Pro Wrestling In The Spring Of 1996

World Wrestling Federation

At the Beware of Dog In Your House ppv in May, Steve Austin would lose a strap match against Savio Vega with the stipulation that Ted Dibiase would have to leave Austin as his manager. After the match Austin revealed that he lost the match on purpose in order to rid himself of Dibiase's managerial services. It was around this time that the Stone Cold character was born. No longer was Steve Austin the Ringmaster, and he was being pushed pretty hard going into the King of the Ring.

Also going on in the WWF during this time was World Champion Shawn Michaels ongoing feud with the British Bulldog. The Undertaker and Mankind's feud was heating up leading into their first of many brutal head to head meetings at the King of the Ring. The Ultimate Warrior was in the dying days of his final WWE run, in the middle of a mini feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler. Jake Roberts was being pushed as a born again Christian who had just come off of a battle with alcoholism. Goldust was kissing Ahmed Johnson, causing him to go berserk. The tag team division consisted of teams like the Smoking Guns, The Body Donnas, The Godwins, and The New Rockers(Marty Jannety & Al "Lief Cassidy" Snow). Other than the Mankind vs Taker feud, the main course in the WWF during this time was the feud between Shawn Michaels & Friends(Ahmed Johson, and Ultimate Warrior) against Camp Cornette, which consisted of Owen Hart, British Bulldog, and now Vader, who was amidst a pretty narly monster heel push going into his world title match at Summerslam 96.

Where we're at right now with the next couple of ECW shows the WWF was still in that New Generation funk. Raw was really not good at all. The tag division was a joke. Austin's King of the Ring victory and following "Austin 3:16 means I just whooped your ass!" promo were still about 3 weeks out(June 23rd 1996).

World Championship Wrestling

Meanwhile over in Dubya Cee Dubya, the NWO invasion got off to a rather brilliant start. Scott Hall made his WCW debut on the May 27th episode of Nitro, just about two weeks after ECW A Matter of Respect. Over the next two weeks Hall would bring in Kevin Nash as his big surprise. Throughout June the duo would interrupt WCW programming and wreak havoc until security escorted them from the building. The duo had an interview at the Great American Bash ppv where Bischoff asked if they were associated with the WWF, to which both Hall & Nash declined. This was all an attempt to stop a lawsuit from the WWF over the angle. After declining any association with the WWF, Bischoff set up a match for the two of them to challenge three WCW superstars at the next pay per view, Bash at the Beach. Kevin Nash powerbombed Eric Bischoff off of the stage through a table, and the Outsiders would continue to terrorize nitro until the infamous Bash at the Beach reveal in July.

Other than the NWO, WCW wasn't doing much better than the WWF during these final days of the "Pre-boom" era. The Dungeon of Doom was still very prominently featured. Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit's feud began to heat up. Rey Mysterio made his debut in WCW around this time with a phenomenal series of matches against Dean Malenko. The cruiserweight division hadn't quite taken off just yet, but with Malenko & Mysterio's series of matches, we would see much more emphasis put on the division. Eddie Guerrero was being booked well as a babyface feuding with Ric Flair. The tag team division was stacked with the Stieners, Harlem Heat, Public Enemy, Sting & Luger, and the Faces of Fear(Meng & The Barbarian) among others. The main storyline going into June 16th's Great American Bash was the World Champion Giant defending his title against Lex Luger, along with a special tag match between Flair & Arn against NFL football stars Kevin Greene & Steve "Mongo" McMichael.

As for the ratings there was no clear cut winner up to this point. Both WCW and WWF went back and forth with the lead from week to week up to this point. Starting with the June 10th episode of Nitro, WCW took the lead in the ratings and would keep it for about a year.

Another important event for WCW that was held on June 1rst 1996 was the World Wrestling Peace Festival show in Los Angeles California. This was a show that featured several wrestlers from multiple promotions, including WCW & ECW. This is the event where Chris Jericho met Eric Bischoff, who offered him a job on the spot. Jericho and Bam Bam Bigelow competed in a triangle match against Konnan, who was US champ. The main event of the WWPF ties in a bit with a recent review of mine from my History of MMA series down south. Here are the full results for the WWPF show:

