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

by Logan Scisco

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

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