What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 3, 1997

A nice video
package starts the show, where Vince McMahon discusses the Berlin Wall and ties
it to tonight’s showdown between Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, which will
decide who the first WWF European champion will be.
McMahon and Jim
Ross are in the booth and they are taped from Berlin, Germany.

Opening
Contest:  Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeats
Bret “the Hitman” Hart by disqualification at 8:39 shown:
Bret is really over in Germany, as evidenced by the
Canadian flags in the audience and several kids that are dressed in his ring
attire.  One of them gets
Bret’s shades to fully outfit their costume. 
Helmsley dominates most of the televised action, until Bret makes a
comeback with his five moves of doom. 
Helmsley eventually gets tied up in the corner and Bret lays into him
and then shoves the referee out of the way when he tries to break it up and
gets disqualified.  After the bell, the
mysterious muscular woman (Chyna) gets in the ring and stares down Bret before
leaving with Helmsley.  This may have
been a lot of fun live, but it was disjointed with the cutting for
television.  Rating:  **½
McMahon and Ross
hype tonight’s Owen-Bulldog match with Royal Rumble footage, where Owen
eliminated the Bulldog “by accident.”
-The Undertaker’s
match with Faarooq is the Full Metal: 
The Album Slam of the Week.  They
must have really been starved for a highlight.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  “The Rock” Rocky
Maivia (Champion) defeats Vader (w/Paul Bearer) by disqualification at 7:13
shown:
Vader had defeated Maivia in the first round of the
European title tournament and thus earned a match for the Intercontinental
title here.  Now see, you can set up
matches without the help of random authority figures.  They work a fast pace, with Vader using his
weight to bully the young Maivia and toss him around at will.  We get another unclean finish for the
evening, as Mankind comes out and nails Maivia with the urn for no reason on
the floor in plain view of the referee and gets Vader disqualified.  After the bell, Vader destroys Maivia, which
doesn’t really do anything for the champion’s credibility.  No wonder the American crowd was starting to
turn their backs on Maivia as champion by this point.  Still, this was a pretty good match that was
a Cliff Notes version of the matches that Vader used to have with Sting in
WCW.  Rating:  **¾
-We get a recap of
the ECW invasion of RAW last week. 
What’s interesting about the recap is the weird censoring, with the
Sandman’s drinking of a beer being blurred out. 
Even when he spits the beer it is censored!  Good thing that the WWF took care of this
issue within the next calendar year

Jerry Lawler also calls in and
runs down ECW.
-Tune in next week
to see the debut of RAW is War!
The Sultan beats
Flash Funk via submission with the Camel Clutch at 4:04 shown:
Neither man has his usual entourage and we join this in
progress.  Most of the focus is pulled
away from the match when Paul Heyman calls in and says that he’s tired of
Lawler’s constant challenges and if Lawler continues, ECW just might have to
show up next week.  Funk knocks himself
silly on a moonsault and gets pancaked, which leads to his demise.  They wouldn’t quite give up on the Sultan
character, despite it generating zero reaction from crowds everywhere.  Rating:  *½
Austin’s last
visit to WWF headquarters in October 1996, when he had to be escorted from the
building by police is shown
.
WWF Champion Sid
says that he’ll survive Mankind’s challenge to his title tonight
.
More emphasis is
placed on tonight’s main event, as the announcers discuss tensions between Owen
and the Bulldog that arose from the last In Your House.
Ahmed Johnson says
that he’ll accept Faarooq’s challenge for a Chicago street fight at WrestleMania,
but he won’t accept it alone.
-The Legion of
Doom’s return to the WWF last week on Raw and their interview on Shotgun
Saturday Night where they talk about life on the streets of Chicago is shown.
-Vince recaps the
whole show thus far to kill time, which is a bad thing to have to do in the
Monday Night Wars.
WWF Championship
Match:  Sid (Champion) defeats Mankind
(w/Paul Bearer) at 10:16 with a powerbomb:
Instead of hyping Mankind’s brutality, the commentary
team thinks it’s cooler that he knows German for a promo.  Steve Austin cuts a great promo during this
match, complaining that to get to WWF Studios today he had to sit in seat 36C
on an airplane near the restroom and had to eat a stale sandwich in a brown bag
for lunch and it made him ill, which is no way that a star like himself should
be treated.  Mankind takes lots of crazy
pumps in this one for Sid, by having his unprotected head rammed into the ring
post and then getting side suplexed on the floor.  Sid powers out of the Mandible Claw, thereby
destroying the theory that it has a paralytic effect on its victim, and a
miscommunication spot between Mankind and Bearer enables Sid to turn the tide
and successfully defend his title.  Sid
was made to look super human in this match to build him for WrestleMania and it
shows how far Mankind has fallen since SummerSlam that he now comes off like a
midcarder.  Rating:  **
The announcers
talk more about the Owen-Bulldog match
.
McMahon interviews
Steve Austin, who is at the WWF’s studio in Connecticut.  Austin says he doesn’t make excuses when he’s
injured or sick and that he won’t quit in the submission match he’ll have with
Bret Hart at WrestleMania.
-Chyna’s stare down
with Bret Hart is the Karate Fighters Rewind segment
.
European
Championship Finals:  The British Bulldog
pins Owen Hart after reversing a Victory roll to win the title at 16:44 shown:
To get to this point, the Bulldog defeated Mankind and
Vader and Owen defeated Flash Funk and Bret Hart.  Speaking of which, Owen has a really good
record against Bret in international tournaments, as he beat him in the Kuwaiti
Cup Tournament the previous year.  In any
compilation of great Raw matches, this should always be on the list, as both
men counter each other’s major moves because they know them so well.  Owen has a really unique counter for the
Bulldog’s powerslam, by hanging onto the ropes and then using his momentum as
he releases the ropes to fall on top of the Bulldog for a near-fall.  After a series of dramatic near-falls, Owen
applies the Sharpshooter, but it isn’t enough, as the Bulldog reaches the
ropes.  The Bulldog hits his running
powerslam and while it doesn’t finish Owen, it weakens him enough to where Owen
can’t kick out of a reversed victory roll. 
After the match, both men shake hands, but Owen teases attacking the
Bulldog from behind to keep the tension between them in the audience’s
mind.  This was an entertaining technical
contest between two of the more proficient wrestlers in the company at the time
and they were given enough time to showcase what they could do in
primetime.  I went less than four stars
on it, though, because the finishing sequence was a little awkward and the
drama of the match was somewhat subdued by the fact that the Bulldog had not
completed his planned face turn yet.  Rating: 
***¾
The Final Report Card:  The wrestling was a lot better this week, but
the fact that this show was taped and Nitro was live resulted in a disaster in
the ratings.  This show generated the
worst Raw rating of all time and prompted a reshuffling of the creative team
that gave Vince Russo more power and reduced the influence of more
“traditional” bookers like Jim Cornette. 
With that shift completed and RAW is War set to kick off the next week,
the foundation was laid for the shift into the Attitude Era.  I was one of the 1.9 that watched this show
when it originally aired and I enjoyed it then and still do so today, as the
Owen-Bulldog match still stands up and Vader-Maivia is a hidden gem.
Monday Night War Rating: 1.9 (vs. 3.4 for
Nitro)
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up