Hello fans! I’m your guide, Bobby Styles and this…is…THE Wrestling Time Machine! So on today’s post, we’ll be talking about November of 1996. I AM going to try to be more active on our eponymous website. So…November of 1996 was an interesting time for both of the Big Two.
Over on the WWF side of things, we saw the continuation of the epic feud between The Undertaker and Mankind. Of course during this time Mankind had the “Power of the Urn”, Paul Bearer and began to team with the “Mysterious” Executioner. Of course The Executioner was less intimidating, and the gimmick reeked of people in the back fumbling through an old trunk of generic Halloween stuffs that when put together, was never ever going to be intimidating. While Mankind and Undertaker could pull off their various Dark/Monster gimmicks, poor Terry Gordy just looked as confused as the rest of us.
Terry Gordy looks like he’s about to make various “Boo” noises. The Executioner gimmick ultimately went nowhere in the WWF, and thank god it didn’t. In a world where The Undertaker feuds with someone dressed like 1950s Halloween Costume Catalog reject, a feud like this might have killed his momentum entirely.
All of this would reach a new fever pitch though at Survivor Series. Undertaker would make his historic “Batman” entrance.
As he and Mankind would battle over the fate of Paul Bearer who would be featured dangling above the ring.
Also during this time, we would see the evolution of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin into the unhinged, no-nonsense rattlesnake that he would become. Austin would precede to call out Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and would turn on his longtime friend, Brian Pillman. This in turn would set in motion a notable attribute of the “Stone Cold” character, that he was indeed a rattlesnake-willing to turn on anyone, friend or foe. What makes this interesting, is that Pillman and Austin were essentially portraying the same gimmicks. They were both unhinged, and a selling point for the audience became their vignettes, in which it was expected that both men would act unexpectedly. That both these men would curse up a shoot storm, and say things that other wrestlers wouldn’t, that their gimmicks blurred the lines between wrestling and reality. So it came to pass that these two insane locomotives would come to butt heads. Pillman especially had spent the last year cultivating this personality starting in WCW, through ECW and paying off in WWF. Pillman was also the first wrestler to sign a Guaranteed Contract with the WWF, an important change in the way Vince McMahon had previously approached business with his superstars.
Of course while this, and the feud between “Wild Man” Marc Mero and Hunter Hearst Helmsley for the WWF Intercontinental Championship would stand out as highlights in the WWF landscape during the Fall season, there were still…dark spots.
The Upper Card of the WWF during this period would feature a feud between “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and “Sycho” Sid. It became clear with Sid’s return, that the reason he was put into the spot he was, is because the REAL Diesel was over in WCW “rasslin'” for the WCW Tag Team Championships with the REAL Razor Ramon. Still, while Sid’s push may have been the result of Kevin Nash’s departure, he and Michaels would still go on to have a great match at WWF Survivor Series 1996. While Nash and Sid’s styles could be argued to be similar, with both of these wrestlers being what’s commonly referred to as “Big Men”, Nash’s style was always a little slower and more deliberate than Sid’s.
Of course Survivor Series was historic for another reason…The debut of
FUNK!!! Rocky Maivia!!! Yes, that’s right. Rocky Maivia would debut at the Survivor Series, and would wind up being the sole survivor in a 4-on-4 Elimination Tag Team Match featuring Marc Mero, Jake Roberts, and “The Stalker” Barry Windham on his own team, against a team composed of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Crush, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Goldust. All of this hard-hitting WWF action would be brought to you by Milton-Bradley’s Karate Fighters!
Meanwhile over on the WCW side of things, their organization was further plagued by the N.W.O. A bright spot of hope would shine down on the WCW kingdom, a new warrior would rise to challenge the tyrant king that was “Hollywood” Hogan. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper would debut for WCW at Halloween Havoc of 1996, challenging Hogan to a match at the upcoming Starrcade. The repeated standoffs between Hogan and Piper would include the privilege of viewing Roddy Piper’s music video, and would include some form of bizarre promotion for Hogan’s newest movie, “Santa With Muscles”.
The mid-card of WCW during this time would feature matches between Rey Mysterio Jr., and Dean Malenko, and another push for the bumbling mass of muscles that was Lex Luger.Somebody kept sticking a microphone in front of Lex Luger, and to be honest, “Mean” Gene Okerlund should have been charged with a war crime for doing so.
Luger, with his size and his wrestling ability could have been a prototype Lesnar or even Goldberg. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t a resident of Suplex City, or that he wasn’t a striker, a brawler in the sense of either of these future stars, but Luger’s signature was The Torture Rack, and his various pushes with both companies revolved around Luger being able to accomplish stunning feats of physical strength. What Luger needed was a mouthpiece. He shouldn’t have been put into a position as a big-grin having face who played to the crowd, he should’ve had a mouthpiece like Jimmy Hart, managing him solely (none of the nonsensical Dungeon of Doom shtick, which should have ended the moment Hogan turned heel), directing him straight to the ring, and racking every unfortunate soul who got in his way. I wholeheartedly believe that had WCW and Luger gone in this direction, that Luger would have had a standout career, and WCW may have created a gap in the Monday Night Wars that would have been harder for the WWF to bridge.
Speaking of Luger, during November of 1996, he was given a great push on TV, and was the odds on favorite to win the 60 Man Battle Royal that was the Main Event for WCW World War 3, having come out on top of a feud with “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson. Luger has (more or less) turned Face at this point. The crowd is behind him. He becomes the last man. Eliminating Scott Hall, Syxx, and Kevin Nash… Only to be eliminated by The Giant.
Now. Why is this important? This was the bad habit that WCW couldn’t seem to break. Allowing Heels to go over time and time and time and time again. Stories are dependent on a sense of closure for the audience, on a sense of resolution and progression. If WCW was going to continue to bury every Face, then why should the crowd continue to watch? There’s no payoff for the Face in ANY encounter. Why should any fan in WCW’s audience be excited about anything, if their hopes and dreams are going to be halted? At a certain point, it starts to feel like they’re punishing their fans. Being a WCW fan was an exercise in sadism and futility.
Speaking of sadism, there was ECW. Through November of 1996 Raven and The Sandman would continue to feud not only over the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, but also over the fate of The Sandman’s son, Tyler.
We would also see “The Franchise” Shane Douglas continue to fend off the advances of Pitbull #2 for the ECW Television Championship. Douglas and Francine would stoop to new lows to defend the title. Also during this time while The Gangstas and The Eliminators were battling over possession of the ECW Tag Team Championships, a new team would arrive on the scene to challenge for ECW Tag Team supremacy, Rob Van Dam & Sabu.
However, their path to the ECW Tag Team Championships would face one additional obstacle; the founder of Suplex City, and the Human Suplex Machine, Tazz. How would all this play out? Find out on the next exciting installment of The Wrestling Time Machine!