The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 05.26.97
When we left things last week…
Live from Evansville, IN
Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jim Ross
Steve Austin joins us to start as Vince notes that “The more he cheats, the more people love him”, along with his reluctant tag partner Shawn Michaels. Shawn is at least lucid this week, so that’s an improvement over last time. The LOD interrupts before they can bicker any further, and they want a title shot if Austin and Michaels win tonight. So that leads to…
The Legion of Doom v. Jim Neidhart & Brian Pillman
So as noted by Vince, this is actually Brian Pillman’s in-ring debut on RAW. He seemingly had been around much longer but was injured the entire time. Pillman gets tossed quickly but rakes Hawk’s eyes and chokes him out on the ropes, all of which Hawk cheerfully no-sells and press-slams him multiple times. Probably because Pillman couldn’t take the move properly the first two times. Over to Anvil and Animal dominates him with clotheslines, but Hawk gets double-teamed by the Harts before making his own comeback. This arena is lit SO brightly, it’s really distracting. Pillman offers a handshake to Animal, which results in him getting powerslammed, but Animal gets backdropped to the floor and Anvil clobbers him. Back in, Animal makes his own comeback and it’s over to Hawk as the LOD runs wild, and the Harts all run in for the DQ at 4:23. Pillman looked as terrible as you’d expect out there, struggling to bump against two guys who pretty much refused to bump. ¼* And then it turns into a big brawl with the Harts against LOD & Shawn & Steve.
Meanwhile, Sunny shoots water at the Honky Tonk Man for your Super Soaker commercial of the week. Hilarious.
Meanwhile, Paul Bearer has made sure that if anything happens to him, the secret will still come out because it’s locked up in a safe deposit box elsewhere.
D-Lo Brown v. Bob Holly
I believe this D-Lo’s in-ring debut on RAW after months of standing around at ringside for the Nation. Holly quickly gets a rana while Faarooq confronts Vince on commentary about how they’re scared of a black WWF champion. Well, maybe Hulk Hogan is. D-Lo gets a legdrop while the commentary veers into uncomfortable discussions about slavery, and a suplex gets two. D-Lo gets a knee to the gut and slingshots in with a legdrop for two while Faarooq keeps axing Vince the tough questions. D-Lo chokes away in the corner and blocks a rana with a powerbomb for the pin at 3:10. So what was the point of Holly beating Owen last week? Really dull match. *1/2
Meanwhile, Undertaker’s promo is muted by technical demons, so they try to go to a commercial and then cut back to him as he starts again.
Meanwhile, Jerry Lawler knows why Dusty Rhodes hates his son: Because he wears a woman’s wig and he’s running around like a “flaming fag”.
How did that not get edited off this show?
Also, Lawler notes that they should have named Dakota “Target” because everyone had a shot at it. Well, you can’t say the man doesn’t know how to build heat.
King of the Ring quarterfinals: Jerry Lawler v. Goldust
Despite a promo just short of hate speech, Lawler is still wildly cheered by the Evansville crowd. I don’t wanna stereotype entire states, but I’m pretty sure all these people voted for Trump as well. Lawler gets a backdrop and slugs away, but Goldust puts him down with the sliding punch and the crowd boos the shit out of him. Goldust goes up and Lawler slugs him on the way down, and follows with the PILEDRIVER OF DEATH, but Goldust fights back with his own. THESE MEN HAVE FAMILIES! You can’t piledrive someone on the Memphis circuit! Goldust slugs away in the corner, but King chokes him out and drops the fist. Poor Lawler just can’t draw heel heat to save his life tonight as the fans wildly cheer everything he does. Lawler misses a clothesline and Goldust bulldogs him while Vince and JR recap Lawler’s history with the WWF, including the lawsuit over the “King” gimmick. Goldust slugs away in the corner, but misses a charge and they fight on the floor. Back in, Lawler takes him down and grabs a handful of tights for the pin at 5:20 to advance to the semi-finals, drawing a giant babyface reaction. Goldust attacks him afterwards and sends him crashing down the ramp, which has everyone booing him for being a sore loser. This was a complete disaster on every possible level and it felt like it was a million years long. -**
Meanwhile, Steve Austin’s promo is suddenly interrupted by a locker room beatdown from the Hart Foundation.
Meanwhile, Austin goes to find Shawn Michaels, who has also been attacked by the Harts during the break.
Flash Funk v. Rocky Maivia
Complete silence for Rock’s entrance at the final tail end of his original gimmick. Rock works an armdrag as the Headbangers join us with inflatable chairs and a boombox for party music. Meanwhile, Funk takes over with a corner clothesline, but Rock Bottom gets two. Rock slugs away for the deathly silent crowd while the Headbangers continue yelling “Party!” at random intervals, and then Mosh hits Flash with the radio and Rocky finishes with the FLYING BODYPRESS OF DOOM at 3:34. What even WAS that? DUD
Meanwhile, who exactly is Mankind? Part 3. So let us take you back to high school again, as young Mick takes a shot in the balls in front of the girls’ field hockey team and has girls looking at his genital area for the first time! More later.
Your SEGA SLAM OF THE WEEK is Brian Pillman winning a squash on Shotgun Saturday Night on behalf of Fighter’s Megamix, which the announcer confidently calls the “greatest fighting game of all time”. It wasn’t even the best fighting game on the SATURN!
Meanwhile, Bret Hart accepts all of Shawn’s ridiculous stipulations for King of the Ring, and Pillman issues a challenge to Steve Austin for a singles match. Man, that card sure was subject to change.
