What the World Was Watching: Monday Night RAW – January 9, 1995

Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels are doing commentary and they are live from Houston, Texas.  This is the second anniversary episode of Monday Night Raw.

William Shatner, who is here to hype his new show TekWar, says that he is not scared of appearing on Jerry Lawler’s King’s Court segment and that if Lawler messes with him “he will be out of here at warp speed.”  He even admits that he is simply here to do the hard sell for his show and is not going to wrestle.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 2, 1995

“Double J” Jeff Jarrett lets us know how great he is going to be in his signing debut on tonight’s RAW.

Gorilla Monsoon and Shawn Michaels are doing commentary and they are taped from Liberty, New York.  This episode was taped on December 12, 1994.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 22, 1999

Steve Austin arrives at the arena and comes across a driver of a Coor’s Light truck.  Product placement 101.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are calling the action and they are live from Albany, New York.  This is the last RAW we have to hear called by Cole for a while so I am happy about that.  This is the go home show for WrestleMania XV.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 15, 1999

A video package recaps the tensions building between the Rock and Paul Wight, whose nickname has been changed to “The Big Show” instead of the “The Big Nasty.”  We are also reminded that the Undertaker is going after Vince McMahon.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from San Jose, California.

WWF Champion The Rock opens the show and he tells Steve Austin that he will prove his status as “The Great One” at WrestleMania.  He demands that Vince McMahon come out and prove to him that the Big Show is not working with Austin.  McMahon complies and says that “Dwayne” needs a reality check for being ungrateful for all that McMahon has given him.  He says that three generations of his family have looked after the Rock’s ancestors and that Paul Wight is not as quick to understand the existing agreement.  Wight comes out and demands to know what McMahon is talking about, threatening he and the Rock.  McMahon does not kindly to that, leading Wight to manhandle him into a corner to get his point across.  McMahon collects himself and books the Rock and Wight to team up to face Mankind and Steve Austin, thereby making this a preview of WrestleMania.  The Rock and Wight shake hands to end the segment at McMahon’s behest.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 8, 1999

A video package chronicles Steve Austin attacking the Rock on Sunday Night Heat and Paul Wight not trying to save the Rock from the assault.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are calling the action and they are live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 1, 1999

A video package recaps the Undertaker’s recent threats against Vince McMahon, culminating in the Undertaker burning a teddy bear at the end of last week’s RAW.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from Cleveland, Ohio.

The Corporation comes out and Vince McMahon discusses how the audience does not understand his capacity to love.  He fires Kane for losing the inferno match to the Undertaker last week and has orderlies come down to send Kane to the insane asylum.  However, Chyna comes to Kane’s aid and they fight them off.  Chyna tells McMahon that she can control Kane and asks for Kane to be booked against Steve Austin, with Kane’s job on the line.  McMahon counters by also putting Chyna’s job on the line.  Mankind then joins the festivities and volunteers to referee the Steve Austin-Kane match to prove himself worthy of refereeing the title match at WrestleMania XV.  McMahon agrees on the condition that Mankind is able to defeat the Undertaker on tonight’s show (this is later clarified in the broadcast to mean that McMahon will consider Mankind for the role at WrestleMania based on how the match goes).  The Undertaker’s voice then comes on via the loudspeakers and he says that he has already told McMahon what he is going to take from him.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 22, 1999

A video package recaps the Rock winning the WWF title in a ladder match against Mankind on last week’s show.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Vince McMahon comes out to hype tonight’s Inferno Match between the Undertaker and Kane.  He welcomes Paul Wight to the ring, who is booked to be the guest referee at WrestleMania.  Cole is trying to get Wight over as “The Big Nasty,” so I guess it is good that “The Big Show” name was chosen instead.  WWF Champion The Rock also comes out, quickly getting into a verbal confrontation with Wight, telling him to “Know his role.”  McMahon’s efforts at playing peacemaker get nowhere until Mankind marches onto the stage and volunteers to referee the WrestleMania main event, as well as referee a Rock-Wight encounter tonight.  Wight then proceeds to challenge the Rock to a match, which the Rock gladly accepts and he says he will put the WWF title on the line too.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 15, 1999

A series of narrated photographs recaps last night’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Birmingham, Alabama.

Commissioner Shawn Michaels comes out and welcomes out the participants in the WrestleMania main event:  WWF Champion Mankind and Steve Austin.  Before anything can be said between them, Vince McMahon interrupts, wearing a neck brace and selling his beating from Austin the previous night.  McMahon claims to be a broken man and that he wants a fresh start with Austin on the condition that Austin apologizes.  Austin does apologize, but only for beating McMahon more than he intended.  McMahon tells Michaels that people deserve a WWF title rematch between Mankind and the Rock because their match last night ended in a draw so he needs to do his job and book it for tonight.  Mankind says he needs a week to recover, bringing out the Rock, who continues to goad Michaels into booking a title match for this evening.  Mankind decides to take on the Rock after all and to make sure that there is a winner Michaels announces that tonight’s title match will be a ladder match.  After that, McMahon welcomes out Paul Wight, who he says will be the special guest referee of the title match at WrestleMania.  Austin simply flips him off from the ring to end the segment.

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What the World Was Watching: Saturday Night Raw – February 13, 1999

Even though it is the height of the Attitude Era, RAW was still being pre-empted by the Westminster Dog Show.  As a result, this is Saturday Night Raw. At least it is in Skydome and that is always a cool visual.

A video package recaps the Austin-McMahon feud from the Royal Rumble up to last week’s show.

Michael Cole and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  This is the “go home” show for St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 1, 1999

Footage of Mankind defeating the Rock for the WWF title during Halftime Heat is shown.  There was a spoiler for that match since this show was taped nearly a week before that match aired.

Shane McMahon tells the Corporation that Vince McMahon is on a separate assignment in Texas, so he lets them know that he is in charge.  Test, Ken Shamrock, and the Big Bossman have no idea where Kane is.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Tucson, Arizona.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 25, 1999

Pictures and audio excerpts recap last night’s Royal Rumble match.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth from Phoenix, Arizona.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 18, 1999

-Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Beaumont, Texas.  This is the go home show for the Royal Rumble.

Cole is in the ring to interview Steve Austin, but Austin just turns it into a single man segment as he rips the microphone out of Cole’s hands.  This is just a generic “build promo” for the Rumble, with Austin recapping a month’s worth of storylines about how he will be the first entrant, Vince McMahon will be the second entrant, and that all twenty-nine men will want to throw him out so that they can receive $100,000 from Vince.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 11, 1999

It has been a long time since the World Was Watching appeared here on the Blog.  That was partly due to some career moves on my part and just a general lack of time.  That is solved for the time being, though, so we will head back into 1999.  The last recap ended – somewhat fittingly – with Mankind’s upset title victory over the Rock.  The Road Dogg also defended his Hardcore title against Al Snow out in the snow on the last show and the tasteless Terri Runnels pregnancy angle began with D-Lo Brown.  Needless to say, 1999 will be a combination of some memorable moments and some really wacky Russo booking.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Houston, Texas.

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UT bums me out

Hey Scott, i know the UT-Brock angle was really well done an all. But man, im just not feeling it. I cant recall ever being this bummed out over seeing the Undertaker.

Is it just me being a typical bitchy smart mark? Or are they honestly making a mistake here??

​Well I mean, if you’re gonna bring Undertaker back, then the Brock match is the biggest one they have. That being said, you’re hotshotting UT to get ratings back to where they were a couple of months ago, and what’s going to happen in the fall when football starts again and the product REALLY goes off a cliff?

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 4, 1999

I had a small scare
last week as I could not find my 1999 RAW DVD set to recap these shows.  I eventually found it, so we trudge forth
into another year of WWF action.  One
could argue that 1999 was a turning point in the Monday Night Wars as the WWF
expanded its lead over WCW, although there were several times when WCW may have
been able to capitalize on the WWF pushing some midcard talents up the card to
regain the lead.  This is also the height
of Vince Russo’s power within the company as he will be booking RAWs until
October.
­Michael Cole and Jerry “the King” Lawler are
doing commentary and they are taped from Worchester, Massachusetts.

A video package recaps
Shawn Michaels getting fired on last week’s show and giving Sweet Chin Music to
Vince McMahon.  Kevin Kelly narrates a
small tribute to his career, which Vince hilariously interrupts by shouting “Get
that sentimental crap off the screen!” 
The Corporation walks out with him and Vince promises that Michaels will
not be attending the show since he is not brave.  As Vince talks, Brisco sneakily attaches a Brisco
Brothers Body Shop sign to Kane’s back without him knowing, which is a great
touch.  The Titantron
shows that Michaels has showed up backstage and quickly comes onto the stage
with D-Generation X.  Michael Cole
screams about whether this means DX and Shawn Michaels are back together, a
question that should obviously answer itself. 
We get some corporate speak as Michaels says that he has an ironclad
contract as commissioner so Vince cannot fire him.  After replaying the Royal Rumble drawing that
Vince and Shane McMahon held several weeks ago where Vince received #30 after
wishing he was #2, Michaels gives Vince his wish.  I have to give them credit for justifying
this with Michaels saying that when Vince entered the Rumble he became a
wrestler and under Michaels power. 
Michaels also promises to give Vince a surprise before tonight’s show is
over and that it will drive him “Stone Cold crazy.”
Opening Non-Title
Contest:  Steve Blackman pins Ken
Shamrock (Champion) after Billy Gunn gives Shamrock a Fameasser at 3:25:
The former mixed martial arts allies collide here and Dan
Severn walks out a minute into the bout still sporting a neck brace.  After a few brief minutes of action, Shamrock
nails Severn when Severn gets on the apron and Billy Gunn uses that opportunity
to interfere and cost Shamrock the match. 
How Severn fits into all of this, since he is feuding with Owen Hart, is
not explained.  Rating:  *
The Rock and Vince
McMahon are on the cover of Southwest Spirit magazine!
The camera catches
Ken Shamrock and Billy Gunn brawling backstage before WWF officials separate
them.
Mankind comes out
and says that he wants a WWF title shot against the Rock at the Royal Rumble
since he beat him at Rock Bottom.  He
calls out Vince, who walks out and runs down how Mankind doing things to
appease the people is pathetic.  Vince
says that Mankind does not deserve to be the number one contender because he
has not paid his dues and that he will probably never wrestle for the title
again.  Instead, Vince books a match
between Mankind and Triple H, with the winner getting to enter the Royal
Rumble.  A guest referee will officiate
the match and that referee will be Shane McMahon.  Austin-McMahon gets a lot of attention from
1998-1999, but the Vince-Mankind interactions were a close rival to that feud
in terms of compelling and entertaining television.
Chyna and her friend
Sammi are shown talking backstage.
Mark Henry beats
Goldust via disqualification after Goldust hits Shattered Dreams at 3:40:
Henry really needs a new ring attire as he is still
sporting his Nation of Domination-style gear. 
Cole makes sure that we know all about Henry’s “tree trunk size legs.”  Word is that such a moniker was quite an
honor before Big Show showed up the following month with his “frying pan size
hands.”  Henry has Goldust beat until
Chyna and Sammi appear on the ramp and this distractions causes Henry to fall
prey to Shattered Dreams.  I never got
the logic of the Shattered Dreams move. 
Why use something like that in clear view of the referee when you know
it will get you disqualified?  Rating: 
¾*
After the match,
Chyna and Sammi come to the ring, with Chyna confessing to Henry that he is too
much man for her, and that she and Sammi want to take a load off of his
mind.  Henry faints at this offer.
Congratulations to
Jesse Ventura, who was inaugurated as Minnesota’s governor earlier in the
day.  You see, all of this was due to the
WWF giving him an opportunity years ago! 
What is interesting is that Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the inauguration
and would become California’s governor four years later.
Dennis Knight is
shown chained in a cellar at an undisclosed location.
Test and The
Godfather (w/the Hos) wrestle to a double disqualification at 1:59:
This is before Test got the theme that repeated his name
over and over again so he has this weird country-style tune that is not fitting for a former Metallica bodyguard. 
The Godfather does not offer Test the hos, so you know that he means
business.  Cole also lets us know that
Test has “amazing athletic ability” for – get this – stepping over the top
rope!  Test and the Godfather brawl on
the floor as the referee loses control of the match and Val Venis runs down to
fight with Test before WWF officials break them up.  If you recall, Test and Venis have a
lingering issue from the last show where Test cost Venis his Hardcore title
shot.
Shawn Michaels is
shown having a fun conversation with DX backstage.  Cole is still shocked that they are back
together!
Royal Rumble
Qualifying Match with Shane McMahon as the Special Guest Referee:  Triple H (w/Chyna) defeats Mankind with a
sunset flip at 2:55:
This is a pretty mediocre match, but there’s a reason behind
all of it.  Mankind dominates much of the
action until Triple H hits a sunset flip from the apron and Shane McMahon,
after kicking Mankind’s hands away from the ropes, registers a quick three
count.  Triple H gets on the mic to tell
Mankind that he does not regret winning in such a fashion as it gets him closer
to the WWF title, but he also wishes him a “Happy New Year!” by Pedigreeing
Shane.  Mankind proceeds to put Shane in
a submission hold and threatens to break his shoulder unless Vince gives
him a title shot later in the evening. 
Vince agrees to that and also agrees to make it no disqualification
under duress.  This was such a great
piece of storytelling as the McMahons master plan backfired and babyface
elements that shared a common hatred of the McMahons worked together to make
that happen.
After the segment,
WWF Champion The Rock angrily walks out and complains to Vince about being
booked to defend the title.
D-Lo Brown
wrestles Edge to a no contest at 4:30:
This match does not have a story, but it serves as a
small trial run for two guys that the company had high hopes for at the
time.  Only one of them eventually made
it to main event status, but that is the way things go sometimes.  D-Lo hits a nice Sky High when Edge dives off
the top rope, but PMS walks out to take all of the attention away from that.  Terri
Runnels, who is showing her “pregnancy,” distracts D-Lo and when D-Lo goes
after her, Terri falls off the steps. 
This is the infamous “miscarriage angle” that Jim Cornette still gets
hot about in shoot interviews and with good reason as this served little purpose and probably bothered some viewers who may have gone through
such an awful experience in their lives. 
And of course, the whole thing also ruined this match.  Rating:  *½
Shane McMahon,
Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and Kane walk out, with Kane still sporting the
sign on his back from earlier in the show. 
I love how Kane is such an outcast that not a single person backstage
bothered to tell him about it for the last ninety minutes.  Shane gets on the mic and books an impromptu
handicap match that pits the stooges against Kane since they were “remotely
responsible” for Mankind’s attack him a few weeks ago.  Patterson hilariously offers Kane a
cigarette, which is rebuffed, and the stooges eat some chokeslams.  Kane also teases chokeslamming Shane, but is
convinced not to do so under threat of going back to the insane asylum.
Dennis Knight begs
for help as the Acolytes tell him that “It’s time.”  I would be begging for mercy if someone tried
to get me to watch that pay-per-view again too!
Hardcore
Championship Match:  The Road Dogg
(Champion) beats Al Snow (w/Head) 8:35 with a piledriver on some wooden crates:
Snow has still not gotten over his bloodbath at the hands
of the Brood, sporting his blood drenched shirt from several weeks ago.  Snow kills himself to get over here, going
through a table on a moonsault off the ringside barrier and taking chairshots
and cookie sheet shots to the head. 
Speaking of cookie sheets, Road Dogg adds a small touch by unbending a
cookie sheet after he smacks Snow with it, which in wrestling terms makes his
blows pack more power or something like that. 
What the match is notable for is that spills out of the arena
where a snow shower is taking place. 
Referee Jack Doan cannot even maintain his footing as he keeps sliding
on black ice.  Road Dogg ends the match
with a piledriver, continuing his run of entertaining title defenses.  Rating:  ***
The Acolytes toss
Dennis Knight into a smoky room where screams can be heard and close the door
behind him
.
Shawn Michaels
leaves the arena to get the “Stone Cold surprise” and wishes DX well.  After Michaels leaves, Triple H suggests to
the camera that things may not turn out well and sure enough, Michaels cannot
get into his car because he has the wrong key. 
He is locked out of the arena and a voice calls his name as we head to
commercial.  When we return, he is a
bloody mess on the hood of his car and is attended to by medical personnel
A
replay shows that the Corporation was responsible for the assault.
No
Disqualification Match for the WWF Championship Match:  Mankind (w/D-Generation X) pins The Rock
(Champion w/The Corporation) to win the title after Steve Austin hits the Rock
with a chair at 8:48:
The Rock is recovering from his gyno surgery, so he is
wrestling his track outfit here.  An
entertaining sequence takes place when the Rock rips off Cole’s headset to give
some comments and then Mankind beats up the Rock, takes the headset, and
announces to the world that he has “testicular fortitude” in a really corny
way.  They make full use of the no
disqualification stipulation, with the Rock putting Mankind through the
announce table with a Rock Bottom and punishing him with the stairs and ring
bell.  Lawler makes sure to take a dig at
WCW too by saying that this “is not a title match that begins two minutes
before the show ends.”  Despite being no
disqualification, the Rock feels that he has to hide hitting Mankind with the
title and the same is true for the return of Steve Austin to arguably the
loudest pop in the history of the company – interference that gives Mankind an
improbabe WWF championship run.  It
never gets old seeing Austin return here as people jump up and down in the
front row and lose their mind at the title change.  Another great part of the end sequence is Billy
Gunn moving at 100 miles per hour to knock Shamrock for a loop after Shamrock
blasts Mankind with a chair.  The match was
not good, but the heat for the closing sequence was incredible.  Rating:  **¼
The Final Report:  This is a notable show in the company’s
history because WCW famously had Tony Schiavone spoil Mankind’s victory
by saying that “Cactus Jack” would be winning the title and sarcastically
saying “that’ll put butts in the seats!” 
The spoiler did not cause RAW to lose the ratings battle that night, but
it is a myth that viewers immediately turned off Nitro when they heard
Schiavone’s words and flocked over to RAW. 
Still, that idea has acquired its own place in WWF lore like the DX “tank”
turning the Monday Night Wars around. 
The title change and the build up to it is what makes this RAW fun and
it overshadows the offensive stuff such as the Terri miscarriage angle and the
other silly booking related to Mark Henry and Sammi.  Unfortunately, not all shows would be able to
make up for Russo’s weird ideas in 1999, but at least this one hit a
home run to start the year.
Monday Night War Rating:  5.7 (vs. 5.0 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation: 
Thumbs Up

NXT Before Raw?

