes, the intent was there very early to have Rocky break out as the new big star in the WWF.
They showed a great video package in black and white of Austin cutting a promo on Bret Hart. Austin vowed to kick Bret’s ass, saying Bret only left because he got beat by a “boy toy” in reference to Shawn Michaels. He reminded Bret that Austin ain’t a boy toy and Bret’s gonna fight a real man. My review of the video probably will not do this justice. This was a brilliant means to build up a big match for a big event. The big angle of this episode of RAW was obviously a memorable moment in wrestling television history but at the end of the day, it did nothing in terms of hyping up the big Steve Austin and Bret Hart Survivor Series match.
To the WWF’s credit, this video package did more in one minute than WCW had done in six weeks or so far to hype up Hollywood Hogan vs “Macho Man” Randy Savage for Halloween Havoc. At the very least, this demonstrates that the talent was there, like Austin. to be able to put together gritty rivalries to lead to promoting a big time PPV match. There was potential there at this point by the WWF to be able to build up a star like Austin.
Dok Hendrix was doing cut-ins during the show, doing things such things as hyping up the Survivor Series card. They showed a replay of Mankind cutting a promo on Undertaker. Mankind was at this time aligned with Paul Bearer and The Executioner…. what a stable! As crazy as it sounds, this stable seemed more of a fit together than the Goldust, Hunter and Lawler team for Survivor Series! Taker interrupted and presented a lowered down cage with a stuffed Paul Bearer hanging upside down from inside the cage.
Back to Pillman’s house. Kevin Kelly conducted his interview with Pillman, which is really giving Kelly too much credit. Kelly was sat there, asked one question and then Vince from the arena chimed in and completely steamrolled Kevin. Kevin, at this point, was just there to hold a microphone.
Pillman said he’s alive and well. He said he’s been in bitter feuds before and there’s a difference in business and private life and Austin crossed the line. Vince interrupted that Austin is in the neighbourhood. Pillman said Austin’s rage has blinded him. He said Steve was a dead man walking. Then comes the big moment: he said “When Austin 3:16 meets Pillman’s 9mm, he’s gonna blast his sorry ass straight to hell!” Yes, Pillman whipped out a gun, started acting manically and cocked his gun as everybody in the room freaks out. His wife’s hands are shaking behind. To say things went from 0 to 100 real quick is an understatement.
It was so strange to see how much this escalated. Pillman was just cutting a quiet and standard promo. It was like a backstage nWo segment where Hall, Nash and Hogan would be chilling out talking all quiet. Then Pillman started screaming and all of a sudden THERE’S A GUN ON LIVE TELEVISION! This feels very hokey watching it 20+ years later but this was a pretty big deal at the time. Never had guns been used in a wrestling angle like this and it stopped being a wrestling show for like a good part of this show.
They showed Marleena and Sid in battle of a game Karate Fighters. I guess there’s a tournament going on. Sid won the match.
They come back from the break and they showed Austin outside Pillman’s house whooping ass! The first thing we see is Austin fighting a bunch of guys outside of his house. I guess in storyline, they were Brian Pillman’s friends. I did laugh that we had all of these Karate Fighters tournaments and goofy angles as part of the “golden era” I guess of the WWF if you will and then Austin is beating up random dudes on the street! It was like one half of the show was WWF in the 1980s and the other half was the Attitude Era! It was such a drastic tone change.
Stone Cold just started beating up people. Ausitn tried to drown one of them. He threw around the dustbins. Austin squeezed another dude’s head with a car door. He wins the fight and yells at them to never mess with him. Austin calls out to Brian. The door is locked so he’s looking for ways to break into his house.
This is so crazy to write out in a wrestling review and I’m still somewhat confused as to who we as the viewer should be rooting for! Austin is fighting all odds and was being the usual Stone Cold that we all remember him as but he was on a mission to basically beat up a cripple! Am I missing something?
THEY CUT BACK TO THE ARENA for the next match as this big incident is going down. THINK ABOUT THIS. Austin was trying to kick Pillman’s arse. Pillman just pulled out a gun ON LIVE TELEVISION. They cut away from this to show this next match between the geeks Sultan and Pug? Remember when OJ Simpson was in the police chase and they literally stopped every football match just to show it? That’s how big of a deal that event was when a high profile personality like OJ Simpson was in a car chase!
