The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW–03.17.97

The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 03.17.97

– Live from Syracuse, NY.

– Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler & JR.

The Legion of Doom v. Crush & Savio Vega.

Brawl to start on the outside and Hawk throws a rare dropkick on Savio and boots him down. In the ring, Animal pounds on Crush in the corner and drops an elbow. The Nation regroups and Savio starts the match proper with Hawk and quickly tries a piledriver, and you know what happens there. Hawk gets another dropkick (0.7 Watts) for two and Animal hits the chinlock. Over to Crush and Hawk as we get a replay of the Nation attack on Ahmed from MSG, as though a DQ run-in finish was something to be proud of. Hawk continues throwing dropkicks, but we take a break and return with Savio getting the leg lariat in the corner. Crush gets a belly to belly for two. Backstage, Faarooq leaves his interview position and lays out Ahmed with a nightstick. Back to the ring, Animal is making the comeback with a powerslam on Savio to set up the Doomsday Device, but of course Faarooq runs in for the DQ at 6:56. Well, geez, they SHOWED the finish in the split-screen, it`s not like it should have been any secret. Ahmed makes the save and poor D-Lo (still without a name) ends up taking the Doomsday Device instead. Really dull match, as the focus was on the guys backstage. *

Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Flash Funk.

Chyna is named for the first time here and gets all up in Funk’s grill, but he`s just too much of a gentleman to hit her. Good thing it`s not Sean Waltman. Hunter armdrags him down and gives him a bow to start, but Funk takes him down by the leg and clotheslines him to the floor. Funk misses a baseball slide and Hunter takes him down with a clothesline. Back in, Funk chops him into a leapfrog, but Hunter catches him with the electric chair on a second try, and takes over. Suplex and kneedrop gets two. Funk comes back with a splash in the corner and drops a leg, and a flying version gets two. He stops to go after Chyna and Hunter suplexes him for two. Flash comes back with his own backdrop suplex and goes up again, but Chyna distracts him again. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes at 5:42. This went nowhere. *1/2

Mini Goldust & Max Mini v. Mini Mankind & Mini Vader.

Yeah, I know he was still Mascarita Sagrada at that point, but it’s easier to type “Max Mini”. I have no idea who this flirtation with midget matches was supposed to be appealing to. Vader backdrops Goldust to start, but gets armdragged down and dropkicked out of the ring. Mankind comes in with a clothesline, but Max gets a high (low?) crossbody takes him down with a Rey-ish armdrag that puts Mankind on the floor. Vader fires off a wicked high kick to the back of Max’s head, but Goldust dropkicks him to the floor and follows with a rolling senton. In the ring, Mini gets a victory roll on Mankind for the pin at 2:55. Max chases Vader up the ramp and hits him with a nice dive off the stage as well.

Meanwhile, President Gorilla confirms that the cage match tonight is for the title. Was this ever in doubt?

Bret Hart joins us for an interview with Kevin Kelly, and he’s getting really heelish now, basically treating it as a foregone conclusion that he’ll be champion after tonight and pointing out that it’s his god-given right to be champion again since he’s been screwed so often.

The Sultan v. Mike Bell.

It’s kind of amazing that they had Bob Backlund AND Iron Sheik talking for the Sultan and still couldn’t get him over. Rocky Maivia, on commentary here, was literally kissing babies and shaking hands on the way to the ring as they did everything humanly possible to make people care about him. Sultan lays out Bell and goes up with a flying splash and camel clutch to finish at 0:56. DUD

The War Zone begins!

Vince brings out Shawn Michaels for an interview, and Shawn is back in full smiling babyface mode after his near-miss as a heel. He’s found his smile again! Thank god! He’s gonna be at Wrestlemania to do commentary.

Vader v. The British Bulldog.

Vader powers Bulldog into the corner and pounds away to start. He slugs Bulldog down and follows with a short clothesline, but Bulldog no-sells and gets fired up enough to shoulderblock Vader down. Delayed suplex and a clothesline puts Vader on the floor. That suplex took some impressive strength on both of their parts. We take a break and return with Vader hitting a splash from the middle rope, for two. Vader misses a butt splash and Bulldog splashes him for two. Crucifix attempt is blocked by a samoan drop from Vader, and he follows with his own splash for two. A clothesline off the middle rope gets two, but another try results in Bulldog powerslamming him and making the comeback. Vader tries a corner splash, but Bulldog catches him and slams him. Powerslam follows, but Owen Hart and Mankind run in for the DQ at 5:57. Bulldog wrestled like a total face here, setting up his “turn” before double-crossing the fans and making him into an even bigger heel. Standard power match. **

Billy Gunn v. Aaron Ferguson.

Ferguson looks like the biggest jobber who ever jobbed. Gunn casually slams him and applies a legbar, as Ken Shamrock is on commentary here and Gunn is trying to prove a point. Abdominal stretch, another UFC favourite I guess, and a slam gets two. Gunn finishes with the world’s worst cross-armbreaker at 2:00 and Shamrock casually notes “That’s a pretty good armbar, I guess.” Gosh, he used to be so diplomatic. DUD Gunn continues calling Shamrock out, so Ken obliges and kicks his ass. Gunn taps out to an armbar, which is the first appearance of that in the WWF. The tapping, not the armbar.

Steve Austin cuts a killer promo while they set up the cage, writing Shamrock off as “some punk that had some fights on the street while people videotaped it” and just sounding like a total badass.

WWF World title: Sid v. Bret Hart.

Bret pounds away in the corner to start and chokes him down, then drops an elbow and goes for the escape early. Sid crotches him to bring him down and slams him into the cage, and they battle on the top rope. Bret elbows him down and starts working the back, then climbs again and gets slammed off by Sid as a result. Sid crawls for the door, but Steve Austin closes it while Bret holds the ankle, and we take a break. Back with Bret working on the back, but Sid whips him into the corner and powerbombs him. Sid climbs, but Austin follows him up the cage and fights with him to keep him in the cage! The storyline with enemies helping enemies to secure a title match at Wrestlemania is a great one. Sid fights off Austin, but Bret recovers and hauls him back in. This brings out Undertaker and all four are brawling on top of the cage, which ends with Bret superplexing Sid back into the ring again. Sid climbs out while Bret goes for the door, but Undertaker slams it in his face and Sid drops down to win at 7:58. Crappy match, but it’s not the match that made this famous. **

After the match, Vince McMahon goes to interview a despondent Bret, and he SNAPS. Bret’s swearing put the show on a 7-second delay for years afterward, and Bret cuts the all-time great whiny heel promo and just totally turns the crowd against him. Everyone ends up back in the ring again for another brawl, all fighting over the WWF title to actually show people who CARE about the belt. Sadly, it did nothing for the WM13 buyrate, but it revived Bret’s career as a main eventer. Vince swears up and down that there’s no conspiracy against Bret Hart. Honest. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the angle that set the promotion on fire for the next six months and then led to the angle that destroyed WCW for good. That’s not something you can say very often.

The winner this week is obvious, although the wrestling on both shows sucked ass.