The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 05.12.97
LAST NIGHT: Ken Shamrock submitted Vader in his debut (while Vince keeps throwing out Mike Tyson’s name), Ahmed was unable to disband the Nation, and Steve Austin failed in his first title shot at Undertaker!
Live from Newark, DE, a sold out 4077 people. Even looked small on TV.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
The Hart Foundation is out to start the show, and Bret Hart is still going on about “scum” and “hyenas” and honestly the Austin feud is running out of steam. The ambulance angle was awesome, but Bret really needed to get off TV for a few weeks. Anyway, Bret promises to add Undertaker’s WWF title to the rest of the gold that they have, and tonight he’s got a HUGE SURPRISE for everyone. This was a lot of nothing.
King of the Ring Qualifier: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Ahmed Johnson
They briefly flash the brackets for this tournament and it’s HELLA weak. Hunter attacks to start and gets nowhere. Ahmed beats him down in the corner and adds a press slam and ax kick that barely makes contact with Hunter’s hair. Hunter catches him with a clothesline to take over and chokes him out in the corner, then drops a knee for two. JR does this weird thing where he gives Ahmed’s real backstory with the gang life and such, and then gives Hunter’s fake backstory about “wrestling tutors” and privileged background. Ahmed makes the comeback, so Chyna just comes in and hits him with a chair to draw the DQ at 3:52. Man, Hunter gets screwed out of winning King of the Ring two years in a row! Can you imagine how his career might have gone differently had he won the 1997 King of the Ring? He might have ended up a multi-time World champion and owner of the company. But I guess we’ll never know now. *
Steve Austin joins us, and he’s in no mood for Vince McMahon’s supportive b------- after last night’s loss. Austin asks Vince if he’s ever seen a snake in person, and Vince goes “I’d prefer not to comment on that.” OK then. Austin then gives us a lesson in killing snakes, and he’s going to start with the ass of the snake: Brian Pillman. He carried Pillman “for years and years in the bush leagues”. Ha! Anyway, nice little subtle beginning of the awkward relationship between Vince and Austin that went south in a hurry.
Leif Cassidy v. Scott Putski
They do a video package on Ivan Putski before this match, as though anyone would care about either Ivan or his son at this point. JR notes that Scott has great potential if he’s even half as good as his father. Sadly, no. So at this point Al Snow actually gave notice, trying to get them to do something with him, and Vince’s response was to pitch an idea where he played “The World’s Greatest Luchador” and spoofed masked Mexican wrestlers to set up a crossover with AAA. Sadly, that idea never came to fruition and instead Snow just got sent to ECW instead and reinvented himself. Anyway, Putski does some cruiserweight-lite flippity stuff, but Snow catches him with a powerbomb for two and this crowd could not give any less of a s--- about Putski. Cassidy drops knees for two, but Putski gets a sunset flip for two. So apparently, according to JR, Putski just graduated from university, which is hilarious because was stinking up GWF about 5 years before this and debuted in the mid-80s. Anyway, Putski finishes with a german suplex in 4:00 and Cassidy flips out, hitting him with a dive and yelling at the announcers about how he actually won. The only real losers here were the fans. ½*
The Legion of Doom v. PG-13
So at this point they’re hyping ANOTHER title shot for the LOD at King of the Ring. Obviously that tag title scene drastically changed soon after. So this was cute, as the match was supposed to be LOD v. the Nation, and the team decided that JC Ice & Wolfie D would represent them. Total clown show as PG-13 flies all over the ring like Crockett jobbers and JC Ice gets Doomsday’d, and then they hit the move again on Wolfie and pin both guys at 2:00. I think that’s how they wrote out PG-13, if I’m remembering correctly. ¼*
Mankind brings out Uncle Paul, who is still wrapped in bandages after burning his face in April, and Paul wants to give Undertaker one last chance to reconcile with him, or else he’ll reveal the SHOCKING SECRET about Undertaker. It has something to do with Paul standing over the grave of Undertaker’s parents. Hmmm, wonder what it could be?
Faarooq is here, and Vince declares that he’s now the #1 contender for the WWF title. And wasn’t the world just waiting for Undertaker v. Faarooq on PPV? So Faarooq goes off about how Vince has never had a black man as World champion, whether himself or even Ahmed, but everyone is happy to have a black man washing their clothes. This was pretty uncomfortable and not really a direction we needed to go with a light-hearted wrestling show.
