Something To Wrestle With – KING OF THE RING 1996
Air Date: 5/19/17
Recap by: Jeff Rush
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Notable Items (full Time Stamps at the end)
– Hall and Nash openly campaigned for Bret Hart to be the “third man” in the NWO.
– The Ultimate Warrior wore a baseball cap while in character on TV to avoid being hurt.
– After winning King Of The Ring 1997, Triple H would repeatedly break his crown to avoid having to wear it.
– Jake Roberts helped develop the Stone Cold Stunner.
– DDP once called Triple H and asked him not to use his Diamond Cutter.
– Mick Foley’s Mandible Claw was originated by the guy who inspired The Fugitive.
– Austin’s condition in the KOTR finals led to several minutes being shaved off the time of the match, but given to his promo afterward.
– Austin wrote the entire 3:16 promo.
– Vince did not understand the 3:16 gimmick and was opposed to the t-shirts.
– Aldo Montoya and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese once wrestled a 45-minute opening match to stall when the rest of the crew was running late.
– Psycho Sid was brought back as a “Plan C” after Ultimate Warrior departed and Bret Hart could not be persuaded to replace him.
– Tony Anthony was a real life plumber, which inspired the TL Hopper gimmick.
– Vince released Sean Waltman in 1996, knowing he would join the NWO.
What happened when… the World Wrestling Federation presented King Of The Ring 1996?
It’s spring of 1996. Hall and Nash showed up on Nitro in May, and the WWF filed suit against Ted Turner, WCW, and Eric Bischoff in June. Hulk Hogan would not become “the third man” for another month yet. At this time, there’s lots of speculation over who that person will be. Lex Luger and The British Bulldog are the names being floated the most, though Hall and Nash are said to be openly campaigning for Bret Hart.
WWF was concerned that Bret would make the jump at that time. Bret was enjoying some off time and had not yet committed to a new contract. He gave every indication he would, but he still had not.
Conrad speculates how different things would have played out had Hart joined the NWO in 1996. He speculates Hogan would’ve returned to the WWF. The Montreal Screwjob wouldn’t have happened, the Mr. McMahon character may not have happened.
Bruce adds that Austin, subsequently, may not have gotten over to the level he did. He says that while people point to Hall and Nash jumping to WCW as a turning point, the most pivotal moments in the Monday Night Wars were the heel turns of both Hogan and McMahon. Hogan’s joining the NWO turned the tide and McMahon’s turn saved the WWF’s ass and made the business what it is today.
The King Of The Ring PPV was very well received. Bruce agrees that it was worth stopping and watching during his prep for the podcast. The guys disagree on the best match. Bruce votes for the Michaels vs. Bulldog main event, Conrad goes with Undertaker vs. Mankind. The show took place in Milwaukee and sold out three weeks in advance, which Bruce says was a welcome occurrence.
In spite of all the other things taking place in the company at the time – Shawn as champ, Mankind recently debuting, Austin 3:16 on the verge of changing everything and still, the show began with a package focusing on the Jerry Lawler-Ultimate Warrior feud.
This brings Bruce to the subject of Ultimate Warrior wearing a baseball hat during an in-ring segment with Jerry Lawler. Warrior knew he’d be getting hit over the head by a framed painting as part of this angle and was afraid he would get cut and get glass in his hair, so he wore the hat to protect his head. That’s great for inside baseball, but what the fans saw was the Ultimate Warrior, a fierce, rugged fighter, highly feared and shredded, attired in war paint… with his hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing a WWF New Generation baseball cap. Again, this was not at some autograph signing, this was during Raw, in the ring, while confronting his opponent. It’s pretty f**king ridiculous.
Prior to the opening match, Owen Hart joined Vince and JR on commentary. He was filling in for Lawler who had a match on the show. Conrad points out that Owen was really hard on Jake Roberts specifically during his match, calling him out for being old and broken down.
