What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 24, 1997

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are live from the Manhattan Center in New York, New
York
.

Opening
Contest:  The New Blackjacks defeat The
Godwinns after Windham pins Phineas following a Bradshaw lariat at 5:51:
The New Blackjacks are the repackaged Barry Windham and
Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and while this idea may have worked in theory, it had a
couple of problems.  First, people
usually prefer the original and second, many WWF fans were unaware of the
original Blackjacks because the WWF didn’t care to emphasize its history at
this time.  The crowd is dominated by
smarks and ECW fans, who don’t care for either team here, but we do see Ken
Shamrock in the audience during the course of this contest.  A sloppy brawl is what we get out of both
teams before a train wreck of a finish sees Phineas pinned despite having his
foot on the bottom rope.  Another referee
comes out to inform the original referee that he messed up, but the original
referee refuses to reverse the decision so the Godwinns slop him.  This did nothing for all parties
involved.  Rating:  ½*
The Eliminators
show up and give Total Elimination to an unfortunate ring attendant and Paul
Heyman steps into the ring and says that ECW is in the house.  The Eliminators should’ve roughed up the ring attendant after taking him hostage, though, because it looked silly to have him stand there like a statue while the Eliminators got into position to hit him with their finishing move
.
Stevie Richards
(w/The Blue World Order) defeats Little Guido with a Stevie Kick at 3:39:
This is our first ECW feature match and Raven makes a
cameo less than a minute in, coming from the locker room and
staring down Richards.  Goldust appears
in the split screen and says that ECW is like a B-movie.  This is a basic match without any psychology,
but its purpose was to put over the Blue World Order and Stevie Richards in
anticipation of ECW’s Barely Legal pay-per-view and it effectively did
that.  Rating:  **
Sunny says Marlena
will not be in any condition to beat her in the arm wrestling match they are
going to have tonight
.
Arm Wrestling
Match:  Marlena defeats Sunny:
The Honky Tonk Man facilitates this and Sunny gets one of
the loudest pops of the evening before she rips off Rick Rude’s opening speech, with
robe and all.  Making this an arm
wrestling match is odd, but Vince Russo hadn’t developed the evening gown match
yet, so this is what we get.  It unfolds
like any other arm wrestling match you’ve ever seen, with Sunny playing the
heel rule and constantly pulling away. 
Regardless, the crowd is pretty into it and after making a comeback,
Marlena wins, only to have Sunny throw powder in her eyes.  This brings out Savio Vega, who wants to take
advantage of the weakened Marlena, until Goldust runs in and gives us…
Goldust
(w/Marlena) defeats Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) via
disqualification when Crush interferes at 8:43 shown:
Miguel Perez is doing guest commentary and he says he has
no idea what has happened to Savio. 
Savio finally has some different ring gear, which effectively
distinguishes him as a heel.  The problem
with heel Savio is that his offense consists of chokes and nerve holds and it
sucks the life out of the match.  Things
pick up a little bit when Goldust makes the comeback, but then things fall
apart again as Savio barely connects on a spinning heel kick and both guys run
out of ideas.  Crush interferes when
Savio has the advantage, which makes little sense, and Perez comes to Goldust’s
aid.  Rating:  ½*
Lawler interacting with Tiny Tim on Raw in 1993 is shown.
Lawler interviews
Ken Shamrock in the audience and takes credit for Shamrock’s success.  Shamrock says he doesn’t know Lawler and
that’s the segment.  Really?
Call
1-900-737-SLAM to vote for Best Finishing Move for the 1997 Slammy Awards.  Your choices are Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin
Music, Marc Mero’s Wild Thing, Sid’s powerbomb, Steve Austin’s Stone Cold
Stunner, and Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter.
Taz (w/Bill
Alphonso) beats Mikey Whipwreck via submission with the Tazmission at 3:29:
Heyman says the show has sucked aside from the ECW stuff
and I have to fully agree with him.  Sabu
makes an appearance by taking out Taz’s crew, which the camera nearly misses,
and comes near the ring, where Taz can’t quite elevate Whipwreck enough to
crash onto Sabu on the floor. 
Nevertheless, Sabu is pulled to the back by Taz’s entourage and Taz
quickly finishes Whipwreck.  A decent
squash for Taz, but the WWF’s camera crew needed to be better positioned to capture
Sabu’s dive live.  They do a better job
handling the replay, though.
