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Bret Decides – It was a hell of a story, with both the WWF and WCW convinced they had their man. WCW offered a three year deal worth somewhere in the region of $8-10m per year, the WWF offered Bret an unprecedented twenty-year deal worth around $11-14m. As for how this all played out on TV, on October 21st Bret cut a 12 minute in-ring promo (a marathon for the time) and said that while he had received a great offer from a "rival wrestling organisation" that he would be with the WWF forever.
Sting Doesn't – Having grown his hair out for a movie role, Sting had actually missed about 3-4 weeks of television filming said movie. Still, on October 21st he dropped by during a match involving the fake Sting. After putting the fake Stinger out in the Scorpion Deathlock he resisted the overtures of the NWO offer, saying they "probably can't afford the price tag" and "the only thing that's for sure about Sting is nothing's for sure". Sting, now with white and black facepaint (the inverse of the NWO) is still a "free agent".
"The Best Wrestler In the WWF" - A part of Bret's return was announcing that he had indeed accepted the challenge of Steve Austin, calling him "the best wrestler in the WWF today". A week later, Bret and Austin had a split screen interview with Bret at his home and Austin at the WWF studios. Austin tore Bret apart in a segment that was, in all likelihood, the most compelling thing on Raw in the three and a half year history of the show. Pissed off Austin was great. Forget King Of The Ring, this was the night Austin 3:16 was born.
The Old Double J – After he finally got his clearance through, Jeff Jarrett debuted on WCW Monday Nitro as a babyface and quickly found himself thrust into the spotlight. With Ric Flair sidelined for the rest of the year with impending surgery on a torn rotator cuff, and both Sting and Randy Savage having their own issues, WCW were very light on babyfaces to lead the charge against the NWO. Step in Jarrett, who twice on WCW television cut impassioned promos trying to unite WCW against Hulk Hogan and the group. Whether it'd work or not is another story.
The New Double J – A not-so-coincidental return for The Roadie (now going by the moniker "Jesse James") to basically continue the storyline that was abruptly stopped when Roadie and Jarrett left the WWF in July 1995. Still, with Jarrett now on the other side the segments (that also included another double J – Jim Johnston) showed up Jarrett for a fraud and called out his lack of signing ability. They're probably better than I've made them sound.
Miss Elizabeth – So... after a year pissing his money away, Miss Elizabeth cut a promo sat on the swing Randy built him, tearily saying she still had feelings for him. The segment scared the bejesus out of Savage, who solemnly walked off. The following week on October 21st, Eric Bischoff bought Savage out again, this time to show him some found footage of Hollywood Hogan on a movie set bullying Liz into creating a video to try and drag Savage in and get him off his game. As Savage said, "life is fragile".
Six Feet Under – We've saved special praise for Undertaker and Mankind because of their match/feud in the IYH: Buried Alive review, but it would be wrong to not also mention the excellent promos that aired in the Raw's leading up to the show. With a gravesite setup on a set, both took it in turns cutting eerie promos. Undertaker's flanked by a great musical underscore, Mankind by thundery weather and rain. Really good this.
Nasty-cised – Now, OK, I'm a bigger fan of the Nasty Boys than most, but it was a bit painful watching them walk out to their impending doom as they confronted the entire NWO mid-ring during the closing segment of the October 14th Nitro. While Knobbs had some complaints over the NWO contract they'd been offered it was pretty clear the whole thing was headed towards them getting beaten up. Which they duly did – it wasn't the first NWO segment that felt a bit stupid, and not everyone liked it (Flair, particularly). Still, the Nasties turned up on October 28th and cleaned house during a tag match. It wasn't the names we were expecting, but finally an opposition for the NWO was beginning to emerge.
Livewire – Now, OK, technically Livewire was a completely separate show that aired on Saturday mornings starting in October 1996, but a segment did creep onto Raw so I'll allow it. Livewire, in it's development, was meant to be a behind the scenes/studio phone-in show with a rotating presenter (Pettengil/Hendrix), Sunny and other guests including Vic Venum (Vince Russo making his first proper WWF TV appearance after a cameo in the Billionaire Ted skits earlier in the year). While you can also trace it back to the earliest interaction between Jim Cornette and Russo, they also loaded the first show with Vince McMahon, appearing as the owner of the WWF for perhaps the first time on television, rather than just an announcer. Anyway... the ratings blew and the show was quickly scaled back. What we did see on Raw was a segment with Ahmed Johnson in studio and Farooq on the phone – they had a quite a heated back and fourth and it was, compared to Raw for much of 1996, very compelling.
Spotlight – So the ending of Nitro on the 28th was a bit weird. They reshowed the Piper promo from the pay per view, but strangely enough not the bit that happened when it went off the air... otherwise, what was the point?! Anyhow, the show closed with an in-ring promo with Hogan surrounded otherwise by darkness. Now, I'm thinking... OK, something is going to happen here. But after a fairly flat promo, Hogan hands the belt to DiBiase then simply starts flexing to close out the show. A bizarre ending once for a Nitro, but when you watched the first Nitro of November – the same thing happened. They re-aired a big chunk of the Piper promo, then had another in-ring promo with Hogan. I actually had to double-check I wasn't watching a re-run.