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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – April 28, 1997

by Logan Scisco
A video package
summarizes the interactions between Bret Hart and Steve Austin on last week’s
show.  There’s a cool timeline in the
bottom right of the screen that tells the time of their various interactions on
last week’s show
.
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are coming to
us from Omaha, Nebraska.
Brian Pillman
comes out and says that he has a sensitive side and asks the crowd to pray with
him.  Pillman prays for Bret Hart’s quick
and successful recovery, the people that enjoyed the street fight on last week’s
show, and the destruction of Steve Austin. 
Austin comes on the Titantron and says Pillman better pray that he doesn’t
come down to the ring because Bret won’t be there to save him.  Pillman taunts Austin further, so Austin
arrives, but outwits a sneak attack by the Bulldog and Owen and makes his exit
through the crowd.  Pillman continues his
prayer with Owen and the Bulldog, who continue to pray for Bret.  Owen does a hilarious job, as usual, but
Austin comes down with an axe handle and breaks up the Hart Foundation’s
prayer.  A great opening segment, with
Pillman doing a great job on the mic. 
Austin’s heat is off the charts here.
McMahon tells us
that Bret Hart is on his way to the arena and the announce crew hypes Owen Hart
challenging Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental title and the British Bulldog
facing the Undertaker.
Pillman is shown
continuing his prayer in the locker room.

Opening
Contest:  Flash Funk pins Rockabilly
(w/The Honky Tonk Man) with a hurricanrana at 4:22:
You can tell this is a great crowd because Rockabilly
actually gets a reaction.  Bret is shown
arriving in the arena in the back of an ambulance under an armed guard, which
is a great visual.  Funk flies all over
the place in an attempt to make this the first interesting match of Rockabilly’s
career, but Rockabilly finds a way to slow things down when he seizes control.  Rockabilly dances too much after a tornado
DDT and he wants the Honky Tonk Man to deck Funk on the apron, but
miscommunication results and Rockabilly gets pinned.  However, to get his heat back, Rockabilly
nails Funk with the Honky Tonk Man’s guitar. 
Rating:  *
Owen and the Bulldog
wheel Bret out onto the entrance ramp and he rants about how America hates
people that tell the truth.  Bret tells
the crowd that they are sick and depraved because of their lust for violence
and the crowd pops huge for that.  Bret does
a great put down of the “USA” chant by saying “my mother’s American” and
smiling and says he’d love to send Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels to the
hospital this evening.  This was another
awesome promo and Bret was at his best on the mic with this anti-American
character.
Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon say that they haven’t been accepted by American wrestling fans
because they are wrestlers and not entertainers.  They complain that they haven’t won the tag
team titles because the crowd isn’t behind them.  This was Furnas and LaFon’s heel turn, but
they lacked the mic skills to make this work
.
The Legion of
Doom defeat Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon when Animal pins Furnas after a Hawk
flying clothesline at 3:46:
The Legion of Doom had broken Henry Godwinn’s neck with a
Doomsday Device on the Shotgun Saturday Night leading up to this show.  This match is an interesting clash of styles,
as the Legion of Doom’s power offense goes against the technical skills of
their opponents.  They run through an abbreviated
tag team formula, with everyone getting involved around the three minute mark
and the Legion prevail because they are the only credible face team in the tag
division.  I wish I could have seen these
two teams square off on pay-per-view.  Rating: 
Ross interviews
Furnas and LaFon, who demand a rematch because the referee cost them this
encounter.
The Headbangers
interrupting Sunny’s segment on Shotgun Saturday Night is shown
.
Sunny comes out to
model the Austin 3:16 t-shirt, which you buy for $20.00 (plus shipping &
handling).  Finally, a piece of
merchandise that actually made the company money!
McMahon interviews
Ahmed Johnson, who sent the Sultan to the hospital with his 2×4 attack last
week.  Ahmed flips out thinking about the
gauntlet match he has with the Nation at the In Your House and tells Vince to
remember he was a gang member.  Vince’s
reply is hilarious:  “I think we’ve had enough
of this.”
The British
Bulldog preps Owen for his match with Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental
title and Brian Pillman offers some prayers with the
Marlena’s attack
on Chyna on Raw last week is the Super Clean Slam of the Week.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Owen Hart defeats “The
Rock” Rocky Maivia (Champion) with a bridge cradle at 8:24 to win the title:
The British Bulldog wheels Bret onto the entrance ramp so
that he can watch his brother wrestle for the Intercontinental title and Owen
dedicates the match to Bret.  In a
telling sign, the Hart Foundation is the most hated group on the roster, but
Maivia comes out and does not even generate de facto face heat during his
entrance.  Owen spends a good deal of the
match working the leg and kicks out of the soon to be named Rock Bottom when
Maivia stages his comeback.  Owen floats
over Maivia during this rally and wraps him up in a bridging cradle and that’s
enough to give Owen his first WWF singles title.  The Bulldog and Bret stage a fun celebration,
with Bret taking the belt and the Bulldog wheeling him in circles.  Owen bumped around well for Maivia, but his
victory didn’t feel like a big deal because of who he beat for the belt.  Rating:  **½
Steve Austin comes
out with a wheelchair and an axe handle and sits in the center of the ring.  Austin asks the crowd if they want to see a
wheelchair match and he asks Bret to come out. 
