The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW–03.03.97

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for the Monday Night War – March 3 1997

Part One – Monday Night RAW!

– I decided to cave and try Microsoft Office 2007 instead of my faithful OpenOffice 2.0 for a while, if only because it seems to mesh better with Vista. So if it suddenly screws up my formatting, that’s who to blame.  (Man, Microsoft definitely won THAT battle for my computer in the long run!)  

– Taped from Berlin, Germany

– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jim Ross & Honky Tonk Man.

Bret Hart v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Sadly, Bret’s career was ending just as HHH’s was taking off, so what sounds like a huge money match on paper was never really realized. Lemme just say, had Bret stuck around, this could have been quite the feud. Bret grabs a headlock to start, but Hunter bails to escape. Back in, Bret goes back to it, but HHH elbows him down. Bret responds with a headbutt and takes him down with the headlock again. We take a break, and return with Bret doing his running turnbuckle bump, and HHH gets a single arm DDT for two. He goes to work on the arm, surprisingly not using the knee, but then proves me wrong by hitting a high knee. To the top, and Bret suplexes him off as a result. Legdrop and Russian legsweep gets two. Yes, it’s the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Elbow and suplex for two follow in this case, although HHH fights back with a Pedigree attempt to break things up, which Bret reverses into a catapult into the post. HHH blocks the Sharpshooter, but Bret whips him into the corner and into the Tree of Woe, then gets all fired up and shoves the ref for the DQ at 8:49. Man, Bret’s sure been angry on these shows as of late. Chyna saves her boyfriend, which by the way would NEVER happen from 2000 onwards. This was a fairly paint by numbers match. **

– Meanwhile, at WW(bleep) studios, we’re waiting on Steve Austin, who is apparently in the bathroom.

Intercontinental title: Rocky Maivia v. Vader

Vince and company pretty much write off Rocky before the bell even rings. Rock, with his shortened hair and sideburns, was starting to develop the look that would make him a star, although the backlash was about to begin in a big way. Vader pounds him in the corner to start and kills him with the short clothesline, and goes to a chinlock, having quite the in-depth conversation with him in the process. Rocky fights up and gets a rollup for two, but Vader clobbers him. Rocky tries the sunset flip, but Vader sits on him to break that up and gets two. Quite the fast count from the referee tonight, who I don’t recognize. Maybe that’s why. They fight for a suplex and Rock wins that one and gets two. Nice clothesline, which Vader actually does the 180 sell for, sets up Rocky’s comeback and he slugs away into a backdrop suplex for two. And we take a break. Back with Vader getting a splash for two. Middle rope splash gets two. You know, all the split-screen “Stay tuned for such-and-such a match!” hype just comes across as so pathetic and desperate when you look back on it now. At least have the balls to hype the matches AFTER the segments, not during. Anyway, Vader looks to finish with a bodypress off the middle rope, but Rocky reverses to a powerslam for two. A rather impressive belly to belly gets two. Hurricane DDT and Rocky goes up with the high cross, but Vader rolls through to break it up. Rocky dropkicks him out of the ring, and my screwjob sense is tingling. And indeed, Mankind runs in for the DQ at 7:19. I feel dirty saying this, but Vader was carrying Rock to a hell of a match before that shitty ass finish. *** “Madness has taken over the World Wrestling Federation!” declares Honky. You tell ’em, Honk! Anyway, Vader was just bumping all over the place to make Rocky look like a giant-killer here, and it worked.

– Last week: ECW invades!

The Sultan v. Flash Funk

To this day I have no idea why we were supposed to care about Sultan one way or another. He didn’t even have a NAME, just a profession. We take a break before it starts and join it with Sultan clotheslining Flash. Funk comes back with a dropkick that sends Sultan out, and he follows with a high cross to the floor. Back in, they trade wristlocks, but Sultan grabs a sleeper. Funk comes back with a clothesline to escape and everyone’s out. Uh, guys, we’re 2:30 in, it’s not the time to be laying around on the mat selling like it’s a 20 minute match. Funk comes back with a rana and follows with the moonsault for two. He tries a flying headscissors, but Sultan abruptly no-sells and drops him on his face, then finishes with the camel clutch at 4:00. They should repackage that Sultan guy, he might get over. Maybe as a dancing Samoan sumo wrestler! Real bad, as Sultan did nothing. 1/2*

– And now for your unintentional comedy of the evening, the German-speaking announcer interviews Ahmed Johnson about Wrestlemania, and you can actually understand the German questions better than Ahmed’s “English” answers, because at least you can make out the occasional word. There’s no translator in the world who can speak Ahmed, sadly.

