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What Match? For match that WCW had been promoting for weeks as the “match of the decade” and even, occasionally, the “match of the century”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper was a match with big consequences. Not only did WCW never really tell their audience the title was on the line, both Hogan and indeed the entire NWO rocked up on Nitro the night after Starrcade and acted like nothing had ever happened. Sure, acting delusional isn’t the most strange thing for a heel to do, but can a match really be considered the “match of the century” if the heels could easily laugh off the result like it never happened?
The Almighty – Speaking of things that never happened, ten months ago Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had an in ring segment ahead of their Wrestlemania match where both talked about their respect for each other and how conditioning would be the key factor in their sixty minute match. The change in attitude of both guys in the two months prior to the last Raw of the year rendered the exchange almost laughable.
With everyone seemingly at the top of the WWF roster undergoing an attitude change, their exchange ten months later was a bit more spicy. Michaels gave Bret the queue to go first, Bret calls Shawn disrespectful for degrading the WWF Titie, before mocking Shawn for posing for Playgirl (“I don’t think girls read that magazine”). Shawn says that on the road, Bret is “NO role model”. The segment falls apart with appearances from Sid, Undertaker and Austin. But the touch-paper had been lit.
Divided We Stand – Things within the Four Horsemen haven’t been quite what they seem. With them seemingly on rotation with one away from Nitro every week, Chris Benoit getting close to Woman, the increasing influence of Debra McMichael on the group and Jeff Jarrett’s attempts to force his way into the group it was all happening. Keep an eye on this one as we role into 1997.
Well You Are, Aren’t You? – When the Goldust character debuted he quickly became a very controversial act within the WWF at a time when controversy wasn’t really a thing the WWF wanted to attract. As a result it all broke down and the Goldust character flattened out. Well, now Raw has a new edge and Goldust is going face they finally pushed that edge.
After the Karate Fighters tournament final (where Sable defeated Jerry Lawler) and Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Lawler went after Mero, Goldust came out to even up the numbers. It was left with him and Lawler, Lawler got the mic and said “Well, you are… aren’t you”… “I’m what?”… “You know… queer”. Goldust replied with an emphatic ‘no’ and an even more emphatic slap. Bizarre, to say the least.
A Fight Back? – I’ve been like a broken record with the NWO for months – it’s time for WCW to mount a fightback. While it was more like a ring-wide brawl, and while it did (somewhat preposterously) include a the turns of both Scott Norton and Big Bubba to the NWO, Nitro at the end of the 16th finished with the NWO, for once, not having the upper hand.
Firing Blanks – The Smoking Gunns have, forever, been a flat act. Which made the decision to have them appear at the conclusion of a barmy December 16th Raw in a singles match a bit bizarre. Still, there was a reason, as Bart stun gunned Billy who proceeded to collapse into a heap. A repeat of the excellent Shawn Michaels angle from 13 months prior… shame nobody cares about the Smoking Gunns.
Diamond Dallas Page – Watching the slow rise of Diamond Dallas Page has quietly been one of the most satisfying things about doing this project. His evolution from lower-card goof to rising mid-carder, shorn of wife Kimberley (on screen!) and Max Muscle has toughened up Page. His involvement this month was fairly minor, but a couple of important promos, including one where he left enough doubt about where his NWO/WCW allegiances lied.
A Change In Philosophy – Raw was no stranger to trying to deliver big name matches, mostly heavily promoted affairs that were flat, dreary matches that ended in no contests. So the decision, largely, to throw out Steve Austin vs Vader, two heels no less, early doors on Raw on the 16th was a big call. The match, by Raw standards, was a wild walking brawl that went to a no contest. A sign of things to come.
Benoit/Woman - Yes, we were always going to have to come to this storyline as part of the project. Still, we have to treat it at face value. Anyway... the Benoit/Woman storyling felt a bit weird because they never really explained to viewers that Woman was Nancy Sullivan, the wife of Kevin Sullivan, which meant when Benoit taunted Kevin about having his woman it didn't really make sense. Still, the storyline was out of kilter (in a good way) from the otherwise frenetic pace of the Nitro's so stood out as a result.
No Holds Barred – With Undertaker facing The Executioner at the pay per view, one big match they did promote on Raw for December 9th was a No Holds Barred Match between Undertaker and Mankind. By later standards it was quite a tame match but for the time was as memorable a Raw match as any in 1996. Undertaker picked up the clean win and then Executioner attacked him afterwards.
NWO Monday Nitro – The idea of NWO branded television had been rattling around for a while, and stories at the beginning of the month suggested that we were only a few on screen graphics away from the first hour of Nitro being NWO hour. Still, that never came to pass (even if we do have to sit through NWO Souled Out next month). Still, we did get Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall comandeering commentary on the second hour of December 2nd. "Why isn't there room for two promotions? NWO number one, WCW number two". "Yeah... and Japan can be number three, and ECW number four". "Who?". (Laughter). "You got three bucks on ya?". "The sweet thing is you can play bingo too". The NWO had long stopped any ambitions of being a heel act, they were just damn entertaining.