–A video package recaps the Rock winning the WWF title in a ladder match against Mankind on last week’s show.
–Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
–Vince McMahon comes out to hype tonight’s Inferno Match between the Undertaker and Kane. He welcomes Paul Wight to the ring, who is booked to be the guest referee at WrestleMania. Cole is trying to get Wight over as “The Big Nasty,” so I guess it is good that “The Big Show” name was chosen instead. WWF Champion The Rock also comes out, quickly getting into a verbal confrontation with Wight, telling him to “Know his role.” McMahon’s efforts at playing peacemaker get nowhere until Mankind marches onto the stage and volunteers to referee the WrestleMania main event, as well as referee a Rock-Wight encounter tonight. Wight then proceeds to challenge the Rock to a match, which the Rock gladly accepts and he says he will put the WWF title on the line too.
–We come back from commercial with the Corporation trying to keep the Rock and the Big Show away from each other in the locker room.
–Opening Contest: Public Enemy defeat Gangrel & Edge(w/Christian) by disqualification when Christian interferes at 1:24:
This was the Public Enemy’s RAW debut, having arrived from WCW. They hit a few sloppy double team moves and hit Gangrel with the Drive-By, but Christian interferes to prevent them from getting a clean win. After the bout, the Brood does a beatdown and then the Public Enemy are victims of a bloodbath. Not a very impressive debut and the announce team’s lack of interest in the Public Enemy was a sign that they wouldn’t be around very long.
–The Undertaker has the Acolytes and Mideon beat up the Brood after the match in the backstage area because they lost.
–#1 Contender’s Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Ken Shamrock wrestles “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn to a double disqualification at 4:30:
Intercontinental Champion Val Venis comes out to do guest commentary for this match, spending most of his time discussing how he used Ryan Shamrock to get the Intercontinental title. Shamrock and Gunn put on a decent match, but Venis quickly interjects himself into it by rolling Gunn into the ring. Shamrock uses that as a pretext to attack Venis and a three-way brawl eventually leads to the match being called off. This means that we have no number one contender for WrestleMania. Rating: *½
–The Rock tells Vince McMahon that he’s the jewel of the Corporation and that he will fight Big Show to prove his greatness.
–Cole highlights WWF Women’s Champion Sable’s media appearances, especially her appearance on the cover of Playboy. Kevin Kelly interviews her in the ring and Sable puts herself over before inviting her stalker into the ring. The stalker gives her name as Tori and says she admires Sable, but Sable says she is pathetic and needs to get a life. This brings out Luna Vachon, who says that Sable’s looks are the only reason that she’s the Women’s champion. When Luna and Tori go to leave, Sable clocks them from behind with the Women’s title. This was supposed to be a heel turn, but the crowd is still largely for Sable as this storyline continues.
–Vince McMahon tries to get Paul Wight to back out his match, but Wight says that he is just looking to make an impact and wants to be the figurehead of the Corporation.
–Handicap Match: “Double J” Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (w/Debra) beat D-Lo Brown after Owen pins D-Lo after a spinning heel kick at 3:28:
D-Lo wrestles the tag team champions in street clothes since Mark Henry is on the shelf with a knee injury. D-Lo absorbs a bevy of double team moves before making his comeback, which is cut short by Jacqueline, who comes to the ring with Terri Runnels and gives D-Lo a beautiful missile dropkick to the back of the head. After the match, Jarrett and Owen do an extended beatdown before WWF officials intervene. Rating: **
–Mankind is shown spray painting stripes on a white shirt and giving himself a pep talk in the backstage area.
–The next match is supposed to be the WWF championship match between the Rock and Big Show, with Mankind as special guest referee. Vince tries to stop the match, but the Rock will have none of it so McMahon goes to do commentary. About fifty seconds into the match, the Big Show attacks Mankind and the Rock joins in, thereby turning the bout into a ruse to beat up Mankind. The beatdown is relatively tame, though, as the story is really how the Corporation is unified heading into WrestleMania.