However, Austin changes his mind and says that he’d just end up getting
out of the wheelchair and destroying Bret. 
Austin tells the Undertaker that at In Your House he’s going to win the
title, but as he turns to leave, the Hart Foundation appears on the Titantron
and Bret promises Austin that he will end up in the ambulance that he arrived
in for tonight’s show
.
Vader’s outburst
on Good Morning Kuwait that got him detained in Kuwait is shown
.
A video package
highlights Ken Shamrock’s UFC career and what he has done in the WWF so far.
Vader defeats “The
Real Double J” Jesse James with a Vader Bomb at 1:35:
If they sought to effectively rebuild Vader, they would
have had him ambush James during his entrance and beat him to a pulp without an
actual match taking place.  As it stands,
we do get a match, but a massacre is a better way to put it as Vader destroys
James with his big moves.  The crowd pops
big for the beating.
Ross interviews
Vader and asks if Vader has any remorse or shame for what he did in Kuwait and
how he embarrassed his family and the WWF. 
Vader says he has no regrets and he apologizes for nothing.  Ross asks Vader if he overreacted and Vader
begins to bully him.  Ross breaks kayfabe
and calls Vader “Leon”, trying to sell this as Vader breaking from the script,
but Shamrock comes to Ross’s rescue and gives him a belly-to-belly suplex.  The crowd is hot for Shamrock-Vader, so the
segment did what it was supposed to do
.
Goldust tells
Marlena that she isn’t to follow him to the ring tonight when he faces Hunter
Hearst Helmsley
.
Goldust defeats
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) by count out at 4:46 shown:
This is like the Godwinns-Smoking Gunns feud in 1996 in
the sense that the feud went on forever without giving us any quality matches.  I’m quite surprised they never tried to run a
mixed tag team match on pay-per-view out of this pairing.  Yes, the Marlena-Chyna parts wouldn’t have
set the world on fire, but they could have easily booked around it.  This match proceeds like many of their
previous ones, with Goldust starting with a quick flurry and Helmsley slowing it
down.  Luckily we get a commercial break
to spare us much of that.  Marlena comes
down to ringside when Chyna attacks Goldust and when Goldust distracts Chyna, Marlena
throws powder in Chyna’s eyes.  Blinded,
Chyna goes after Helmsley and raises him off his feet with a choke, which is
something I bet she wishes she could do these days.  That costs Helmsley the match and honestly
this was the first tolerable match in their feud.  Rating:  **
WWF Champion The
Undertaker appears on the Titantron and gives some generic comments about
facing Steve Austin at In Your House.
Sable comes out
and models an Undertaker t-shirt, which you can buy for $20 (plus shipping
& handling).
Brian Pillman
prays for the British Bulldog to have the strength to defeat the Undertaker.
Non-Title Match:  The Undertaker (WWF Champion) defeats The British
Bulldog (European Champion) by disqualification when Owen Hart interferes at
1:10 shown:
Like Owen earlier, Bret is wheeled onto the entrance ramp
and the Bulldog speaks highly of Bret. 
The Bulldog doesn’t quite understand non-title, as he pledges to win the
WWF title for the Hart Foundation.  After
the Bulldog turned heel in 1995, he and the Undertaker seemed to face off on
Raw at least two times a year in singles matches and those matches were usually
main events.  There’s not much in this
one, as we cut to a break twenty seconds in and Owen interferes to prevent the
Bulldog from getting finished off after a chokeslam. 
-Steve Austin runs in to go after Owen and the Bulldog
and Austin proceeds to grab the WWF title and celebrate with it.  The Undertaker confronts him, but quickly
eats a Stunner after Austin throws the WWF title to the ground.  The Undertaker quickly revives himself,
though, and chokeslams Austin.  Austin
recovers and notes that Bret is by himself on the entrance ramp and goes near
him, but Jim Neidhart appears and rescues Bret. 
Bret smiles and smashes Austin with his crutch and Austin falls off the
entrance ramp as we close the show.  Paramedics
tend to Austin, thereby making Bret’s prophesy of Austin riding to the hospital
in the ambulance he arrived in come true. 