Let’s take like a real life example like the Pillman/Austin angle. Let’s say UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov got attacked and his leg broken by Conor McGregor. Then they do a video interview and Conor has tweeted that he’s gonna finish what he started, so Khabib whipped out a gun. Well it would never come down to this in the first place for several reasons but let’s just pretend it got that far. Do you think during like an MMA show or whatever, the TV stations would not show all of this going down as a matter of public interest?
The idea that in storyline, Vince McMahon or whoever is kayfabe running the show thought Pug vs Sultan was more important than sticking with Pillman and Austin is the craziest thing to me. “Oh Austin is trying to break into another man’s house. But first, let’s see The Sultan vs The Pug on a taped wrestling show!” That’ll put butts in seats.
The Pug vs The Sultan W/Iron Sheik
Bob Backlund got in the ring and hyped up Sultan, who he said would bring us in the 21st century as the WWF Champion… he did not. I will concede that WCW’s Glacier looked way cooler than this Sultan guy so at least WCW had won the war of pathetic ninja characters! Sultan sweeps the legs a few times and then does a belly to back suplex. Sultan did back suplex, a backbreaker and the Camel Clutch to get the win. Absolute nothing match and a waste of time.
I wanted to write that Pillman was standing his ground but he was sat down so I guess he was sitting his ground! Pillman’s getting more and more agitated as Austin was about to burst through the door. Where the cops were when all of this was going down, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. Again, if this were real, it would never get to this point.
Austin finally broke in through a door, through the glass and let himself in. This is a bit of spoiler but this angle was completely dropped for next week’s RAW. However, the sound of the glass breaking as Austin arrived would then be incorporated into his wrestling theme song! I don’t think it was the exact recording from this angle but the glass shattering sound would soon debut as part of Austin’s theme song as he came out!
Pillman’s wife was screaming, Kevin Kelly was freaking out. Pillman has a crazed look in his eyes as he points the gun at Austin and before anything happens… they lose the feed as they go to the break. Therefore, we have no idea as to what actually happened and we would have to stay tuned to get updates as to what actually happened between Pillman and Austin.
I’ll leave my thoughts on the whole deal later on in the review but I do want to mention that there were a lot of other ideas that was thrown around that I guess were turned down by the network. The network pre-approved the angle but in the original script, Pillman’s wife was supposed to take a bump which would lead to Pillman inadvertently set off the gun. Pillman would not just be standing there pointing the gun at Austin sas he was. However, the network turned that down because man on woman violence was frowned upon on television at this time.
It’s weird because this was the genesis of the attitude era and yet, we got way more man on woman spots in wrestling in the last 10 years during the “PG Era” of WWE. Baron Corbin did an End of Days to Becky Lynch last year for god’s sake. However, the network had a problem with it here.
Jim Ross was in the ring apparently oblivious to what happened to Austin and Pillman. This was weird for me to figure out because JR acted like he has no idea what was going on, despite his best friend Austin vowing to beat up Pillman and Pillman having a gun on national television. With certain aspects of the show being taped, that’s all fine. However, JR himself mentioned the Pillman/Austin incident when he’s commentating Fake Razor Ramon’s match later.
JR brought out Sycho Sid and WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. As Shawn was coming out, they showed a little girl petrified in the front row right after a segment where Pillman pulled a gun on Austin. Vince casually just pointed out that this was a change of tone. You have silly karate fighters tournaments and goofy characters up and down this show and in the middle of this, Austin and Pillman have a confrontation where a gun is involved? Who was this show targeted towards at this time! It certainly wasn’t working with children. Reportedly, there was a massive shift in children tuning the channel to Nitro at this point of the show on November 4th. I wonder why?
JR conducted an interview between Michaels and Sid, who would fight for the title at Survivor Series. They show an episode of RAW April 3rd 1995 where Sid powerbombed Shawn over and over. Shawn acknowledged him as his best friend and that he forgive him for attacking him. Sid flat out said this was BULLSHIT. Sid yelled that Shawn was stupid. Shawn said he got him out the loony bin or something.
They showed a clip from last week where Sid elbowed Shawn in the back to which Sid claimed was a mistake. Sid apologised, Shawn accepted. The audio goes silent when Vince says we got footage from Cinnicanti and then says: “no we don’t.” Vince was very much doing a parody of Tony Schiavonie in WCW where I guess he had no idea what was going. It’s one thing if Tony doesn’t know what’s going on during a Live WCW Nitro. This was a TAPED RAW with the exception of the Austin/Pillman stuff.