Scott,

First time long time.  Would the WWE ever consider putting NXT from 8-9 PM before Raw airs to break up the monotony of the three hour show?  Of course they could still tape it (once in a while live would be cool though) and they could have a "shocking ending" leading into their flagship program!  Win-win as long as USA agrees right?

​Totally disagree.  That's putting way too much pressure on guys that are barely ready for TV as it is.  Ratings would be a disaster and USA would meddle.  It's much better to just have it on the Network where a limited amount of people can even have access, because it not only gives a smaller audience to work with, but actually makes people WANT to see it.  ​

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 28, 1998

A video package
recaps last week’s show where Shane McMahon assumed temporary control and was summarily
destroyed by Mankind.  Kane also went “corporate”
for the first time in his career by attacking D-Generation X to end the show.
Michael Cole and
Jerry “The King” Lawler are tonight’s commentary team and they are live from
Albany, New York.  Cole is still calling
the show “the best action adventure series on television.”

Vince McMahon
tells Shane McMahon that everyone that attacked him last week will pay.  He pledges to humiliate and fire Commissioner
Shawn Michaels when he shows up at the arena. 
The Corporation then invades the arena’s boiler room en masse looking
for Mankind.  Mankind eventually launches
a sneak attack, but cannot fight off a boatload of guys on his own.  Vince tells Mankind that he will get a
Hardcore title shot later in the evening as a belated Christmas gift, although
this will require some rebooking because Hardcore Champion The Road Dogg is
booked to face Val Venis in the opener. 
The booking is doing a good job making Kane a sympathetic figure as the
stooges keep yelling at him.
Opening Contest
for the Hardcore Championship:  The Road
Dogg (Champion) and Val Venis wrestle to a no contest at 1:50:
Based on the previous segment, it is no surprise that the
Corporation walks out to ringside less than two minutes into this bout.  Test attacks Venis as referee Earl Hebner
calls for the bell, not quite understanding the rules of a Hardcore title bout,
and D-Generation X comes out to protect Road Dogg.
Vince McMahon
informs the Road Dogg that he will defend his title against Mankind and says
that Commissioner Shawn Michaels will be fired for not helping Shane last
week.  This is a nice crazy Vince promo
as he goes nuts about his desire to fire Michaels, which he says he would love
to do to every member of the audience
.
Al Snow is still
freaking out over last week’s bloodbath at the hands of the Brood, but it is
unclear whether he received another bloodbath or has not changed out of the
clothes he had on last week.
Vince talks with
Kane as the stooges make fun of Kane behind his back.  Vince assigns Kane the task of going after an
unspecified member of D-Generation X.
Edge beats Al
Snow (w/Head) via disqualification when Snow hits Edge with Head at 2:49:
Edge uses his original entrance theme and does not have
the Brood here, which does not fit within existing storylines, especially if
Snow is angry over last week’s bloodbath. 
The Head is different for this bout as it is shaved and also has blood
on it.  Snow squashes Edge here, hitting
him with a million headbutts and destroying him with Head until the Brood and
JOB Squad run out.  For all intents and
purposes, Edge should be carted out of here on a stretcher, but he merely walks
out as if nothing happened and smiles at the JOB Squad.  For his part, Snow escapes through the
audience for some reason.
Sable warms up
backstage for her Women’s title defense tonight
.
Sable winning the
Women’s title from Jacqueline at Survivor Series is the Glover Slam of the Week
.
Dennis Knight,
formerly of Southern Justice, is shown talking with X-Pac backstage
.
The next match is
supposed to be Sable defending the WWF Women’s title.  Before it gets started, the yet-to-be-named
Tori gets into the ring and presents Sable with a white rose before being
carted off by security.  Sable is booked
to face Spider Lady, who attacks her from behind and whips her with a
belt.  The Oddities, who now have George “the
Animal” Steele with them, rush the ring and Spider Lady unmasks to reveal Luna
Vachon.  What you thought the Fabulous
Moolah was trying to “shoot” her way to another title?  Luna screams that it is her time and she
needs to get more respect, while Cole is just outraged that Luna would do such
a thing to a loving, compassionate creature like Sable.  When we return from the commercial break, the
Oddities tend to Sable’s injuries backstage
.
European
Championship Match:  X-Pac (Champion) wrestles
The Big Bossman to a double disqualification at 5:13:
The previous night on Sunday Night Heat, Kane defeated
X-Pac in a non-title match and this match is the continuation of his punishment
for doing the Bronco Buster to Shane McMahon on last week’s show.  X-Pac is really over here, especially when he
makes his comeback, and Test tries to run interference, but in a nice piece of
continuity Val Venis makes the save.  We
are still without a clean finish tonight, but the crowd still loved this.  Rating:  *¾
We get our first
training vignette for Vince in the Royal Rumble.  These were some of the funniest vignettes of
the Attitude Era as Shane functioned as a merciless trainer and Vince
complained the whole way about doing sit ups with weights and drinking egg
yokes.  Vince’s cries of “I HATE AUSTIN!”
were also great as he got into his workouts.
Goldust &
Steve Blackman defeats “Double J” Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (w/Debra) when
Blackman schoolboys Owen at 3:17:
The announcers will just not let the “Shawn Michaels is
going to be fired!” story go, talking about it on an average of once per
minute.  The WWF is no longer using Debra’s
full name, just calling her “Debra” because the WWE has never cared for its
female stars to have first and last names. 
This may also be due to the fact that Debra divorced Steve McMichael in
October and the WWF finally got with the times. 
Owen locks Blackman in the Sharpshooter when Dan Severn randomly walks
out in a neck brace and confronts him. 
After about forty seconds of that, Blackman and Goldust win via the WWF trademarked
distraction rollup.  What is funny is
that after the match, Severn just calmly walks up the ramp with the heels no more
than ten yards behind him.  Way to sell
that angle!  Rating:  *
Triple H and Chyna
are really focused as they make their way to the Gorilla position
.
The Acolytes beat
up Dennis Knight in the parking lot, toss him into the trunk of their car, and
drive away
.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Triple H (w/The New
Age Outlaws & Chyna) beats Ken Shamrock (Champion w/Test & The Big
Bossman) by disqualification when Shamrock refuses to release the anklelock at 6:26:
Instead of booking Billy Gunn to face Shamrock, they
really should have slotted Triple H into that position since you already had
the built-in story of how Triple H never lost the Intercontinental title and
was trying to get back what was rightfully his. 
This match is noticeable for me because Triple H pulls out the old N64
move of blasting Test with a baseball slide when Test gets too close to the
apron.  The company is really hurting
Shamrock’s finish as all the top stars keep getting to the ropes to escape it,
but his decision not to break the hold here fits within the existing
story.  A good match, although Triple H
could have sold the knee better during the closing sequence.  Rating:  **½
After the bell,
the Corporation and D-Generation X brawl, with the Corporation winning after
Kane reluctantly gets into the ring.
Billy Gunn
temporarily winning the Intercontinental title from Ken Shamrock is the
10-10-220 Rewind segment
.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Gunn, but before Gunn can say much of note, Shamrock crashes the
segment.  None of this goes anywhere.
Mark Henry and
D-Lo Brown walk out and Henry apologizes to Chyna for fooling around with PMS
last week.  PMS come out, with Henry hilariously
hiding behind D-Lo, who calls PMS “ring rats.” 
Chyna then makes an entrance and sticks up for Henry, telling PMS to “stay
away from her man.”  Jacqueline makes the
mistake of not heeding Chyna’s advice and gets shoved to the canvas as Henry
jumps for joy.  This was great too because
Terri immediately fled from Chyna, possibly remembering getting choked out and
being flung around like a ragdoll in the winter of 1997.  If you follow all of the shows through 1998,
this segment works really well.  I marked
out for it.
The Corporation
has another meeting backstage and when we get back they are going through the
locker room looking for someone.
We get a video package
that recaps 1998.  The problem with the
video is that they do not put things in chronological order so we just bounce
around to different segments and matches.
The Corporation attacks
the Godfather backstage, who was booked to face Billy Gunn in the next match.
Kane (w/Shane
McMahon, Pat Patterson & Gerald Brisco) defeats Billy Gunn by disqualification
when X-Pac interferes at 3:54:
With the Godfather on the shelf, Kane is inserted into
his place by Shane McMahon.  Ken Shamrock
attacks Gunn from behind minutes into the match and applies the ankle
lock.  Kane chokeslams Billy and appears
headed for a win, but the stooges have him repeat the chokeslam two more
times.  Before Kane can hit the move a
third time, D-Generation X runs in to make the save.  Rating:  *
WWF Champion The
Rock walks out to do guest commentary for the main event
.
Commissioner Shawn
Michaels is shown arriving to the arena, which is humorous because the show is
nearly over.
Hardcore
Championship Match:  The Road Dogg
(Champion) pins Mankind after the Rock this Mankind with a Rock Bottom at 9:08
shown:
The match starts during the commercial break so we join
it in progress.  The Rock’s commentary
brings this match up a notch as he puts himself over, but also puts over the
talent of both competitors.  There are
weapons used here, but at least they are used creatively with Mankind leg
dropping a chair onto Road Dogg’s face and Road Dogg using the chair for a side
Russian leg sweep.  One spot that makes
no sense here is that Road Dogg breaks up a pin by getting his feet on the
ropes as you would figure rope breaks should not apply in a match where the
rules are suspended.  Mankind appears headed
for a win after he elbow drops the Road Dogg through a table in the crowd, but
the Rock leaves the booth and interferes to put the Road Dogg over.  Fans are so crazy over the Rock that four or
five security guards have to push back the sea of humanity that surrounds the
bout to get the Rock back to the locker room. 
The Road Dogg was arguably the best Hardcore champion in WWF history,
putting on lots of entertaining title defenses before the garbage came to
overwhelm the actual wrestling.  In a
nice touch, Road Dogg sees the way that he won the match and hates the fact
that he needed interference to retain the title.  Rating:  ***¼
Vince McMahon
comes to the ring and calls out Shawn Michaels. 
Vince recounts how he was the reason for Michaels success and shows
footage from March where Michaels said that he did not need Vince as much as
Vince needed him.  Vince then proceeds to
fire Michaels and parts by saying that he does not laying down for anyone.  This, predictably, ends with Michaels
delivering Sweet Chin Music and simulating a lewd act on Vince before the
Corporation runs out.
The Final Report Card:  Quite the entertaining RAW to close out 1998.  The main event was one of the better hardcore
matches in the company’s history and the closing segment and the Chyna-Mark
Henry-PMS segment stole the show.  It is
a testament to how good the roster was built during this time that Steve Austin’s
absence is hardly missed.  However, if you
look at the ratings, WCW has been gradually narrowing the Monday Night War gap
with RAW since Austin disappeared after Rock Bottom.
With the 1998 RAW reviews in the books,
where would the Blog like to head next? 
Should we go into 1999 with RAW or should we go back to look at 1993-1995,
Superstars from 1994-1997, Prime Time Wrestling from 1991-1992, the Action Zone
from 1994-1995, Shotgun Saturday Night from 1997-1998, Sunday Night Heat of
1998, or recap the old Coliseum Video “Best of” videos of the 1980s?  Whichever option gets the most support is
where I will head for next week and as always, thanks for reading and
interacting with these reviews.
Monday Night War Rating:  4.9 (vs. 4.6 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 21, 1998

Vince McMahon
tells the stooges that he is leaving to briefly train for the Royal Rumble (because
he supposedly could not do this earlier in the day) and he says he will come
back with a “Christmas bonus” for the Corporation.  He leaves Shane in charge of tonight’s show,
but reminds the stooges that he will hold them responsible for Shane’s
actions.  Once Vince drives off, Shane
races toward the arena because he has a lot of things to do.
Michael Cole and
Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Spokane,
Washington. Cole welcomes us to the “greatest action adventure series on
television!” whatever that means.