The Legion of
Doom and The Headbangers wrestle to a double count out at 7:39 shown:

The Legion of Doom’s return to Raw is the “surprise” that McMahon had been
promising to viewers throughout the evening. 
Who says Vince doesn’t know his audience?  The crowd does make Vince smile during this
match by chanting that Nitro, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff suck.  This match is booked wrong, as the Legion of
Doom dominate the action, but have to do it over the course of eight minutes,
which really exposes them.  Worse, they
aren’t even booked to go over.  Was it
really necessary to protect the Headbangers here?  The Legion of Doom should’ve come out and
squashed some random guys in less than two minutes.  Rating:  ½*
Another “Tell Me a
Lie” video is played for Shawn Michaels. 
I would normally say this is unnecessary since Dr. James Andrews told us
last week that Michaels would be returning, but I enjoy the song
.
Tommy Dreamer
(w/Beulah McGillicutty) pinned D-Von Dudley (w/Sign Guy Dudley) after a DDT on
a chair at 4:29:
Dreamer and D-Von let everything go here, as D-Von takes a frying pan to the head and has Dreamer baseball slide some steps into his
face.  This is really a prelude to the
hardcore era in the WWF, as chairs get involved for a variety of maneuvers,
including the finish.  It’s a garbage
match, but an entertaining one when compared to the lousy WWF stuff on the
show.  After the bout, Buh Buh Ray comes
in and the Dudley’s give Dreamer a Dudley Death Drop.  The Sandman then comes out of the crowd to make
the save.  Interestingly enough, you
could play this match before the first ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view that took place over nine years later and it would make perfect sense.  Rating:  **
After the
Dreamer-Dudley match, Lawler irritates Heyman and provokes a brawl between the
two and McMahon gets lost amidst the ECW crew
.
Jim Ross recaps
last week’s events, which culminated in Sid winning the WWF title
Jim
Cornette also narrates Bret Hart’s rampage through the locker room after losing
the title.
McMahon announces
that Bret Hart and Steve Austin will face each other in a no holds barred match
at WrestleMania
.
Todd Pettengill
interviews Shamrock and his family. 
Shamrock compliments the Undertaker, thereby sparking his interest in
MMA.  Pettengill does a poll for who the
fans would like to see win at WrestleMania between Austin and Hart and the
crowd firmly sides with Austin
.
The Legion of
Doom’s Doomsday Device on Mosh after tonight’s tag team match is the WWF Full
Metal:  The Album Rewind for this week
.
The Undertaker
defeats Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation runs in at 10:50 shown:
Faarooq disses the UFC and Shamrock on his way to the
ring and Shamrock teases jumping the guardrail and going after him. 
The Nation takes out the Undertaker’s leg on the floor, but Faarooq
really doesn’t know how to take advantage of that.  After what feels like an eternity, the Nation
does the predictable run-in to draw the disqualification and the Legion of Doom
come to the Undertaker’s aid as we go off the air.  This one was a chore to sit through as
neither guy seemed motivated and the constant striking grew tiresome.  I always try to look for any redeeming quality
a match might have, but this had nothing. 
Rating:  DUD
The Final Report Card:   I’m not sure if the WWF guys intentionally
put together bad matches since they knew that the ECW crowd was going to
upstage them in terms of crowd reaction, but the WWF was clearly overshadowed
on this show.  Of the WWF matches, none
of them broke ½* and it was an embarrassing display of what the company had to
offer.  In the WWF’s defense, most of its
top talent was overseas on a European tour, but there’s little excuse for this effort.  The ECW experiment
demonstrated Vince’s desire to do anything to get back into the Monday Night War with WCW and it did pop a rating here, but the WWF-ECW on-screen relationship
would fizzle when McMahon wanted the WWF to beat ECW in any invasion angle that
developed and Heyman wisely vetoed it. 
Although the show was an interesting experiment at the time, it’s a
chore to sit through today and is really not worth your time to check out
unless you need to cure insomnia.
Show Rating: 
2.5 (vs. 3.0 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – January 27, 1997

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps the wild events on last week’s show, where Bret Hart, Steve Austin,
Vader, and the Undertaker got into a massive brawl.
Vince McMahon and
Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are still in Beaumont, Texas
.
