The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 02.17.97
For some reason there’s a gap in my original 2007 reviews of these shows, so you get 2017 Scott, watching on the WWE Network!
It’s the night after Final Four, and it’s time for shit to get REAL. This is also a huge show, because USA moved them up an hour to avoid head-to-head conflict with Nitro and expanded the show to two hours on a weekly basis, finally sinking some money into the product in an effort to prove how serious they were. We’re still a month away from the biggest revamp in the history of the show, but the basic format has changed.
Live from Nashville, TN
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
WWF title: Bret Hart v. Sid
Steve Austin immediately jumps into the ring, before the bell even rings, and he attacks both guys and brawls with Bret, leaving Sid with an injured knee. So we’ll put a pin in this one and come back to it later, I guess. The referees all converge on Sid and beg him not to compete. They were probably worried that he might win the title and then forfeit it after a tearful speech.
Let us take you back to still photos of Final Four last night, as Bret Hart won the WWF title again in a ****1/2 match.
Meanwhile, Sid is pretty upset about getting attacked, but he’ll still win the WWF title later, once those darn doctors clear his knee for competition.
Wildman Marc Mero v. Savio Vega
I should note that we’re 20 minutes in this show and this is finally the first match. Vega attacks in the corner to start, but Mero controls with armdrags and Savio bails. Mero hits him with a plancha, but runs into a sidekick back in the ring. Vega with a leg lariat in the corner, but Mero gets a crossbody for two. He tries a comeback in the corner, but Vega drops him with a hotshot and chokes away. PG-13 gets some cheapshots on the floor, but Sable chases JC Ice away with her NEW ATTITUDE and Mero comes back for real. And then everyone just runs in for the DQ at 4:15. *1/2 A Nation beatdown on Mero seems imminent, but Ahmed Johnson returns in his pajamas and makes the save.
Intercontinental title: Rocky Maivia v. Leif Cassidy
Really funny to just hear Rocky introduced from “the South Pacific”. Sunny randomly comes out to be guest timekeeper for the match for no adequately explored reason, and HOLY GOD does that dress make you sad for what a wreck she became. Rocky slugs away and dumps Leif with a clothesline over the top, and the crowd is like…
Rocky works the arm in thrilling fashion while HHH does an inset promo about how he’s not done with Rocky and the IC title. Jim Ross immediately steers him towards Goldust because they have unfinished business. If I was Hunter, I’d be aiming for Rocky, personally. Leif gets a kick or whatever for two, but Rocky rolls him up for two as the crowd is dead silent. And now Leif goes to the armbar as we get a very 1997-specific conversation on commentary, as they compare rookie Rocky Maivia to rookie golfer Tiger Woods. I’d say they both did pretty well for themselves. Leif continues working the arm and even the director is bored, so they randomly cut to Sunny’s cleavage at ringside. Cassidy goes up with a CLUBBING FOREARM from the top and that gets two. Leif goes up again and Maivia slams him off to make the comeback and ARMS ARE WAVING EVERYWHERE. High cross gets two, and then Rocky finishes him with the shoulderbreaker at 9:34. That’s 9 hours, 34 minutes. ½*
Meanwhile, Jerry Lawler goes on a huge rant against ECW at ringside and steals a sign from some idiot at ringside. So Lawler challenges any “ECW goofs” to come to RAW next week and face him man-to-man.
Goldust joins us for an interview, and NOW the feud with Hunter is personal. Also, Marlena notes that Goldust is way more of a man than Hunter could ever be. That was done because people were still booing Goldust and they wanted to nip it in the bud. Anyway, someone saying they’re “more of a man” is of course is the trigger for Hunter, and he runs out to beat up Goldust and hit him with a Pedigree. And then Chyna heads in and literally flings Marlena around like a ragdoll in a famous visual. I feel like at this point they should have just moved past the Goldust thing and sent Hunter back to the IC title feud, because neither this feud nor the Rocky/Sultan match added anything to Wrestlemania anyway.
The Head Bangers v. The Hardy Boys
Obviously one of these teams ended up more successful than the other. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this was really the first appearance of the Hardyz as a team on RAW, wasn’t it? Jeff gets a bit of shine, but the Bangers cut him off and toss him, then go to work on Matt in the corner. Meanwhile, Faarooq challenges Ahmed to a Chicago Street Fight for Wrestlemania in an inset promo. Mosh tosses Matt and hits him with a dive while JR & Lawler have an awkward conversation about seeing mosh pits “on the news”, clearly having no idea what the Head Banger gimmick was even about. They hit Matt with the move that later became the Stage Dive, but Matt manages to get a tag to Jeff, who quickly gets killed and pinned at 4:05. Clearly the Hardys were just out to bump like crazy people and make their faces known. And it worked. *
WWF title: Bret Hart v. Sid
OK, let’s try this again. But first, Jerry reminds us to “click the hyperlink on the WWF’s AOL site” to learn about the US Army. Could this show BE anymore 1997? Anyway, Bret Hart gets attacked by Steve Austin during his dramatic walk to the gorilla position, and even Vince McMahon gets sucked into the beatdown while trying to separate them.
