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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: In Your House – Final Four

by Logan Scisco

Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Chattanooga,
Tennessee.
There was no Free
for All match for this show, as the Free for All featured promo battles between
the four participants in the Final Four match.

Opening
Contest:  “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable)
defeats Leif Cassidy with the Wild Thing at 9:30:
Cassidy continues his run as the king of the jobber to
the stars in the company during this time, as he pushes Mero to the limit by
focusing on the knee for much of the contest. 
Sable was starting to show more of a mean streak during matches and in
this one, she helps Mero get to the ropes when he’s trapped in a figure-four
and sets him up for a Mero suicide dive. 
The crowd doesn’t buy into the psychology, but I liked it because that
was the only way that Cassidy had any chance against Mero.  This would be Cassidy’s last pay-per-view
appearance until the 1998 King of the Ring, where he would return as Al Snow,
which was a gimmick better suited for the company.  Mero was supposed to go from this match to
WrestleMania, where he was set to take on Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental
title, but he tore his ACL and was sidelined for six months, during which time
he lost all of his momentum, his ability to do major aerial maneuvers, and had
to start carrying his wife’s bags into the arena.  Rating:  **¼
Jim Cornette and
Sunny urge us to call into the WWF Superstar line at 1-900-737-4WWF.  Only $1.49 a minute!
Shawn Michaels
“Lost Smile” speech from Thursday Raw Thursday is shown.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Sid, who is going to face the winner of the Final Four match for the
WWF title tomorrow night on Raw.  Sid
says that he’s going to take back what is his.
Faarooq, Crush
& Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) defeat Flash Funk, Bart Gunn
& Goldust (w/The Funkettes & Goldust) when Faarooq pins Bart after
Crush leg drops Bart in the back of the head at 6:42:
All of the faces in this match had experienced run ins
with the Nation of Domination recently, so that was what prompted this match to
be signed.  It’s quite a fall for Goldust
to be affiliated with two midcard talents after he challenged for the
Intercontinental title on the last pay-per-view.  Funk is the MVP of the match as uses his high
risk offense against the Nation, but they quickly catch on and in a great spot
they catch him when Bart throws him over the top rope and beat him down on the
outside of the ring.  Bart has the match
won for his team with a flying bulldog, but the numbers of the Nation are too
much to overcome and the faces go down in defeat.  Just a standard six man tag that wasn’t given
enough time to develop.  Rating: 
**
The Honky Tonk Man
is hanging out with the WWF America Online crew.  Honky doesn’t quite get the Internet, since
he urges fans to call in.
Dok Hendrix
interviews Steve Austin and Austin is offended when Hendrix suggests that he
doesn’t have a convincing victory over any of the men that he’s facing in the
main event tonight.  Austin argues that
he won the Rumble and that shows he can beat anyone at anytime.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Rocky Maivia
(Champion) pins Hunter Hearst Helmsley with a German suplex at 12:29:
This was supposed to be Helmsley defending the Intercontinental
title against Ahmed Johnson, but Maivia’s victory on Thursday Raw Thursday made
him the new champion and in kayfabe Ahmed was injured by a Nation of
Domination attack on that same show to give us this rematch.  Like their Raw battle four days prior,
Helmsley controls most of the match and grows frustrated that Maivia keeps
kicking out of his offense.  However,
unlike their match on Raw, the crowd isn’t solidly behind either guy and it’s
much slower, with Helmsley working in several chinlocks.  Goldust wanders out when Maivia is in a
vulnerable position and the distraction enables Maivia to the retain the
title.  These matches aren’t doing much
for Maivia since he doesn’t appear to be on Helmsley’s level.  This was technically proficient, but you
could hear crickets in the crowd.  Rating: 
**
After the match,
Goldust gets on the apron to confront Helmsley, but as he does so a muscular
woman chokes Marlena and Goldust comes to her aid.  This marks the debut of Chyna, who will
create a bigger splash in wrestling than anyone could have anticipated in 1997.
Kelly interviews
Vader and Paul Bearer, who run down Vader’s opponents in the Final Four match.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon beat Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (Champions w/Clarence
Mason) by disqualification when Owen hits LaFon with his Slammy at 10:26:
Furnas and LaFon can’t even get an entrance on
pay-per-view.  Most of the heat for the
match isn’t on the action between the two teams, but instead for the miscommunication
spots between Owen and the Bulldog.  A
great one is when Owen slaps the Bulldog, so the Bulldog clotheslines him and
panics when LaFon takes advantage with a splash off the top rope, so he breaks
up the pinfall.  The Bulldog has LaFon
beat with a running powerslam, but before he can complete the move, Owen nails
LaFon in the back with his Slammy and gets his team disqualified.  After the match, Owen and the Bulldog argue
some more and Owen gets really heated when the Bulldog touches his Slammy.  This had a great pace and had a nice
combination of action and storyline development, but Furnas and LaFon could not
generate any sympathy from the crowd and it hurt how the match came across.  This match was the end of the
Furnas/LaFon-Owen/Bulldog feud, which failed to get Furnas and LaFon over as
the top babyface team in the promotion.  Rating: 
***
Hendrix interviews
the Undertaker, who says that he’s going to win the WWF title by hook or by
crook.  What the Undertaker says is very
simple, but his voice makes it seem like if you get in his way that he’s going
to kill you and that enhances its quality.
-Kelly interviews
Bret Hart and Bret says nothing can stop him from winning tonight.
Final Four
Elimination Match for the WWF Championship: 
Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats The Undertaker, Vader (w/Paul Bearer),
and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to win the title at 24:06:
Order of
Elimination:  Bret eliminates Austin by
throwing him over the top rope at 18:09; the Undertaker eliminates Vader by
sending him over the top rope after a low blow when he attempts a Vader Bomb at
22:33; Bret eliminates the Undertaker by clotheslining him over the top rope at
24:06
The WWF didn’t normally do multi-man matches at this
point, so this was a special attraction that was well suited for the concept of
In Your House.  The rules for the match
are that there are no disqualifications or count outs and elimination can occur
by pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope.  I was disappointed by the over the top rope
stipulation since I felt that the bookers would take the easy way out and they
do, since all of the eliminations go that route.  The opening of the match provides something
for everyone, as Austin and Bret have a technical showdown in the ring and the
Undertaker and Vader brawl on the floor, which results in Vader opening up a
nasty cut above his eye.  Austin tweaks
his knee when the Undertaker tries to toss him over the top rope and Bret
eliminates him shortly thereafter, sparking rumors that he was originally
supposed to win the match (which have since been debunked).  The clear
crowd favorite is the Undertaker, but he’s screwed out of the title here as
Austin gets involved and his attempt to cost Bret the title backfires.  A wild and entertaining brawl that lived up
to the hype, but the eliminations needed to be staggered better because the
first one took too long and the last two happened too close together.  Rating:  ***¾
As Bret celebrates
with his title, Sid comes out and confronts him as the pay-per-view goes off
the air.
The Final Report Card:  The undercard of the show is nothing special
until you get to the tag team title match, but the main event delivers and
considering the low prices of these shows at the time it was well worth the money.  All seemed right with the world now that Bret
was champion for the fourth time, but the crowds were becoming more vocal in
their desire to see the Undertaker as champion and the WWF had a different
direction that they wanted to go in with the title, which we will touch on in
our next review of the Raw after this show.
Attendance: 
6,399
Buyrate: 
0.50
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: 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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 16, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from parts unknown.
-Bret Hart comes down to the ring
angry, so Ross interviews him.  Bret says
that the WWF has changed during his absence and that there are no more
rules.  He complains that Shawn Michaels
violated his pledge not to interfere in his title match at In Your House and
says that since there are no rules anymore he will do whatever it takes to get
to the top.  He also announces his entry
into the Royal Rumble and says that he’s going to do guest commentary just like
Shawn Michaels did last night for the next match.

