And now, more history, as the Attitude Era officially begins…
The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW 03.10.97: RAW IS WAR!
– Live from Worcester, Mass.
– This begins the format change that has lasted to this day, giving us the TitanTron, darker lighting, the big steel ramp, angry metal music for all the cues, and an overall edgier feel. But think about this for a minute: They haven’t significantly altered their format in TEN YEARS. No wonder the show feels so stale. (And this was written another 10 years ago! So that’s now 20 years since the last image overhaul! Unless you count the HD redo, which came about a year after I wrote this review.)
– We start with Sid complaining about being forced to team with Undertaker tonight. Undertaker comes out and lets him know that he’s got this one without Sid’s help, and that Sid should go rest up so that he can lose the title to Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Then Mankind & Vader interrupt and Paul Bearer’s all “You’re both cowards!” and they all brawl, but Undertaker thinks that Sid hit him! Yes, it’s the first of many Vince Russo conventions, namely:
a) The 20-minute interview to open the show (the format, not necessarily the length), and;
b) People supposedly being shocked when two guys who are feuding accidentally hit each other.
Rocky Maivia v. Tony The Jobber
Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund cut a promo about Rocky’s title defense against the Sultan at Wrestlemania, which is sadly not as awesome as you’d think. Backlund was the crazy one at that point, not Sheik. Anyway, Rocky finishes the jobber with a hurricane DDT and flying bodypress at 1:36, despite Bob’s ravings. The foreign menace storms the ring, but luckily Tony Atlas (with pretty shitty seats, come to think of it) is there to watch his back after he’s already fought them off.
Heavy Metal, Pentagon & Pierroth v. Hector Garza, Octagon & Latin Lover
Their half-assed flirtation with lucha libre continues. Heavy Metal goes after the arm of Garza to start and they do some flippy stuff before switching off. Pierroth and Latin Lover trade chops before Pierroth clotheslines him, but Lover gets a high cross and a superkick, and we trade off again. Next up, Octagon and Pentagon, who do a backbreaker spot and then it’s back to Heavy Metal and Garza. Heavy Metal gets the handspring elbow, but Garza hiptosses him down, then eats a leg lariat. And now another wrestler in the crowd, as Chyna gets kicked out by security. Now, you’re probably thinking this would be a normal occurrence these days, but wasn’t drunk or drugged up or anything at this point! And we take a break.
And we’re back with Metal working the leg of Garza, but Latin Lover comes in with an armbar to break it up. Over to Pierroth, but Lover gets a spinebuster as we continue to cut away from the match with an interview with Brian Pillman, making his return to the WWF after yet another injury. Meanwhile, the Mexican guys are all doing highspots that the crowd still doesn’t care about, but it’s a boring match anyway. Back in the ring, Lover misses a frog splash by a mile and Heavy Metal rolls him up for the pin at 7:42. This was just a backdrop for two different storyline advancements. *1/2
Ahmed Johnson v. Roy Raymond
I was hoping his name was Ronnie Raymond so I could make Firestorm jokes, but this squash is just the backdrop for the Nation coming out and rapping at Ahmed anyway. Ahmed pounds the poor guy and dumps him. Back in, an axe kick, spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge end it at 1:57. Ahmed ACCEPTS the challenge of the Nation for Wrestlemania, and he brings out the Legion of Doom as his team. This would have worked 100% better if they hadn’t debuted the LOD in a nothing match a couple of weeks before this.
WWF tag titles: Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. The Blackjacks
The Blackjacks attack to start, but Bulldog dumps Windham and they regroup outside. Back in, Bradshaw hammers on Bulldog in the corner, but he comes back with an armdrag on Windham. Bradshaw and Windham take turns with big boots to take over, but Bulldog gets a quick tag to Owen. Windham goes low in the corner, however, and Bradshaw adds the big boot. Owen gets tossed and they beat on him out there, and back in for a delayed suplex from Windham that gets two. And with that we take a break.
Back with Bulldog now the face in peril, as the Blackjacks beat on him in the corner and Bradshaw gets a pumphandle slam for two. Bulldog comes back with a clothesline and it’s hot (?) tag Owen, who hits everyone with leg lariats and goes up. Missile dropkick gets two on Bradshaw, and Bradshaw misses a charge in the corner and hurts his knee. Owen finishes with the Sharpshooter, but everyone else is brawling and the ref DQ’s the champs instead at 7:42 in a finish that makes no sense. They had no clue how to book the Blackjacks. *1/2
– And then we segue right into Taz coming out and attacking Jerry Lawler, while Sabu tries to dive at him and puts himself through a table instead. The ECW guys all come out and act like it’s a big deal, but really he’d normally just get up and take a two count in that situation.
