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THE ROCKTAGON

by James Swift

January 11, 2011


Howdy ho, all of you cretins, ding-dongs and miscreants!

Thanks to a freak snow storm (not to mention the fact that Sean Carless was practically begging me to turn in something for this site), I decided to kick back with a hot cup of vod. . .I mean, cocoa and take a gander at one of nature's cruelest mistakes - mid 1990s WWF television.

As bad as the current product is (and trust me, it's bad), the WWF(E) has never sucked as much as it did in the timeframe between WrestleMania 11 and 12. Seriously, it was an absolute wasteland of off-the-mark parodies and cartoon gimmicks, and it was apparent that nobody at Titan Sports really knew what the hell to do to right the ship.

Hog pen matches. Mabel from Men on a Mission is given a main event push. Bret Hart's stuck feuding with some dude named Waylon Mercy, and The Undertaker is walking around in purple socks and a Phantom of the Opera mask. For god's sake, they even resigned The Ultimate Warrior, which is proof enough that the inmates had taken over the asylum.

1996 was really a paradigm shift for the WWF, as it embraced the ECW attitude and started shedding the cartoon characters for more violent and profane (albeit relatable) characters. Of course, the rise of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the biggest change for the company (mayhap in its entire history, really), but a lot of compounding variables also played a role in turning the WWF from something unbearably ridiculous to something a mildly enjoyable as an entertainment offering.

I don't have to give you a history lesson here: it was 1996, and we all know what went down. N.W.O., the Monday Night Wars, talent jumping ships, more risqué angles, the rise of the cruiserweights, and periodically, same damn fine wrestling matches to go along with all of that superfluous tomfoolery. It really was the best of times for U.S. wrestling fans, but at the same time, it was among the worst of times, as well.

Really, the mid '90s boom didn't kick off until that summer. Anything that went down prior to Bash at the Beach was, at best, a mixed bag, and at worst, utter and complete feces. And to remind us just how dizzying a low it really was, I present unto you one of the greatest misfires in WWF history. Well, no, that is kind of an exaggeration, but it's still a really, really bad idea.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you. . .The 1996 Raw Bowl.



Now, You're probably thinking to yourself: "What the hell is the Raw Bowl?"

Well, the short answer is "a colossal failure", but I suppose some elucidation may be required here. You see, this was an event held on the first day of January 1996, which is when a lot of college football games are played in the United States of America. Since the WWF was direly trying to latch on to anything, they came up with the idea of doing an entirely football-themed episode of Raw, which was anchored around an elimination tag bout, called "The Raw Bowl".

Needless to say, it's a stupid idea. In fact, the announcers themselves realize it's a stupid idea about three minutes into the show, and it's sort of obvious why there's never been a subsequent one held.

I'll be honest, this really isn't for the faint of heart.. Or the sober. But, if you really want to revisit the dark, dark days of American Pro Wrestling. . .this is some game tape you have to study.

Our show kicks off (get it? Because the entire program has an AMERICAN FOOTBALL theme!) with one of the cheesiest openings you'll ever see, and that INCLUDES Christina Aguilera holding a bucket of sharp cheddar.



You know, I never realized just how much I hated SUPER ADHD LEARNING DISABLED I'M GOING TO YELL AT YOU NONSTOP announcer Vince until just now. Say what you will about the man, the guy has the ability to dole out ten pages worth of production notes in under a minute, which is pretty damned impressive if you ask me.

After going through every gridiron cliché you can think of, Vince lists tonight's "guest list", and vaguely runs down the point of this whole "Raw Bowl" nonsense. Honestly, I still have no idea what the hell this thing is supposed to be, but since it involves a guest appearance from Billionaire Ted, I can assume that it's going to do some permutation of sucking, blowing, and/or swallowing.

Jerry the King and Vince are in the ring. Oh, I stand corrected, tonight they want to be addressed as "Jerry Musburgerking" and "Vin McMahon". Yeah, it's going to be one of those kinds of nights, I guess.

After NOT going over the whole point of this nonsense, super-hyper-Pomeranian-on-chocolate-and-angel-dust Vince introduces as to "two first round draft picks if there ever were ones", Bart and Billy Gunn. Bart (I think) is wearing jersey number 38, while Billy sports jersey number 45. GET IT, IT'S A PLAY ON WORDS BECAUSE IT FITS IN WITH THE WHOLE FIREARM GIMMICK! Man, this is COMEDIC GENIUS right here, I tell you what.

Owen Hart and Yokozuna are out next, accompanied by Jim Cornette. Owen is wearing jersey number one (which I guess represents the number of times that zipline was tested at Over The Edge '99), while Yoko sports jersey number 641. Why? Because it's the zip code for Japan, I think.

Brother Love is doing a backstage prayer. Well, I can't blame him, to be honest.

Razor Ramon and his "free agent tag team partner" Savio Vega amble out next. Vega is wearing jersey "number uno", because apparently, the idea of "ethnic sensitivity" didn't hit the WWF until. . .actually, we're still kind of waiting.