-Opening Contest:  Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats Vader (w/Jim
Cornette) by disqualification when Bret Hart interferes at 4:30 shown:
This
match was supposed to happen a month ago, but Vader’s injury at the hands of
Yokozuna sidelined him for a few days and he missed a whole month of Raw
tapings.  Talk about having your momentum
halted.  The crowd gets worked in to a frenzy,
as both guys beat the hell out of each other inside of the ring and out into
the crowd.  Austin avoids a Vader Bomb
with a low blow, but Bret gets involved shortly thereafter, locks in a
Sharpshooter, and creates the disqualification. 
It’s too bad Vader was on his way out in 1998, because he could’ve been
some great corporate muscle for Vince to use against Austin.  Predictably, Vader gets angry at Bret and
brawls with him as WWF officials come out to separate them.  This was an entertaining opener, but it was
cut way too short.  Rating:  **½
-Ahmed Johnson’s appearance at In
Your House last night, where he called out Faarooq and told him and the Nation
of Domination that they are going down is shown.
The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel
defeat The Godwinns when Diesel pins Phineas with a Jackknife at 6:26:
Hillbilly
Jim isn’t with the Godwinns, but I don’t think the fans care.  In a nice opening spot, Phineas catches the
toothpick Ramon tosses at him, puts it in his mouth, spits it in the air, and
then throws it back at Ramon.  The match
is pretty decent and it follows the usual formula you would expect, with the
Godwinns dominating Razor and Henry becoming the whipping boy of the
heels.  They have a hot finish, where
Henry gives Ramon a Slop Drop, but the referee forces him out and Diesel uses
the opportunity to hit a Jackknife and the heels get the win.  Everytime I see Glen Jacobs give someone a
Jackknife I just pray the guy taking the move doesn’t get killed.  Rating:  **
-WWF Champion Sid is in the
locker room and he says that he doesn’t think anyone can beat him.  He says that he thrives on adversity and he
says that it will be sweet to beat Shawn Michaels in his hometown at the Royal
Rumble.  He warns Jose Lothario not to
show up.
-Shawn Michaels says that fans in
Texas don’t like what Sid did to Jose Lothario at the Survivor Series and that
he’s going to win his title back at the Royal Rumble.  He says that Bret Hart can whine all he
wants, but it won’t do him any good.
Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon defeat TL
Hopper & Dr. X after LaFon pins Hopper after a cobra clutch suplex at 3:16
shown:
Dr. X
is a masked jobber, who Ross says is a newcomer to the WWF, but I don’t think
he has much of a future.  This match is
joined in progress and it allows Furnas and LaFon to showcase their power/submission
style.  I’m surprised they had Hopper and
not X take the pin, since the fans at least knew who Hopper was, but let’s face
it, a jobber is a jobber is a jobber.  Rating: 
*
-Jerry Lawler faces Sable in the
Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament championship match.  Hunter Hearst-Helmsley is with Lawler and
Marc Mero is with Sable.  Helmsley gives
Lawler some tips on using his Karate Fighter, which is pretty funny, and Lawler
takes shots at Sable’s gender.  In the
ensuing match, Sable wins.  Lawler
demands a rematch and when Mero gets in his face, Helmsley attacks him from
behind.  Mero receives a heel beat down
until Goldust, of all wrestlers, makes the save.  As Mero chases Helmsley through the crowd,
Lawler says that Goldust shouldn’t be mad that Helmsley made a pass at Marlena
because he’s gay.  Goldust refutes that
and nails Lawler with a right hand and turns face.  Well there goes Goldust’s character in one
fell swoop.  By the way, is this what
happens when you play Karate Fighters with your friends?  A fight breaks out, you get beaten down, and
a freaky guy saves you from injury?
Billy Gunn and Bart Gunn wrestle to a no
contest at 3:40 shown:
Well
it’s finally time for the Smoking Gunns to explode.  They should’ve just had a blow off where they
gave both guys pistols and filmed a duel segment on a Western movie set.  It would’ve fit their gimmick and only left
one cowboy in the WWF.  One of the worst
blowoff matches of all time follows and is brought to an end when Bart hot
shots Billy and Billy feigns paralysis as his wife rushes the ring and yells at
Bart.  This was a ridiculous attempt by
the booking staff to get ratings.  It
didn’t work.  Grade:  DUD
-Tune in next week to see Bret
Hart face the Fake Razor Ramon!  Also,
Hunter Hearst-Helmsley defends the Intercontinental title against Marc Mero and
he can lose the title by count out or disqualification.
The
Final Report Card:  Billy’s neck injury
was a work and he vanished from WWF TV for a few months after this match.  The first half of the show was really
exciting, with the Austin-Vader match and subsequent Bret beat down serving as a
breath of fresh air.  However, the second
half of the show was the complete opposite. 
The Karate Fighters segment was fine, but the Smoking Gunns blow off
needed to be a lot more and the worked injury angle came off as a bad imitation
of the Shawn Michaels-Owen Hart concussion angle that was done a year prior to
this.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.2 for
Nitro)
Show
Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: In Your House: It’s Time

Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from West Palm
Beach, Florida
.