A great closing segment and we now have the complete Hart Foundation of
Bret, Owen, Bulldog, Neidhart, and Pillman.
-The camera cuts to Pillman in the back who looks into
the camera with a smile and crazy eyes.
The Final Report Card:  This Raw was bolstered by some great promo
work and a hot crowd that got behind many of the big moments on the show.  Owen winning the Intercontinental title made
all of the anti-Maivia diehards happy and there was a great story arch in this
show as well, with Bret promising to send Austin to the hospital and accomplishing
that goal at the end of the show.  A
great effort of storytelling that put you on the edge of your seat for next
week’s show.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.7 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

What the World Was Watching: In Your House – Revenge of the Taker

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Rochester, New York
.

I couldn’t find
footage of the Free for All match, but on that show the Sultan defeated Flash Funk
with a powerbomb at 2:55 for those that are interested.

Opening Contest
for the WWF Tag Team Championship:  The
Legion of Doom defeat The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (Champions) by
disqualification at 10:09:
It’s really disheartening that three of the four
participants in this contest are no longer with us.  The tag team champions face another tough
matchup in the opener of the pay-per-view and they had to be wishing for the
days when The New Rockers, The Godwinns, and the Bodydonnas constituted the tag
team division.  The crowd loves to chant
“LOD”, but they are subdued during much of the match, even in parts when it
looks like the LOD might win the titles. 
Animal hits a powerslam off the second rope to pin the Bulldog, but the
decision is overturned because it is ruled that the Bulldog was not the legal
man.  The champions start walking towards
the locker room dejected, but when they hear the announcement Owen gives a
great “I knew that!” expression.  After
the restart, it doesn’t take long for Owen to eat a Doomsday Device, but before
the three count, Bret Hart runs out of the locker room and creates the
disqualification.  This was just a
standard tag match, but it could’ve come off better with a more vocal
crowd.  Rating:  **
Dok Hendrix
interviews The British Bulldog and Owen Hart and Owen says that they didn’t
keep the titles on a fluke.  The
champions refuse to believe that Steve Austin is in the building to face Bret
later tonight
.
Sunny and Brian
Pillman hype the Superstar line and urge us to call 1-900-737-4WWF!
-Kevin Kelly
interviews Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia, who says that Savio’s in for
a hell of a fight in their upcoming match.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Savio Vega (w/The
Nation of Domination) beats “The Rock” Rocky Maivia (Champion) by count out at 8:34:
Savio defeated Maivia on Raw prior to the pay-per-view
and you would think that after the beating Maivia took on that show that he’d
bring some backup to this encounter. 
Faarooq wanders out to do guest commentary and he discusses the gauntlet
challenge that he laid down to Ahmed Johnson on last week’s RAW.  You can hear a pin drop for this match,
showing how little enthusiasm Maivia was generating as champion.  This isn’t much better than their match on
Raw, with Savio draining the energy of the match with chokes and nerve holds.  At least Maivia gets in more offense in his
comeback.  Savio tosses Maivia to the
floor and Crush gives Maivia a heart punch behind the referee’s back, but Crush
doesn’t roll Maivia into the ring and that costs Savio the title, much to
Savio’s chagrin.  There is some arguing
between the two before Faarooq gets into the ring and the Nation resolves the
problem by beating the young Maivia until Ahmed makes the save.  This match continued Maivia’s weak run as
champion and he’d lose the belt shortly after this.  Rating:  *
Ahmed gets on the
mic and accepts Faarooq’s challenge.
Ken Shamrock is
shown having some fun on America Online
.
Hendrix interviews
Sable and Marc Mero.  Sable says she
appreciates that she is a two-time Slammy winner and Mero says he hopes to be
back soon.  Austin goes into the bathroom
behind them, cursing the whole way, and an altercation is heard in the room.  The British Bulldog eventually emerges with a
deer in headlights look as he holds an iron bar in his hand and he runs
off.  Owen follows shortly
thereafter.  Dave Hebner tells Hendrix
that Austin is hurt and he needs help before also running away.  The whole segment was hilarious because of
the bad acting of everyone involved.
“The Real Double
J” Jesse James pins Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man) with a small package at
6:44:
This was the blowoff of the Honky Tonk Man protégé angle,
which had been going on for months, and the end result was terrible as Billy
Gunn, who had rejected The Honky Tonk Man two weeks prior to this, emerged as
the chosen man with a new name: 
“Rockabilly.”  Oh well, on the
other side of the coin you can look at this an encounter of the future New Age
Outlaws.  Billy dances around a lot, but
the crowd could care less and was probably wondering why they paid top dollar
for pay-per-view tickets by this point in the show.  The match is dreadful and James scores the
victory out of nowhere, thereby killing any hopes for the Rockabilly gimmick
out of the gate.  That’s a clear vote of
no confidence from the booking team.  Rating: 
DUD
Hendrix urges us
to call 815-734-1161 to get an Undertaker door banner for $29.95 (plus shipping
& handling)!