Bruce says that was part of an angle. He talks about how crazy it is that the basis for the storyline was that Jake was in the twilight of his career, an old timer. He was only 41 years old. For perspective, Conrad notes that A.J. Styles will be turning 40 soon. Bruce counters that Jake has lived a lot harder than A.J., to which Conrad responds that A.J. has spent over a decade working for Dixie Carter.
We then talk about how over the top and goofy the set design and some of the props used on the show were – specifically the crown awarded to the winner. Bruce talks about how much Triple H hated the crown. He would “accidentally” break his constantly in order to avoid wearing it. The crown is ugly, its ridiculous, its terrible and Bruce can’t imagine anyone short of Jerry Lawler getting away with wearing it beyond 1976.
King Haku, counters Conrad.
Yeah, but that was a cool crown. Oh, and Savage wore it well, too. But beyond that, nobody.
A minute later, he remembers that Booker T killed it too.
Conrad watched this show with a friend who knew Austin won, but hadn’t seen the PPV. When the crown, scepter and cape were revealed on TV, the friend was extremely hopeful that Austin would be wearing the outfit later. Bruce said he knew that would never happen.
Talk moves to various logistics in the arena. Conrad notes the wooden chairs used for the audience in this show and comments that you don’t see those anymore. Bruce says it’s his understanding that, when running a show with an ice rink under the surface, the metal chairs transmit the cold temperature in a way the wooden ones don’t. His theory, not fact, though I buy it. The guardrails were gold for this show. Bruce notes they were the same rails, painted over for most shows.
Regarding signs in the audience, Bruce says confiscation has always been a thing. Anything anti-company or anti-babyface would be singled out. This was done to create an ambience and if it ran counter to what the company wanted to do, they didn’t want them showing up on TV. He says it’s usually a polite discussion where the person with the sign is asked nicely not to hold it up, whether they’re blocking people’s view or holding a sign bearing an offensive message. The times you hear about sign removal getting out of hand are usually an instance involving an overzealous security guard acting on his own.
The Free For All pre-show for KOTR ’96 featured The Bodydonnas vs. The Rockers. This was the “new” version of the Rockers, played by Marty Jannetty and Al Snow, known then as Leif Cassidy. The guys play coy, referring to Snow only by his birth name, Allen Sarvin, and making brief note of his recent arrest following being pulled over for a busted tail light. Anyway, more focus is put on the Bodydonnas replacement for their former manager, Sunny. Indie wrestler, Jimmy Shoulders, is playing the role of Cloudy. Bruce says this was designed to be the anti-Sunny, and was Vince’s idea. In the end, Cloudy kisses Leif, leaving him stunned and susceptible to a schoolboy from Skip for the win.
Steve Austin pins Marc Mero in just under 17 minutes in the opening match and first of two semifinal matches in the tournament. On commentary, Owen Hart was making smart-ass comments and remarks that would be considered inappropriate by today’s standards. Both guys agree he was hilarious. Bruce points out that the guys who run commentary for laughs in the back are usually pretty solid when you officially put them in the role. They didn’t use him more in this capacity, though, as they were getting miles out of him as a worker. Conrad says he could’ve seen Owen becoming the new Jerry Lawler if given an opportunity.
On the Raw leading up to King Of The Ring, just six days earlier, Austin defeated Savio Vega to advance. This was the match where he debuted the Stone Cold Stunner. It’s worth going back and checking out that moment. There’s no gut kick, just a stunner, super reminiscent of an “RKO out of nowhere.” In fact, Lawler even exclaims that this move came out of nowhere. In classic Vince-speak, McMahon states “what a maneuver!”
Bruce says that Jake Roberts and Michael Hayes helped Austin develop the finisher. Austin was a project of Jake’s at the time and, Bruce feels, was greatly responsible for Austin getting so over.
Conrad mentions Johnny Ace’s “Ace Crusher” and DDP’s “Diamond Cutter” as moves similar to the Stunner. He then includes a tidbit about Triple H wanting to use the Diamond Cutter and DDP calling him and asking him not to. No wonder Page got stuck with that lame Stalker gimmick upon entering WWE in 2002.
