What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – April 7, 1997

by Logan Scisco
Footage of Mankind
throwing a fireball into the Undertaker’s eyes last week is shown
.
Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and The Honky Tonk Man are in the booth and they are live from Muncie,
Indiana
.
Owen Hart and the
British Bulldog come out for the opening match and Owen tells the crowd that
Bret brought love to the Hart family. 
Owen says Shawn Michaels better not say anything bad about Bret or they
will lay waste to him tonight.

Opening Non-Title
Contest:  Owen Hart & The British
Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Champions) defeat The Godwinns (w/Rebecca Jones) when
Owen pins Henry after an elbow drop to the back of the head at 7:07 shown:
If you wonder who Rebecca Jones is, she’s the guest
manager for the Godwinns in this match. 
Henry Godwinn’s hillbilly gimmick had a surprisingly long shelf life,
surviving the gimmick holocaust of 1995-1996. 
Owen and the Bulldog get the opening match for the third straight week
and they get a good fight from the Godwinns, who appear more motivated than usual
tonight.  The Godwinns win the four way
brawl near the end of the match and Henry gives the Bulldog a Slop Drop, but
Owen breaks up the cover behind the referee’s back and the tag team champions
get some momentum heading into In Your House in two weeks.  Rating:  **¼
As Owen and the
Bulldog head towards the back, the Legion of Doom appear behind them.  The champions back away, but the Godwinns
come up behind them.  The Godwinns try to
throw slop on the champions, but the champions duck and the slop goes all over
the Legion of Doom, who predictably take offense and brawl with the Godwinns as
Owen and the Bulldog laugh at the top of the stage.
Owen and the
Bulldog tell McMahon that they are civilized, unlike the Legion of Doom, and
they will annihilate them at In Your House. 
They get the WWF production crew to show the slop miscommunication twice
to showcase their wit.  Steve Austin
wants to give the champions a piece of his mind, but WWF officials get him to
back off
.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin pins Billy Gunn (w/The Honky Tonk Man) after a Stone Cold Stunner
at 6:09:
Austin comes out to a big pop, his first big face
reaction on Raw, while Billy comes out with the Honky Tonk Man, who has
seemingly picked him as his new protégé. 
Austin completely dominates Billy in this encounter, beating him from
pillar to post, using a low blow, and then flipping him off, as well as the
referee, in the middle of the beat down. 
In fact, Billy doesn’t get in a single major offensive move.  That’s exactly how this should’ve been
booked, as Billy was nowhere near Austin’s level and his cowboy gimmick wasn’t
setting the world on fire.
After the match,
the Honky Tonk Man tells Billy that there’s no shame in losing to Steve Austin
and he offers his services, but Billy gives him a right hand and walks out.
Dok Hendrix hypes
the Undertaker door banners, which you can get for $29.95 (plus shipping &
handling)!
The Commandant,
the leader of the Truth Commission, makes his debut and he hypes the next Raw,
which will be from South Africa.  He
gives a long, dry fascist tirade and says that the Truth Commission will teach
Americans the true meaning of democracy. 
The Truth Commission wasn’t a terrible idea, but their entire thunder
was taken away by the Hart Foundation already doing an anti-American gimmick.
Bret Hart gives a
taped promo from South Africa where he says that he can think clearly and
American wrestling fans can’t handle the truth and that’s why they don’t like
him anymore.  Bret is shown carrying the
South African flag into the ring at a South Africa house show to reinforce the
fact that he’s pro-international wrestling fans and anti-American.
McMahon interviews
Shawn Michaels, who isn’t selling the knee injury he received a couple of weeks
ago.  Michaels says Bret Hart has always
been a bad guy because he drags his family out on television so he can make a
buck.  Michaels says that he supported
Bret when he was champion in 1992, but Bret threw a fit when he was asked to
return the favor and went home, hoping that the WWF would fall flat on its
face.  Michaels goes off on Bret trying
to jump ship to WCW and being a mark for himself.  After finishing his interview, Michaels
starts doing a striptease and Owen and the British Bulldog come out to put a
stop to it.  Michaels grabs a chair and
that’s enough to keep the tag team champions at bay after WWF officials pour
out of the back.  This was an
entertaining shoot promo for the older fans and it did a great job selling the
animosity between Shawn and Bret.  The
only problem is that these long interview segments came off too well, so
that’s why we get the twenty minute promo at the beginning of Raw each week.
The Headbangers
defeat Freddie Joe Floyd & Barry Horowitz when Thrasher pins Floyd after a
powerbomb-flying leg drop combination at 4:27:
Since most of the roster is halfway around the world, the
WWF had to take Floyd and Horowitz out of mothballs for this match.  The Headbangers methodically destroy their
opponents and that’s all that can be said about this one.
No Holds Barred
Exhibition:  Ken Shamrock defeats Vernon
White by tap out from mounted punches at 2:00:
In case anyone wonders if the WWE should ever try an MMA
contest, they actually did so in 1997. 
In fact, in this exhibition McMahon plugs a UFC pay-per-view, something
you would definitely not see happen today. 
This is clearly worked, but White does land a stiff kick and Shamrock
busts White open from his mounted punches to put him away.
Ross interviews
Shamrock, who says the exhibition got a little out of hand.  Vader and Paul Bearer interrupt the
interview, but WWF officials get between both competitors before anything
breaks out
.
Vader (w/Paul
Bearer) pins Ken Stiletto with a powerbomb at 2:11:
This is supposed to serve as a “counter exhibition” to
rival what Shamrock did earlier since the WWF was beginning the build for a
Shamrock-Vader no holds barred match for May’s In Your House.  Vader toys with Stiletto, giving him a
release German suplex and two Vader Bombs, before going back to his traditional
roots and finishing him with a powerbomb. 
I hope that Stiletto made over the jobber maximum for taking this
beating.
WWF President
Gorilla Monsoon says that Sid is not at the arena to face Mankind, so Steve
Austin is the only comparable competition left on the card.  Austin comes out and correctly points out
that he’s already fought his match tonight and he has no interest in fighting
another.  However, Austin says he will
accept if Monsoon will give him Sid’s match with Bret Hart at the next In Your
House and Monsoon relents.  That was a
nice twist in the booking that they had to make on the fly
.
Ross interviews
Mankind, who goes into quasi-shoot mode and says that he’s had his flesh burned
and his wife inquire about it.  He
ridicules wrestling for making him work 300 days a year so he can’t protect his
three year old daughter back home and he says that In Your House will not be
for the faint of heart.  The lights begin
to flicker in the arena and the Undertaker does a voice over pledging to get
his revenge.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin defeats Mankind by disqualification when Vader interferes at 10:33
shown:
These two pick up where they left off from their tough
man contest the previous year by brawling around ringside for much of the
match.  It’s really hard to get into this
one, as the crowd is tired from all of the promo and angle segments and there
is very little flow from one spot to the next. 
I think a lot of this is due to the fact that they are doing this match
on the fly because of Sid’s no show. 
Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, who have been carrying this entire
show, come out of the crowd, but the Legion of Doom come out of the back to
prevent them from interfering.  With
those odds checked, Vader makes a run-in when Austin is pounding away on
Mankind in the corner, but heel miscommunication results and Vader and Mankind
brawl for a while before making up at the behest of Paul Bearer.  I give Austin and Mankind credit for trying,
but they just couldn’t make this one work. 
Rating:  **
The Final Report Card:  Some readers might find it odd that the WWF
had so much of its talent in South Africa at the time of this show, but in 1997
the international gates were still doing well and were significantly helping
the company’s bottom line.  Sid no
showing the event really hurt from a booking standpoint because there was no
one around to take his place. 
Thankfully, Austin was there as the main draw of the show and he was
able to do double duty.  The WWF did what
they could with this show based on the limited talent available, but it didn’t
make for great television and the terrible rating for this show bears that out.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.2 (vs. 3.7 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 31, 1997

-A video package
highlights Bret’s heel turn last week.
Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are on commentary tonight and they are taped
from Peoria, Illinois.

Opening Contest
for the European Championship:  The
British Bulldog (Champion) and Owen Hart wrestle to a no contest at 12:09
shown:
Both guys revert to their natural roles here, with the
Bulldog playing face and Owen playing the heel. 
Owen keeps the Bulldog grounded for much of the match and they work
through a great sequence where Owen misses a missile dropkick, the Bulldog
applies a Sharpshooter, and Owen powers up to connect with an enziguri.  Owen also does an awesome flip off the top
rope to avoid getting knocked off and eats a suplex on the ramp.  Near the end, the referee is bumped and Owen
tries to use a chair, but the Bulldog wrestles it away from him.  Bret Hart then runs in, tackles the Bulldog,
and uses the chair to calm him down and then gets between both men.  Bret gets on the microphone and says that the
fans want the Bulldog and Owen to tear each other apart and it makes no sense.  He makes fun of American talk shows and seeing him educate Owen and Bulldog about American values
is hilarious.  Owen forces out a few
tears to add some effect to the occasion and a group hug seals the deal and
ends the Owen-Bulldog and Owen-Bret feuds simultaneously.  I was getting into the match until the no
contest, but this is a great example of tying together a lot of loose ends and
moving all parties into a different storyline. 
Rating:  ***¼
Sunny comes out to
do guest commentary for the next match. 
She makes fun of Ross’s cowboy hat.
El Mosco pins
Super Nova after a springboard moonsault at 3:53:
So why is Sunny out here to do guest commentary again?  Ah, well she and Ross hype the house show
circuit because none of the commentators cared to get educated to call this
match.  Sunny then goes over to the
Spanish announce table and speaks decent Spanish.  This is another small spotfest, but it’s not
as crazy as you would see in a six man tag. 
Sunny gets more heat than either guy. 
This was good filler, but it’s not going to factor into any future
storylines.  Rating:  *½
Call 815-734-1161 to
buy your Undertaker poster for $29.95 (plus shipping & handling).  $30 for a poster?
Ross interviews the
Legion of Doom and Animal says that Bret Hart has no right to insult the United
States.  The Legion of Doom say that the
tag team belts will be theirs after In Your House
.
“The Real Double J”
Jesse James beats Jerry Fox with a pump and handle slam at 1:26:
James has a young kid with him as a guest manager, but the poor
kid doesn’t know what to do when he comes out from the curtain and James tries
to get him to dance to his song with no success.  Honky Tonk Man is on commentary for this
match and says that James is near the top of his list.  James makes short work of Fox and Honky steps
into the ring and puts over James.  Honky
gives James his guitar and offers him his tutelage, but James smashes the
guitar and rejects Honky’s offer.
Chyna’s attack on
Bart Gunn on last week’s show is the Playstation Slam of the Week.
Dok Hendrix hypes In
Your House:  Revenge of the Taker.
Crush & Savio
Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) defeat Rod Bell & Adam O’Brien when Savio pins O’Brien after a Demolition Decapitation at 3:17:
The Nation attacks the jobbers before the match and they are
subsequently dominated by the much larger heels.  Shawn Michaels calls into the show and says
that he’ll show up and get some promo time on next week.  The jobbers get a hot tag sequence, but Crush
puts a stop to that with a side suplex off the second rope and O’Brien falls
victim to a double team not long after. 
The WWF should’ve pushed the Nation as a tag team because they were
easier to tolerate in a tag setting than in singles matches.
A video package hypes
Ken Shamrock.  Shamrock will have a no
holds barred exhibition on next week’s show
.
Paul Bearer comes out
and admits that he made a mistake and wants the Undertaker to take him
back.  The Undertaker comes out and
carefully locks a coffin that is sitting at ringside.  It’s refreshing to see a face being so
cautious.  The Undertaker tells Bearer
that he does owe him for helping him lay many past opponents to rest, gives him the WWF title, but then nails him. 
The Undertaker goes to hit Bearer with the urn, but Mankind comes from
underneath the ring and throws a fireball into the Undertaker’s face.  Sid runs out, but Mankind and Bearer flee
into the crowd and Sid runs after them.
Sid tells McMahon
that if Mankind wants to play with fire he is playing with the wrong man because
the Undertaker will make him burn in hell
.
Goldust defeats
Hunter Hearst Helmsley by disqualification when Chyna interferes at 9:44 shown:
In this match, Chyna and Marlena are barred from
ringside.  Goldust charges the ring to
go to work on Helmsley, but soon falls victim to Helmsley’s traditional,
plodding offense.  We do see a new side
of Helmsley, though, as he goes aerial to hit Goldust with a double axe handle
on the floor.  Goldust hits Helmsley with
the Curtain Call, but Chyna comes out and interferes and that gives Goldust his
first televised victory over Helmsley. 
After the match, Helmsley shoves Pat Patterson out of the way when he
tries to get him away from Goldust, but Patterson fights back, only to have
Helmsley and Chyna beat him down. 
Goldust recovers and the crowd wants him to go after Chyna, but Helmsley
gets her to leave with him.  The match
was okay, but these two really struggle telling a story in the ring.  Rating:  *½
McMahon interviews
Steve Austin, who says that he never quit at WrestleMania.  He says he doesn’t care if he’s cheered or
booed because he’s all about kicking someone’s ass.  Bret Hart appears on the Titantron and says
he’s done with Austin, but Austin says Bret will have to kill him first to make
that so.  Austin busts out a great line
of one day going to Bret Hart’s grave and Bret’s tombstone reading that he’s laying there
because Steve Austin whipped his ass.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “The Rock” Rocky
Maivia (Champion) defeats Bret “the Hitman” Hart by disqualification when Bret
refuses to break the ring post figure-four at 10:32 shown:
Although Bret was “above” the Intercontinental title at this
stage of his WWF career, it didn’t appear out of the realm of possibility that
he might win the belt here, especially considering how poorly they had booked
Maivia up to this point.  This match was
set up by Bret’s attack on Maivia on last week’s show.  Tony Atlas is shown watching yet another Maivia
match in the crowd and at the time you might’ve thought that the WWF was going
to bring him in and have him randomly feud with Maivia.  Bret methodically outwrestles the
inexperienced Maivia and for the first time in his singles career misses his
second rope elbow drop.  Maivia manages
to hit his flying body press, but Bret rolls through and nearly wins the
title.  Bret then locks in the ring post
figure-four and refuses to break it, causing a disqualification, but it does
lure Steve Austin out and he’s quickly ambushed by the Hart Foundation.  The Legion of Doom run out to make the save
and the Harts flee to fight another day. 
This turned into something decent when Maivia made his comeback, but the
rest was rather pedestrian.  Rating: 
**¼
Tune in next week to
see Sid face Mankind!
The Final Report Card:  This show
did a good job advancing the promotion’s major angles and on the strength of
that alone, the show earns a thumbs up. 
The wrestling wasn’t that good, but the show helped the fans place more
of an investment into Austin, Chyna, and Bret’s heel character and that’s what
helps drive business.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.7
(vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 24, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are on commentary tonight and they are live
from Rockford, Illinois.  Ross announces
that Mankind will face the Undertaker for the WWF title at the next In Your House.