Sid yelled he’s the favourite not just because of his size but his ability. Shawn says Sid is not in his league. Sid said Shawn was in the little league and vowed the belt will be around his waist. Shawn threw down the podium. Sid and HBK started pushing each other but when Jim Cornette with Vader, Owen Hart and British Bulldog arrived. The heels surrounded the two men. Jim yelled at them. Shawn fought Bulldog and Sid attacked Vader. Owen hit Sid with a chair, HBK makes the save and the heels bailed as Shawn grabbed the chair himself. Sid got up and thought Shawn hit him with the chair. They argued. The babyfaces whoop arse so more. HBK and Sid square off again as referees and officials pull them apart.
Considering that Sid was presented as this paranoid, crazy character, doing an angle with Sid thinking Shawn hit him with the chair is actually pretty clever actually! The babyfaces got a chance to beat up some heels and look strong heading into the title match. This was a fine segment… at least to me it was.
“The Wild Man” Marc Mero w/Sable vs Fake Razor Ramon w/Fake Diesel
These nicknames from 1996, The Wild Man, The Pug, The Sultan and on and on, are exactly like 2020. They couldn’t just call Marc Mero “Marc Mero” at this point, he had to be the WILD MAN. Barry Windham was “The Stalker” and we got characters like the Sultan and the Pug. God forbid we actually use people’s real life name on a wrestling show.
We got the arrivals of Fake Razor Ramon accompanied by Fake Diesel, who were introduced by heel Jim Ross into the WWF. These two came off as such geeks and I honestly have no good explanation as to why the WWF did this, other than to cash in on the Diesel and Razor Ramon trademarks.
You have Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as the biggest stars and the biggest names on Nitro, and in a move which basically promoted WCW Nitro, you’re gonna have knock off copies to remind the fans that the real Razor Ramon and Diesel are on a different show? It wasn’t even like these two were good versions of Razor and Diesel either. This Fake Razor who wrestled was awful. The man who played Fake Diesel ended up having a great career in the WWF but he was no Diesel at this point. These were two geeks playing dress-up.
Jim Ross joined commentary and he said Austin told him what he was gonna do but never told anybody. Isn’t JR an accessory to breaking and entering if he knew Austin was gonna invade Pillman’s house to kick his ass.? He knew Austin was gonna beat up an injured Pillman and said nothing? I got so lost as to what JR knew or didn’t know as part of this angle. I guess if Austin vowed to go down to Pillman’s house, everybody else knew so I guess everybody could have warned the police to arrest Stone Cold or put some measure in place to prevent this from happening.
Mero and Razor wrestled. WWF Director Kerwin Silfies called in. He said he doesn’t know what happened with Austin and Pillman. Everything went dead but he heard a couple of things that sounded like explosions and that everybody was spooked by what happened. Mero worked on the arm of Razor for a while. Kerwin phoned in again and said that the authorities aren’t there. Vince looses it and yells “why aren’t they there?” and Kerwin basically shrugs (without actually been shown to shrug) and said: “I dunno”. I have to imagine conversations like this happen all the time between Vince and the producers and writers of WWE television nowadays!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kerwin Silfies was actually a long time employee of the WWE but was also furloughed as part of the Covid-19 releases WWE (which I did discuss and you can find by clicking on this link). I think his name was the inspiration for the Kerwin White character portrayed by Chavo Guerrero in 2005, an angle which was dropped following the real life death of Chavo’s uncle Eddie Guerrero.
JR then had the audacity to blame Vince for what happened. Razor got the heat. Mero made a comeback, did a top rope dropkick. Mero did a top rope frankensteiner for a 2 count. Mr Perfect and Hunter Hearst Helmsley came down.
Mero did a Samoan Drop to this large man Razor as Perfect got on the apron. Hunter pushed Mero. Razor hit Razor’s Edge and won.
So they just mentioned Mero lost the Intercontinental title to Hunter. He’s just lost the title and he’s now on a losing streak, losing to fake Razor Ramon of all people. This just tells you the type of man Marc Mero was at this point. He was in WCW and pushed with a big angle involving Kimberly, a smoking hot woman, and pushed and presented as a big star. He was able to be himself and he had these great matches with DDP and Brian Pilllman ironically on WCW PPVs. Now, he’s just another guy on the WWF roster. He gave up this comfortable WCW life because he was uncomfortable doing an angle with DDP’s wife which is admirable enough but now he’s paying the price for it.