The guys go on to discuss various aspects of ring psychology for a moment. Austin bailed out of the ring and called a time out. Classic heel move, though Gorilla Monsoon taught us long ago that there are no time outs in professional wrestling. Next is the spot where a babyface gets a heel in the corner, stands on the second rope and delivers ten punches to the heel as the crowd counts along. Both guys hate this spot and think it makes no sense. Vince also hates it. Bruce says this, along with the spot where the babyface stands on the ring apron in a tag match and stomps his foot in an attempt to get the crowd worked up, are cheap moves that look like s**t and bury your opponent. I’ll admit, I never gave much thought to either of these things and have never been bothered by them. Huh.
Conrad talks about how awesome Austin was in ’96-’97, and how great he sold for his opponents. He asks Bruce when he knew Austin was the full package.
When Steve came in and was going around the horn working with Michaels, he says it was evident. He says Austin was a top guy when he came in; it just took some time to feed him to the audience.
Conrad points out that just one year previous, both Mero and Austin were in WCW and no one knew who Sable was, that wrestling was changing fast.
Austin got the pin on Mero using the Stunner. Bruce thought Mero was blown up five minutes into the match. He was underwhelmed by his performance here and just doesn’t think much of Mero’s in-ring work, even though he likes him as a person.
Austin was busted open by an errant kick to the mouth by Mero during this match. It required sixteen stitches. On the broadcast, they announced that Austin had been taken to a nearby medical facility. Bruce admits here that he was stitched up backstage. Before much consideration could be given to pulling Austin from the tournament based on this injury, Austin insisted on getting stitched up and going back out.
Next, Jake Roberts gave a promo prior to his match where he speaks in cryptic religious terms before talking about robbing a bank. Conrad points out that this is inconsistent as a message. This leads to talk of Jake’s newfound faith at the time and how it was received backstage. Bruce says he believes Jake was really trying to turn his life around, but that he was not practicing what he preached. The majority of people backstage felt this new persona was bulls**t.
Jake didn’t have the best reputation for caring for the snakes he was paired with on TV. The company relied on professional handlers to care for them.
Jake isn’t in great shape at this time. Both he and Vince agreed that he would wear a vest-like top to cover his girth. He also used six-inch lifts in his boots.
Jake defeated Triple H to get to this match against Vader. Bruce confirms this was done as punishment for the MSG Curtain Call that took place the previous month. Conrad points out that Hunter was not having the best year to this point, having previously lost to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania XII.
Roberts beats Vader by DQ for the win. Afterwards, Vader gave Jake a Vader Bomb, with the storyline being Jake was advancing to the finals with a rib injury.
Meltzer gave the match a quarter star. This brings us to Bruce’s Meltzer rant of the week:
“This coming from the guy that has done so many convincing mother f**king spots in his illustrious career as a great worker in the g*damn Tokyo Dome.”
Bruce has been mellowing a bit on Dave in the past month or so. It was nice to get a tiny outburst here that seemed to have a little everything.
We discuss briefly how the original idea was for Triple H to win the tournament and effectively launch his career. Instead, the honors went to Austin. There was never any thought to going with Vader as the winner. He was already lined up with Michaels heading towards SummerSlam.
We then move to a horrendous promo by Sunny and the Smoking Gunns. Bruce groans even as Conrad starts bringing it up. He says there was absolutely no chemistry between the three. It was so bad, that on the air, Vince says “I think they’re stalling”, which Bruce says is Vince-speak for “Wrap it up, pal!” Conrad says this is one of those instances where they could’ve used a script.
Next is a backstage interview with Cornette, Clarence Mason, Bulldog and Mr. Perfect. The tease is that Perfect is the referee in the main event and shouldn’t be hanging out in the heel locker room. More than any of this, though, Conrad brings the focus to Clarence Mason, who he says does absolutely nothing in this segment. Bruce doesn’t like to discuss money, but Conrad is able to deduce than Mason was paid at least $1,000 for this appearance.
