Let’s wind the clock back, folks. Let’s transport ourselves from this era and remind ourselves of what things were like fourteen years ago.
Ah, it was so very different. For it was the run-up to the Royal Rumble. Shawn Michaels was the favourite to win, and Bret Hart and William Shatner were about to appear on Raw.
Wait, hang on..........
Anyway, I thought it might be a little bit of fun for us to have a retro review of the last time William Shatner popped up for a guest appearance on Monday Night Raw, direct from The Summit in Houston, Texas.
A little backstory. Captain Kirk had appeared on a talk show segment known as the King’s Court, hosted by none other than Jerry Lawler. This, we should point out, was Lawler as a slimy heel, which is of course when he was at his best, and not being a sycophant who laughs along with Michael Cole every week.
Shatner was talking to the King to promote his new show “Tek Wars” which had a wrestling tie-in because.......well it had no relevance at all, except Tek Wars was to be shown on USA Network straight after Raw. That’s pretty much why that guy from Psych was on this week.
King was a little embarrassing in the sense that he had to say Tek Wars was great, but told Shatner that he must be really impressed to be in the ring with the King. Shatner told King off, and Vince on commentary laughed uproariously.
Shatner pulled an elementary wrist lock on King to shut him up, then as Lawler charged he monkey flipped him. I mean, it wasn’t like we were going to mix Shatner up with Rick Steamboat, but it was impressive, I guess. Bret Hart rushed the ring to raise Shatner’s arm, while Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie (Road Dogg/BG James) emerged to console Lawler. This set up the following week’s Raw match of Bret v Jarrett, which was taped that same evening.
So let’s jump to that week, but rather than delve straight into that feature match, I thought it’d be fun to see the other amazing offerings that the one hour, taped, unopposed Raw was doing in the pre-Nitro era.
We kick off with theme music I don’t remember at all. Just a generic beat and saxophone solo before we hear the music of the Heavenly Bodies in the background. Vince greets us and says it’s two weeks until the Superbowl, but the Royal Rumble is before that. He is joined by broadcast colleague......SHAWN MICHAELS?! Wow, I don’t remember Shawn doing much commentary, but then I guess at this point we in the UK only used to see highlights of Raw on WWF Mania hosted by Todd Pettengill every Saturday Morning. (We’d have Superstars that evening and Wrestling Challenge on the Sunday. Them’s were the days)
Shawn says that William Shatner better watch himself, because Double J might send him to a Galaxy Far Far Away. Who wants to tell him that was Star Wars, not Star Trek?
The Heavenly Bodies are facing 123 Kid and Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly, who had got to the finals of a tag team tournament to find new Tag Team Champions. The Bodies have Jim Cornette with them, and jump the “Cinderella team” as Vince calls them.
Vince is very high-pitched early on, and he and Shawn reflect on the fact that Kid and Holly beat Heavenly Bodies to advance in the tournament. Bodies dominate early on, but my thoughts are on the commentary duo, who not only play the old “heel v face” battle in order for each man to promote each team, but they actually talk solely about these two teams, the match, and the match at the Rumble for Kid and Holly against Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow. No mention of WWE.com (it probably didn’t exist, but you get my point) no plugs for other things on the show. Just proper focus by the commentators. It’s very effective.
After Holly gets killed for about six minutes, 123 comes in and starts fast. The Bodies double team him, go for a double suplex, but while he is in the air Bob Holly takes out Tom Pritchard, and the Kid nails a Northern Lights Suplex to beat Del Ray. Bammer, Tatanka and their manager Ted DiBiase, who have wandered to ringside, look on.
A really, really strong opening segment for its purpose. The match was no better than average, but it was the week before the Rumble and effectively sold the reasons to watch one of the matches on the show in under seven minutes.
Next we go backstage with Bret Hart and William Shatner. Vince asks Bret if he has “ring rust” to which Bret vigourously denies this, saying he is 100%. While he does so, Shatner continually butts in while Bret keeps talking, with statements like “I’ve seen him work”. Thanks, Bill.
Shawn then asks Shatner if he is watching Bret’s back, who is watching Shatner’s. Shatner replies that no-one needs to. That actually makes Bret look less tough than Shatner in a way. He then does a bad does a bad job of threatening The Roadie, calling him Roadkill, before the interview ends and Vine promises us the Monday Night Raw debut of Mantaur. I think he had had several matches on Superstars, though.
After a break, we get mooing, and Mantaur appearing along with Jim Cornette, who apparently was making his first appearance with the Cowman, because Vince sells shock at seeing Jimmy. Mantaur is facing a gentleman with too many consonants in his name.
Vince and Shawn now do stray away from the match, but it’s a little more understandable because they are trying to sell the Rumble match, in which Mantaur is entered. Shawn says it doesn’t matter if he draws number one, which is fortunate, because he did, and he won. Vince basically tells him he won’t win, and plugs The Action Zone. I’d forgotten that show.
Shawn says “a couple of nice wrestling moves......I guess.” As Mantaur just runs into his opponent, knocks him over, falls on him, and pins him.
We then head off to the Royal Rumble report with Todd Pettengill in front of a sunshine graphic. The Rumble was in Tampa that year, I believe. He checks in with Jarrett and the Roadie backstage at the arena for some reason, then gets on with his report.
