Subscribe to the podcast via: iTunes | RSS Feed | Email Newsletter
The Last Straw – As we touched upon last month, one of the concequences of Raw's somewhat abrupt move to two hours was that their short term taping schedule had been thrown out of whack. Having orginally planned, it seems, to tape three one hour shows the night after In Your House: Final Four before a tour of Europe, they instead had to crowbar in a taping at the Manhatten Center while much of the crew had already left. It also left them needing another two hour show – which was shot in Germany.
The show itself wasn't bad, if a little flat. They crowd a new European Champion off of a rather good main event between The British Bulldog and Owen Hart – while there was also a perplexing interview with Steve Austin that was perpetuated to being aired live, despite the fact the show was being presented sort of as live despite being in another country... all a bit odd. Things we're about to change, mind.
Piper In Control – So Roddy Piper has creative control... it's probably a good explanation as to why Piper was so well protected in his two matches against Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, Piper's reign on his own creative control meant that when WCW had plans for a bizarre three team, four wrestlers per team main event meant that Piper was in control of his own team.
The segment, which took up about 20 minutes on March 3rd, saw Piper lay down an open challenge to "six guys in the back", and he even backed his own ticket far enough to give the fans the opportunity to say yay or nay to the acts involved. Five nameless new acts come out one after another and for the first time since Piper arrived in WCW the act felt exposed, and it felt exposed FAST. Piper wrestled and boxed 15 minutes against a bunch of no-name guys (his friends) and the crowd just gave up quickly – really quickly. Eventually Piper settled on a couple of no-namers and, of all people, John fucking Tenta. The whole thing was a disaster and was quickly reversed the next week when Piper accepted the offer to team alongside the fit members of the Horsemen (Benoit, Jarrett and Steve McMichael). When Steve McMichael is preferred to your guys, your guys aint very good.
Raw Is War – With the formal move to two hours cemented at the end of February, the Raw after the European tour was a big step. With a sweep of a new entrance video, a giant video screen and an elevated entrance ramp Raw had switched almost jarringly from the past to the future in the course of two weeks. At the end of February they did a show from the Manhatten Center, this jump forward bought Raw into a format that looked very very similar to the setup that is still running 20 years later.
Spring Break – Speaking of a change in scenery – WCW went on Spring break for their second TV of the month to Panama City Beach – and they put the ring above a swimming pool, of course they did! To be fair, they showed great restraint – the only person to be thrown in the pool was Hardbody Harrison by Kevin Sullivan and Jacquelyn and it was well into the second hour. These shows were big money losers for WCW (well, in the sense they could've made a lot more playing an actual arena) but their willingness to do TV from unusual locations was one of the things making Nitro stand out so much.
How You Doin' At The See-Saws in Louisville, huh? - We had part one of the ECW "invasion" of Monday Night Raw in February, and on March 10th, they were back. After Sabu randomly charged through the ring, vaulting over the top rope and through a table convieniently placed on the outside, we got an in-ring "debate" between Paul Heyman and Jerry Lawler. The segment was listless, both men going back and forth and achieving very little before the decibelmetre went up a few bars as Heyman said "Oh, you wanna start shooting, do ya?" Before asking "How are you doing at the see-saws in Louisville?" In reference to Lawler's past legal troubles. Judging by the lack of crowd reaction, the reference flew over most people's heads, as did Lawler's jibe that Heyman was still living with his parents. The whole thing was a bit of a waste of time, save some nice build for Lawler vs Dreamer – like the pay per view they were promoting, both were happening with ECW.
Uncensored, Right? - The reversal of the Piper segment at Spring break wasn't even the most noteworthy thing of the segment. Piper got the mic and started throwing shots at Howard Stern, before then namedropping the WWF by name "they keep saying 'we've got no one-hip wrestlers' and they're right, you've got 'no-one; hip' wrestling for you". Piper namedropped Goldust and a few other things, all rather strange.
Rage In The Cage – WWF's bizarelly listless build to Wrestlemania culminated in a title match six days prior to the show that threatened to change the direction of the pay per view itself. Two years prior, if you'd have asked Vince McMahon what he thought of doing a WWF title match six days before Wrestlemania then he'd have probably laughed you out of the room – as it was two years and the start of the Monday Night Wars had changed a lot of things.
The cage match between Bret and Sid was pretty predictable, like every match on the newly formed "Raw is War" it had multiple interferences, that created a great visual of Bret, Sid, Undertaker and Austin all fighting atop the cage. In the end Undertaker slammed the door in Bret's face allowing Sid to escape.
What followed was much more memorable, Bret Hart snapping: "Frustrated isn't the God-damn word for it, this is BULLSHIT" as he shoved Vince McMahon to the mat. Bret went off on a tirade that would end up cementing his heel turn six days later.
Dissention In The Ranks – March was an odd month for the NWOW. They spent the pay per view at Uncensored fawning over Dennis Rodman, yet cracks were otherwise beginning to appear – and some of it was art imitating life. Towards the back end of the month, with Hogan off of television filming a movie, Eric Bischoff away and Scott Hall checking himself into drug rehab, the previously bullet-proof façade of the group was coming apart – exacerbated by issues backstage.
As for how it manifested itself on television, on the final Nitro in March there was a meeting backstage between Nash and the NWOW C-team (Wallstreet, Norton and Vincent), with clearly something awry. Wallstreet later walked out before a closing segment with a clearly pissed off Kevin Nash. Nash and Syxx interrupted the announcers before Nash claimed that Hogan and Bischoff were away with other things and that Hall was "dealing with things bigger than wrestling". But no matter what, Nash was here and he'd take on the world by himself.
Hitman Reloads - Bret's promo the week before Mania was the catalyst, but in many ways the promo he cut the day after Wrestlemania was more important. For the millions who didn't see the show (and judging by the buyrate, millions didn't) then it was important to ram home the point and put into context Bret's change in attitude. Bret got twenty minutes to do just that.
The promo in some ways was very good. Bret slowly stitched all of the puzzle pieces together, illustrating how time and time again he was either looked over, or screwed by other wrestlers or people in power, and how even in that time the audience had started to turn against him. How, in the match against Austin the previous night he'd won the match but still been booed. Bret had finally had enough, he was turning his back on the fans – but not all of them.
Instead, Bret's grievance had specifically to do with American fans. It was at this point the promos coherence started to fall down a little. The anti-American part was almost entirely necessary - as Dave Meltzer said, the difference between Bret's turn here and Hulk Hogan's turn in WCW the year prior, was that people still wanted to cheer Bret. So it was perhaps necessary, but felt incredibly crowbarred – Bret's stance that the fans booed him when he won at Mania wasn't even true – there was a big pop when he won the match. Fans booed when Bret walked away from a fight with ref Ken Shamrock afterwards. His anti-American stance, while somewhat credible, didn't feel all that strong either.
This lead to Shawn Michaels coming out. Michaels was back to his old self and kick starting a trend of increasingly real promos. Michaels' role, amonst everything else, was to ram home the anti-USA point: "You can either take it, or leave it" - although Shawn's line about the indifferent crowd reactions not bothering him was the most heel thing of the entire segment. Still, that was all a setup for Bret attacking Shawn's injured knee and doing the figure four around the ringpost spot he was already getting a ton of value out of. A memorable if flaky segment.