Opening Contest
for the WWF Tag Team Championship:  The
Headbangers defeat The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (Champions) by
disqualification when the Bulldog shoves the referee at 9:33 shown:
The Headbangers earned this title shot by winning the
four team elimination match the previous night at WrestleMania XIII.  Owen and the Bulldog keep posing in front of
each other on their way to the ring, continuing their storyline.  Ross informs us at the beginning of this
match that the winner will be penciled in to face the Legion of Doom at In Your
House.  The Bulldog accidentally knocks
Owen off the apron when he runs the ropes and that leads to an argument between
the champions.  Owen teases walking out
prior to the commercial break, but when we get back he’s back on the
apron.  Owen’s walk out puts the Bulldog
in peril, though, and Owen tags the Bulldog back in after receiving the hot
tag, so the champions argue over that as well. 
The Bulldog gives Mosh a running powerslam, but when he goes to throw
Owen on top of Mosh, Owen takes offense to that and they argue, leading to
referee Earl Hebner getting pushed out of the way and leading to a
disqualification.  A terrible ending to
what was shaping up to be a pretty good match and it helped make the
Headbangers a credible team in the eyes of the fans.  Rating:  **¾
After the bell,
Owen gets on the mic and says he’s tired of carrying the tag team
champions.  He demands a shot at the
Bulldog’s European title.  The Bulldog
agrees to put his title on the line, but it’ll be the only shot Owen will get.
Mankind, in the
arena’s boiler room, says that Paul Bearer is gone and he desperately needs
him.
Mascarita Sagrada,
Jr.’s leap off the stage onto Mini Vader is the Playstation Slam of the Week.
Bret Hart pops up
on the Titantron and says he has some things that he wants to talk about.  He promises not to use profanity so McMahon
promises to give him some time later in the show.
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley (w/Chyna) pins Bart Gunn with a Pedigree at 7:04:
The WWF has literally nothing to give Bart Gunn at this
point, so he’s just being dragged out to play the Tito Santana role here and
give Helmsley a decent match.  Goldust
cuts a promo in the split screen during this one, since he and Helmsley will
face off next week.  McMahon goofs,
though, and says it’s for the Intercontinental title.  The match puts over Chyna more than Helmsley,
as she pulls down the top rope to ruin a Bart bulldog attempt, slams Bart on
the floor, and then rams him into the ring post.  Those are the only parts of the match that
the crowd reacts to.  After that
interference, the outcome is simply academic. 
Rating:  *½
Highlights of the
1997 Slammy Awards, the last one held for over a decade, are shown.  Rocky Maivia won the New Sensation of the
Squared Circle, Sable won Dressed to Kill, the Undertaker won the Tattoo Award,
Owen Hart claimed a Slammy for himself, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart won Match
of the Year, Hunter Hearst Helmsley won Best Hair, Mankind won Loose Screw,
Steve Austin won Freedom of Speech, Arnold Skaaland won the Lifetime
Achievement Award, and Sable won Miss Slammy.
Venum, Super Nova
& Discovery defeat
El Mosco,
Hyseria & Abismo Negro when Super Nova pins Negro with a hurricanrana at
4:11:
The question that lingers over this match is can the AAA
guys put on a match worth watching for the WWF fan base?  Bret Hart doesn’t have much faith in Mexican
wrestling, as he comes into the split screen and in a soft voice demands time
to speak.  This is just a spotfest, but
it’s a lot better than any of the other AAA action we’ve seen thus far in 1997.  I’ll give it an average rating for the
entertainment value, but you won’t see any psychology in this.  Rating:  **
Call
1-203-359-5440 to book your stay on the Wrestle Vessel II!
In a taped interview,
Rocky Johnson and Rocky Maivia talk about WrestleMania XIII.  Johnson talks about how he used his own money
to buy a ticket to WrestleMania because he was proud of his son and he was not
going to stand back and watch his opponents brutalize him after the match.  Johnson promises not to get involved in his
son’s matches ever again and they hug.
Dok Hendrix urges
us to order the replay of WrestleMania XIII.
Flash Funk (w/The
Funkettes) defeats The Brooklyn Brawler with the Funky Flash Splash at 3:07:
The Honky Tonk Man is on commentary and he gives a great
crazy rant about how he has so much energy that he kick started a 747 earlier
in the day.  An easy squash for Funk that
gives him a chance to showcase his aerial offense.
Call 8-15-737-1161
to order your customized WrestleMania XIII custom hockey jersey for $69.99 and
your denim jacket for $99 (plus shipping & handling)!
McMahon interviews
Ken Shamrock on the Titantron and Shamrock says he stopped the submission match
at WrestleMania because Steve Austin could not respond to his commands and
defend himself.  This interview is just
to recap the submission match for the fans who didn’t watch WrestleMania last
night.
Bret Hart comes out
and apologizes to his international fans for his actions last night.  For his fans in the United States, though, he
apologizes for nothing because they cheered Steve Austin after he was a beaten
man at WrestleMania.  He also complains
that the American fans cheered for Shawn Michaels and screwed him out of the WWF
title despite the fact that Michaels posed for a gay magazine.  Bret does a great job narrating his
experience in the WWF since he returned in November and he was always better
doing promos as this jaded wrestler character than at any other time in his career.  Bret says that he has no respect for American
fans anymore and they can kiss his ass. 
With Bret’s rant over, Shawn Michaels comes out and says Bret hides his
faults from the fans and is fake.  Shawn
says he wrestles for fun, whereas Bret is a mark for himself and that the fans
can cheer for whomever they want.  Shawn
says he’s willing to fight Bret and that Bret only knows he was in Playgirl
because he flipped through the pages. 
Shawn turns to leave, but Bret attacks him from behind and puts him in
the ring post figure-four until Sid runs out and makes the save.  This was a long promo segment, especially
Bret’s opening monologue, but once Shawn appeared it turned into something
special and the segment solidified Bret’s heel character in the eyes of the
fans.
Non-Title
Match:  “The Rock” Rocky Maivia (Intercontinental
Champion) defeats Leif Cassidy with a flying body press at 2:24 shown:
We join this one in progress and it doesn’t take long for
Bret Hart to come down for guest commentary.  Bret and Vince go back and forth as Maivia
rallies after a powerbomb and quickly puts Cassidy away.  After the match, Bret attacks Maivia from
behind and goes briefly goes after his leg before leaving and flipping off a
young fan at ringside.
Ahmed Johnson beats
Savio Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the Nation
interferes at 6:05 shown:
The Nation chooses to watch the match from the entrance ramp
instead of coming to ringside.  Ahmed
pulls out a few neat spots in the match, one of which includes a cannonball off
the top rope, but the match has no momentum whatsoever.  Savio’s ring work has really plummeted since
he began working as a heel.  Predictably,
the Nation interferes when Savio is in trouble, but Ahmed holds them at bay
with a 2×4 and then makes a deal with them whereby they agree to have one of
them face Ahmed at a future In Your House and if Ahmed wins, they will all leave the
WWF.  Rating:  *¼
Paul Bearer tells
McMahon that he doesn’t want to talk to him right now
.
Bret Hart’s attack on
Shawn Michaels on tonight’s show is the Karate Fighters Rewind segment
.
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion The Undertaker in tonight’s main event interview segment.  The Undertaker puts over his victory at
WrestleMania until Paul Bearer walks out. 
Bearer says he wants to talk with the Undertaker, as Mankind appears on
the Titantron calling for Bearer to return to him, but before this goes
anywhere we run out of time.
The Final Report Card:  The
Bret-Shawn interaction was the premier highlight of the show, but the rest was
very forgettable.  That’s a problem with
this era since you had some hot acts at the top, but the feuds below it weren’t
very interesting or were not as well developed. 
Having Mankind as the number one contender after WrestleMania was a bit
of a head scratcher as well, since he had hardly done anything since October.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.5
(vs. 3.0 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 17, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Syracuse, New York
.
The Undertaker’s
plancha on Vader on last week’s Raw is the Playstation Slam of the Week.

