–Steve Austin arrives at the arena and comes across a driver of a Coor’s Light truck. Product placement 101.
–Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are calling the action and they are live from Albany, New York. This is the last RAW we have to hear called by Cole for a while so I am happy about that. This is the go home show for WrestleMania XV.
–The McMahons come out with WWF Champion The Rock. Every time that Vince gets on the microphone the crowd tries to drown him out. Shane challenges X-Pac to a street fight outside of the arena while Vince promises that the Undertaker will be busy with the Big Bossman and others when he arrives at the arena. Vince also speculates that Steve Austin is working with the Undertaker to distract him from his goal of making sure the Rock remains in control of the WWF championship. The Rock follows up by talking smack about Austin and Vince says that the Rock will referee tonight’s Austin-Big Show main event. Mankind interrupts and proposes that he face the Rock and that the winner referee the main event. The Rock initially says no, but Mankind produces a document from Commissioner Shawn Michaels that books a match between he and the Rock and that the winner will indeed referee the main event. Once Mankind finishes his bit, Steve Austin arrives in the Coor’s Light truck he went by at the beginning of the show and drives it to the ring (this explains why no ramp is on tonight’s set). Austin gets on top of the truck, says he will win at WrestleMania, and then sprays the heels with beer. Vince does a great job selling it by flopping all over the ring.
–Debra is shown getting ready for the next match.
–Jim Ross and Steve Williams are at a local frat party as part of “JR is War.”
–Opening WWF Tag Team Championship Contest: Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart (w/Debra) wrestle Gangrel & Edge (w/Christian) to a no contest at 2:41:
Christian has not wrestled on RAW in a long, long time as the company thought tagging Edge and Gangrel together was a better idea. However, the Brood starts using their variation of the Freebird rule during the match by switching roles and referee Tim White apparently has no problem with it. The Public Enemy run in when Owen has Edge in the Sharpshooter, but Owen and Jeff and the Brood join forces and beat them up to further the “Everyone hates Public Enemy” angle (which the announcers gloss over). Then the lights then go out and Debra is on the receiving end of a bloodbath to end all of this angle development.
–Lucas interviews the New Age Outlaws, with both men promising to take each other’s titles tonight.
–The Road Dogg winning the Intercontinental title on last week’s RAW with a DDT on Val Venis is the Crispy M&Ms Slam of the Week.
–Vince McMahon tells the stooges to get him some coffee.
–Title for Title: The Road Dogg (Intercontinental Champion) wrestles “Bad” Ass Billy Gunn (Hardcore Champion) to a no contest at 3:03:
This would have been an acceptable match for WrestleMania if they had both men with their respective titles several weeks before and built it up. It just seems as if a New Age Outlaws match – which people are actually excited about versus The Real Double J versus Rockabilly in the spring of 1997 – should have happened at a bigger show. Gunn appears to be in a position to win the Intercontinental title after he hits a Fameasser, but Al Snow, Goldust, and other contenders for those titles run in and create a double disqualification. Rating: *½
–The stooges are getting Vince McMahon’s coffee, but they suddenly drop it and beg for mercy. We are not sure why, though. When the show comes back we see footage of the Legion of Doom, accompanied by Paul Ellering, beating up the stooges to get revenge for last week’s “Legion of Stooge” performance.
–The Blue Meanie comes to the ring with a chair and calls out Shamrock. However, the Shamrock he is calling out is Ryan, not Ken, and the Meanie proceeds to grab her and try to spank her. Ken hits the ring, only to be attacked by Goldust, and the Meanie hits him in the back with a chair after Ken puts Goldust in the ankle lock. You would think Ken would not try that after he took a chair to the face from the Rock in that same position in 1998.
–Jim Ross says that he is having a great time at the frat party. He blames Hardcore Holly for taking him off the air last week and then asks the frat where the girls are.
–Sable is shown getting her makeup done.