Free for
All:  Rocky Maivia defeats Salvatore
Sincere (w/Jim Cornette) via disqualification when Jim Cornette interferes at 6:01:
Sincere is Cornette’s latest attempt to get back at
Maivia, who refused his managerial services. 
Both men get in an equal amount of offense, with the veteran Sincere
leading the young Maivia through the match. 
Sincere nearly scores the upset by rolling through a flying body press,
but he eats a shoulderbreaker shortly after this, leading to Cornette charging
into the ring and causing the disqualification. 
This match did what it needed to do in giving Maivia a victory and was
your typical Free for All fare.  Rating: 
**
Now onto the
pay-per-view, where Jim Ross joins the announce team…
Flash Funk (w/the
Funkettes) pins Leif Cassidy with the Funky Flash Splash at 10:32:
This is Funk’s singles pay-per-view debut and Cassidy is
now a singles star in the promotion, although he’ll need a new gimmick in order
to get over.  I’m not sure what it was
with the WWF thinking that tag team taking on old team names and putting “new”
before them was a good idea.  The Rockers
and the Blackjacks were already legendary teams and the copy is not going to be
as good as the original.  McMahon can’t
keep himself from dancing during Funk’s entrance and Ross gives a hilarious
critique of it at ringside.  They go
through some fun sequences on the floor, where Cassidy belly-to-belly suplexes
Funk over the top rope and follows with a springboard somersault plancha and
Funk follows minutes later with a springboard plancha.  This is a textbook example of how the WWF
could have built its light heavyweight division, since both guys bust out lots
of high risk moves, but mix in some technical wrestling throughout.  Cassidy was expected to lose here, but he
went down fighting and enhanced his credibility in this contest.  Rating:  ***½
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to hear Steve Austin ranting about the WWF!
Kevin Kelly
interviews WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & the British Bulldog and Kelly
asks the Bulldog about Steve Austin. 
Owen says Austin doesn’t matter and accuses Kelly of trying to distract
the Bulldog prior to their tag team title defense tonight
.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Owen Hart & The
British Bulldog (Champions w/Clarence Mason) defeat The Fake Razor Ramon &
The Fake Diesel when the Bulldog pins Razor after Owen hits Razor with a
spinning heel kick at 10:44:
This was the pinnacle of the Fake Diesel/Fake Razor
pairing in storyline terms, as they would disappear from the company after the
Royal Rumble.  Pierroth and Cibernetico
from AAA show up in the aisle, which would appear to set up a confrontation with
the winner of this match for the titles, but that never took place.  After Pierroth and Cibernetico go back to the
dressing room, Steve Austin comes out and he and the Bulldog tussle on the
arena floor until WWF officials separate them. 
With these distractions done, the match settles into a good groove, as
the Fake Razor and Fake Diesel proceed to give the tag team champions a run for
their money with several effective double teams of Owen.  The four way brawl to end the match is well
executed and the crowd pops big the finish, when Owen saves the Bulldog from a
Razor’s Edge with his spinning heel kick and helps his team retain the
titles.  After the match, Austin comes
back out and chop blocks the Bulldog. 
Looking back, this match could’ve resulted in a more sustained push in
the tag division for the Fake Razor and Fake Diesel, but their gimmick was
already past its expiration date.  Rating: 
***
The Nation of
Domination is shown giving some dictation to the WWF technology crew who is
operating the America Online chat rooms
.
McMahon interviews
Ahmed Johnson, who says that he’s lost everything he’s had since he got injured
at the hands of Faarooq.  Faarooq and the
Nation of Domination appear in the crowd and Faarooq calls Ahmed an Uncle Tom.  Ahmed in response leads the crowd to chant
“Your going down” to Faarooq.
The announce team
runs down the Royal Rumble card.
A video package
recaps the Hunter Hearst Helmsley-Marc Mero feud
.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “Wildman” Marc Mero
(w/Sable) defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion) via count out at 14:06:
Helmsley now has “Ode to Joy” as his theme music, which
is much more effective for an entrance than his original theme.  During the pay-per-view, there was satellite
trouble during this match and McMahon had to be going apoplectic at ringside
since the satellite feed went out after these two faced off at In Your
House:  Beware of Dog earlier in the
year.  Earl Hebner has one of the better
spots of this match, as he gets Helmsley to cower in the corner when Helmsley
tries to push him around.  Mero’s offense
carries the match, as Helmsley has still not perfected the art of keeping the
crowd engaged while he is on the offensive. 
Both men counter each other’s finishers and in a nice piece of continuity,
Helmsley kicks out of a slingshot into the ring post and a Merosault, moves
that Mero used to beat him in two prior pay-per-view encounters.  We get a ref bump and Helmsley’s attempt at
using the title belt as a weapon is thwarted by Mero.  Goldust comes out and accidentally nails Mero
with the title belt when he’s aiming for Helmsley, but then nails Helmsley
after the miscue and Mero has just enough energy to get back into the ring for
another unsatisfying finish over Helmsley. 
After the match, Mero gives Helmsley a Wild Thing for a moral
victory.  The middle of the match
dragged, but the closing sequences were well done and brought up the rating of
the match.  Rating:  **½
Dok Hendrix
interviews WWF Champion Sid, who says that Bret Hart doesn’t scare him because
Shawn beat Bret and then he beat Shawn like a dog, which makes him the better
man
.
A video package
recaps the Undertaker-Executioner feud
.
Armageddon Rules
Match:  The Undertaker defeats The
Executioner (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 11:31:
This is technically a Texas death match, where you can
pin your opponent and after the fall is counted your opponent has ten seconds
to get to their feet and resume the match. 
After the Undertaker has been in a life and death struggle with Mankind
over the last six months, this feud just appears silly by comparison.  The match is quite sad, as Terry Gordy can’t
really hold his share of the contest, so Mankind has to run out and make this a
de facto handicap match.  Mankind takes
all of the big bumps, as the Undertaker throws him through the In Your House
set, thereby disproving to the marks that there’s an actual house there.  Just when this couldn’t get sillier, some
independent wrestlers dressed as security personnel come out and subdue Mankind
and eventually put him in a strait jacket. 
The Undertaker throws an Executioner double into a water embankment on
the outside of the arena and beats up Mankind, who tries to charge him in the
strait jacket.  The Executioner then
returns and we get a funny visual that has water spraying out of his boots as he takes the Tombstone. 
The match was a complete wreck and it never used the stipulations.  However, Mankind did make some of it
entertaining so I’ll give it ½* for that alone. 
Thankfully the Undertaker is moving onto better things after this.  Rating:  ½*
Hendrix interviews
Bret Hart, who says that he’s ready to face Sid.  Shawn Michaels theme music starts playing
during his interview time and he becomes irate and screams about how much he
hates Michaels
.
WWF Championship
Match:  Sid (Champion) pins Bret “the
Hitman” Hart after a powerbomb at 17:04:
Shawn Michaels is the guest commentator for this match,
as he will face the winner at the Royal Rumble. 
Michaels commentary really enhances the match, since he just shoots all
over Bret and Sid and helps to codify his new persona of not caring what anyone
thinks of him or his actions.  Going into
this match, I gave Bret no chance to win. 
The match lacked a strong build and I didn’t think the WWF would give
Bret the title when he had bigger issues to settle with Steve Austin and Sid
still had to finish his issues with Michaels. 
My young mind also recognized that it made very little sense to run Bret-Michaels
at the Rumble, when you could do it at WrestleMania and make more money.  Bret works the back for nearly ten minutes
and Sid shouldn’t be able to walk at all after that point, but when Sid goes on
the offensive he forgets all about the back. 
Austin makes his second sneak attack of the evening by chop blocking
Bret on the floor and the British Bulldog comes out to fight Austin back to the
locker room.  To really show you the
contrast in psychology, Bret sells the one move by Austin better than
Sid sells ten minutes of work on his lower back.  Of course, Sid also doesn’t even target
Bret’s leg when he’s hobbling after Austin’s attack.  I mean you don’t have to be a rocket
scientist to realize that when your opponent has one bad wheel that you should
zone in on it and finish him off.  They
botch a sequence into a reversed turnbuckle, so they have to redo it so Bret
ends up eating the steel.  Sid pushes
Michaels near the commentary table and when Michaels gets on the apron to yell
at Sid, Sid whips Bret into Michaels and hits the powerbomb to get the
victory.    The psychology was blown
throughout the match and as a result, I just couldn’t get into it.  The finish was well done, but after the
turnbuckle botch I thought things fell apart. 
Rating:  **¼
After the match,
Bret blames Shawn for costing him the match and assaults him on the floor.  Michaels then jaws with some fans at ringside
as the pay-per-view goes off the air.
The Final Report Card:  This show was a filler pay-per-view, since
there were no title changes and there were lots of “throwaway” matches at the
top of the card.  The only terrible match
on the card is the Armageddon Rules match, but if you like train wrecks it’s
worth a look.  The show was an
entertaining two hours and for the price that you used to pay for these shows,
it was a worthwhile investment.
Attendance: 
5,708
Buyrate: 
0.35
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1997