Lawler is out next to get the crowd worked up prior to his match with Warrior. The Warrior has an intro with pyro, logo lights, etc. Conrad is clearly on a role here as he manages to get money talk out of Bruce for the second time in as many minutes. Bruce says this intro for Warrior cost $6,000 each time they did it. It sounds like he may just be f**king around though.
Warrior defeats Lawler in just under four minutes. The match ended with a shoulder block by Warrior. It sounds like a crap finish, and it was, but it was by design. “Lawler knew how to protect himself. Lawler wasn’t going to take that s**t.”
We then talk about Lawler’s great piledriver and others in the business who excel at them – Paul Orndorff, Terry Funk, Mick Foley. That brings us to…
Mankind vs. Undertaker
This was very early in Mankind’s run. Conrad feels this feud brought the best out of Undertaker. Bruce says Taker didn’t have to be a zombie character here and could grow as a worker since Mick was so good. The two were “great dancing partners.” Conrad loves this match.
At one point in this match, Vince credits Dr. Sam Sheppard with the mandible claw finisher that Mankind uses. (Fun Fact: Google “mandible claw” and the first thing you’ll see is Vince taking one.) Sheppard was a doctor accused of murdering his wife in 1954. He was found not guilty. He was destroyed, professionally, following the trial.
“What does one do when they can no longer practice in the medical field? You become a professional wrestler.”
Sheppard did so, and used the Mandible Claw as a finisher, explaining how when used correctly, it would paralyze your opponent.
Sam Sheppard was also the inspiration for the TV series and film, The Fugitive.
So the path is as follows:
Sam Sheppard, The Fugitive, Mandible Claw, Mick Foley. Fascinating.
Mankind defeats Undertaker in just under 18 minutes with the Mandible Claw. Fans were shocked by the finish. Meltzer astutely compares it to the Bret-Owen classic from WrestleMania X, where Owen, the heel, unexpectedly went over and it led to rematches that drew huge houses. Bruce says everyone was on board with this finish, no one more than the Undertaker. Taker felt it gave Mankind credibility as a future opponent.
Ahmed Johnson vs. Goldust is up next. Ahmed wins in fifteen and a half minutes “which is about fourteen minutes longer than any Ahmed Johnson match should be.”
During the match, Ahmed attempts a running dive over the top rope and misses completely. It looks as horrible as it sounds. Bruce says watching it back, it reminded him of the recent Randy Orton rant about “diving” on the indies. I’m pretty sure the dives Orton was insulting look quite a bit different from what we got here.
Bruce says this actually wasn’t a terrible match and that it’s a testament to Goldust’s ability that he could bust his a** and make something out of an Ahmed Johnson match.
Brian Pillman is out next, on crutches and in a boot, to do an interview with Jim Ross. He goes out of his way to run down Milwaukee then gets into some super off color territory discussing Jeffrey Dahmer and even mentioning rape at one point. Bruce says he was given a lot of leeway, that it was his gimmick. When Brian was live, he would push it as far as he could.
On his way to the back, Pillman and Austin pass one another and exchange a glance, foreshadowing things to come.
This brings us to the finals of the King Of The Ring Tournament – Jake Roberts vs. Steve Austin.
Austin wins in four and a half minutes, with the Stunner and the pin. The story of the match is that Roberts is working with damaged ribs. Ironically, it’s Austin who is actually working hurt, receiving sixteen stitches in the tongue and mouth earlier in the night.
Bruce thinks this match was probably originally scheduled for ten minutes but was cut short due to numerous factors, including Austin’s stitches. He says the thinking was to protect Austin and also give him a few extra minutes on his post match interview. It’s fascinating to think had Austin not been busted open earlier in the night, they might have been given more time for the match, thusly cutting into the time left for his post-match promo. That promo could have gone much differently if Austin was rushing through, trying to stay on time and wrap it up. Wow.
