The SmarK Rant for the Monday Night Wars–01.20.97

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for The Monday Night Wars – January 20 1997

– So it’s the night after Royal Rumble 97, and here’s where things REALLY get good and the turnaround of RAW begins.

WWF MONDAY NIGHT RAW!

– Live from Beaumont, TX

– Your hosts are Vince and Jerry and good ol’ JR.

– Bret Hart storms out right away, and we’re breaking kayfabe all over as he rages at Vince about being brought back to the WWF under false pretenses, and having to fight Steve Austin instead of getting a shot at the WWF title, and accuses Vince of giving Shawn Michaels preferential treatment. Perish the thought. Great bitter, paranoid rant here from Bret, as he tells us all how he’s been screwed. Get used to hearing that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — either the universe aligned itself PERFECTLY when Montreal happened, or Vince McMahon is an evil genius who set things in motion months before it happened. So Bret quits and departs into the crowd, while Vince acts all apologetic. DON’T TRUST HIM, BRET! And now here’s Steve Austin, beginning his big run by burying Bret and also complaining about getting screwed over, but he’s not whining about it, no sir. He’s here to kick ass. And you can hear the face pops starting already, as Austin just cuts a killer promo here. OK, I know that Wrestlemania 13 was supposed to be Bret v. Shawn, and it’s been confirmed by both guys and Dave Meltzer and a million other sources, but to this day I don’t see how they get there. Everything was all about Bret v. Austin and it was the only logical conclusion to the build on TV for months leading up to the show.

Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon

This is non-title. Owen takes LaFon down with a wristlock to start, but gets outwrestled. They take it to the mat off a headlock and Owen gets a drop toehold into his own headlock, but LaFon sidekicks him to break. Furnas comes in with a shoulder tackle and a dropkick for two. Wicked overhead belly to belly gets two. Owen fires back with a leg lariat and brings in the Bulldog, as their breakup angle continues, and Furnas catches him napping with a rana. Bulldog bails and regroups, and we get some cheating from the champs back in the ring. LaFon takes Bulldog down with a leglock and they double-team Bulldog in their corner, but Owen comes in with a missile dropkick for two. We hit the chinlock and take an ad break, returning with Owen dropping an elbow for two. JR pauses to take a potshot at WCW, by noting that there’s no bait-and-switch here and you really will see La Femme Nikita after the show. Oh, TAG. Not that the WWF was a group to complain about others baiting-and-switching. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if Vince McMahon’s funeral was footnoted with “Card subject to change” and they stuck someone else in the coffin. Anyway, Furnas gets double-teamed in the corner, but comes back with a crossbody on Owen for two. Owenzuigiri gets two. Bulldog with the delayed vertical suplex for two. Owen hits the chinlock again and the belly to belly gets two, but Furnas makes the hot tag to LaFon. Hiptoss for Bulldog and leg lariat for Owen. Snap suplex into a senton on Bulldog gets two. Northern lights suplex gets two. Ugly DDT gets two. Furnas tosses Owen, who manages to hit LaFon with the Slammy, into the Bulldog powerslam for the pin. Not sure why it was non-title.

(Bulldog & Owen d. Furnas & LaFon, Bulldog powerslam — pin LaFon, 9:32, ***) They would go on to have an even better match at the Final Four PPV. This was a bit rushed and sloppy, but otherwise terrific.

Faarooq v. Bart Gunn

Bart gets overpowered to start, but takes Faarooq down with an armbar and we take a break. Back with Faarooq getting a spinebuster for two. He goes to a chinlock and uses the ropes, and that burns up some time. Bart escapes and slugs back, and uses the clothesline to come back, setting up a bulldog for two. PG-13 puts the boot on the ropes, Crush adds a cheapshot, and Faarooq finishes with the Dominator.

(Faarooq d. Bart Gunn, Dominator — pin, 5:17, 1/2*) The Nation of Domination was the most boring storyline in wrestling until Rock saved it in the summer of 97.

– Vince finally returns to the ringside area, bringing President Gorilla with him. Gorilla announces that Final Four will feature Vader v. Bret Hart v. Undertaker v. Austin, with the Wrestlemania title shot on the line, since Austin didn’t win the Royal Rumble fairly. Austin comes out and offers his response: “You call yourself the Gorilla, but you hee and haw like a jackass.” Bret ends his early retirement and also comes out to accept, and the brawl is on. How was this show not beating Nitro?

