What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – May 12, 1997

by Logan Scisco
Vince McMahon
recaps last night’s In Your House pay-per-view
.
Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Newark, Delaware.
The Hart
Foundation arrives on the ramp and Bret hypes the qualities of each
member.  Bret gives a great promo that
blasts Austin for his behavior and “barnyard clichés.”  Bret says he has a surprise to announce, but
he gets irritated by the crowd berating him and leaves before revealing it.
Call
1-815-734-1161 to get your Austin 3:16 t-shirt for $20 (plus shipping &
handling)!

King of the Ring
First Round Match:  Ahmed Johnson defeats
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) by disqualification when Chyna interferes at
3:51:
The 1997 edition of the King of the Ring tournament was
the weakest in history, with only eight men participating.  Helmsley is on a small winning streak, but he
hasn’t faced anyone of Ahmed’s caliber in a couple of months.  If you close your eyes and listen to the
commentary of this match it is eerily similar to the Booker T-Triple H contest
from WrestleMania XIX as Ross and Lawler discuss Ahmed’s troubled past.  This is a very abbreviated contest and Ahmed
appears headed for a clean win until Chyna gets a chair and nails him with it.  After the match, Ahmed and Helmsley engage in
a small brawl on the stage.  Helmsley
losing here was a small upset, since it was assumed that Ahmed’s feud with the
Nation would cause him to lose this match, but he would be reinserted into the
tournament when Vader was too injured to face Crush in another first round
match.  Rating:  *
Sunny hypes the
Super Soaker by attacking The Headbangers with it
.
Vince McMahon
interviews Steve Austin, who comes out with one of Bret Hart’s crutches and
says that sooner or later he will be the WWF champion.  Austin says the quickest way to kill a snake
is to chop its head off and he says Bret is the head of the snake of the Hart
Foundation.  However, Austin says he
wants to have fun with his endeavor, so he’s going to start with the ass of the
snake, which is Brian Pillman (who he alludes to carrying in the “bush
leagues”).  Great promo to set up
Austin’s angles for the next six months.
A video package
showcases Ivan Putski, whose son, Scott Putski, will be making his debut
tonight.
Scott Putski
defeats Leif Cassidy with a release German suplex at 4:05:
Another day, another job for Cassidy as he was the
resident WWF jobber at this time.  Putski
shows some raw talent and has a good look, but his debut took place without any
build so the crowd doesn’t know what to make of him.  Somehow Putski avoided getting an
embarrassing gimmick out of the gate, but that may be because the WWF was using
him as a babyface.  Putski misses a few
cues, but Cassidy does a good job covering for them.  An okay match, but the spots needed to be
more fluid.  After the match, Cassidy
snaps and blasts Putski with a suicide dive. 
However, Putski clotheslines him over the top rope when they get back
into the ring.  This whole thing
showcased Cassidy losing his mind, which eventually manifested itself in the
“Head” gimmick.  Rating:  *½
The Legion of Doom
say they can’t wait to mistreat two members of the Nation of Domination like
small animals.  Uh, poor choice of words
there?
The Legion of
Doom beat PG-13 when Hawk pins both members after a Doomsday Device at 1:58:
In this contest the Legion of Doom were scheduled to face
two members of the Nation of Domination and PG-13 assumed that it would be
Faarooq and Crush, but they were forced to compete by their Domination
brethren.  For people that hate PG-13
this is your match, as the LOD squash them like bugs.  In Jamie Dundee’s shoot interview he said
that this match cost them a job in ECW because it made them damaged goods.  This was the end of PG-13’s tenure in the WWF,
so no more raps for the Nation from here on out.
Mankind is shown
with a man who has bandages wrapped around his face backstage, who we assume is
Paul Bearer
.
Dok Hendrix hypes
the next Madison Square Garden house show. 
The Undertaker & Sid face Vader & Mankind, Ahmed Johnson faces
Faarooq, the Legion of Doom & Steve Austin face Brian Pillman, Owen Hart
& the British Bulldog, Goldust takes on Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Rocky
Maivia faces Savio Vega.
Mankind comes out
and brings Paul Bearer, who has his face wrapped in bandages, with him.  Bearer says that he is giving the Undertaker
one more chance to get back together with him or he will reveal a secret that
only the Undertaker knows.  He alludes to
the fact that this deals with the Undertaker’s dead mother and father and
thereby kicks off one of the more fascinating and well done angles of 1997.
                                                 
McMahon interviews
Faarooq, who has been named the number one contender for the WWF title.  Faarooq says that there has never been a
black WWF champion even though Ahmed Johnson was Intercontinental champion and
Bobo Brazil (!!!) was U.S. champion decades ago.  He gives a race centered promo of how blacks
are discriminated against and how he’s going to change that with his fists and
feet.  Despite the controversial content,
this is by far the best promo Faarooq has given thus far in his WWF career.
Non-Title
Match:  The Undertaker (WWF Champion)
defeats Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation interferes at 3:55 shown:
We join this one in progress and Savio works the leg
after a Nation member grabs the Undertaker’s leg when he runs the ropes.  The announcers miss an easy storyline
concerning what might happen if Savio wins here, since Faarooq is the number one
contender and it might create more rifts in the Nation.  The Undertaker makes a comeback out of
nowhere and hits the Tombstone, but the Nation predictably invades the ring and
beats down the champion.  Rating: 
Sable models an
Austin 3:16 t-shirt and you can get yours for $20 by calling 815-734-1161!
Rob Van Dam
defeats Jeff Hardy with a split legged moonsault at 2:28:
This was part of an ECW angle where Rob Van Dam and Sabu
declared their allegiance to the WWF and aligned themselves with Jerry
Lawler.  Lawler hypes Van Dam on the
microphone and Van Dam says ECW is low budgeted and low talented.  So basically our storyline here is that Van
Dam is making an unauthorized appearance in the WWF.  Van Dam nearly flies into the first row on a
plancha and since we are in Delaware he gets a few “you sold out” chants.  A very impressive squash for Van Dam, who
works in the ***** Frog Splash and his split legged moonsault, which wows the
crowd.
Part two of Dustin
and Terri Runnels interview with Jim Ross is shown.  Dustin talks about his relationship with his
young daughter Dakota and talks about how he wanted to be like his father and
pulled it off.  He says that he hopes
that his father is proud of him.
Ross interviews
WWF Champion The Undertaker on the Titantron. 
The Undertaker says that he may have to unleash a demon to deal with the
Nation of Domination and that there are some secrets that are better left
untouched
.