Footage of Savio
Vega turning on Ahmed Johnson in a tag team match at Madison Square Garden is
shown
.
Footage of Sid
whacking Crush with a chair on Shotgun Saturday Night is shown.

Opening
Contest:  Crush (w/the Nation of
Domination) pins Ahmed Johnson with a heart punch at 5:40 shown:
If there was one superstar that was hurt by a lack of
squash matches in the company at this time it was Ahmed, who was put into feuds
with guys that could not carry him to good matches.  This match is no exception, as they try to
work in some power moves, but can’t seem to cooperate and have a hard time
lifting each other.  Faarooq runs out
when the referee’s back is turned and attacks Ahmed, enabling Crush to score
the victory, which marks just the second time that Ahmed has been pinned on WWF
television.  Crush’s victory also sent a
subtle signal that Ahmed wasn’t on the same level of the card as he was in
1996.  Rating:  ¼*
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who says that he’s ready to face Sid at Thursday
Raw Thursday.  That’s a strange name for
the show, but they must really have wanted people to remember that it was going
to be on Thursday.  Michaels says that
he’ll be bad because that’s what he’s going to have to do to keep the title in
the midst of all of the chaos happening lately. 
McMahon brings out Bret Hart, who says that he wants Michaels to retain
the title against Sid because he wants to beat Michaels to regain the title.  The cycle of interview time continues as the
Undertaker is brought out and the dead man says that the WWF title belongs to
him and he’s been screwed more than Bret Hart. 
Austin comes out, with Jim Ross in tow because he fears an ambush, and
appears to be the voice of reason by saying that everyone whining about how
they’ve been screwed is wearing on him. 
Poor Vader just stands by the entrance and only gets to jaw with Austin
as he heads to the locker room
.
The Western Union
rewind is Faarooq’s attack on Ahmed Johnson tonight
.
Ahmed Johnson is
shown breaking down a door backstage to try to find the Nation of
Domination.  Lawler rightly points out
that Ahmed is an idiot because he’d just be walking into an ambush if he were
to find the Nation.
The British
Bulldog (w/Owen Hart & Clarence Mason) defeats Doug Furnas (w/Philip LaFon)
by sitting down on a sunset flip attempt at 7:14 shown:
Furnas gets the jobber entrance, but the Bulldog has
better theme music anyway.  McMahon
announces that Furnas and LaFon will get a tag team title shot at In Your
House, but it would be nice if would clarify why they are getting the title
shot since they did lose their non-title contest last week.  The cutting of the match does very little for
Furnas, as the Bulldog’s offense is showcased and he doesn’t get in very many
moves.  The Bulldog appears to have the
match lost when a miscommunication spot sees him blasted with Owen’s Slammy,
but he quickly recovers and wins.  After
the match, the Bulldog and Owen tease a breakup, but uneasily resolve their
dispute.  I don’t get the booking for
this match, as it would not have hurt the Bulldog to do the job after Owen’s
interference and it would’ve given some credibility to Furnas and LaFon, which
they needed after last week’s loss.  Rating: 
More footage of
Savio Vega’s heel turn in Madison Square Garden is shown.  Savio Vega’s interview with Todd Pettengill
on Shotgun Saturday Night, where he brushed off his heel turn, and his
subsequent joining of the Nation of Domination on that show is played for us.
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to find out what Sid’s secret weapon is going to be to win the
WWF title back at Thursday Raw Thursday
.
Clips of the WWF’s
press conference, where they announced the signing of Tiger Ali Singh are shown.  Talk about a prospect that didn’t pan out.
The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly
Jim) defeat Vader & Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) via count out at 7:11 shown:
The story of this match is that it’s Vader and Mankind’s
debut and they don’t communicate well. 
This leads to some fun spots, like Vader tagging Mankind stiffly on the
shoulder and encouraging him to beat down Phineas in the proper fashion.  As a sign of good booking, the Godwinns are
not made to look like jobbers in this contest and manage to get some sustained
offense against Vader and Mankind and they eventually win on a fluke when a
miscommunication spot sees Mankind take Vader out with a chair and smile as he
walks to the locker room.  This would
appear to be leading us toward a Mankind-Vader feud and a potential face turn
for Mankind, but neither of those things happened in the immediate aftermath of
this match.  The full version of this
match might’ve garnered a better rating, but the cutting of the match hurt its
momentum.  Rating: *½
Ahmed eventually
finds some of the Nation and he tosses a member of PG-13 in the trunk of a
white car, which starts to speed away. 
