MONDAY NIGHT RAW
October 21, 1996
Owen Hart . . . carries Sid to a surprisingly good TV match.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley . . . tries to make the most out of his impromptu shot at the Intercontinental Title.
Curt Hennig . . . kicks off the proud tradition of the swerve that’s still used as a booking crutch today!
PSYCHO SID vs. OWEN HART
Sid has always been something of a guilty pleasure for me. I’ve seen more than enough matches to think that he’s better than he’s often given credit for. However, this isn’t one of those cases. If talent were size, then Owen would be the giant. You know to not expect too much out of Sid when he’s not even able to go along with Owen’s facebuster. Luckily, Owen is able to pick up the slack, and the result is a match that’s actually pretty engaging throughout. Owen starts working Sid’s leg, after a distraction from the Bulldog and a chop block from Owen. Aside from his figure four variant, and a failed attempt at the Sharpshooter, he doesn’t do anything state of the art, but, his work is simple and effective. It’s more or less what you’d see out of Flair when he’s taking someone “to school.” Sid also does a better-than-expected job of selling the leg.
Owen makes an early mistake of straying from the leg and using several headbutts before trying a flying body press, but, Sid catches him and plants him. Once Owen gets another opening to go back after the leg, he doesn’t repeat his mistake. Sid eventually makes his comeback with several strikes, and Owen runs himself into a chokeslam, to allow Sid to keep putting over the leg, and when Sid wants the powerbomb, Bulldog runs in for the disqualification. With Sid headed toward a world title match, he obviously needed to be protected, but, I don’t think it would have been out of the question to have Owen actually get him the Sharpshooter and give the leg work a good payoff. Sid’s height would have easily allowed him to get the ropes to break the hold. If they had some more time to work, and a better finish, this could have been really good.
BILLY GUNN/BART GUNN vs. HENRY GODWIN/PHINEAS GODWIN
There are a few nice things to see, but, this never seems to get anywhere, and the finish is just there to set up the Gunns breakup angle. Phineas uses a surprisingly smooth counter to get Bart in a hammerlock, and there’s a smart moment when Bart is about to whip Phineas into the corner, but he switches gears and whips him into the opposite corner to keep him as far away from Henry as possible. That spot also sets up Billy’s missed Stinger splash and allows Phineas to make the hot tag. The Gunns get crossed up with Billy getting knocked off the apron, Bart gets pinned after the slop drop, and the Gunns argue afterwards. If nothing else, this was inoffensive.
MARC MERO © vs. HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY (WWF Intercontinental Title)
Here it is, the birth of the most overused angle in the business. The swerve that became so commonplace, that the only time that it’s a swerve is when it doesn’t happen. After nearly twenty-five years, it’s still going strong. Before Hennig inexplicably hits Mero with the chair, even though he’d been buddies with Mero and feuding with HHH for two months, the match looked to be coming along nicely. It doesn’t seem to be as focused as their match from the prior May, but, it had its share of nice moments. HHH’s intensity was a very welcome sight, and a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker is just about the last thing you’d ever expect to see from him. There’s a smart touch when HHH whips Mero into the corner and stops to do his signature bow, and it gives Mero the opening to take him down and slingshot him into the corner. HHH’s vigor is full on display when he quickly recovers from the slingshot bump and drops Mero with a big lariat.
The really disappointing thing is that we aren’t able to see Mero make his comeback after HHH’s control segment. The match cuts to the commercial after the lariat, and the show comes back with Mero hitting a sloppy slingshot legdrop for a near fall. Ideally, it’d have been something similar to the sequence with the slingshot, with HHH’s crowd playing (or maybe taunting Sable) getting the better of him. After HHH kicks out of the legdrop, Mero sticks to his other well known spots and gets another near fall from the moonsault. But, the ref goes down, HHH grabs the chair and Hennig intervenes. One Pedigree (with a mediocre bump from Mero) later and we have a new champion. The angle is rather infamous, but the match is completely watchable. The biggest issue with the match is the structure, which mostly seems to be caused by the timing of the commercial breaks, rather than anything with HHH or Mero’s actual work.
Conclusion: The Sid/Owen match is a pleasant surprise, and the title change is a perfectly fine match with a big angle at the end. That seems like enough reason to give it a look.