He says about the Pay Per View that it is from the WWF, “The originator, not the imitator”, whatever that means. He reminds everyone that Pamela Anderson will be the ‘host’ to the Rumble, then talks about the main 30-man match, including a brief rundown of how the match works. They made the Rumble 30-minuntes that year because the talent roster sucked, basically.
Plugging other matches, he mentions Undertaker v IRS, and we get warbling Paul Bearer and Taker threatening Irwin in the usual manner, except the graphic behind them is of a seashore with the tide rolling in. Slightly juxtaposed images there.
Todd bigs up the “Cinderella Story” of 123 and Holly (he got the memo, then) and then says that Diesel v Bret will be awesome. It wasn’t, but it was pretty good until the booked the hell out of it. He concludes by saying that Jeff Jarrett will challenge Razor Ramon for the gold, then starts to ‘interview’ Jeff but is clearly just saying a scripted line and they cut it together in post. Actually, although it’s clearly manufactured and Double J says the usual thing, it is quite cool little exchange.
Onto the match, and we come back after a break with Jarrett in the ring and strutting to his music. Vince thanks the owner of the building for his hospitality, then weakly segues into talking about the match. HBK talks the match up, and indeed Bret’s popularity. The reaction is genuinely massive for him, which is interesting because they will have already seen him in the taping that evening. Bret was unbelievably over back then.
Jarrett stalls early in the match, as Vince speculates as to whether we’ll see Lawler during the match. The story of the match is basically whether Bret has “changed”. He’d been away since the previous Survivor Series when he lost to Bob Backlund and lost his title, and upon his return they had Bret occasionally flouting the rules and being more aggressive. Bret dominates the early stages while working on Jarrett’s arm.
Shawn on commentary, meanwhile, puts Bret over in spades, and alludes to being happy with the Hitman being Diesel. Jarrett gets on top and we got to a break.
On return Double J is on top, while Shatner cheerleads. Bret turns the tables, and Vince says that Shatner is offering “words of encouragement”. The only audible words we hear from Bill are “Take him down” while Jeff is flat on his back. Yeah, doesn’t Bones need you in Sick Bay or something, Kirky?
Bret’s fightback ends when Jarrett blocks the Sharpshooter, and after a little Roadie help, Jarrett has the advantage and locks in the figure 4, but Bret has the ropes. Shortly afterwards, Jarrett rolls Bret up, but is reversed, and Bret gets the three. Roadie comes in and meets a Shatner forearm, gets his head rammed into the turnbuckle and gets thrown over the top. Roadie must be a Romulan or something, Shatner hates him.
That it for that segment, but Raw is nowhere near finished. That’d be a sure-fire main event and closing segment now, but not in ‘95 it seems.
We get an ad break, then a recap of the tag tournament, including clips of Bam Bam and Tatanka beating the Headshrinkers, and Kid and Holly beating the Heavenly Bodies. Another break, and it’s the Kings Court will all of the Million Dollar Man’s Corporation. Hey, King never appeared at all in the Shatner/Bret/Jarrett deal.
DiBiase is announced as the CEO of the Corporation, and he says that for the “mongoloids” who don’t understand, that means Chief Executive Officer. Mongoloids? Really? Really? (/Miz)
By the way, the Corporation at this point appears to be Bam Bam, Tatanka, IRS and Bundy. This is when the Faction idea was very effective with the right leader.It still could be to be honest. DiBiase runs down the Undertaker, and explains why IRS will beat him. Then he praises Bam Bam and Tatanka, saying they’ll easily win the Tag Titles. “It’s a shoo-in” he says. (They lost). DiBiase also explains that his new champions will defend against the Smoking Gunns, who had vacated the title in the first place. Then he explains why Bundy will win the Rumble and go to Wrestlemania.
In five minutes, we got build up for three matches, including the Rumble, a manager putting his stable over, and a plug for a title match on the following week’s Raw. What more can you ask?
Big Mabel is out next, along with his rapping manager Oscar, in full purple babyface mode. For the uninitiated, Mabel is Viscera/Big Daddy V. Mabel squashes Lee Tobin, with the commentary drifting by now to Shawn talking about how awesome he is. Vince and Shawn interview Mabel post-match, with the big guy just generically saying he’ll win. Shawn asks why he’ll win, and Mabel starts talking about being the biggest and the baddest before being interrupted by Bundy. Mabel challenges him, and it’s into the ring they go.
Quick ad featuring Pam Anderson and hype for the Rumble, and we come to Shawn and Vince talking up the Rumble and next week’s Raw. Then a hype video for Diesel? Huh? What happened to Bundy and Mabel?
And that appears to be it. Interesting stuff. I’m not necessarily saying it was better or worse than the modern product. Some differences, some for the better and some for the worse, and fascinating to look at some of the guys who find themselves in prominent positions now (Nash, HBK, Jarrett, Hart, Shatner) and how they’ve developed. Also ought to be noted that this one hour show featured very few of the roster, especially the stars. Bret was wrestling, but IC champ Razor Ramon, top of the card act Lex Luger, The British Bulldog and WWF champ Diesel were all absent apart from mentions and clips. Shawn on commentary actually was a masterstroke for getting character over the week before the biggest night of his career at that point.
Hope you had some fun with this – looking forward to seeing Bret and Shatner again this week, and indeed the Rumble on Sunday.