–Steve Blackman pins Droz with a pump kick at 3:12:
This is Droz’s in-ring return from a two week suspension for beating up Kevin Kelly. Blackman got in the middle of that beating and hence these two have had a small feud ever since. Really basic match here, with Blackman going over clean. However, Droz gets his heat back afterwards by attacking and choking Blackman with his own martial arts sticks. Rating: *¼
–The Undertaker is backstage and he warns Vince McMahon that he will have bigger problems with he and his Ministry than Steve Austin. He says that an Inferno Match will not get rid of him and he promises a surprise from McMahon tonight.
–Non-Title Match: Goldust defeats Val Venis (Intercontinental Champion) after the Blue Meanie interferes at 3:52:
Goldust appears more motivated than he has been in more than a year in this match, eschewing the deliberate style he normally uses and quickly going after Venis, concentrating his attack on the knee. All of that leads to nothing when Venis makes his comeback, but the attempted psychology is a nice touch. The Blue Meanie comes out, which you would think might hurt Goldust since they have just had a feud, but the Meanie gives Venis a DDT on the arena floor and that gives Goldust the upset win. Rating: **½
–Chyna and X-Pac prepare for their match backstage.
–European Champion Shane McMahon is shown flexing in a mirror and Chyna looks on approvingly.
–Hardcore Championship Match: Bob Holly (Champion) beats Bart Gunn after a masked man tossed Bart off the entrance stage and through a table at 8:16:
One of the problems with the Brawl for All is that you have put over Gunn’s fists as having knockout power and then he uses them against Holly and they have limited effect since pro wrestling is not “real life.” This is one of Gunn’s first matches after the Brawl for All as the company was not sure what to do with him after he won the tournament and he wrestled for a while in Japan. Both men put on a very entertaining garbage brawl, although it starts to enter parody territory when Gunn cracks a watermelon over Holly’s head and Holly responds in kind with a crate of bananas to Gunn’s cranium when they fight near the entrance. Eventually, a masked man attacks Bart from behind and tosses him off the stage through a conveniently placed table and Holly covers to retain. Rating: ***
–X-Pac (w/Triple H) beats Chyna (w/Shane McMahon) after Triple H gives Chyna a Pedigree at 1:08:
The stipulation for this bout is that if Chyna defeats X-Pac then Shane McMahon will not have to defend the European title at WrestleMania. X-Pac chases Shane around the ring, enabling Triple H to Pedigree Chyna and help X-Pac get the WrestleMania title shot. Alright then…
–Tune in this Friday night to see Steve Austin in Nash Bridges on CBS!
–Vince McMahon says that the Undertaker killed his parents, scarred his brother, and that no one dares to threaten him. The crowd does not really seem to know who to cheer for in this budding feud.
–Inferno Match: The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) defeats Kane (w/Vince McMahon) at 6:47:
McMahon refuses to divulge the content of the Undertaker’s note to him last week, only saying that “no one goes there.” Like the scaffold match, the inferno match is one of those concepts that looks good on paper, but its execution is not very good due to the inherent danger associated with the match. Paul Bearer brings a gift in a black box to McMahon, which contains a small teddy bear. That unhinges McMahon, who leaves commentary and appears to be in his own thoughts while clutching the bear. Kane misses a big boot when the action goes outside of the ring and his foot is caught by the flames so he is 0-for-2 in his specialty match. Rating: *
–After the match, the Undertaker approaches Vince, snatches the teddy bear, and sets it on fire as McMahon screams “Why!??!”
The Final Report Card: This show was largely just a placeholder as we move toward WrestleMania. Most of the major angles advanced, but the action was largely forgettable. The Corporation-Ministry feud is confusing for fans, who hate both factions, and it is hard to fathom why they wanted us to sympathize with Vince’s plight when he had been a jerk to Steve Austin. That said, it added some depth to the upper tier of the card since you had the Ministry intermingling with other major storylines that the Corporation was a part of. Neutral rating for this RAW as it was okay from a storytelling perspective but lacked a really big moment.
Monday Night War Rating: 5.5 (vs. 4.8 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation: Neutral