  (2012 Scott sez:  I  was tempted to go back and redo this one, but sadly this tape was one of the lost souls in the Great Videotape Purge Of 2005 and didn’t make the transition over to DVD.)  The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House:  Revenge of the Taker. – On Monday night, Bret Hart said he beat Steve Austin every time they met.  Not true.  (Well, the man’s a stroke victim, you have to expect some memory problems.)  – Live from Rochester, New York. – Your hosts are Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. Free For All:  The Sultan v. Flash Funk.  The Sultan is hot off jobbing to Rocky at WM13, and Flash is hot off jobbing to Billy Gunn. Flash still has the Funkettes, demonstrating that he’s two years before his time. (I guess I was going for the Godfather joke there, although really Funk was in fact 15 years before his time given that Brodus Clay swiped his whole act.)  The match is nothing, as they trade some stuff and then Flash tries a rana off the top, but gets it blocked into a powerbomb for the pin.  * for a couple of nice spots, but no wrestling to speak of. – Another great Freddy Blassie promo starts us out. – Opening match, WWF tag team title: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith v. The Legion of Doom.  The Harts are fresh off re-joining with Bret Hart (and not earning many fans in the US by doing so) and the LOD are…well…the LOD. Animal controls Owen with some power stuff to start.  The champs take over, and Hawk no-sells a bunch.  Then Owen gets beat up by the LOD.  Then Hawk gets beat up by the champs.  It’s all as exciting as it sounds.  A heel miscommunication spot leads to the hot tag, and Animal hits a powerslam off the top rope…for the pin!  The LOD regains the tag titles and…oh, wait.  Here’s another referee, pointing out that the wrong man was pinned, so the match continues. Hey, the ending sucks already and we’re not even done yet.  Okay, we’re on again, and Animal is getting double-teamed by the heels.  Owen misses a splash off the top rope and Hawk gets the hot tag.  Doomsday Device, but Bret Hart runs in for the DQ.  Okay, that sucked.  *1/2 for the whole mess.  (I feel like I short-changed this one, commentary-wise, but holy shit was this a terrible opener.  Hawk was just a mess at this point.)  Intercontinental title match:  Rocky Maivia v. Savio Vega.  Rocky attacks early with a couple of ARMDRAGS OF DOOM and Faaarrrrrooooqqqq (is that spelling right?) joins us for racist commentary.  Rocky continues working on the arm. Savio takes over with a leg lariat and a VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DEATH!  FFFFFFffaarrroooqqqqq challenges Ahmed Johnson to a match for the *next* PPV.  (That’s actually the kind of long-term planning that they could use more of, outside of Rock-Cena’s one year build of course.)  More devastating restholds and choking from Savio, thrilling the crowd.  Rocky hits a fisherman’s suplex for two, but Savio retaliates with a superkick.  Rocky hits the hurricane DDT out of nowhere and gets two.  Rocky makes the superman comeback.  Rock Bottom only gets two.  Savio tosses him to the floor, nailing Crush in the process, so Crush gives him the heart punch for the countout.  Lame match with a dumb ending.  1/2*  The Rocky angle was mercifully killed a couple of weeks later as Owen Hart won the IC title on a RAW.  The Nation does a big beatdown on future leader Rocky, but Ahmed Johnson makes the save.  (One would have to assume that this was setting up Rocky & Ahmed v. NOD in some form so they could pull the trigger on the Rocky turn, and the injury just delayed it a couple of months.)  – Dok interviews Marc Mero and Sable, and in the background Steve Austin goes into the bathroom.  Suddenly, you hear a bunch of yelling and screaming, and Davey Boy Smith emerges with a length of steel, bent at the middle.  He does a HILARIOUS double-take upon seeing the camera, and Owen follows, shoots another hilarious look at the camera, and they run off.  Funny stuff.  (See, this was the kind of anarchic fun that Vince Russo was GOOD at, and it freshened up the product because it was totally different than anything they had done before with the dull backstage interview segments.  Of course now that’s ALL they do.) “Double J” Jesse Jammes v. The Honky Tonk Man’s protege.  Yes, HTM spent months hyping his newest find, and we get…Rockabilly Gunn.  Oh you didn’t know that this match sucked?   Your ass better call somebody! (They should totally feature this match on the Are You Serious YouTube show.  Also, you should follow @WWEPuppetH, because I fucking love puppet HHH.)  Honky does a quick interview to explain the nonsensical Gunn turn.  The crowd is just gone, not caring a whit about either guy.  Astonishingly, Gunn and Jammes would be tag champions by the end of the year, and the most over tag team in WWF history within another 6 months.  (And then the geniuses at Titan Tower thought “Hey, if they’re doing great as a team, we can split them up and make TWICE AS MUCH off them!  We’ll make BILLIONS!”)  Rockabilly gets a two off a Rocker Dropper.  This match made the Netcop Busts compilation for sheer historical value of the stupidity.  Massive stalling and showboating from both guys here.  Jesse makes the big comeback with a bunch of punches.  Rockabilly goes for a suplex and Jammes reverses to a small package for the pin.  An awful match with an ending that made zero sense of several levels.  On the bright side, it sewed the seeds for the New Age Outlaws.  DUD  (God, I must not have been incredibly sick of Billy Gunn at that point.)  – ECW’s Lance Wright interviews the Hart Foundation about the Steve Austin attack. – Really weird promo for the title match. – WWF World title match:  The Undertaker v. Mankind.  What is with Mick main eventing the show after Wrestlemania, anyway?  (I don’t know, Seinfeld, you tell me.First here, then Unforgiven, then Backlash (before his injury changed that).  (And what’s with the WWF not being able to make up their damn mind about what their PPVs are named?  Do you know how tough it is to remember whether “Unforgiven” was in April or September or December or whatever in every given year?  I’m 37 years old, I can barely remember that Smackdown is on Fridays without my DVR taping it for me.)   Mick threw a fireball at UT to set this up.  Of course, the stuff that UT ended up doing in later years makes that look pretty tame by comparison. (The stuff that UT did to Mankind just one year after this makes that look tame by comparison, in fact.)  Vince notes how strange “WWF champion Mankind” would sound.  (WWF Champion anyone would sound weird now.)  Heh, just wait. They brawl outside the ring, with Mankind taking a couple of decent bumps.  UT continues the punishment with his ropewalking clothesline. Paul Bearer distracts the ref and Mankind nails UT with the urn for a two.  Mankind takes control with a devastating nerve hold.  They fight outside the ring again and Mankind whacks him with a pitcher of water. He drops an elbow from the second rope to the floor on Undertaker. Nasty.  Back in the ring with a piledriver for two.  Jerry Lawler asks Vince what the WWF suits would think of WWF champion Mankind, and Vince replies that “I’m sure they’ll find some way to market it”.  Socko, anyone? (Yeah, that’ll put butts in seats.)  Ref gets bumped and Mankind applies the Mandible Claw.  Another ref runs in and gets Clawed.  Fat Paul throws in a chair, but Mankind prefers a larger weapon and bring in the stairs.  UT dropkicks it back in his face, then just kills him with a chairshot.  Mankind gets tied in the ropes, losing his mask, and then takes the bump of the year (well, until Badd Blood), as UT rams the stairs into his head, and he flies off the apron, into the Spanish table, head-first.  Ouch.  Back in the ring, a chokeslam gets two and the tombstone gets three.  Wild match.  ***1/2 After the match, UT beats up Bearer while Mankind struggles to light a fireball.  UT grabs it from him and fumbles with it some more, finally setting it off in Bearer’s face.  This would be the angle that causes Bearer to change his hair color and eventually introduce the world to….Kane.  (Why DID he dye his hair back to black in 2004?)  Steve Austin v. Bret Hart.  (See, Austin was getting hot at this point, so to capitalize, at Wrestlemania they did the famous match where he got distracted by his girlfriend and pinned in 18 seconds by the babyface.  Oh, no, wait, that would be retarded.  My mistake.)  Slugfest to start.  Austin quickly gets control and nails Bret with an axehandle off the apron to the floor. Bret to the stairs.  Austin mocks Hart in the ring, then tosses him to the stairs again.  He tosses Bret over the railing, into the crowd, then hits an axehandle off the railing.  Bret is bumping like mad here.  Back in the ring and Austin with a “fuck you elbow” for two.  Bret grabs a chair it backfires, as Austin takes it from him.  Ref gets bumped and Hart smashes the chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Vince talks about Bret’s ego.  Bret hooks the ringpost figure-four, then smashes a chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Austin’s knee is gone.  Austin comes back with a series of elbows, but Bret simply kicks him in the knee to retake control. He rips off Steve’s faithful knee brace and works on the knee some more.  Back in the ring and Austin with a low blow to counter.  Dammit, that could cause a serious GROIN injury, the likes of which we’ve never seen before!  Ahem.  (That was referencing Bret’s WCW run at the point when I was writing this rant, as he was doing this weird heel thing where he was claiming a groin injury to get heat.)  Austin chokes out Bret with his tape.  The Fuck You Elbow misses and Austin lands on his knee. Bret, of course, goes back to it.  Bret hits a figure-four.  Austin reverses and they fight outside the ring again.  Austin drops Bret on the railing and clotheslines him from the apron to the floor.  Back in the ring and Austin with the CROSS CORNER WHIP OF DEATH.  Bret should do that bump in every match.  (He does.)  It gets two.  Austin tries a piledriver but his leg gives out.  Bret goes back to the knee.  Austin drops him facefirst on the top turnbuckle for two.  He goes for the Stunner but Bret makes the ropes.  Bret with his own low blow.  Bret with the superplex.  Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, and Austin grabs his wayward knee brace and whacks Bret with it, allowing him to reverse to his own Sharpshooter!  But then Owen and Davey Boy run in.  Austin breaks the move, chases them off, and tries the Sharpshooter again, but Davey Boy smacks Austin with a chair for the DQ.  **** Huge brawl breaks out and Austin fights them off.  The next night on RAW, all hell would break loose, triggering the biggest feud of the year. The Bottom Line: Sure, the first portion sucked, but for a two hour show you can’t complain too loudly about the co-main events.  Many people on RSPW called this one of the worst shows of all time, but it’s not even close. (Many people on RSPW were fucking morons.)  Definitely worth the rental to check it out a couple of years later for the good matches and interesting history. Very mildly recommended.