Non-Title Four
Team Elimination Match:  Owen Hart &
The British Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Champions) defeat The Headbangers, Doug
Furnas & Philip LaFon & The New Blackjacks at 6:59 shown:
Order of
Elimination:  Windham pins LaFon with a
lariat at 1:42; Thrasher pins Bradshaw during the commercial break by falling
on top of his after a suplex when Furnas and LaFon trip Bradshaw; Bulldog pins
Thrasher with a running powerslam at 6:59 shown
None of the teams get an introduction, as they are forced
to stand in the dark until the Undertaker completes his promo.  This is quite a random match and realistically,
none of these teams are on Owen and Bulldog’s level in physique, experience, or
overness.  Furnas and LaFon continue to
be depushed as they are eliminated less than two minutes into the match because
of a miscommunication spot.  The New
Blackjacks also continue their lack of direction by going out during the
commercial break.  The Headbangers
seemingly win after Thrasher superplexes Mosh onto Owen, but Owen puts his foot
on the ropes and the referee waves off the count.  Lawler keeps referring to this as the “Raw
Bowl” but that doesn’t make any sense because the Raw Bowl in 1996 was held on
New Year’s Day and was a parody of the college football season.  Nevertheless, the Headbangers acquit
themselves well with some smooth double teams, but the Bulldog and Owen emerge
on top when all hell breaks loose and get the victory.  I have no idea what the point of this was
since it didn’t put over any new contenders and the whole thing was a mess
until it got down to the last two teams. 
If they wanted to put over the Headbangers as legit contenders they
should have just scheduled a match between them and the champions.  Rating:  **
Chyna beating up
Flash Funk at In Your House is the Super Soaker Slam of the Week
.
Bret Hart and the
rest of the Hart Foundation come down to the ring.  Bret tells the rest of the Hart Foundation to
go back to the dressing room.  Bret calls
out Shawn Michaels and when Shawn arrives works in a nice burn about how his
career is “hot and cold.”  Bret goes on a
hilarious anti-American rant and says Shawn didn’t face him like a man at
WrestleMania XIII and he continues ranting as the show goes off the air. 
The Final Report Card:  Aside from the bait and switch at the end of
the show, this was a great effort of storytelling on the WWF’s part.  We have lots of things to follow next
week.  First, what is Bret’s major
announcement?  Second, what is Shawn
Michaels going to do in response? 
Finally, what is the Undertaker’s secret?  The glue of the top storylines is what held
the show together, but this show provided nothing too terribly offense in two
hours and that’s an accomplishment.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.8 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: In Your House: Cold Day in Hell

by Logan Scisco
Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Richmond, Virginia
.

Free for
All:  Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man)
defeats “The Real Double J” Jesse James with a DDT at 3:10:
Talk about the very definition of a lower midcard
match.  This is the continuation of the
Rockabilly-Jesse James feud, which is a feud that seems very out of place by
1997 standards.  I caught the clipped
version of this match on YouTube and its very tolerable because it eliminates
some of Rockabilly’s slow offense.  The
DDT Rockabilly delivers at the end of the match is vicious.  This was a simple squash for Rockabilly, but
it’s not like he was going anywhere with this 1980s-style gimmick.  However, I have to ask again:  If they were going to push Rockabilly why did
they job him out in his first match a month ago?  Rating:  ½*
The Hart
Foundation tells Jim Ross that they have procured front row tickets for
tonight’s event and they bought them from scalpers outside of the building.
Now onto the
pay-per-view…
Opening
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley
(w/Chyna) pins Flash Funk with a Pedigree at 10:02:
The Funkettes had been axed because of budget cuts, but
the storyline explanation was that they were afraid of Chyna and decided not to
show up.  Interestingly enough,
Helmsley’s Titantron still shows the lady friends he was bringing to the ring
in 1996.  Helmsley’s small feud with Mankind
began the previous night on Shotgun Saturday Night, when Chyna gave Mankind a
low blow to help Helmsley get out of the Mandible Claw.  Predictably, Chyna interferes several times
to put Helmsley in control of the match. 
Helmsley does a better job mixing up his offense, but the crowd is still
bored until Funk starts flying around on his comeback.  Funk goes for the Funky Flash Splash, but
Helmsley crotches him and delivers a brutal super side suplex to set up a clean
victory.  After the match, Chyna crotches
Funk on the top rope.  A good opener, but
Funk looked much more impressive than Helmsley. 
That’s not who got the push, though. 
Rating:  **
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to hear from the winners and losers of tonight’s matches.  It’ll cost you $1.49 a minute!
Ross interviews
Ken Shamrock on the Titantron and Shamrock says that although he was attacked
by Vader and Mankind on the Free for All, he isn’t going to be shaken.
-Todd Pettengill
interviews Rocky Maivia, who admits that success may have come too soon but
says that he has learned a lot.  Maivia
says that tonight’s match is about his determination and not his destiny.  You can sense more attitude in these promos
from Maivia, which is foreshadowing the Rock character.
Mankind defeats
“The Rock” Rocky Maivia with the Mandible Claw at 8:47:
This was supposed to be Sid-Mankind, but like the last
pay-per-view Sid was not available, so Maivia was plugged into this spot to
give us a battle of the future Rock N’ Sock Connection.  Mankind was on the verge of a face turn
through the shoot interview segments with Jim Ross that were aired on RAW,
while Maivia was quickly plummeting down the card after a disastrous run as
Intercontinental champion.  There’s
another small story behind this match and that is that Mankind eliminated
Maivia from the Royal Rumble in January, so Maivia is trying to get a small
measure of revenge here.  The crowd boos
Maivia each time he is on offense, but they do pop for him giving Mankind a
Rock Bottom on the entrance ramp.  Both
guys are really trying to raise the status of this match to more than a run of
the mill midcard match, but the crowd is having nothing to do with it.  Maivia hits his finishing flying body press,
but Mankind has a great counter by applying the Mandible Claw and gets the
victory.  Foley wrote in his book that
after this match he told some guys in the back that the WWF should cut Maivia
loose because he just “didn’t have it”, but I think that isn’t justified if you
watch this match.  You can see glimpses
of a future star in Maivia, but he was in desperate need of a repackaging.  Rating:  **½
Buy your Austin
3:16 t-shirt by calling 815-734-1161 and then paying $20 (plus shipping &
handling)!
Crush losing the
gauntlet match to Ahmed Johnson on Raw is shown
.
Pettengill
interviews Ahmed, who says that he is used to overcoming the odds.
