Event Type: Award Show
Date: March 29th, 1996
Aired On: USA Network
Nelson Rating: 1.6
Location: Anaheim Mariot Hotel, CA
[Note: Version being reviewed is the original uncut version.]
WWF’s 1996 Slammy’s Award show returns to the USA Network with its own two-hour special after being an afterthought the year before. Hosts of WWF b-show “WWF Mania” Todd Pettengill and Stephanie Wyand quietly announced the 1995 winners in an abysmal segment on the show that is “forgotten” year of Slammy’s. So much so that most wrestling historians neglect to list the results from the year while having all other years past and present.
However in 1996, the company paid quite a lot of attention to their self-created award show as evidenced by its two hour time frame, elaborately over the top musical introduction and total of 18 awards issued throughout the show. Sprinkled with cheesy humor that had begun feeling really dated along with foreshadowing bits of “attitude” starting to take head that would help propel the company out if its downward spiral. This show is a great example as to why wrestling fans began to lean towards a more aggressive and modern WCW approach as opposed to the often more gimmicky, lost in the early 90’s WWF of the time.
Welcomed by commentators Vincent K. McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler they start selling the award show as one to be “unlike any others”. To instantly cement this fact, a surprised Vince McMahon “accidentally” hits the lever on his roller chair to drop himself down a half foot while awkwardly wincing into the camera. A second later a waiter walks through the shot, tripping and dropping a platter of food to ensure we know the show is live and very “unplanned.” Nickelodeon’s “Kid’s Choice Awards” did the same unplanned fall. So much for being unique, Vince.
Todd Pentengill will be our on stage host for the night. Todd was only with the company for around four years between 93-97, but was a fairly significant host of several company shows and was one of the main interviewers of the era. He was known to be in a comedic role most of the time and unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of memorable segments that aren’t meant to be humorous, but always seemed to do his best with the roles he were given.
Todd opens with a musical introduction where he sings a few different rhyme schemed verses about WWF wrestlers on the roster at the time including Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Golddust, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, The Ultimate Warrior, and a slew of others to the melody of recognizable pop-culture songs parodied that I won’t list and spoil for those who’d like to see this for themselves as it’s worth a watch for it’s overtly quirkiness.
Notable parts of the performance I feel compelled to mention here is a cut to Shawn Michaels in a classy suit sitting with his legitimate mother sitting next to him at the dinner tables as he looks noticeably embarrassed as his verses from Pentengill are sung to the melody of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.” Shawn, for those who don’t know, was a known notorious partier at the time. A large purpose of this show was to build Shawn up as he’d be achieving his wholesome boyhood dream of winning the WWF Championship from Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 12the next day and it’s very apparent throughout the show that’s he’s a major emphasis.
A “hunk, not Hulk” comment was made in another verse. Sunny’s D sized breast were fit into another rhyme (were they really D’s already pre surgery?) Todd ends another line asking Vince how much the Ultimate Warrior cost him in as he had been recently signed backed to the company after leaving over financial reasons a few years beforehand to another economically hefty contract. These shoot based remarks acknowledging Vince as the owner of the WWF would come much more often as 1997 approached as the company knew fans were not as naive as they had been in the early nineties.
Tuxedo and sunglasses toting Kevin “Diesel” Nash is shown looking annoyed whispering to buddy Hunter Hearst Helmsley during the verse about him what looks to be how lame he thinks the show is in a rare, real, “Kliq” moment I’m surprised has never been used to my knowledge on any DVD’s or documentaries the WWE has done on the Kliq as montage footage. It’d be better than seeing the “Curtain Call” for the 1,000th time.
What’s great about this show is regardless of the tacky jokes saturating all of the bits, you get to catch peaks of your favorite performers personalities by how they react to the cheesy, tongue in cheek, dialogue of the show in what most probably considered a night off at work. I think the wrestlers were instructed to just be themselves, which was a definite element missing from the booking at the time.
Todd’s performance is over. Have to give credit to him as you can tell he tried his hardest to make the whole silly bit charismatic and entertaining. Whether that’s how it came off is a different story. Memorable part of the show as there’s not many other skits (that were entertaining at least) and the standard award format was mostly stuck to in a very rushed sort of way.
Time for the first award to be handed out! It is “Best Buns” presented by The Godwinns and Hillbilly Jim. Great. A montage of superstars quickly describing what the category means ends with The Undertaker groaning “Nice asssss. Ooooh.” Seriously. The first time I seen this my jaw dropped. Very weird edgy comedy line from ‘Taker for the time. Four nominees are male. The fifth is Sunny. We’re treated to video collages of all their asses and edits of the announcers discussing said superstar backsides. Vince doesn’t think Jerry Lawler has a nice ass. He scoffs at it. Phineas can’t read the winner. Sunny wins. She teases showing her assets. She doesn’t.. Until Skype was invented.
The second award of the night is presented by Ted Dibiase and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Stone Cold seems pissed and barely gets a shot to talk. Big mistake as we all know. Award is for best entrance, basically setting up Shawn Michaels’ Wrestlemania 12 entrance the next night that would become so infamous. His award show acceptance theme is an instrumental version. He thanks the Kliq.
