It’s rare for WWE to create a television program that stands out from all its other content. ECW on Sci-Fi was basically just Smackdown filmed from a different angle, Smackdown these days is simply Raw: The Director’s Cut, and the fifth season of NXT played out like episodes of Raw, with the roster of Superstars, written as if never intended in a million years to air.
Of course, you can point to the current NXT show on WWE Network as an alternative to Titan Towers’ standard fare, but before that, when was the last time WWE put on a truly different weekly television show?
The answer to that question just might be Shotgun Saturday Night, which launched in 1997.
As the first Monday Night Raws had pushed the envelope with live broadcasts and the word, “ass,” so too would Shotgun Saturday Night boldly push boundaries with its night club setting and furry fetish skits.
The idea of hosting a gritty live wrestling show in tiny night clubs sounds cool on paper…
…unless that paper is the month of January from a 1997 calendar, in which case, said wrestling show gets pumped full of unbearably bad humor by the same people who brought you the Slammy Awards specials on USA.
|The debut edition of Shotgun Saturday Night aired on January 4th, 1997, to the dismay of Mr. Bob Backlund, who cut a promo on the need to ban everything from Shotgun Saturday Night to New York City to Saturday night itself. Would that mean expanding Sunday morning to 18 hours, or just shortening the week by six?|
|The point was, this program was dangerous, risqué, and daring, suited to the mature viewer. So what was the best way to kick off this new, edgy, adult-oriented broadcast? Was it with:
|If you picked any one of those letters, you don’t have a quarter of the creative mind of Vince McMahon, who set the tone for the new show with all four groundbreaking concepts, pitting the Godwinns against the Headbangers dressed as nuns.|
|The “holy” chants directed towards the wrestling nuns were easy enough for Vince to laugh off; not so for the “Go to Hell” chants that started once fans hoping for hardcore ECW-style action realized this garbage would go on for another fifteen minutes.|
|Somehow, the fans stuck around long enough to see the midget main event…|
|…and this undercard match that ended when Marlena flashed The Sultan, whose manager Bob Backlund shielded his virgin eyes and forced him to flee the ring.|
|(As Rikishi, Sultan would return the favor to Terri years later)|
|Guarding one’s sexually repressed proteges was apparently the biggest problem for heel managers on Shotgun. Just ask Paul Bearer, who pitched a fit whenever Mankind stalked the various sex workers working the New York night clubs.
|You’ve heard of pole-dancing before, but have you ever heard of rope-dancing? It’s like a sexy gym class.|
|Make no mistake: there was certainly a lot of sexual content to be found on Shotgun — almost none of it good…|
|…from the standard Shawn Michaels butt shot in the opening sequence…|
|…to the Flying Nuns (re-named the Sisters of Love) getting arrested for solicitation…|
|…to Sunny’s much-hyped sex tape. Yes, a sex tape! Want to know who with? Was it Shawn? Skip? Maybe Davey Boy? Try Fondle-Me-Elmo, a giant, thong-wearing version of the popular children’s toy. The punchline to all this was that Elmo’s penis fell off.|
|Perhaps the Nation of Domination would know where it went, if we are to believe this very specific chant from the crowd at New York’s Penn Station.|
|Speaking of anatomical mysteries, Goldust’s unexplained pregnancy failed to captivate Shotgun viewers, few of whom complained when the advertised live broadcast of the Bizarre One giving birth was scrapped the following week with no explanation.|
|Think the prospect of seeing Goldust’s cervix is scary? Once, The Undertaker opened the show from a locomotive, declaring it “Amtrak’s Night Train to Hell.” I can go one of three ways with this joke:
Comment now, leaving a number from 1-3 to vote for your choice of punchline.
|As if the endless parade of freaks couldn’t get any longer (technically, an endless anything cannot get any longer), it turned out that opening the premiere episode with the Godwinns was no accident: Vince seemed to love putting the hillbillies on his Saturday night show. After all: two country boys from Bitters, Arkansas carrying slop buckets? Only in New York, baby! (And Bitters, Arkansas). In between ogling the dancers, the hog farmers were featured nearly every week, sometimes wrestling twice in one night.|
|Phineas Godwinn once even “accidentally” emptied his slop bucket on Pat Patterson as he sat backstage, looking to have had zero clue as to what was going to happen. The bewildered Pat looked about as amused by the rib as when Superstar Graham went on Donahue and accused him of touching kids.|
|Hillbilly antics aside, don’t ever accuse the WWF of failure to exploit the quirks of their Shotgun venues. The unique environments led to a number of odd happenings, such as the Undertaker’s least-intimidating entrance ever, wherein he took the escalator.|
|At least he knew how to get to the ring; Marc Mero got lost on the way to his match.|
|For the first time in Federation history, the real-life Superstars duked it out in a ring made by Hasbro.|
|The limited space in the venues meant that fans were often allowed close enough to touch the wrestlers’ butts. So there was something for the ladies at least, although, like today, most wrestling fans were male, as are most Wrestlecrap readers, if I had to guess. To help us better understand our audience demographics, leave a number in the comments section below indicating how many testicles you have.|
|It wouldn’t be an adult show without adult humor, and Kevin Dunn’s crack production team sure slipped in some howlers in the pre-match graphics…|
|…most of which were about OJ.|
|You know what else is funny? Bodily functions! Good thing we were well-supplied in that comedic area, whether it be Mini-Vader having to go pee-pee…
|…or Mosh vomiting on Thrasher.
|As if anyone needed further disincentive to stay up till 1 am to watch wrestling, Todd Pettengill was a ubiquitous presence on the broadcast…
|…serving not only as the Honky Tonk Man’s karaoke partner…
|…and as MC for Sunny and Mascarita Sagrada doing the Macarena…||
|…but also as an interviewer. Here he is, stumbling upon a homeless Nikolai Volkoff.|
|Speaking of the Toddster, the live nature of the show backfired spectacularly when Terry Funk called Pettengill’s mother a whore, among other colorful insults. On the plus side, the incident did lead to a confrontation between Funk and Steve Austin, who engaged in a showdown of the Texas SOBs that was never brought up again, as Terry was only with the WWF for Royal Rumble weekend.|
After only six weeks of the show’s live format, the Federation aired a “Best-of” episode, then switched to taping the show at an arena before Raw. Just be thankful it ditched the night club format before Mr. Backlund got the chance to ban Saturday nights —
— and before Sunny could film a sequel with Furby. Let’s just hope no one from Vivid Entertainment reads this site.