Not knowing at the time we’d just witnessed the christening of arguably the most popular wrestler in the history of American wrestling, as well as the turning point in a Monday Night War that WWF hadn’t even really started losing yet, Meltzer would write: “He did a strong post-match interview, knocking Roberts religion, and drinking problems.” On commentary, Jim Ross would say “this may only be the beginning for that young man.”
Prior to the show, Michael Hayes told Austin that Jake was going to cut a religious promo on him. Austin says his promo was unscripted and was in response to Roberts earlier promo. Bruce confirms that it was all 100% Austin’s words.
Vince Russo has taken credit for this promo over the years. Bruce says he had nothing to do with it. He says Steve asked beforehand if religion and drinking were acceptable territories to cross into with his promo and Bruce said go for it.
It was during this promo that Vince first started pushing the “Stone Cold” moniker. In response to Austin’s “3:16” line, Vince, on commentary, says “he is stone cold.” It’s clear they had an idea of where they were going with the character heading into things on this night.
Austin would give credit to Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction and Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers for his look.
The promo was closed with Austin’s “bottom line” phrase. Conrad points out that was likely the planned line, while the 3:16 was meant to be more of a one-off. Bruce agrees and says when they showed up to Raw the next night and saw Austin 3:16 signs all over the arena, they realized they had something. “Because Stone Cold Said So” became his close, but 3:16 became his brand.
Austin says the 3:16 shirt and design was his idea and that Vince didn’t get it and was slow to market it. Conrad points out that this sort of design was a departure from the norm at the time. Bruce confirms that Vince “absolutely hated” the 3:16 concept. He says, going back to the ’80s, the number one shirt was Hulkamania, and it simply said “Hulkamania.” Randy Savage was a pair of sunglasses. Vince felt that the babyface shirts should feature pictures of the babyfaces. Bruce’s argument was that you’ll get more people to buy the shirt f it doesn’t have an image of someone on it.
“A dude doesn’t want to wear another dude on his shirt.”
Bruce remembers the meeting in Vince’s office regarding Austin’s 3:16 shirt. He says he guaranteed people would buy it. Another pitch for a shirt that day was for Sid Vicious and was an image of his eyes. There was also a Mankind shirt, which was just an image of the Mankind mask, and one of Vader’s mask. “Heels don’t sell” was Vince’s reaction. He finally relented and agreed to try the 3:16 shirt.
We then move on to talk of scripted promos vs. unscripted. Austin wants to see the industry move back towards doing more unscripted promos. Conrad sites Billy Gunn’s disaster of an unscripted promo earlier in this show and says it’s a slippery slope. Bruce loves bullet points. He says give those to a guy before he goes out and the cream will rise to the top. He doesn’t think Billy would’ve been any better with a fully scripted promo at that point in his career. Had his character been fully fleshed out, he may have knocked it out of the park with an unscripted promo. Austin pulled off his unscripted promo on the same show because it was his words, he felt it, and it was natural to him.
In the main event, Shawn Michaels defeats the British Bulldog in about 26:30. Mr. Perfect has been reassigned to outside referee and Earl Hebner is working inside. Conrad says tension has been teased between Michaels and Perfect throughout the build for this match but that nothing ends up happening. What was the idea? Bruce says it was all about planting seeds and to remind newer fans of the Mr. Perfect character. Everyone knows the fix is in, but then it isn’t.
The match itself is good, with lots of near falls towards the end, leading to a ref bump. Eventually, Shawn gets the win and then a melee breaks out. Owen and Bulldog jump Shawn. Then Vader joins in. He stalls seemingly forever while climbing to the top rope in order to deliver a splash on Michaels. This is because he’s waiting for Warrior to make his arrival. Ahmed Johnson is also in the mix.
Bruce got a kick out of watching Shawn hug Warrior at the end. He felt it was clearly disingenuous and that Michaels looked as if he “didn’t want to get any Warrior on him.” He knew he had to hug him, though, since he was a babyface.
Conrad says watching these three celebrate was reminiscent of the Sesame Street game “which one of these is not like the other?”