The Corporation
walks out to a generic techno beat and some of the Corporation’s initial
Titantron video was later incorporated into the “Hollywood Rock” Titantron.  Before Shane McMahon can begin his monologue,
D-Generation X walks out and brings out Mankind who hilariously tries to look
cool by using DX’s gestures. 
Commissioner Shawn Michaels books Billy Gunn to face Ken Shamrock, Road
Dogg to face Big Bossman, and Triple H & X-Pac to face The Rock & Test
(who is referred to as the “corporate insurance policy”).  As revenge for Mankind beating up Vince last
week, Shane decides to face him in the ring over the objections of the stooges.  Mankind and DX laugh at Shane’s challenge and
Mankind does some awful crotch chops on his way to the back.
Cole hypes the
latest edition of People Magazine, which featured Steve Austin as a “breakout”
star of 1998.
D-Lo Brown talks
to Mark Henry and tries to convince him not to fool around with the ladies in the
locker room because they have a match to attend to
.
Opening
Contest:  Al Snow (w/Head) beats Gangrel
with the Snow Plow at 3:00:
Teddy Long is the referee but he does not turn this into
a tag match.  Snow and Gangrel go back
and forth in a match that does not really have much rhyme or reason to it.  Snow goes over clean by hitting a Snow Plow
out of nowhere.  After the match, the
Brood attacks Snow in the dark and gives him a bloodbath.  I cannot remember if this bloodbath stuff is
leading anywhere, but are we to assume that Gangrel cares more about pouring
blood on his opponents than winning?  Rating: 
We are shown
footage of Snow freaking out about the bloodbath during the commercial break
.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Billy Gunn defeats
Ken Shamrock (Champion) by reversing a victory roll at 8:21:
Shamrock gets arguably the biggest heel heat in his
career as the Spokane crowd works up a loud “Shamrock sucks!” chant.  After the four minute mark, this really picks
up as Shamrock works the knee and Billy gets some well-timed hope spots to keep
the crowd engaged.  Billy appears to have
won the title as this was announced as a title match, but Commissioner Shawn
Michaels steps in to say that he never booked the match that way so Shamrock
keeps the title.  The WWF loved that
finish in December, having used a version of it at Rock Bottom.  After the match, Gunn moons Michaels, but
Shamrock takes him out.  Rating: 
***
Hawk costing Droz
a match against Al Snow on Sunday Night Heat is the Playstation Slam of the
Week
.
Hawk walks out
after having fallen off the Titantron the night after Survivor Series.  The WWF was so concerned about him that they
never bothered providing an update about his condition on subsequent RAWs.  Hawk says that Droz was his dope pusher and
enabler, doing so in an effort to take Hawk’s job.  Hawk pledges to get revenge when he heals up,
but Droz comes out and attacks him from behind.  Animal comes down and tosses Droz off of Hawk,
but the partners do not have a full reconciliation
.
Mark Henry says
that he is ready to have some fun with PMS and goes into their locker
room.  D-Lo Brown is beside himself at
his partner’s behavior
.
Footage of Steve
Austin giving Santa a Stone Cold Stunner last year is shown
.
Steve Blackman
defeats The Blue Blazer via disqualification when Owen Hart interferes at 2:22:
Before the bout, Owen Hart comes out and says that he has
proven that he is not the Blue Blazer and that part of the “Blue Blazer lives
inside each and every one of us.”  He
then says on commentary that he hopes the Blazer gets unmasked so that “he can
get to the bottom of this” and compares his plight to OJ Simpson and Bill
Clinton.  Blackman beats the Blazer up
like a jobber until Owen predictably runs in for a two-on-one beatdown before
Goldust intervenes.  He and Blackman
unmask the Blazer to reveal Jeff Jarrett. 
Jarrett tosses the Blazer cape back over his head as Owen shouts that he
does not know who the Blazer is.  For
comedy this is okay, but this angle is just doing nothing for everyone
involved.
PMS say that they
are going to take a shower as Henry watches
.
Hardcore
Championship Match:  The Road Dogg pins
The Big Bossman (Champion) when Mankind blasts the Bossman with a steel bar to
win the title at 6:55:
This is initially billed as non-title, but Road Dogg
goads the Bossman into putting the title on the line.  One could point to this match as when hardcore
matches jumped the shark as Road Dogg starts pulling out conveniently placed
cookie sheets and buckets from underneath the ring to attack the Bossman.  It is unfortunate that the Bossman is no
longer with us as his ring attire in 1998 foreshadowed the Shield so he would
fit right in.  Speaking of ring attire,
the Bossman goes to it to find objects to beat down Road Dogg such as a noose
(who knew wrestling could produce such vibrant social commentary?) and crack
cocaine (okay, it is just powder but it is funnier if you think it is crack
because why would police just carry random pouches of white powder?).  To send the silliness factor up a notch, the
finish comes when Mankind throws a net over the Bossman and blasts him with a
steel bar to give the Road Dogg the title. 
I hated this at first, but both guys stepped it up a notch when it went
into the crowd.  Rating:  **¼
PMS help Henry get
out of his clothes and put a collar on him. 
They then have him get on a massage table where they put a ball in his
mouth and put whipped cream on him.
A promo video sees
Jeff Jarrett rant about what pisses him off
.
The stooges try to
convince Shane McMahon not to square off with Mankind.
PMS now blindfold
Henry and strap him down to the table
.
Bob Holly &
Scorpio beat The Acolytes via disqualification at 3:20:
The Acolytes are still nothing more than Faarooq and
Bradshaw desperately trying to revive their careers.  The referee has no control of this as it is
just a wild brawl and somehow the Acolytes are the ones that get disqualified.  Rating:  DUD
Shane McMahon runs
toward the Gorilla position backstage as the stooges run after him and beg him
not to fight Mankind
.
Shane’s challenge
to Mankind is the Glover Rewind segment
.
Mankind beats
Shane McMahon (w/Pat Patterson & Gerald Brisco) via disqualification when
the Rock interferes at 3:04:
Shane comes out to the Brawl for All music which is a
nice touch.  The Corporation comes out
early into the match, but Shawn Michaels does not let them rush the ring when
Shane gets in trouble.  Mankind gives
Shane a chair, but no sells the chair shot he receives.  He then dispatches of the stooges with
ease.  Somehow all of this is legal and
the Rock eventually hits the ring to lay out Mankind when Shane becomes trapped
in the Mandible Claw.  As Mankind and the
Rock brawl at ringside, X-Pac does a Bronco Buster to Shane until the
Corporation rescues him.  Not much of a
match, but it was still entertaining.  Rating: 
*
Classie Freddie
Blassie plays the part of “vulgar Santa” in a WWF Attitude vignette
.
The stooges are
worried about how they are going to be punished by Vince when he comes back to
the arena.
D-Lo tries to get
Henry from PMS, but cannot get into their locker room and has to head the ring
alone.  Footage from the PMS locker room
shows PMS whipping Henry and there is a clamp on him as well.
The Headbangers
beat D-Lo Brown with a double flapjack at 2:42:
Lawler spends his time during this match providing
details on the other abuse PMS is putting Henry through in the locker room.  D-Lo puts up a good fight here, but cannot
beat the former tag team champions. 
Henry walks out after the finish looking the worse for wear and D-Lo
shows no sympathy.
Patterson tells
Brisco to keep his mouth shut as Vince arrives back at the arena.  Brisco does not follow instructions, makes
Vince angry, and then hilarious asks Patterson if he thinks they will still get
their Christmas bonus
.
Check out the
latest edition of Tattoo magazine that talks about the Undertaker!
Triple H &
X-Pac (w/D-Generation X) wrestle The Rock & Test (w/The Corporation) to a
no contest at 10:30:
Prior to the match, Shawn Michaels expels D-Generation X
from ringside, but Vince walks out and overrules him.  Test just does some basic offense here,
getting repetitive with delivering several knees in the corner, but does a good
job looking imposing and versatile.  When
it looks as if the Rock will finish off Triple H, the arena’s lights go out and
Kane walks out, but he chokeslams Triple H instead of going after his former
enemies.  He also takes out the rest of
D-Generation X, including Chyna as the show goes off the air.  So Kane was the “Christmas bonus.”  At least he did not come out as the “Christmas
Creature.”  It would have been nice to
get a clear finish after sitting through this, but it does keep everyone
reasonably protected so it served that purpose. 
Rating:  **
The Final Report:  After the Road Dogg-Bossman match, this show
lost a lot of direction.  We had the
ridiculous PMS-Mark Henry stuff crowding the show (and probably leaving some
parents horrified and deciding that their children would not be watching WWF
programming in the near future) and then a weird Kane turn at the end (which in
the long run would not last very long). 
Some of the impact of the end of the slow loses its luster since Kane
has been around forever; has turned 20,000 times or so; and the character has
lost all meaning.  The Corporation was
also becoming way too big for its own good at this point, starting to mirror
the NWO in late 1996 when everyone and their mother, father, aunt, uncle, and
cousin decided to join up.  If you watch
this show, follow the first half but then abandon it after the Hardcore title
switch.
Monday Night War Rating:  4.7 (vs. 4.0 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 14, 1998

Pictures and
commentary from last night’s Rock Bottom pay-per-view are aired.
Michael Cole and
Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from Tacoma,
Washington
.

D-Generation X
comes out dressed as the Corporation as Cole is so nice to tell us that all of
this is supposed to be funny over and over again.  Jason Sensation also makes a return as
Commissioner Shawn Michaels.  Aside from
Sensation, the only entertaining part of this segment is X-Pac’s imitation of
Shamrock where he screams about how he is in the zone and how its “five knuckle
shuffle time!”  After this long segment
comes to a close, Shawn Michaels, the Big Bossman, Ken Shamrock, and the Rock
walk out.  Michaels books a rematch of
last night’s tag team title match between the New Age Outlaws and Shamrock and
the Bossman.  Michaels takes a dig at
Triple H as being a “midcarder for life,” but Triple H goads the Rock into
putting the WWF title on the line in the main event.
Vince McMahon
gives a pep talk to the Corporation in the locker room
, ending it with a promise to go after Kane
since Kane is deemed as one of the primary reasons Steve Austin qualified for
the Royal Rumble at Rock Bottom.
Opening
Contest:  Supply & Demand (w/The Hos)
defeat Edge & Christian (w/Gangrel) when Val Venis pins Christian with a
fisherman’s suplex at 2:34:
The Godfather was beginning to get the “Pimpin’ ain’t
easy” line over at this point, adding to the number of catchphrases by the
company’s stars.  The Brood is so weird
that the Godfather does not bother to give them any hos.  Edge and Christian make one of their first
appearances as a tag team as the company was realizing that they could put on
better matches than Edge and Gangrel.  Or
maybe the company realized that if you are going to bill Edge and Christian as
brothers that it was nonsensical to not have them for a tag team.  This is just a quick TV bout, typical of the
era, with the ending being messy as Venis enters the ring too late after a
blind tag and Edge does not even bother trying to break up the final pin.   With the Brood’s gimmick you would think
Russo would find more for these guys to do, but they keep losing to other
midcard acts week after week.
After the match,
Gangrel says that there is going to be a bloodbath the next time that the Brood
appears.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Steve Blackman who says he will unmask the Blue Blazer tonight.  For a guy who is a legitimate bad ass like
Blackman, it is a shame that he cannot cut a convincing promo.
Goldust beats The
Blue Blazer via disqualification when Jeff Jarrett interferes at 2:10:
This is a revenge match from the previous evening as the
Blue Blazer kept Debra McMichael from finishing her striptease at Rock
Bottom.  As several have commented in my
reviews it is tough to watch this Blue Blazer angle when you know how it is
going to end in six months.  This match
hardly gets going before Jeff Jarrett interferes to break up Shattered Dreams.  Steve Blackman lives up to his promise to
also do a run-in and he does unmask the Blazer as Owen.  Why not do the unmasking on
pay-per-view?  In a humorous bit, Jarrett
tosses a black cloth over Owen’s head as if he is too ugly to be seen after the
unmasking.
Mark Henry gets
ready for a match backstage
.
The New Age
Outlaws and the Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock are prevented from having a
confrontation backstage by WWF officials
.
Mark Henry &
D-Lo Brown (w/PMS) beats Scorpio & Bob Holly (w/Al Snow, Duane Gill &
The Blue Meanie) when Henry pins Holly after a powerslam at 3:00:
This might be the RAW debut of the “Sexual Chocolate”
theme song, although it is not a great tag team entrance theme since it does
not work for D-Lo.  Before the match,
Henry talks about his date with Chyna and how it got intimate, with D-Lo giving
fantastic facial expressions throughout. 
The Chyna angle is where Henry started to show the personality that made
him an effective superstar as he participated in some ridiculous segments that
were meant to discourage him and get him to quit.  The whole point of this match is to keep
building D-Lo and Henry, as well as PMS, and the JOB Squad are manhandled and
outwitted.  Rating:  *
Mankind’s attack
on the Rock before the Rock Bottom pay-per-view is the Acclaim Sports Slam of
the Week
.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Ken Shamrock &
The Big Bossman (w/Shawn Michaels) defeat The New Age Outlaws (Champions) when
Shamrock makes Billy Gunn submit to the ankle lock to win the titles at 6:45:
One fan has a big “Clinton 3:16” sign near the front of
the ring that cracks me up since that is not something that you would expect to
see at a wrestling show.  Unlike last
night’s pay-per-view, the challengers focus on a body part, targeting Billy
Gunn’s left knee after Shamrock smashes a chair into it.  The Road Dogg also gets a chair to the back
and a Bossman slam, which leads to a second hot tag to Gunn, which is a bad
idea since he is fighting on one leg. 
Still, it takes a Michaels night stick shot to the back of the head to
put the Outlaws down for the count.  So
why could we not have just done this finish last night?  Rating:  **
Vince and Shane
McMahon walk out to conduct the drawing of Steve Austin’s number for the Royal
Rumble.  Vince says that he will get
revenge against Kane and Mankind tonight and he books them to face each other
in a no holds barred match.  In the
subsequent drawing, Austin is awarded #1, but you see, the drawing is rigged as
it appears that all of the numbers in the tumbler are #1.  To make Austin’s job of winning the Rumble
even more difficult, Vince also promises to give the superstar that tosses
Austin over the top rope $100,000 (which will be taken from one of Shane’s
trust funds).  As a final announcement,
Vince says that another participant in the Rumble match, someone who is the
only person that “could save Ted Turner’s WCW,” will be him.  Shane proceeds to draw a number out of the
tumbler for Vince and he gets #30. 
Christening his new theme song, Vince says there is “no chance in hell”
that Austin will win the Rumble.  Mankind
then appears on the Titantron from the boiler room and challenges Vince to a
match instead of facing Kane, but Vince does not accept.
Get your Jesse
“the Body” Ventura videotape!  You know,
the guy that the WWF tried to purge from its history until he won the Minnesota
gubernatorial election!
Debra McMichael’s
striptease at Rock Bottom is the Glover Rewind segment.
Vince huddles with
stooges about what to do with Mankind until deciding that he is better off
coming up with his own solution for the problem.  Gerald Brisco is still offering to get him
coffee
.
Guitar on a Pole
Match:  “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra
McMichael) pins Steve Blackman after Owen Hart hits Blackman with a guitar at
3:33:
Russo’s pole fetish finally finds its way to television
here.  It would have made more sense to
book this as Jarrett-Goldust since Goldust is the one that got blasted with a
guitar last night at Rock Bottom.  Debra
starts stripping to distract Blackman and allow Jarrett to get the guitar, but
then we also get a ref bump after Blackman avoids getting hit with it.  Then, Owen Hart runs in with a guitar and
hits Blackman to give his partner in crime a victory.  This match was like a sick preview of what
Russo would do to WCW a couple of years later. 
Rating:  *
Tiger Ali Singh
calls the stooges into his locker room where “Bloodbath” has been written on
the wall.  He said that he does not want
to compete tonight under these conditions.
Vince tells Shane
that he is going to face Mankind tonight, but he will do it his way.
The next match is
booked as Gangrel-Tiger Ali Singh, but it never gets started as Tiger tries to
flee but the Broods prevents him from doing so, beat him down, and pour blood
on him.  You have to use your imagination
for all of this, though, because it takes place in the darkness of the Brood’s
entrance.
No Holds Barred
Match:  Mankind and Kane wrestle to a
no-contest at 4:28:
In this match, Lawler claims that the steps weigh 150
pounds, but last year’s TLCS pay-per-view told me they were over 500
pounds.  Poor Art Donovan would be so
confused.  This match is more about
angles as Mankind and Kane brawl for a few minutes before Vince comes out and
asks Mankind to come into the parking lot to face him in a street fight.  Then, while we are away at a commercial
break, Ken Shamrock and the Big Bossman beatdown Kane so that orderlies can
take him to a mental institution. 
Meanwhile, Mankind destroys Vince in the parking lot before the Rock
shows up and Rock Bottoms Mankind on the hood of a car.  Rating:  *
WWF Championship
Match:  The Rock (Champion w/Shawn
Michaels) defeats Triple H (w/Chyna) when Test interferes at 10:49:
Seeing the Rock and Michaels by each other just makes you
wish that they would have had a match at some point.  This match shows how wild crowds used to be
as people mob Triple H during his entrance when he gets close to the guardrail
and some fans even try to prevent the Rock from attacking Triple H near the
ringside barrier on the floor.  The Rock
is bit too liberal with the chinlocks in this one, but one could say the same
for Triple H’s knee attacks in this era. 
In true WWE style, they kick out of each other’s big moves, but when the
referee is distracted Test makes his in-ring debut by nailing Triple H with a pumphandle
slam and helping the Rock retain.  Rating: 
***
The Final Report:  Despite the absence of Steve Austin this show
effectively framed some of the big angles heading into the Royal Rumble
pay-per-view.  The matches were really abbreviated,
something that could be expected of WWF television at the time, but the main
event was solid since the Rock and Triple H usually had fantastic
chemistry.  On the basis of the main
event and the entertaining McMahon segments, this show garners a thumbs up.
Monday Night War Rating:  5.2 (vs. 4.2 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

WWF RAW: February 17, 1997

BigDaddyLoco: Undercard is total garbage and would have been helped by having Mankind somewhere on it, but The Fatal Fourway is just the best. A lot of times these matches don’t hold their value, but this one does. I love Austin at this stage of his career. Vader shows there is gas in the tank when you just let him do his thing. Bret is at his peak and gaining a mean streak. Undertaker is becoming less of a zombie and more of a badass brawler and is blossoming into the worker we know today.
The Mankind point is something I had meant to bring up when I initially sat down to write the piece, and is absolutely spot on. Mick had been on fire for months, but if you read Have a Nice Day you’ll find that McMahon was a little down on him at this point because he hadn’t committed to a new deal. Which makes sense, Vince had been burned repeatedly over the previous 18 months by guys jumping ship after the WWF had invested heavily in them. It’s just unfortunate, because he’s clearly amongst the most entertaining mid to upper card acts they’re running these days, and running out something where Mankind tries to “prove” to Uncle Paul he’s just as good as Vader would have helped balance the show a little better.
But, there’s little to complain about because the main event was the nuts. Vader was the surprise of the show, going into full-fledged War Machine (not to be confused with jailed porn-star War Machine). Steve Austin, meanwhile, is clearly headed to be the breakout star of 1997. There’s simply nowhere else to place your bets, as his years of experience in WCW are starting to pay dividends with a company that’s allowing him the creative freedom to be the piece of shit he always wanted to be. He’s a first-class bully, except he backs up what he throws down. With a death glare, you know your ass is grass if you don’t smarten up immediately, and the “Stone Cold” nickname could not be more fitting for a man who always appears a second away from becoming a serial killer.