Steve Austin v. Undertaker

Big brawl to start leading directly out of the last segment, and UT quickly goes old school, which at this point was more like junior high. He chokes out Austin in the corner and pounds him down, but puts his down down and gets hit with a neckbreaker. Zombie sit up, but Austin kicks him in the face and elbows him down for two. He doesn’t even take shit from the undead. Austin drops elbows on the back of Undertaker’s neck, but Taker goes low, so Austin chokes him out on the ropes. Taker slugs back, but runs into a foot. Austin comes off the middle rope with an axehandle for two, and we hit the chinlock. Funny bit as Jerry Lawler goes to ringside and tells Austin to hit Undertaker in the ribs, but Taker kicks Austin low while he’s listening. KICK WHAM STUNNER, but both guys are out. And while that’s going on, we go to a break. Back with Austin heading up, but Taker brings him down the painful way and then follows him up, but Austin sends him down and hits an elbow for two. Taker comes back with the flying clothesline, but Vader heads out of the ring and it’s a wash.

(Steve Austin no contest Undertaker, 6:33, **) They would of course have many, MANY more matches in the years to come, most of them much better, but this was still a hot TV match until the bad finish. And then a GIANT brawl erupts, with Bret and Austin and Vader and Undertaker all beating the crap out of each other, and we’re out.

WCW MONDAY NITRO!

– Live from Chicago, IL

– And right away they’re coming out swinging, as Randy Savage returns after a hiatus that has lasted since Halloween Havoc 96. He stages a sit-in and threatens to stall the program unless he gets someone in authority. Chavo Guerrero attempts to start the show and gets smacked around for his troubles, and then Chavo’s opponent, Maxx Muscle, also gets in Savage’s face and comes out the worse for it. Finally, Sting rappels from the ceiling and, after teasing some excitement, calms Savage down and leads him away. Even in the rafters, Sting was still a gullible moron.

Alex Wright v. Chris Jericho

Jericho survives an attack from Wright to start, and shoulderblocks him down for two. Jericho misses a charge and Wright gets a leg lariat and drops an elbow. Elbow in the corner, but Jericho slugs out of a boston crab attempt and rolls him up for two. Another rollup gets the pin.

(Chris Jericho d. Alex Wright, rollup — pin, 2:22, 1/2*) Barely even a match, and what there was, was sloppy as hell.

Scotty Riggs v. “Sting”

I love how the fake Sting is just another member of the roster now. Riggs attacks him while he’s “owwwing” and pounds away on the mat. Backdrop, but Sting stunguns him to set up a backbreaker for two. Blind charge misses and Riggs gets a missile dropkick, but Buff Bagwell distracts him and it’s the nWo Finish.

(Scotty Riggs d. nWo Sting, outside interference — DQ, 2:46, 1/2*) They should have just blown off the super-gay American Males feud on Nitro and had Bagwell go on to do something useful at the PPV instead of wasting time with this stuff.

Jeff Jarrett & Eddie Guerrero v. Arn Anderson & Steve MacMichael

Uh, why? Was this “pick matches out of a hat” week? Arn elbows JJ down as Tony notes that this is the biggest crowd in 1997 to see a pro wrestling show in the city of Chicago. Considering that we’re 20 DAYS into the year, that’s not really a huge point to brag about. Eddie takes Arn down with an armbar, so Arn brings Mongo in, and he overpowers Eddie for the big hometown face pop. Press slam, but Eddie reverses to an armdrag and dropkicks him. Mongo dumps him, and they head back in where Jeff comes in and slams Arn. Dropkicks for the Horsemen, but Eddie runs away from the match as AA hits the spinebuster on Jarrett and the Horsemen proceed to double-team Jarrett unopposed until Debra throws in the towel. Er, sash. What kind of shitty-ass shit is this?

(Anderson & Mongo d. Jarrett & Guerrero, submission?, 3:41, *1/4) Perhaps you have to be smoking WCW’s crack to fully appreciate what the fuck any of this is supposed to mean. Speaking of which, we follow with another non-sensical Horsemen interview, which is mainly Nancy and Debra taking potshots at each other.

WCW Cruiserweight title: Ultimo Dragon v. Dean Malenko

Dragon works a wristlock to start and kicks him down, but walks into a powerslam that gets two for Dean. Blind charge hits boot, but Dean recovers with another powerslam for two. Brainbuster gets two. Dragon takes him into the turnbuckle and tosses him, but misses a pescado. Back in, Malenko tries an electric chair, but Dragon reverses to a sunset flip for two. Another blind charge misses and they fight on the top, with Dragon bringing him down for two. Dean gets a leglock, but Dragon makes the ropes and rolls him up for the pin.