Opening
Contest:  The Legion of Doom defeat Crush
& Savio Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) by disqualification at 6:47 shown
when Faarooq interferes:
The small stipulation for this contest is that Ahmed
Johnson and Faarooq are barred from ringside. 
However, when you are talking about the Nation of Domination, that just
subtracts one of five guys they usually bring to the ring with them.  This starts as a wild brawl, but then becomes
a no-selling contest between both teams. 
For example, there’s no excuse for Savio standing up after being given a
piledriver by Hawk.  Faarooq attacks
Ahmed with a night stick as he watches the match in the back and that enables
him to make the run-in before Vega eats a Doomsday Device.  Ahmed eventually runs out and makes the save
and JC Ice eats a Pearl River Plunge and D-Lo Brown takes the Doomsday Device
like a champ.  The crowd was hot for the
interference at the end, but this was quite sloppy in the middle.  Rating:  *½
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for the Larry Flynt Freedom of Speech Award.  The nominees are Jerry Lawler, Paul Heyman,
Steve Austin, Howard Stern, and Faarooq. 
By the way, your vote will cost you 99 cents
.
The announce team
says that WWF President Gorilla Monsoon is flying to the arena to clear up some
controversy over whether tonight’s steel cage match between WWF Champion Sid
and Bret Hart is for the WWF title or not. 
Another rumor floating around is that Shawn Michaels is planning to show
up
.
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley (w/Chyna) defeats Flash Funk (w/the Funkettes) with the Pedigree at
5:46:
The entrances for these two take nearly four minutes and
Funk’s theme is not catchy enough to sustain my interest for such a long dance
to the ring.  Funk dominates a lot of the
action, which is pretty surprising considering his position on the card, and
he’s in position to win after a flying leg drop, but Chyna pulls him out of the
ring to break a cover.  Chyna then
prevents Funk from going back to the top to finish off Helmsley and Helmsley takes
advantage of the distraction to pick up the win.  This was a nice TV match that protected
everyone involved heading into WrestleMania. 
Rating:  **¼
Shawn Michaels is
shown arriving at the arena
.
Footage is shown
of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman lifting a tax to allow the WWF to
compete in the state.  This is when the
WWF admitted that what it was doing was just “sports entertainment” and was not
real.
Mascarita
Sagrada, Jr. & Mini Goldust defeat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind when
Sagrada pins Mankind with a victory roll at 2:55:
Mascarita Sagrada Jr. was the dominant figure of the
short-lived WWF minis division in 1997, winning nearly all of his televised
matches.  Sagrada gets most of the shine
in this one and it’s so short that it is a fun waste of time.  In a fun spot after the match, Sagrada and
Vader run up the ramp and Sagrada gives Vader a flying body press on the
concrete floor.
WWF President
Gorilla Monsoon says that tonight’s steel cage match will be for the WWF
title.  Monsoon and Vince then argue over
whether now is the right time to give Bret Hart a crack at the title, since
WrestleMania is this weekend
.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Bret Hart, who says that he won the Royal Rumble, the Final Four
match, and is a four-time WWF champion so he deserves a title match tonight. Bret
unveils one of my favorite lines from this period when he says that the new
motto of the WWF is “you scratch my back and I put a knife in yours.”  Some boos can be heard in the audience,
thereby foreshadowing Bret’s heel turn.
Call 815-737-1156 to
get your customized WrestleMania 13 hockey jersey or denim jacket!  They can be yours for prices between
$89.99-$139.99!
The Sultan (w/the
Iron Sheik & Bob Backlund) beats Mike Bell via submission to the camel
clutch in 57 seconds:
Rocky Maivia is on commentary for this match, but since
he hasn’t developed the Rock persona it’s nothing to write home about.  The Sultan throws in a splash off the top
rope to set up the camel clutch and then argues with Maivia at ringside.  Maivia wants to get into a fight, but Tony
Atlas shows up and holds him back.
McMahon interviews
Shawn Michaels, who jokes about his “Lost Smile” speech and says that he found
his smile in San Antonio.  He thanks the
fans for his support and says that he’s going to see Dr. James Andrews about
his knee next week.  Shawn tells Vince
he’s upset at not getting invited to WrestleMania, so he’s inviting himself to
be the guest commentator for the WWF title match.  This promo just took too long for what it was
going to accomplish and it’s the perfect example of material that would give
you the perfect excuse to flip over to TNT to see what was happening on Nitro.
The British
Bulldog (w/Owen Hart) defeats Vader (w/Paul Bearer & Mankind) by
disqualification when Mankind interferes at 5:52 shown:
This is the easiest match to book for tonight’s show,
since it provides a quasi-preview of the tag team championship match at
WrestleMania.  The Bulldog manages to get
Vader up in the vertical suplex for several seconds, which is an awesome feat,
but Vader dominates much of the televised action.  Vader is a master of putting himself in
position to be slammed by a leaner opponent and it makes the Bulldog look like
a million bucks.  The Bulldog even has
Vader positioned for a running powerslam, but Mankind interferes to break it up
and a four way brawl ensues, with the champions standing tall.  An entertaining power match for the time they
were given.  Rating:  **¼
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for the Best Bow Tie category for the Slammy’s.  The nominees are Mr. Bob Backlund, Pee Wee
Herman, Clarence Mason, Louis Farrahkhan, and Yokozuna.  What is with all the crazy nominees?  Did they actually think more people would
watch if they threw a few random names into the candidate pool?
Billy Gunn beats
Aaron Ferguson by submission to an armbar at 1:59:
Ken Shamrock shows up to do guest commentary, surely to
scout Billy for their future encounter at the 1999 Royal Rumble.  This is a slow squash that is a relic of
another era and you might find the choice of finish puzzling, but Billy uses it
to taunt Shamrock after the match. 
Shamrock gets into the ring and quickly puts Billy in an armbar and
Billy taps out.  Billy says Shamrock can’t
do it twice, so Shamrock puts him in an ankle lock and Billy taps again.  This is likely the first time that the “tap
out” was introduced to a pro wresting audience, even though it wasn’t an
official match.
McMahon interviews
Austin, who says that he wasn’t impressed by Shamrock because he was taking
advantage of a “weakened” Billy Gunn. 
Austin runs down Shamrock some more and then says that he’s in the arena
tonight to help Bret win the title so he can win it at WrestleMania.  There’s some nice continuity here, as Austin
says he won the Royal Rumble, so he should be in the main event of WrestleMania
in the first place
.
WWF Champion Sid
says Steve Austin better stay out of his business and he’s going to powerbomb
Bret Hart through the floor.
Steel Cage Match
for the WWF Championship:  Sid (Champion)
defeats Bret “the Hitman” Hart by escaping the cage at 7:57 shown:
This is one of the most entertaining matches of this era
for a couple of reasons.  First, this
match is being held the week of WrestleMania, so the card could easily change
to make Bret-Austin the WWF title match and the main event and the
Undertaker-Sid match a special attraction. 
And second, because of the possibility of the card changing, the
Undertaker and Austin have an incentive to help their WrestleMania opponent win.  Austin makes his presence felt early, when he
prematurely closes the cage door when Sid is trying to crawl out.  Sid hits a powerbomb, but when he tries to
climb out, Austin intercepts him at the top of the cage and we get an
interesting double team whereby Bret and Austin pound on Sid.  The Undertaker then runs out and attacks
Austin to stop the attack and tosses Bret over the top of the cage when he’s
trying to climb out.  Shortly thereafter,
Sid goes to climb out after taking a superplex, but Bret also gets out and goes
for the door.  However, the Undertaker
slams the door in his face and Sid is able to successfully make it to the floor
to retain the title.  This is a difficult
match the rate, since there wasn’t much between Sid and Bret, but the interference
and subsequent brawling was very entertaining, so I’ll just say it’s above
average and move on.  Rating: 
**½
Following a
commercial break, McMahon goes to interview Bret, who pushes him down and
proceeds to go on a cursing tirade.  Ross
apologizes profusely and I’m sure the USA Network executives were spilling
coffee all over themselves trying to call the censor and wake them up.  Austin pops up on the video screen and calls
Bret a loser.  Bret tells Austin to come
and fight him, but Sid walks out instead, followed by the Undertaker.  When Bret sees the Undertaker, he executes a
suicide dive and Austin then arrives and brawls with him, as the Undertaker
gets into the ring and fights Sid.  WWF
officials try to separate the combatants and when Bret slugs Pat Patterson,
Vince unleashes a venomous tirade against him. 
After everyone is exhausted, Shawn Michaels walks out, but he doesn’t
get involved in any of the action.
The Final Report Card:  Now THIS
is what you call a go home show for the biggest pay-per-view of the year.  The undercard was fine, albeit forgettable,
but the main event and its aftermath really made an impression.  It was almost too successful, though, because
USA was not very happy with Bret’s cursing tirade near the end of the show.  Where the show was not a success was in the
ratings, as Nitro creamed RAW, showing that it was going to be a long battle
for the WWF to reclaim the number one spot. 
Nonetheless, the show did a good job setting up Bret’s heel turn and is
a great show to look back on since we know where the Bret-McMahon issue was
leading to.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.4
(vs. 3.7 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 10, 1997

by Logan Scisco
We get a new
television intro and theme song for Raw, as this is the debut of Raw is
War.  We also see the debut of a new
entrance set, with the Titantron and entrance ramp
.
Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Worcester, Massachusetts.
Ross interviews
WWF Champion Sid, who says that he’s very skeptical of teaming with the
Undertaker to face Vader and Mankind tonight and says that he thinks the
Undertaker will reunite with Paul Bearer. 
The Undertaker comes out and says there is no hidden agenda because if
Sid was injured he couldn’t face him for the title at WrestleMania and in a
twist, the Undertaker says he doesn’t want Sid as his partner because if he got
injured in the tag match then Sid would remain WWF champion.  Paul Bearer, Vader, and Mankind then appear
and Bearer calls Sid and the Undertaker cowards.  A brawl breaks out between the two sides and
although the faces stand tall, the Undertaker takes a shot in the back from
Vader that he attributes to Sid and they stare each other down as we head to a
commercial break.

Opening Non-Title
Contest:  “The Rock” Rocky Maivia
(Intercontinental Champion) pins Tony Rua with a flying body press at 1:36:
Before the match, the Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund tell
Maivia that the Sultan will beat him for his title at WrestleMania and Backlund
continues to rant as the Rock makes short work of Rua.  After the match, the Sultan runs in, but Maivia
dispatches of him and backs away, as Tony Atlas appears in the crowd and then
hugs Maivia before they head to the back. 
It would seem that the booking would be better to call for the Sultan to
beat down Maivia here, but it’s not like he had a chance of winning the title
at WrestleMania anyway.
Ahmed Johnson’s
destruction of Leif Cassidy on Shotgun Saturday Night is the Playstation Slam
of the Week
.
Heavy Mental,
Pentagon & Pierroth defeat The Latin Lover, Octagon & Hector Garza when
Metal pins the Latin Lover with a La Magistral cradle after the Lover misses a
frog splash at 7:39 shown:
The WWF’s working relationship with AAA continues with
this match, but the crowd doesn’t really know what to make of this since the
Mexican wrestlers were never given proper billing by the WWF on television.  Security tries to deal with Chyna in the
crowd, who McMahon calls “the bionic woman.” 
Brian Pillman also does a split screen promo about how he’s going to
return on Shotgun Saturday Night.  If you
saw the AAA six man at the Royal Rumble, this is basically the same affair,
with the action going nowhere and generating no reaction until the participants
take turns diving onto each other on the floor. 
The finish is quite awkward, as the Lover tries a frog splash when Metal
is already in a standing position, and Vince had to be shaking his head and
thinking that he got the wrong group of Mexican superstars to work for
him.  Rating:  ½*
Ahmed Johnson
beats Roy Raymond with a Pearl River Plunge at 2:01:
Ahmed doesn’t sell Raymond’s early offense and the Nation
of Domination appear and do their rap as action unfolds in the ring.  This show thus far is like an ADD person’s
worst nightmare.  Ahmed vanquishes
Raymond in short fashion and Faarooq calls Ahmed an Uncle Tom and says he
doesn’t know the streets.  Ahmed says
that he found some backup for WrestleMania and says that he’s going to bring
the city of Chicago with him, which translates into the Legion of Doom, who
make their way through the crowd.  The
LOD cut some PG-era promos, with Hawk saying that the faces will turn the
Nation into some dirty sweat socks, but the point is still conveyed.
Ross interviews
Owen and the British Bulldog on their way to the ring and Owen tries to
downplay that he lost the European championship finals to the Bulldog last week.
Non-Title
Match:  The New Blackjacks defeat Owen
Hart & The British Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Champions) by disqualification at
7:21 shown:
The Blackjacks run down Owen on the mic before the match
and when Bradshaw tells Owen he has pretty lips that starts a four way
brawl.  Bradshaw saying that based on his
locker room exploits does makes you chuckle. 
Based on their size, you would think that the Blackjacks would be
employing lots of stiff offense and power moves, but they don’t and it makes
their offense bland.  The finish comes
when Owen has Bradshaw trapped in a Sharpshooter and the Bulldog tries to cut
Barry Windham off, but the referee gets in his way.  The Bulldog tosses the referee aside and gets
his team disqualified as a result.  Owen
and the Bulldog made this match tolerable, but it wasn’t a good sign for the
Blackjacks because if you couldn’t have a good match with Owen and the Bulldog
then who could you have a good match with on the tag roster at the time?  Rating:  **
Call 1-900-737-SLAM
to vote for the 1997 Slammy Awards and the category of Loose Screw.  Nominees are Sid, Mankind, Steve Austin,
Seinfeld’s Kramer (!?!), and Bob Backlund
.
Taz and Bill
Alfonso come out and jaw with Lawler and Sabu tries to take advantage of the
situation to attack Taz, but Taz sidesteps his dive and Sabu goes through a
table as various ECW stars pull Taz away.
Miguel Perez pins
Leif Cassidy with a Victory Roll at 4:12:
Perez was being brought in as a Latin counterweight to
Savio Vega, but the WWF must not have seen a lot of dollar signs in that feud
so those plans were abandoned.  This is a
decent back and forth encounter, with some solid technical wrestling, but Perez
really needed to be memorable here and he wasn’t.  Rating:  **
WWF Champion Sid
says he has to worry about the tag match he has tonight and can’t worry too
much about defending the WWF title against Bret Hart in a steel stage.
Ross interviews
Ken Shamrock, who will be the guest referee of the Bret Hart-Steve Austin
submission match.  Shamrock says he’ll
show no fear at WrestleMania and he’s interrupted by Austin on the Titantron,
who says he hopes Bret wins the title next week so their match at WrestleMania
will be for the title.  Shamrock says he
isn’t afraid of Austin and Bret comes down to the ring.  Bret says he’ll win his WWF title back next
week against Sid and goes on a long list of people who have screwed him since
he’s returned to the company.  Bret says
he trusts Shamrock, but if he tries to screw him at WrestleMania it’ll be a big
mistake.  The thought of Shamrock
prematurely calling for the bell at WrestleMania is what kept running through
my mind with that closing line
.
Billy Gunn
defeats “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya with a flying leg drop at
2:51:
The Honky Tonk Man comes out to do commentary to continue
to scout talent.  Despite being gone for
several months, Billy hasn’t received much of a repackaging, as he still has
the Smoking Gunns theme music and is wearing his jeans and cowboy boots as a
ring attire.  Gunn makes short work of
Montoya and looks impressive doing it.
Mankind, with Paul
Bearer, says that he and Vader are a team, but his promo gets cut off by going
to commercial break
.
Goldust
(w/Marlena) defeats Tim McNeany with a Curtain Call at 1:37:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley appears near the ramp with Chyna
and they watch as Goldust quickly runs through his offense and squashes
McNeany.  After the match, Chyna moves
toward the ring and as Goldust is distracted, Helmsley attacks him from
behind.  Chyna and Helmsley double team
Goldust until Marlena jumps on Chyna’s back and applies a rear naked choke,
which generates a MASSIVE pop from the crowd. 
WWF officials pour into the ring to break it up, but one of them (Harvey
Wippleman) gets gorilla pressed by Chyna and tossed onto some of his
colleagues.  Regardless of how you feel
about you Chyna today, you must admit that the WWF did a great job with her
debut.
Ross hosts a
“great debate” between Lawler and Paul Heyman, who has the Eliminators come as
backup.  They debate whether ECW should
exist.  The debate quickly devolves into
a shooting contest, with Lawler saying Heyman lives in his parent’s basement
and Heyman asking Lawler how the seesaws look in Louisville.  When the Dudleys, the Sandman, Tommy Dreamer,
and Beulah McGillicutty show up, Lawler asks for his backup to arrive, but no
one comes to his aid.  Some people
might’ve enjoyed this at the time, but it just came off as a desperate attempt
for attention by the ECW crew and the segment itself was a mess
.
Marlena’s attack
on Chyna is the Karate Fighters Rewind segment for this week
.
Vader &
Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) defeat Sid & The Undertaker when Vader pins the
Undertaker after a Sid powerbomb at 7:34 shown:
All semblance of tag team decorum is lost in this one, as
Vader and Mankind attack Sid when he makes his entrance and the Undertaker is
tardy and cleans house.  The Undertaker
and Sid eventually start fighting each other, with the Undertaker standing tall
by chokeslamming Sid and then going a plancha onto Vader and Mankind.  Sid returns the favor by powerbombing the
Undertaker, but he saves the Undertaker from a Vader Bomb to continue their
feud.  I give the creative team points
for trying to make this feud intriguing, but there just isn’t a lot of backstory
here for a WrestleMania main event.  The
match was fine for a TV main event, since it advanced the necessary angle and
did a good job working the crowd into a frenzy. 
Rating:  **
Bret Hart says
next week he’ll show that he’s the king of the WWF.
The Final Report Card:  This show had a lot of hit and miss
content.  The main event was serviceable
and the Chyna-Marlena interaction was fun, but nothing else really stood out.  The debate segment bombed, although I can see
why some on the Internet may have enjoyed it at the time, and the AAA six man
was terrible.  Overall, a middle of the
road show that advanced some storylines for WrestleMania but wasn’t compelling
for the entire two hours.  At several
points I wish I could’ve switched to Nitro.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.5 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 3, 1997