Gauntlet
Match:  The Nation of Domination defeats
Ahmed Johnson when Faarooq pins Ahmed after a Dominator at 15:45:
The stipulation here is that if Ahmed wins the Nation of
Domination will be forced to disband.  At
the time, this seemed to be the final blowoff for the never ending Ahmed-Nation
feud.  Prior to the bell, WWF President
Gorilla Monsoon throws the Nation of Domination out of ringside and says that
only one wrestler will be allowed in the ring at a time.  This shows Clarence Mason’s legal ability has
really been in decline since 1995 because the old Mason would’ve outmaneuvered
Monsoon and forced Ahmed to defeat ten members of the Nation as they surrounded
the ring with billy clubs.  Ahmed and
Crush run through a DUDesque encounter that last five minutes, with Ahmed
countering the heart punch with a spinning heel kick and pinning him.  Savio gives it a go and the crowd grows
restless about the lack of action ten minutes into the contest.  Savio lasts seven minutes in a match that
wouldn’t crack ½* and when it appears that he’s going to lose, he grabs a chair
and wears Ahmed out with it to set up Faarooq’s entry into the match.  Faarooq shows that his separated shoulder
injury was a rouse, but Ahmed catches him with a Pearl River Plunge, of which
Faarooq inexplicably kicks out, drawing the biggest heel reaction of the night
thus far.  Faarooq quickly recovers and
finishes an exhausted Ahmed shortly thereafter to keep the Nation of Domination
intact.  This told a good story during
its last three minutes, with Savio weakening Ahmed and Ahmed  being too exhausted to secure a victory, but
it took forever to get there and it made this match a great cure for
insomnia.  Rating:  ½*
A recap is
provided for the issue between Ken Shamrock and Vader
.
Pettengill
interviews Vader, who says that his attack on Shamrock earlier in the evening
was a way to play with his mind
.
No Holds Barred
Match:  Ken Shamrock defeats Vader by
submission with an anklelock at 13:23:
The only way to win this match was by knockout or
submission and this was an excellent way to debut Shamrock, since it provided a
transition from his UFC background to the squared circle of the WWF.  Vader was also an ideal opponent, since he
was seen as the toughest guy on the roster. 
Shamrock doesn’t have his awesome theme music yet and it’s more
befitting a late 1980s jobber than the World’s Most Dangerous Man.  Vader always loved stiff matches and he gets
all he can handle from Shamrock, who goes Antonio Inoki on Vader’s legs.  Vader counters that with Memphis, as he
continually rolls out of the ring to avoid Shamrock’s offense.  Although this is a work, it is a smooth one
and they do a good job mixing in brawling and MMA-style offense with
professional wrestling moves.  During the
last couple of minutes, Shamrock just absolutely mauls Vader, which is
something that professional wrestling fans had never seen before and when Vader
tries to pose over Shamrock after knocking him down, Shamrock surprises him
with a takedown and finishes with the anklelock, which legitimately messes up
Vader’s ankle and puts him on the shelf for a couple of weeks.  This wasn’t your conventional wrestling
match, but it was a breath of fresh air when compared to other things
on the card.  Rating:  ***
Pettengill
interviews Steve Austin, who says that after he defeats the Undertaker he’s
going to go after the Hart Foundation, who will be at ringside for the WWF
title match
.
Pettengill
narrates some highlights of Steve Austin’s interactions with the Undertaker the
last couple of weeks
.
WWF Championship
Match:  The Undertaker (Champion) pins
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin with a Tombstone at 20:09:
Oddly enough, this is the only title match on the entire
card.  WWF history is a funny thing
because a year after this pay-per-view it would be the Undertaker coming to
Austin’s aid in an attempt to help him keep the WWF title.  The Hart Foundation comes out and takes their
positions in the front row and Austin has a hard time keeping his concentration
on the Undertaker.  Austin wears down the
Undertaker’s legs and the Undertaker responds in kind.  The problem with this is that neither guy
really sells the leg damage long enough and it renders a good sixty percent of
the match meaningless.  Even Ross is
forced to drop his euphemisms for a boring match.  Austin and Hebner have a fun sequence where
Austin flips off Hebner behind his back and Hebner reciprocates when the
Undertaker tosses Austin across the ring. 
Austin hits a Stunner after a hot shot, but Brian Pillman hops the
guardrail and rings the bell prematurely and this changes the momentum of the
match to allow the Undertaker to reverse an Austin Tombstone attempt into his
own version and retain the belt.  A lackluster
main event that does few favors for the Undertaker, as he receives a mixed reaction
when he’s announced as the winner and he eats a Stone Cold Stunner at the end
of the broadcast.  Rating:  *½
After the match,
the Hart Foundation jumps the guardrail and attacks the Undertaker, but they
leave Bret alone and Austin goes into the crowd, dumps Bret out of the
wheelchair, and clears the ring with one of the Hart Foundation’s crutches.
The Final Report Card:  The Shamrock-Vader encounter was the most
interesting part of the pay-per-view and it delivered, but the rest of the show
lacked the same “big match” feel.  Even
the WWF title match played sideshow to what the Hart Foundation was doing at
ringside and it hurt some of the quality of the main event.  Overall, I’m giving this a thumbs down
because although Vader-Shamrock was good, the first two matches weren’t all
that important and the gauntlet match and WWF title match didn’t live up to the
hype.
Attendance: 
9,381
Buyrate: 
0.57
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – May 5, 1997

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps last week’s major events between Steve Austin and the Hart Foundation
.
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are
broadcasting from Green Bay, Wisconsin. 
This is the go home show for In Your House:  Cold Day in Hell.
The Hart
Foundation comes out for our opening promo. 
Bret Hart thanks his fans from different parts of the globe who are
wishing him a quick recovery and his comments toward American fans are censored.  Owen looks great in this segment, since he
has his two Slammy Award trophies and all four of the belts of the Hart
Foundation on his arms.  Bret hypes the
greatness of the Hart Foundation and says that since the Hart Foundation has
destroyed Steve Austin they are going to target Shawn Michaels next.
Steve Austin’s
interactions with the Undertaker at the end of last week’s show are the Castrol
Super Clean Slam of the Week
.

Opening Contest:  Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man) defeats
Ahmed Johnson by disqualification when Ahmed uses a guitar at 3:55:
For the first time that I can recall, Ahmed is not
wearing his red trunks and is wearing long black tights to the ring
instead.  This look makes Ahmed appear
more menacing, but this look would be better for a heel Ahmed character.  Ross calls Rockabilly’s offense in this match
“vintage Honky Tonk Man” which means that it’s dry and boring.  Rockabilly dominates 95% of the match, but he
releases a sleeper hold and brings a guitar into the ring, but Ahmed gets hold
of it and smashes it across Rockabilly’s head to lose the match.  The booking of this contest is puzzling,
since Ahmed needs to be built for his gauntlet match at In Your House.  Props to Billy for taking a guitar shot to
the head from Ahmed because that’s akin to putting your life on the line.  Rating:  DUD
The Hart
Foundation is shown looking for Shawn Michaels in the locker room
.
A video package
hypes Ken Shamrock and focuses on his family life
.
