WWF RAW: February 3, 1997

Royal Rumble RAW! For the FIRST time ever, as promised by the never
deceptive Vince McMahon, the Royal Rumble will air in FULL on network TV! And
if that isn’t enough to make you feel like an idiot for paying for the
pay-per-view, the complete World title match was also promised on last week’s
show. So unless you paid for the honor of watching the Trios match (sorry
Guerrera family), every major happening is about to be given away free of
In other news, RAW is suddenly 2 hours long. No television hype, it’s
just a thing now; a desperation shot to remain competitive with Nitro who have
decimated their audience to the wrestling die-hards. Of course, given the fact
that there’s only about 5 guys on the roster that anyone’s ever truly paying to
see, this could just as easily blow up in their face like a ringside TV during
a critical pay-per-view match up.

Returning to the Skydome on Thursday (January 30th), and
running their first major show out of the venue since Wrestlemania VI, they
managed to draw over 25,000 fans in attendance, both a bragging point to their
competitors, and a sore spot considering the dome holds over 65,000 spots.
VINCE MCMAHON and JIM ROSS welcome us to Toronto, but
first want to take us back to the Royal Rumble. Alright! The completely Rumble!
Wait … this ain’t the full Rumble. Action picks up at the final 5 with
Austin’s fake elimination and win. Well, it spoils things, but I sure can’t
wait for that entire Rumble a little later.
VADER (with Paul Bearer)
Heel vs heel here; but it’s Austin who receives majority of the inner
Canadian rage. Before anything gets going, BRET
rushes the ring and attacks Austin, and the crowd bursts into
collective orgasmic bliss. A MILLION
jump into the fray as Hart turns to Vader and punches him in the
nose a ton. As Hart gets escorted out, Austin jumps Hart and they fight one
more time. A testament to the brilliant work of these two; you really get the
feeling they *hate* each other even after the show. The facial expressions and
raw intensity go a long, long way. With Hart out of the picture, the match
actually starts and Vader takes over with his slow, vicious offense, and WHO’S
THE MAN routine. He takes about 40 years to go for the Vaderbomb, giving Austin
time to wake up, have a coffee, read the newspaper, and put his kids in college
before finally punching Vader in the nuts to block it as we head to our first
Vader took back over, and brings us back live with a splash for 2.
Austin finds a second wind, beating Vader down and hitting the axehandle off
the second rope. Vince promises no bait and switch tonight, with two title
matches scheduled. Awesome! Can’t wait for that Rumble and World Title match
either since we aren’t in any kind of bait and switch mode! Vader tries to
apply a sleeper, but Austin’s trick knee acts up and rears back for another
ball-shot. The referee tries to get him to lay off, so Austin gives the referee
a Stunner, turning him babyface immediately. Both guys spill out to the floor, and
Austin whips Vader into the ringsteps. Earl Hebner hits the ring to DQ Austin
at 5:34. Vader is positively awful
at this point; how fast the mighty fall. *1/2
THURSDAY RAW THURSDAY! Next week – Michaels takes on Sid one more time!
(with Clarence Mason, D’Lo Brown, and several well-dressed men)
JIM ROSS stops Vega on
his way to the ring and asks why he joined the Nation, but Savio doesn’t care
what anyone thinks of him and doesn’t give a real answer. It’s frustrating that
Ross is ignoring the real story; the whereabouts of the Funkettes. He doesn’t
seem to be too heart broken, which is never a good sign. Vega counters a
clothesline with a sidewalk slam, and he chokes Funk out. He continues to stomp
away, but Flash Funks up, nailing a backdrop. The Tumbleweed connects, but
Vince gives away the finish by shrieking “ONE TWO HEGOTHIMNOHEDIDN’T,
WHATTAMANEUVER!”  A somersault legdrop
sends Funk back to the top, but this time he turns his attention to D’Lo who’s
standing a little too close to comfort on the outside, nailing a plancha. Back
to Vega, he misses a moonsault, and Savio dives in for the easy pin at 4:22. FAAROOQ and KONA CRUSH
meet Savio with a warm hug and a little Black Power. I can’t do the Savio thing
much longer, he’s 31 flavors of awful. 1/2*
Earlier tonight, VINCE MCMAHON
interviewed PETA WILSON, star of La
Femme Nikita; legitimately (unbeknownst to me), the highest rated drama on
cable TV. She describes herself as a woman of the 90’s, and Vince, not
understanding, says “I see that!”, and immediately turns his attention to the
sexuality of the show. A clip shows Nikita getting off, followed by Vince
clearly getting off in the live area. Oh Vinny.