Kyle’s News: Cena Turning Heel at Wrestlemania 28?

Bret Hart had an interview with Rob McNichol for The Sun‘s podcast One Sided Ring. He gave his predictions on the top four matches of Wrestlemania and had some interesting thoughts on Cena vs Rock, including him saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Cena turned heel.

We’ve talked about Cena turning heel since 2007.  If Cena was going to turn heel, this would be the best place to do so. The Rock being screwed in his hometown would start a possible riot. It would be nearly as crazy as when Hulk Hogan turned heel.

 The WWE has been foreshadowing his heel turn a bit with his more edgy character and him sounding like Stone Cold Steve Austin’s when he was telling the Rock “I will do ANYTHING to win” Lastly, it would explain why they’re trying to make the match 50-50 and that is so Cena has fans to turn on. 

If Cena turned heel, the product would become  more interesting. The most complained about thing about the  WWE is its by-the-book shows, and since Cena has been the top-dog of the company, he takes a good brunt of the frustration because of it. In other words, Cena as heel would make the product seem to the fans less cookie-cutter and more fresh.

On the other hand, a John Cena heel turn chances are would hurt WWE’s merchandising sales. John Cena has been the cash cow of the WWE for about 7 years. They’ve had wrestlers that came close, but nobody has surpassed him.  Plus, with the new “Cena sucks shirts”, it’s almost like he’s heel already. 

And with all due respect to CM Punk, he’s not ready to be the cash cow of the WWE because he’s not yet over enough and neither is Randy Orton. Thus, there’s nobody right now who I could think of that could become the cash cow of the WWE, but that doesn’t mean Cena cannot elevate a babyface to cash cow status After all, a great heel can always make a babyface more popular.  

Whether it will work or not, mostly comes down to how well or poorly the turn’s executed and then booked, though he’s somewhat tweener  right now so I personally don’t see them turning him because they’re getting money from the people who like him and dislike him. .

Thoughts?