Vader defeats
Goldust (w/Marlena) with a Vader Bomb at 4:46:
Ken Shamrock comes out for commentary for this match and
he repeats the same talking points of not liking bullies and Vader won’t be
able to push him around.  This is a
standard back and forth match, with Goldust trying to wear down the bigger
Vader with striking moves, but that backfires and Vader gets a clean victory.  After the match, Vader dares Shamrock to get
into the ring and Shamrock accepts the challenge, but Mankind runs into the
ring to go after Shamrock.  However,
Goldust comes to Shamrock’s aid and helps him clear the ring.  Rating:  **
Jim Ross interviews
Dustin and Terri Runnels in a shoot interview, where Dustin is candid about his
relationship with his dad.  Dustin talks
about the controversial Goldust character and how he didn’t understand why
Scott Hall didn’t want to wrestle him. 
Dustin says that he still doesn’t have his father’s respect
.
The Hart
Foundation attacks a man coming out of the men’s restroom, but it’s not Shawn
Michaels.  Despite realizing their
mistake, the continue the attack anyway
.
Gauntlet
Match:  Ahmed Johnson and Two Jobbers
defeat Crush at 2:27:
Faarooq promised that Crush would face three street wise
brawlers, but the first two are jobbers that weigh less than a feather.  The first two jobbers are easily dispatched,
but a third jobber quickly runs out in a mask and delivers a Pearl River Plunge
and defeats Crush.  The masked jobber is
obviously Ahmed Johnson, but Ahmed unmasks just so everyone in the audience
gets it.  That was a nice twist that made
the segment worth watching.
The Hart
Foundation runs through the parking lot looking for Shawn Michaels.
Sable models the
Austin 3:16 t-shirt.  To get it call
815-734-1161 and it will cost you $20 (plus shipping & handling)!
McMahon interviews
Shawn Michaels, who has seemingly avoided the Hart Foundation thus far in the show.  Michaels says that he isn’t trying to save
Steve Austin every week and is really trying to go after the Hart
Foundation.  Michaels says that Bret Hart
may not like American society, but he likes getting paid in American money and
that if Bret doesn’t like it in the United States he can leave.  As Shawn goes to leave after high fiving fans
around ringside, Bret and Brian Pillman appear on the Titantron and Bret
challenges Shawn to face Jim Neidhart tonight. 
Michaels appears to accept and Neidhart comes out, but once Michaels
ties up with Neidhart, Owen Hart and the British Bulldog appear and ambush the
Heartbreak Kid.  However, the Legion of
Doom comes to Shawn’s aid and run off the heels
.
Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon defeat the Legion of Doom when LaFon pins Hawk after an Owen hot shot
at 4:51 shown:
This is a rematch from last week and if you recall,
Furnas and LaFon blamed their loss on a lack of fan support.  This is also a de facto number one contenders
match, since there’s a lack of credible tag teams in the company at this
time.  Furnas and LaFon are a team that
could have benefitted immensely from a manager, since neither guy was great on
the mic.  Furnas and LaFon do a great job
selling the LOD’s power offense, but this one is seriously limited on time like
last week’s encounter.  When the LOD appear
set for victory, the British Bulldog distracts Animal and Hawk botches Owen’s
interference, but Furnas and LaFon score their biggest victory in a long time
to even this TV feud at one match a piece. 
Rating:  **
Shawn Michaels is
shown brawling with members of the Hart Foundation backstage in the midst of
WWF officials, but Steve Austin shows up and Pillman quickly wheels Bret away
from the scene
.
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion The Undertaker, who has lost the WWF belt.  The Undertaker rants about having his belt
stolen and says that the person that stole it is playing a “deadly game.”  He promises to make the person that stole his
belt pay dearly tonight and he tells Steve Austin that it will be a cold day in
hell before he becomes WWF champion.
Sunny comes out
and models the Austin 3:16 t-shirt.
Austin is shown
refusing medical treatment after being knocked off the stage on last week’s
show
.
Non-Title
Match:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats
The British Bulldog (European Champion) with a Stone Cold Stunner at 7:03
shown:
While it’s terrible to say that a devastating injury was
good for business, Austin’s neck injury did wonders for his character because
it made him more of a brawler, which was more suited for the Attitude Era.  This match is evidence of this, since Austin
comes to the ring ready to explode on the Bulldog, but does so with technical
moves and it doesn’t seem to fit.  The
Bulldog sucks a lot of momentum out of the match with a long chinlock segment
and goes to finish with a running powerslam, but Austin slips out of his grasp
and delivers a Stunner out of nowhere for the victory.  Austin still hadn’t gotten that kick-Stunner
sequence down yet.  A disappointing
matchup, but this was the WWF grinding their wheels until they could get past
In Your House.  Rating:  *½
After the match,
Owen and Jim Neidhart hit the ring and the Legion of Doom come to Austin’s
aid.  Doug Furnas and Philip LaFon rush
the ring and then Shawn Michaels comes down. 
Unlike the 1998 Attitude Era brawls, this one illicit very little crowd
reaction until the Undertaker shows up and attacks the Hart Foundation, who
have his WWF title.  The faces eventually
stand tall and clear out, leaving Austin and the Undertaker, with the
Undertaker laying the WWF title between them and they brawl to close out the
show
.
The Final Report Card:  At the time, putting Austin against the
Undertaker for the WWF title at In Your House seemed to be an odd choice.  Austin was engaged in a feud with the Hart
Foundation, which was the top feud in the company, but the top prize in the
promotion was around the waste of another top face.  From the WWF’s perspective, it was best to
sell a pay-per-view with Austin in the main event, but I didn’t give him much
chance to win since it seemed that if Austin was going to win the title that he
would win it at a bigger event.  The WWF
tried to make an Austin-Undertaker matchup intriguing, but honestly it didn’t
really click since most of the RAW’s leading up to In Your House centered on
Bret’s interaction with Austin.  I’ll
give a neutral rating this week because while the wrestling was acceptable, the
promos didn’t add much to the show and the story throughout the show of the top
guys searching for other guys to beat up was like a bad B movie.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.8 (vs. 3.2 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – April 21, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Footage of the
Undertaker tossing a fire ball into Paul Bearer’s face at In Your House last
night is shown
.
Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Binghamton, New York
.
McMahon interviews
Steve Austin, who will face Bret Hart in a street fight tonight.  McMahon announces that Austin will get a
title shot at the next In Your House pay-per-view, but Austin just tells him to
shut up because Bret Hart is the topic of conversation tonight.  Austin demands that Bret show up within a
minute to fight him, but Bret pops up on the Titantron with the Hart Foundation
and says that he’ll face Austin in a street fight tonight.  Bret runs down the American fan base lust for
violence and complains that Austin has a title match at In Your House.  After those comments, Austin heads to the
locker room.