The WWF have loaded their production trucks and driven 2 hours southeast into Nashville, Tennessee, where we are LIVE! This point is accentuated by VINCE MCMAHON, who says it with so much force you’d think he was throat singing. JIM ROSS and JERRY LAWLER join him, and we’re getting right down to business immediately.
SYCHO SID (0-3-0) vs. BRET HART (4-1-0) (for the WWF world heavyweight title)
They’re bringing out the big guns to counter Nitro, look out Randy Anderson! JR announces that the Undertaker will face the winner of this match at Wrestlemania 13, which seems like a fairly arbitrary pick without any explanation. I would imagine the argument is that he was screwed by Austin last night, but for god sakes, Vader had to wrestle with one eye on life-support. That’s also an injustice to Ahmed Johnson, who rightfully should be in the mix on account of the fact that YOU wouldn’t turn him down if he demanded a title shot. Sid and Bret each draw loud, but mixed reactions; odd knowing that one year earlier Bret was universally untouchable and honestly, nothing’s changed since then and now … but everything feels different. The WWF’s done an absolutely tremendous job of slow-burning this Bret story, by sending heels out to constantly remind us that Bret’s a crybaby and a whiner, with such frequency that they’re starting to look like they might have a point.
The guys look ready to square off, but suddenly STEVE AUSTIN rushes the ring because he hates Bret and pretty much isn’t going to rest until he’s 6 feet under. Sid tries to swat him off as well, but winds up getting clipped in the knee by Austin in the process. PAT PATTERSONJERRY BRISCO, and A BUNCH OF OFFICIALS AND SECURITY order Austin to get the hell out of here; but Sid’s gimping around now and is in no condition to compete. Vince McMahon has to physically restrain himself from immediately rushing into the ring to hold Sid closely, and Jim Ross manages to get through this without suggesting Sid’s the classiest class act that ever classed. However, on that topic …
                                                                                                                                                  
Last Thursday, Shawn Michaels took his ball(s) and went home.
KEVIN KELLY tries to get an update from SYCHO SID, whether or not he’ll be able to compete. Sid screams that even if his leg is broken, nothing’s going to stop him from winning the belt tonight. He should be fine, he never had a smile anyway.
MARC MERO (1-2-1) (with Sable) vs. SAVIO VEGA (3-2-1) (with PG-13, Crush, D’Lo Brown, A Well Dressed Man, Faarooq, and Clarence Mason)
Faarooq and Mason decide to hang back in the crowd, but flash the Black Power to let them know they’re brothers in different skin colors. Mero dropkicks Vega to the floor and follows with a somersault plancha that lands on both Savio and Crush. Looks like Marc’s the face tonight. I sort of miss the characters who were able to play dual roles. You don’t exactly love them, but when they face the REAL trash bags, you figure they’re better than the alternative and cheer them on. Savio starts laying in some chops, but Mero fires back with his boxing shots. The 10-punch count-a-long is stopped at 6 when Vega drops him back with snake eyes, and the audience audibly groans as his head snaps back off the buckle. Mero’s sent to the floor where Wolfie D attacks, so Sable kicks the crap out of HIM getting a HUGE pop. The Nation surrounds Sable, so she rushes into the ring to find protection, and the referee calls for a DQ at 4:17. The entire group circles the couple, but AHMED JOHNSON rushes in with his 2×4 to save the day. The Nation scatter like cockroaches as we head to commercial. Congratulations are in order for Savio Vega for breaking the negative star barrier tonight! 1/2*
BRET HART is getting sick and tired of Steve Austin sticking his nose in his business every single night. He’s looking ahead to a tough match with Sid tonight, and once he gets passed that he’ll worry about all the subsequent challengers. Lawler accuses Hart of brushing off Sid, but Bret says absolutely not, he’s just looking out for number 1 before he starts stepping in number 2. Lawler asks if he’s happy Austin hurt Austin, and Hart tells him to shut up. Hart drew a fair number of boos throughout this interview, and he’s starting to look visibly annoyed and agitated by the fans response lately.
LEIF CASSIDY (0-1-0) vs. ROCKY MAIVIA (6-1-0) (in a non-title match)
SUNNY is given the role of special timekeeper, showing off cleavage that extends all the way back to Connecticut. If Sunny had launched Wrestling Vixxxens at this point in her career, she’d have broken the Internet for good, and we wouldn’t be sharing these memories today. Rocky clotheslines Leif over the top rope with enough force to have drawn two disqualifications in WCW. Cassidy re-enters, and takes a crossbody for 2. Rock works over the shoulder, while we check in with …
HUNTER HEARSY HELMSLEY, who promises Rock couldn’t beat him again in a million years. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably not true. Also, if he finds Goldust, he’s a dead man.
Leif has taken over the match, and Ross urges him to let it all hang out. As someone who’s read “The Legend of the Penis Suplex”, I’d *REALLY* ask that that not happen. Cassidy jams a thumb in the eye of Rock, while some asshat fan starts blowing an air-horn. Rock goes to the inside cradle, but Leif isn’t Hunter, and escapes at 2. An armbar takedown causes Rocky to squeal, and a top rope karate chop looks to finish, but he’s up at 2. Leif goes back to the well, but Rock is up fast enough to cut him off and he slams Cassidy. The shoulderbreaker gets the win for the Rock at 9:32. *
Over at the announce table, there’s a disturbance.
Lawler snatches the sign away, and asks if anyone even knows anything about this group of idiots? He figures 99% of the people in the world have no idea what ECW is, which would actually make for pretty fantastic awareness if this was true. Jerry says it’s a place where misfits and talentless folks have congregated in Philadelphia, and he’s sick of the mutant idiots who wave signs in his face every single week. He says that a friend of his tried to get a Jerry Lawler sign into a WCW event in Tennessee, and they took it away from him, so he wants to know why the WWF isn’t doing the same thing? He tells them if they’re really all that tough, then they outta pop into the Manhattan Center next week, but he knows they don’t have the guts.
GOLDUST and MARLENA join KEVIN KELLY in the ring. Kevin tries to ask Goldust about Hunter, but he’s too busy crawling around on his knees and worshipping Marlena’s ladybits. He finally snatches the microphone away from Kevin, and tells Helmsley it’s personal because he’s been chasing around Marlena inappropriately. “All the money in the world couldn’t buy Marlena”. Kevin checks in with the lady herself, while Goldust feels her up. She goes on record to say that Goldust is all man, from gold head to gold feet. In fact, he’s more man than Hunter could ever dream to be. Goldust starts tweaking his own nipples in excitement, until HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY heads down to ringside. He tells Goldust if he wants Marlena, he’ll take her, and throws a drink in Goldust’s eyes. An All Man-Sized beating ensues, accentuated with a Pedigree. Marlena slaps Helmsley across his big nose, while draws THE AMAZON WOMAN into the ring. This she-beast grabs Marlena around the waste, and shakes her with more ferocity than a British Nanny – with Marlena’s joints basically becoming independent from the rest of her body, flailing and flapping until ALL THE REFEREES jump in the ring. What I wouldn’t have given for them to give her a warning, and a 5-count to release the hold; but it doesn’t happen as the-not-yet-named Chyna is escorted out of the premises.
THE NATION OF DOMINATION is backstage, and Faarooq is not in a good mood (well, at least in contrast to his usual bad moods). He’s pissed because Ahmed’s acting like he’s on a quest for “his people”, but he’s living in a high rise in Houston and driving 2 cars. He was raised in a 2 room house with 7 kids, the real streets. He offers a Chicago street fight to Ahmed at Wrestlemania, should he have the stones.
THE HEADBANGERS (2-1-1) vs. THE HARDY BOYS (1997 debut)
The Hardys start smiling and preening for the ladies, and wind up getting attacked by the Headbangers from behind. Matt gets double teamed in the corner, and gets botch tossed into the ropes where he scrapes his face instead of taking a hot shot. Bravo, Headbangers. An elbowdrop misses, and Jeff gets the hot tag. Dropkicks are delivered to all, but a clothesline turns him inside out and the Stage Dive finishes at 4:01. Jeff would fare much better after he hit puberty. *
SYCHO SID (0-3-0) vs. BRET HART (4-1-0) (for the WWF world heavyweight title)
Take two! However, before Bret can even leave the backstage area, STEVE AUSTIN attacks Bret again! As they get into a pull-apart brawl, Sid rushes back from the ring to join in the fray, but despite both guys trying to beat on Steve, he still manages to get some quality shots in on Bret. I’ve never had a mortal enemy, but if I did, I sure as shit wouldn’t want it to be Steve Austin.
After a break, GORILLA MONSOON is asked to make a decision about the title match. Gorilla reminds us they’re nothing like “other people”, and come hell or high water we’re going to see Bret against Sid, if it kills them. And at this rate, it may.
FLASH FUNK (1-1-0) (with the Funkettes) vs. OWEN HART (0-1-0) (with Clarence Mason, both world tag-team title belts, and a repaired Slammy)
Marlena’s announced as coughing up blood and on her way to the hospital. She should be prioritized quickly enough unless there’s a rash of lost smiles. Funk and Owen are presented as classic high flyers, and even though that seems ludicrous by 2015 standards, he’s probably right. It wasn’t until just 9 months earlier that the game really started to change in North America with the influx of Mexicans over in the other company that our entire perception of what made up a “high flyer” truly was. Both guys try dual dropkicks, and even though they both whiff, Owen jumps up and celebrates as the clear winner. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves…
JERRY LAWLER has a phone call. An angry, passionate, fired up voice is on the other line, introducing himself as the owner, operator, and whatever else you want to call him, PAUL HEYMAN, the president of ECW. And, unlike Vince McMahon, he doesn’t hide behind other “representatives”, he is what he is. He says that he’ll be at the Manhattan Center next week with all his superstars in tow. Lawler asks if he’s going to bring his “big guns” like The Blue Meanie or the Sandman? Heyman says he’ll bring whatever it takes to get some respect beat into him. “As long as Neighborhood Watch doesn’t need to be informed that you’re in the area, I’ll see you next week!” Shots fired, Daddy Fingers!
You’ll notice during that little exchange that for about the 3rd or 4th time this year, Vince McMahon is acknowledged as being a key figurehead (and perhaps THE key figurehead) of the WWF. This wasn’t always the case. For years, he was simply an announcer, and nothing more. However, bit by bit the company is becoming more lax with this, easing the fans into the notion that Vince is the one pulling the strings behind it all. These little slips wind up becoming one of the most important parts of the 1997 story.
So, there’s still a match going on, and Hart’s getting the business from Clarence Mason for some reason. Funk nails Hart with a plancha during the exchange, and that draws an irate BRITISH BULLDOG down to ringside to tell Mason to take a hike before he costs Owen a win. Funk uses a backslide for a near-fall, but Owen fires back with a bridged German for 2. Since this match is irrelevant, I suppose, we turn now to …
STEVE AUSTIN, who gets grilled about his actions tonight. “Gorilla Monsoon said I was this close from going over the edge? I done gone over the edge already, and I’m this close to whoopin’ his ass!” He reminds us he won the Royal Rumble fair and square, because there’s no instant replay. And, because Michaels “went and hurt his little knee”, by all accounts HE should be WWF champion right now. He says he’s getting held back because he’s not glitz and glamour and won’t smile for their stupid publicity shots, but whether they like it or not, he’s coming.
Funk appears to be on the comeback trail, and is headed up for the 450. Owen stands early, so he changes his gameplan and hits the crossbody for 2. A Stinger Splash sets up a flawless moonsault, but Owen kicks out again. He charges in, but Bulldog smacks him in the back of the head with the Slammy, and holds down his leg as Owen steals the win at 8:28. Bulldog picks up the belt and Slammy, and celebrates with his brother in law. Owen seems perturbed, though. Really? I thought a win was a win?
HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY (4-4-0) vs. BART GUNN (0-1-0)
THE HONKY TONK MAN joins the commentary booth, while JR asks Hunter before the match who the bodybuilder is. Triple H says that women throw themselves at him all around the country, and much like the rest of them, he has absolutely no idea who she is. Bart starts Helmsley off with a number of arm jerks to loosen the joint, and it works in his favor when Hunter can’t complete a hiptoss. Gunn continues to work the arm, applying a hammerlock on the mat and pulling at the shoulder. Helmsley elbows loose, but runs shoulder first into the buckle trying to attack, and winds up right back on the mat in the same position again. Hunter escapes again, and this time uses the high knee. GOLDUST decides this would be an opportune time to rush the ring, and Helmsley beats it out of Nashville. In fact, he’s already up the stairs and past the concessions by the time he’s counted out at 4:34. 1/2*
DR. JAMES ANDREWS gives an update on Shawn Michaels. Apparently he tore his meniscus 5 years ago, and he’s got a degenerated area. However, he doesn’t need surgery at this time, a little rehab is a good starting point, and they’ll check back in 4-6 weeks from now. Andrews figures he should have no problem continuing his wrasslin’ career.
SYCHO SID (0-3-0) vs. BRET HART (4-1-0) (for the WWF world heavyweight title)
Lawler about fills his tights with excitement that the match is finally getting underway. Even better for him, Sid pounds on Hart’s kidneys and Lawler sells every one of them along with Bret. A clothesline knocks the champ to his ass, and Sid threatens an early chokeslam to a chorus of boos from the very confusing crowd tonight. Hart takes Sid off his feet, and drops a second rope sledge. Sid starts gimping around, still selling the knee problem from earlier in the night. Still, he manages more kidney punches, softening Bret up for a backbreaker that gets 2. Lawler calls for a powerbomb, but Hart kicks at the bad knee. Sid crumbles, and Bret takes full advantage, putting a Figure Four on Sid around the ringpost! This is the debut of this move, and everyone’s in shock at the viciousness of it. Sid flails, screams, taps out like crazy, while Ross sells it perfectly as an attack that might put Sid in a wheelchair. Until recently, there’s no way in hell Bret would have ever resorted to this type of move, but it’s clear he’s frustrated and at a point where he’s got nothing left but to defend his legacy with every trick he’s got. They head to commercial while the referee tries in vain to get Hart to release the hold.
Back from a timeout, and they’re back in the ring, but Hart is relentless, putting Sid’s knee around the rope and kicking the crap out of it. An illegal toehold is ordered to break, but Hart hangs on for the maximum 4. Sid explodes out of the corner in rage with a clothesline, but he can barely stand. For god knows WHAT reason, he decides that a LEG DROP is his best move right now, and that gets 2 but it couldn’t have done him any favors. He manages to scoop slam Bret without buckling, and he heads to the second rope. At first he stumbles, but he manages to hit the guillotine legdrop for 2. Sensing his chance, Sid goes for a chokeslam, but Bret rakes the eyes. This is the kind of stuff Bret spent YEARS speaking out against – dude, you’re better than that. Hart tries to clip the knee, but he misses. Sid steps forward, but Hart backdrops him to the outside HARD. Now STEVE AUSTIN re-appears, but Sid’s able to fight him off. Back in, Sid’s caught immediately, and Bret goes for the Sharpshooter. It’s applied centre of the ring, but Sid’s fighting. The referee’s right up in Sid’s face, and completely misses Bret getting smacked in the face with a steel chair from Austin! Even Sid doesn’t realize it, because Austin beat it out of there before he could sit up. Still, he’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and one powerbomb later and Sid’s back on top at 11:56! The crowd EXPLODES, having had enough of Hart from the cheap leg tricks, and start a “SID!” chant while he poses. The Sid haters can stuff it, because this was incredible. ****
THE UNDERTAKER turns out the house lights, giving himself time to get into the ring. He gets all up in Sid’s face, and Sid responds by squinting like he’s got lemon juice in his eye, before blowing them wide open and whispering something towards Undertaker. This guy doesn’t need a world title belt, he needs a strait jacket. Taker just stares a hole through him as the show closes.