–The Ministry of Darkness is shown arriving at the arena (and nothing happens to them after this so I failed to see the point of this small segment).
–Vince McMahon demands to know where his coffee is from the stooges.
–Non-Title Match: Sable (WWF Women’s Champion) defeats Ivory (w/D-Lo Brown) with the Sable Bomb at 2:37:
This is billed as Sable’s “tune up” match for WrestleMania. PMS comes out when the match gets going and engage in a verbal altercation with D-Lo. All of that leads to Ivory getting tripped and Sable putting her away with the Sable Bomb. It is amazing that Ivory was kept on after this match because it was a mess with botched sunset flips, rollups, and Ivory could not get up correctly for the Sable Bomb. After the match, Tori runs into the ring and briefly fights with Sable.
–Steve Austin is shown preparing for his match with the Big Show later tonight.
–Winner Referee’s Tonight’s Main Event: Mankind beats The Rock (WWF Champion) via disqualification when the Big Show interferes at 6:36:
After going through a three month blood feud it is an odd feeling to see these two fighting for a special guest referee slot. After a few minutes of brawling a ref bump prevents both men from getting a victory, but the referee does recover in time to see the Big Show chokeslam Mankind and that allows Mankind to win the right to referee tonight’s main event. Rating: **¼
–The Big Show throws things around the backstage area over the outcome of the previous match.
–The next match is booked as Kane versus Goldust, but once Goldust gets to the ring he pulls a bazooka out of his robe and blasts Kane in the face. Then Goldust takes off the robe and wig and is revealed as Triple H. The crowd pops big for that one.
–X-Pac shows up for the street fight with Shane McMahon but after he gets the upper hand the Mean Street Posse immediately runs out and beats him up. The Posse and Shane get into their cars shortly after that and leave before X-Pac can extract revenge.
–Vince McMahon walks out and replays the opening segment for the crowd. He promises Steve Austin that he will not enjoy his experience in the main event and says that there is “no chance in hell” that Austin will win the WWF title at WrestleMania. Hmm…where have we heard that promise before?
–Mankind Serves as Special Guest Referee: Steve Austin pins The Big Show after a Stone Cold Stunner at 9:29:
The Rock is brought out by Vince as the guest commentator to makeup for the fact that he is not refereeing the main event. The Big Show’s first theme is one of those weird techno mixes you could use for a CAW in WrestleMania 2000 or No Mercy on the N64. It does not fit him at all. Cole bills this as “The biggest match in the history of Monday Night RAW” every chance he gets, evidently taking notes from Tony Schiavone on how to hype a match. This is an interesting match to watch since Austin rarely wrestled really big guys during his main event run and he does a good job with his selling to put over the Big Show’s power. Wrestling fans have questioned this match a lot over the years since an Austin-Big Show feud would have been great for after WrestleMania. Hot shoting the match on RAW and putting Austin over relatively cleanly (although Austin used a chair to setup the finish) made all of that mute and ruined a potential attraction for later in 1999. You can chalk that up to a combination of Russo and the WWF not wanting to put a WCW guy over its top talent so early in his run. In the latter case, though, why book the match? Rating: **¾
–After the bell, the Rock beats up Austin and gives him a Rock Bottom as the show comes to a close.
The Final Report Card: This show was bookended by a really hot opening and a fun main event, but the idea of jobbing out the Big Show so quickly in his run was puzzling. I am shocked that Vince went along with it because he typically likes big guys and you would think he would see dollar signs in the Big Show. The main event booking was actually a bad omen that we were set to get more Steve Austin-Undertaker main events down the road despite the fact that Austin was in desperate need of new opponents. Anyway, we head into WrestleMania with a hot main event feud, an interesting angle over who the referee is going to be for the match (Big Show or Mankind), and a company that is far better positioned in the Monday Night Wars than it was sixteen months ago.
Monday Night War Rating: 6.4 (vs. 4.0 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation: Thumbs Up