The other member of PG-13 is hanging out of the driver’s side door as
the car speeds off
.
The Final Report Card:  There’s a lot of curious booking on this show
as the wrestlers that you think would go over do not.  I know that during this time frame Foley
pitched the idea of doing a feud with Vader, which McMahon refused to do
because they had already done it in WCW, but the main event finish would imply
that the company at least gave some thought to going in that direction.  Although this show didn’t capitalize on the
momentum of the previous week, I did like that they kept the Godwinns
strong.  There’s no point in making your
entire tag division look weak for makeshift teams that you may or may not keep
together for the long term.
Monday Night War Rating:  2.2 (vs. 3.6 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Neutral

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 – 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: 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 23, 1996

by Logan Scisco

-Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and
Jerry Lawler are in the booth and they are still from somewhere that is
undisclosed.
-Footage of the aftermath of last
week’s Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament is shown.

Opening Intercontinental Championship
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley
(Champion) defeats “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/Sable) with a Pedigree at 6:11 shown:
Helmsley
can lose the belt here if he gets counted out or disqualified.  Right before the bell rings, Goldust’s theme
plays and he and Marlena take seats in the crowd because Goldust will face the
winner at the Royal Rumble.  They play to
the stipulations, as Helmsley opts not to use a chair so he doesn’t lose the
title and they have a very competitive match. 
There is also some good continuity with the finish, as Helmsley avoids a
Merosault, which got him pinned at the Survivor Series in November, and he hits
the dazed Mero with the Pedigree.  This
is a bit of an upset, considering how many victories over Helmsley in non-title
matches Mero had accumulated up to this point and it was a sign that the WWF
was putting more stock into Helmsley for the future.  This would also constitute the official end
of the Helmsley-Mero feud, as Helmsley now moves on to feud with Goldust and Mero
moves on to a knee injury in a couple of months, which will destroy his career.  Rating:  **½
-After the match, Helmsley gets
on the house mic and tells Goldust that at the Royal Rumble he’s going to show
him how to be a man and then says that he’s going to let Marlena feel what it’s
like to be with a real man.  Goldust
charges to the ring, but Helmsley flees before anything happens.
-McMahon and Ross discuss the
ending of the Bart Gunn-Billy Gunn match on last week’s show.  Bart’s comments about how the incident was an
accident on Livewire are also played.
-Sunny comes down to the ring to
do commentary for our next match.  Her
appearance on MTV’s “Singled Out” is also discussed.
Rocky Maivia pins Salvatore Sincere (w/Jim
Cornette) with a shoulderbreaker at 5:49:
We
get another match between these two, with Sincere having won none of the
matches in this series.  He wasn’t even
able to get a single leg up on Maivia in this small feud.  Sunny fawns over Maivia as this match follows
the Randy Savage template:  Maivia gets
destroyed until making a comeback out of nowhere and finishing Sincere off once
and for all.  Rating:  *½
-McMahon interviews WWF Champion
Sid.  Sid says that in thirty days he’s
defeated Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, two of the best technical wrestlers on
the planet, and that proves that power is the best skill that he has in his
arsenal.  He runs down his height and
weight and says that isn’t changing.  A really
bland interview, but it made its point.
Pierroth & Cibernetico defeat The New
Rockers when Pierroth pins Marty Jannetty with a top rope splash at 3:51 shown:
Pierroth
and Cibernetico were guest participants in the Royal Rumble when the WWF had a
working relationship with AAA in Mexico. 
Mil Mascaras is shown doing guest commentary at the Spanish announce
table because he will be in the Royal Rumble match.  The crowd doesn’t care about the New Rockers
and they don’t know what to make of the Mexican team, so they just choose to
sit on their hands until Cibernetico blasts Cassidy with a suicide dive in the
finishing sequence.  Pierroth and
Cibernetico didn’t look that good in this match, as they had trouble executing
basic maneuvers like a leapfrog and a sunset flip.  Rating:  *
-Ross interviews Mil Mascaras and
Mascaras quickly discusses the honor of getting to compete in the Royal Rumble.
-McMahon announces that Hunter
Hearst Helmsley, Flash Funk, the British Bulldog, Ahmed Johnson, and the
Undertaker will be in the Royal Rumble match. 