Leif Cassidy v. Miguel Perez
I should note that the tag match and the ECW attack and now this are all one big segment, another hallmark of the new format. Perez does the hiptoss reversal and takes Cassidy down with an armbar, but Leif chops him down and they do a very awkward enzuigiri spot. JR, already working on his diplomatic skills, notes that “their styles are not very compatible”, which is Jim-speak for when the match is sucking ass. And then we just totally cut away and go to a split-screen of Lawler and Heyman, which is more entertaining anyway. Back to the suck, as Cassidy gets two off something and you can actually see fans leaving in the background. Cassidy pounds him in the corner and goes up with a moonsault, which misses by a lot, and Perez makes the comeback. Perez reverses a powerbomb into a rollup for the pin at 4:08. Absolutely awful. DUD And it’s not like Al Snow’s a bad worker or anything.
– Next week: Bret Hart v. Sid in a cage match, in the match that changes EVERYTHING.
– And speaking of things that change everything, Ken Shamrock officially joins the WWF, announcing his job at Wrestlemania: Referee for the Hart-Austin match at Wrestlemania. But more importantly, the addition of Shamrock added “tapping out” to the rules of wrestling and introduced the UFC to millions of people who had never heard of it before, which ultimately came back and bit Vince on the ass in the PPV market. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have happened without Shamrock in the WWF or that one directly followed from the other, but it was a factor. And Shamrock’s mundane discussion about the refereeing job is interrupted by Steve Austin, who promises to make sure Bret wins the title next week and throws insults at Shamrock. And then it gets ramped up when Bret Hart comes out and takes over the interview, whining about the lack of justice and how he’s getting screwed by everyone, and as planned the fans continue turning on him. Bret gives Shamrock an awesome backhanded verbal shot, noting that no one in the WWF knows submission wrestling better than him, with Shamrock standing RIGHT THERE while Bret just acts like he’s invisible. Finally he acknowledges Ken after putting himself over for 10 minutes, but warns him not to screw him over. Austin comes out and flips them both off and we take a break. Absolutely awesome segment as Bret takes the ball and runs with his new character.
Billy Gunn v. Aldo Montoya
Gunn slams Aldo and drops a knee to start, as we’ve totally forgotten about the “neck injury” suffered against Bart and hit the reset button on Gunn. He stomps Aldo in the corner, then comes back from a sunset flip with a lariat. Aldo comes back with an enzugiri and chops Billy down, but Billy stomps him down again and gets a neckbreaker. Gunn goes up and finishes with a flying legdrop at 2:47, which was totally ignored in favor of a Sunny promo. Not that I’m complaining. Sunny’s looking pretty good again these days, by the way. (Ho ho, not any more!) Not surprisingly, it’s because she wants a job with WWE again. (At least she ended up in the Hall of Fame before she flushed her relationship with the company down the toilet for the sake of making a porno.) Unfortunately they want workers rather than valets now, and she’d be way out of the age range they’re looking for anyway. The most entertaining thing here was Honky Tonk Man mispronouncing “Worcester” to bug the crowd.
Goldust v. Tim McNeely
I think I got the spelling right there. Despite HHH standing on the ramp and looking as intimidating as he could at that point, Goldust still lays out the jobber and chops away in the corner, finishing with the Curtain Call at 1:34. HHH and Chyna blindside Goldust, but Marlena jumps on Chyna to a surprisingly big pop. In retrospect, I think they should have done the freakshow mixed tag match at Wrestlemania, but it wasn’t the right time yet. Chyna pressing Harvey out of the ring is a great visual.
– And now another big one, as Jerry Lawler debates Paul Heyman and things get NASTY. First usage of the word “shoot” on WWF TV that I can recall, and Lawler accuses Heyman of being gay and living with his parents. Heyman and the ECW guys all go after Lawler, who calls out his WWF friends…and no one answers. Kind of a weird feud that was paid off in more detail in ECW rather than in the WWF. I recall that Zen and I were going nuts for this stuff while watching it live back in the day, however.
Undertaker & Sid v. Mankind & Vader
Another RAW convention, as Undertaker is late and so Sid starts alone and gets the worst of it. Luckily Undertaker comes out without so much as an entrance video and hits Vader with a chokeslam before booting him out of the ring. Mankind hits UT with a Cactus clothesline, allowing Vader to take over on Sid in the ring and splash him for two. Vader hits the chinlock and that goes on for a long time, and we take a break from the exciting action.
Back with Sid suplexing Vader, but Mankind comes in and drops an elbow for two. Everyone brawls on the floor, including the babyface team, and that results in Undertaker chokeslamming his own partner before hitting Vader with a tope con hilo. Vader gets two on Sid in the ring after all that. Sid tosses UT back in the ring and powerbombs him, then leaves and Vader gets the pin at 7:06. This had Russo written all over it. *
Overall, it’s one of the most historic episodes of TV in wrestling history! And next week is even BETTER.