World Wrestling Peace Festival - Los Angeles, CA - Sports Arena - June 1, 1996 (5,964)
Sgt. Craig Pittman defeated KGB via submission at 6:11
Jim Neidhart pinned Bobby Bradley Jr. at 5:00
Lady Apache & Akira Hokuto defeated Neftali & Bull Nakano at 8:24 when Hokuto pinned Neftali
Chris Benoit pinned Alex Wright at 9:54 by blocking an attempted roll up out of the corner and grabbing the middle rope for leverage
Rey Mysterio Jr. & the Ultimo Dragon defeated Psychosis & Heavy Metal at 11:44 when Dragon pinned Metal with an Asai moonsault and dragon suplex; Psychosis & Metal used Guns 'n' Roses "Sweet Child of Mine" as their theme music; after the bout, both teams hugged and raised each others' hands
Lex Luger defeated Masa Saito at 5:53
Negro Casas pinned El Hijo del Santo at 5:54 with an Oklahoma side roll after Santo missed a top rope move
Atlantis, Dos Caras, & Hector Garza defeated Silver King, Dr. Wagner Jr., & Gran Markus Jr. at 10:35 when Caras pinned Markus
Tatsumi Fujinami pinned Black Cat at 5:15
Perro Aguayo & La Parka defeated Pierroth Jr. & Cibernetico at 9:35 when Aguayo pinned Pierroth
WCW US Champion & Mexican Heavyweight Champion Konnan defeated Chris Jericho and Bam Bam Bigelow in a non-title elimination match at 7:42; Jericho pinned Bigelow at 4:56 by lifting his shoulder out of a back suplex into a bridge; Konnan pinned Jericho with a crucifix powerbomb; Konnan used Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" as his theme music for the bout; after the bout, Konnan raised Jericho's hand out of respect
Jushin Liger pinned the Great Sasuke at 12:46 with a fisherman buster and Liger Bomb; after the bout, the Ultimo Dragon appeared and helped Sasuke from the ring
WCW World Champion the Giant pinned WCW Tag Team Champion Sting at 5:12 with the chokeslam as the challenger attempted a fifth consecutive Stinger Splash
Antonio Inoki & NWA World Champion Dan Severn defeated Oleg Taktarov & Yoshiaki Fujiwara at 9:15 when Severn pinned Fujiwara as he had an armbar applied, moments after dropping Fujiwara with an overhead armbar slam; after the match, all four men shook hands; moments later, as the other wrestlers on the show filed into the ring, Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Bill Apter presented Inoki with PWI's Lifetime Achievement Award before Inoki addressed the audience 

Extreme Championship Wrestling

This project is going to focus more on the weekly ECW Hardcore TV episodes from here on out, with the occasional Supercard review here and there(and obviously PPV's). Hardcore TV was where everything went down for ECW. The Supercards were great to see the unedited matches, such as Scorpio vs Douglas, which was much better unedited than the clipped version they played on HCTV. The Supercards also had a lot of stuff that was never shown on Hardcore TV, such as Mick Foley's emotional farewell at Big Ass Extreme Bash, or the Lesbian angle of Hostile City Showdown 96(which still got HCTV temporarily thrown off of MSG network, even as edited as it was). Hardcore TV was where the storylines were told and the characters were fleshed out and given more depth. Before I start off reviewing Hardcore TV from June of 1996, I want to post a few thoughts on some of the things I've missed regarding the more important storylines.

One of the things that drew me to ECW back in 1996, the year that I first really bit into ECW(around October/November) was the Eliminators vs Gangstas tag team feud. I remember this rivalry was covered quite extensively in the magazines with some awesome pictures. As I'm going through these 96 tapes I've realized that this feud was one of the best in ECW history. Saturn cut a fucking awesome promo on one of the April episodes of Hardcore TV:

"You come from the hood...

We can respect that...

So did we...

You grew up in the projects...

We can respect that...

So did we...

You survived on the toughest streets in your city...

We can respect that....

So did we....

But if you think we're going to let you drag us back to where we worked soooooo hard to get away from....

I think it would be easier if we would just kill you where you stand..."

Awesome promo. Just the way he says it, and the grit in his voice makes it great. The storyline was that the Eliminators came to ECW to wrestle, and to move on from their criminal past, but The Gangstas were taking them back to where they came from, which was something they didn't want. The Gangstas took it further when they somehow managed to get their hands on the ECW Tag Team titles long enough to spray paint their trademark "X" symbol on them. The Eliminators struck back with an attack outside of a gym where they spray painted both Mustapha and New Jack. Saturn looked into the camera after the attack and told the Gangstas, "Tag, your it motherfuckers!"

The Gangstas got over as faces during this time even though they weren't booked as faces. The crowd just took them in and started cheering for them as soon as Public Enemy left for WCW earlier in the year. The Eliminators on the other hand were booked as downright nasty, ruthless heels with Total Eliminations on women, children, and handicapped(not literally, a bit of an exaggeration). The Eliminators also went over The Pitbulls a lot during early 96. The Pitbulls were massively over in 95 in ECW, but their popularity took a big hit after being beaten and jobbed out to The Eliminators throughout these first couple of months of 96.

The thing that I like about this Eliminators vs Gangstas feud is that both teams weaknesses are hidden, and their strengths are highlighted very, very well. Neither team was good in the ring, so the storyline was that the State Athletic Commissions refuse to sanction a match between the two teams, therefore, it became an insurance risk for ECW to book the match. So these two teams attacked each other, spray painted each other, and traded jabs in promos back and forth for several months before they were even in the same ring together. They just did a really good job of building up to their first match and making it something that you just absolutely had to see, which was an accomplishment as a booker, because neither team was very good in the ring at all, yet, they were incredibly realistic, interesting, compelling, down to earth characters that drew you into their story.