Bruce, hypothetically, in a three-way match between Marc Mero, Ahmed Johnson and the Ultimate Warrior, who do you got? “The referee.”
The week following the PPV, the wrestlers had problems getting from Madison, WI to Louisville, KY. This was due to a flight delay or cancellation. As a result, Aldo Montoya and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese had to stall for 45 minutes, with Duke turning heel in the opening match and then Montoya going over in a second match before the rest of the crew arrived.
Bruce says this stuff would just come up sometime. As a matter of fact, he dealt with this in his very first match as referee at the age of 16 in Bryan, TX. There was another show happening nearby and they were doing double shots with a split crew. The only two wrestlers in the dressing room were the guys in the main event that night – Gino Hernandez and Jose Lothario. Bruce worked it with them and they went 40 minutes to start the show waiting for everyone else to arrive.
KOTR was Ultimate Warrior’s last PPV with the company. He had been estranged from his father since the age of three but would blame a handful of no-shows on his father’s passing. Two of the no-shows happened prior to the death of his father. Everyone begins panicking that he may actually be preparing to jump to WCW, but he has 14 months left on his contract. Bruce doesn’t feel he was no-showing in order to be released from his contract, just that he was making a power play in an attempt to hold WWF for more money. Again.
They called Bret at this point to fill in some dates for Warrior. Bret is not under contract at this time and declines the offer. With Hall and Nash having just jumped to WCW, Bruce says he was not happy with their inability to nail down Warrior or Bret at this time. Plan C was to hire Psycho Sid as a babyface. When you stop to think Sid would go on to main event the following year’s WrestleMania, you have to wonder how much of that stemmed from him bailing the company out at this point. He certainly had them over the barrel.
On July 8, acting commissioner Gorilla Monsoon would announce Warrior’s suspension to the fans, saying no wrestler was above missing his scheduled appearances. He also stated Warrior would be welcome back if he posted an appearance bond. Bruce says such bonds were commonplace back in the day, particularly when champions were traveling to other territories. One example is Paul Boesch having Harley Race put up a bond after he’d no-showed events twice before. I feel like that makes a lot of sense given those circumstances. It’s a little crazier in the context of Warrior-WWF. And it wasn’t just storyline. Gorilla was openly airing an actual conflict between Vince and Warrior, under the pretense of it being a storyline. Just weird.
Bruce says Warrior said he wanted to come back and would do whatever it takes. Vince said he no longer trusted him. The appearance bond is reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $250K.
The Warrior blew up on McMahon on June 28 after he saw “Always Believe” used as a WWF slogan at a trade show. He felt the slogan was his and that he should be compensated for it. From there, Warrior did a Q&A at a comic book convention in San Diego. He carries on as though everything is fine. Monday on Raw, Vince says they’ve had a dialogue with the Warrior’s lawyers. Warrior posted an online message saying he missed the shows due to the death of his father. He goes on to say “if resolving my personal issues and protecting the way I chose to believe puts me in the WWF doghouse, as stated on their money making 1-900 line, then so be it. Bow wow and kiss my ass. Always believe.”
Bruce knew it was over when Vince told him to show up or he would no longer be a part of the company, and he didn’t show up. It was too much bulls**t too soon into their new working relationship and Vince had reached his boiling point and was done.
We then get into new signings by the WWF at this point. Barry Windham came in as The Stalker. Brian Pillman and Ron Simmons had also just signed. When prompted, Bruce says the company probably had higher expectations for Simmons. Bruce said he went through years of BS trying to get him signed. Every year on the anniversary of Ron’s 60-day window, Bruce would call him.
“Hey Ron, it’s Bruce. How we looking, buddy? Ready to make a move? Can we talk?”
“I think I’m going to stay where I am.”
And then finally one day…
“Damn, Bruce. I’m ready to talk.”
Vince and Bruce were on a plane to Atlanta shortly thereafter.
