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The Grand Wizard – October was a really weird month in the WWF. Even without the benefit of what would happen in Montreal, Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart was basically their biggest marquee match they could offer. If you were watching TV, however, you'd be forgiven for being less confident. With the pair both heels, it wasn't exactly easy to build a back and forth, but surely anything was better than what they actually did.
After the Nation of Domination's locker-room was torn apart and defaced with racist language. Both Bret Hart and Steve Austin, seemingly the two prime candidates in the eyes of Farooq, were accused of the act, and neither particularly denied it. Austin came out and stunnered Farooq, and Bret did his best "non-denial denial", saying that where he was from they treated everyone equally.
Now, I've got literally zero idea what they were trying to achieve with this, but I believe the innocent/sweet idea behind the whole thing was it was Shawn Michaels' group trying to stir the pot by being racists. But despite the WWF's desire never to pay this off, it was the line from Michaels that really underscored this whole thing. Michaels, referring to Bret and the other members of the Hart foundation, said: "The Grand Wizard and the rest of the KKK" - before Triple H said he'd heard they'd used the N word while doing it. I mean... fucking hell.
I mean... fucking hell – It may legitimately not have even been the most offensive thing that aired on TV in October for the WWF. This is not an attempt to make light of the death of Brian Pillman, which was very nicely observed at the start of both Raw and also briefly on Nitro and ECW Hardcore TV, but of what followed later in the evening. The WWF actively promoted an interview with Brian's widow, Melanie, live, less than 48 hours after his death.
Dave Meltzer, perhaps rightly, offered the people involved a pass given that people's mind make strange decisions in the aftermath of news like that, but surely someone backstage could've said "Vince, this is a dreadful idea". Nevertheless, the interview went out – it was somewhat harmless, Melanie spoke incredibly well in the circumstances, and besides Vince at one point basically saying "can you absolve us from any blame" (by trying to blame his personal issues on the wider genre of pro-sports), it was actually handled fairly well. But their decision to push it heavily throughout the show was particularly bad.
And that's my opinion – Jim Cornette managed to negotiate himself some air-time this month to talk about... whatever he damn well liked. And so he did, given a weekly 2-3 minute segment of him in a studio just talking about whatever he liked. And very few things were off limits, as the words "Eric Bischoff" and "WCW" made air on a WWF programme far more easily than they ever had previously. Although, to give the segments "credibility" (if you like) Cornette wasn't shy of critiquing the WWF product if he needed to.
It's a real weird packet of segments. On the second Raw of the month Cornette calls out Phil Mushnick, a writer at the New York Daily Post for a piece he wrote in the aftermath of the Pillman's death. Mushnick's piece was more a general piece looking at wrestling as a whole, but did make the point that in pro-wrestling, an athlete dying at 35 is an event so common people have come to ignore it. Cornette was basically saying that Mushnick had no right to exploit Pillman's death for his own gain. Oh no, only the WWF were allowed to do that.
Jeff Jarrett's Back – Seriously, is there a more bizarre career in wrestling than Jeff Jarrett's? Never mind what happened once TNA started. He started in the WWF, was pushed probably about as hard as you could be in a mid-card gimmick, then buggered off and joined WCW. In WCW, he was pushed about as hard as he could've been (even if at one point he felt like the NWO's biggest opponent), then became the chosen one as Ric Flair (in what must've been the most bizarre point in his career) basically became Jarrett's cheerleader. Only to amount to being a mid-carder. So after his contract expired he left.
And so he was back. But this wasn't "Double J" anymore – this was blazer wearing, serious toned Jeff Jarrett. Oh, and did I mention everyone was shooting these days. He beamoned his gimmick in the WWF ("you put me with a black man who couldn't speak the language"), and his lack of push in WCW. It was an odd promo that didn't really go anywhere. If anything, it was his second promo the following week – a sit down with JR – that was more effective. He pointed out the chasm in quality between WWF and WCW house shows (in WWF's favour, if that isn't clear) and how that he was a reliable and possibly cheap investment for Vince McMahon – as he was young and didn't do steriods. He also absolutely didn't have a building history of walking out on promotions that definitely wouldn't come into play in the near future.
That Is Kane – Kane debuted at the pay-per-view and, while nothing major happened since, it really is worth pointing out how much of a good job they were doing with him. The mask looked great, the red mood lighting was great and Kane was protected really well. If you want me to make a really strange comparison, I'd compare the debut few weeks of Kane with the debut few weeks of Goldberg in WCW. Both had an absolute 10/10 look, and both were protected to the hills. Excellent stuff.
Ric Flair is back – Not that, in the end, he ever really went away. Flair After being written off after Fall Brawl to go and have a face-lift (yes, really) it was predicted that he would be off for a couple of months, something that was underlined where Flair cut an impassioned promo over the telephone disbanding the Four Horsemen and telling the likes of Dallas Page and the Giant to “beat up the NWO, but leave a bit for me”. So imagine our surprise when Flair rocked up the first week in October on Nitro, cleared the ring of the NWO guys and then cut a great, impassioned promo in front of his hometown crowd in Minnesota. If anything, he’d come back too soon.
Stings, Stings Everywhere – We’ve spent the entire year with the announcers not having a clue about whether an invading Sting was the real one or not, so it was always going to be a “remember-where-you-were” moment when Tony Schiavone finally said, “hang on a minute”. Now, full disclosure, it was probably only when the third Sting walked out that Schiavone might have worked out something was up, but finally he had.
This was a great end to the final Nitro ahead of Halloween Havoc. During an NWO beatdown (what else) Sting appeared in the crowd. Then another one did. Then another one did. Then a couple appeared on the ramp way. Each in less convincing Sting outfits, each in less convincing Sting wigs. Each one got picked off by the NWO until one didn’t – but he was wearing a mask too. Bagwell punched him, “Sting” stood his ground, hit Bagwell with a slop drop, the wig (brilliantly) came off as he hit the ground, and then he removed the mask to reveal it was really him. Great moment, apparently a Hogan/Sullivan creation – real good.
Goldberg’s Jealous Of What? Maybe I just don’t get it, but why is Goldberg jealous of Steve McMichael. Mongo was a former Superbowl winner, Goldberg was a guy who was on the Atlanta Falcons roster at some point. It never really made an sense, particularly with Goldberg essentially being presented as a Steve Austin style face. But still, it was another bumper month for Goldberg, save his part in one of the most match finishes I’ve ever seen at the pay per view. Who’s next?
Tune In During Assault on Devil’s Island – I’m not saying it was a quiet month on WCW television, but the final Nitro of the month was literally dedicated to Hulk Hogan’s movie premiere the next night on network television. It was the subject of the opening segment, then was mentioned regularly through the next hour and a bit. Then in the final hour, they confirmed that Sting would be doing his contract signing with Hogan during a commercial of the movie. Which gave the announcers 50 more minutes to talk about like it was the biggest thing ever and I swear THEY NEVER STOPPED. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, Hogan vs Sting was WCW’s biggest drawing feud ever.