Opening
Contest:  The Sultan (w/The Iron Sheik)
defeats Ahmed Johnson by disqualification at 4:50:
At the beginning of the match, McMahon makes the
outrageous claim that during the WWF’s tour of South Africa Ahmed received more
acclaim than Nelson Mandela ever did.  This
is a boring brawl, but Ahmed does bust out an impressive facebuster from a
suplex position.  Ahmed is on the verge
of putting the Sultan away when the Nation of Domination shows up on the
entrance stage.  Ahmed grabs a 2×4 and he
bashes the Sultan with it to make a statement to the Nation and loses.  Rating:  ½*
Sunny comes out in
an oversized Undertaker t-shirt.  Hendrix
urges us to buy it for $20 (plus shipping & handling) and that we should
call 815-734-1161 to get it.  It’s so odd
seeing the WWF sell merchandise on their shows like this fifteen years later.
Austin is shown
trying to break into the Hart Foundation’s locker room and Bret gets some WWF
stooges to tell Austin to go away.
Ken Shamrock comes
out for commentary and McMahon announces that Vader will face Shamrock at In
Your House in a No Holds Barred match.
Ross announces
that Tiger Ali Singh won the sixteen man tournament for the second Kuwaiti
Cup
.
Vader’s bullying
of a Kuwait newscaster on “Good Morning Kuwait”, which earned him a trip to a
Kuwaiti jail, is shown.  Lawler shows off
a funny drawing of Vader shoveling camel dung in the desert based on this
incident.  Shamrock says he doesn’t like
bullies, thereby making him the first WWF superstar to advocate the “Be a Star”
campaign’s agenda, and he challenges Mike Tyson to a match in the WWF.
-Footage of Austin
yelling at McMahon at ringside after slapping off his headset during the
commercial break is shown
.
Get your tickets
for the WrestleMania Revenge Tour, where Sid & The Undertaker battle Vader
and Mankind, Ahmed Johnson faces Faarooq, and Steve Austin & The Legion of
Doom battle the Hart Foundation!
Street
Fight:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats
Bret “the Hitman at 8:23:
The purpose behind this one is that Austin is angry about
not finishing off Bret last night and thinks he can do it here, while Bret is
reluctant to fight Austin on his own. 
Before the match can get underway, Owen Hart and the British Bulldog
attack Austin from behind and Bret joins in for a three-on-one attack.  However, Shawn Michaels comes through the
crowd with a chair and eliminates Owen and the Bulldog.  Bret goes to Pillmanize Austin’s leg, but
Austin moves and then begins wearing out Bret’s knee with the chair.  Austin applies the Sharpshooter and refuses
to break the hold when WWF officials hit the ring.  Pat Patterson eventually helps the officials
get Austin off of Bret.  No official
winner is declared in this one, but for all intents and purposes Austin won
this battle of the feud.  This is
somewhat difficult to rate, but it was an entertaining brawl.
WWF President
Gorilla Monsoon tells Austin that he’s out of control and Austin says he’s not
done tonight and doesn’t care about Monsoon’s rules.  Monsoon bans Austin from the arena, to which
Austin threatens him up, and all of this takes place as the Hart Foundation
helps Bret to the locker room.  Seeing
Monsoon and Austin go at it is quite entertaining since the voice of the 1980s
is facing off with the top superstar of the 1990s.
Tiger Ali Singh
pins Salvatore Sincere with a spinning heel kick at 4:49:
In the discussion of guys the WWF put money on that never
panned out, Tiger Ali Singh has to be near the top of the list.  This is Singh’s RAW debut and he would
disappear for a year after this match. 
The match is technically fine, as Sincere dominates much of the action
and sells well for the rookie, who needs more proficiency running the
ropes.  A random spinning heel kick gets
the victory, but it’s an underwhelming debut. 
Rating:  *½
Paramedics take
Bret to the ambulance and the Bulldog and Owen are great here, as they keep
yelling at the paramedics for bumping over cables and wires and not adequately
taking care of Bret.  Like a horror film,
the camera pans inside the ambulance, where Austin is in the driver’s seat and
he moves to the back to attack Bret. 
Owen and the Bulldog come to Bret’s aid, but more damage has been
done.  That’s one of the more creative
attack segments in wrestling history, capped by Owen’s “what kind of crap is
this?” at the end.
Owen and the
Bulldog are shown looking for Austin backstage
.
Rockabilly (w/The
Honky Tonk Man) defeats “The Real Double J” Jesse James with a Shake, Rattle, and Roll at 8:48:
Since their match at In Your House last night was so
great we get a rematch between these two. 
Rockabilly is such a terrible gimmick, as Billy is just wearing his
usual cowboy attire.  There’s a funny
exchange on commentary as Lawler says he trusts the Honky Tonk Man’s judgment
and Ross asks him “What’s going on?  Are you two related?” to which Lawler responds
“Maybe.”  Like the previous night’s
encounter, this one goes on far too long and it kills the crowd.  After a ridiculously long time, Rockabilly
hits the Shake, Rattle, and Roll to get his first victory.  Really? 
Why give Rockabilly the win here instead of last night when he
debuted?  After the match, James attacks
Rockabilly but is nailed from behind by the Honky Tonk Man, who delivers two
sick guitar shots.  Rating:  ¼*
Austin is shown
arguing with Shawn Michaels in the locker room and WWF President Gorilla
Monsoon attempts to mediate to no avail. 
It’s as if Monsoon is trying to mediate a conflict in an eleventh grade
classroom.
Mankind’s
head-first plunge through an announce table last night is the Castro Super
Clean Slam of the Week
.
Mankind says Paul
Bearer didn’t cry when his flesh was burning last night.
Non-Title
Match:  The Undertaker (WWF Champion)
defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) by disqualification at 12:14 shown
when Mankind interferes:
It’s the beginning of an era, as the Undertaker doesn’t want to wait for Helmsley’s ornate entrance and decks him in the aisle.  McMahon makes a great comment as he claims Helmsley can’t love Chyna because he can’t love anyone except for
himself.  I know he’s talking about the
character, but fifteen years later it can make you laugh.  This is merely a placeholder match, since
nothing is on the line and it doesn’t advance a specific story.  Dustin Rhodes, without his Goldust gear, is
shown sitting in the crowd with Marlena, who Ross acknowledges as “Terri”
thereby setting up the quasi-shoot interview he will give on RAW about his
life.  The Undertaker withstands a lot of
punishment, but during his comeback Mankind appears with a blowtorch, which is
just an insane plot development. 
Helmsley wisely flees and Mankind KO’s the Undertaker with the metal
casing of the torch, but after he lights it up again, the Undertaker sits up
and fights Mankind through the crowd. 
Well, the match wasn’t that exciting, since it was largely a kick-punch
affair, but that twist at the end was wild. 
