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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1997

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 13, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and
The Honky Tonk Man are in the booth and they are taped from Albany, New York.  This is the go home show for the Royal Rumble
.

Opening
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley &
Jerry “the King” Lawler defeat “Wildman” Marc Mero & Goldust (w/Sable &
Marlena) by disqualification at 11:21 shown:
To think that this tag match was predicated on the final
of a Karate Fighters tournament.  Goldust
throws off his entrance attire in the aisle and charges the ring, demonstrating
that he means business tonight.  There’s
lots of stalling since Lawler is in charge of most of the action for his team
and Helmsley flees when Goldust is tagged in. 
These factors make the match very disjointed and also make it difficult
to build a decent heat segment. 
Eventually, Goldust gets his hands on Helmsley after the hot tag, but
refuses to release a choke, gets his team disqualified, and decks Mero after
they lose.  The story they are trying to
tell here is transparent, but the match quality suffered as a result.  Rating:  ½*
WWF Champion Sid
cuts a promo in the vacant Alamo Dome and says that he’s going to destroy Shawn
Michaels in front of family in San Antonio this Sunday.
Shawn Michaels
cuts a promo in the midst of some crazy fans in San Antonio and says that Sid’s
attack on Pete Lothario last week has released the monster inside of him.  A fat Latino lady keeps grabbing Shawn during
the interview and that’s worth a laugh
.
Bret Hart, who is
limping around on an injured ankle that Austin Pillmanized on Superstars, comes
out to do guest commentary.
-Footage of Marc
Mero yelling at Sable on Shotgun Saturday Night and Rocky Maivia coming to her
aid is shown.  This was supposed to
foreshadow a Mero-Maivia program where Mero would be the heel, but he was
injured before that could happen
.
Rocky Maivia
defeats The British Bulldog (w/Clarence Mason) by count out at 9:06 shown:
Bret puts over Maivia’s potential on commentary, but the
crowd doesn’t buy into him.  They aren’t
booing him, but just don’t react to his early offense against the Bulldog.  However, I don’t think it’s a problem with
Maivia as much as it is a crowd that is burned out from the taping.  Owen comes out and stands in front of Bret,
which seems more of an indictment of Bulldog’s abilities than anything
else.  There’s very little action in this
match, as the Bulldog uses chinlocks to slow down the action.  Steve Austin comes out when both men go over
the top rope, chop blocks the Bulldog, delivers a Stunner, and then flees to the
back where Bret and Owen follow him. 
This is hardly a great way to put over a young face, but it does sew the
seeds for the emergence of the Hart Foundation to torment Austin after
WrestleMania XIII.  Rating:  *
The Nation of
Domination says that it has unity and Crush says he’ll dominate the Undertaker
tonight using whatever means are necessary.
Steve Austin’s
attack on the British Bulldog earlier in the show is the Starburst Fruit Twists
Rewind segment
.
The Undertaker defeats
Crush (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification at 8:35 shown:
The Undertaker must not be a fan of the PG-13 rap,
because he interrupts it and forces the Nation to scatter.  Both guys work up a good pace at the
beginning of the match, but can’t sustain it and by the time we head to
commercial we’re getting too much of an exchange of punches and kicks.  Crush just doesn’t look comfortable with this
gimmick and the only heat he can generate is yelling at the crowd not to call
him a Jailbird.  We get our third
inconclusive finish of the evening as the Nation runs in before the Undertaker
can Tombstone Crush and Vader runs in to do some damage as well.  Ahmed Johnson tries to make the save with a
2×4, but PG-13 jump him and Faarooq seizes control of the 2×4 and wears him out
with it.  Rating:  *
The Final Report Card:  This RAW was more about the storylines and it
showed with the poor match quality. 
Austin’s attack on the Bulldog keeps the Bret-Austin feud going and is going
to draw in more actors and was the highlight of the show.  That also sustains a distrust angle between
Owen and the Bulldog that is taking place. 
However, there just wasn’t a lot to get into on this show as it seemed
like the company wanted to fast forward to the Rumble so it could move onto
bigger and better things.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.3 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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