Bob Backlund presents “best finisher”. He puts over his own chicken-wing submission. Bret Hart’s sharpshooter wins it. His acceptance speech is very shoot-based, with most of his family at his table. He seems legitimately bummed about having to drop the title the next night, as watching it back in retrospect it’s very easy to read the emotion on his face. He even talks early retirement later in the night.
“Tell Me A Lie” plays. Shawn Michaels’ overly sappy video montage pushing his first title win. Good editing spanning his entire WWF career to that point, incredibly odd pop ballad song choice that would end up being played a few more times throughout ’96 and ’97.
Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason present “Crime of the Century”. Shouldn’t it be crime of the year as that’s the time frame for the ballots? Oh well. Vader wins for attacking Gorilla Monsoon. Good choice, although Owen Hart knocking HBK unconscious was great, too. But he’ll win for that later in the night.
Pacific Blue for the USA Network promo ad runs. WWF fans would see a lot of these in the future. A few people from the show present the “New Sensation” award. Ahmed Johnson wins it. Goldust probably should have. His speech isn’t too bad.
Billionaire Ted is up next. The juvenile poke at Ted Turner, who’s WCW company was beating the WWF handedly at the time rips on “Nacho” and “Huckster.” He makes comments referring to when Ted asked McMahon to buy the WWF, something that obviously got to Vince as its been referenced many times over the years. He appropriately presents the best heel award, which Jerry Lawler deservingly wins as he was on fire as a heel commentator over the past year. Especially with all his incredibly entertaining Hart family comments – specifically about Stu and Martha Hart.
“Best Threads” winner goes to Shawn Michaels. That’s #2. He presents it to his clothes designer. She’s cute. I bet Shawn.. Nevermind. Of course he did. The energy seems to be there. Or been there.
“Worse Dresser” award is won by Jim Cornette. Dox Hendrix was nominated. Hmm. At least Cornette gets to talk.. And does, beautifully with a firey heel acceptance speech.
Goldust and Marlena present “Greatest Hit”. Vince implies Goldust is trying to give the microphone a blowjob. Undertaker wins with heavier, more orchestrated theme music as he accepts the award. He awkwardly does the speech in character. He was still very under developed on the mic here, which is why I would imagine why Paul Bearer still played a significant role in his interviews at this point.
The owner of the USA Network presents the next one. I’m almost positive he was drunk. McMahon must have been ass kissing this one with his lower than WCW ratings to agree to let him present it. It’s a manager award. Sunny award #2. Cornette is pissed.
Vince leaves the commentary table to present the “Lifetime Achievement” award to “Classy” Freddie Blassie. Vince turns serious and tearful while presenting the award. He can come off incredibly human and genuine when he wants to. Very good at conveying emotion. Even during his robotic commentary era.
The Bushwhackers are out next to do “The Most Embarrassing” moment award. I nominate their presentation. The King wins for kissing his own foot. He threatens to reveal something embarrassing but his mic gets cut. It’s revealed he has a sign on his back and his fly is open. How stereotypically clever and embarrassing.
“The Playboy”‘Buddy Rose diet commercial is shown with Vince and Jerry narrating to an old WWF segment featuring The Playboy. This is just badly dated and just not funny. It’s inclusion is really questionable, even with all the other whacky stuff throughout the night. “Call 1-800 LARD ASS.” Uhg.
Triple H is out with an escort talking about “how big the the balls” are in his ballroom. Young Stephanie McMahon was in the crowd hanging on these words. I don’t think I’m kidding. Owen wins this one because HHH didn’t want HBK to win another as it’s for their concussion angle. Good heel speech by Owen with the typical schitck about him being the best in the Hart family.
“Master of Mat Mechanics” presented by Mr. Perfect starts with an intro montage of Jerry Lawler trying to teach you how to crank s headlock on an opponent while high on NoDoz. I can’t make this up. Shawn wins #3 or #4, depending on who’s counting. I think it’s safe to say he did earn that one.
Best music video is next. Just all around terrible category. Creepy videos montages – some goodvideo edits with completely unfitting music. Sunny’s is especially weird. Bret Hart wins it. His song, “You Start The Fire” was included on WWF The Music Volume 2 instead of his actual theme and it bummed me out so much as a child. More pseudo shoot comments including the infamous Shawn getting beat up by “9 cheerleaders from Syracuse.” they’ve used a lot while talking about the two’s notorious history.
Match of the year is up next. Not much competition on this one; Jim Ross comes out and announces it’s HBK vs Razor Ramon’s ladder match from Summerslam 1995. The other matches nominated were mostly joke matches. I love the match more than their original from Wrestlemania 10 so I agree with this one. Shawn says pretty positive comments about Hart to end the speech.
Gorilla Monsoon, the WWF “President” at the time announces Bret Hart as the winner of “Future Hall of Famer”. He would be about ten years later. As would the rest of the nominees for the category.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper is out to present the final award of the night. It’s “The Leader of the New Generation.” Shawn wins again. His speech gets cut due to time. End of show.
The 1996 WWF Slammy’s presents a very odd period for the WWF. From trying too hard to build Shawn Michaels up to be the next champion, to subtle hints of the Attitude era popping up every once in awhile, the cheap shots to WCW or the excessive amount of cheesy moments, it’s (while a little too long in my opinion) overall a pretty fun watch and foreshadows a lot of things to come. Although not historically significant, I would suggest this to any fan of the era who hasn’t seen it. One watch is all you’ll ever need out of this.