A nice video
package starts the show, where Vince McMahon discusses the Berlin Wall and ties
it to tonight’s showdown between Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, which will
decide who the first WWF European champion will be.
McMahon and Jim
Ross are in the booth and they are taped from Berlin, Germany.

Opening
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeats
Bret “the Hitman” Hart by disqualification at 8:39 shown:
Bret is really over in Germany, as evidenced by the
Canadian flags in the audience and several kids that are dressed in his ring
attire.  One of them gets
Bret’s shades to fully outfit their costume. 
Helmsley dominates most of the televised action, until Bret makes a
comeback with his five moves of doom. 
Helmsley eventually gets tied up in the corner and Bret lays into him
and then shoves the referee out of the way when he tries to break it up and
gets disqualified.  After the bell, the
mysterious muscular woman (Chyna) gets in the ring and stares down Bret before
leaving with Helmsley.  This may have
been a lot of fun live, but it was disjointed with the cutting for
television.  Rating:  **½
McMahon and Ross
hype tonight’s Owen-Bulldog match with Royal Rumble footage, where Owen
eliminated the Bulldog “by accident.”
-The Undertaker’s
match with Faarooq is the Full Metal: 
The Album Slam of the Week.  They
must have really been starved for a highlight.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “The Rock” Rocky
Maivia (Champion) defeats Vader (w/Paul Bearer) by disqualification at 7:13
shown:
Vader had defeated Maivia in the first round of the
European title tournament and thus earned a match for the Intercontinental
title here.  Now see, you can set up
matches without the help of random authority figures.  They work a fast pace, with Vader using his
weight to bully the young Maivia and toss him around at will.  We get another unclean finish for the
evening, as Mankind comes out and nails Maivia with the urn for no reason on
the floor in plain view of the referee and gets Vader disqualified.  After the bell, Vader destroys Maivia, which
doesn’t really do anything for the champion’s credibility.  No wonder the American crowd was starting to
turn their backs on Maivia as champion by this point.  Still, this was a pretty good match that was
a Cliff Notes version of the matches that Vader used to have with Sting in
WCW.  Rating:  **¾
-We get a recap of
the ECW invasion of RAW last week. 
What’s interesting about the recap is the weird censoring, with the
Sandman’s drinking of a beer being blurred out. 
Even when he spits the beer it is censored!  Good thing that the WWF took care of this
issue within the next calendar year

Jerry Lawler also calls in and
runs down ECW.
-Tune in next week
to see the debut of RAW is War!
The Sultan beats
Flash Funk via submission with the Camel Clutch at 4:04 shown:
Neither man has his usual entourage and we join this in
progress.  Most of the focus is pulled
away from the match when Paul Heyman calls in and says that he’s tired of
Lawler’s constant challenges and if Lawler continues, ECW just might have to
show up next week.  Funk knocks himself
silly on a moonsault and gets pancaked, which leads to his demise.  They wouldn’t quite give up on the Sultan
character, despite it generating zero reaction from crowds everywhere.  Rating:  *½
Austin’s last
visit to WWF headquarters in October 1996, when he had to be escorted from the
building by police is shown
.
WWF Champion Sid
says that he’ll survive Mankind’s challenge to his title tonight
.
More emphasis is
placed on tonight’s main event, as the announcers discuss tensions between Owen
and the Bulldog that arose from the last In Your House.
Ahmed Johnson says
that he’ll accept Faarooq’s challenge for a Chicago street fight at WrestleMania,
but he won’t accept it alone.
-The Legion of
Doom’s return to the WWF last week on Raw and their interview on Shotgun
Saturday Night where they talk about life on the streets of Chicago is shown.
-Vince recaps the
whole show thus far to kill time, which is a bad thing to have to do in the
Monday Night Wars.
WWF Championship
Match:  Sid (Champion) defeats Mankind
(w/Paul Bearer) at 10:16 with a powerbomb:
Instead of hyping Mankind’s brutality, the commentary
team thinks it’s cooler that he knows German for a promo.  Steve Austin cuts a great promo during this
match, complaining that to get to WWF Studios today he had to sit in seat 36C
on an airplane near the restroom and had to eat a stale sandwich in a brown bag
for lunch and it made him ill, which is no way that a star like himself should
be treated.  Mankind takes lots of crazy
pumps in this one for Sid, by having his unprotected head rammed into the ring
post and then getting side suplexed on the floor.  Sid powers out of the Mandible Claw, thereby
destroying the theory that it has a paralytic effect on its victim, and a
miscommunication spot between Mankind and Bearer enables Sid to turn the tide
and successfully defend his title.  Sid
was made to look super human in this match to build him for WrestleMania and it
shows how far Mankind has fallen since SummerSlam that he now comes off like a
midcarder.  Rating:  **
The announcers
talk more about the Owen-Bulldog match
.
McMahon interviews
Steve Austin, who is at the WWF’s studio in Connecticut.  Austin says he doesn’t make excuses when he’s
injured or sick and that he won’t quit in the submission match he’ll have with
Bret Hart at WrestleMania.
-Chyna’s stare down
with Bret Hart is the Karate Fighters Rewind segment
.
European
Championship Finals:  The British Bulldog
pins Owen Hart after reversing a Victory roll to win the title at 16:44 shown:
To get to this point, the Bulldog defeated Mankind and
Vader and Owen defeated Flash Funk and Bret Hart.  Speaking of which, Owen has a really good
record against Bret in international tournaments, as he beat him in the Kuwaiti
Cup Tournament the previous year.  In any
compilation of great Raw matches, this should always be on the list, as both
men counter each other’s major moves because they know them so well.  Owen has a really unique counter for the
Bulldog’s powerslam, by hanging onto the ropes and then using his momentum as
he releases the ropes to fall on top of the Bulldog for a near-fall.  After a series of dramatic near-falls, Owen
applies the Sharpshooter, but it isn’t enough, as the Bulldog reaches the
ropes.  The Bulldog hits his running
powerslam and while it doesn’t finish Owen, it weakens him enough to where Owen
can’t kick out of a reversed victory roll. 
After the match, both men shake hands, but Owen teases attacking the
Bulldog from behind to keep the tension between them in the audience’s
mind.  This was an entertaining technical
contest between two of the more proficient wrestlers in the company at the time
and they were given enough time to showcase what they could do in
primetime.  I went less than four stars
on it, though, because the finishing sequence was a little awkward and the
drama of the match was somewhat subdued by the fact that the Bulldog had not
completed his planned face turn yet.  Rating: 
***¾
The Final Report Card:  The wrestling was a lot better this week, but
the fact that this show was taped and Nitro was live resulted in a disaster in
the ratings.  This show generated the
worst Raw rating of all time and prompted a reshuffling of the creative team
that gave Vince Russo more power and reduced the influence of more
“traditional” bookers like Jim Cornette. 
With that shift completed and RAW is War set to kick off the next week,
the foundation was laid for the shift into the Attitude Era.  I was one of the 1.9 that watched this show
when it originally aired and I enjoyed it then and still do so today, as the
Owen-Bulldog match still stands up and Vader-Maivia is a hidden gem.
Monday Night War Rating: 1.9 (vs. 3.4 for
Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 24, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are live from the Manhattan Center in New York, New
York
.

Opening
Contest:  The New Blackjacks defeat The
Godwinns after Windham pins Phineas following a Bradshaw lariat at 5:51:
The New Blackjacks are the repackaged Barry Windham and
Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and while this idea may have worked in theory, it had a
couple of problems.  First, people
usually prefer the original and second, many WWF fans were unaware of the
original Blackjacks because the WWF didn’t care to emphasize its history at
this time.  The crowd is dominated by
smarks and ECW fans, who don’t care for either team here, but we do see Ken
Shamrock in the audience during the course of this contest.  A sloppy brawl is what we get out of both
teams before a train wreck of a finish sees Phineas pinned despite having his
foot on the bottom rope.  Another referee
comes out to inform the original referee that he messed up, but the original
referee refuses to reverse the decision so the Godwinns slop him.  This did nothing for all parties
involved.  Rating:  ½*
The Eliminators
show up and give Total Elimination to an unfortunate ring attendant and Paul
Heyman steps into the ring and says that ECW is in the house.  The Eliminators should’ve roughed up the ring attendant after taking him hostage, though, because it looked silly to have him stand there like a statue while the Eliminators got into position to hit him with their finishing move
.
Stevie Richards
(w/The Blue World Order) defeats Little Guido with a Stevie Kick at 3:39:
This is our first ECW feature match and Raven makes a
cameo less than a minute in, coming from the locker room and
staring down Richards.  Goldust appears
in the split screen and says that ECW is like a B-movie.  This is a basic match without any psychology,
but its purpose was to put over the Blue World Order and Stevie Richards in
anticipation of ECW’s Barely Legal pay-per-view and it effectively did
that.  Rating:  **
Sunny says Marlena
will not be in any condition to beat her in the arm wrestling match they are
going to have tonight
.
Arm Wrestling
Match:  Marlena defeats Sunny:
The Honky Tonk Man facilitates this and Sunny gets one of
the loudest pops of the evening before she rips off Rick Rude’s opening speech, with
robe and all.  Making this an arm
wrestling match is odd, but Vince Russo hadn’t developed the evening gown match
yet, so this is what we get.  It unfolds
like any other arm wrestling match you’ve ever seen, with Sunny playing the
heel rule and constantly pulling away. 
Regardless, the crowd is pretty into it and after making a comeback,
Marlena wins, only to have Sunny throw powder in her eyes.  This brings out Savio Vega, who wants to take
advantage of the weakened Marlena, until Goldust runs in and gives us…
Goldust
(w/Marlena) defeats Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) via
disqualification when Crush interferes at 8:43 shown:
Miguel Perez is doing guest commentary and he says he has
no idea what has happened to Savio. 
Savio finally has some different ring gear, which effectively
distinguishes him as a heel.  The problem
with heel Savio is that his offense consists of chokes and nerve holds and it
sucks the life out of the match.  Things
pick up a little bit when Goldust makes the comeback, but then things fall
apart again as Savio barely connects on a spinning heel kick and both guys run
out of ideas.  Crush interferes when
Savio has the advantage, which makes little sense, and Perez comes to Goldust’s
aid.  Rating:  ½*
Lawler interacting with Tiny Tim on Raw in 1993 is shown.
Lawler interviews
Ken Shamrock in the audience and takes credit for Shamrock’s success.  Shamrock says he doesn’t know Lawler and
that’s the segment.  Really?
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for Best Finishing Move for the 1997 Slammy Awards.  Your choices are Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin
Music, Marc Mero’s Wild Thing, Sid’s powerbomb, Steve Austin’s Stone Cold
Stunner, and Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter.
Taz (w/Bill
Alphonso) beats Mikey Whipwreck via submission with the Tazmission at 3:29:
Heyman says the show has sucked aside from the ECW stuff
and I have to fully agree with him.  Sabu
makes an appearance by taking out Taz’s crew, which the camera nearly misses,
and comes near the ring, where Taz can’t quite elevate Whipwreck enough to
crash onto Sabu on the floor. 
Nevertheless, Sabu is pulled to the back by Taz’s entourage and Taz
quickly finishes Whipwreck.  A decent
squash for Taz, but the WWF’s camera crew needed to be better positioned to capture
Sabu’s dive live.  They do a better job
handling the replay, though.
The Legion of
Doom and The Headbangers wrestle to a double count out at 7:39 shown:

