April 29, 1996 - Monday Night Wars 30

Raw 157

  • Since “In Your House” was last night, today’s episode is the one live Raw they seem to do on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, this episode is still kind of a clunker. That doesn’t bode well for the next three or four episodes of Raw.

  • The first match is Mankind VS Bart Gunn. I guess they’re just building up Mankind before he eventually takes on Undertaker, but I’m not super into this. Later in the show they do let him cut one of his bizarre promos though to a very uneasy Jim Ross, so at least they know that he needs to be on the mic more.

A face for radio.

A face for radio.

  • Following that is Stone Cold VS Scott Taylor with Savio Vega acting as guest commentator. This is another example of a future top guy that is still in the building phase. Right now though I just don’t see any reason to really care about Austin. He doesn’t really have a strong gimmick and, like Mankind, he needs to be given more mic time. This is definitely something WCW has gotten right. On Nitro, more often than not, Mean Gene will interview the wrestlers after the match, or they’ll just interrupt the broadcasters themselves. Noticeably absent though are nearly any backstage or pre-taped segments, for better or worse.

  • We then get a big confrontation between the British Bulldog, his wife Diana, and Jim Cornette on one side and Shawn Michaels on the other. Jim Cornette just goes off on Shawn for a couple minutes straight accusing him of trying to sleep with Diana. (Sidebar: Cornette’s arguably the best talker they’ve got so it’s good that WWF recognizes that.) Shawn’s response to these accusations is simply, “Mrs. Smith, please, with all due respect: don’t flatter yourself” which earns him a slap in the face from her. Shawn cheekily says that at least he knows who wears the pants in the Smith family and then promptly gets attacked by Davey Boy. Looks like we’re gearing up for an HBK/British Bulldog feud, however contrived it may be.

  • The last match of the night sees Ultimate Warrior destroying Isaac Yankem with absolutely no effort. Somehow the crowd still pops anyway when he wins. I assume he was brought back to compete with Hogan and Savage over on Nitro. All I know is that I hope when he leaves the company it’s by getting his butt kicked and not just fading away.

Although I guess we'd notice if this stopped happening.

Although I guess we'd notice if this stopped happening.

Nitro 33

  • Another thing Nitro does way more often than Raw is putting the titles on the line more often. Case in point, our first match is Sting and Luger defending against Harlem Heat. With Jimmy Hart providing a distraction, Sting and Luger are able to retain. It’s kind of interesting seeing the tag titles switch hands between multiple teams in the recent past, including Harlem Heat. It feels like it makes it a much more competitive division, especially since the current champs could totally have lost if it weren't for outside interference.

  • Right after that is another tag team match. I can’t imagine Raw ever doing that, partly due to their thin tag team roster. Nitro loves tag teams so much, they’ve even created a new one consisting of Scott Norton and a man I’m unfamiliar with named Ice Train. Together, they’re Fire and Ice. Sure why not. Having a better name isn’t going to help them against the Steiner Brothers tonight.

"Whoops, I guess we just made water. Well, back to the drawing board."

"Whoops, I guess we just made water. Well, back to the drawing board."

  • After a commercial break we jump right into a street fight already in progress between Lord Steven Regal and Fit Finlay taking place amongst several junked cars. They’re smashing each other through windows and ripping off bumpers and tires to use as weapons. It’s actually pretty awesome. It finally ends when Regal piledrives Fit Finlay on the roof of a Yugo.

  • The main event is Ric Flair defending the World Heavyweight Championship against the Giant. There’s been a lot of tension between the Four Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom, so this feels like the culmination of all that animosity. Flair eventually gets the Giant down on the mat long enough to slap the Figure Four on him, but the Giant reaches out and grabs Ric by the throat, causing him to break the hold. Flair’s throat firmly still in hand, The Giant lifts him bodily into the air and chokeslams him. For once, nobody comes to Flair’s aid. Not Arn, not Benoit, not Pillman, not Woman, not Miss Elizabeth, not anybody, and The Giant gets the pin and becomes the World Champion. I’m totally in shock. Nobody wins clean in WCW. Things are taking an exciting turn!

I was genuinely surprised.

Verdict: Raw doesn’t seem to be getting any traction. It’s only got a handful of interesting characters, of which an even smaller amount even get used regularly. Their other big problem is being so focused on Lawler and Vince’s commentary. We need to hear from the competitors more often. Nitro suffers from neither of those problems and pretty consistently makes big, cool things happen to boot.

Winner this week: Nitro

Score to date: Nitro 21, Raw 9

(Television Ratings: Raw - 2.9; Nitro - 2.1)