(Ultimo Dragon d. Dean Malenko, Majastral cradle — pin, 4:12, **) Not enough time to develop and as usual they wouldn’t shut the hell up about the nWo. Dean would win the title the next night at the Clash.

WCW TV title: Steven Regal v. Jacques Rougeau

Lockup to start and they trade off on the arm, but Robert Parker trips up Regal and Jacques stomps him down and out. Parker adds another cheapshot and Jacques beats on him outside. Back in, Regal grabs a headlock, but gets tripped up again and Jacques attacks from behind. Parker then comes in and it’s a DQ. What IS this show?

(Regal d. Jacques Rougeau, outside interference — DQ, 1:46, 1/2*) Not even a match.

Kevin Sullivan v. Chris Benoit

They immediately brawl into the crowd and up into the bathroom, not even bothering to go to the ring. Benoit goes into a sign above the urinals, but he breaks off the plexiglass and hits Sullivan with it. Back to the ring and Sullivan gets the ICE COLD SODA OF DOOM, and they head up. Benoit tries a superplex, but Sullivan punches him down. Benoit tries another suplex, but Sullivan goes low, and they butt heads and both are out. Jimmy Hart gives Kevin the bell and Benoit goes up, but headbutts the bell as a result.

(Kevin Sullivan d. Chris Benoit, bell — pin, 1:58, **1/2) Only two minutes of actual match, but the whole thing ran a good 8 minutes and was pretty entertaining stuff. This was really just there to promote the rematch at the Clash of the Champions the next night. I wish they’d show THAT on 24/7 to go along with this instead of jumping around to coincide with whatever silly theme o’ the month. Although quickly checking the results, it sounds like a pretty shitty show, so I rescind the request.

Jim Duggan v. Pierre Ouelette

Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash take over on commentary here, which should give us our share of insider jokes and smug comments. Duggan dumps Pierre , but Jacques comes out and distracts Duggan long enough for Pierre to beat him down and take over. Legdrop gets two. The Steiners also join us and Scott hits Pierre and allows Duggan to pin him with the taped fist. I never got how that’s supposed to work.

(Jim Duggan d. Pierre Ouelette, taped fist — pin, 2:00, 1/4*) Again, just building up to the Steiners v. Quebecers at the Clash, which only lasted like 5 minutes in itself.

Masa Chono v. Dave Taylor

Chono boots him down for two, but Taylor fights back with forearms. Chono with the backslide, but Taylor escapes and dropkicks him, then knocks him to the floor with an axehandle. They brawl on the floor and Taylor sends Chono into the railing. Back in, Chono with the Mafia Kick and STF to finish.

(Masa Chono d. Dave Taylor, STF — submission, 2:34, *) Yawn. I like Chono, but they were really shoehorning him into a position that he didn’t fit into at this point.

Scott Hall v. Booker T

Kevin Nash notes that he wrestled Hall in this very building (at Summerslam 94, in case you’re wondering) and he was thinking of that while watching “that mess of a PPV last night”. Given the PPV that they’re promoting on this show, I wouldn’t talk. Nash then tops himself by noting that he hasn’t seen so many black shirts in this arena since the 1977 Foghat tour. Nice reference there, Bobby Heenan. Booker smacks Hall and sidekicks him, and gets an elbow and another sidekick, for two. Hall catches him with the blockbuster slam and they go up, but Booker sends him down and follows with a high cross for two. Nick Patrick’s count is pretty slow, of course. Hall attacks him and the Outsider Edge ends it quickly.

(Scott Hall d. Booker T, Outsider Edge — pin, 2:47, *1/4) Booker was nothing at this point, so this was pretty much a Hall squash.

Stevie Ray v. Lex Luger

Nash’s hit-or-miss commentary swings to the good again, as he notes that “I COULD look like that, but then I’d have to give up too many things that I enjoy.” Stevie attacks to start and slugs away in the corner, but Luger fires back and they brawl outside. Sherri, a babyface in the last match, suddenly goes heel and chokes Luger out with her scarf, and Stevie gets a big boot back in the ring. Luger suddenly powerslams him and finishes with the rack.

(Lex Luger d. Stevie Ray, torture rack — submission, 2:21, 1/2*) The parade of crappy matches continues.

And we finish with Hulk Hogan talking about how he’s going to beat the Giant at Souled Out, and Giant runs out as WE’RE OUT OF TIME. Thank god.

The Winner: Clearly RAW kicked Nitro’s ass this week, as Nitro was a sprawling and pointless show with endless 3 minute matches and RAW was focused like a laser beam on Hart v. Austin.