Kelly interviews
Steve Austin, who says that he’s still going to compete despite being hurt
tonight.  WWF President Gorilla Monsoon
says that he’s going to reorder the lineup to make sure Austin has time to
recover.  This lineup change makes
Austin-Bret the de facto main event.
Lance Wright interviews
the Hart Foundation and the Bulldog and Owen rant about Austin.  Bret merely gives a “Who’s crying now?” and
walks away, which is great
.
A video package is
played for the Undertaker-Mankind title match
.
Hendrix interviews
Mankind and Paul Bearer.  Bearer promises
that Mankind will be the next WWF champion and Mankind says that the
Undertaker’s screams will be music to his ear.
WWF Championship
Match:  The Undertaker (Champion) defeats
Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 17:26:
The Undertaker is wearing a bandage over the right side of
his face because of the burns he suffered at the hands of Mankind several weeks
prior to this.  This is a wild brawl, as
Mankind takes some nasty bumps into the guardrail and delivers an elbow drop
off the second rope while the Undertaker is on the arena floor and the
Undertaker takes some stiff shots with the urn, a glass water pitcher at
ringside, and a chair.  Referees take a
beating as well, with the main one being sandwiched during an Undertaker blind
charge and another receiving the Mandible Claw when he runs out to assist.  Mankind brings the steps and a chair into the
ring, but the Undertaker kicks the steps in his face and then murders him with
a chair shot, a bump that is tough to watch based on what we know about
concussions today.  Just when you think
you’ve seen enough, Mankind loses his mask and the Undertaker knocks him off
the apron with the steps and Mankind goes head-first through the Spanish
announce table, which has to be the craziest WWF table bump I’ve ever
seen.  After that, things are just
academic.  Mankind was just a lame duck
challenger for the Undertaker in this contest, but credit Foley for nearly
killing himself to keep his character relevant and creating a good first pay-per-view title defense for the Undertaker. 
The match started slow, but after the first ten minutes everything was
stiff and brutal and it ended up telling a great story.  Rating:  ***½
After the match, they
try to work a spot where Mankind accidentally throws a fireball into Paul
Bearer’s eyes, but it doesn’t work, so the Undertaker grabs the materials and
tosses it into Bearer’s face, which is just as effective as far as future
storylines go.  Bearer leaves with his
suit coat over his head and he’s later taken to the hospital by paramedics.
Hendrix interviews
the Hart Foundation and Bret says that he’s going to make an example out of
Steve Austin tonight when he beats him for a third time.
“Stone Cold” Steve
Austin defeats Bret “the Hitman” Hart by disqualification when the British
Bulldog interferes at 21:10:
Keep in mind that this was originally supposed to be
Bret-Sid, but Sid no showed an episode of Raw so the card was changed.  I’m not sure what that would have done to
Austin’s role on this show, but I’m sure he would’ve made his presence felt
after Bret got his job back from Sid.  Owen
Hart and the British Bulldog try to come down with Bret, but they are ushered
to the back by WWF officials.  This is an
extension of WrestleMania XIII, as they brawl into the crowd and Bret attacks
Austin’s knee with a chair after an early ref bump.  Austin isn’t selling the attack earlier in
the evening, but that becomes a mute point once Bret targets the legs for the better
part of fifteen minutes.  Bret goes to
finish Austin with the Sharpshooter, but Austin clocks Bret with his knee
brace, which Bret took off early in the match, and applies the
Sharpshooter.  Before Bret can submit,
though, Owen and the Bulldog run out and the Bulldog clocks Austin with a chair
to draw the disqualification.  This tried
to recreate the climate of their WrestleMania encounter, but the electric
atmosphere that surrounded that match was missing here.  Nevertheless, it was still a good technical
match that continued the feud between Austin and the Hart Foundation.  Rating:  ****
After the match, Bret
tries to attack Austin with the ring bell, but Austin jabs a chair into Bret’s
knee and applies a Sharpshooter before Owen and the Bulldog can come to Bret’s
aid.
The Final Report Card:  This show
started like a bad episode of RAW, but the last two matches increase the show’s
quality.  The Austin-Bret feud would only
get hotter after this show and the Undertaker-Paul Bearer storyline would morph
into the “Kane” storyline that would dominate much of the Undertaker’s title
run.  The company was about to right some
of the wrongs that happened on this show as well, since Maivia was on his way
out as Intercontinental champion and Rockabilly never made another pay-per-view
appearance.
Attendance:  6,477
Buyrate:  0.5
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 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: 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