The Michaels departure might have been the best thing for Mania, because the Hart / Austin feud has been boiling over for months. With this latest stunt from Steve, costing Bret the only thing he seemingly cares about anymore, and knowing Bret no longer cares about following the rules, their impending showdown at Wrestlemania is going to be full on balls to the wall. Sid and Undertaker is a fine placeholder main event, they’re both among the top acts in the company and Taker’s never really had a major Wrestlemania moment in his 6 years with the company. We might be looking at a one or two match show when it’s all said and done, but considering who’s involved, that might just be enough to save it from the awful undercard we’re undoubtedly going to have to endure beforehand.
And, of course, ECW is always lurking in the background next week. It might not be enough to win the ratings war of the week, but a cross-promotional war might be the seedlings needed to help BOTH companies against the mega-giant WCW… assuming anything can stop that freight train.

WWF RAW: February 3, 1997

Royal Rumble RAW! For the FIRST time ever, as promised by the never
deceptive Vince McMahon, the Royal Rumble will air in FULL on network TV! And
if that isn’t enough to make you feel like an idiot for paying for the
pay-per-view, the complete World title match was also promised on last week’s
show. So unless you paid for the honor of watching the Trios match (sorry
Guerrera family), every major happening is about to be given away free of
charge.
In other news, RAW is suddenly 2 hours long. No television hype, it’s
just a thing now; a desperation shot to remain competitive with Nitro who have
decimated their audience to the wrestling die-hards. Of course, given the fact
that there’s only about 5 guys on the roster that anyone’s ever truly paying to
see, this could just as easily blow up in their face like a ringside TV during
a critical pay-per-view match up.

Returning to the Skydome on Thursday (January 30th), and
running their first major show out of the venue since Wrestlemania VI, they
managed to draw over 25,000 fans in attendance, both a bragging point to their
competitors, and a sore spot considering the dome holds over 65,000 spots.
VINCE MCMAHON and JIM ROSS welcome us to Toronto, but
first want to take us back to the Royal Rumble. Alright! The completely Rumble!
Wait … this ain’t the full Rumble. Action picks up at the final 5 with
Austin’s fake elimination and win. Well, it spoils things, but I sure can’t
wait for that entire Rumble a little later.
VADER (with Paul Bearer)
vs. STEVE AUSTIN
Heel vs heel here; but it’s Austin who receives majority of the inner
Canadian rage. Before anything gets going, BRET
HART
rushes the ring and attacks Austin, and the crowd bursts into
collective orgasmic bliss. A MILLION
REFEREES
jump into the fray as Hart turns to Vader and punches him in the
nose a ton. As Hart gets escorted out, Austin jumps Hart and they fight one
more time. A testament to the brilliant work of these two; you really get the
feeling they *hate* each other even after the show. The facial expressions and
raw intensity go a long, long way. With Hart out of the picture, the match
actually starts and Vader takes over with his slow, vicious offense, and WHO’S
THE MAN routine. He takes about 40 years to go for the Vaderbomb, giving Austin
time to wake up, have a coffee, read the newspaper, and put his kids in college
before finally punching Vader in the nuts to block it as we head to our first
commercial.
Vader took back over, and brings us back live with a splash for 2.
Austin finds a second wind, beating Vader down and hitting the axehandle off
the second rope. Vince promises no bait and switch tonight, with two title
matches scheduled. Awesome! Can’t wait for that Rumble and World Title match
either since we aren’t in any kind of bait and switch mode! Vader tries to
apply a sleeper, but Austin’s trick knee acts up and rears back for another
ball-shot. The referee tries to get him to lay off, so Austin gives the referee
a Stunner, turning him babyface immediately. Both guys spill out to the floor, and
Austin whips Vader into the ringsteps. Earl Hebner hits the ring to DQ Austin
at 5:34. Vader is positively awful
at this point; how fast the mighty fall. *1/2
THURSDAY RAW THURSDAY! Next week – Michaels takes on Sid one more time!
FLASH FUNK vs. SAVIO VEGA
(with Clarence Mason, D’Lo Brown, and several well-dressed men)
JIM ROSS stops Vega on
his way to the ring and asks why he joined the Nation, but Savio doesn’t care
what anyone thinks of him and doesn’t give a real answer. It’s frustrating that
Ross is ignoring the real story; the whereabouts of the Funkettes. He doesn’t
seem to be too heart broken, which is never a good sign. Vega counters a
clothesline with a sidewalk slam, and he chokes Funk out. He continues to stomp
away, but Flash Funks up, nailing a backdrop. The Tumbleweed connects, but
Vince gives away the finish by shrieking “ONE TWO HEGOTHIMNOHEDIDN’T,
WHATTAMANEUVER!”  A somersault legdrop
sends Funk back to the top, but this time he turns his attention to D’Lo who’s
standing a little too close to comfort on the outside, nailing a plancha. Back
to Vega, he misses a moonsault, and Savio dives in for the easy pin at 4:22. FAAROOQ and KONA CRUSH
meet Savio with a warm hug and a little Black Power. I can’t do the Savio thing
much longer, he’s 31 flavors of awful. 1/2*
Earlier tonight, VINCE MCMAHON
interviewed PETA WILSON, star of La
Femme Nikita; legitimately (unbeknownst to me), the highest rated drama on
cable TV. She describes herself as a woman of the 90’s, and Vince, not
understanding, says “I see that!”, and immediately turns his attention to the
sexuality of the show. A clip shows Nikita getting off, followed by Vince
clearly getting off in the live area. Oh Vinny.
SYCHO SID is introduced
by JIM ROSS, who is wildly cheered
happily by a bunch of “booing” fans. The pumped in heat don’t work when
everyone’s going mental, yall. Sid talks about his friendship with Shawn
Michaels, talking about a rollercoaster of evil emotions, sometimes mistaken
for half minutes. However when the rollercoaster comes home, and the ride
halts, Sid remains the master and the ruler of the world. I have no idea what
the hell ANY of that means, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have never
seen a wrestler more in dire need of a go-pro than Sid.
Backstage, OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG pose with their
tag-team titles. Vince reminds Bulldog that Owen was the one who dumped him
out, and Owen tells him to park it and stop causing trouble. “I accidentally
put him out, I was trying to dump Stone Cold and Bulldog fell out.” Davey rolls
his eyes, and Vince, smelling blood, reminds Bulldog he called Owen an idiot.
Owen tells Davey he best not be doing any more named calling, he’s carried him
to the top before and he’ll do it again. Looks like Bulldog’s getting set for a
face turn.
DOUG FURNAS and PHILIP
LAFON vs. OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG (for the WWF world tag-team titles)
On his way to the ring, Owen tells us he’s the only good thing about
Canada. I’ll let it slide, poutine hadn’t moved past the Quebec border in 1997.
Lafon takes down Bulldog with a leg grapevine, but Davey makes the ropes. Lafon
comes off the top, but Bulldog catches him and goes for the slam. Lafon
escapes, but winds up taking a clothesline. JR starts sucking Furnas’ kneecaps
for gutting this match out with the flu, like all good Oklahoma boys do. Owen
comes in and rakes the eyes of the sicko; but Furnas hiptosses him. I love that
Vince’s response to a guy getting the flu is putting him in the ring with
several healthy wrestlers, rubbing sweaty bodies together. This would probably
work best during the Royal Rumble, where the last man not to vomit or fill his
shorts is the winner. Bulldog comes back into the match, and finds himself
stuck in a headlock. Owen catches Furnas with a spinning heel kick. Bulldog beats
down the strong man, while Owen fires up his team, leading the fans in an
“OWEN” chant. Hart comes back in and gets caught in a sunset flip, but Bulldog
has the referee distracted during what appears to be a 10-count. Owen works a
headlock, but Furnas stands up straight with the electric chair and crawls for
the tag. Bulldog cuts him off, and throws a cheapshot to Lafon. Hebner tries to
keep Lafon in his corner, missing the small package from Furnas all together. Owen
hits a neckbreaker on Furnas and looks to Davey to finish, but Bulldog is too
busy posing for the ladies and misses Owen’s pleas for a tag. Furnas rolls Owen
up, but he kicks out at 2, shooting Furnas into the still distracted Bulldog.
Owen clotheslines Furnas, and screams at Bulldog for his posing. Vince calls
for a commercial, as they work this out.
Furnas is still getting his ass kicked as we come back, but Owen and
Bulldog are still sniping at each other. Furnas throws Davey with an overhead
belly to belly, and inches towards his corner, desperately needing to tag out.
This time he makes it to Lafon, and he takes out both guys quickly, nearly
pinning Owen with a crossbody. A snap suplex gets 2. Owen tries a slam, but
gets DDT and pinned at 10:13, giving
us new tag-team champions!
But wait; Owen’s foot was on the rope and Hebner immediately recognizes
his mistake. As a result, the show goes on, and Lafon thinks quickly with a
small package for 2. Bulldog sets up to backdrop Lafon, but Phil reverses the
whip and it’s Owen that goes flying! Bulldog realizes it, freaks for a second,
but quickly turns back to Lafon and gives him the running powerslam. Owen’s the
legal man though, and he’s twisted his knee and refuses to return, counting out
the champs at 11:28. Having retained
the belts, Owen happily jogs up the aisle. Bulldog isn’t happy with the cheap
effort, so Owen collapses and shows Davey how injured he is. Bulldog waves him
off and turns away angrily, where Owen takes a second to give one more jumping
celebration. There was never any wasted movement with Owen, and it’s these
little things that I miss the most. **1/2
AHMED JOHNSON discusses the
Nation. Verbatim: “You know what JR I got something in store for erybody
including you an Gance. Cuz guess what I don’t take my Prozzak anymore. And
when I ghetto Prozzak brother you dunno WHOOMANAHHHH! SAVIO YOU WANNA JOY MAN?
JOY MAN! BUT BROTHER YOU WILL PAY WITH DOUGH TO REST! If you wanna celebrate a
squirrel circle den let tha party begin.” THE
UNDERTAKER
appears out of nowhere and goozles Ahmed, but Johnson slaps his
fist away. “Look deadman you won be daddy nuff if you done drunk peein’”. Taker
asks if he wants to bury the Nation together? I … have no idea what in the hell
is going on.
KONA CRUSH (with Savio
Vega and Clarence Mason) vs. GOLDUST (with Marlena)
I can’t help but notice that we’re moving into the 2nd hour
and we haven’t started the Rumble yet, let alone the World Title match … but I
believe Vince! You wouldn’t lie to me, would you? Goldust clotheslines Crush to
the floor, where he chats strategy with Clarence. Back in, Goldust works a
hammerlock, while a couple of people try a “JAILBIRD” chant to little avail.
During an extended armbat, HUNTER HEARST
HELMSLEY
comes strutting right down towards Marlena. Goldust is distracted
long enough to take a pitiful snake eyes on the guardrail. As he’s rolled back
in, I’m going to stop and take a moment to remind you that it was 15 years ago
this week that Madonna released her version of Don McLean’s classic “American
Pie”. Stuck between her late 90’s “Frozen/Ray of Light” era, and her “Britney
Spears’ Personal MILF” era, Madonna opted to change the tempo of the song, and
pump up the techno. On the strength of her name alone, the song eventually
found itself at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Panned by critics,
the song dropped away quickly, and has nary been heard since.
Did you enjoy that? Even a smidgen? Because, as Goldust loses to Savio
interference leading to a Heart Punch at 8:19,
I would rather listen to this song on a continuous loop for the rest of the day
than sit through these two putting on a performance like this, ever again. -**
THE BLACKJACKS WILL RIDE AGAIN! In other news, GLACIER IS COMING!
SHAWN MICHAELS arrives, with
a big smile on his face. Next week on a special Thursday edition of RAW,
Michaels will defend his title against Sid, lest he lose anything at the
border. VINCE MCMAHON welcomes him
to “Bret Hart country”, which is one of those nuances I miss after everyone’s
hometowns have been effectively killed off over the years. Shawn admits that
the belt has brought out the worst in a number of WWF stars; himself included.
However, if being bad is what it takes to be the champion, then he vows to be
the worst guy the WWF has ever seen. He has no interest in popularity anymore.
He looks back at Muhammad Ali, someone everyone hated while he was on top, but
is largely considered the greatest of all time. That’s who he strives to be. BRET HART has heard enough, and heads
to the ring with the fans picking up their buzz, ready to blow. “Muhammad Ali?
I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman, maybe.” He finds it impossible to like Shawn
anymore, noting he’s a Degenerate (first signs of the future?), and as far as
he’s concerned, Shawn is a punk. Michaels cuts him off to respond, but a pissed
off STEVE AUSTIN has already charged
the ring and picked up with Bret exactly where they left off an hour ago. SYCHO SID sees the distraction, and
makes a bee-line for Shawn to … stand around and rant like a mad-man. God bless
that man.
After a break, the chaos has been cleared up, and Shawn is once again
face to face with Bret. Bret intentionally stands on the WWF title belt,
keeping Shawn from picking up his gold. He eventually throws it back to Shawn,
flips him off, and heads to the back while the fans boo the ever loving shit
out of a posing Shawn Michaels. If you have any doubts whether Bret’s walking
out of Final Four as the #1 contender, get it out of your head, we’re headed to
Bret / Shawn Part II, and the heat is going to be off the charts ridiculous.
Earlier tonight, TIGER ALI SINGH
signs his WWF contract, and he hopes to carry the Canadian flag to even greater
heights than Bret Hart. Oh.
MARC MERO vs. HUNTER
HEARST HELMSLEY (for the WWF Intercontinental title)
Both managers are banned from ringside, largely because of Hughes’
recent actions during Helmsley’s matches; though Sable’s been no saint either. JR
figures Mero’s desperate to regain the IC title having had a “taste”
previously. Is the belt made out of meth? For the record, I’m not opposed to
this. Mero knocks Helmsley to the floor, but Hunter sidesteps a plancha. Mero
stops himself from going full-tilt, and slams Helmsley’s face to the ringpost.
Back in, Mero slingshots himself back in, right into the knees. A delayed
vertical suplex gives Hunter plenty of time to do a curtsy, and a kneedrop gets
2. Mero fires back with a monkey flip for 2, but Hunter stops the comeback with
a facebuster. With the champ in full control, we take a quick break.
Mero’s just starting a comeback when we return, hitting a faceplant on
Helmsley, and snapping off a rana. Vince keeps hammering on the fact the main
event isn’t a bait and switch, but I can’t figure out what from WCW he’s
talking about, since they’ve typically given us what they advertise. It’s the
finishes that stink. A somersault plancha dizzies Hunter, and a slingshot
legdrop gets 2. Helmsley kicks Mero in the face, and heads up. Da fock? Mero
cuts him off before we find out what laughable move Triple H was planning, and
the super Frankensteiner gets 2. In desperation, Helmsley unties the buckle,
and after a series of faked out reversals, Mero hits the Samoan drop. Merosault
is on point, but Hunter kicks out, drawing a wide-eyed look of disbelief.
Helmsley whips Mero towards the corner, but he stops short and points out the
gimmicked buckle. Hebner stops to put it back together, so Triple H reaches
into his tights, pulls something small out, and smacks Mero in the face with it
for the pin at 11:14. *1/2
FAAROOQ (with Clarence
Mason and D’Lo Brown) and MANKIND (with Paul Bearer and Urn) vs. AHMED JOHNSON
and THE UNDERTAKER (in a no-disqualification match)
Mankind hilariously tries his best to give the Nation “black power”
salute, awkwardly stumbling around with his fist in the air. The poor guy so
desperately wants to fit in, and is willing to attach himself to anyone willing
to show him a little love. Hell, he doesn’t even LIKE Vader that much, but just
the fact that Vader’s willing to talk to him is ample reason to keep him
around. A Triple H/Eugene type of set up would have been some quality stuff,
and Mankind has far more credibility than Eugene did; making a brutal, violent
revenge for the abuser’s betrayal so delicious that I’m already annoyed they
never actually ran this storyline. (Vince doesn’t count, Mankind was too goofy
by then.) So it’s been clarified now that Ahmed and Undertaker were making some
sort of alliance earlier, but that’s easier to see, visually, than understand
with Ahmed spelling it out. Taker and Mankind square off in the aisle, leaving
Faarooq alone to eat a vicious spinebuster! Faarooq comes back with a sleeper,
which is far less extreme. Taker leaves Mick for dead and heads back into the
ring to lay some punishment into Faarooq. Ahmed slams Mankind into the ring
steps, while Faarooq runs over Taker with a clothesline. Taker sits right up,
and gives it right back. Mankind, meanwhile, gets run spine-first into the
ringpost. Undertaker heads up top for a little old school, while Ahmed chases
Clarence to the locker room to get rid of him. Mankind crawls into the ring,
but Undertaker’s in there waiting. Mason re-emerges with KONA CRUSH and SAVIO VEGA
as Vince, gasping, heads to our last commercial break.
It’s gonna be a bitch to fit that whole Rumble match in with just 5
minutes left, but technological miracles happen every day. I believe!
We’re back, clearly seconds from where we cut it off, because Taker is
headed up for old school on Mankind, but as he flies off the top, he leaps
right into the Mandible Claw! Ahmed stops that quickly, and nails the Pearl
River Plunge. Faarooq breaks up the pin, and hits Ahmed with the Dominator.
Taker makes the save there, and turns his attention back to his fist-fight with
Mankind. Mick grabs a chair, but Undertaker stops his attack with a kick to the
face (through the chair). Ahmed, meanwhile, has decided his best course of
action is to fight every member of the Nation, on the floor, by himself. Taker
nails Mankind with a Chokeslam, because poor Mick can’t catch a break. Ahmed
chases the cavalry back to the locker room with his 2×4, but Taker’s been left
alone to take a 2-on-1 attack. Johnson returns to save, and smacks Faarooq with
the board. Mankind hits a desperate swinging neckbreaker on Taker and grabs a
handful of powder. Taker knocks it back in Mick’s face, but now VADER lumbers into the ring with a big
splash on Undertaker. He throws the blinded Mankind on top, and he holds Taker
hostage for a chairshot. Undertaker ducks, and he plants his buddy … for the
second week in a row. Taker no-sells his chair-shot, and knocks Vader to the
floor. Tombstone on the chair ends this one at 7:46. Paul bursts into tears. This was a fairly wild mess, a
template of what we’d come to expect in the attitude era. Great crowd heat,
so-so ringwork. **
So, despite crowing about his lack of bait and switch tactics, Vince
aired virtually nothing on “Royal Rumble RAW” that would lead you to believe
this was a show that was all about the last pay-per-view. Apparently the
distributors weren’t all that pleased when they discovered Vince’s plan to air
the footage for free, and put the kibosh on that REAL fast, leading to these
house-show highlights and the occasional 15 second clip from the Rumble.
Not a bad show, but it’s clear that the rest of the stage for Final Four
is to be set at Thursday RAW Thursday. If I were guessing the Wrestlemania card
at this point:
Shawn vs. Bret (WWF title)
Vader vs. Mankind
Steve Austin vs. … Undertaker? This is the tough one, Austin’s beef is
with Bret, but Bret’s clearly tied up with Shawn; and Austin needs a big match
to cement himself as an upper-tier player.
Owen vs. Bulldog
Faarooq vs. Ahmed Johnson
The obvious loser here is Sid, who’s been fairly directionless since
dropping the strap to Shawn in January (other than yelling and screaming, as is
the norm). Unless they’re willing to bring in someone for a one time shot,
he’ll likely be left off the card or stuck doing a quick mid-card squash.
The undercard is an absolute mess of awful workers, and that’s where
their efforts need to be concentrated. Austin’s clearly Bret’s first challenger
post-Mania, and Ahmed Johnson’s lurking in the shadows for the rocket push, but
the rest of their locker room has clearly been decimated by Bischoff’s raid and
we’re almost guaranteed a negative star match per show these days.
So, to sum up, we have hope in the upper tier, and we’re wallowing in
waste in the lower tier. They truly are WCW’s alternative.