For the wrestling trivia buffs out there, the 1997 Royal Rumble was the
first time since 1993 that the Undertaker was participating in the Rumble
match.
-The Honky Tonk Man comes down to
ringside to do guest commentary.  He’s on
a search to find someone to carry on his legacy because he can’t be as active
in the ring as he used to.
Bret “the Hitman” Hart defeats The Fake
Razor Ramon via submission with the Sharpshooter at 5:58 shown:
Bret’s
always lauded for pulling off miracles in the ring against opponents who
couldn’t carry their weight, but this match proves that you can’t work miracles
all the time.  The problem is that Ramon
dominates three quarters of the match with every type of striking and choking
move you can imagine.  The highlight of
the match is when Bret whips Ramon into the steps, but Ramon stops himself
before hitting them and lightly taps them with his rear end.  McMahon also praises Bret after his victory
for showing a mean streak, but that’s really tough to sell when he gets
dominated by a midcarder.  Altogether,
this is one of the worst Bret matches that I’ve ever seen.  Rating:  ½*
-McMahon asks Shawn Michaels, who
is in the locker room, what he thinks of Bret Hart and Sid and Shawn just acts
like McMahon is asking dumb questions. 
He says he’ll be ready for the Royal Rumble.
-Tune in next week to see Goldust
face Jerry Lawler!
The
Final Report Card:  They really should’ve
just scrapped Bret Hart-Razor Ramon main event and given the Helmsley-Mero
match more time.  For a blowoff to their
feud, both guys deserved more time to tell a story than what they were given on
this show.  Aside from those two matches,
you have a Sincere-Maivia part 15, which was one of the more poorly developed
feuds of the year, and a squash for Pierroth and Cibernetico, where both guys
looked terrible.  Overall, just a bad
show that’s not worth looking for because the one match you may want to see,
Helmsley-Mero, underperforms.
Monday
Night War Rating:  N/A (vs. 3.1 for
Nitro)
Show
Grade:  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

April Assorted PPV Countdown: 1998

The SK Retro Rant for Unforgiven 98 – For god-knows-what reason, this is #1 with a bullet on my request list from the readership. Hey, I live to serve. – Live from Greensboro, NC – Your hosts are JR & The King. Have to get used to not typing THAT anymore.  (I guess this was written during the brief period when King had quit over the Miss Kitty stuff.)    – Opening match: The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry v. Ken Shamrock, Faarooq & Steve Blackman. Quite the hodge-podge of different fates three years later here. Godfather is hanging around ringside, being a pest. Faarooq was of course freshly dumped as leader of the Nation of Domination, leading to the Rock’s hostile takeover of the group and slingshot move into the wrestling stratosphere. D-Lo & Blackman start, with the Lethal Weapon getting some kicks before taking a DDT. Blackman works an armbar, then Shammy continues. Faarooq comes in and whips D-Lo with his belt, with Rocky’s comical protests only serving to distract the referee further. (The early stages of Rocky v. Faarooq were really amusing, with Rock really developing his cartoonish heel persona.)  Irony can be so ironic. Mark Henry comes in and treats Blackman like a child with a pair of backbreakers and a mistimed clothesline. D-Lo comes back in and hits the Sky High for two. Faarooq comes in but makes the cardinal mistake of putting his head down and gets pounded. Rock makes his first appearance, drawing enough heat to scorch his sideburns off, and lays in the boots. Man, Vince must have made a downpayment on a new gold limo once he started hearing that sort of reaction to Rock. (Sadly the gold plated limo was blown up as a wacky prank by D-X in 2006, taking out 3 members of the Spirit Squad in the process.)  Henry gets an elbowdrop for two. Blackman tries his luck and gets powerslammed. Blackman is YOUR face-in-peril, thus making Rock’s heat look that much better by way of comparison. Rock fires off the People’s Elbow, irritating the HELL out of the fans, and goes into chinRock mode. (I remember the first time that Rock actually pinned someone with that move.  It was a house show against Mark Henry and you would think that the collapse of Western society was imminent judging by the massive amounts of hatred online fans showed.)  D-Lo misses the moonsault (no, no, don’t act so shocked), hot tag Faarooq. Faarooq, Faarooq, Faarooq is on fire! We don’t need no water! Okay, dumb reference, I’m allowed one per rant. (Well that quota sure gets exceeded a lot.)  Rock and Faarooq are left alone, which leads to a Dominator for the pin at 13:32. And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. (Wait, what?  