What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 6, 1997

by Logan Scisco
Last week a plurality of readers wanted to move onto 1997, so that’s where we are headed.  According to Jim Cornette, 1997 is the year that laid the foundation for the late 1990s boom period, which allowed the WWF to regain its place as the top wrestling promotion in North America.  Some of the Nielsen ratings for these Raw’s are not great, but the storylines improve throughout the year and as Cornette attests, created a new product that revolutionized the business.  So, let’s start reviewing the 1997 season of Monday Night Raw.
Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Albany, New
York
.

-Opening Toughman
Contest:  Mankind pins Owen Hart
(w/Clarence Mason) with a stump piledriver at 7:02 shown:
Owen is subbing for the British Bulldog in this contest
and he and Mankind have an interesting battle between Owen’s Slammy and
Mankind’s chair.  Just so you know, the
Slammy wins.  It’s hard to tell who’s
side the crowd is on, since they hate both guys.  Owen takes a brutal shot to the head with a
cooler near the end of the match and a blind charge allows Mankind to hit a
piledriver for the finish.  These two had
some nice chemistry and the transitions between technical wrestling and
brawling were very smooth.  Rating: 
**½
Jose Lothario and
Shawn Michaels are backstage and Lothario says that Michaels is going to win
the WWF title back at the Royal Rumble. 
Jose’s son Pete reiterates that and Michaels says that he’ll be doing
guest commentary for the Bret Hart-Vader main event tonight.
Footage of Ahmed
Johnson’s altercation with the Nation of Domination on Shotgun Saturday Night
is shown.
The Honky Tonk Man
joins McMahon and Lawler for commentary. 
Honky is in the midst of scouting talent for someone that he can manage.
Doug Furnas &
Philip LaFon defeated The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel when Furnas
pins Ramon after a modified Doomsday Device at 9:02 shown:
With the tag team division in flux, this sort of
functions like a number one contenders match for Owen and the Bulldog’s
belts.  The Fake Diesel is clearly the
star of the Fakes, as he brings some much needed energy to the contest after
the Fake Razor puts the crowd to sleep with armbars.  Unfortunately, the crowd isn’t into Furnas
and LaFon at all here and they have very little sympathy for them when the
Fakes do their beat down.  This was one
of those matches that you watch that you want to see end, but it just kept
going and going.  Rating:  **
Hunter Hearst
Helmsley throwing Goldust into Marlena on last week’s show is shown.  Marlena flashing the Sultan on Shotgun
Saturday Night is also shown
.
Bret Hart tells
the announce crew that if Shawn Michaels wants to interfere tonight he can go
right ahead because he’ll be ready for it. 
He also says he’s ready for Vader and then gets angry when Sid’s music
starts during his interview time
.
Jim Ross
interviews WWF Champion Sid, who says that he was born the man and he’ll
overcome the odds and defeat Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble.
  Shawn Michaels
comes out to do color commentary and starts dancing and stripping on the
announce table.  This leads to some
unintentional hilarity as Sid starts smiling at his dance and nodding his head.  I think you can find a .gif of this sequence on the Internet.
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to find if Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin could co-exist as tag
team partners.
Dok Hendrix hypes
the next Madison Square Garden card, where Sid will defend the WWF title
against the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels will face Mankind, Goldust collides with
Steve Austin, Bret Hart squares off with Vader, and Ahmed Johnson and Savio
Vega challenge Faarooq and Crush
.
Ahmed Johnson
giving the Pearl River Plunge to a member of the Nation of Domination on a car
on Shotgun Saturday Night is the Starburst Fruit Twists Rewind segment.
Vader pins Bret “the
Hitman” Hart with a Vader Bomb at 8:03 shown:
Jim Cornette is not at Vader’s side, nor will he be from
this point forward, because the Undertaker Tombstoned him on WWF Superstars.  I’m really surprised that they would waste
this pay-per-view caliber match on free TV, but that shows you what kind of
booking funk Vader has been in since SummerSlam.  We get a very physical match in the early
going, with Bret using the stairs, but Vader using his girth in flying at Bret
to generate an advantage.  Bret is able
to block a Vader Bomb and take control, but when the action spills to the
floor, Sid comes and grabs a camera man. 
Steve Austin comes out and gives Bret a Stunner, which the camera fails
to catch, and Vader uses that interference to pick up his biggest victory in a
while.  The victory gives Vader some
needed momentum heading into the Royal Rumble and also continues the
Bret-Austin feud.  This match was also a
little refreshing because Bret tended to win big matches like this on Raw.  This match could’ve been better, but they did
what they could with their limited TV time 
Rating:  **½
The camera
backstage shows Sid beating up Pete Lothario and powerbombing him on a table
before Michaels can get backstage.
The Final Report Card:  The first Raw of 1997 had some good wrestling
and showed that 1997 was going to have more “attitude” than 1996.  The feuds that the WWF was building had
multiple dimensions and the tangled web that encompassed Shawn Michaels, Bret
Hart, Sid, and Steve Austin would help carry the company to an entertaining
year.  This show is an easy thumbs up
because of the good work during the main event and the opener.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.1 (vs. 3.0 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: 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