The company wanted to repackage several wrestlers with new gimmicks. Among them were Jim Neidhart, Tony Anthony, Tracy Smothers, Alex Porteau, Tom Brandi and Bill Irwin. These new gimmicks included Freddy Joe Floyd, T.L. Hopper, The Pug, Sal Sincere, and The Goon. Ugh.
Bruce says the idea was to build up enhancement talent. Tony Anthony was actually a plumber in real life, which got him the T.L. Hopper gimmick.
We then shift gears to Sean Waltman. As crazy as it seems, he was released shortly after the NWO angle had begun. Bruce says, although they knew he would join his buddies in WCW, he wasn’t seen as a top guy or that great of a loss. He was also more trouble than he was worth at that point. Vince was happy not to have the headache.
Louie Spicolli was also given his outright release at this time. Louie had already had a start date worked out with ECW, so he knew this was coming. Bruce says Louie wasn’t willing to take care of his drinking and drug issues so they had to part ways.
It was around this time reports of Olympic weightlifter Mark Henry being sponsored by the WWF began to surface. It was considered a given he would eventually sign with the company. A story in the LA Times quoted Henry as saying “the WWF is more honest competition than Olympic lifting because of the WWF’s steroid policy.” Hmm.
Mark Henry’s manager and trainer, Terry Todd, had done an article for Sports Illustrated about Andre the Giant. That put him in touch with Vince and the two remained in touch. Vince is already obsessed with strongmen, so it didn’t hurt for him to see a clip of Henry dunking a basketball. The athleticism put him over the edge.
The WWF talked with Dale Torborg briefly about having him come in. It didn’t work out, and he went on to become the KISS Demon in WCW instead.
The British Bulldog had given his 90-day notice roughly one month prior to KOTR. He then met with Vince, telling him he had a big money offer on the table from WCW. Vince had begun offering 5-year deals to various guys in an attempt to avoid losing them to the competition. Bulldog and the Hart family had taken issue with the way his wife had been portrayed during the Shawn Michaels feud and WWF brass was concerned they would lose him. Bruce says they were concerned about everybody. They wanted everyone on long-term deals. Bulldog had indicated to them that he wasn’t going anywhere. Conrad mentions that Kevin Nash once said as much in front of the WWF locker room before leaving, so you can only believe so much. Bulldog did end up resigning with WWF.
On the WWF hotline, Vince stated that he expected Jeff Jarrett to make the jump and join Hall and Nash. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s crazy to see how worked up everyone was getting about guys leaving for the competition when they would eventually come back and end up in less than stellar positions in WWF. Anyone remember Hardcore Bulldog in 2000? Yikes.
Speculation about who the third man to join the NWO is rampant at this point. Hall and Nash want Bret (which is also funny, looking back on how Bret’s actual WCW career played out), Lex Luger was the original plan and now there’s a ton of other names in the mix. Conrad asks Bruce when he knew it would be Hogan. Bruce admits it wasn’t until he walked out at Bash At The Beach.
12. Vince pumps King Of The Ring. (“In Milwaukee at the Meccaaaaa… In June.”)
11. Vince sells Vader-brand detergent. (“…Or are [your clothes] Vader Stinky?”)
10. Jake Roberts is welcomed to the stage at a Gentleman’s club. (“Stage 2, Yolanda, you are next.”)
9. Vince’s take on Mick Foley’s attractiveness. (‘He’s hideous!”)
8. Vince wants Stone Cold to dress like a king. (“G*d*mn, pal, you look REGAL!”)
7. Vince admires Mark Henry (“Look at the athleticism on that big bastard!”)
6. Johnny Ace delineates the difference between the Ace Crusher and the Stunner. (“Mine was in Japan.”)
5. Cornette is pissed at Vader. (“I had g*d*mn Kraft macaroni and cheese spaghetti dinner tonight. I’m gonna throw it up all over your stank ass gloves.”)