The Legion of Doom’s return to Raw is the “surprise” that McMahon had been
promising to viewers throughout the evening. 
Who says Vince doesn’t know his audience?  The crowd does make Vince smile during this
match by chanting that Nitro, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff suck.  This match is booked wrong, as the Legion of
Doom dominate the action, but have to do it over the course of eight minutes,
which really exposes them.  Worse, they
aren’t even booked to go over.  Was it
really necessary to protect the Headbangers here?  The Legion of Doom should’ve come out and
squashed some random guys in less than two minutes.  Rating:  ½*
Another “Tell Me a
Lie” video is played for Shawn Michaels. 
I would normally say this is unnecessary since Dr. James Andrews told us
last week that Michaels would be returning, but I enjoy the song
.
Tommy Dreamer
(w/Beulah McGillicutty) pinned D-Von Dudley (w/Sign Guy Dudley) after a DDT on
a chair at 4:29:
Dreamer and D-Von let everything go here, as D-Von takes a frying pan to the head and has Dreamer baseball slide some steps into his
face.  This is really a prelude to the
hardcore era in the WWF, as chairs get involved for a variety of maneuvers,
including the finish.  It’s a garbage
match, but an entertaining one when compared to the lousy WWF stuff on the
show.  After the bout, Buh Buh Ray comes
in and the Dudley’s give Dreamer a Dudley Death Drop.  The Sandman then comes out of the crowd to make
the save.  Interestingly enough, you
could play this match before the first ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view that took place over nine years later and it would make perfect sense.  Rating:  **
After the
Dreamer-Dudley match, Lawler irritates Heyman and provokes a brawl between the
two and McMahon gets lost amidst the ECW crew
.
Jim Ross recaps
last week’s events, which culminated in Sid winning the WWF title
Jim
Cornette also narrates Bret Hart’s rampage through the locker room after losing
the title.
McMahon announces
that Bret Hart and Steve Austin will face each other in a no holds barred match
at WrestleMania
.
Todd Pettengill
interviews Shamrock and his family. 
Shamrock compliments the Undertaker, thereby sparking his interest in
MMA.  Pettengill does a poll for who the
fans would like to see win at WrestleMania between Austin and Hart and the
crowd firmly sides with Austin
.
The Legion of
Doom’s Doomsday Device on Mosh after tonight’s tag team match is the WWF Full
Metal:  The Album Rewind for this week
.
The Undertaker
defeats Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation runs in at 10:50 shown:
Faarooq disses the UFC and Shamrock on his way to the
ring and Shamrock teases jumping the guardrail and going after him. 
The Nation takes out the Undertaker’s leg on the floor, but Faarooq
really doesn’t know how to take advantage of that.  After what feels like an eternity, the Nation
does the predictable run-in to draw the disqualification and the Legion of Doom
come to the Undertaker’s aid as we go off the air.  This one was a chore to sit through as
neither guy seemed motivated and the constant striking grew tiresome.  I always try to look for any redeeming quality
a match might have, but this had nothing. 
Rating:  DUD
The Final Report Card:   I’m not sure if the WWF guys intentionally
put together bad matches since they knew that the ECW crowd was going to
upstage them in terms of crowd reaction, but the WWF was clearly overshadowed
on this show.  Of the WWF matches, none
of them broke ½* and it was an embarrassing display of what the company had to
offer.  In the WWF’s defense, most of its
top talent was overseas on a European tour, but there’s little excuse for this effort.  The ECW experiment
demonstrated Vince’s desire to do anything to get back into the Monday Night War with WCW and it did pop a rating here, but the WWF-ECW on-screen relationship
would fizzle when McMahon wanted the WWF to beat ECW in any invasion angle that
developed and Heyman wisely vetoed it. 
Although the show was an interesting experiment at the time, it’s a
chore to sit through today and is really not worth your time to check out
unless you need to cure insomnia.
Show Rating: 
2.5 (vs. 3.0 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 19, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Nashville,
Tennessee.  Ross informs us that the
Undertaker has been penciled in to face the WWF champion at WrestleMania XIII.  That’s a good booking decision since the Undertaker was
the runner-up in the Final Four match and he was the crowd favorite.
-WWF Champion Bret
Hart and Sid come out for their championship match to start the show, but Steve
Austin runs out and goes after Bret. 
When WWF officials separate them, Sid starts going after Austin and
Austin gives him a chop block before leaving. 
Bret wants to start the match, but WWF officials get Sid to leave the
ring.  A good opening segment, albeit
disjointed since no one had any clue what was happening after Austin was
escorted to the back.

-Shawn Michaels’ “Lost Smile” speech is shown.
-Ross and Lawler
narrate pictures from last night’s Final Four match.
-Kevin Kelly
interviews Sid, who says that he would still compete against Bret Hart with a
broken leg.  Kelly tells us that Sid will
face Bret later in the evening
.
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for the New Sensation of the Squared Circle for this
year’s Slammy Awards.  Your nominees are
Steve Austin, “Wildman” Marc Mero, Flash Funk, Mankind, and Rocky Maivia.  That’s a pretty loaded ballot, since three of
those guys were the backbone of the company for the rest of the 1990s.
Opening
Contest:  “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable)
defeats Savio Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation interfere at 4:16 shown:
You may not expect the Nation to be over in the South,
but quite a few fans mimic the Nation’s salute.  Sable’s push as an aggressive
valet continues in this one, as she 
weakly kicks JC Ice on the floor, but to Ice’s credit he sells it like a
million bucks.  As the match proceeds to
go nowhere, Sable is surrounded by the Nation, so she goes into the ring and
the Nation follows, leading the referee to call for the bell.  However, Ahmed Johnson shows up with a 2×4 in
some weird orange clothing that looks like it came from a Nailz yard sale and
makes the save.  This match was just
filler for the Nation-Ahmed angle so it could reach its next phase.  Rating:  *
Ross and Lawler
interview WWF Champion Bret Hart, who says that he can’t worry about Austin
interjecting himself into his business and isn’t worried about possibly facing
the Undertaker at WrestleMania XIII
.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “The Rock” Rocky
Maivia (Intercontinental Champion) pins Leif Cassidy with a shoulderbreaker at
9:31:
Sunny comes out before the match and briefly flirts with
Maivia before taking her position as our guest timekeeper.  Hunter Hearst Helmsley cuts a promo during a
slow period in the match, where Maivia has an armbar applied, and says that
Maivia is a lucky punk and his feud with Goldust isn’t over.  With the crowd dead, they try to pull some
shortcuts, with Maivia scoring some random near-falls, but it doesn’t work.  Maivia eventually pulls off a comeback after
Cassidy spends a while working the arm and secures the second defense of his
Intercontinental title.  Quite the boring
match, even if it was technically sound. 
Rating:  *½
In a somewhat
famous segment, Lawler reaches into the crowd near the announce table and grabs
an “ECW Rules” sign and proceeds to run down the promotion.  Lawler challenges ECW to come on RAW next
week when the WWF is in the Manhattan Center. 
He can’t help to put himself over, though, by saying that a sign that
had his name on it was confiscated on WCW Monday Nitro
.
“The Real Double
J” Jesse James’ appearance on Real Country Tonight, where he sang “With My Baby
Tonight” appearance on Real Country Tonight is shown.
Ross and Lawler
narrate pictures from the Maivia-Helmsley Intercontinental title match from In
Your House
.
Kelly interviews
Goldust and Marlena and Goldust says he is not going to let Hunter Hearst
Helmsley near Marlena.  Marlena says
Goldust is all man and he’s a better man than Helmsley.  This brings Helmsley out and he Pedigrees
Goldust.  Marlena slaps Helmsley, but the
mystery woman who attacked Marlena last night at In Your House (Chyna) bearhugs
Marlena from behind and shakes her like a rag doll.  The interview was very sub-par, but this did
a good job advancing the heel side of what turned out to be a very one sided
feud
.
The Headbangers
defeat The Hardy Boys at 3:58 when Thrasher pinned Jeff after a
powerbomb-flying leg drop combination at 3:58:
The Hardy Boys are clearly on some type of muscle building
substance because they are no longer the flyweights that they were in
1995.  Faarooq challenges Ahmed to a
Chicago street fight at WrestleMania in the split screen, which makes Ross
happy.  The Headbangers are reckless with
the bodies of their young opponents, with Mosh slamming Matt too close to the
ropes and barely getting him up for a suplex-flying body press
combination.  A basic tag squash, but
it’s more notable today for who lost than who won.
Dok Hendrix hypes
the next Madison Square Garden show on March 16th.  The card sees the Undertaker face Vader in a
casket match, Bret Hart square off with Steve Austin in a no disqualification
match, and Shawn Michaels face Sid in a steel cage match.  Well, I guess that’s why they say “card
subject to change” because Michaels won’t be making that steel cage match
.
They try to do the
WWF championship match again, but Steve Austin attacks Bret in the back and Sid
soon runs backstage to beat up Austin. 
WWF officials and Vince McMahon, who Sid nearly clocks in the scuffle,
separate all parties.
Kelly interviews
WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, who takes a tacit shot against WCW by saying
that the WWF isn’t like other companies and delivers on its promises and that
Bret Hart and Sid will face each other for the WWF championship tonight.
Owen Hart
(w/Clarence Mason) defeats Flash Funk (w/the Funkettes) with a spinning heel
kick at 8:31 shown:

I’m surprised that the WWE hasn’t considered signing Funk and bringing him in
as a tag team partner for Brodus Clay. 
In a nice touch that demonstrates his selfishness, Owen brings both of
the tag team title belts to the ring with him. 
Paul Heyman calls into the show and promises to show up with ECW at the
Manhattan Center and gets into a verbal spat with Lawler over his company.  Mason distracts Owen from putting on a
Sharpshooter and Owen is not happy, thereby sowing the seeds of Mason’s
dismissal as the manager of the tag team champions.  Mason is sent to the
locker room and the British Bulldog takes his place. 
Steve Austin appears in the split screen and rants about how he’s being
held back and he’s mad so that’s why he’s beating everyone up in sight.  If you can stay focused on the match and not
the interruptions, you are treated to a good match where Funk busts out his
high impact offense, but Owen keeps kicking out and the Bulldog clocks
Funk in the back of the head with a Slammy when he runs the ropes and holds
down Funk’s foot for the ending pin.  Rating: 
***
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley tells Ross that he doesn’t know who the woman is that keeps attacking
Marlena and he doesn’t care
.
Bart Gunn defeats
Hunter Hearst Helmsley by count out at 4:10:
The Honky Tonk Man is doing guest commentary as he
continues to scout talent for his pet project. 
A whole bunch of nothing is what we get out of this, as Bart works the
arm for a couple of minutes before Goldust runs in and chases Helmsley into the
crowd.  Rating:  DUD
Hendrix hypes the
Madison Square Garden show some more
.
Dr. James Andrews
says that Shawn Michaels is not going to have surgery on his knee, but will
rehabilitate it at his home in San Antonio and will be able to return to the
ring
.
WWF Championship
Match:  Sid pins Bret “the Hitman” Hart with
a powerbomb to win the title at 11:17 shown:
Sid doesn’t bother selling the leg that Austin chop
blocked at the beginning of the show and Bret doesn’t attack it in the first
couple of minutes, which is a big plot hole that’s hard to overlook in this
one.  Bret plays the Cena role here, with
women and children rooting for him and the men in the audience, who are more
vocal, rooting for Sid.  It’s always
uncomfortable to watch Sid’s legs get worked over in a match since his accident
in WCW.  I get the feeling that they are
going to break like twigs at any moment when Bret starts stretching them.  Speaking of that WCW incident, Sid goes to
the second rope in this match and nearly falls off, showing that he’s not that
comfortable jumping off the buckles to begin with.  The ring post figure-four spot makes its
debut in this match, but I always felt that move was counterproductive since
the guy applying it runs the risk of banging their head on the floor (which
Bret did at Starrcade 1999 and got a second concussion in his match with
Goldberg) and you can’t get a legal submission from it.  Sid actually tries a sunset flip in this
match, but Bret rolls through and applies a Sharpshooter.  However, before Sid can submit, Steve Austin
takes a chair and smashes it over Bret’s head and Sid seizes the advantage and
shocks the world by winning his second WWF championship.  The crowd is pretty ecstatic, though, because
they didn’t anticipate seeing a title change. 
The match built a good pace after the commercial break and the crowd
really got into it, but Sid’s refusal to sell a lot of the leg damage hurts it
significantly.  Rating:  ***
After the match,
the Undertaker comes to the ring and we have a WrestleMania stare down to play
us out.
The Final Report Card:  The Harts had the good matches on this show,
which is not surprising, but what is surprising is the sudden title
change.  Bret’s loss of the title was the
first time since Yokozuna losing the title that this had happened in less than
twenty-four hours.  In fact, this was the
first WWF title change in the history of Monday Night Raw.  The title match provides us with our road to
WrestleMania, whereby Sid faces the Undertaker in a main event no one is
thrilled about for the WWF title and Bret Hart is pegged by proxy to face Steve
Austin, who he’ll seek out to get revenge for his latest title defeat.  I’ll give this show a thumbs up because
of the good Funk-Owen match, the title match, and the fact that there were some
significant storylines that developed on this show, notably the ECW crossover
angle, which we will touch on next week in more detail.
Show Rating: 
2.1 (vs. 2.9 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Thursday Raw Thursday – February 13, 1997

by Logan Scisco
This is a Thursday
edition of Raw that was dubbed “Thursday Raw Thursday.”  Did I mention that the show was held on
Thursday?
Vince McMahon
announces that Shawn Michaels will vacate the WWF title tonight and that the
winner of this Sunday’s Final Four match will become the new WWF champion.
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from
Lowell, Massachusetts.  After SkyDome
last week, this small arena is definitely a letdown, but it does provide a grittier picture for the show.