Undertaker v. Savio Vega
We return from a break with the match in progress, as Taker hits the ropewalk, but Vega slugs away on him until Taker yanks him out of the corner by the feet. Savio comes back and kicks the bad knee, then spinkicks him for two. Taker is openly limping here, without Savio even working the leg. Savio goes up and hits boot on the way down, and Taker chokeslams him, which brings in the Nation for the DQ at 4:00. This was a complete time-killing feud and everyone knew it. *
ROB VAN DAM v. Jeff Hardy
So this was pretty huge, as RVD moves over from ECW and all the nerds in the building go crazy. Jerry Lawler cuts an anti-ECW promo, kicking off a pretty big run in Philly and dubbing Rob “Mr. Monday Night”. In the Observer, Dave was amused by the ECW mutants in the building chanting “You sold out” at RVD, as WWF fans were expressing their displeasure at someone signing with the WWF. Obviously this particular match would be a much bigger deal in a few years, but for the moment RVD destroys young Jeffrey Nero Hardy with spinkicks and a plancha. Back in, Rob gives him the spinning legdrop and goes up to finish with the first ever Five Star Frog Splash on RAW, and then moonsault for the pin at 2:21. This was a HELL of a squash for Rob, and of course Jeff knew exactly how to position his dead body in a variety of places to set him up. Rob basically made himself a giant star in 2 minutes here, and one guess who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Goldust: The Interview: Part 2: The Revenge of Michael Myers.
Dustin just wants to put on a show, and have fans in the building say “Gosh, what a great performance he put on tonight”. Also, he does all this for Dakota, and when he’s 70 years old and watching TV in his living room, he still wants her to be able to come sit on his lap. Ew, she’d be like 50 years old, that’s kind of creepy. Anyway, he still wants to be like his daddy, which was specifically designed to get people talking about Dusty maybe coming back to the WWF, but never paid off because Dusty was under contract to WCW. These were supposed to be getting Goldust over, but really it got him under and basically killed off the character because it stripped away everything that Goldust was supposed to be about and was literally designed to make him just another normal guy.
Meanwhile, Undertaker is going to open the vault of souls and do battle with the Nation of Destruction. Ross thinks that means he’s going to get some help.
Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. The New Blackjacks v. The Headbangers v. Furnas & LaFon
They were still teasing the connection between the Harts and Furnas & LaFon, which ended up going nowhere. Windham escapes a double-team from Furnas & LaFon and pins Furnas with a lariat at 1:50, then bulldogs Mosh for two. We take a break and learn that Bradshaw got pinned with the assist of LaFon during the commercial, so we’ve got the champs against the Headbangers for the thrilling finale. Owen misses a charge and goes into an exposed turnbuckle, and the Bangers hit a double-team suplex on him for the apparent pin, but Owen’s foot was on the ropes. So Bulldog rolls up Mosh for two and gives him the delayed suplex for two. The Bangers come back with a sideslam from Thrasher for two. Lawler notes that JR doesn’t like the Headbangers style of music, and thinks that Fleetwood Mac is a burger. Yeah, I bet the Headbangers would really be into Fleetwood Mac. Back to Owen while the crowd dozes and he gets the Sharpshooter on Mosh, but Thrasher saves and it’s BONZO GONZO. The champs finish these doofuses with a leg lariat and powerslam at 11:22. How desperate were they to put the titles on the Headbangers in September? Match was lousy and heatless. *1/2
The Hart Foundation reconvenes so that Bret can reveal his big surprise, and he sends the rest of his crew to the back. So he calls out Shawn Michaels, and Shawn comes out and takes off his jacket. Bret turns this into a metaphor for Shawn’s career, because he’s hot and then he’s cold and then hot and then cold. And Bret goes on and on about American scum and how Shawn stole the title from him at Wrestlemania and posed for girlie magazines. And Shawn didn’t have the guts to face him at this year’s show and he actually talks so long that the time on the show runs out without anything happening! Luckily the Network version adds the climactic moment where Shawn superkicks him back into his wheelchair, before the Harts hit the ring and attack, and Steve Austin makes the save. THAT should have been the ending of the show on the air!
Anyway, we’re getting VERY close to one of my all-time favorite matches in the history of the show, so this stuff pays off in a big way very soon, but the infamous wheelchair interview had other ramifications that weren’t so immediate. Shawn and Bret had been mostly playing a role up until then, but Shawn basically accused Bret of sabotaging the interview here (which he kind of did) and their relationship went down the toilet in a real way, leading to the infamous backstage fight. So interesting times are ahead. This show was not so much interesting, although RVD’s debut was GREAT. The Nation were not main event heels, however, and the Hart Foundation desperately needed some time off the screen for a few weeks.