Laughs a plenty when Goldust's usher gives Razor some flowers. This leads to a shot of Goldust "waiting in the backfield" while Jerry "Musburgerking" makes a crack about an "illegal forward pass".

Well. . .this is about as good a time as any to fall off that wagon, I suppose.

Sid and the 123 Kid are our final "combatants". Apparently, these two were a part of the Million Dollar Corporation at one point, which I guess I just blanked out of the back of my head. Hell, if you're going to suppress something, it might as well be a King Kong Bundy heel run in1995, am I right? Vince says something about the NAACP looking into recruiting violations. Well. . .no, I'm not gonna'.

All right, NOW we find out what the rules are. Ahem:

Each team gets a timeout.

If you're pinned, submit, DQ'ed or counted out, your team is ousted from the "Bowl".

You can tag ANYBODY, and before you tag out, there has to be physical contact.

So, all of that to say that tonight is going to be a forty minute, four corner tag team survival bout, with a couple of cute little stipulations thrown in.

Yeah, this IS going to suck, no doubt about it.

Hart and Bart to begin. Hey! ARM DRAGS, and lots of them. Owen tags in Billy Gunn, and the tag team champs MUST confront one another! The Gunns do some fancy footwork, and tag in Owen and Yokozuna. As you can obviously tell, we're looking at a catch-as-catch-can classic in the making here..

Owen runs into Yoko, so that counts as physical activity. Owen tags in Savio, and Jerry talks about the "Raw Bowl" queen. TOO EASY. 1-2-3 Kid is in. Goldust ogles the action "from the press box". We get some kicks, and Kid tags in Owen. Owen makes Savio eat an enziguri (only 79 cents at Taco Bell!), and we have ourselves a "delay of game" until Razor Ramon gets tagged in.

Lawler (who I think is wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey, of all things), chats it up with the "Raw Queen". Despite the fact that it's 1996, she's still rocking a do that looks like something out of 1984. And they say that this is a backwards thinking industry!

Now it's Bart Gunn and Savio. Yeah, I'm already really, really bored with this. Well, Sid gets tagged in. His jersey number is "double zero", which is a reference to:

A.) The amount of money in his bank account, circa 2011

B.) The number of actual moves he can perform off the top rope without snapping his ankle like a twig

C.) His probable IQ score.

D.) All of the above.

More hilarious puns from King and McMahon. And by hilarious, I mean "not hilarious".

In comes Savio. Then comes Owen. You know, you kids are REALLY fortunate that I'm stuck in a blizzard right now, because the fact that I'm doing this proves that I have PASSION and COMMITMENT to this here internet community. If I could unlock the front door, you best bet my ass would've driven to greener pastures a long time ago.

Yokozuna gets the tag. Commercial break. Vince reminds us that tonight's "game" is brought you by Lipton's Iced Tea. In other words, screw you, Lipton's Iced Tea.

Laugh out loud when Vince says Shawn Micheals is suffering from a post concussive disorder. You think you'll be hearing that out of Matt Striker's mouth anytime soon?

OK, Yoko is in. Now 1-2-3 Kid. Now Yoko again. NOW 1-2-3 Kid. Sid gets in. Yeah, this isn't confusing or anything. Lawler says Sid is from the "WAC" conference. Get it, because "WAC" is a derogatory term for someone with mental instability, and "Sycho Sid" is supposed to be a character with sever mental instability! Man, these guys are good at what they do. Too bad what they do is suck..

Razor Ramon gets the tag. He beats on 1-2-3 Kid while Vince and Jerry exchange football puns. You can literally hear the script pages being turned here, folks. Kid calls a timeout. Hey, the referee is dressed up in football gear, complete with the yellow flags! Ramon says "I care not for your rules" and power bombs Kid anyway. Ted Dibiase gets on the apron and argues with the ref. Sid runs in, and clothesline Ramon. Sid throws Kid atop Ramon, and the ref counts the pin fall. Meanwhile, Savio tries to call a timeout after the fact, while Lawler says some things that are probably racially insensitive.

Commercial break. Hey, remember back in the day when Jerry the King used to use the Magistrator to draw goofy pictures during recap footage? Yeah, well, I don't miss it, that's for sure.

You got to see this one ring rat in the front row. She looks just like Tammy Lynn Sytch, only way worse off. And she is outraged, OUTRAGED I SAY, over the ref's poor decision making.

Hart and Bart tie up, again. Vince says Owen jumped off the goal post. Yeah. Jim Cornette on the apron. It's a six man scuffle. Yokozuna prepares to give Bart the Bonzai Drop, but Billy Gunn sneaks in and pushes Owen underneath Yoko's colossal ass flab instead. Yoko rolls to the outside (temporarily blocking the sun in the process) as Bart scores a cheap-o pinfall over Owen.

It's down to The Smoking Gunns and the team of Sid and the Kid. My heart temporarily flatlines when I find out the main event of tonight's show is actually Diesel taking on King Mabel in a rematch of one of the worst Summer Slam main events ever. Aw, shi. . .

