April 1, 1996 - Monday Night Wars 27

Raw 153

  • We’re live from San Bernardino, CA and hot off last night’s Wrestlemania 12. And what better way to kick off the show than with the debut of the absolutely deranged Mankind? His unfortunate victim is Bob Holly. What a great juxtaposition that really highlights the new direction WWF is starting to take. On the one side you have Bob Holly, a regular old blue collar guy that’s just here to wrassle and put on a good show. On the other side you have Mankind, a man with a face concealed by a leather mask who pulls his own hair out by the fistful and sacrifices his body to destroy his opponent while squealing and shoving his weird mandible claw down his opponent’s throat. After his victory, gentle piano music begins playing, which only serves to highlight how bizarre and grotesque Mankind is.

Yep, I'm fully onboard with Mankind.

Yep, I'm fully onboard with Mankind.

  • Also making his WWF debut is Wildman Marc Mero, who was known as Johnny B. Badd while working for WCW. It looks like he’s jumped ship and I already like him better. He’s dropped the frisbees and the confetti gun in favor of just being fast-paced and unpredictable. Looking on from the crowd is Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s escort Sable who seems to prefer the Wildman over the Blue Blood and leaves Hunter to escort Marc from the ring after his win. Hunter is absolutely beside himself at this turn of events, so we’re definitely in the beginning stages of a Wildman/Hunter Hearst Helmsley feud which I’m totally happy with.

  • Also, for what it’s worth, the Bodydonnas are now the Tag Team Champions somehow. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’d bet the actual non-kayfabe reason is so that we can get more screentime for Sunny to dance around in her skimpy tennis skirt. I see right through you, Vince.

  • The big result from last night’s Wrestlemania was the changing of the WWF World Championship from Bret Hart to Shawn Michaels when Shawn defeated the Hitman in sudden death overtime after a grueling hour long iron man match. Tonight he comes out to the ring for an interview with Vince to talk about how it feels to finally win the title after 12 years of hard work and what his plans are moving forward as the leader of the new generation. Honestly, putting the belt on HBK is such a good move because not only is he as good a wrestler as Bret, but his mic work is also leaps and bounds better. Hopefully we’ll start seeing the World Champ on Raw more often now.

It takes a special kind of sexy to pull off a trucker hat and chainmail look.

It takes a special kind of sexy to pull off a trucker hat and chainmail look.

  • The final match of the night is a bit of an odd one, as it’s the Undertaker VS Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw. Bradshaw looks really good here and puts up a good fight, but I mean, it’s the Undertaker. You’re just not going to win! Bradshaw takes a Tombstone Piledriver and it looks like it’s all over, but out of nowhere Mankind attacks Undertaker and begins choking him with his mandible just like he did to Bob Holly. Seems like we'll be getting a Mankind/Undertaker feud. Things are looking up for Raw!

Nitro 30

  • Over on Nitro, you’d think they’d be bringing out the big guns since they’re essentially competing with Wrestlemania as well as losing one of their top performers in Johnny B. Badd. Instead the program starts off in media res as we watch the Giant pummel Sting on the ramp. Apparently Sting and the Giant were (inexplicably) scheduled for a tag team match against Harlem Heat, but Jimmy Hart paid them off to no-show so that the Giant could just beat up Sting. The whole thing is such a whirlwind that it’s honestly a little disorienting.

  • To make up for this, the next match is very simple and easy to understand: a bunch of big guys will beat each other up. It’s a triangle match between the Steiner Brothers, the Road Warriors, and the Nasty Boys. There’s nothing fancy here, just a lot of beef being thrown around. However in one of the most clever and cool finishes I’ve seen yet, one of the guys from Public Enemy runs in dressed up as Brian Knobbs while the ref is distracted (and while the real Knobbs is outside the ring dealing with the other guy from Public Enemy) and deliberately eats a pin from Scott Steiner to cost the Nasty Boys the match. Of all the shenanigans that get pulled with finishes in WCW, this one I’m actually okay with.

Two Brian Knobbs for the price of one is still not really worth all that much.

Two Brian Knobbs for the price of one is still not really worth all that much.

  • The only other thing of note is that Luger now seems to have both the tag team title as well as the TV title. If memory serves, Johnny B. Badd was the TV Champ, but I guess him jumping ship necessitated that it be given to someone else. I assume the booking committee’s reasoning was, “Eh, screw it. Let’s just give it to Luger.”

Verdict: Every single thing on Raw this week mattered and had stakes to it. We started off with Mankind, showcased a WCW acquisition, had Shawn Michaels be charismatic for ten minutes, and then ended right back where we started with Mankind planting the seeds of a feud with the Undertaker. Meanwhile, Nitro is just all spectacle and no story. Raw takes the win this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Nitro kicks it into gear in response during the coming weeks.

Winner this week: Raw

Score to date: Nitro 19, Raw 8

(Television Ratings: Raw - 2.9; Nitro - 2.8)