WWF World title: Sid v. Mankind

They brawl outside to start and head back in, where Sid laughably works on an armbar. Play to your strengths, dude. Like, uh, I dunno…yelling. Or shattering your leg while trying simple moves. Mankind bails and looks for advice from the urn, and it apparently tells him to drag Sid out and choke him down, because that’s what he does! Back in, he chokes the champ down on the ropes and drops the leg. Sid fights up, so Mankind slugs him down to the apron, which Sid just kind of shrugs off. Back in, he uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS. See what I mean about playing to your strengths? Further to that, he kicks Mankind in the head a few times, which is another move simple enough that Sid (probably) can’t f--- it up, and we take a break. Back with them fighting on the floor, as Sid tosses Mankind into the post and then suplexes him on the floor. Back in, Mankind necksnaps him and follows with a legdrop off the top for two. We hit the chinlock as the Superstar Line has been blurred out. They probably lost a lawsuit over THAT, too. (note to sarcasm impaired: That was a JOKE. I know it’s not active anymore). Mankind gets the Mandible Claw in the days before it was enhanced by footwear, but Sid barely goes down for it. He keeps trying with a double-arm DDT that gets two, and then a sleeper. God bless him, Mick’s trying to carry this load to a watchable match, but that’s a miracle that only Bret or Shawn can do, I’m afraid. Sid gets to the corner to find the leverage needed, then falls back to break the hold, and makes the comeback. He pounds away in the corner and gets a chokeslam for two. Powerbomb, with extra dramatic count from Earl Hebner, finishes clean at 10:16. Mick tried so, so hard here, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. **3/4

– Meanwhile, on Shotgun Saturday Night, Bulldog & Owen fire Clarence Mason for conflict of interest. Man, it’s all just falling into place now, isn’t it?

– Speaking of which, Steve Austin gives a MAGNIFICENT promo from Stamford bitching about how Shawn Michaels gets the flu and they do a video for him, but he shows up for Final Four sick as a dog and no one so much as pats him on the back. He was really starting to cut loose at this point and would it only get more awesome.

European championship finals: The British Bulldog v. Owen Hart

OK, for those who have long been bugging me to do this one, here you go. Owen gives Bulldog a clean break to start and then starts on the arm, and they trade super-cool reversals until Bulldog takes him down to win. Owen tries a monkey flip out of the corner, but Bulldog blocks and they do a stalemate sequence off that. And then shake hands, which is always nice to see. Bulldog takes him down with the test of strength, and Owen bridges out of it and busts out the rope bounce escape. He tries to follow with a rana, but Bulldog powerbombs him, and transitions into a catapult that puts Owen on the floor. And then he lets him back in, as the sportsmanship continues. Owen comes back in with a rollup for two, but Bulldog takes him down with an armdrag and holds a top wristlock. Bulldog goes to a hammerlock and Owen tries to flip out of it, so Bulldog drops him right on the arm and we take a break.

Back with Bulldog working the wristlock again, into a crucifix takedown for two. Owen reverses a suplex and goes for the enzuigiri, but Bulldog ducks and takes him down into a bow-and-arrow submission. Owen uses the ref’s shirt to escape, so Bulldog grabs an armbar and monkey-flips him. He tries to follow with a charge, but Owen backdrops him to the floor and then also offers a clean entrance back into the ring again. Another shake and we’re on again. Bulldog takes him down with a headlock and they criss-cross, but Owen blows out his knee! BUT WAIT! It’s a miracle, as it heals up and Owen stomps him down and tries the Sharpshooter. Bulldog powers out of that and now the hurt feelings start, as they shove it out and Owen gets a leg lariat to take over.

Backbreaker and Owen goes to work on the back, and drops the leg for two. We hit the chinlock and Bulldog fights out of that, but runs into a knee as Honky does a pretty good Stu Hart impression. Bulldog bails and regroups, and Owen actually lets him be, but Bulldog fights in with a sunset flip for two. Owen takes him down with a clothesline, however, and drops an elbow for two. Back to the chinlock and we take a well-timed break. Back with Owen getting the overhead belly to belly suplex for two and goes to a camel clutch. Bulldog powers out with an electric chair drop, but runs into a boot on a blind charge. Owen tries for a pin in the corner, but only gets two. Can’t blame him there.

Neckbreaker and Owen goes up with a flying legdrop for two. Back to the chinlock, but Bulldog fights out quickly, so Owen slugs him into the corner and follows with a superplex, which Bulldog reverses into a bodypress for two. Nice counter. Bulldog comes back with a wicked series of clotheslines and the delayed suplex for two. Owen gets the turnbuckle bump and Bulldog presses him onto the top rope to crotch him, then suplexes him back in. Owen lands on his feet and hits the german suplex for two. Owen tries to alley-oop and gets caught in powerslam position, so he grabs the ropes and falls on top for two. Bulldog rolls him up for two. Owen finally gets the enzuigiri and goes to the Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring, but Bulldog powers to the ropes. Owen tries a tombstone, but Bulldog reverses to the powerslam and gets two. Bulldog argues and Owen gets the victory roll from behind for two, but Bulldog reverses for the pin and the first European title at 16:52, kicking off 5 glorious years for that belt and highlights like Mideon digging it out of Shane McMahon’s bag to win it. The finish, by the way, was awesome, as it paid tribute to both the Owen-Bret Wrestlemania X finish with Owen’s victory roll, but also the Bret-Bulldog finish from Summerslam 92 with the pinfall reversal by Bulldog. This one told a great story, had no dead spots, and was pretty much 100% clean the whole way through, and not to mention foreshadowed one of the greatest angles in WWF history when they had their rematch a few weeks later. Probably one of the best matches ever broadcast on TV. *****

Next week: RAW is WAR! About god damned time we got there!