Their first actual match was setup with "live" cut in updates from a training facility in New York. The Eliminators were recruited by Brian Lee(Raven's hitman hired to take out Dreamer) to help them face Dreamer & The Pitbulls in a six man tag match. Joey Styles would cut into an episode of Hardcore TV with faux live reports from this training facility, saying that the Pitbulls had been injured in the attack and were out of the six man match at A Matter of Respect. Styles approached Dreamer in an ambulance, who told him that he was going to get the Gangstas to help him at AMOR.

So this was how we got the six man main event from A Matter of Respect, where the Gangstas got a pinfall over The Eliminators in the match. This is all set up for the June 1st "Fight The Power" show, where ECW will defy the State Athletic Commissions, eat the Insurance liability, and finally book a Gangstas vs Eliminators match for the Tag Team Titles.

The other main storyline that I've grazed over during this period is the Tommy Dreamer/Shane Douglas vs Raven saga with the lesbo love angle. One interesting thing that I caught on one of the April episodes of Hardcore TV was Shane Douglas conducting an interview from Madison Square Garden in New York. Douglas called Shawn Michaels, Razor, and the 123 Kid a bunch of punks, and said that he came to MSG to call the Clique out at their own back yard, since they aren't man enough to come face him in the ECW Arena.

Something that was fleshed out a lot more on HCTV was Raven's foot injury that was going on at this time. They really put this over on HCTV with X-Rays, and even bringing in a doctor to talk to the fans about the severity of it. The story goes that it started out as Gout, but evolved into a degenerative bone disease that required major surgery. This was something that I though Raven sold well in his title match against Douglas at Hostile City Showdown(on top of losing Kimona to Dreamer).

As I've said previously in this thread, one of my favorite things about ECW was how they would recap a storyline with a music video. They just had a distinct style with these videos that I really feel was heavily borrowed from by the big boys. One excellent video plays on the April 23rd episode of Hardcore TV with a recap of the Dreamer/Beulah/Kimona/Raven/Shane Douglas arc that has been running through 96, set to Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls on Parade". When you think about the storyline they are recapping here, I think there may be some inside joke with the song selection here. This was a brand new song in June of 96 though, so it could just be coincidental. Neither Beulah or Kimona looks like any of the Bull's I've ever seen.

Pretty good recap video here all leading up to the lesbian kiss at Hostile City Showdown. Shane Douglas used all of this to try to gain an edge going into his world title match with Raven at HCS. They revealed that Beulah never was pregnant, and that she was cheating on both Raven & Dreamer with Kimona. Dreamer said fuck it, and took both girls because he was hardcore. Raven sunk down into a depression and almost lost his title if not for the help of his lackeys. From there Shane Douglas broke off into a rivalry with 2 Cold Scorpio over the TV belt. Dreamer has his hands full with Raven's hired guns Brian Lee and The Bruise Brothers. Here are a few pics of the infamous Lesbian Kiss angle from Hostile City Showdown. 

The other main running story arc was Taz vs Sabu. The more I see of this storyline in these tapes, I'm realizing that it wasn't really about Taz vs Sabu, it was about Taz vs Heyman. On screen there was a deal where Sabu was like "The Heyman Guy". Heyman was in the commercial for his T-shirt pushing Sabu as the greatest of all time, and the embodiment of ECW(which I have to agree with). Heyman was also cutting promos after A Matter Of Respect on HCTV. Really, really good promos, talking about how Chris Benoit broke Sabu's neck, and only 3 people know the truth about the injury(Sabu, Heyman, and Taz). Heyman really put this storyline over in these promos, talking about the history of Sabu and Taz, and pretty much sending a message to Taz and Bill Alphonso that they need to stop playing the game they are playing. Some really good Heyman promos where he puts this all over a very serious business. I really like how there's this Taz vs Heyman dynamic behind the whole Taz vs Sabu rivalry, going back to when Taz turned heel at November to Remember 95 saying "My dad's not a fat fucking jew lawyer that paid my way through life!". Alphonso and Taz reply with promos talking about how they tipped Van Dam off about Sabu's neck injury. Taz continued to taunt Sabu in matches. Mocking his pose, and even sending him a message saying "The longer you make me wait, the more severe the fucking ass kicking will be!". Taz is just on a roll here. Undefeated since his return in the fall of 95.

So where we are now is June of 1996. I'm going to review through the June 4th, June 11th, and June 18th episodes of Hardcore TV before I review Hardcore Heaven 96, which took place on June 22nd. Going into this month we will see a lot of stuff from the "Fight the Power" show from June 1st. Going into this show Stevie Richards has accepted an open challenge from The Sandman. Raven told Richards to bring him the skankiest, nastiest, most nympho maniacal tramp whore he could possibly dig up, and bring her to him to share his pain. Joey announced that Fight The Power will not be sanctioned by any governing body, and we will finally get the Gangstas vs Eliminators match. Lets check it out.


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