4. Pat Patterson stitches up Austin (“Alittle bitta suppa glue, go back oudder, you be a fin-a”)
3. Macho Man says tough it out. (“You don’t wanna be hit, go work with Hogan again.”)
2. Vince tries out X-Ray glasses “Bring that coffee to me. Oh yeah, baby – GET OUT OF MY OFFICE, HOWARD! What the hell are you doing in here? G*d*mnit.”)
1. Ahmed Johnson counts to three. (indecipherable)
Rating – 9/10
I never expect an episode of Something To Wrestle With to suck. I’ve yet to hear one, for that matter, that I didn’t learn something from or that I would not recommend anyone listen to. In some way or another, every episode is worth checking out. It’s just some can reach the “when you get to it” level, while other’s are must listens. I assumed a show-specific episode set in the mid-90’s, the setting of so many recent episodes, would be more of a “when you get to it” type-show. I was pleasantly surprised to find this show far more in the realm of a must listen.
It was really awesome to hear what was going on in WWF during a time when everyone was on edge about losing talent to WCW. It was also interesting to see how much the company valued certain talent when they feared losing them to competition versus how they would view those same individuals a few years later when they no longer had to worry about WCW. The value of both the British Bulldog and Jeff Jarrett changed dramatically in the post-Monday Night War era. This helps serve as such a poignant reminder of how much we miss Vince McMahon being forced to compete.
It was also great to listen to what was essentially a breakdown of one of the most significant promos of the last 25 years and it’s aftermath. The Sam Sheppard/mandible claw segment was a straight up mind-bender, as was the comparison between where Jake Roberts was around age 40 compared to A.J. Styles.
Finally, we even got to learn what the hell was up with the Ultimate Warrior’s baseball cap (not to mention the details of his final departure as a performer from the WWF).
So, yeah. If you’re a fan of 90’s wrestling, this is absolutely one episode you don’t want to miss.
9:30: Show begins
10:34: Bret Hart joining the NWO
13:01: KOTR reception
16:41: WWF Landscape
17:15: Warrior in a baseball cap
20:08: Owen on commentary
20:43: Perspective on Jake’s age
23:52: KOTR set design
24:20: Wearing the crown
27:00: Arena logistics
28:25: Slammy statuettes
29:19: Fan signs
32:41: Rockers vs. Bodydonnas (feat. Cloudy)
36:52: Steve Austin vs. Marc Mero
38:42: The Stone Cold Stunner
44:04: When did they know Austin was the man?
50:35: Jake Roberts in 1996
55:42: Vader vs. Jake Roberts
1:01:34: Smoking Gunns vs. Godwins
1:04:18: Clarence Mason does nothing
1:06:19: Lawler vs. Warrior
1:11:47: Mankind vs. the Undertaker
1:15:11: The Mandible Claw
19:33: Shawn Michael’s wardrobe
1:20:12: Ahmed Johnson vs. Goldust
1:27:59: Brian Pillman pushes the envelope
1:29:38: Austin vs. Roberts
1:32:51: Austin’s classic promo
1:39:23: Austin 3:16
1:43:13: Unscripted promos, pros and cons
1:44:44: Mr. Perfect as main event ref
1:46:42: Michaels vs. Bulldog
1:49:30: Michaels, Warrior and Ahmed celebrate
1:51:10: WWF skips Europe in ’96
1:52:48: Aldo Montoya and Duke Droese go 45 minutes
1:54:42: The end of the road for Warrior
2:00:05: Vince’s outside ventures with Warrior
2:00:58: Appearance Bond
2:04:49: Warrior-McMahon blowup
2:07:45: New signings in WWF
Yeah, I was briefly excited about the Ultimate Warrior being back and Lawler was the best heel the WWE had at the time but the Warrior destroyed the angle with Lawler when he came out with the cap on. Lawler later stated he had done that type of angle (hitting someone with a frame etc) many times so Warrior was not at risk at all. It destroyed the feud and I really think as you said Lawler simply protected himself and it was a quick match, but I blame the Warrior for that one (and the WWE a little bit as well as they never seemed to know that as good of an announcer as Lawler was, he should have been used more in ring during that era).