Wrestlemania Countdown: 26

(Someone had requested a repost of this, and since I can’t retrieve the 2012 Scott sez version from the other server at the moment, you’ll have to settle for the boring unadorned version.)  The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 26 – Live from Phoenix, AZ – Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & Matt Striker Unified tag team titles: Big Show & The Miz v. R-Truth & John Morrison Morrison dropkicks Miz to start and the faces hit legdrops for two. Truth hits Show with a leg lariat, but walks into a fallaway slam. Show pounds Truth down and goes up for a pump splash, but Morrison kicks him down and Truth gets two. Morrison comes in and runs wild on Miz, but misses Starship Pain, giving MIz two. Morrison counters the Stroke for two, but Show tags himself in with the KO punch to finish at 3:22. Really, that was it? *1/2 Ted Dibiase v. Cody Rhodes v. Randy Orton Not sure how this is a triple threat match when it seems to be more clearly a handicap match. Orton dumps Rhodes , but gets dropkicked by Dibiase to set up the Legacy beatdown. They take turns pounding away on him, but Orton tosses Dibiase for a comeback. Rhodes with an Alabama Slam for two, but Legacy erupts for some reason and brawls to the floor. They look like such geeks here. Orton comes back with clotheslines and powerslams, but Dibiase stops the RKO. Rhodes accidentally nails Dibiase with a pescado, and Orton brings both geeks back in with the DDT. Orton sets up to finish Rhodes, but then changes his mind and punts him instead. RKO kills Dibiase dead at 8:58. Holy cow did Legacy ever look like the jobbiest pair of jobbers who ever jobbed there. This didn’t work at all, but the crowd was very into Orton so there was that. ** Meanwhile, Santino Marella bites into a magic Slim Jim that turns Jillian Hall into a series of wacky people. Yeah. Money In The Bank: Kofi Kingston v. MVP v. Evan Bourne v. Jack Swagger v. Shelton Benjamin v. Matt Hardy v. Dolph Ziggler v. Kane v. Drew McIntyre v. Christian Kane is sporting an impressive shiner before we even start. Big trainwreck to start and everyone climbs the ladder until Swagger and Hardy are left. Kofi knocks them off, but Christian monkey-flips him into a ladder in the corner. Christian climbs, but gets zig-zagged to the mat. Ziggler goes up and MVP brings him down. Kane brings MVP down, but all the black guys gang up on him in the corner. Shelton clears the ring and climbs, but Swagger knocks him off, then Bourne comes off the top onto him. Bourne looks eerily like Eddie Guerrero in standard definition. Weird spot with Christian and Matt sandwiching Swagger between two ladders while he stands under the main ladder. That leads to Christian fighting it out with Bourne on a ladder ramp. Evan wins that and climbs, but Hardy takes him down, then takes a sick backdrop bump onto the horizontal ladder. Everyone gets car crashed to the floor and Kane beats on Dolph in the ring. A couple of poor ladders get murdered, so Kofi takes a broken one and uses it as stilts in the most innovative spot I’ve seen in years. Sadly, Drew comes in after doing nothing, gets rid of Kofi, and climbs. Matt Hardy thankfully gets rid of him and makes his attempt, but Christian makes the save. They fight it out and Christian brings him down with the inverted DDT. Christian and Swagger fight for it next, and that gives Swagger the case at 13:39, after he takes forever to unhook it. Well that’s a waste of a briefcase as it stands. This was the same as it always is, a bunch of cool spots and sick bumps. ***1/4 Next month: Extreme Rules! Presented by KFC! EXTREME CHICKEN! HHH v. Sheamus HHH being this far down the card worries me. They trade shots in the corner and HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Sheamus backs off quickly. Sheamus pounds away, but HHH hits him with a suplex and kneedrop for one. Sheamus bails, and HHH clips him on the way back in and follows with the figure-four. Sheamus makes the ropes quickly to break, and sends HHH into the stairs as Matt Striker tries to get “Ace of Spades” over as a new nickname for HHH. Really? Is this a thing now? He’s already the King of Kings, does he need the whole damn deck of cards? Sheamus takes over with a pair of backbreaker variations and stomps a mudhole in the corner. Axehandle gets two. Sheamus slugs away for two and goes to a chinlock, but HHH makes the comeback. He goes up and Sheamus tries to bring him down with the Razor’s Edge, but HHH slips out. Sheamus gets a pump kick for two. HHH gets the spinebuster for two. Sheamus bails to the apron and gets a pump kick there, but KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes him at 12:05. I’d say Lawler’s “70000 people just witnessed a classic!” was a bit much, but this was fine. **1/2 CM Punk v. Rey Mysterio Rey is paying tribute to the Na’vi tonight instead of his usual superhero garb. I was looking forward to an Iron Man outfit, too. Oh well. Punk attacks, but gets taken into the corner. Rey hangs himself in the Tree of Woe and gets abused by Serena, and Punk drops him onto the stairs for good measure. Back in, Rey comes back with a bodypress, but Punk turns it into a powerslam for two. Punk ducks a low kick and rolls him up for two. Punk with the high kick for two. Rey comes back with a somersault DDT off the top, which looked pretty cool. Punk blocks the 619 and Rey escapes the GTS. Rey makes it to the apron and goes up with a frog splash, but that misses and Punk gets two. High knee in the corner sets up a powerbomb attempt, but Rey reverses into the 619. Serena throws herself on Punk to stop it, but Rey hits it on the other side instead and finishes with the big splash at 6:30. Kind of surprised they’d blow it off so fast without even going down the “Rey goes straight edge” road. It was also pretty short, like everything else tonight thus far. I did enjoy the “big stadium match” feel they gave it. **3/4 No Holds Barred: Bret Hart v. Vince McMahon Really there’s only one possible finish here. So Vince decides to stack the deck beforehand, bringing out the entire Hart family as his enforcers. Well I’d expect that from Diana and Bruce and especially Smith, no doubt, but I though Natalya was made of sterner stuff. And Bruce is the special referee, still wearing his stupid sunglasses. But Bret reveals that they were already onto him and now the Harts will screw Vince over. So Bret attacks and chokes Vince down, and the Hart Dynasty immediately drags Vince out and kicks his ass. They add a Hart Attack from the top rope to the floor, and back in Bret drops elbows on him. Vince bails again and the Harts drag him back out from under the ring, but now he’s got a crowbar. Bret gets it away from him without much trouble and beats him down (“That’s an international object!” declares Striker), and he teases a Sharpshooter before going back to the crowbar for a bit. And then he stomps on Vince’s nuts a few times, which always adds an extra star to the rating. Bret grabs a chair and takes a seat while Vince recovers, then lays waste to Vince with the chair. Like, Rock-Austin from WM 17 tribute time. Never let it be said that when it comes time for Vince to get his ass kicked, he doesn’t go out and give it his all. And finally the only thing left is to make him tap to the Sharpshooter at 11:09. Everyone said all they wanted as Bret kicking Vince’s ass for 10 minutes and then making him tap, and that is what was delivered to the letter. If this was in Canada the heat would have been off the charts the whole time. But it wasn’t. Wasn’t really a match and it’s not fair to rate it as such, but it was about *1/2 given the physical conditions of both guys. Smackdown World title: Chris Jericho v. Edge Edge puts him down with a pair of shoulderblocks