Opening Contest
for the Intercontinental Championship: 
Rocky Maivia defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion) to win the title
with a small package at 13:26 shown:
Curtis Hughes is not in Helmsley’s corner, having been
fired by the WWF for reasons that are still unclear.  The story coming into this match is that
Helmsley has been booked against Ahmed Johnson for In Your House, but was so
confident that he could defeat Maivia that he signed for this match four days
before the pay-per-view.  A vocal part of
the crowd works up a “Rocky sucks” chant in the early going, but it’s gradually
drowned out during the match by pro-Maivia chants.  Helmsley, as the more experienced wrestler,
leads Maivia through a really good match that sees Maivia frustrate Helmsley by
kicking out of some high impact moves before catching him off guard to win his
first title in the World Wrestling Federation. 
This upset really did come out of left field, but it almost ruined
Maivia since he wasn’t over enough at this point to warrant getting the
title.  Rating:  ***½
Dok Hendrix
interviews the victorious Maivia, who says that he can’t believe that he beat
Helmsley and he’ll make his fans happy while he’s the champion.
Sunny comes out to
be our guest ring announcer for the next match. 
They really had no idea what to do with Sunny at this point, so for the
next year she’d do guest ring announcing and refereeing midget matches until
they tried to make her a manager again in 1998.
The Headbangers
defeat Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly & “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya
after Thrasher pins Montoya after a powerbomb/flying leg drop combination at
5:42:
This is an enhanced squash for the Headbangers, who have
settled into this gimmick after being billed as the Sisters of Love for the
first month of 1997.  It’s amazing how
long Montoya was able to stick around as a jobber to the stars in the
promotion, but having friends at the top of the company definitely doesn’t
hurt.  The match proceeds along just
fine, as the Headbangers showcase some of their double team moves, like an
inverted superplex spot, and pick up an easy victory over two WWF veterans.  Rating:  **
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who cuts his “I Lost My Smile” promo, where he
vacates the WWF title and hands it to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon.  It was announced that Michaels would need
knee surgery, but that never happened and some argue that Michaels came up with
an excuse so that he would not have to job to Bret at WrestleMania.  This speech also earned Michaels some
criticism because this was the fourth time he had vacated a title after winning
it (one tag title in 1994, the Intercontinental title in 1993 and 1995, and
this time).  Despite your feelings,
though, Shawn gives a very emotional speech here that is very convincing.
The Undertaker
defeats Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) with a chokeslam at 8:48 shown:
You get the impression that the Undertaker wants to move
onto bigger and better things, but he’s gotten sucked into a small feud with
the Nation of Domination prior to In Your House so he has to deal with that
first.  Savio does a great job selling
the Undertaker’s initial onslaught, but after the first couple of minutes the
match significantly slows down.  It
doesn’t lose the crowd, though, who through sheer force of will want to be
heard and continue to chant “rest in peace.” 
After the match, the Nation swarms the Undertaker and beats up Ahmed
Johnson when he tries to help.  However,
the Undertaker eventually recovers and gets the Nation to flee.  This match was very pedestrian, but the crowd
reactions really enhanced it and made it seem like something special.  Rating:  **¼
Hendrix interviews
WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, who says that the Final Four match at In Your
House will be for the WWF title because it’s the most fair thing to do.  Monsoon says that Sid will get his title shot
on Monday against the winner of the Final Four match on Raw.  That hardly seems fair to me since Sid gets
the entire pay-per-view off and someone who goes through a beating has to turn
around and defend the title less than 24 hours later.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin defeats Sid by disqualification at 3:40:
Sid was supposed to wrestle Shawn Michaels for the title
on this show, but Michaels injury forced a change of plans.  However, it all works out because these two
were supposed to face each other the night after the Royal Rumble, which was
scrapped after it was announced that Sid was recovering from a minor
concussion.  Austin gets one of the
loudest chants of his career in the early going and you can tell that he’s
really starting to favor his knees, as they are more wrapped than usual.  Sid and Austin exchange blows for a few short
minutes until Bret Hart runs in and causes Sid to get disqualified.  Predictably, Sid isn’t very happy about that
and starts fighting with Bret until WWF officials run in and break it up.  Rating:  **
McMahon interviews
Vader, who cuts a choppy promo trying to justify why he’s the favorite for the
Final Four pay-per-view.  There is
Exhibit A ladies and gentlemen for why Vader never became WWF champion in 1997.
Highlights of
Shawn Michaels speech earlier in the evening are shown
.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Faarooq & Crush
(w/The Nation of Domination) defeat Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
(Champions) by count out at 9:20 shown:
It’s really sad to think that fifteen years after this
match took place that three of the four participants in it are deceased.  On a lighter note, this is another heel
challenge to Owen and the Bulldog’s titles. 
Faarooq and Crush earned this title shot by winning a four team
elimination match on Superstars and Clarence Mason, who normally manages the tag team champions, is in the corner of the Nation. 
The announcers don’t bring this point up, though.  Owen and the Bulldog play the role of faces
in this match, but that means that Faarooq and Crush control the offense.  Considering their size, you would think
Faarooq and Crush could work in a double spinebuster or something, but those
moves never come.  It’s really funny
seeing the champions placed in peril by the same tactics they like to use.  Owen pulls his knee trick again, which was a
problem on last week’s Raw, after Crush tosses him out of the ring and takes
the count out, but that leaves the Bulldog alone to be victimized by the
Nation.  Maybe Owen secretly joined the
Nation in early 1997 and just didn’t let his membership be known until
1998.  The crowd felt cheated by the
finish, but it made sense in storyline terms. 
Rating:  **¼
Rocky Maivia’s
Intercontinental title victory over Hunter Hearst Helmsley is the Western Union
rewind segment.
Bret “the Hitman”
Hart pins Vader after Vader misses a moonsault at 4:13 shown:
The Undertaker comes out before the match starts and
tells them that he’ll make them rest in peace at In Your House.  They run through an abbreviated match because
of the time constraints, where Bret is able to lock in a Sharpshooter and Vader
gets in his usual stiff shots in the corner. 
I’m surprised they went with a clean finish here since you would want to
keep Vader strong for the pay-per-view, but I guess Bret wanted his win back
from last month and they wanted to send the crowd home happy.  Rating:  **
The Final Report Card:  This is one of the hottest wrestling crowds
you will ever see and it made the product come off like a million bucks.  While the crowd was a bit smarkish, they
reacted “appropriately” to the big moments and foreshadowed the rabid crowds of
the Attitude Era.  Another great show by
the WWF, as they are starting to pull themselves out of the abyss.
Monday Night War Rating:  N/A
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 3, 1997 (SkyDome Edition)

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and
Jim Ross are in the booth and they are taped from the SkyDome in Toronto,
Ontario, Canada.  This show is also
historically significant because it’s the first two hour episode of Raw.
The ending to the
Royal Rumble match is shown.  This show
was billed as Royal Rumble Raw because they were going to show us the Rumble
match in its entirety.  Spoiler:  that doesn’t happen.

Opening
Contest:  Vader (w/Paul Bearer) defeats “Stone
Cold” Steve Austin by disqualification at 5:32 shown:
Before the match starts, Bret Hart comes out and attacks
both participants until WWF officials get him to go to the locker room.  A fun brawl ensues between both guys and when
the referee tries to break up some of it, he ends up on the receiving end of a
Stunner and Austin gets disqualified.  A
clean finish would have been nice, but they can’t afford to have Vader and
Austin look weak heading into the pay-per-view so this was as good as we were
going to get.  Rating:  **¼
Jim Ross
interviews Savio Vega on his way to the ring and Savio says he doesn’t care
what the fans think and that the Nation of Domination will be number one
.
Savio Vega (w/The
Nation of Domination) pins Flash Funk after Funk misses a moonsault at 4:21:
The Funkettes are not here with Funk and Savio is still
sporting the same ring attire that he had as a face, which just doesn’t
work.  Savio has to win here since he
recently turned heel and anytime a wrestler turns heel they tend to win a few
matches in a row to see if their turn will work to get them over.  Funk’s high spots, including one on the
future D-Lo Brown, keep the crowd interested, but there wasn’t a lot of
captivating action in this one.  Rating: 
*
McMahon interviews
Peta Wilson of La Femme Nikita to hype that show on the USA Network.
Ross interviews
Sid, who says that he has a roller coaster relationship with Shawn Michaels,
but he’ll beat him all the same on Thursday Raw Thursday to regain the WWF
title.
Call
1-900-747-4WWF to find out where Yokozuna, Brian Pillman, Jim Cornette, and
Sunny have gone
.
McMahon interviews
WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & the British Bulldog and Owen says he
didn’t mean to eliminate the Bulldog at the Royal Rumble.  Owen and the Bulldog then begin to argue over
who took who to the top of the company.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon defeat Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (Champions) at 11:16
shown:
The crowd is behind Owen and the Bulldog since we’re on
their home turf, which LaFon doesn’t quite grasp as he tries to get the crowd
to cheer when Furnas is clawing his way over to make the hot tag in the
match.  The champions argue amongst
themselves since neither is focused on the match when they are standing on the
apron.  Furnas and LaFon appear to win
the titles when LaFon DDT’s Owen, but Owen gets his foot over the bottom rope
just before the referee counts three and the count is waved off.  Owen and the Bulldog miscommunicate on a spot
where the Bulldog is supposed to backdrop LaFon over the top rope and Owen
fakes a knee injury, which costs his team the match.  At least the right team went over because
Furnas and LaFon were starting to look like they couldn’t beat the champions in
singles or tag team competition.  Rating: 
***
Footage of Ahmed
Johnson eliminating Faarooq in the Royal Rumble match is shown.  Ahmed is then interviewed by the announce
team and says that he doesn’t take Prozac anymore and without it he goes
crazy.  Did we just dwell into the “too
much information” category there?  The
Undertaker, who is teaming with Ahmed tonight, comes into the picture and says
that if Ahmed tries to attack Crush in his next match he won’t help him, but if
Ahmed waits, he’ll help him take care of the Nation of Domination when they
face Faarooq and Mankind tonight in a no holds barred match.
Crush (w/the
Nation of Domination) pins Goldust (w/Marlena) with a heart punch at 8:17
shown:
Neither guy looks like they really want to be out there
for this one and the match quality shows, as it takes six minutes for someone
to hit a high impact maneuver.  Goldust
is totally devoid of personality after his face turn and there’s just nothing
in this match that keeps it interesting. 
So what was our reward for not reacting to this match?  A rematch at the King of the Ring!  Crush does run his Raw winning streak to two
after Savio gives Goldust a spinning heel kick in the back of the head when he
tries to do the Curtain Call.  Rating: 
DUD
A vignette for the
New Blackjacks is shown
.
Shawn Michaels
victory over Sid at the Royal Rumble is the Army Slam of the Week.
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who says that he doesn’t care about being popular
anymore and Bret Hart can call himself what he wants, but he can’t say that
he’s the WWF champion.  That of course
brings out Bret, who says Michaels is a degenerate and a punk, but before more
verbal sparring can ensue, Steve Austin runs out and starts brawling with
Bret.  Michaels chooses to watch the
action and as he does so, Sid comes out as we go to a commercial break.
When we get back
from the commercial break, Michaels and Bret are facing off in the ring with
the WWF title between them.  Michaels
goes to pick it up, but Bret has his foot on it and Michaels decides that if
Bret wants to fight then they might as well do it.  Bret picks up the title and goes to hand it
to Michaels, but when Michaels reaches for it, Bret drops it on the canvas and
leaves.  Bret came off like a big bully
in this segment, but it was much easier to get behind him than Michaels.
Clips of Tiger Ali
Singh signing his contract with the WWF earlier in the show are played.
Intercontinental
Championship, No Managers at Ringside Match: 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion) pins “Wildman” Marc Mero after hitting
him with a foreign object at 10:35 shown:
WWF President Gorilla Monsoon prevented Curtis Hughes and
Sable from being at ringside for this match because of their physical
interference in previous matches that each of these superstars were a part of.  Mero controls most of this contest, but he is
unable to put Helmsley away and the referee repairing a turnbuckle gives
Helmsley his opportunity to cheat and retain the title.  This match is Mero’s swan song as a title
contender since he would be injured shortly after this and would never get back
into the Intercontinental title picture. 
The match was a good one, but I’d expect nothing less from two guys that
have had the majority of their matches against each other since the end of
WrestleMania XII.  Rating:  ***¼
Jerry Lawler’s
hilarious elimination in the Royal Rumble match is shown
.
Faarooq’s attack
on Ahmed Johnson on last week’s Raw is the Western Union rewind segment.
No Holds Barred
Match:  The Undertaker & Ahmed
Johnson defeat Mankind & Faarooq (w/Paul Bearer & the Nation of
Domination) when the Undertaker pins Mankind after a Tombstone on a chair at 7:45
shown:
Mankind becomes an honorary member of the Nation of
Domination for this match and seeing him give the Nation salute to Faarooq is
hilarious.  The action gets spread out
all over ringside and we avoid any stupidity like having a no holds barred
match where both teams act like they have to tag each other (SummerSlam 1991
I’m looking at you).  Ahmed takes full
advantage of the stipulations by doing a tribute to Hacksaw Jim Duggan and
using a 2×4 to run off the Nation of Domination and blast Faarooq on the way to
the dressing room.  I really hope Ron
Simmons got hazard pay for this.  Vader
also makes an appearance, but the Undertaker dispatches of him and finishes off
Mankind with ease.  They significantly
clipped this match, but that was probably for the best since it eliminated any
dead spots and made for an entertaining end to the show.  Rating:  ***
The Final Report Card:  The first two hour Raw was a success, as all
of the major feuds received adequate attention and the Bret-Shawn segment
carried the second hour.  The ring work
was also good and was above the quality that you expected of Raw.  McMahon spent a lot of time on commentary
emphasizing how the WWF always delivers on its promises, but when Thursday Raw
Thursday rolled around he wouldn’t be able to deliver on the championship match
he promised and we’ll talk about that in our next review.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.6 (vs. 3.1 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 27, 1997