SYCHO SID is introduced
by JIM ROSS, who is wildly cheered
happily by a bunch of “booing” fans. The pumped in heat don’t work when
everyone’s going mental, yall. Sid talks about his friendship with Shawn
Michaels, talking about a rollercoaster of evil emotions, sometimes mistaken
for half minutes. However when the rollercoaster comes home, and the ride
halts, Sid remains the master and the ruler of the world. I have no idea what
the hell ANY of that means, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have never
seen a wrestler more in dire need of a go-pro than Sid.
Backstage, OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG pose with their
tag-team titles. Vince reminds Bulldog that Owen was the one who dumped him
out, and Owen tells him to park it and stop causing trouble. “I accidentally
put him out, I was trying to dump Stone Cold and Bulldog fell out.” Davey rolls
his eyes, and Vince, smelling blood, reminds Bulldog he called Owen an idiot.
Owen tells Davey he best not be doing any more named calling, he’s carried him
to the top before and he’ll do it again. Looks like Bulldog’s getting set for a
face turn.
LAFON vs. OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG (for the WWF world tag-team titles)
On his way to the ring, Owen tells us he’s the only good thing about
Canada. I’ll let it slide, poutine hadn’t moved past the Quebec border in 1997.
Lafon takes down Bulldog with a leg grapevine, but Davey makes the ropes. Lafon
comes off the top, but Bulldog catches him and goes for the slam. Lafon
escapes, but winds up taking a clothesline. JR starts sucking Furnas’ kneecaps
for gutting this match out with the flu, like all good Oklahoma boys do. Owen
comes in and rakes the eyes of the sicko; but Furnas hiptosses him. I love that
Vince’s response to a guy getting the flu is putting him in the ring with
several healthy wrestlers, rubbing sweaty bodies together. This would probably
work best during the Royal Rumble, where the last man not to vomit or fill his
shorts is the winner. Bulldog comes back into the match, and finds himself
stuck in a headlock. Owen catches Furnas with a spinning heel kick. Bulldog beats
down the strong man, while Owen fires up his team, leading the fans in an
“OWEN” chant. Hart comes back in and gets caught in a sunset flip, but Bulldog
has the referee distracted during what appears to be a 10-count. Owen works a
headlock, but Furnas stands up straight with the electric chair and crawls for
the tag. Bulldog cuts him off, and throws a cheapshot to Lafon. Hebner tries to
keep Lafon in his corner, missing the small package from Furnas all together. Owen
hits a neckbreaker on Furnas and looks to Davey to finish, but Bulldog is too
busy posing for the ladies and misses Owen’s pleas for a tag. Furnas rolls Owen
up, but he kicks out at 2, shooting Furnas into the still distracted Bulldog.
Owen clotheslines Furnas, and screams at Bulldog for his posing. Vince calls
for a commercial, as they work this out.
Furnas is still getting his ass kicked as we come back, but Owen and
Bulldog are still sniping at each other. Furnas throws Davey with an overhead
belly to belly, and inches towards his corner, desperately needing to tag out.
This time he makes it to Lafon, and he takes out both guys quickly, nearly
pinning Owen with a crossbody. A snap suplex gets 2. Owen tries a slam, but
gets DDT and pinned at 10:13, giving
us new tag-team champions!
But wait; Owen’s foot was on the rope and Hebner immediately recognizes
his mistake. As a result, the show goes on, and Lafon thinks quickly with a
small package for 2. Bulldog sets up to backdrop Lafon, but Phil reverses the
whip and it’s Owen that goes flying! Bulldog realizes it, freaks for a second,
but quickly turns back to Lafon and gives him the running powerslam. Owen’s the
legal man though, and he’s twisted his knee and refuses to return, counting out
the champs at 11:28. Having retained
the belts, Owen happily jogs up the aisle. Bulldog isn’t happy with the cheap
effort, so Owen collapses and shows Davey how injured he is. Bulldog waves him
off and turns away angrily, where Owen takes a second to give one more jumping
celebration. There was never any wasted movement with Owen, and it’s these
little things that I miss the most. **1/2
AHMED JOHNSON discusses the
Nation. Verbatim: “You know what JR I got something in store for erybody
including you an Gance. Cuz guess what I don’t take my Prozzak anymore. And
when I ghetto Prozzak brother you dunno WHOOMANAHHHH! SAVIO YOU WANNA JOY MAN?
squirrel circle den let tha party begin.” THE
appears out of nowhere and goozles Ahmed, but Johnson slaps his
fist away. “Look deadman you won be daddy nuff if you done drunk peein’”. Taker
asks if he wants to bury the Nation together? I … have no idea what in the hell
is going on.
KONA CRUSH (with Savio
Vega and Clarence Mason) vs. GOLDUST (with Marlena)
I can’t help but notice that we’re moving into the 2nd hour
and we haven’t started the Rumble yet, let alone the World Title match … but I
believe Vince! You wouldn’t lie to me, would you? Goldust clotheslines Crush to
the floor, where he chats strategy with Clarence. Back in, Goldust works a
hammerlock, while a couple of people try a “JAILBIRD” chant to little avail.