as Cole notes Jericho is a six-time World champion. That can’t be right, can it? Edge gets a flapjack and goes for the spear early, but Jericho bails to escape and heads back in for a baseball slide. Back in with a Jericho backdrop suplex for two. We hit the chinlock and Jericho pounds away in the corner, but misses a blind charge. He comes back with a suplex onto the top rope, but misses a dive and gets sent into the announce table. Back in, they fight on the top and Edge faceplants him for two. He goes up with a flying bodypress, rolled through for two. Jericho tries the Walls, but Edge powers out and gets a sunset flip for two. Jericho tries the Codebreaker and gets sent into the corner to block, but Edge tries a spear and Jericho turns it into the Walls. Edge reverses into a small package for two. Lionsault misses and Edge gets the Edge-O-Matic for two (am I the only one in the world who still calls it that?), but Jericho with an enzuigiri for two. Edge hits the Impaler for two. Jericho gets a forearm off the top and sets up for his own spear, but walks into Edge’s boot. Edge tries his own, but walks into the Codebreaker. Well really, he waited for the crowd to chant “spear”, what did he expect? That gets two. So now we get to the meat of the match, as Jericho starts stomping on the Achilles tendon and then gets the Walls again (wouldn’t an anklelock be more apropos?), then turns it into a half-crab on the injured ankle. Edge channels his inner Dan Hardy and makes the ropes, then rolls up Jericho for two. Cactus clothesline puts them both on the floor, and the ref is bumped. Jericho nails Edge with the “championship” and gets two. IT’S A FUCKING BELT, MICHAEL COLE! A championship is an abstract concept, that is a BELT. Codebreaker finishes clean at 15:43. Really? That was actually looking it was going to be a good 20-25 minutes once Jericho started working the ankle. Oh well, Edge is boring as a babyface anyway. They really need to have the Royal Rumble winner actually win one of these years, though. This wasn’t “close the show” great, but it was never boring and the finish totally made sense. I’m also glad to see Jericho get his first Wrestlemania win since, what, 2001? ***3/4 Edge snaps afterwards and spears Jericho off the announce table, showing that he’s a sore loser as well as a choker. Layla, Vickie Guerrero, Maryse, Michelle McCool & Alicia Fox v. Beth Phoenix, Eve Torres, Mickie James, Gail Kim & Kelly Kelly Man, Vickie is the like best sport ever. All the good girls beat on Vickie in the corner (triggering an impressive screech from Vickie) and then all the women get to do their finishers. This leaves Beth with Vickie, as Vickie has a panic attack in the corner before getting rescued by McCool. The heels actually send Vickie to the top for a “hog splash” that gets the pin on Kelly at 3:20. I’m sure Eddie was flattered to have that tribute paid to him. DUD – Quick question: Why are they using an Audioslave song from 6 years ago as an “official theme”? Did they overpay usage rights and need to burn off some airplay or something? The band doesn’t even exist anymore! RAW World title: Batista v. John Cena Cena’s ridiculous entrance this year: A military honor guard. Because he once played a former Marine in a movie. Batista looks trimmed down and it works well on him. They do the lockup battle and Batista gets a headlock, but Cena reverses to his own. Batista clotheslines him out of the corner and pounds away, then adds a boot from the floor. Cena fights back with a suplex and a bulldog for two. He goes for the FU early, but Batista reverses into a sloppy DDT for two. Big boot gets two. We hit the chinlock and they slug it out until Cena backdrops out of a facelock. Cena makes the comeback (7 minutes in?) with his usual run of stuff, but it turns out that Batista CAN see him, and hits him with a spinebuster. Cena reverses into the STF, but Batista makes the ropes without too much trouble. Batista spears him for two. They fight on the top and Batista goes down, allowing Cena to hit the five knuckle shuffle off the top. Batista comes back with the powerbomb for two. Cena tries the FU, reversed by Batista, reversed again by Cena to the FU for two. The crowd is going apeshit for this stuff. They’re really doing the big superhero v. supervillain match well. Cena goes up and tries the legdrop, but he lands in a spinebuster. Batista goes for the bomb, but Cena rolls through into the STF. Batista taps at 13:29 to give the title back to Cena. These guys have mad chemistry together, especially in a big match situation like this one. **** – The two title matches would make this a thumbs up show on their own, so anything that the main event delivers will just be gravy. Streak v. Career: Undertaker v. Shawn Michaels Shawn fires away with chops in the corner, but eats Snake Eyes and a big boot. Corner clothesline and Taker tries to go Old School, but Shawn pulls him down. A second try hits, however. Taker pounds away in the corner and sets up for the tombstone, but Shawn slips out and fights for a crossface. Taker fights that off, but nearly takes the superkick before slipping away. Shawn decides to work on the leg in the corner, but Taker slugs him down and clotheslines him to the floor. That sets up a tope attempt, but Shawn slides in and clips the knee to stop him. Taker tosses him and runs his back into the post, then drops the guillotine legdrop on the apron. Back in, Shawn takes him down with a figure-four, but that only seems to make Undertaker really, really mad. He reverses the move and Shawn releases, and they slug it out. Shawn puts him down and kips up, but it’s a chokeslam for two. Tombstone is reversed into an anklelock by Shawn, so I guess that’s why Jericho couldn’t have it. Taker kicks him in the head a few times to break, but Shawn clotheslines him to the floor and follows with a moonsault. Taker catches that and tombstones him on the floor, and you have to figure that’s not good for Shawn’s career. An EMT runs down to check on Shawn, but Taker beats him up and rolls Shawn back in for two. Last Ride, but Taker’s knee gives out and Shawn gets two. Looked bad. Shawn goes up and drops the elbow, but Taker gets his knee up to block and Shawn takes the bump on his ribs. Ouch. Taker tries Hell’s Gate and Shawn rolls it over for two. They both struggle up and Shawn superkicks him for two. Shawn cues up another one, but Taker catches it and counters to the Last Ride for two. That was a giant near-fall. A frustrated UT tosses Shawn and preps the announce table, but Shawn escapes a powerbomb and superkicks him onto it instead. And given that it’s Wrestlemania, Shawn can’t resist a moonsault from the top, which puts Taker through the table. He even hits the knee, which is either a great bit of psychology or a lucky miss. Back in, Shawn adds one more superkick…for two. This match needs Jim Ross so badly. Shawn wants another one, but Taker chokeslams him. No cover, as he opts for the tombstone instead, and that only gets two. The crowd is just going insane now. Taker’s had it and he pulls the straps down, but he stops because he doesn’t want to end Shawn’s career. Just awesome facials from Shawn, as he gives Taker’s throat-cutting gesture right back to him, and then slaps Taker. And that’s it, as Taker tombstones him extra-super-duper hard for the pin at 23:57 to end it. If this was Shawn’s last match (which it’s not), he went out with another Wrestlemania classic. However, I just don’t think it was as good as last year, because expectations were so ridiculously high. ****1/2 Now hopefully he doesn’t go to TNA and job to Hogan again. The Pulse: Everything that was supposed to deliver, delivered, and the main event was suitably epic and had the clean finish we needed. Huge thumbs up this year!