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

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – December 9, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-A video package recaps the
Undertaker-Mankind feud.
-Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are wrapping up the taping in
New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Non-Title Contest:  Sid (WWF Champion) defeats Hunter
Hearst-Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion) via count out at 2:56:
These
champion vs. champion matches were always interesting and they did a nice job
establishing an internal pecking order in the promotion.  That said, I don’t agree with the booking
here as Helmsley gets beaten from pillar to post, is powerbombed, and crawls to
the locker room to fight another day.  It
makes Sid look strong, but does little for the Intercontinental title or those fighting for it.  Helmsley continues a RAW jobbing streak,
since Marc Mero has pinned him in several tag contests and he was destroyed
against one of the more popular stars on the roster in this bout.
-Footage of Mankind and the
Undertaker’s boiler room brawl at SummerSlam is shown.
-Goldust (w/Marlena) defeats Bart
Gunn with a chop block at 6:01 shown:
Bart
was getting a small singles push during this period, as he came close to
beating Hunter Hearst Helmsley for the Intercontinental title on WWF Superstars
prior to this show (see my comment about Helmsley above).  This is a paint by numbers television match,
with Goldust seizing the initial advantage and Bart making a comeback after the
break.  Bart hits his finisher, which was
a bulldog at this point, but Goldust kicks out of it and finishes shortly
thereafter to keep himself in the middle of the midcard.  The finish is really strange, but I like
random finishers every once and a while because they condition crowds to react
to the little stuff.  After the bout,
Billy comes out and runs down Bart on the house mic until Bart comes to his
senses and runs him off, thereby continuing that feud.  Rating:  *½
-Highlights of the Undertaker’s
match with Mankind at In Your House: 
Buried Alive are shown.
-Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and Zebekiah say that “The Real Double J” Jesse James is making a mistake by
agreeing to face them in a handicap match tonight.
-In the Karate Fighters Holiday
Tournament get a quick video package recaps the action.  Yes, back in 1996 a KARATE FIGHTERS
TOURNAMENT got a video package.
-Handicap
Match:  “The Real Double J” Jesse James defeats Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw & Zebekiah after pinning Bradshaw after a heel miscommunication spot at
5:50:
This
is the blowoff to the short feud on TV between these two.  The heels use their numbers to gradually wear
James down and cheat, but when Zebekiah tries to hit James
with his branding iron, in plain view of the referee, James moves and Bradshaw
takes the blow to create the finish. 
After the match, Bradshaw attacks Zebekiah, gives him a lariat, and
brands him to send him back to the USWA, where he would be the last Unified
champion of the promotion before it shut its doors in 1997.  The crowd was not into this contest at all.  After this bout, Bradshaw would be taken off
of TV for a while and repackaged as part of the New Blackjacks with Barry
Windham, who was ditching his Stalker gimmick. 
Rating:  *½
Ross interviews Bret “the Hitman” Hart about
his title match with Sid this Sunday at In Your House.  Bret says things are getting crazy in the WWF
and that he wants the WWF title
-Flash Funk’s Tumbleweed
variation on the Goon on last week’s Raw is the Acclaim Slam of the Week.
-The ending of the
Mankind-Undertaker match at SummerSlam is shown.
-No Holds Barred Match:  The Undertaker pins Mankind (w/Paul Bearer)
with a Tombstone at 9:47 shown:
After
these two have fought in boiler rooms and buried alive matches on pay-per-view,
the WWF decided to throw a bone to the fans and let them see these two fight it
out for free.  There is some nice
continuity in the match as the Undertaker anticipates Mankind’s Pearl Harbor
job when he gets into the ring and seizes the offensive.  However, this is a shorter version of their
Survivor Series bout and honestly, I’m starting to tire of this feud.  Mankind is not looking nearly as strong as he
did three months ago, as the Undertaker has dismantled him on three consecutive
occasions at this point (Buried Alive, Survivor Series, and here).  Foley really wouldn’t find a new direction
for the character until the summer of 1997 when he turned face and feuded with
Hunter Hearst Helmsley.  After the
finish, the Executioner attacks the Undertaker and applies the Asian spike in an attempt to make us buy the In Your House pay-per-view
to see the Armageddon Match between them. 
I feel bad for any fan that did that. 
Rating:  **
Tune in next week
to see the Smoking Gunns explode!
The
Final Report Card:  The
Undertaker-Mankind match probably brought in more viewers than last week’s
show, but it wasn’t a pay-per-view caliber match and came off as underwhelming
for such an intense feud.  It also didn’t
help that the Undertaker beat Mankind clean at the Survivor Series, so he’d
already gotten revenge in storyline terms. 
I still can’t believe that they jobbed Helmsley so quickly to Sid.  I understand making Sid look strong heading
into the In Your House pay-per-view, but they didn’t need to make Helmsley look
like such a paper champion either.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.3 for
Nitro)
Show
Evaluation:  Neutral