So, have you ever wanted to watch Billy Gunn go one on one with Sid Vicious before? Well, if you haven't, congratulations on being a sane human being. Choke Slam from Sid. Dibiase distracts the ref, while the 1-2-3 Kid climbs the top rope. Before he can leap, Razor Ramon makes a run in, and sends the future X-Pac into Sid like Korean Air Flight 801 into Nimitz Hill, Guam. Why, yes, I am currently reading "The Outliers", how did you know?

And so, the Smoking Gunns win the inaugural (and to this day, thankfully, ONLY) Raw Bowl. The two celebrate by going onto late 90s semi-success before spiraling into obscurity due to horrible career management. But on the plus side, Billy did win the 1999 King of the Ring, which I'm sure looks fantastic on his job application at Walgreens.

On January 8, 1996, Jerry Lawler says that Shawn Michaels will announce his RETIREMENT live on RAW. And that's EXACTLY what happened. Except for the fact that it didn't.

Vince throws us to the halftime show, which is presented by Wrigley's. Our host is Dok (PS Hayes) Hendrix, which I guess proves that Wrigley's is the preferred chewing gum of people that really can't stand the black folks.



"Jumbo Ross" is standing outside Diesel's locker-room. He said that Big Daddy Cool is going to "kick the king's can" tonight. See, PG WWE has ALWAYS sucked. Dok goes onto shill for the '96 Royal Rumble: Bret takes on the Undertaker (for the national title), Ahmed Johnson squares off against Jeff Jarrett, and 30 men will compete for a chance to headline WrestleMania 12, which in case you were wondering, sucked.

Three second long Nacho Man commercial. Well, that was funny. . .when it was over.

Well, it's time for our main event. Be sure the whiskey flask is nearby for this one.

Diesel Pearl Harbors King Mabel, kicks him ONCE, and it's over. Well, never mind, this is the best match of Kevin Nash's career! Post bout, Diesel power bombs Mo, which is just as funny as it sounds. Then, he takes the "Raw Bowl Queen" backstage, while Lawler does the Jerry Lewis shtick. . .which is different than that Jerry Lee Lewis shtick he is ALSO known for.

Backstage, the Smoking Gunns are presented the Lombardi Trophy. . .by Steve Lombardi, The Brooklyn Brawler. Oh, I get it! They're all supposed to be homosexuals!

The Gunns, Ahmed Johnson, Savio Vega and Marty freaking Jannetty then beat up on Lombardi and pour a cooler of Lipton's on him. You know, I hear that isn't the first time the Brooklyn Brawler has had a large quantity of fluid dumped on his face by several men at once, but that's a story for a different day, I suppose.



Promo for the '96 Rumble. You know, the one they used to play on the Preview Channel all the time way back when. Vince begins rattling off some of the participants in this year's Rumble, which includes, among others, Dory Funk Jr., Barry Horowitz, and the "Native American" Tatanka.

Now, cue a BAD ASS promo for Big Van Vader's debut, which is probably the only legit awesome thing that has happened in the last fifty five minutes in this show. Of course, his WWF run ended up as nothing more than a pale imitation of his glorious WCW and New Japan days, but whatever: Vader rules, and if you disagree, you're probably a Communist.

Next week, Jeff Jarrett will take on "The Modern Day Kamikaze" Hakushi. Holy shee-yet, that's offensive. Only in the world of mid 90s professional wrestling can you see a Kabuki warrior take on a country music star. Oh, and don't forget about the press conference from Shawn Michaels, where he says something that may or may not be important. But probably the latter. Actually, that may be a pretty good show, since it includes an encore presentation of the December 95 title bout between Bret and The British Bulldog, which I consider to be one of the greatest matches in WWF history. Seriously, it's even BETTER than their Summer Slam 92 bout, which I still think is one of the best WWF matches of the 1990s. If you find yourself entering a time vortex back to the second week of January, you might want to take note of that.

And we conclude the evening with a "Billionaire Ted" skit, which is all kinds of ironic since it includes footage of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Vince Russo. Long story short, these are bad, and they really didn't accomplish much of anything. You know, sort of like this show in general.

Well, that sucked, but it's kind of hard to complain when we smelled the excrement from a mile away. By and large, this is what you missed if you weren't watching professional wrestling circa 1995, and for that, you should consider yourself extremely fortunate.

For what it's worth, this is pretty much the nadir for the WWF, and in a couple of months, it slowly began pulling itself out of the septic tank with the ascension of Steve Austin, not to mention the influx of Mick Foley and a criminally underused Big Van Vader.

Do you need to see "The Raw Bowl" for yourself? Honestly, I wouldn't advise it, unless you're a huge wrestling historian (read: virgin). Even so, the next time you feel the need to label Raw or Smackdown as "horrendous shows", you might want to give this a minute or so of your time, because it may lead to an immediate reevaluation of the modern product.

Yeah, pro wrestling, today, sucks. But consider yourself lucky, because it sucked a whole lot more 15 years ago.

Send feedback to James Swift

JAMES SWIFT is the award winning author of "How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College: A Junior Memoir of Epic Proportions" and "Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks". He is also a world class ballroom dancer, and according to J.D. Walker, "one fly honkey."

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).