He challenged for the World title at KOTR 98, didn’t he?)  Boring mess, due to the lack of Shamrock involvement. * – Steve Austin stops by to harass the timekeeper. He lets him know that if ANY screwing goes on tonight, he’d better be calling for an ambulance. The timekeeper seems to get the message loud and clear.  (Oh, for the days when Montreal references were fresh and new.)  – European title match: HHH v. Owen Hart. This was pre-face turn for DX, but they were getting there. Sign in crowd: “Playboy Needs Chyna”. Well, THERE’S who we can blame. (That and her plastic surgeon.)  Speaking of Miss Congeniality herself, she’ll be locked in a steel cage and suspended above the ring here, ostensibly to prevent her from interfering, but in reality to allow Vince Russo to kill yet another time-honored booking tool. (Come to think of it, you really don’t see that one done anymore.)  Owen and HHH brawl down the aisle while they raise Chyna. Owen makes sure to ram HHH into the cage before she leaves. They head in and Owen clotheslines him right out again. Back in, Owen hits a backbreaker and dishes some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. HHH hotshots him to break the momentum, then USES THE KNEE. Ah, the old days when Hunter sucked. Suplex and kneedrop get two. Atomic drop and lariat get two. HHH does sort of a dragon sleeper as Chyna attempts to bend the bars. Owen’s sunset flip gets two, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to the sleeper, as Chyna keeps working on the bars. Owen comes back, but takes a facebuster for two. Back to the sleeper. Owen reverses out with a german suplex for two. Belly to belly hits as Chyna bends the bars. The ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH gets two. Leg lariat gets two. Piledriver and flying elbow, but Chyna escapes the cage to distract everyone. Owen dumps Hunter as Chyna hangs from the cage. The announcers talking about how she’s hanging for her life from the ceiling is really, REALLY disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to. It shouldn’t be, given that this took place a year before, but just having Owen there with this angle going on is pretty creepy. (That’s probably why they got away from doing the gimmick, come to think of it.)  Owen gets a DDT and hooks the Sharpshooter as the cage lowers (via Road Dogg, in an angle stolen from Ole Anderson), and Owen gets distracted. HHH nails him, but Owen reverses a Pedigree…and hits one of his own! X-Pac sneaks in, nails him with a fire extinguisher (not Raven’s FIRE EXTINGUISHER OF DOOM, though), and HHH gets the pin to retain at 13:38. Solid match, but Vince Russo had this weird hard-on for sixteen guys running in at once for every finish and it nearly ruined the match. ***1/4  (What was WITH HHH going over Owen all the time?  The original idea was for Owen to feud with Shawn, and yet he ended up winning the Euro title from Goldust (dressed as Hunter) and then doing two straight jobs to Hunter after that.  Good thing HHH has matured past that sort of selfish political manipulations.)  NWA World tag title: The New Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express. Yet another step in Vince Russo’s master plan to humiliate Jim Cornette at every turn, poor Corney was stuck with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn in a pale knockoff of his one great accomplishment in the sport. (Well SMW was pretty good too.)  Today, Cornette has his dream job while Vince Russo sits at home, disgraced, with multiple concussions and no job.  (Well, Russo ended up with a long-term job with TNA and Cornette kind of blackballed himself from everyone but ROH, so I think Russo won the war in the long-term) Instant karma’s gonna get you. Bombastic Bob and Robert Gibson start, and Bob bails quickly. You know, I think the reason that Hardcore Holly got over so well has more to do with it being the total opposite of THIS gimmick than anything else. Back in, Robert works the arm and the RnR double-team. The entire crowd leaves for nachos. I mean, you can LITERALLY see the side of the arena facing the camera EMPTY in a two-minute span. The Midnights squabble, then Bart gets an abdominal stretch on Ricky as Cornette does a 1985 comedy routine with the ref in a desperate, sad attempt to make the fans care. Morton gets nailed by Cornette and plays himself. Bob misses an Alabama Jam (this gimmick is sacrilege on so many levels) and it’s a hot tag for Robert. DOUBLE DROPKICK OF DOOM, no ref. It’s so painful to have to mock their finisher like that, but that team did NOT age well. I’m almost glad the Midnight Express self-destructed before they became a sad parody of themselves, too. (And they’re still doing the reunion show circuit 11 years after I wrote this.)  