The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 04.21.97
Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience a television event so extraordinary, it becomes part of our shared heritage. 1969: Man walks on the moon. 1971: Man walks on the moon… again. Then, for a long time, nothing happened. Until tonight…
Live from Binghamton, NY, drawing a sellout 3800 people, although the giant stage cut off a bunch of seats so they could have sold even more.
Your hosts are Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler & Vince McMahon
Steve Austin joins us to start, and he’s got a title shot in May against Undertaker at Cold Day In Hell. Austin’s got more pressing issues, however, like Bret Hart tonight in a street fight. Which Austin wants RIGHT NOW, regardless of whether Bret is dressed or not. Because his pink tights look like crap anyway. So they actually put a timer on the Titantron to count down Austin’s one minute deadline, which passes without Bret showing up. Instead, the Hart Foundation pops up on the screen and Bret calls everyone a pack of wild hyenas who just want to see blood and are lacking in family values. America is going DOWN THE TOILET because of people like Austin and Michaels, so Bret accepts the challenge, and Austin heads to the back to find him.
Ahmed Johnson v. The Sultan
I am once again amused at the Sultan being introduced from “The Middle East” rather than any specific country or region. Perhaps he has dual Iran/Iraq citizenship? Vince notes that Ahmed was able to “galvanize South Africa, something even Nelson Mandela was unable to do.”
To be fair, I think Mandela was dead at that point anyway, although that could just be some kind of weird effect on my memory. Sultan pounds away in the corner while the announcers clarify the wacky stips for the 3-on-1 match with the Nation at the PPV: If Ahmed can win three different matches with the Nation, they’ll disband, not a single handicap match like was implied previously. Sultan with a piledriver while we’re subjected to more selling from Ahmed and a chinlock from Sultan. I can feel South Africa galvanizing as we speak! Ahmed comes back with a falcon arrow for two and spinebuster, but the Nation comes out for the distraction and it’s some kind of DQ or countout or whatever at 4:55. Ahmed beats on the Sultan with the 2×4 in the most gentle manner possible to show how ANGRY he is. And yet, according to the Observer, Sultan suffered broken ribs and a swollen eye from them. So he not only hurt him, but didn’t even make it look convincing! DUD
Meanwhile, Steve Austin tries to open the Hart Foundation door by smashing it with a chair, but unfortunately doors don’t work that way. The magic camera cuts between both sides of the door while Bret demands that Austin head out to the ring to face him like a man.
Meanwhile, in Kuwait, young Tiger Ali Singh wins the Kuwaiti Cup and kicks off a great career that we all know and remember today.
Meanwhile, Vader threatens a TV host and ends up as a political prisoner. Undertaker just sitting there like “WTF, dude?” is great. Ken Shamrock, “the man who will face the Man They Call Vader” joins us on commentary to hype their impending match at the PPV, on “March 11”. Ken also throws out a challenge to Mike Tyson as a part of his promo, although the idea of an MMA fighter facing a top level boxer would likely never happen.
Street Fight: Steve Austin v. Bret Hart
And of course the Hart Foundation attacks right away and just beats on Austin, because why not? Shawn Michaels pops out of the audience and saves with some SICK unprotected chairshots, chasing the pack of wild hyenas into the audience and leaving Austin alone with Bret. Both Austin and Bret are in street clothes, a nice touch, and Bret beats on him in the corner and Vince again speculates on whether Bret Hart would have ever submitted to his own Sharpshooter. Guess we’ll never know. Bret grabs a chair and sets up for the Pillmanizing, but Austin moves and just starts whacking in the knee with the chair, which was the angle to explain Bret’s knee surgery. Austin gets the Sharpshooter and now suddenly a bunch of referees run in to break it up, despite the match being a no-DQ street fight, but Austin won’t break no matter how many referees plead with him. “C’mon Steve, I’ll be your friend!” Ross suggests more officials. Hey, maybe they should start ringing the bell, too! That always works. Finally, the combined force of multiple referees, 2 Hebners and Pat Patterson is enough to pull Austin off and stop the carnage. Tony Garea, as usual, stands around outside the ring being useless.
We take a break and return with the Hart Foundation tending to their loving brother Bret, and Bulldog is OUTRAGED at the low quality of the American medical technicians. His leg is BROKEN! Vince doesn’t seem to believe him. That’s cold, man. Bulldog and Owen are fantastic heels here, throwing off the EMTs so they can carry Bret back to the dressing room themselves.
Meanwhile, Gorilla throws Steve Austin out of the building, because we have RULES, dammit! So Austin leaves. For now.
HOUR #2! Holy shit, that was the first hour already?
We remain in Binghamton, NY.