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps the wild events on last week’s show, where Bret Hart, Steve Austin,
Vader, and the Undertaker got into a massive brawl.
Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are still in Beaumont, Texas
.
Footage of Savio
Vega turning on Ahmed Johnson in a tag team match at Madison Square Garden is
shown
.
Footage of Sid
whacking Crush with a chair on Shotgun Saturday Night is shown.

Opening
Contest:  Crush (w/the Nation of
Domination) pins Ahmed Johnson with a heart punch at 5:40 shown:
If there was one superstar that was hurt by a lack of
squash matches in the company at this time it was Ahmed, who was put into feuds
with guys that could not carry him to good matches.  This match is no exception, as they try to
work in some power moves, but can’t seem to cooperate and have a hard time
lifting each other.  Faarooq runs out
when the referee’s back is turned and attacks Ahmed, enabling Crush to score
the victory, which marks just the second time that Ahmed has been pinned on WWF
television.  Crush’s victory also sent a
subtle signal that Ahmed wasn’t on the same level of the card as he was in
1996.  Rating:  ¼*
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who says that he’s ready to face Sid at Thursday
Raw Thursday.  That’s a strange name for
the show, but they must really have wanted people to remember that it was going
to be on Thursday.  Michaels says that
he’ll be bad because that’s what he’s going to have to do to keep the title in
the midst of all of the chaos happening lately. 
McMahon brings out Bret Hart, who says that he wants Michaels to retain
the title against Sid because he wants to beat Michaels to regain the title.  The cycle of interview time continues as the
Undertaker is brought out and the dead man says that the WWF title belongs to
him and he’s been screwed more than Bret Hart. 
Austin comes out, with Jim Ross in tow because he fears an ambush, and
appears to be the voice of reason by saying that everyone whining about how
they’ve been screwed is wearing on him. 
Poor Vader just stands by the entrance and only gets to jaw with Austin
as he heads to the locker room
.
The Western Union
rewind is Faarooq’s attack on Ahmed Johnson tonight
.
Ahmed Johnson is
shown breaking down a door backstage to try to find the Nation of
Domination.  Lawler rightly points out
that Ahmed is an idiot because he’d just be walking into an ambush if he were
to find the Nation.
The British
Bulldog (w/Owen Hart & Clarence Mason) defeats Doug Furnas (w/Philip LaFon)
by sitting down on a sunset flip attempt at 7:14 shown:
Furnas gets the jobber entrance, but the Bulldog has
better theme music anyway.  McMahon
announces that Furnas and LaFon will get a tag team title shot at In Your
House, but it would be nice if would clarify why they are getting the title
shot since they did lose their non-title contest last week.  The cutting of the match does very little for
Furnas, as the Bulldog’s offense is showcased and he doesn’t get in very many
moves.  The Bulldog appears to have the
match lost when a miscommunication spot sees him blasted with Owen’s Slammy,
but he quickly recovers and wins.  After
the match, the Bulldog and Owen tease a breakup, but uneasily resolve their
dispute.  I don’t get the booking for
this match, as it would not have hurt the Bulldog to do the job after Owen’s
interference and it would’ve given some credibility to Furnas and LaFon, which
they needed after last week’s loss.  Rating: 
More footage of
Savio Vega’s heel turn in Madison Square Garden is shown.  Savio Vega’s interview with Todd Pettengill
on Shotgun Saturday Night, where he brushed off his heel turn, and his
subsequent joining of the Nation of Domination on that show is played for us.
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to find out what Sid’s secret weapon is going to be to win the
WWF title back at Thursday Raw Thursday
.
Clips of the WWF’s
press conference, where they announced the signing of Tiger Ali Singh are shown.  Talk about a prospect that didn’t pan out.
The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly
Jim) defeat Vader & Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) via count out at 7:11 shown:
The story of this match is that it’s Vader and Mankind’s
debut and they don’t communicate well. 
This leads to some fun spots, like Vader tagging Mankind stiffly on the
shoulder and encouraging him to beat down Phineas in the proper fashion.  As a sign of good booking, the Godwinns are
not made to look like jobbers in this contest and manage to get some sustained
offense against Vader and Mankind and they eventually win on a fluke when a
miscommunication spot sees Mankind take Vader out with a chair and smile as he
walks to the locker room.  This would
appear to be leading us toward a Mankind-Vader feud and a potential face turn
for Mankind, but neither of those things happened in the immediate aftermath of
this match.  The full version of this
match might’ve garnered a better rating, but the cutting of the match hurt its
momentum.  Rating: *½
Ahmed eventually
finds some of the Nation and he tosses a member of PG-13 in the trunk of a
white car, which starts to speed away. 
The other member of PG-13 is hanging out of the driver’s side door as
the car speeds off
.
The Final Report Card:  There’s a lot of curious booking on this show
as the wrestlers that you think would go over do not.  I know that during this time frame Foley
pitched the idea of doing a feud with Vader, which McMahon refused to do
because they had already done it in WCW, but the main event finish would imply
that the company at least gave some thought to going in that direction.  Although this show didn’t capitalize on the
momentum of the previous week, I did like that they kept the Godwinns
strong.  There’s no point in making your
entire tag division look weak for makeshift teams that you may or may not keep
together for the long term.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.2 (vs. 3.6 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 20, 1997

by Logan Scisco
The announce crew
discusses the results of last night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from
Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas
.

In a great segment
to start the show, Bret Hart comes out, snatches the house mic from Howard
Finkel, and tells McMahon that he hasn’t been given his opportunity for the WWF
title because he has been screwed by Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the WWF, and
McMahon.  Bret says that since he isn’t
being given a fair opportunity to win the WWF title, he’s quitting, which leads
to the crowd chanting “We want Bret.”
After Bret walks
out through the audience, Steve Austin comes out and gets on the mic and says
that when the going gets tough, the Harts get going.  He is angered that Sid’s concussion prevents
him from facing the former WWF champion tonight, but he says he isn’t afraid to
face the Undertaker, who has been penciled in as his new opponent.
McMahon walks
backstage for a reason that is not announced, but Ross says it is probably
connected to Bret’s decision to leave the company.  This gives us our first glimpse of what a
Ross-Lawler combination looks like in the booth
.
Opening Non-Title
Contest:  Owen Hart & The British
Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Champions w/Clarence Mason) defeat Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon when the Bulldog pins LaFon with a running powerslam at 9:37
shown:
Clarence Mason’s position is very awkward at this point
in the company, since he’s the manager of the tag team champions and one of the
major figures in the Nation of Domination. 
However, in storyline terms he’s able to keep those interests separate.  Aside from the Survivor
Series, this is Furnas and LaFon’s first crack at the tag team champions and
they give them everything they can handle. 
The hot crowd is very receptive to this match, which maintains a brisk
pace, and the champions barely win after Owen clocks LaFon with his Slammy.  I expected Furnas and LaFon to get a victory
here, since it was non-title, but the WWF must have thought this was a way to
even things up from the Survivor Series. 
If there was one fault with Furnas and LaFon it was the lack of a
memorable finishing maneuver.  They had
multiple moves that looked devastating and that could beat you, but having a
single tag finisher is a great way to connect to the audience.  Rating:  ***
Some brief footage
of the Ahmed Johnson-Faarooq match at the Royal Rumble is shown
.
Faarooq (w/the
Nation of Domination) pins Bart Gunn with a Dominator at 5:16 shown:
As the WWF transitions to the Attitude Era, Bart Gunn’s
cowboy act looks really out of place.  I
know Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was still a big hit, but I don’t think that was
the demographic the WWF was reaching out to at this time.  Faarooq shows off chinlocks until Bart works
the crowd into a frenzy by bulldoging Faarooq and attacking PG-13 after they place Faarooq’s foot on
the bottom rope.  This shows the
quality of PG-13’s heel work and the distraction allows Faarooq to nail Bart from the apron and finish him off in the ring. 
Ross’s voices his usual indignation, albeit in a PG sense, at the outcome.  Rating: 
Dok Hendrix hypes
the next Madison Square Garden show, but it’s not updated to reflect the
results of the Rumble because Sid is still defending the WWF title against the
Undertaker.
McMahon and WWF
President Gorilla Monsoon come into the ring. 
Monsoon says that he can’t overturn Austin’s victory in the 1997 Royal
Rumble, but he can deny him his title shot at WrestleMania 13.  He announces that at In Your House, Steve
Austin and the three men he illegally eliminated in the Royal Rumble:  Vader, the Undertaker, and Bret Hart will be
in a four way elimination match, with the winner becoming the number one
contender for the WWF title and facing the WWF champion at WrestleMania.
  Steve
Austin comes out and tells Monsoon that Bret Hart already quit, but regardless
of that he’ll go to In Your House and still be going to WrestleMania.  Austin threatens to get violent on Monsoon,
which leads to him getting in McMahon’s face, and Bret Hart returns out of the
crowd, announces that he’s back, and brawls with Austin in the aisle until WWF
officials separate them.
-The Western Union
rewind is a massive brawl from Shotgun Saturday Night.
The Undertaker defeats
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin by disqualification at 6:37 shown:
The match starts on a chaotic note as the Undertaker gets
into a brawl with Bret Hart in the aisle before moving on to Austin.  Austin uses his technical skill to wear down
the Undertaker and it’s odd to see the Stunner used as a move to generate a
double KO.  During the match, the cameras
cut to the back where Vader and Bret are being separated by WWF officials,
thereby reinforcing the tensions and high stakes of the In Your House
match.  Vader runs down to the ring when
the Undertaker starts his comeback and Bret Hart soon follows, creating a four
way brawl that sends the crowd into a frenzy as we go off the air.  This match was serviceable, but the real fun
came with the post-match activities.  Rating: 
**
The Final Report Card:  Finally we get an episode of Raw that
maintains a good story arc and builds momentum during the show.  The interaction of Bret, Austin, McMahon, and
the Undertaker was fantastic and started to move the company into a new
direction where face/heel distinctions were not as clearly defined.  The hot crowd in Beaumont also helped the
show as they reacted to everything, including the midcard match between Faarooq
and Bart, and anytime you have a hot crowd it adds another element to the
show.  An easy thumbs up effort by the
company for this week.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.2 (vs. 3.7 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 13, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and
The Honky Tonk Man are in the booth and they are taped from Albany, New York.  This is the go home show for the Royal Rumble
.

