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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

The Piledriving Critique: Let’s Play WWF Betrayal Episode 2

The Masked Reviewer has been busy recently with work. Check out this second part of his on going Let’s Play where he audio blogs about his life, going to Raw, and upcoming show news. Also, you can continue to see how bad he is at video games!

Remember to follow me on twitter! @maskedreviewer

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1997

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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