Meanwhile, Gorilla Monsoon assures us that unlike some OTHER Monday night shows, this one doesn’t tease stuff and then not deliver! What the hell is he talking about? They’ve done it TWICE tonight already! Just because they delivered the match eventually after two hours doesn’t make it OK that they advertised the title match as “kicking off the show” and then pushed it back to the main event through storyline contrivances!
Flash Funk v. Owen Hart
Update: Marlena is coughing up blood and being taken to hospital. Wow, I guess Goldust really IS all man! Oh wait, I guess JR was taking about the Chyna attack, never mind. Given we’re an hour and a half into this show I’m hoping this will finally give us a decent match. Owen escapes the armbars of Funk and clotheslines him, then stops for some showboating. So they do some more bullshit while Jerry Lawler takes a phone call from Paul E. Dangerously, who changes his on-screen name to Paul Heyman for the first time here. A graphic informs us that “On the phone: ECW representative”. Anyway, Lawler is like “Who are you gonna bring, the Blue Meanie and the Sandman?” Ouch. Owen gets dumped and has some miscommunication with Clarence Mason, which brings out Bulldog to further yell at the poor guy and we take a break. Back with Flash getting a backslide for two, but Owen hits a german suplex for two. And now Steve Austin cuts an inset promo while Owen gets a side suplex for two. Flash makes the comeback and gets a high cross for two. Very nice moonsault gets two. Bulldog hits Flash in the head with the Slammy, and holds him down while Owen pins him at 12:44. It was decent and picked up at the end, but they had way too much going on in the periphery. **1/2 Interesting note from the Observer at the time: Owen and Bulldog were booked to drop the tag titles to Furnas & LaFon at Wrestlemania at this point, although Dave did note that everything was changing hourly.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Bart Gunn
Hunter stops to deny any knowledge of the mystery woman attacking Marlena. Honky Tonk Man joins us on commentary, and he had narrowed down his shortlist to “2 or 3 people” but a couple of them left the promotion and now he’s back to square one. Bart controls with a dropkick and works the arm as JR plugs a hotline report about “unique negotiations with some top superstars”. That’s Ken Shamrock he’s referring to, by the way. Honky reveals that Shawn Michaels was on his list. Well, he can dance and sort of sing. Bart works the arm, but Hunter USES THE KNEE to take over and then Goldust runs in for the DQ or countout or whatever at 4:11. I will say, it’s interesting to watch Vince Russo and Vince McMahon play with the rhythms of the match layouts, with random non-finishes at points where you’d be expecting the heel to get the heat. It’s not GOOD, but it’s different. ½*
Dr. James Andrews lets us know that Shawn’s injury wasn’t actually as bad as feared, and he’ll be back in 4-6 weeks. Frankly I’m shocked they didn’t hire a male model to play the doctor.
WWF title: Bret Hart v. Sid
Attempt #3. Bret goes after the knee and gets the legsweep for two, then works on the back instead. Sid gets the heat and works him over in the corner, but Bret goes to the knee again and he’s clearly not into it tonight. Can’t blame him. He was having some very real second thoughts about signing the new deal at this point. And then Bret wraps his leg around the post and invents the ringpost figure-four before our eyes, as we take a break. Meanwhile, we get the “Foot Action Rewind” of Final Four. I didn’t realize Mel Phillips was sponsoring these shows. Back from break with Bret working over the knee in the corner, but Sid pounds away with clubbing forearms to make the comeback. Legdrop gets two. Sid goes up with the world’s worst Alabama Jam and gets two. Well, I guess that one he tried on the WCW PPV was worse, but this was pretty bad. If you can’t jump in the air and land on your ass properly, you shouldn’t really be going up the ropes. Bret misses a charge and clotheslines himself on the ropes while the crowd just openly cheers Sid more and more. Steve Austin runs out again and attacks Sid, but that gets him nowhere, and Sid comes back in with a sunset flip that Bret reverses into the Sharpshooter. Sid is done, but Austin hits Bret in the head with a chair and leaves, allowing Sid to finish with the powerbomb and regain the WWF title at 15:58. So Sid faces Undertaker at Wrestlemania, although the reasoning for Undertaker to get the title shot was never really explained beyond “Vince goes back to the big guys when business is shitty.” Sid was just all over the place here and Bret was putting in the minimum effort, so this wasn’t good. *1/2
Things would quickly get better again for the show, but this week wasn’t it. There’s a lot of nostalgia for this episode, but I think it’s more people remembering the Sid / Bret angle and introduction of Chyna. Newsworthy, yes. Entertaining now? Not so much.
Tomorrow: It’s Nitro! Well, for me it’s immediately afterwards, but you know what I mean.