WWF RAW: January 27, 1997

Last week was one of the wildest, most unpredictable episodes of RAW
seen since the Pillman gun angle a couple of months ago. Bret Hart, sick and
tired of being jerked around quit the promotion out of frustration. Lead
announcer Vince McMahon inexplicably rushed backstage to help appease whatever
problems he was having; but why? This isn’t the first time it’s been insinuated
on camera he’s got an awful lot more stroke than just calling the matches, and
he’s slowly but surely getting outed as the puppet master behind it all.
Meanwhile, Steve Austin continued to trash talk everyone and anyone, and
wound up getting into a brawl with just about every main event player on the
roster as a result. Gorilla Monsoon also stripped Austin of his Wrestlemania
title shot (but not his Rumble win), and booked a 4-way elimination match for
the next pay-per-view amongst every wrestler directly impacted by Steve’s
shenanigans, with the winner going to Mania.

This week, we’re taped, still hanging out in Beaumont, Texas. JERRY LAWLER and VINCE MCMAHON are off their cues during the opening segment, but
eventually stop tripping over each other long enough to take us back to Savio
Vega joining the Nation at MSG on Saturday.
AHMED JOHNSON vs. KONA CRUSH
(with PG-13, D’Lo Brown, Clarence Mason, and a Well Dressed Gentleman)
Faarooq is nowhere to be seen, but it doesn’t stop Crush from using
chickenshit tactics; bumrushing Ahmed before the start of the match. That fares
about as well as you’d expect against a freak of nature, and Crush takes a
powerslam. The axekick connects, and the Superman punches has Crush seeing
stars. Following a mule kick, Crush rolls out of the way of an elbowdrop and
takes over the offense with an atomic drop. As is the norm with Ahmed, Crush
focuses on the kidneys, hammering in a few punches before applying a
bodyscissors. With his nemesis down, FAAROOQ
decides to rear his ugly head as we take a quick break.
We’re back just in time to see Ahmed hitting Crush with the electric
chair, but he’s in so much pain that it’s Crush who gets to his feet first. He
hits a sidewalk slam and heads up, but Ahmed cuts him off with a dropkick.
Crush desperately grabs the referee in a facelock, giving Faarooq a chance to
run down and throw Ahmed into the ring steps. Back in, the Heart Punch finishes
at 5:43. BULL … SHIT. I know we’re
months past the point of Johnson being a white-hot commodity, but Crush is
positively worthless at this point. I’d feel much better watching Ahmed
steamroll over the Nation on his way to Faarooq, before moving on to challenge
for the WWF title sometime in the early summer. In the context of THEN, the sky
is still the limit for Ahmed, and the cheap mid-card dickery needs to go. *
SHAWN MICHAELS answers the
call of the locals, strutting down to the ring looking every bit the part of a
Midnight Cowboy. VINCE MCMAHON pulls
double-duty, and hops in the ring to talk about their upcoming Thursday RAW
Thursday event on February 13. I’m going to assume the February 10th
episode was pre-empted for the Westminster Dog Show, causing the need to
shuffle things around. And no, if you’re new, that’s not sarcasm, there was a
time when RAW was regularly bumped every single February in favor of the Dog
Show, I shit you not. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with quality
entertainment such as watching the 1997 edition, where for the first and only
time in the history of the show, the top prize was captured by a Standard
Schnauzer (named Parsifal Di Casa Netzer,
but I’m sure you already knew that), which was considered a fairly major upset
in the face of the favored Wire Fox Terriers. Anyway, Shawn is scheduled to
defend his belt against Sid one more time, and if he’s successful he moves to
Wrestlemania against the winner of the Final Four. Michaels doesn’t
particularly care, because every one of those guys has personal issues with
Shawn already, and ultimately he’s going to remain the champion. Vince decides
to stir up a hornets nest, and hauls out BRET
HART
.
Bret tells Shawn to do whatever he’s got to do to retain his belt,
because he’s the one he wants at Wrestlemania. He wants no excuses from the
Boytoy. Vince chastises Bret for underestimating Sid, which Bret denies, except
to say he’ll be watching Shawn’s back in that matchup to ensure he stays
healthy. This is your Wrestlemania main event, bet the farm kids.
Next out is THE UNDERTAKER,
an interesting potential foe for Shawn, but we’ve got too much unsettled
business with Bret to consider this a serious possibility. Taker admits that
Bret has his respect, but he’s tired of Hart crying about being “screwed” all
the time. He’s had the title snatched away countless times, and vows to bring
the gold back to the dark side.
STEVE AUSTIN hauls JIM ROSS down as his personal
announcer, and accuses the trio in the ring of orchestrating an ambush. He’s
already tossed them out once, and he’s happy to do it again … but he’ll wait
for the pay-per-view. At this point, he turns to head up the ramp, but spies VADER and PAUL BEARER. Austin takes a second to ponder which direction is
safest, turns to the ring and tells them “on second thought, I’ll whoop your
asses right now.” Of course, that turns out to be nonsense, as he tucks tail
and heads up the ramp, stopping to yell a bunch at Vader before disappearing
behind the curtain.
THE BRITISH BULLDOG (with
Clarence Mason, Owen Hart, and Slammy) vs. DOUG FURNAS (with Phil LaFon)
Furnas actually pinned the Bulldog on Superstars yesterday morning as
part of their elimination Superstars Bowl, so there’s a bit of an issue
starting to develop here. I’m COMPLETELY on board with a push for the Cam-Am
Connection. Furnas plants Bulldog with a dropkick square to the face, and
Bulldog rolls to the floor where he channels his inner Steve Regal and lectures
a fan. Back in, Furnas catches him with a standing vertical suplex for 2.
Unfortunately, he misses a Stinger Splash, and falls to the floor right in
front of Owen Hart. Owen plays nice, and doesn’t lay a hand on Doug. He doesn’t
have to; Bulldog picks up the ring steps and slams it over Furnas’ prone body
right in front of the referee. APPARENTLY this doesn’t warrant a
disqualification, but a warning. Well, ok then! We need to take a break.
While we were away, AHMED JOHNSON,
armed with a 2×4, kicked down to the locker room of the Nation of Domination.
Unfortunately, they weren’t around. So the hunt continues.
Back to action, with Furnas caught in a rear chinlock. LaFon pounds the
mat to try and rally his partner, but Bulldog looks right at LaFon and kicks
Furnas in the face. Furnas throws some desperation chops, but Bulldog stops
that with a Luger-style forearm smash; probably picked up during their days
working as Allied Powers. A piledriver goes to finish, but Furnas is too thick
and he backdrops out of it. Bulldog’s up quickly, and hits a snap suplex,
leading back to a chinlock to grind him down further. Owen, meanwhile, is
screaming about LaFon being an awful Canadian “just like my lousy brother
Bret!” Bulldog goes for a running clothesline, but Furnas catches him and
launches Bulldog with a belly to belly overhead. The Frankensteiner is set up,
but Bulldog changes it mid-move into a powerbomb! Owen jumps onto the apron, so
LaFon does the same to stop him, and in the mess he completely misses the
reversed Irish whip sending Bulldog face first into the Slammy, allowing Furnas
to roll through and … get 2. Damn it all, I smelled upset. Furnas decks Owen,
and turns back to Bulldog with a sunset flip, but Bulldog sits forward stealing
the SummerSlam 92 finish, and that’s all she wrote at 7:35. Bulldog feeds it to Owen for hitting him in the face, but
Clarence Mason manages to keep the peace between the hot-headed Brit and Owen.
**1/2
Earlier today, a press conference announced the signing of Tiger Jeet
Singh’s son, TIGER ALI SINGH. This
can’t end poorly!
VADER and MANKIND (with
Paul Bearer) vs. THE GODWINNS (with Hillbilly Jim)
Phineas starts with Mankind, and they trade shots back and forth,
causing little damage because they’ve both got rocks for brains. Henry heads in
and slams Mankind, so Vader wants the tag but Mankind doesn’t want to give up,
rocking back and forth and determined to do something. Phineas is thrown to the
floor, and Vader waddles over to attack, so Mankind quickly rolls Phineas back
in rather than let him do anything. It’s looking like there’s jealousy about
where Paul’s attention’s been lately, and Mick ain’t having none of it. So,
once they’re back in, Vader punches Mankind in the back to signify he’s tagging
him, and he tees off on Phineas’ face. He punches Mankind in the shoulder to
bring him back in, and Mankind locks on the Mandible Claw. Henry rushes in for
the save, sending them both flying to the outside, Cactus clothesline style.
Back to the apron, Phineas tries to bring Mankind back into the ring with a
suplex, but Vader holds Mick’s legs for safety, and together they propel
Phineas back to the floor. Henry rushes over the ringsteps with some pop to
attack Vader, but he winds up stepping on Phineas’ face on his way by! Now THAT
is focus on your opponent.
After a brief word from our sponsors, we’re back just in time for the
hot tag from Henry, who starts clotheslining both guys to a decent pop (though
god knows from WHO, the fans appear to be sitting on their thumbs). An elbow
misses Vader, but Vader’s doesn’t and Henry is sent back to the floor. Mankind
grabs a chair while HOG is held hostage; but Henry escapes. Mankind swings
anyway, LONG after he’s rolled away, and smiles at Vader as he collapses. The
referee spies it and calls for a DQ at 7:13.
Vince doesn’t think Mankind has any remorse, but Lawler points out you can’t
grieve forever. *1/2
Out in the parking lot, AHMED
JOHNSON
found the Nation packing up to leave, so he rushes in with his 2×4,
slams it over Wolfie D’s head and throws him in the trunk of the car! The car
takes off FAST before Ahmed can do anything, and despite him sprinting after it
like an Olympic runner from Kenya, he fails to catch up.

Next week: The WWF gifts me an easy show by replaying the Royal Rumble
in full. Plus, more on Bret vs Austin.

WWF RAW: January 20, 1997

Last night, the Royal
Rumble took place, and through the disastrous undercard, and underwhelming main
events, we did manage to take away a few hints to the future. Austin’s early
dominance, and late chickenshit tactics kept the Rumble from being the worst
edition ever. Bret Hart threw a fit after getting screwed over for the 2nd
time since his return in the fall, being eliminated by a guy who was already
out of the match when it was clear he was the last man standing. With RAW live
tonight, you know there’s gonna be some tension in the air. But first…
Kenny Reigns: 1997 WWF is pretty good so
far. I’m only through January, but the show has excitement and developing
stories. I could not believe how much of a star Austin looked like at the
Rumble. That was insane.

