Monday, June 23, 2014

Strange Bedfellows - TL Hopper and Who

Oh boy, what a shit tag team we have for today. I say shit not just because they were just that, as both wrestlers were inducted into the fine halls of WrestleCrap, but because one of the two loved to roll around in it and even eat some on live television. Well, sorta of.

If you ever need to know why the WWF was losing steam fast with audiences in 1996, look no further than this match. On this day, while WCW had the nWo running wild and featuring an awesome battle between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Ultimo Dragon for the WCW Cruiserweight title, Vince McMahon was presenting the worst of the so-called New Generation.

TL Hopper is the wrestler formerly known as Dirty White Boy, a regional favorite in Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Upon walking through Titan Towers, the man pulled a random card from the job gimmick pile and came away with friendly plumber. Other than being bequeathed a plunger named Betsy and the absolute worst entrance theme ever devised (I'm not kidding!), Hopper was infamously known for being part of an angle during the pre-show of Summerslam 1996, where he re-enacted, to poor results, the legendary Baby Ruth gag from Caddyshack.

Who was Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart under a mask. He wore ungodly yellow briefs. His entire gimmick centered around him being an in-joke to the famous Abbott & Costello routine "Who's on First?" That's it. This ancient reference flew over the heads of every kid in the 90's, and if they somehow did get it, they would wonder why he doesn't look like a rock star and why Slappy Squirrel wasn't with him.

Why were they partnered up and quasi-heels here? I don't know! (™ Lex Luger) But the bigger question is why wasn't Hopper grouped with his fellow working class hero, the garbage collector now jailbird Duke "The Dumpster" Droese. It makes so much sense! They could have been called The Dumpers, Poop & Scoop, or Men at Work, with Keith David as their manager. If they were in WCW, they would've been The Trashmen, complete with a copyright-daring rip-off of "The Bird". Sadly, Hopper and Droese weren't meant to be, as they fought each other on Superstars a month and a half before this match on the 8/12/1996 episode of Monday Night Raw.

They are set to face off against The Godwinns, the duo that was so popular, that they were the back-to-back winners of the Wrestling Observer's Worst Tag Team of the Year award in 96 and 97. Personally, I don't think they deserve this harsh distinction (High Voltage, anyone?) but they also weren't worthy of a paycheck either. The hillbilly trend in wrestling died fast in the 80's due to McMahon constantly churning out and showcasing many untalented competitors in overalls and its revival with the Blu Brothers in 1995 didn't usher in any heat. Plus, no matter how many times they threw the bucket of slop at someone post-match, seeing the two go over teams like L.O.D. was always pathetic.

The match starts and already you can hear the utter apathy of the crowd. No one cares two licks about any of these geeks. A call of "Suueey!" issues a golf-clap from the audience. I guess they are still recovering from the shocking return of Crush and his bad work-rate earlier in the night.

An awful rebound hip-toss by Henry O. Godwinn has Who land awkwardly on his ass. Who gets up and immediately goes 180 and just stares at Phineas. Henry freezes up before Neidhart gets his act back together and they continue the epic display of stalling and wrestling basics.

Despite this being a contest, the real attention is instead focused on the commentators, namely guest Mr. Bob Backlund. Unfortunately, this is an off-night for him, as he slowly stumbles over his declaration of bringing in someone important and of decent character to the federation to take on Shawn Michaels. Spoiler: his future client will absolutely suck but somehow get some heavyweight title shots against Psycho Sid.

This rant then segues into Mr. Backlund going off on the American public school system. He's suppose to be delivering a Republican-friendly diatribe over the lack of the Bible being an integral part of education. To appease Standards and Practices, he instead tells McMahon that schools don't teach "Thou shall not STEAL!" and "Thou shall not KILL!" Apparently, Helen of Troy and Archduke Franz Ferdinand don't exist in textbooks.

But then comes the greatest moment ever to be broadcasted "live" on Raw. Here's a transcript:


McMahon: Okay, so wait a minute…
Backlund: HOW!


Backlund: TO not acquire AIDS!

McMahon: Well, I...

Pure genius. Both Vince and Jerry try their best not to corpse. Mr. Backlund then gets up to distract the fans, thus generating the only buzz in this entire match.

Meanwhile in the squared circle, Hopper signals for his finisher, a brainbuster he calls "Down the Drain". His finisher taunt is supposed to be him operating a plunger but he doesn't do the easy-win-for-charades technique of two fists on top of each other and jerking it up and down. Hopper instead does it way too fast and with his arms wide open, making him look like he's giving a reach-around to an elephant. R. Lee Ermey would be proud.

Phineas goes for the Antarctic-style hot tag for the finish but again, the attention is turned to something else. Kevin Dunn, why must you forsake me? So now we have to sit through another split-screen interview, this time with Commissioner Gorilla Monsoon. ADD quickly sets in, as Vince is so concerned about the IC Title situation and Ahmed Johnson's status that he tells Gorilla to "look at" Henry's big boot.

Henry delivers the Slop Drop to Who, with the latter botching it, to end this bowling-shoe-ugly match. Neidhart, the scrub that he is, immediately gets up after the move and leaves the ring. Alas, the immense pain doesn't stop. The interview continues on amid the Godwinns celebrating to their music, causing Jerry Lawler to be unable to hear anything and audibly asking "What?" Sensing the upcoming ad break, Gorilla speeds through the rest of his script.

But it gets even worst: If you're watching the WWE's edited version of the broadcast, the Godwinns' theme of "Don't Go Messing with a Country Boy" is replaced with a public domain hillbilly tune, further drowning out Gorilla. What a complete mess.

I get that this was supposed to be an enhancement team but this duo is way too random. Jim Neidhart may not have been a great singles worker but the man was a tag team expert, and the only thing he does with Hopper here is an assisted elbow to the arm and a double back body drop. Thankfully, this was their only match together, as they were both flushed back down to the undercard. Hopper, however, would have the last laugh, as he later became the new manager of his redneck opponents in 1997, helping them win and lose the tag titles.

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