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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

Opening
Contest:  The Legion of Doom defeat Crush
& Savio Vega (w/the Nation of Domination) by disqualification at 6:47 shown
when Faarooq interferes:
The small stipulation for this contest is that Ahmed
Johnson and Faarooq are barred from ringside. 
However, when you are talking about the Nation of Domination, that just
subtracts one of five guys they usually bring to the ring with them.  This starts as a wild brawl, but then becomes
a no-selling contest between both teams. 
For example, there’s no excuse for Savio standing up after being given a
piledriver by Hawk.  Faarooq attacks
Ahmed with a night stick as he watches the match in the back and that enables
him to make the run-in before Vega eats a Doomsday Device.  Ahmed eventually runs out and makes the save
and JC Ice eats a Pearl River Plunge and D-Lo Brown takes the Doomsday Device
like a champ.  The crowd was hot for the
interference at the end, but this was quite sloppy in the middle.  Rating:  *½
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for the Larry Flynt Freedom of Speech Award.  The nominees are Jerry Lawler, Paul Heyman,
Steve Austin, Howard Stern, and Faarooq. 
By the way, your vote will cost you 99 cents
.
The announce team
says that WWF President Gorilla Monsoon is flying to the arena to clear up some
controversy over whether tonight’s steel cage match between WWF Champion Sid
and Bret Hart is for the WWF title or not. 
Another rumor floating around is that Shawn Michaels is planning to show
up
.
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley (w/Chyna) defeats Flash Funk (w/the Funkettes) with the Pedigree at
5:46:
The entrances for these two take nearly four minutes and
Funk’s theme is not catchy enough to sustain my interest for such a long dance
to the ring.  Funk dominates a lot of the
action, which is pretty surprising considering his position on the card, and
he’s in position to win after a flying leg drop, but Chyna pulls him out of the
ring to break a cover.  Chyna then
prevents Funk from going back to the top to finish off Helmsley and Helmsley takes
advantage of the distraction to pick up the win.  This was a nice TV match that protected
everyone involved heading into WrestleMania. 
Rating:  **¼
Shawn Michaels is
shown arriving at the arena
.
Footage is shown
of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman lifting a tax to allow the WWF to
compete in the state.  This is when the
WWF admitted that what it was doing was just “sports entertainment” and was not
real.
Mascarita
Sagrada, Jr. & Mini Goldust defeat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind when
Sagrada pins Mankind with a victory roll at 2:55:
Mascarita Sagrada Jr. was the dominant figure of the
short-lived WWF minis division in 1997, winning nearly all of his televised
matches.  Sagrada gets most of the shine
in this one and it’s so short that it is a fun waste of time.  In a fun spot after the match, Sagrada and
Vader run up the ramp and Sagrada gives Vader a flying body press on the
concrete floor.
WWF President
Gorilla Monsoon says that tonight’s steel cage match will be for the WWF
title.  Monsoon and Vince then argue over
whether now is the right time to give Bret Hart a crack at the title, since
WrestleMania is this weekend
.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Bret Hart, who says that he won the Royal Rumble, the Final Four
match, and is a four-time WWF champion so he deserves a title match tonight. Bret
unveils one of my favorite lines from this period when he says that the new
motto of the WWF is “you scratch my back and I put a knife in yours.”  Some boos can be heard in the audience,
thereby foreshadowing Bret’s heel turn.
Call 815-737-1156 to
get your customized WrestleMania 13 hockey jersey or denim jacket!  They can be yours for prices between
$89.99-$139.99!
The Sultan (w/the
Iron Sheik & Bob Backlund) beats Mike Bell via submission to the camel
clutch in 57 seconds:
Rocky Maivia is on commentary for this match, but since
he hasn’t developed the Rock persona it’s nothing to write home about.  The Sultan throws in a splash off the top
rope to set up the camel clutch and then argues with Maivia at ringside.  Maivia wants to get into a fight, but Tony
Atlas shows up and holds him back.
McMahon interviews
Shawn Michaels, who jokes about his “Lost Smile” speech and says that he found
his smile in San Antonio.  He thanks the
fans for his support and says that he’s going to see Dr. James Andrews about
his knee next week.  Shawn tells Vince
he’s upset at not getting invited to WrestleMania, so he’s inviting himself to
be the guest commentator for the WWF title match.  This promo just took too long for what it was
going to accomplish and it’s the perfect example of material that would give
you the perfect excuse to flip over to TNT to see what was happening on Nitro.
The British
Bulldog (w/Owen Hart) defeats Vader (w/Paul Bearer & Mankind) by
disqualification when Mankind interferes at 5:52 shown:
This is the easiest match to book for tonight’s show,
since it provides a quasi-preview of the tag team championship match at
WrestleMania.  The Bulldog manages to get
