“Titan Shattered” is the sequel to “Titan Sinking”, which are all part of the Titan trilogy, a series of books detailing the years 1995 to 1997 in the WWF. While the first one focuses on the disaster that was 1995, the second book focuses on 1996 as the year when Vince McMahon started to change his programming into something more risque and started to give more opportunities to wrestlers that normally weren’t given a chance to shine on his shows due to how they look or just because they had something that was perceived as a failure.
While 1995 was a dumpster fire, 1996 fared a little better. The year started with Bret Hart as champion and with Vince preparing the way to give the big title opportunity to Shawn Michaels. 1996 was the year where the boyhood dream came true for Shawn Michaels, but he was not drawing the houses as a champion should do and he was still a liability when things did not go his way. There are even examples of him flipping out in matches.
Alongside the pressure of being the champion, this was the year where the Kliq broke off, with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall going off into WCW, and after the Curtain Call, an event where Nash, Hall, Michaels, and Triple H broke character and hugged inside the ring, booking plans for the latter where squashed. All this made Vince reconsider having Michaels as champion and ended up making a title switch to Sycho Sid.
Other notable events of 1996 is the rise of Stone Cold (I don’t think I need to retell that story), the start of the 83 weeks where Nitro beat Raw, Foley making his debut as Mankind, the Ironman match between Bret and Michaels (which ain’t as good as WWE revisionist history portrays it), a connection between WWF and ECW, Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon, and the Ultimate Warrior having a war against McMahon.
This is also the year where you could see a great juxtaposition in the WWF as a whole.
While watching WWE revisionist history, you normally get told that the WWF was sucking in 1995 but in 1996 they started to turn it around fast. Not really, especially if you see how gradual the changes were on the timeline in this book. Vince McMahon, like a lot of people, is very hard-headed and it’s a hard man to convince to change. While he saw that his product was sucking and that when he started allowing more realistic characters and storylines that interest in his company went up, he was still going back to the well by hiring Ultimate Warrior and making plays for Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. He still debuted stupid characters like The Sultan, The Gladiator, and T.L. Hopper, a fucking wrestling plumber. He created the New Midnight Express, and when has a New something worked with anything in life? He was still hesitant to give out guaranteed contracts and finding it harder to retain talent.
Meanwhile, what was really starting to work was Vince just letting wrestlers be themselves. After the famous Austin 3:16 promo, Vince was hesitant to give Stone Cold a chance and just let him flounder for a couple of more months until he had to give him the go to be the top guy. Bringing Foley into the WWF was a hard job and Foley had to sell his character to not be stuck with something stupid. This is why Mankind exists and not Mason the Mutilator. Pillman was given the go-ahead to do anything he wanted. Undertaker started to humanize his character and get more beatings. Plus, WWF started using elements from ECW by letting the main eventers use weapons, be rougher, and even borrowing end of matches from the other promotion.
1996 was a weird year.
It was a transitional year where you had both the cartoony WWF and the WWF with attitude living at the same time, making this an interesting and pivotal year for the promotion. “Titan Shattered” once again makes one ask: is Vince really a genius or is he lucky? The best ideas for turning the company around ended up being just letting guys be themselves and taking chances since WCW was smoking the WWF every week. Anytime he had a big idea, it was either something horrible or a rehash of past glory years.
While the book will definitely give you things to think about and you will learn about 1996, it has the same faults as the first one in the series. One thing is that this is pretty mainstream pro wrestling history, so you will probably know a lot of this already. You might not know the order of when it happened, but as a fan you probably know it. Still, this gives you the backstage scoop and the why’s, which is important, especially if you are a younger fan and you are interested in this history. I would recommend this history if you are one of those fans.
Another problem is that it meanders. In a book about the history of the WWF in 1996, do you really need half of a chapter devoted to the history of multi-company wars or a detailed account of WCW events? I understand the importance of context, but I think that in some instances it provided way too much about topics non-WWF related. For example, I don’t think there was a need to have a transcript of Hogan’s NWO promo at Bash at the Beach ‘96. That is what I’m talking about.
1996 was a weird and transitional year for the WWF. There were flashes about what would propel Vince McMahon’s empire to the top of the world, but the man was still hesitant to go fully into more mature content and characters, even if they were working around the whole wrestling scene. By mature, I don’t necessarily mean sexual or violent, but more real characters and situations. He also was hesitant to give an opportunity to great wrestlers and to listen to some of his aides that weren’t yes men.
This book is the timeline of that year in wrestling, and if you are a new fan or you are following the year on the WWE Network, this is a good book to read due to the great research and all of the information contained in it.