Rating:  *
After the
Undertaker and Mankind brawl to the back, Marlena chokes Chyna with a leather
strap from behind in the crowd and Goldust/Dustin Rhodes brawls with
Helmsley.  That was a great plot point
for Marlena-Chyna, since Chyna made her debut choking Marlena from the crowd a
couple of months prior to this.
The Motel 6 Rewind
is Austin’s attack on Bret earlier in the show
.
Austin comes out
to be interviewed by McMahon a second time. 
Austin says he accomplished his objective tonight and he says he doesn’t
need the crowd’s support.  Austin says
that the Undertaker will experience a cold day in hell at In Your House and
tells McMahon he won’t be a role model as WWF champion.  Owen and the Bulldog attack Austin at the end
of his promo and McMahon tries to help Austin, but Owen tosses him into the
corner.  Shawn Michaels comes out and
saves Austin for the second time and McMahon is perplexed, seemingly having
lost control of his show.
-As we get ready to
go off the air, Brian Pillman emerges from the crowd and he attacks Austin with
a chair.  Pillman goes to Pillmanize
Austin’s ankle, but Michaels makes the save for the third time.
The Final Report Card:  This was the first RAW of the Russo era and
it began with a bang.  Bret was taking
some time off for knee surgery, so this was a good way to write him out of the
ring for a while.  The ambulance attack
put another memorable moment in Austin’s career and really sold Austin’s rebel
image to the audience.  The show also
made a minor plot point that becomes big later: 
the bigger on screen role of Vince McMahon as a character, since he got
physically involved at the end and the camera focused on his reaction to Austin
getting laid out by Owen and the Bulldog. 
As a mark, I remember watching this show in 1997 and thinking that the
show had moved in a different direction and that I really liked it.  After seeing it fifteen years later, I still
enjoyed the Bret-Austin action, but I have to admit that the rest of the show
is terrible.  Still, a thumbs up because
the parts you remember are the good ones and the chaos at the end left you
eagerly anticipating next week’s episode.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.8 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – April 14, 1997

by Logan Scisco
Vince McMahon and
Jim Cornette are taped in the booth in Muncie, Indiana, while Jim Ross and The
Honky Tonk Man call the action in South Africa. 
It’s a simulcast of sorts, even though the South Africa action was also
taped beforehand.
-Call 815-734-1161
to purchase your Undertaker poster for $29.95 (not including shipping &
handling)!

Opening
Contest:  The Godwinns defeat The Legion
of Doom when Henry pins Animal after the British Bulldog nails Animal in the
back of the head with his tag team title belt at 6:05 shown:
This match was set up by the Godwinns inadvertently
slopping the Legion of Doom on last week’s show.  This is standard fare between two brawling
teams until Owen Hart and the British Bulldog make their presence known at the
end of the match and cost the Legion of Doom the contest.  It’s not a huge setback for the LOD, though,
since they get a title match with the Bulldog and Owen in six days at In Your
House.  Rating:  **
Footage of “The
Real Double J” Jesse James breaking The Honky Tonk Man’s guitar two weeks ago
is shown
.
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley (w/Chyna) pins “The Real Double J” Jesse James with a Pedigree at
11:49 shown:
This is a match from South Africa and the Honky Tonk Man
talks about how he’s got the perfect mystery man to face James at In Your
House.  There is some “amateur” wrestling
both men employ here, which is quite boring, but Jim Cornette makes some it
tolerable by cracking some current event jokes. 
This is a very start and stop contest, as James’s offense builds
momentum until Helmsley abruptly cuts it off with a maneuver with his knee and
going to a rest hold.  Honky Tonk Man
gets tired of watching the match, so he nails James in the gut as Chyna
distracts the referee and Helmsley gets the victory.  The piped in crowd noise made this match come
off better than it actually was.  Rating: 
James says that he
can’t wait to beat Honky’s mystery man at In Your House this Sunday
.
Non-Title
Match:  Savio Vega (w/The Nation of
Domination) pins “The Rock” Rocky Maivia (Inercontinental Champion) with a
schoolboy at 14:29 shown:
This is another bout from South Africa.  Ahmed Johnson cuts an unintelligible promo in
the split screen during the opening stages of the match and Cornette proceeds
to rant about it.  Savio puts the
audience into a coma with about seven minutes of nerve holds, although Faarooq
and Crush try to rile up the crowd around ringside to draw heat.  After eleven minutes, the pace finally picks
up as Maivia makes the comeback and Savio kicks out of what will become the
Rock Bottom by the end of the year. 
Savio manages to outmaneuver the inexperienced Maivia near the corner
and scores the victory with a handful of tights and the Nation does a brief
beatdown before Ahmed Johnson shows up. 
This was terrible until it hit the closing sequence.  Savio’s victory gives him some momentum for
his title match with Maivia at In Your House, but it would’ve been better to do
this a couple of weeks prior to this show so that match would have more time to
build.  Rating:  *¼
Steve Austin
convincing WWF President Gorilla Monsoon to give him a match with Bret Hart at
In Your House near the end of last week’s show is shown
.
McMahon interviews
Austin, who accuses McMahon of holding him down in the past but says that he
can’t hold him back anymore.  Austin
pledges to beat Bret at In Your House and that Bret is copying his mannerisms
and logo.  Simple stuff from Austin here
and it’s not like he can say a lot more for this feud right now
.
Goldust defeats
The Sultan (w/The Iron Sheik) by disqualification when Hunter Hearst Helmsley
and Chyna interfere at 3:01 shown:
This is our third bout from South Africa.  Goldust’s paints his face like a leopard,
which causes McMahon to speculate that Goldust might have ebola.  Marlena is missing in action because of the
bearhug she endured at the hands of Chyna at WrestleMania.  The Sultan delivers a nasty looking
piledriver, as he holds Goldust vertically and then suddenly drops into the
move.  It looked safe, but it earned a
ten for the visual effect.  Helmsley
interferes after we catch a few minutes of action, since this one is joined in
progress after a commercial break, and he and the Sultan do a beatdown before
leaving.  The beatdown was nice, but the
match wasn’t going anywhere prior to Helmsley’s interference.  Rating:  ½*
Call
1-815-734-1161 to get your Undertaker poster for $29.95 (not including shipping
& handling)!
To continue the
international flavor of the show, a Bret Hart promo from Kuwait is aired and he
says that he stands for truth, justice, and what’s right, which is something
that the American fans have forgotten about.
Vader & Mankind
(w/Paul Bearer) defeat The Headbangers by disqualification at 5:33:
We’re back in the United States for this contest.  The Headbangers do a good job handling Vader
early, but Mankind soon makes the save and becomes a one man juggernaut that
fights both Headbangers.  Vader and
Mankind dominate the rest of the way until Mosh spits some type of liquid into
Mankind’s eyes and gets his team disqualified. 