Opening
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley &
Jerry “the King” Lawler defeat “Wildman” Marc Mero & Goldust (w/Sable &
Marlena) by disqualification at 11:21 shown:
To think that this tag match was predicated on the final
of a Karate Fighters tournament.  Goldust
throws off his entrance attire in the aisle and charges the ring, demonstrating
that he means business tonight.  There’s
lots of stalling since Lawler is in charge of most of the action for his team
and Helmsley flees when Goldust is tagged in. 
These factors make the match very disjointed and also make it difficult
to build a decent heat segment. 
Eventually, Goldust gets his hands on Helmsley after the hot tag, but
refuses to release a choke, gets his team disqualified, and decks Mero after
they lose.  The story they are trying to
tell here is transparent, but the match quality suffered as a result.  Rating:  ½*
WWF Champion Sid
cuts a promo in the vacant Alamo Dome and says that he’s going to destroy Shawn
Michaels in front of family in San Antonio this Sunday.
Shawn Michaels
cuts a promo in the midst of some crazy fans in San Antonio and says that Sid’s
attack on Pete Lothario last week has released the monster inside of him.  A fat Latino lady keeps grabbing Shawn during
the interview and that’s worth a laugh
.
Bret Hart, who is
limping around on an injured ankle that Austin Pillmanized on Superstars, comes
out to do guest commentary.
-Footage of Marc
Mero yelling at Sable on Shotgun Saturday Night and Rocky Maivia coming to her
aid is shown.  This was supposed to
foreshadow a Mero-Maivia program where Mero would be the heel, but he was
injured before that could happen
.
Rocky Maivia
defeats The British Bulldog (w/Clarence Mason) by count out at 9:06 shown:
Bret puts over Maivia’s potential on commentary, but the
crowd doesn’t buy into him.  They aren’t
booing him, but just don’t react to his early offense against the Bulldog.  However, I don’t think it’s a problem with
Maivia as much as it is a crowd that is burned out from the taping.  Owen comes out and stands in front of Bret,
which seems more of an indictment of Bulldog’s abilities than anything
else.  There’s very little action in this
match, as the Bulldog uses chinlocks to slow down the action.  Steve Austin comes out when both men go over
the top rope, chop blocks the Bulldog, delivers a Stunner, and then flees to the
back where Bret and Owen follow him. 
This is hardly a great way to put over a young face, but it does sew the
seeds for the emergence of the Hart Foundation to torment Austin after
WrestleMania XIII.  Rating:  *
The Nation of
Domination says that it has unity and Crush says he’ll dominate the Undertaker
tonight using whatever means are necessary.
Steve Austin’s
attack on the British Bulldog earlier in the show is the Starburst Fruit Twists
Rewind segment
.
The Undertaker defeats
Crush (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification at 8:35 shown:
The Undertaker must not be a fan of the PG-13 rap,
because he interrupts it and forces the Nation to scatter.  Both guys work up a good pace at the
beginning of the match, but can’t sustain it and by the time we head to
commercial we’re getting too much of an exchange of punches and kicks.  Crush just doesn’t look comfortable with this
gimmick and the only heat he can generate is yelling at the crowd not to call
him a Jailbird.  We get our third
inconclusive finish of the evening as the Nation runs in before the Undertaker
can Tombstone Crush and Vader runs in to do some damage as well.  Ahmed Johnson tries to make the save with a
2×4, but PG-13 jump him and Faarooq seizes control of the 2×4 and wears him out
with it.  Rating:  *
The Final Report Card:  This RAW was more about the storylines and it
showed with the poor match quality. 
Austin’s attack on the Bulldog keeps the Bret-Austin feud going and is going
to draw in more actors and was the highlight of the show.  That also sustains a distrust angle between
Owen and the Bulldog that is taking place. 
However, there just wasn’t a lot to get into on this show as it seemed
like the company wanted to fast forward to the Rumble so it could move onto
bigger and better things.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 6, 1997

by Logan Scisco
Last week a plurality of readers wanted to move onto 1997, so that’s where we are headed.  According to Jim Cornette, 1997 is the year that laid the foundation for the late 1990s boom period, which allowed the WWF to regain its place as the top wrestling promotion in North America.  Some of the Nielsen ratings for these Raw’s are not great, but the storylines improve throughout the year and as Cornette attests, created a new product that revolutionized the business.  So, let’s start reviewing the 1997 season of Monday Night Raw.
Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Albany, New
York
.

-Opening Toughman
Contest:  Mankind pins Owen Hart
(w/Clarence Mason) with a stump piledriver at 7:02 shown:
Owen is subbing for the British Bulldog in this contest
and he and Mankind have an interesting battle between Owen’s Slammy and
Mankind’s chair.  Just so you know, the
Slammy wins.  It’s hard to tell who’s
side the crowd is on, since they hate both guys.  Owen takes a brutal shot to the head with a
cooler near the end of the match and a blind charge allows Mankind to hit a
piledriver for the finish.  These two had
some nice chemistry and the transitions between technical wrestling and
brawling were very smooth.  Rating: 
**½
Jose Lothario and
Shawn Michaels are backstage and Lothario says that Michaels is going to win
the WWF title back at the Royal Rumble. 
Jose’s son Pete reiterates that and Michaels says that he’ll be doing
guest commentary for the Bret Hart-Vader main event tonight.
Footage of Ahmed
Johnson’s altercation with the Nation of Domination on Shotgun Saturday Night
is shown.
The Honky Tonk Man
joins McMahon and Lawler for commentary. 
Honky is in the midst of scouting talent for someone that he can manage.
Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon defeated The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel when Furnas
pins Ramon after a modified Doomsday Device at 9:02 shown:
With the tag team division in flux, this sort of
functions like a number one contenders match for Owen and the Bulldog’s
belts.  The Fake Diesel is clearly the
star of the Fakes, as he brings some much needed energy to the contest after
the Fake Razor puts the crowd to sleep with armbars.  Unfortunately, the crowd isn’t into Furnas
and LaFon at all here and they have very little sympathy for them when the
Fakes do their beat down.  This was one
of those matches that you watch that you want to see end, but it just kept
going and going.  Rating:  **
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley throwing Goldust into Marlena on last week’s show is shown.  Marlena flashing the Sultan on Shotgun
Saturday Night is also shown
.
Bret Hart tells
the announce crew that if Shawn Michaels wants to interfere tonight he can go
right ahead because he’ll be ready for it. 
He also says he’s ready for Vader and then gets angry when Sid’s music
starts during his interview time
.
Jim Ross
interviews WWF Champion Sid, who says that he was born the man and he’ll
overcome the odds and defeat Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble.
  Shawn Michaels
comes out to do color commentary and starts dancing and stripping on the
announce table.  This leads to some
unintentional hilarity as Sid starts smiling at his dance and nodding his head.  I think you can find a .gif of this sequence on the Internet.
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to find if Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin could co-exist as tag
team partners.
Dok Hendrix hypes
the next Madison Square Garden card, where Sid will defend the WWF title
against the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels will face Mankind, Goldust collides with
Steve Austin, Bret Hart squares off with Vader, and Ahmed Johnson and Savio
Vega challenge Faarooq and Crush
.
Ahmed Johnson
giving the Pearl River Plunge to a member of the Nation of Domination on a car
on Shotgun Saturday Night is the Starburst Fruit Twists Rewind segment.
Vader pins Bret “the
Hitman” Hart with a Vader Bomb at 8:03 shown:
Jim Cornette is not at Vader’s side, nor will he be from
this point forward, because the Undertaker Tombstoned him on WWF Superstars.  I’m really surprised that they would waste
this pay-per-view caliber match on free TV, but that shows you what kind of
booking funk Vader has been in since SummerSlam.  We get a very physical match in the early
going, with Bret using the stairs, but Vader using his girth in flying at Bret
to generate an advantage.  Bret is able
to block a Vader Bomb and take control, but when the action spills to the
floor, Sid comes and grabs a camera man. 
Steve Austin comes out and gives Bret a Stunner, which the camera fails
to catch, and Vader uses that interference to pick up his biggest victory in a
while.  The victory gives Vader some
needed momentum heading into the Royal Rumble and also continues the
Bret-Austin feud.  This match was also a
little refreshing because Bret tended to win big matches like this on Raw.  This match could’ve been better, but they did
what they could with their limited TV time 
Rating:  **½
The camera
backstage shows Sid beating up Pete Lothario and powerbombing him on a table
before Michaels can get backstage.
The Final Report Card:  The first Raw of 1997 had some good wrestling
and showed that 1997 was going to have more “attitude” than 1996.  The feuds that the WWF was building had
multiple dimensions and the tangled web that encompassed Shawn Michaels, Bret
Hart, Sid, and Steve Austin would help carry the company to an entertaining
year.  This show is an easy thumbs up
because of the good work during the main event and the opener.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.1 (vs. 3.0 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 23, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and
Jerry Lawler are in the booth and they are still from somewhere that is
undisclosed.
-Footage of the aftermath of last
week’s Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament is shown.

Opening Intercontinental Championship
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley
(Champion) defeats “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) with a Pedigree at 6:11 shown:
Helmsley
can lose the belt here if he gets counted out or disqualified.  Right before the bell rings, Goldust’s theme
plays and he and Marlena take seats in the crowd because Goldust will face the
winner at the Royal Rumble.  They play to
the stipulations, as Helmsley opts not to use a chair so he doesn’t lose the
title and they have a very competitive match. 
There is also some good continuity with the finish, as Helmsley avoids a
Merosault, which got him pinned at the Survivor Series in November, and he hits
the dazed Mero with the Pedigree.  This
is a bit of an upset, considering how many victories over Helmsley in non-title
matches Mero had accumulated up to this point and it was a sign that the WWF
was putting more stock into Helmsley for the future.  This would also constitute the official end
of the Helmsley-Mero feud, as Helmsley now moves on to feud with Goldust and Mero
moves on to a knee injury in a couple of months, which will destroy his career.  Rating:  **½
-After the match, Helmsley gets
on the house mic and tells Goldust that at the Royal Rumble he’s going to show
him how to be a man and then says that he’s going to let Marlena feel what it’s
like to be with a real man.  Goldust
charges to the ring, but Helmsley flees before anything happens.
-McMahon and Ross discuss the
ending of the Bart Gunn-Billy Gunn match on last week’s show.  Bart’s comments about how the incident was an
accident on Livewire are also played.
-Sunny comes down to the ring to
do commentary for our next match.  Her
appearance on MTV’s “Singled Out” is also discussed.
Rocky Maivia pins Salvatore Sincere (w/Jim
Cornette) with a shoulderbreaker at 5:49:
We
get another match between these two, with Sincere having won none of the
matches in this series.  He wasn’t even
able to get a single leg up on Maivia in this small feud.  Sunny fawns over Maivia as this match follows
the Randy Savage template:  Maivia gets
destroyed until making a comeback out of nowhere and finishing Sincere off once
and for all.  Rating:  *½
-McMahon interviews WWF Champion
Sid.  Sid says that in thirty days he’s
defeated Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, two of the best technical wrestlers on
the planet, and that proves that power is the best skill that he has in his
arsenal.  He runs down his height and
weight and says that isn’t changing.  A really
bland interview, but it made its point.
Pierroth & Cibernetico defeat The New
Rockers when Pierroth pins Marty Jannetty with a top rope splash at 3:51 shown:
Pierroth
and Cibernetico were guest participants in the Royal Rumble when the WWF had a
working relationship with AAA in Mexico. 
Mil Mascaras is shown doing guest commentary at the Spanish announce
table because he will be in the Royal Rumble match.  The crowd doesn’t care about the New Rockers
and they don’t know what to make of the Mexican team, so they just choose to
sit on their hands until Cibernetico blasts Cassidy with a suicide dive in the
finishing sequence.  Pierroth and
Cibernetico didn’t look that good in this match, as they had trouble executing
basic maneuvers like a leapfrog and a sunset flip.  Rating:  *
-Ross interviews Mil Mascaras and
Mascaras quickly discusses the honor of getting to compete in the Royal Rumble.
-McMahon announces that Hunter
Hearst Helmsley, Flash Funk, the British Bulldog, Ahmed Johnson, and the
Undertaker will be in the Royal Rumble match. 
For the wrestling trivia buffs out there, the 1997 Royal Rumble was the
first time since 1993 that the Undertaker was participating in the Rumble
match.
-The Honky Tonk Man comes down to
ringside to do guest commentary.  He’s on
a search to find someone to carry on his legacy because he can’t be as active
in the ring as he used to.
Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats The Fake
Razor Ramon via submission with the Sharpshooter at 5:58 shown:
Bret’s
always lauded for pulling off miracles in the ring against opponents who
couldn’t carry their weight, but this match proves that you can’t work miracles
all the time.  The problem is that Ramon
dominates three quarters of the match with every type of striking and choking
move you can imagine.  The highlight of
the match is when Bret whips Ramon into the steps, but Ramon stops himself
before hitting them and lightly taps them with his rear end.  McMahon also praises Bret after his victory
for showing a mean streak, but that’s really tough to sell when he gets
dominated by a midcarder.  Altogether,
this is one of the worst Bret matches that I’ve ever seen.  Rating:  ½*
-McMahon asks Shawn Michaels, who
is in the locker room, what he thinks of Bret Hart and Sid and Shawn just acts
like McMahon is asking dumb questions. 
He says he’ll be ready for the Royal Rumble.
-Tune in next week to see Goldust
face Jerry Lawler!
The
Final Report Card:  They really should’ve
just scrapped Bret Hart-Razor Ramon main event and given the Helmsley-Mero
match more time.  For a blowoff to their
feud, both guys deserved more time to tell a story than what they were given on
this show.  Aside from those two matches,
you have a Sincere-Maivia part 15, which was one of the more poorly developed
feuds of the year, and a squash for Pierroth and Cibernetico, where both guys
looked terrible.  Overall, just a bad
show that’s not worth looking for because the one match you may want to see,
Helmsley-Mero, underperforms.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.1 for
Nitro)
Show
Grade:  Thumbs Down