During an extended armbat, HUNTER HEARST
comes strutting right down towards Marlena. Goldust is distracted
long enough to take a pitiful snake eyes on the guardrail. As he’s rolled back
in, I’m going to stop and take a moment to remind you that it was 15 years ago
this week that Madonna released her version of Don McLean’s classic “American
Pie”. Stuck between her late 90’s “Frozen/Ray of Light” era, and her “Britney
Spears’ Personal MILF” era, Madonna opted to change the tempo of the song, and
pump up the techno. On the strength of her name alone, the song eventually
found itself at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Panned by critics,
the song dropped away quickly, and has nary been heard since.
Did you enjoy that? Even a smidgen? Because, as Goldust loses to Savio
interference leading to a Heart Punch at 8:19,
I would rather listen to this song on a continuous loop for the rest of the day
than sit through these two putting on a performance like this, ever again. -**
SHAWN MICHAELS arrives, with
a big smile on his face. Next week on a special Thursday edition of RAW,
Michaels will defend his title against Sid, lest he lose anything at the
border. VINCE MCMAHON welcomes him
to “Bret Hart country”, which is one of those nuances I miss after everyone’s
hometowns have been effectively killed off over the years. Shawn admits that
the belt has brought out the worst in a number of WWF stars; himself included.
However, if being bad is what it takes to be the champion, then he vows to be
the worst guy the WWF has ever seen. He has no interest in popularity anymore.
He looks back at Muhammad Ali, someone everyone hated while he was on top, but
is largely considered the greatest of all time. That’s who he strives to be. BRET HART has heard enough, and heads
to the ring with the fans picking up their buzz, ready to blow. “Muhammad Ali?
I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman, maybe.” He finds it impossible to like Shawn
anymore, noting he’s a Degenerate (first signs of the future?), and as far as
he’s concerned, Shawn is a punk. Michaels cuts him off to respond, but a pissed
off STEVE AUSTIN has already charged
the ring and picked up with Bret exactly where they left off an hour ago. SYCHO SID sees the distraction, and
makes a bee-line for Shawn to … stand around and rant like a mad-man. God bless
that man.
After a break, the chaos has been cleared up, and Shawn is once again
face to face with Bret. Bret intentionally stands on the WWF title belt,
keeping Shawn from picking up his gold. He eventually throws it back to Shawn,
flips him off, and heads to the back while the fans boo the ever loving shit
out of a posing Shawn Michaels. If you have any doubts whether Bret’s walking
out of Final Four as the #1 contender, get it out of your head, we’re headed to
Bret / Shawn Part II, and the heat is going to be off the charts ridiculous.
Earlier tonight, TIGER ALI SINGH
signs his WWF contract, and he hopes to carry the Canadian flag to even greater
heights than Bret Hart. Oh.
HEARST HELMSLEY (for the WWF Intercontinental title)
Both managers are banned from ringside, largely because of Hughes’
recent actions during Helmsley’s matches; though Sable’s been no saint either. JR
figures Mero’s desperate to regain the IC title having had a “taste”
previously. Is the belt made out of meth? For the record, I’m not opposed to
this. Mero knocks Helmsley to the floor, but Hunter sidesteps a plancha. Mero
stops himself from going full-tilt, and slams Helmsley’s face to the ringpost.
Back in, Mero slingshots himself back in, right into the knees. A delayed
vertical suplex gives Hunter plenty of time to do a curtsy, and a kneedrop gets
2. Mero fires back with a monkey flip for 2, but Hunter stops the comeback with
a facebuster. With the champ in full control, we take a quick break.
Mero’s just starting a comeback when we return, hitting a faceplant on
Helmsley, and snapping off a rana. Vince keeps hammering on the fact the main
event isn’t a bait and switch, but I can’t figure out what from WCW he’s
talking about, since they’ve typically given us what they advertise. It’s the
finishes that stink. A somersault plancha dizzies Hunter, and a slingshot
legdrop gets 2. Helmsley kicks Mero in the face, and heads up. Da fock? Mero
cuts him off before we find out what laughable move Triple H was planning, and
the super Frankensteiner gets 2. In desperation, Helmsley unties the buckle,
and after a series of faked out reversals, Mero hits the Samoan drop. Merosault
is on point, but Hunter kicks out, drawing a wide-eyed look of disbelief.