Mankind sells it like he can’t see and he ends up putting Vader in the
Mandible Claw by mistake.  That was a
nice touch, but having the Headbangers blind Mankind was odd booking.  This was a glorified squash, but they let the
Headbangers save face.  Rating: 
*
As the lights flicker
in South Africa, the Undertaker gives a promo over the PA system and says that
he’s going to make sure Mankind burns in hell after In Your House this Sunday.
Revealing photographs
of Sable, which will appear in the next Raw magazine, are shown
.
Footage of the ladies
of the WWF in their bikinis at the Slammy’s is shown
.
The Commandant, the
leader of the Truth Commission, cuts a promo in South Africa and says that his
group of commandos is soon to enter the WWF. 
He also repeats a lot of the content of the promo he did last week
.
Ahmed Johnson
defeats Crush (w/The Nation of Domination) with a schoolboy at 8:40 shown:
Our last match of the night comes from South Africa.  The announce team makes some illusions to
dissension within the Nation of Domination and says that Crush has been
criticized lately for his performance, thereby sowing the seeds for the “gang
warfare” angle that would emerge by the fall. 
Crush methodically focuses his offense on Ahmed’s kidneys, but he
acquires the same rest hold sickness that plagued Savio early in the show.  Ahmed doesn’t even get in that much offense,
as he avoids a heart punch and puts Crush away with a roll up shortly
thereafter after coming off the ropes. 
The only redeeming part of this match was Jim Ross, who made it seem
like the fate of the world rested on an Ahmed victory.  Rating:  ½*
After the match,
Faarooq tells Ahmed that the Nation will get rid of him.  Faarooq says that if Ahmed can beat the
Nation, he will disband the group.  Ahmed
doesn’t respond
.
The Final Report Card:  Four
weeks ago, the WWF put together a great go home show for WrestleMania, but this
was the exact opposite.  The back and
forth between the American and South African venues just didn’t work and it
didn’t help that nearly every match on this card was below average.  I often wonder how the Undertaker felt about
this title reign, since most of it was eclipsed by the Bret-Austin storyline.
Show Rating:  2.2 (vs. 3.5 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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 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 – 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: Royal Rumble 1997

by Logan Scisco
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and Ross is sporting the
black cowboy hat that will become his trademark for the first time.  Lawler tells McMahon that he’s in the Royal
Rumble, but McMahon doesn’t believe him.

Free for
All:  Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. & La
Parkita defeat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind after Sagrada pins Mini Vader with
a La Magistral cradle at 4:30:
I must admit that it’s hilarious seeing Mini Vader and
Mini Mankind come down to the real Vader and Mankind’s theme music.  1997 and early 1998 were a year when the WWF
had midget wrestling serve the role that the Divas division currently serves,
namely to provide a bathroom break during the show and a way to cool down the
crowd before big matches.  There isn’t a
great flow to this match, as it’s just the minis jumping around, but Mini
Mankind does pull out the Chris Hamrick bump to the floor.  This was quasi-entertaining, but the allure
of it wore off fast.  Rating: 
Now onto the show,
where the Spanish announce table is featured prominently.  The poor guys would have their announce table
broken on many shows in the coming years.
-A video package
hypes the Hunter Hearst Helmsley-Goldust Intercontinental title match
.
Opening Contest
for the Intercontinental Championship: 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion w/Curtis Hughes) defeats Goldust
(w/Marlena) with a Pedigree at 16:50:
This is an interesting choice for an opener since both
guys don’t set the world on fire, but looking at the lineup for this show, I
have to concede that their options were limited.  Mr. Hughes returns to the WWF with this
contest.  He wouldn’t be around for long,
as Chyna would replace him by WrestleMania. 
Adding a manager really improved Helmsley’s credibility, since his track
record as a singles was very lackluster in 1996.  Goldust, still angry over Helmsley’s advances
at Marlena over a month ago (and they call Marc Mero jealous) rips into
Helmsley during his entrance and uses the ring steps as his weapon of choice.  Unfortunately, after the first couple of
minutes the match just dies, as Goldust works over Helmsley’s knee and
Helmsley’s offense can’t put a lot of heat on the match.  The crowd pops more when they see shots of
Marlena and the people in the front row are too busy showing NWO signs.  Hughes interferes to keep Helmsley from being
pinned after getting nailed with the Intercontinental title and when Goldust
confronts him, Helmsley seizes advantage and gets the victory.  They tried to combine technical wrestling
with brawling in this one, but it just wasn’t clicking with the crowd and it
hurt the match.  Rating:  *
Bret Hart says he
might be a marked man in this Royal Rumble, but that’s nothing new to him and
he’s going to win.  Mankind says the
Rumble is a time for him to hurt people he doesn’t like.  Hard to disagree with that reasoning.
Kevin Kelly and
Sunny are working the WWF Superstar Line tonight, so call 1-900-737-4WWF to
hear comments from the winners and losers!
A video package
chronicles the Ahmed Johnson-Faarooq feud
.
Ahmed Johnson
defeats Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation interferes at 8:43:
After over four months of hype, this is the long awaited
confrontation between Ahmed and Faarooq. 
Faarooq might have set a wrestling record for the size of his
entourage.  There’s some great continuity
in the early going, as Faarooq targets Ahmed’s kidneys.  The crowd heat for this one blows the last
match out of the water, which more than makes up for some of the slow spots in
the action.  Faarooq is a great character
and pulls out some hilarious spots where he yells at the crowd and Ahmed is
able to capitalize and regain the advantage. 
Ahmed destroys the Nation after they interfere and in a spot that becomes
one of the most memorable of the event, he quasi-Pearl River Plunges a Nation
member through the French announce table. 
This was a drawn out TV match, but you would expect that since it’s the
first match in the Ahmed-Faarooq feud.  Rating: 
**
Terry Funk says
that he’s ready to rumble tonight
.
Todd Pettengill
interviews Faarooq and the Nation of Domination.  Faarooq chastises some Nation members for not
helping him when he was in trouble and he says that he’s going to end Ahmed
Johnson’s career.
Vader defeats The
Undertaker with a Vader Bomb at 13:20:
When this match was first booked, there were some
questions about why the WWF was making this money making match a midcard event
at the Rumble.  Unintentional hilarity
ensues during the entrances, as the lights do not come on when the Undertaker
gestures up towards the sky.  The
Undertaker continues to show the new flexibility of his character by giving
Vader a Rock Dropper in the early going and outslugging the big man.  You would think that these two would have
some great chemistry, but that’s not the case here as we get a slow and
plodding big man match.  The match gets
so dull that Pettengill goes into the crowd and interviews a Shawn Michaels fan
that bought her tickets by babysitting lots of kids in the San Antonio
area.  Ross drops a creative hint that
Jim Cornette and Vader are no longer working together because the referee
working the match is one that Vader injured a year ago and Cornette would not
allow that to happen.  Minor plot points
like that is just something you don’t see anymore.  Paul Bearer eventually wanders out and hits
the Undertaker with the urn and that enables Vader to score the upset and
thereby provide us with the reason why this match was used in the midcard:  to continue the Undertaker-Bearer feud.  For me, the association of Vader with Paul
Bearer is the day that Vader ceased being a serious contender to the WWF
championship.  After the match, the
Undertaker, angered at the result of the match, takes out his frustrations on
the referee and chews out McMahon at ringside. 