Vader up in the vertical suplex for several seconds, which is an awesome feat,
but Vader dominates much of the televised action.  Vader is a master of putting himself in
position to be slammed by a leaner opponent and it makes the Bulldog look like
a million bucks.  The Bulldog even has
Vader positioned for a running powerslam, but Mankind interferes to break it up
and a four way brawl ensues, with the champions standing tall.  An entertaining power match for the time they
were given.  Rating:  **¼
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for the Best Bow Tie category for the Slammy’s.  The nominees are Mr. Bob Backlund, Pee Wee
Herman, Clarence Mason, Louis Farrahkhan, and Yokozuna.  What is with all the crazy nominees?  Did they actually think more people would
watch if they threw a few random names into the candidate pool?
Billy Gunn beats
Aaron Ferguson by submission to an armbar at 1:59:
Ken Shamrock shows up to do guest commentary, surely to
scout Billy for their future encounter at the 1999 Royal Rumble.  This is a slow squash that is a relic of
another era and you might find the choice of finish puzzling, but Billy uses it
to taunt Shamrock after the match. 
Shamrock gets into the ring and quickly puts Billy in an armbar and
Billy taps out.  Billy says Shamrock can’t
do it twice, so Shamrock puts him in an ankle lock and Billy taps again.  This is likely the first time that the “tap
out” was introduced to a pro wresting audience, even though it wasn’t an
official match.
McMahon interviews
Austin, who says that he wasn’t impressed by Shamrock because he was taking
advantage of a “weakened” Billy Gunn. 
Austin runs down Shamrock some more and then says that he’s in the arena
tonight to help Bret win the title so he can win it at WrestleMania.  There’s some nice continuity here, as Austin
says he won the Royal Rumble, so he should be in the main event of WrestleMania
in the first place
.
WWF Champion Sid
says Steve Austin better stay out of his business and he’s going to powerbomb
Bret Hart through the floor.
Steel Cage Match
for the WWF Championship:  Sid (Champion)
defeats Bret “the Hitman” Hart by escaping the cage at 7:57 shown:
This is one of the most entertaining matches of this era
for a couple of reasons.  First, this
match is being held the week of WrestleMania, so the card could easily change
to make Bret-Austin the WWF title match and the main event and the
Undertaker-Sid match a special attraction. 
And second, because of the possibility of the card changing, the
Undertaker and Austin have an incentive to help their WrestleMania opponent win.  Austin makes his presence felt early, when he
prematurely closes the cage door when Sid is trying to crawl out.  Sid hits a powerbomb, but when he tries to
climb out, Austin intercepts him at the top of the cage and we get an
interesting double team whereby Bret and Austin pound on Sid.  The Undertaker then runs out and attacks
Austin to stop the attack and tosses Bret over the top of the cage when he’s
trying to climb out.  Shortly thereafter,
Sid goes to climb out after taking a superplex, but Bret also gets out and goes
for the door.  However, the Undertaker
slams the door in his face and Sid is able to successfully make it to the floor
to retain the title.  This is a difficult
match the rate, since there wasn’t much between Sid and Bret, but the interference
and subsequent brawling was very entertaining, so I’ll just say it’s above
average and move on.  Rating: 
**½
Following a
commercial break, McMahon goes to interview Bret, who pushes him down and
proceeds to go on a cursing tirade.  Ross
apologizes profusely and I’m sure the USA Network executives were spilling
coffee all over themselves trying to call the censor and wake them up.  Austin pops up on the video screen and calls
Bret a loser.  Bret tells Austin to come
and fight him, but Sid walks out instead, followed by the Undertaker.  When Bret sees the Undertaker, he executes a
suicide dive and Austin then arrives and brawls with him, as the Undertaker
gets into the ring and fights Sid.  WWF
officials try to separate the combatants and when Bret slugs Pat Patterson,
Vince unleashes a venomous tirade against him. 
After everyone is exhausted, Shawn Michaels walks out, but he doesn’t
get involved in any of the action.
The Final Report Card:  Now THIS
is what you call a go home show for the biggest pay-per-view of the year.  The undercard was fine, albeit forgettable,
but the main event and its aftermath really made an impression.  It was almost too successful, though, because
USA was not very happy with Bret’s cursing tirade near the end of the show.  Where the show was not a success was in the
ratings, as Nitro creamed RAW, showing that it was going to be a long battle
for the WWF to reclaim the number one spot. 
Nonetheless, the show did a good job setting up Bret’s heel turn and is
a great show to look back on since we know where the Bret-McMahon issue was
leading to.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.4
(vs. 3.7 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

by Logan Scisco

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

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

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – 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