Helmsley whips Mero towards the corner, but he stops short and points out the
gimmicked buckle. Hebner stops to put it back together, so Triple H reaches
into his tights, pulls something small out, and smacks Mero in the face with it
for the pin at 11:14. *1/2
FAAROOQ (with Clarence
Mason and D’Lo Brown) and MANKIND (with Paul Bearer and Urn) vs. AHMED JOHNSON
and THE UNDERTAKER (in a no-disqualification match)
Mankind hilariously tries his best to give the Nation “black power”
salute, awkwardly stumbling around with his fist in the air. The poor guy so
desperately wants to fit in, and is willing to attach himself to anyone willing
to show him a little love. Hell, he doesn’t even LIKE Vader that much, but just
the fact that Vader’s willing to talk to him is ample reason to keep him
around. A Triple H/Eugene type of set up would have been some quality stuff,
and Mankind has far more credibility than Eugene did; making a brutal, violent
revenge for the abuser’s betrayal so delicious that I’m already annoyed they
never actually ran this storyline. (Vince doesn’t count, Mankind was too goofy
by then.) So it’s been clarified now that Ahmed and Undertaker were making some
sort of alliance earlier, but that’s easier to see, visually, than understand
with Ahmed spelling it out. Taker and Mankind square off in the aisle, leaving
Faarooq alone to eat a vicious spinebuster! Faarooq comes back with a sleeper,
which is far less extreme. Taker leaves Mick for dead and heads back into the
ring to lay some punishment into Faarooq. Ahmed slams Mankind into the ring
steps, while Faarooq runs over Taker with a clothesline. Taker sits right up,
and gives it right back. Mankind, meanwhile, gets run spine-first into the
ringpost. Undertaker heads up top for a little old school, while Ahmed chases
Clarence to the locker room to get rid of him. Mankind crawls into the ring,
but Undertaker’s in there waiting. Mason re-emerges with KONA CRUSH and SAVIO VEGA
as Vince, gasping, heads to our last commercial break.
It’s gonna be a bitch to fit that whole Rumble match in with just 5
minutes left, but technological miracles happen every day. I believe!
We’re back, clearly seconds from where we cut it off, because Taker is
headed up for old school on Mankind, but as he flies off the top, he leaps
right into the Mandible Claw! Ahmed stops that quickly, and nails the Pearl
River Plunge. Faarooq breaks up the pin, and hits Ahmed with the Dominator.
Taker makes the save there, and turns his attention back to his fist-fight with
Mankind. Mick grabs a chair, but Undertaker stops his attack with a kick to the
face (through the chair). Ahmed, meanwhile, has decided his best course of
action is to fight every member of the Nation, on the floor, by himself. Taker
nails Mankind with a Chokeslam, because poor Mick can’t catch a break. Ahmed
chases the cavalry back to the locker room with his 2×4, but Taker’s been left
alone to take a 2-on-1 attack. Johnson returns to save, and smacks Faarooq with
the board. Mankind hits a desperate swinging neckbreaker on Taker and grabs a
handful of powder. Taker knocks it back in Mick’s face, but now VADER lumbers into the ring with a big
splash on Undertaker. He throws the blinded Mankind on top, and he holds Taker
hostage for a chairshot. Undertaker ducks, and he plants his buddy … for the
second week in a row. Taker no-sells his chair-shot, and knocks Vader to the
floor. Tombstone on the chair ends this one at 7:46. Paul bursts into tears. This was a fairly wild mess, a
template of what we’d come to expect in the attitude era. Great crowd heat,
so-so ringwork. **
So, despite crowing about his lack of bait and switch tactics, Vince
aired virtually nothing on “Royal Rumble RAW” that would lead you to believe
this was a show that was all about the last pay-per-view. Apparently the
distributors weren’t all that pleased when they discovered Vince’s plan to air
the footage for free, and put the kibosh on that REAL fast, leading to these
house-show highlights and the occasional 15 second clip from the Rumble.
Not a bad show, but it’s clear that the rest of the stage for Final Four
is to be set at Thursday RAW Thursday. If I were guessing the Wrestlemania card
at this point:
Shawn vs. Bret (WWF title)
Vader vs. Mankind
Steve Austin vs. … Undertaker? This is the tough one, Austin’s beef is
with Bret, but Bret’s clearly tied up with Shawn; and Austin needs a big match
to cement himself as an upper-tier player.
Owen vs. Bulldog
Faarooq vs. Ahmed Johnson
The obvious loser here is Sid, who’s been fairly directionless since
dropping the strap to Shawn in January (other than yelling and screaming, as is
the norm). Unless they’re willing to bring in someone for a one time shot,
he’ll likely be left off the card or stuck doing a quick mid-card squash.
The undercard is an absolute mess of awful workers, and that’s where
their efforts need to be concentrated. Austin’s clearly Bret’s first challenger
post-Mania, and Ahmed Johnson’s lurking in the shadows for the rocket push, but
the rest of their locker room has clearly been decimated by Bischoff’s raid and
we’re almost guaranteed a negative star match per show these days.
So, to sum up, we have hope in the upper tier, and we’re wallowing in
waste in the lower tier. They truly are WCW’s alternative.