By the time you read this, this year’s Slammy Awards will have come and gone. John Cena will have won Superstar of the Year, a Triple H match will have mysteriously won Match of the Year for a third year in a row, and Michael Cole will have convinced you that he is the most annoying on-air personality in company history — that is, if your longest of long-term memory doesn’t stretch back to the olden days of 1996 (and, to be fair, Cole’s doesn’t).
For those of us watching the WWF in ’96, it probably came as a shock that the USA Network would allow the Federation, whose ratings hovered in the high 2s and low 3s, an extra two hours in addition to the one they were allotted on Monday nights. See, wrestling wasn’t hot like it is nowadays.
Anyway, the Saturday night event marked the return of the awards show for the first time since the 80s. What were we to expect from this throwback?
In his intro, Jerry Lawler didn’t mince words: “There’s going to be so many foul-ups, so many blunders!”
|Sure enough, this guy hit the stage.|
|The Toddster immediately broke out into a rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood,” with the lyrics slightly altered to read thusly:|
|Right off the bat, something wasn’t quite right, as pretty much all the wrestlers’ cars I’d seen up to that point weren’t anything extravagant. Maybe back in the 80s, when wrestling was in a boom period, you could expect some “fancy cars” to go along with the wrestlers’ “big muscles,” but not in 1996. In fact, even their muscles weren’t as big as they were in the 80s for some reason.|
|So, yeah, something wasn’t quite right with Todd’s opening number, and if you still don’t believe me, bear in mind that just a few bars into his show tune parody, Pettengill shifted gears and started singing an Eric Clapton tune about how sexy Shawn Michaels was, citing his “earrings and hair and his thong underwear.“|
|All this while Shawn’s mother sat with HBK. Oh yeah, and the Clapton tune was, “Cocaine.”|
|And Todd kept going, pulling parody after parody out of his hat (or some other article of clothing a fellow might have to take off at a job interview with Pat Patterson). These included a “Love and Marriage” parody about Yokozuna, a Gilligan’s Island parody about Jim Cornette, and a Beauty and the Beast parody about Sunny’s breasts.|
|“Holy Toledo!” said McMahon.|
|Also of note was his re-imagined version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” about The Undertaker. Not only did Todd throw in a fat joke out of the blue about Paul Bearer, but he suggested that Taker’s opponents “bring a fresh pair of underwear.” Unfortunately, Sycho Sid was not in attendance that year to hear this advice.|
|Less noteworthy was his version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” aside from the bit about “Backlund crawling on his knees,” which I’m sure has baffled everyone who has watched this program since then. Have no fear, ladies and gentlemen, as my exhaustive review of 1990s Monday Night Raw has uncovered exactly what Pettengill was talking about.|
|In his Brady Bunch parody, he claimed that Bret Hart had “been in something like 5 million matches,” and if you don’t believe Todd, just read the Hitman’s book and count them for yourself if you have a month or two free. I’ll wait right here.|
|Todd even got to break kayfabe ever-so-slightly in his “Hey Mickey” parody about the Ultimate Warrior, asking, “How much did it cost McMahon?”, Vince still being simply the dorky broadcaster for WWF TV. And bravo for Pettengill’s skewering of Diesel’s supposedly badass anti-corporate (but still merchandise-conscious) attitude shift.|
|Hey RD, do you think we can bring the Toddster onboard to do some inductions?|
|The awards presentations themselves kicked off with the Godwinns, who were drooling and tripping over themselves at the prospect of handing out the “Best Buns” award. And why shouldn’t they be? Maybe because four of the five nominees were men. I can understand how Yokozuna got nominated as a joke, and how Shawn and Goldust were included for their overtly sexual gimmicks…|
|…but you’ve got to think that as soon as Razor Ramon found out that some executive in Titan Tower fancied his buns, he was on the phone to Eric Bischoff.|
|The best part, though, was the video package of wrestlers like Ahmed Johnson, Savio Vega, Mr. Perfect, and The Undertaker (yes, with undead gimmick in full effect) licking their chops about rumps. Given a lecherous introduction like that, what could have possibly been funnier than if anyone but Sunny had won? Don’t think too hard about that one; the answer is “The Undertaker saying, ‘nice ass’ in his dead man voice.”|
|The next award was “Best Slammin’ Jammin’ Entrance,” presented by Ted DiBiase and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. When you think of that old saying, “If you’re gonna talk the trash, you gotta be able to strut the stuff,” you’ve got to think of Shawn Michaels, who not only won the award, but clearly just made that saying up. I think he meant, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk.” Obviously, the Heartbreak Kid was still recovering from those blows to the head in Syracuse.|
|Bob Backlund promised not to exacerbate or even flummox the audience, but instead presented the award for best finisher. It came as no surprise that Sunny would feature heavily in the pre-recorded video package. If anyone knew a thing or two about finishing off a Superstar, it was Tammy Sytch. Bret Hart’s sharpshooter won the award, but Bob Backlund’s convivial presence surely booned the lives of all the plebeians in attendance.|
|The night’s low point came when “Billionaire Ted” gave a rambling speech that made only Vince laugh. Though Ted Turner-bashing was a running theme throughout the night, this particular segment ridiculed McMahon’s rival wanting to buy all his competition out, something Vince would never do that particular decade.|
|For the first time ever, viewers begged the WWF to bring Todd Pettengill back on.|
|It was just ghastly!|
|Vince McMahon presented a lifetime achievement award to Freddy Blassie, but not before we saw a shot of Vince’s wife and his daughter, Stephanie. Five years later, she told a wheelchair-bound Blassie that he was about to die in the midst of the Invasion angle, which was an absolutely atrocious offense to wrestling’s rich history (oh, and Stephanie’s comment to Blassie made it slightly worse).|
|The strangest moment of the night would have to be when Vince and Jerry narrated the old commercial for Buddy Rose’s Blow Away diet, despite Rose not having worked for the company in years. And here you thought the WWF only ridiculed ex-employees if they jumped to WCW.|
|To introduce the technical wrestling award, Jerry Lawler demonstrated his scientific prowess by choking a hapless sparring partner with the man’s own tie. Fortunately, thanks to a massive drop in popularity, WWF had already lost its toy deal with Hasbro, so Lawler kept his job for another five years.|
|The WWF had aired a number of music videos over the past year, including Shawn Michaels’s “Tell Me A Lie,” a title inspired by the WWF’s insistence that it took “nine thugs” to beat up HBK. The winner for best video, however, went to “You Start the Fire,” Roddy Piper’s touching tribute to Adrian Adonis.|
|Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon’s ladder rematch at Summerslam won the match of the year award. While not as good as their match at Wrestlemania X, keep in mind that the “year” in “match of the year” was 1995, so this was some of its competition:
|In the last award of the night, Shawn Michaels won once again, this time for being the “Leader of the New Generation,” beating out four other men, two of whom would leave for WCW two months later.
|Shawn’s speech got cut off due to time constraints, which was no big loss, as no one took these silly awards seriously, anyway. That is, except for Owen Hart, who would brag about his Slammy awards for years. Wooo!|
If there were ever a time capsule of the mid-90’s WWF and all its goofy unevenness, the Slammy Awards were it. However, if you don’t have two hours to spare, this shot of Bret Hart and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese in the same frame will do nicely.