While I don’t know your
particular history, Kenny, this is a good time to recognize that I do have a
number of “newer” fans reading these. If you’ve been subjected to the WWE for,
say, the last 5 years and aren’t familiar with some of the earlier stuff, do
yourself a favor and follow the same trajectory I have with these recaps. Start
with early 1996 WCW (skipping March and April, I am not a sadist), and work the
WWF into the mix by early 1997. If you are any kind of wrestling fan at all,
you’ll be absolutely amazed at the WWF’s ability to weave angles together in a
logical manner that resulted in everyone else getting over. Even though Austin
is going to be the focal point, watching the development of Rocky Maivia is
going to be fascinating, as he is the absolute epitome of a talented guy who
just needs a steady, continued push, and company confidence, to find himself.
Had they started and stopped and started and stopped, like any number of the
2015 midcarders, you’d have to wonder if he’d have ever become the cross-media
superstar he eventually did.
Fat, Ugly Inner-City Sweathog: You’ve got
a multi-man lucha match and you don’t open the show with it?
They already had enough
problems keeping the fans engaged through a slew of ass-dragging matches.
Putting the ancient faceless Mexican contingent out first would have been
death. If you’re inadvertently mistaking these guys for the fast-paced fun
high-flyers of WCW, then I recommend you track this show down on the Network, and
return later with a 4-page apology for even suggesting such a thing.
wnyxmcneal: Dustin Rhodes wasn’t ready to
work a long match? What?
I stand by this, whole
heartedly. Find me a Goldust match over **1/2 between 1995-1999. They had no
business trotting him out for 15 minutes, but they did it, month after month on
PPV to the exact same results (Goldust slowly rubs himself for 10 minutes,
other wrestler finally gets grossed out and makes the comeback, followed by
some kind of finish). Dustin Rhodes might have been a quality worker, but this
gimmick caused hell on his in-ring performances.
Mike Mears: What am I missing about Ahmed?
He was just before my time, but all I see is a black Ryback.
Sure, if Ahmed Johnson was
a recycled, tightly scripted clone of a thousand guys before him, than yes, you’d
be right. But that pays no justice to who Ahmed Johnson was. He was an absolute
original, there had been no one like him to that point. Previous black
wrestlers were always rapper, angry street thugs, dancers, or somehow One Man
Gang. Ahmed Johnson was just a big, freakishly strong, guy. A guy who loved
what he did, but make no bones about it, when he did it, he did it with
intensity. He was there to *kill* you. Ryback WISHES he could even splash a
little of Ahmed’s charisma on his sad persona. And, say what you want about his
promos, but they added to his charm, because they came across as real. He didn’t
speak like anyone else, and he wasn’t going to, because that’s not who he was.
He was a genuine guy, and since he could back it up with the power, the fans
took to him.
It’s not a particularly
difficult template, but one that is completely lost today because nobody’s
allowed to just go out and speak for fear they might upset the shareholders or
cause some sort of negative social media story. I remember growing up, that “Just
Be Yourself” was something of a mantra to remind us that we’re all unique, and
by letting your personality shine people will take to you. Sadly, that’s
changed to “Just Be Like Everyone Else”.
But enough about today,
we’re talking about then – and then is now, because we are LIVE in Beaumont,
Texas for a show that is inexplicably STILL not on the WWE Network nearly a
year after launch. VINCE MCMAHON, JIM ROSS, and JERRY LAWLER can barely say hello, before …
BRET HART
storms the ring, and he is in a BAD mood. He points to Vince directly, and
reminds him that when he came back to the WWF in the fall he was promised title
shots. Instead, he was put in the ring with Steve Austin, and told if he won he’d
be the #1 contender. So, he did as he was told, but for some “convenient”
reason, Shawn Michaels was at ringside doing commentary during his World Title
match, and to no surprise (or coincidence), the boy toy cost him the match. So,
then he was told if he won the Royal Rumble and beat 29 guys, he’d get a title
shot. Again, he did exactly as he was asked, and as far as he’s concerned he
won the Rumble. He’s tired of being dicked around by Michaels, Austin, and
Vince McMahon. Realizing he’s not getting his opportunity, he quits.
Vince quickly rushes over
to Bret to ask for a minute of his time, but Bret’s already making his way
through the fans, ignoring him. A loud “WE WANT BRET” chant starts, which
quickly turns to boos because …
STEVE AUSTIN has taken over the ring. His microphone doesn’t work, so he snatches
another one from a camera man and threatens to whoop his ass if he doesn’t give
him a working piece of equipment. He tells us that all Bret ever does is cry,
and he’s tired of it. He’s happy to see him leave, since the only person Bret
can beat anymore is his “wrinkled up old man in his little old basement”. He
figures Bret has no gripe, since he was promised a match with Sid tonight, but
nooooo, Sid’s at home with a concussion. Austin knows he doesn’t have a
concussion, but rather a yellow stripe running right down his back. Austin
still wants a fight, and sits in wait, while McMahon angrily storms to the back
to, presumably, go into damage control.
OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG (with Clarence
Mason and Slammy) vs. DOUG FURNAS and PHILIP LAFON (in a non-title match)
Austin’s been cleared
during the commercial break, while JR plays up the possible dissent between
Hart and Bulldog after Owen dumped his buddy in the rumble. Lafon nails Owen
with a fireman’s carry slam, but Owen quickly rolls him back out of a headlock
for 1. A mule kick brings in Furnas, who runs Owen over with the 3 point
stance. Beautiful dropkick gets a close 2! That’s followed with a snap belly to
belly overhead, drawing 2. Owen fires back with a spinning heel kick and tags
in the Bulldog. Lawler laughs up Bret’s blow up since he’s tired of watching
Vince kiss his ass anyway, while Furnas snaps off a perfect Frankensteiner for
2. Another important development: Apparently Undertaker has been fined his
entire take at the Royal Rumble for chokeslamming an official. Now which poor
sap has to be the one to inform Taker of THAT decision? Owen manages a blind
tag, catching Furnas off guard when he comes flying in with a missile dropkick
for 2 as we head to commercial.
We return to Furnas eating
the back end of an enzuigiri, and Owen is apoplectic when it only gets 2!
Bulldog boots him in the face, and Owen celebrates quickly with a “GO OWEN!”
Standing vertical suplex from the Bulldog gets 2, and Owen locks on a chinlock.
Furnas wriggles loose, but takes an overhead belly to belly. A top rope splash
misses, and Furnas is able to get the hot tag to Lafon. Clotheslines abound! A
spinning heel kick drops Owen, and Bulldog gets tagged with a snap suplex followed
by a senton for 2. Overhead belly to belly gets 2. Owen rushes in to stop the
madness, but Furnas flattens him with a shoulder block. Lafon jaws with Owen,
who smacks him in the mouth with the Slammy, allowing a Bulldog powerslam to
pick up the win at 10:21. A
travesty! I might have gone with the upset here and set up a program for Final
Four, but then I’m a Can Am fanboy. ***
FAAROOQ (with PG-13, Clarence Mason, Kona Crush, D’Lo
Brown, and a Number Of Well Dressed Men) vs. BART GUNN
Really, we’re gonna
follow up that fun little tag-team ditty with THIS? Austin and Undertaker is
announced as the main event, and “you won’t have to sit through Robin Hood to
see it” says a far too smarmy JR. When they’re not in control of their own
destiny, it’s interesting to watch them pull out all the same nonsense they
scream foul about otherwise. Gunn gets flattened with a spinebuster, and PG-13
add a few extra shots. Faarooq locks on a chinlock, and uses both the ropes AND
leverage from Wolfie D to his advantage. The referee spies it, and forces a
break. A scoop slam sends Faarooq up (what?!?) and he misses whatever it was,
getting slammed on the way down by Gunn. A bulldog gets 2, only saved by PG-13
putting his feet on the ropes. Bart finally pounces to the floor, and kicks
both their asses before Faarooq drops an elbow on his head. Crush sends Gunn
back into the ring, and the Dominator finishes poor Lefty at 5:16. This Faarooq singles push is
death. 1/2*
VINCE MCMAHON returns, with GORILLA MONSOON
in tow. Gorilla is roundly booed, stay classy Texas. Gino calls out to Bret
specifically, by agreeing that the Rumble was a travesty. He says he can’t
reverse the decision as a referee’s is final, and Austin will officially go
down as the Rumble winner. However, Gorilla refuses to give Austin the title
shot at Mania, opting instead to run a 4-man no-DQ match at the next In Your
House. His choices are Undertaker, Vader, and Bret, all of whom were eliminated
unfairly by Austin, as well as Austin himself. No love for Fake Diesel who
finished 3rd. STEVE AUSTIN
is not exactly thrilled by this news, and reminds Gorilla that Bret can’t be
included because he’s already quit. He asks Gorilla if the WWF has Instant
Replay? “EH EH! I DON’T THINK SO!” He agrees to enter the 4-way, since he’s
already thrown 29 pieces of trash away, and once he’s done with that match, he’ll
throw Gorilla around too. Vince gets in Austin’s grill, as BRET HART comes back through the crowd, having had enough time to
cool down I suppose.
Bret grabs the microphone
to accept the match, but suggests they do it TONIGHT instead of February. Hart
rushes up the aisle, and he and Austin start scrapping with a whole lot of hate
in their eyes. The fans start losing their minds, as Bret refuses to get peeled
off his enemy. Hart starts gnawing at Austin’s head, before throwing him face
first into the ring steps as they head to commercial.
The officials are STILL
having an impossible time removing Bret from the scene, but it’s main event
time, and Austin’s got a whole ‘nother problem…
STEVE AUSTIN vs. THE UNDERTAKER
That’s assuming, of
course, Undertaker makes it to the ring, because now he and Bret are throwing
haymakers at each other! Austin, stupidly, rushes in to get involved, and
Undertaker introduces his teeth to the ring steps. They eventually find their
way in to kick it off officially, with Austin getting his head slammed into the
canvas. Old School connects because Austin doesn’t have the wherewithal to step
forward and knock him off his perch. Austin fires back with a swinging neckbreaker,
but Taker sits right back up. Lawler starts screaming at Austin “BAD RIBS” to
help Steve out, but his notoriously bad hearing fails to catch it. Austin slams
Taker’s face to the buckle, but he comes right back with an elbow to Austin’s
face. Steve comes off the top with an axehandle for 2, while Lawler hits the
ringside area to tell Austin about the injured ribs because he’s not enough of
a shit disturber at ringside. Instead, Taker goes low, but Austin manages to
sell enough to sucker him in and nail the Stunner.
In the back, VADER and BRET HART are throwing down now, because apparently Bret has a
death wish tonight.
Austin was unable to capitalize
on the Stunner, and heads upstairs. Taker crotches him, but Austin, suddenly
aware of the ribs, starts punching at the to stop a superplex attempt. VADER slowly lumbers down to the
ringside now, and draws a DQ at 6:39.
**
BRET HART
is right behind him, and last night’s foes all square off. Austin peels off for
the back, but Bret stops him and throws him into the guardrail. In the ring,
Taker drops Vader with a backdrop suplex, and with all 4 guys engaged in an
absolutely chaotic brawl, the show heads off the air.
Seeing this in action,
financial state be damned, Vince should have been doing everything in his power
to get RAW running live every single week. They have a new star who is clearly
able to hang with the main eventers in Steve Austin, Bret seems to be coming
into his own as a grumpy old man, and Vince McMahon is slowly being outed as
the real puppet master.

I’d call it extremely
unlikely that Nitro will be able to effectively counter this wild show, short
of having DDP deliver a Diamond Cutter to Hulk Hogan. We’ll find out, next.

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 7, 1998

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps Steve Austin and Kane beating up Paul Bearer on last week’s show.  We are also reminded of the Big Bossman
beating Mankind for the Hardcore title.
Michael Cole and
Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary for tonight’s go home show for
Rock Bottom:  In Your House.  Jim Ross was on a hiatus for this show
because his mother had passed away.  In
his first sentence, Cole lets us know that RAW is the “most controversial
sports entertainment television show.” 
It is easy to be a leader when you are in a category of one.  This show was taped in New Haven,
Connecticut.