The whole tirade is eerily similar to what we would see in Montreal
eleven months later with Bret Hart.  The
match was too stop and go for my taste and there were way too many dead spots
between meaningful action.  Rating: 
*
Steve Austin and
the Bulldog give reasons why they are going to win the Rumble.  I like the Bulldog’s the most:  he’ll win because he’s “bizarre.”
Perro Aguayo,
Hector Garza & El Canek defeat
Fuerza
Guerrero, Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada when Aguayo pins Guerrero after an
elbow drop at 10:54:
This is our customary AAA match of the show and despite
being just north of the border, the crowd cares very little for this match and
sits on their hands.  At least it
functions as a way to cool the crowd down for the Rumble match.  Vince and Lawler are completely out of their
element calling this match and Ross takes over many of the announcing
duties.  Think of him as playing the role
that Mike Tenay did in WCW when it came to the cruiserweights.  Unfortunately, a lot of his material doesn’t
relate to the WWF’s audience, since he talks about Canek’s battles with Lou Thesz.  Aguayo keeps teasing aerial maneuvers to the
floor during the match and the one that he does do, a simple dive from the apron,
goes awry.  It takes us about eight
minutes to get a semblance of a heat segment, but it takes Garza’s corkscrew
body press onto Estrada on the floor to illicit a reaction.  This match had no flow to it, with different
combinations of guys fighting each other in ninety second increments before
switching off, and I had to utter a sigh of relief when it was finally put out
of its misery.  Rating:  ½*
To show you how
far the crowd is gone, they don’t even pop when Finkel announces the WWF’s
worked figure for the crowd:  60,177
.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin wins the 1997 Royal Rumble by eliminating Bret “the Hitman” Hart
at 50:26:
For the first time since 1994, wrestlers in the early
part of the show are working double duty in this match, which shows how shallow
the depth chart was in the company at the time. 
Also, like 1994, this Rumble did not have a clear winner coming in,
which was nice.  The buzzer and clock are
malfunctioning in the early going, thereby depriving the crowd of part of the
fun of the Rumble match. While the King of the Ring victory in June was nice,
this is really Austin’s coming out party, as he lives up to the pledge he made
prior to the show by tossing ten “pieces of trash” over the top rope.  Much like Diesel’s run in 1994, the crowd
gets louder and louder for Austin as he tosses midcard talent like Phineas
Godwinn, Bart Gunn, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts in the early going and Savio
Vega and “The Real Double J” Jesse James much later.  Austin’s one-on-one runs through the Rumble
are stopped by the British Bulldog, who he kept sneak attacking during this
period, and Bret Hart, which gives us a great visual of Austin looking bug eyed
towards the entrance.  Aside from
Austin’s performance, the storyline about dissension between the British
Bulldog and Owen Hart continues, as Owen eliminates his partner from the
match.  Mexican legend Mil Mascaras is
also loathe to give a WWF superstar a rub from eliminating him, so he opts to
eliminate himself with an ill advised flying body press to the floor.  The last major highlight of the match is
Jerry Lawler being the wild card entrant. 
Lawler tells McMahon that “It takes a king…” before heading into the
fray, but he’s quickly dispatched by Bret Hart, enabling Lawler to go back to
the announce table and say “…to know a king” to complete his phrase and he
proceeds to keep commentating like nothing happened.  In a plot point that becomes important for
the next pay-per-view, Austin’s Rumble win is shrouded in controversy as Bret
tosses him near the end of the match, which the referees don’t see because they
are trying to break up a brawl between Mankind and Terry Funk, and Austin comes
back in and tosses Vader, the Undertaker, and Bret to win the match.  Bret throws a tantrum after the match,
pushing around the referees and yelling at the commentary team.  We’ll cover more fallout of Austin’s victory
when we recap the next edition of Monday Night Raw.  The Bret-Austin showdown was the big
highlight of this Rumble, but there weren’t a lot of other memorable moments
and most of that is due to the quick pace of eliminations in the first half of
the match.  Rating:  **¾
A video package
recaps the Sid-Shawn Michaels feud
.
Pettengill
interviews Shawn Michaels, who says that despite having the flu he’s going to
use the power of San Antonio to win back the WWF title.
WWF Championship
Match:  “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn
Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) pins Sid (Champion) with Sweet Chin Music to win the
title at 13:48:
This was Lothario’s swan song as Michaels manager and it
was long overdue, as his presence was not needed during Michaels first run with
the title.  This is the reverse crowd
dynamic that was present in Madison Square Garden at the Survivor Series when
Sid won the title.  With crowd dynamics
like that, it’s somewhat disappointing that they didn’t try to have a rubber
match at a more neutral site that would have an equal share of smarks and
marks.  Sid concentrates on the back for
nearly ten minutes, but Shawn shrugs it off during his comeback, which is
something that really gets on my nerves since it renders that portion of the
match meaningless.  In another ridiculous
spot, Sid powerbombs Michaels on the arena floor, but Michaels recovers mere
moments later to get back into the ring. 
In a nice piece of continuity with their Survivor Series match, Michaels
blasts Sid with a camera after the referee gets bumped.  The finish to this match was never in doubt,
since the main selling point of the show was to see Michaels regain the title
and the WWF, unlike WCW, had a knack for sending the crowd home happy.  This was not on the same level as their
Survivor Series match, since the back and forth action was limited, potentially
by Michaels illness, and it’s hard to buy into Michaels winning a match in Hulk
Hogan-like fashion.  At the time, logic
held that Sid had fulfilled his purpose as a transitional champion and after
this show would do some jobs to some of the main event and upper midcard
talent.  However, that reasoning proved
very premature.  Rating:  **½
The Final Report Card:  On paper, you would think that the Alamo Dome
would provide a great setting for a pay-per-view.  It’s a large venue and most times when you
pack a large number of wrestling fans into an arena you are going to be
guaranteed a great atmosphere.  However,
aside from the main event and parts of the Rumble, this is the quietest crowd
for a big time pay-per-view that you will ever see.  In terms of the show, nothing stands out
except for Austin’s spots in the Rumble and at the time that wasn’t worth the
price of admission since Austin would have bigger moments in 1997.
Attendance: 
60,525
Buyrate: 
0.70
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down