They show Pillman live as they are able to establish a connection. Pillman is trying to get up but his friends are pushing him down. Pillman is growling. They confirm nobody had been shot. Austin came back and Pillman yelled to let him go as he’s gonna kill that son of a bitch. Pillman swore in the original broadcast which was not bleeped and the network was apparently very unhappy with this! His wife is distraught. Pillman followed in pursuit and wobbles forward as they go off the air.
This is going to be crazy to write but thank god that the Brian Pillman angle happened for this episode of RAW. This is not to say that the Brian Pillman angle was good or saved the show but without that segment, this would have been one of the worst wrestling shows of all time. Every match was miserable on this show. I guess it didn’t matter because of what the big storyline was but this was an absolute miserable show when you think about what was going on during WCW Nitro.
WWF RAW was now going up against the first hour of WCW Nitro. What happened on the first hour of Nitro? Brad Armstrong wrestled Marcus Bagwell in a great match, DDP and Ice Train had a decent match, Chris Benoit and Hector Guerrero started wrestling each other just before the second hour and the Outsiders made an appearance as part of a hot wrestling show on TNT.
WWF’s response, other than the Brian Pillman angle, was to have a fake Razor Ramon, a Karate Fighters Tournament, The Sultan and The Pug as part of an absolute waste of a wrestling.
WCW Nitro won and the gap between these two wrestling shows was not even close. I’d say Nitro was a 1000 times better than RAW but I don’t even think that is mathematically correct. It surely had to have been more than that.
My closing thoughts will be regarding the big Brian Pillman/Stone Cold angle. If you want to find the true genesis of the Attitude Era, I think this show was that genesis. You can make the argument of the Austin 3:16 promo from King of the Ring 1996 being the true genesis but this was way more edgier than that promo. Austin’s promo on his own wouldn’t really have been enough on its own to completely change up the WWF format but this angle right here was the whole focus on this supposedly wrestling show.
With the change of time slot, Vince and the WWF had put everything into this angle as part of a big angle to take viewers away from Nitro. It didn’t work because Nitro crushed them in that first hour still. Not only that, this almost led to the cancellation of WWF Monday Night RAW.
Executives were MAD at the WWF for this angle because there was a gun involved and some executives called for RAW to be taken off the air. Fortunately for the WWF, RAW remained on the air and the Monday Night Wars raged on. This was such a risky move and this was the culmination of what was an insane 1996 for Brian Pillman.
The Armbar Express has been reviewing 1996 episodes of Nitro for about a year now so yes, we have been reviewing some of the “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman and his adventures on Nitro. He was a part of the Four Horsemen, he had an infamous feud with Kevin Sullivan where he dropped the “I respect you booker man” line. He left WCW and went to ECW where he tried to whip out his “Johnson” and piss in the ring? Then he went to the WWF and it led to this angle where Pillman pulled out a gun on live television.
This was not like this was the last segment Pillman ever did or anything in case you’re wondering. He was aligned with the Hart Foundation in 1997 and did a program with Goldust before he passed away in 1997. However, this was the year that defined Brian Pillman in professional wrestling. People will always remember the “booker man” line, people will remember Pillman in ECW (even if he didn’t wrestle a match) and this segment will live in infamy and will be the very first thing people associated with Brian Pillman. This was inadvertently one of the greatest inter-promotional character arcs of all time!
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)/May 6th 1996 (RAW)
- #35 – May 13th 1996
- WCW Slamboree 1996 – May 19th 1996
- #36 – May 20th 1996
- #37 – May 27th 1996
- #38 – June 3rd 1996
- #39 – June 10th 1996
- WCW The Great American Bash 1996 – June 16th 1996
- #40 – June 17th 1996
- #41 – June 24th 1996
- #42 – July 1st 1996
- WCW Bash At The Beach 1996 – July 7th 1996
- #43 – July 8th 1996
- #44 – July 15th 1996
- #45 – July 22nd 1996
- #46 – July 29th 1996
- #47 – August 5th 1996
- WCW Hog Wild 1996 – August 10th 1996
- #48 – August 12th 1996
- WCW Clash of the Champions #33 – Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair
- #49 – August 19th 1996
- #50 – August 26th 1996
- #51 – September 2nd 1996
- #52 – September 9th 1996
- WCW Fall Brawl 1996 – September 15th 1996
- #53 – September 16th 1996
- #54 – September 23rd 1996
- #55 – September 30th 1996
- #56 – October 7th 1996
- #57 – October 14th 1996
- #58 – October 21st 1996
- WCW Slim Jim’s Halloween Havoc 1996 – October 27th 1996
- #59 – October 28th 1996
- #60 – November 4th 1996