January 15, 1996 - Monday Night Wars 18

Raw 143

  • Today’s episode starts with a short tribute to MLK followed by a new warning that tells us “The Following Program Contains Action of a Graphic Nature. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED”. Kind of a weird juxtaposition if you ask me.

  • The first match of the night is Marty Jannetty VS Owen Hart, which isn’t exactly a barn burner, but at least it’s a step up from the usual squash matches we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

  • Afterwards we get a Vader promo to get us excited for his appearance at the Royal Rumble. To me he just looks like a fat doofus without a nose, but maybe I’m wrong.

Seems like a fun guy.

Seems like a fun guy.

  • We follow this up with The Ringmaster (AKA Steve Austin) in his Raw debut match against a jobber named Matt Hardy who would go on to be the wrestler known as Matt Hardy. Hey, if it ain't broken... Typically, these debut matches are just a quick squash job to highlight one or two of the new guy’s moves, but Austin’s debut is much more exciting. He actually lets Matt get in a fair bit of offense and look pretty good himself. To cap it off, Austin wins the match with his mentor’s own submission hold, the Million Dollar Dream.

About as fun a debut as you can ask for at this point.

  • Throughout the episode, we get little pre-commercial bumpers featuring Sunny dressed (or undressed) provocatively and speaking in double entendres (“Do you realize we did it for almost an hour? Now that’s Raw!”). It’s interesting that Raw resorted to sex to try to beat Nitro. I guess it’s asking too much to just have good writing and wrestling.

  • Vince does an interview with Goldust and says, in regards to Goldust's advances on Razor Ramon, that he’s preying on the “homophobic fears of most men.” Goldust asks Vince if he’s got an extra microphone in his pocket, or if he’s just glad to see him. Jerry Lawler comments, “Goldust is here, he may be queer, get used to it.” I hate everything about this plot.

  • After the Undertaker/Isaac Yankem match that closes the show, we see backstage that Razor Ramon has found Goldust and begins viciously attacking him. Eventually the fight spills outside into the snow and Goldust manages to slip away into a car and drive off. It's so cool to end the show with a hate crime.

Nitro 20

  • Over on TNT, we’ve got Lex Luger opening the show up against Macho Man Randy Savage. Ok who cares, we’ve already seen this fight and totally expect Savage to win, right? Except that this time, Lex gets Savage in the Torture Rack and wins! Holy cow I did not see that coming. For a wrestler I don’t really care about, at least WCW is doing interesting things with him.

This is the most impressed I've ever been with Lex Luger.

This is the most impressed I've ever been with Lex Luger.

  • The next scheduled match is between The Taskmaster & Hugh Morrus VS Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman. However, both the entire Dungeon of Doom and all four Horsemen make their way down to the ring together. Like two mafia families, the two stables declare a truce right there in the ring. Arn Anderson says fighting would just be bad for business and wants to put an end to the feud before it starts. As a show of good faith, the Taskmaster says he’ll be lending the Giant to the Horsemen during the upcoming pay per view. However, he makes a point of re-stating that Brian Pillman is still a loose cannon and a liability. Brian starts to pop off at the mouth, but before he can get started, Arn slaps him in the face and shuts him up good. This single scene alone is better than everything on Raw. I’m totally invested in what’s going to happen to Brian as well as how these two heel teams will work together.

  • And if talking isn’t your thing, at the end of the next match between the debuting tag team Public Enemy and the American Males, Public Enemy sets up a table on top of another table before Rocco Rock front flips off the top turnbuckle, slamming Marcus Bagwell through both of them.

E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub!

Verdict: Raw is attempting to get viewers by showing scantily-clad women, slinging mud at their competition, and having a fan-favorite beat up someone for being gay. Nitro on the other hand just has good wrestling, compelling storytelling, and cool spots. For me, the choice is pretty clear cut.

Winner this week: Nitro

Score to date: Nitro 17, Raw 1

(Television Ratings: Raw - 2.4; Nitro - 3.5)