Vader v. Ahmed Johnson
So if Vader beats Ahmed, he gets Ahmed’s semi-final spot in the KOTR tournament. Were they literally booking that tournament on the proverbial napkin? Because the evidence is piling up. Shoving match to start and Ahmed slams him, but they roll around on the mat and then slug it out in the corner as Ahmed does some laughable boxing and Vader basically pushes him away like “Bitch, please” and then flattens him. And then Ahmed gets a spinebuster out of nowhere for the pin at 3:00. *
Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Rockabilly
Good luck on this having any heat whatsoever. Hunter quickly USES THE KNEE , but Billy comes back with an atomic drop and clothesline for two. They slug it out for crickets and Hunter goes back to the knee (his own, not Billy’s) and follows with a suplex and, you guessed, it, a kneedrop for two. Billy gets a fameasser for two, but Chyna gets involved for the distraction and then slams Honky for good measure. And KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes Rockabilly at 3:18. Hunter’s formal bow while Chyna stands menacingly in the background was a pretty badass victory pose, but of course the gimmick would shift gears soon enough. Match was it what was. *
Sable lets us know that for only $59.99 and $11.00 shipping, you can get an inflatable King of the Ring chair that would probably cost you $10 at Target.
OK, back to Mankind, as we get one of the most historic promos in the history of the sport. He tells the story of showing up in the front row of MSG for the Muraco-Snuka cage match after hitchhiking for 16 hours, and watching Snuka dive off the cage. And he wanted to have people cheer him for an act of bravery. And then one year after this, he sure would. This leads to us seeing the “Dude Love” video for the first time. Why is this not on the Network, by the way? That’d be an amazing Hidden Gem. Anyway, next we get footage of Mick training with Dominic DeNucci and working a match with Shane Douglas at the facility. Sadly, Mick still didn’t get the girls, and ended up as the maniac Cactus Jack. And he saw the ring strung up with barbed wire and nails and he thought “I’M HOME!” And just as Goldust’s interview series failed, this one did exactly what they wanted and got Mankind over as a sympathetic babyface character, changing the character forever.
WWF tag team titles: Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels
So keep in mind Shawn is returning from a supposed career-ending knee injury in February after being off for three months. The challengers dive onto the Harts on the floor and it’s immediately a big brawl, as Austin hits Owen with a kneelift and drops elbows on him. He fights off both Harts at the same time and drops the middle rope elbow for two, and Shawn immediately comes in via the top rope with a double axehandle on Owen. Over to Bulldog, who overpowers Shawn, but Shawn goes to the eyepoke and follows with a rana and enzuigiri for two. Austin slugs Bulldog down and they work on the arm with some slick double-teaming, but a cheapshot from Owen turns the tide. They’re just going a million miles an hour here. Owen stomps Austin down on the floor and we take a break. Back with Owen holding a chinlock on Austin, and then switching to a sleeper, but Austin escapes with a jawbreaker and makes a hot tag to Shawn. Forearm for Bulldog and he walks into a press slam, as Bulldog drops him on the top rope and sends him bouncing to the floor like a ping pong ball. Quite the crippling knee injury on Shawn! Owen beats on him outside some more and back in for more of Shawn flying all over the ring like a ragdoll physics demo. Bulldog powerslam gets two as Austin saves, allowing Owen to hit the gutwrench on Shawn for two. Shawn fights back and walks into a belly to belly that gets two as well. Austin makes a second save, which would be a DQ in NXT, but that allows more double-teaming in the heel corner. Shawn with a sunset flip on Bulldog, but the ref is distracted by Owen and it only gets two, then Bulldog rips Shawn’s head off with a clothesline and a legdrop for two. Bulldog cuts off the ring with a facelock and we get the false tag for more crazy heat. Funny what happens when you put four of the greatest tag team wrestlers in history all together in the ring. Owen with a superplex, but Shawn fights him off and hits the flying bodypress for two, only to have Owen level him with the OWENZUIGIRI. Owen misses a blind charge and bumps in the corner, and it’s HOT TAG Austin. And Steve Austin getting a hot tag is amazing, as he destroys both guys and stomps Bulldog down, but Owen breaks up the stunner. But Shawn superkicks Bulldog behind the ref’s back and Austin pins him to win the title at 14:35. The Harts head in to beat on Shawn, but Austin wisely goes after the lone Bret Hart on the ramp and mauls the knee until the Harts make the save. The only thing missing is Finkel announcing the new champions! Otherwise this was one of the greatest RAW matches of all time, bar none. ****1/2
Meanwhile, Steve Austin declares that he won the titles by himself, but Shawn storms in and they continue their bickering.
And then in the main event interview, Paul Bearer joins us to reveal the secret. He talks about the day that Undertaker’s parents died in the fire, and he was the mortician that day…and there were THREE GRAVES. That brings Undertaker running out to attack Paul…but then he changes his mind and decides to take Paul’s blackmail deal instead.
Dave’s explanation of the angle from the Observer that week: “The secret is something to the effect that there were three graves (actually Bearer got this far)–one of his mom, one for his dad, and the other for him. Apparently Papa Shango did some kind of voodoo to raise Undertaker from the dead, which will be the story to explain his return as Shango is said to have signed a four-year contract and will get a megapush. Shango has been working as the manager of a strip club in Las Vegas for several years. Brian Lee was also considered for this role. As a wrestler, not to manage a strip club in Vegas.”
Man, that’s just EERILY prescient of how it turned out!
Anyway, sarcasm aside, the Shawn/Steve v. Hart Foundation show-long angle was tremendous, capped off by a classic main event and historic Mankind interview and the start of easily the greatest Undertaker storyline ever. This is of course an all-time classic episode.
Next week: An unlikely return in the main event, and…uh…how to put this…
All hell breaks loose backstage and the entire promotion goes off a cliff.
Join us, won’t you?