Salvatore Sincere v. Tiger Ali Singh
For those who think that our current WWE champion in the worst case scenario for the India fixation, just remember Tiger Ali Singh and know it can always be worse. Vince apologizes to Sincere and Singh for cutting to the back during their match, although I think they should apologize to the fans for cutting TO the match. Singh gets all fired up with a bulldog on Sincere, but Sal comes back with a northern lights suplex for two while the Harts yell at officials backstage. Sincere drops an elbow off the middle rope for two, but Singh gets a sunset flip for two. Clothesline gets two. JR thinks that the fans in Canada are excited about the future of Tiger Ali Singh. No, we were not. I can confirm that. Singh comes back with a backslide for two and a leg lariat to finish at 4:35. Terrible, and Singh barely looked like a functional wrestler in his debut on RAW. DUD
Meanwhile, the Harts successfully navigate Bret Hart into the ambulance despite the idiocy of the EMTs (Owen’s awesomely timed “WATCH HIS KNEE, YOU IDIOT!” when they hit a bump is an all-timer), but Steve Austin pops out of the driver’s seat and attacks Bret on the stretcher in one of the all-time great moments. Thankfully, Owen and Bulldog fight him off and send Bret on his way to the hospital, then launch a plan to kill Austin tonight. Bulldog continues to be just the best in this role.
Rockabilly v. Jesse Jammes
This feud MUST CONTINUE. Jammes singing his song to a dead silent crowd is just so sad. Well, I mean, many things about this feud are sad, but that one in particular. Rockabilly attacks in the corner, but Jammes goes to work with the dreaded armdrags while JR shills the WWF hotline. It’s kind of weird that they’d blur out the graphic, but not mute JR actually reading the number. Jammes with a sunset flip for two, but Rockabilly takes him down with a clothesline for two. Meanwhile, Vince is astonished at the very idea of Steve Austin facing Undertaker for the WWF title. Sounds like a once in a lifetime dream match to me! Rockabilly with a suplex for two and he chokes away and “dances” while the smoke-filled arena seems to be lulling the crowd to sleep. That’s the only explanation I think of! Gunn hits the chinlock while the announcers go completely over the top talking about how Paul Bearer’s face was “engulfed in flames” at the PPV. Come on, I’ve had worse burns from lighting my BBQ. Eddie Gilbert was probably rolling over in his grave hearing that. At least Bearer sold it effectively. This match drags ON AND ON with absolutely nothing happening until Jammes makes the comeback 8:00 in and his dancing is supposed to make him a babyface, while Gunn’s dancing is supposed to make him a heel. Blind charge misses, however, and Rockabilly finishes with the NECKBREAKER OF DOOM at 8:44. To this day I’m amazed either of these goofs survived with a career, let alone ended up tag team champs together by the end of the year. DUD
Undertaker v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Another unlikely future Wrestlemania (semi) main event. This is non-title, in case you’re wondering. Taker attacks and throws Hunter around the ring to start, and a clothesline gets two. Vince feels like there’s no love interest between Hunter and Chyna, by the way. Taker goes old school with the ropewalk for two and he tosses Hunter for some abuse on the floor. Back, Hunter catches him with a cheapshot coming in and stomps away in the corner while JR does a whole bit about Undertaker being “the most athletic of any WWF champion in history, at least in terms of raw athleticism, for someone his size” where he just keeps adding conditions to it. Because, I mean, I’m pretty sure Shawn Michaels had more “raw athleticism” than Undertaker. Sure, if you’re comparing with, say, Diesel, then you’ve got something. Anyway, this drags on and Taker goes to the dreaded nerve pinch until Hunter tosses him to escape. And we go a chinlock from HIM while the announcers make fun of Nebraska (“where they think Hee Haw is a documentary”) and we cut to “Dustin and Terri…er…Marlena” in the front row of the audience watching. Apparently that was a “worked shoot” from Jim Ross, with the idea being that we were supposed to start thinking of them as people playing characters, because this is a Vince Russo show now and everything you’re watching is fake, except for what you’re watching right now, which is real. Plus Goldust’s babyface turn wasn’t working and they needed to try something else with him. Yeah, that’s an understatement. We take a break and return with Undertaker kind of randomly making a comeback, but now Mankind has a blowtorch at the top of the ramp and Vince McMahon is literally terrified about Undertaker getting hurt by it. Anyway, Mankind hits Taker with the bottle for the DQ at 16:00 to thankfully end this boring match. * Although that makes it MATCH OF THE NIGHT given the shitty quality levels of everything else. Sadly, Mankind is unable to reignite his blowtorch, perhaps because he’s tired or thinking about work or something, and Taker chases him into the audience. And then Chyna heads over to check it out, and “Terri” jumps up and tries to strangle her with her purse while “Dustin” brawls with Hunter. That would have been way more effective if the director hadn’t shown them in advance, but it’s obvious where that whole deal came from.
Steve Austin returns for the show-closing interview with Vince McMahon, and he tells the fans to screw off because he did it all himself and none of them helped him. And also Vince wants to jump on the Stone Cold bandwagon along with everyone else, but once Steve wins the title he’s not going to be a good role model. And then Owen & Bulldog charge in and cut him off, beating the hell out of him until Vince himself tries to pull them off. He gets thrown down by Owen and Vince’s reaction is amazing, and finally Shawn returns with a chair to make the save while an angry Vince surveys the situation and you can see the wheels begin to turn. And then Brian F’n Pillman returns, jumping out of the crowd and attacking Austin as well, giving us the newest member of the Hart Foundation. And Shawn saves one more time to end the show.
The show-long angle with the Harts and Austin was LEGENDARY and carried the entire show, and thank god for it because the actual in-ring product was some of the worst in the history of the show this week. Still, Russo’s debut episode was one of the greatest in the history of the show and one that many people remember fondly to this day.