Triple H, X-Pac,
and Chyna walk out and Triple H calls out the New Age Outlaws, who have been
flirting with the Corporation.  The
Outlaws walk out in suits and the Road Dogg announces them as the Corporate
Outlaws.  Commissioner Shawn Michaels
comes out at the behest of the Outlaws and he and Triple H shoot at each other,
with Triple H saying that he carried Michaels around when he no longer should
have been wearing the WWF title. 
Michaels books Triple H and X-Pac to face the Big Bossman and Ken
Shamrock in a “anything goes match” later in the evening, saying that if the
Outlaws get involved then “so be it.”  At
the end of the segment, the McMahons shake the Outlaws hands near the
entrance.  All the inside references here
might have been fun in 1998, but it does not translate well to today.  Also, the segment lacked a lot of intensity
from all sides.  0 for 1
Backstage, Triple
H tells Chyna to watch he and X-Pac’s back in their tag match tonight.
Opening
Contest:  D-Lo Brown (w/Mark Henry) pins
“Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra McMichael) with a cradle at 4:17:
This is a rematch from Sunday Night Heat, where D-Lo
Brown clocked Jarrett with his own guitar. 
Jarrett is booked to face Goldust at Rock Bottom in a striptease
match.  D-Lo dominates much of the match,
nearly killing Jarrett with the running powerbomb.  Again, why did no one in the locker room
force D-Lo to quit using that move?  Of course,
we cannot have a RAW match these days without a distraction and Goldust walks out
in a raincoat.  He flashes Debra, leading
to D-Lo cradling Jarrett and winning. 
These two guys were just going through the motions until Goldust walked
out.  Rating:  *½ (0 for 2)
Steve Austin tells
Tony Garea that he is angry over what has been going on lately in the WWF.
Call 814-734-1161
to get your WWF cologne for men for $19.99 (plus $4 shipping &
handling)!  Adam and George sell it in a
mock NWO ad.
Clips of Vince
McMahon’s talk at Oxford University is shown. 
Evidently it was a give-and-take talk with students, so I can only
imagine the type of questions that he fielded.
The Headbangers
defeat Gangrel & Edge via disqualification when Luna Vachon interferes at
2:06:
It is just weird to see several matches of this Edge and
Gangrel team when you are so used to seeing Edge and Christian together.  After each team exchanges cool double team
moves, Luna runs out and attacks the Headbangers.  She is followed by Tiger Ali Singh and Babu
for some reason and the Oddities then run out and destroy the Headbangers.  Uh, okay. 
It also does not make a lot of sense for the Oddities to still use the
ICP theme music when they were turned on by that same group.  The match was less than three minutes, so it
gets no rating.
Mankind says that
he will not leave Steve Austin’s side for their scheduled tag team match
against the Rock and Mankind
Paul Bearer
getting stuffed into a sewer on last week’s show is the Glover Rewind segment.
Vince McMahon gets
in Paul Bearer’s face backstage and demands to know if the Undertaker will work
with the Rock tonight.  Bearer says
McMahon has nothing to worry about.
Goldust beats
Owen Hart with a schoolboy at 4:17:
Owen unretired the previous night on Sunday Night Heat in
order to face Steve Blackman at Rock Bottom. 
At least Owen’s retirement lasted longer than John Cena’s firing and the
Authority’s banishment.  Unfortunately,
it did not last long enough for his sake. 
We get a decent back-and-forth bout until Debra does her own version of
the raincoat trick, which distracts Owen more than Goldust and produces the
finish.  Just television filler here and
the finish was completely predictable.  Rating: 
*½ (0 for 3)
Footage of WWF
superstars talking to British fans before the Capital Carnage event is
shown.  Some British fans give their take
on WWF action, but unfortunately we do not get any gems like SummerSlam 1992.
Before the next
match, the Godfather and Val Venis come out with the hos.  The Godfather says he is going to give one of
the fans two hos tonight and picks out a fat guy named Bob from the audience.  I guess this was the WWF’s 1998 version of
Make a Wish?  0 for 4
The Acolytes
(w/Jackyl) wrestle Supply & Demand to a double disqualification in 57
seconds:
This is Bradshaw gimmick change number four, but this one
finally got him over with the audience. 
Amazing what you can do if you take two hard-hitting guys, team them up,
and give them some momentum.  Both teams
brawl inside and outside the ring, not paying any heed to the referee’s
directions and get disqualified.  If this
builds to a future match, this was perfectly acceptable booking.
Steve Austin
hitting the Undertaker with a shovel is the JVC Kaboom! of the Week.
Austin walks out
and says that the Undertaker will receive no mercy at Rock Bottom.  The Undertaker gives a voiceover in response,
as his symbol – not to be confused with a cross so as not to draw unnecessary
heat from Christian groups – is hoisted up in the air.  The Undertaker promises to sacrifice Austin
and his symbol goes up in flames.  The Austin
promo was solid here, but the Undertaker’s Ministry garbage is already old at
this point.  I think I just have
Austin-Undertaker fatigue.  0 for 5
Mankind is shown
talking to himself, upset that Austin does not consider him a friend, as he
exits the boiler room of the arena.
Steve Blackman
defeats Tiger Ali Singh (w/Babu) with a pump kick at 2:13:
As I keep getting exposed to bad Tiger Ali Singh matches,
it goes to show how the hype for this guy was completely unwarranted in the
fall of 1997.  In fact, the hype for
Singh and Taka Michinoku appeared unwarranted by this point since Michinoku was
DOA after losing the Light Heavyweight title. 
At least they put Blackman over clean as a sheet here.
After the match,
the Blue Blazer comes to attack Blackman, but trips running down the ramp.  Blackman attacks him, but Owen Hart appears
and slams Blackman on the ramp.  You see,
they are not the same person!
Mankind looks for
Steve Austin backstage, with a garbage bag over his shoulder.  He finally finds Austin’s locker room.
Get the new
edition of Rolling Stone.  Steve Austin
is profiled in it!
Mark Henry
(w/D-Lo Brown) beats Darren Drozdov (w/Animal) with a splash at 3:27:
We are just getting vague updates about Hawk’s condition
after falling off the Titantron a few weeks ago, so someone must have come to
their senses and realized that that segment was in poor taste.  Henry is a bumping machine in this match,
taking a nasty spill to the floor and flipping himself into the steps.  Chyna walks out and instead of decking Henry,
she decks Droz, thereby helping Henry pick up the win.  Very rough bout, but that is more on Droz
than Henry.  Rating:  ½* (0 for 6)
A camera catches
the New Age Outlaws talking strategy with Shawn Michaels, the Big Bossman, and
Ken Shamrock.
No Holds
Barred:  Triple H & X-Pac (w/Chyna)
defeat The Big Bossman & Ken Shamrock 8:18
This is Triple H’s first in-ring appearance on RAW after
he returned from injury on last week’s show. 
The Big Bossman starts the match by wanting to use his night stick and
then tosses it aside like a moron to wrestle a regular bout.  There is a funny moment early in the match
when X-Pac asks the audience if they want him to tag Triple H, which gets a
tepid response.  In another fun spot, the
steps fall on the Big Bossman after his attempt to ram them into X-Pac fails.  According to the statistics we received at
TLC two months ago, that should have killed him.  One thing that irks me about matches like
this is that they should function as tornado tags since the rules are suspended
(see LOD-Nasty Boys at SummerSlam 1991 for this same criticism).  Eventually, the New Age Outlaws walk out, but
when Billy Gunn gets the opportunity to deck Triple H with a chair he nails
Shamrock instead.  SWERVE!  Somehow this leads to a disqualification, or
something like that, in a NO HOLDS BARRED match.  Rating:  *½ (0 for 7)
Mankind exits
Steve Austin’s locker room.
D-Generation X
celebrates their swerve in the locker room.
Steve Austin
arrives in his locker room and finds a trash bag with a beer in it.
Steve Austin
& Mankind beat The Rock & The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) by
disqualification when the Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock interfere at 8:18:
Mankind must have stiffed Earl Hebner on some shirt sales
because he starts the match before Austin even comes to the ring.  The excitement is too much for Michael Cole,
who has lost his voice by this point in the show.  This bout is a vintage Attitude Era brawl,
with four-way action starting the match and everyone getting in their big spots
before the inevitable run-in by the Corporation.  Rating:  ** (1 for 8)
After the bell,
the Bossman handcuffs Mankind to the top rope while the Undertaker blasts
Austin with the timekeeper’s bell and a chair. 
The Undertaker carries Austin up the ramp and the druids tie Austin to
the Undertaker’s symbol, raising it as the show goes off the air.  And where is Kane?  Somehow all this ridiculousness means that
Austin is in trouble at Rock Bottom because the Undertaker has taken his “mind,
body, and soul.”  People say the 1994
Rumble stuff is bad, but this is much, much worse.  I was laughing at my television due to how
stupid this was.  1 for 9
The Final Report Card:  Survivor Series was a great show from a
storytelling perspective, but the company is in a dead period before the
eventual Rock-Austin showdown at WrestleMania. 
The lack of a strong build for Rock-Mankind, which is relying heavily
upon what happened at Survivor Series and not much else, and fatigue with the
Austin-Undertaker feud means that something in the midcard needs to stand out,
but nothing is since it is so weak.  Think
about it:  Owen Hart is basically a
comedy act with this Blue Blazer story, the LOD 2000 storyline has fizzled
after Hawk fell off the Titantron, the Godfather is wandering around with Val
Venis as a quasi-tag team, and the Brood are just randomly inserted into
matches with very little direction.  As
things stand, Mark Henry is arguably the MVP of midcard storylines because at
least his issue with Chyna is interesting. 
Another criticism of this show is that the company could have gotten a
few more weeks of mileage out of the Outlaws feigning that they had gone
corporate.  They burned through that
storyline too quickly.  Just skip this
show if they ever upload 1998 RAWs to the Network and get to Rock Bottom.  You will not miss anything.
Monday Night War Rating:  5.15 (vs. 4.2 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 30, 1998

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps how the Undertaker tried to embalm Steve Austin alive on last week’s
show.  The Undertaker and Paul Bearer are
shown talking backstage moments before the show went on the air.
Jim Ross and Jerry
“The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Baltimore, Maryland.

Steve Austin is
shown arriving at the arena with a shovel. 
The Headbangers and the Insane Clown Posse are already in the ring, so
Austin proceeds to give all of them – save Shaggy 2 Dope – a Stunner.  Getting on the mic, Austin promises to use
his shovel against the Undertaker.  A
throwaway segment and I am never a fan of one guy taking out tag teams.  0 for
1
Mark Henry is
shown getting ready for his date with Chyna. 
D-Lo Brown tries to make sure he looks good.
Ross hypes Austin
and the Undertaker being on TV Guide.  He
reminds viewers that if they cannot find them they will have to settle for the
“retired” Hulk Hogan or the “Austin wannabe” Goldberg.  Austin is still looking for Vince in the
back.  He runs into Stephanie McMahon,
who is not identified as such, and she says she has not seen Vince around.
Opening Non-Title
Contest:  The New Age Outlaws (WWF Tag
Team Champions) defeat Gangrel & Edge (w/Christian) by disqualification
when Christian hits Billy Gunn with a tag team title belt at 2:56:
The previous night on Sunday Night Heat, the Corporation
was attempting to recruit the Outlaws and they appear on the ramp to watch the
match.  Typical 1998 accelerated tag team
match here, although a young Edge shows off by doing a super hurricanrana on
the Road Dogg and taking a powerbomb off the second rope from Billy Gunn.  After Christian runs interference to prevent
a Gunn piledriver, the Big Bossman and Ken Sharmock run in and beatdown the
Brood.  So are the Brood faces or heels
at this point?  I am so confused with
their booking.
Steve Austin
continues to search for the Undertaker backstage, checking out several
freezers.  Predictably, he walks into one
to investigate, but gets locked in by the Undertaker and Paul Bearer.
Steve Austin
giving Stunners to the Headbangers and Violent J earlier in the show is the
Glover Rewind segment.
Mark Henry is
nervously excited for his date and he asks D-Lo to accompany him to give him
confidence.  D-Lo reluctantly agrees to
go.
The Undertaker
comes out and calls out Kane because we definitely need to see more of
that.  They briefly battle over whether
someone will be eternally damned before the Undertaker gives Kane a Tombstone.  Paul Bearer brings some orderlies from a
mental institution to the ring, but Kane beats up a couple of them before
walking through the crowd.  Sadly, this
ridiculous angle would continue.  0 for 2
D-Lo complains
that he is not dressed right for Mark Henry’s date, but Henry has a jacket for
him and a pair of sunglasses.  However,
he hands him a chauffeur hat next, meaning that D-Lo needs to drive Henry’s
limo.  That was a good comic twist on
that sketch.  After the commercial break,
Chyna is not happy to see Henry at the hotel and she refuses to accept the
flowers Henry offers her.  She is puzzled
that D-Lo is the chauffer, which is pretty funny.
X-Pac comes out
and calls out Shawn Michaels, angry about Michaels costing him his match
against the Rock last week.  Michaels
threatens to “send him back to that money pit in Atlanta,” but refuses to fight
him because he is not an active wrestler. 
He books X-Pac to face Ken Shamrock, with the European title being on
the line.  He exits to D-Generation X’s
music because “he was DX before DX was cool.” 
At least this was short, but they did not give X-Pac a lot of mic time
here.  0 for 3
Mark Henry and
Chyna arrive at their date location, where Chyna pulls out the price tag for
Henry’s flowers (they are $1.99).
A camera shot of
the freezer shows that Austin has escaped.
On the date, Mark
Henry botches the pronunciation of Perrier water.
Goldust defeats
“Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra McMichael) via disqualification when Owen Hart
interferes at 3:26:
This bout is a rematch from three weeks ago where Jarrett
blasted Goldust with a guitar and the two had a locker room fight.  Owen Hart is on guest commentary for the
match and he tries hard to keep a straight face when talking about the
Henry-Chyna date with Lawler.  By itself,
this match has very little heat.  Goldust
dominates, with Jarrett only avoiding defeat when Debra puts his foot on the
rope after a Curtain Call.  Debra gets in
the way of Shattered Dreams and her distraction leads to Owen attacking Goldust
from behind.  This show is falling into a
really bad habit over the last few episodes of having no clean finishes.  Rating:  *¼ (0 for 4)
After the bell,
the Blue Blazer appears to help attack Goldust, but suddenly the Blazer turns
on Owen.  The Blazer unmasks to reveal
Steve Blackman to arguably the biggest pop Blackman has received up to this
point in his career.
A split screen
shows Austin looking for the Undertaker backstage, while Paul Bearer and the
orderlies look for Kane.
Al Snow nailing
Ken Shamrock in the head with Head on last week’s show is the Medievil Slam of
the Week.
Hardcore
Championship Ladder Match:  The Big
Bossman defeats Mankind (Champion) to win the title at 6:11:
This is the first ladder match to be held on RAW.  Shawn Michaels does commentary and scores
some of Mankind’s moves since he says Mankind is going to try to outdo him in
the match type that made him famous.  If
you hate the slow climb, you will not like this one as Mankind does it within
the first several minutes where it makes no sense to do it.  When Mankind appears set to win, the Rock
interferes and the Bossman wins.  Of all
the WWF ladder matches up to this point, this was clearly the worst.  Everything was rushed and there was not a lot
of wrestling between the climb spots.  Rating: 
* (0 for 5)
The Undertaker and
Paul Bearer think they have found Kane. 
After the break, the Undertaker and Kane fight in a dark room in the
arena.  The Undertaker comes out on top
and tells Bearer to get the orderlies as he tries to put Kane in a body
bag.  However, Austin comes out of the
darkness and breaks his shovel over the Undertaker’s head.  You can see where this is going…
Non-Title
Match:  Duane Gill (Light Heavyweight
Champion w/The Pasadena Chargers) pins “Marvelous” Marc Mero after the Blue
Meanie tosses Mero off the top rope at 2:08:
Before the match, Mero says that if he cannot beat Gill
that he will never appear again.  The
youth football team that Gill coaches comes to the ring, since he is wrestling
in his hometown.  As expected, Mero
manhandles Gill, but the Blue Meanie interferes and Gill wins.  This was Mero’s last in-ring appearance on
WWF television.
Bearer directs the
orderlies to get Kane.
Mark Henry reads
Chyna a poem and she proceeds to guzzle down lots of alcohol.  He says that they need to go dancing after
having dinner.
European
Championship Match:  Ken Shamrock (Intercontinental
Champion) defeats X-Pac (Champion) via disqualification when Triple H
interferes at 4:47:
This is our first good bout of the evening, well that is
until interference runs its course again. 
X-Pac hits the X-Factor, but Shawn Michaels distracts the referee and
the Big Bossman clocks X-Pac.  However,
when Shamrock applies the ankle lock, Triple H runs in, which gets a pretty
sizable pop.  This warrants a point for
Triple H alone as I am a mark for surprise returns.  Rating:  ** (1 for 6)
The orderlies
place the filled body bag on a stretcher and strap it in.
Mark Henry dances
because, well of course, but Chyna does not want to dance.  Henry leaves for the restroom, leaving an
opportunity for some guys to hit on Chyna. 
She does not take kindly to that, leading to her clocking one of them
and Henry beats up another.  This was
fun, especially when Henry threw a guy across the bar.
Val Venis (w/The
Godfather & Hos) beats Tiger Ali Singh (w/Babu) via disqualification when
Terri Runnels interferes at 2:58
This feud between Tiger Ali Singh and the Godfather is
just going nowhere and doing very little for either guy.  That still beats today’s product where guys
wrestle each other with little backstory, but some Attitude Era feuds never
seemed to click and this is one of them. 
The hos neutralize Babu, while PMS comes out and interferes in the bout.  What a mess this was, and this was our fourth
disqualification finish of the evening. 
We are also six-for-six when it comes to run-in finishes.
After the bout,
the Acolytes, who recently debuted elsewhere on WWF programming, destroy Tiger
Ali Singh and Babu.  Why have these guys
beat up Singh and Babu and not a face team, though?  The Jackyl was the initial manager of the
Acolytes as well, but that did not last long.
The ambulance that
is supposed to take Kane to the mental facility departs, but Steve Austin and
Kane are shown watching footage of the whole thing in the back.  One guess who was in the body bag and is
headed for the mental health facility.
Shane McMahon
comes out to say that Sable is about to learn a lesson in humility.  She comes out and models WWF Attitude
cologne, which costs $19.99 (plus $4 shipping & handling).  Shane asks to smell it and tries to do so all
over Sable, but she squirts it in his face. 
You see, it is all funny!  1 for 7
Non-Title
Match:  The Rock (WWF Champion) defeats
Al Snow (w/Head) with the Rock Bottom at 4:57:
The Rock is back to using some kind of weird theme
music.  It is slightly better than the
disco theme they tried to give him a month earlier, but the beat for this theme
is one of those generic numbers you would get on the No Mercy video game.  It just does not add to the atmosphere or fit
the Rock at all.  Compared to other RAW
main events of this period, this has only a fraction of the expected crowd
reaction, an indication that tonight’s show has not delivered.  The Rock hilariously delivers the Corporate
Elbow to Head after a ref bump, which wakes up the crowd, and then beats Snow
clean.  Snow does get a visual pin on the
Rock by hitting him with Head in between all of that.  Rating:
 *½ (1 for 8)
After the match,
the Rock, Ken Shamrock, and the Big Bossman beatdown Al Snow and Mankind.  The JOB Squad finally makes a save.
Paul Bearer runs
into Austin backstage when he tries to unlock the freezer Austin was placed in
earlier.  The freezer opens to reveal
Kane and they haul Bearer out to the ring. 
Austin prevents Kane from immediately beating up Bearer or getting a gas
can.  Instead, he opts to cut Bearer’s
shirt and tie with a pair of scissors and teases stabbing him.  Austin aborts that idea too and they take him
outside and open a manhole cover.  They
shove Bearer down into the sewer head-first to close the show.  How is that punishment worse than killing
someone?  1 for 9
The Final Report Card:  Most of these shows have been good for the
last few months, but this show is beginning to illustrate how Russo is getting
a little too much creative control for his own good.  Every match, save for the WWF title match at
the end, had a run-in finish and the majority had disqualification finishes.  I do not mind DQ endings, but if you use them
too much throughout the show it really burns out the crowd and gets
irritating.  Some of these other angles
are also getting really ridiculous. 
Austin throwing a guy down a sewer? 
The hos gawking over Babu? 
Medical orderlies going after Kane? 
Things are really going off the rail.
Monday Night War Rating:  5.0 (vs. 4.2 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down