It wasn’t so noticeable with the Rock n Roll in SMW, because that whole territory existed in a bizarre redneck timewarp stasis type thing, but back in the big leagues it was pretty glaring. Anyway, Robert rolls up Bart Gunn, but Bob bulldogs him for the pin at 7:20. The New Midnight Express actually got somewhat watchable for a short time, while the Rock N Roll Express was cut loose VERY soon after this. -* – Evening gown match: Lunda Vachon v. Sable. This was the first one, ever, believe it or not. Clothes get ripped, Marc Mero distracts Sable, and Luna rips her dress off for the win. DUD – Vince and Stooges come out to waste some TV time. That whole Russo-era habit of putting 20-minute interviews on PPV always bugged me.  (Good thing they don’t do THAT anymore!)  WWF tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. LOD 2000. The catchphrase is there for the NAO, but not over yet. This was the WWF’s absolute last-ditch attempt to get the LOD over as something meaningful, but even with Sunny the Crack Whore and new outfits, it was still the same LOD. WCW would do well to remember that lesson. Jesse Jammes, never one to hold his tongue, even makes fun of the LOD in his pre-match banter, complaining about having to face the same dinosaurs yet again. (I bet the boys in the back were all upset about the LOD taking the spot of someone else on PPV.)  Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life. Maybe Vince Russo should try peddling drugs – he certainly couldn’t get much lower on the food chain of life anyway. Plus at least he’d have a steady job. (TNA booker, drug dealer, either way.)  Speaking of Russo’s stupid ideas, Billy Gunn debuts the “Mr. Ass” tights here. Gunn misses a bodypress on Animal, and gets clotheslined for two. Gunn bails and Animal works on Dogg’s arm. Hawk runs through the usual as the Outlaws beg off. Gunn comes in and Hawk actually messes up a bodyslam. Just a plain old bodyslam. Of course, you could probably blame Gunn for that, too, given his habits as of late, but he was pretty decent back in 1998. (Let’s not get crazy here.)  Animal hits the chinlock. This is like watching UT & Kane shuffle through the tag ranks and desperately try to keep up with all the young and over teams today. Pier-six erupts, but the Doomsday Device is stopped with a well-timed clip, and Animal is painted-face-in-peril. NAO work the knee for a long time. Thank god for heavily caffeinated and sweetened soft drinks. Jerry & JR get so bored that they start riffing on Wild Kingdom to pass the time, despite it having nothing to do with the match. Gunn hits a fameasser for two. Hot tag Hawk, and katie bar the door, yada yada. Billy nails Hawk with the belt (the NAO’s finisher for the longest time) for two, but Animal suplexes Dogg for the pin. However, since both guys’ shoulders were down, the ref gave the champs the benefit of the doubt and counted ANIMAL out, so the titles stayed with the Outlaws. That wasn’t really explained by the announcers, but I’m using the Flair-Steamboat precedent which established that “tie goes to the champion” in 1994. Match was about as excruciatingly bad as one might expect. ½*  (I still don’t know why they were so obsessed with endlessly pushing and re-pushing the LOD in their degenerated state.  Vince is usually a smart enough guy to know when to let it go, but maybe he just really liked them?)  – Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown. I fast forward. – Inferno Match: Kane v. Undertaker. Hey, a Kane v. Undertaker match, that should pick the pace of this show up! The ring is of course surrounded by “fire” here, in reality a pipe spewing butane-powered flames under the control of a pyro expert at ringside. To win, you have to set your opponent on fire. (Also, the most annoying game mode in the RAW v. Smackdown series.  Took me FOREVER to figure out how to win that fucking thing, as I would just keep beating down my opponent and get nowhere with it.)  They hammer on each other and UT hits an avalanche. Ropewalk and flames puff up, as they do with all the highspots in this match. Blind charge and Kane backdrops him over the top, but Taker seems to land awkwardly on the ropes and falls back into the ring. Kane stomps away to take over. UT goes to the eyes to counter. Thrilling stuff! Kane keeps stomping. Chairshot puts Taker down. He comes back with more kicks, as does Kane. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of complex moves here. Oh, and choking, sorry, almost forgot that. Taker gets a russian legsweep and elbow, which is no-sold by Kane. Chokeslam follows, but UT blocks the tombstone and chokeslams Kane back. Kane no-sells. Double boot and both guys are knocked unconscious by the effort required to stick their leg in the air. Kane ducks a lariat and sideslams him, then goes up. UT crotches and superplexes him, which Kane of course no-sells. UT tosses him, but Vader appears and pushes him back to ringside, where Taker comes barrelling out with his hands-free tope over the top rope, taking out both guys. He then knocks Kane “unconscious” by the ring apron, thus allowing Kane to prepare his gimmicked arm while UT chases Paul Bearer to the stage and beats him up for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Back to the ring, Kane sort of falls into the fire and UT wins at 15:53. Give it ½* for the tope. The arm coating looked incredibly fake.  (What is with WWF guys always losing their own specialty matches?  Is it like an offshoot of people jobbing in their hometown?  How do you humiliate someone from Parts Unknown, though?)  WWF title match: Steve Austin v. Dude Love. This is round one, as Vince withheld the identity of Austin’s opponent until a week before the show and then turned Mick Foley into his corporate zombie. (That was some incredibly ineffective marketing there, as we literally had no clue who was challenging for the title leading up to the show, and the resulting buyrate was pretty sad.  I’m still not sure if they just didn’t know who to run with as challenger or what.)  Dude jumps Austin, but gets his ass kicked, and bails. Back in, Thesz Press and elbow as Ross takes a shot at Bischoff for declaring that a guy in black boots and tights could never get over. Spinebuster and elbow, and Dude bails again. They brawl as Dude tries to run, only to get viciously clotheslined from behind by Austin. They head to the stage (a popular spot tonight), and Austin casually tosses him off, onto the bare concrete 6 feet below. Back to ringside, they slaughter continues. Austin drops an elbow off the apron, and back in we go. Austin misses the rope straddle and Dude bulldogs him. Elbowdrop and Dude punishes him in the corner. Dude works the neck with a body scissors as Vinnie Mac joins us at ringside. Austin breaks the move and yells at Vince, but Dude rolls him up for two. Austin posts Dude as Vince “observes” from ringside, near the timekeeper, wink wink. (Montreal!  That’s a thing that happened!)  Dude bails and Austin tries a piledriver, but as usual he gets backdropped. He hurts his knee and Dude leaves for the ring as Vince taunts Austin. Austin stalks him, but Dude returns the favor on that clothesline from behind. Dude tries a suplex in, but Austin blocks, so Dude necksnaps him to the floor. The ref counts, but Vince tells Austin to “be a man and get back in”, and that the ref is fired if he reaches 10, so Austin beats the count. (That’s tremendous.  I miss that Vince.)  Dude hooks the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM (with which he got past the awesome challenge of Steve Blackman, even under dubious circumstances) and Vince goes crazy, telling the timekeeper to ring the bell. Austin reverses the move, and Vince goes equally crazy, telling him to ignore everything he just said. Funny stuff. Brawl outside, and Austin suplexes Dude onto the stairs. They fight into the crowd and Austin dumps him back in, and into the ring. Dude comes back with a neckbreaker. Sweet Shin Music is blocked, and the ref gets bumped. Stunner is blocked with the Mandible Claw, and Vince revives the ref…unsuccessfully. This would actually become a storyline point, as Vince declared the refs unfit and took the job himself at the next PPV. Austin dumps Foley, but scuffles with Vince. Foley charges with a chair, but gets it back in his face. Austin chairshots Vince out cold, and heads back in for a little KICK WHAM STUNNER action, and counts the pin himself at 18:48. It was later decided to be a DQ win for Dude Love, justifying the rematch at Over the Edge 98. Great brawl that got a little overwhelmed by the storyline at times. The next month, they would solve that problem by making the storyline the focal point of the match and building on it. ****  (A very underappreciated brawl, even by myself.  I think it’s just because the next month’s rematch was just so awesome, but Austin counting his own pin was great, echoed by the finish at Over the Edge.)  The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly exciting. The HHH-Owen match, while solid, has been done before and better, and the same with Austin-Dude. The rest of the card is the usual shitty 1998 WWF undercard, as the main events were totally carrying these shows back then. Mildly recommended.  (I’d have to go recommendation to avoid now.  Just so much crap and Russo nonsense to sit through.) 

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