The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW–07.07.97

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 07.07.97

Live from EDMONTON, ALBERTA! My first ever live RAW, although you’d probably have to be looking really closely to see me.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

This show, and the Canadian Stampede show from the night before, absolutely represented the pinnacle of Bret Hart’s hero status in Canada. You wouldn’t even believe how over Bret was all night long.

And of course we start out with none other than Bret Hart, wearing an Oilers jersey to really suck up full force. Bret gives a pretty famous speech here, thanking us for letting him be our hero and how he loves to leave the US. He clarifies that he’s not anti-American, he’s pro-Canadian. Although playing the gun control card in Alberta doesn’t go over too well, because it’s the Texas of Canada. He promises to regain the WWF title for the fifth time at Summerslam. In retrospect, I wish he wouldn’t have. Next up, Owen Hart, who is readying to defend the Intercontinental title against Steve Austin in another match that kind of changed the face of wrestling forever. British Bulldog also joins us, and we get a rousing Canadian national anthem on the TitanTron. Which allows Steve Austin to run in and lay them all out with a chair to a big heel reaction. Like they weren’t having the time of their lives with this stuff.

Taka Michinoku v. The Great Sasuke.

Sasuke was still being pushed as the great white hope of the light heavyweight division here, although that would quickly change. Brian Christopher joins us on commentary to really amp up the annoyance. Taka attacks to start but gets kicked to the floor, and Sasuke quickly gets a tope con hilo. Oh man, he’s totally ripping off the Undertaker. Back in, Taka tries to work on the arm and they go the mat for two, where Sasuke reverses to an anklelock. Taka makes the ropes, so Sasuke puts him down with a spinkick combo and Taka bails to regroup. Taka pops back in with a missile dropkick to put Sasuke on the floor, but he blows the somersault moonsault and then does it again. Well, it popped the crowd so I’ll forgive it. Taka suplexes him back in, but Sasuke reverses to a german, which Taka flips out of and into a belly to belly for two. Michinoku Driver and Taka goes up, but whiffs on the moonsault. Sasuke tries a Lionsault, but Taka dropkicks him in mid-move. Taka charges and gets dumped, and Sasuke follows with the SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP. This is about as far from Tommy Rogers v. Bobby Fulton as you can get, yo. Back in, Taka reverses a suplex, but Sasuke gets a bridged german suplex for two. Crucifix powerbomb finishes at 5:45. Taka gets basically written off a jobber by the announcers, but he’d be back and Sasuke wouldn’t. Highspot extravaganza, although still really short. ***

Savio Vega v. Crush.

This is the official start of the Gang Warz period, as Crush and Savio introduced their posses the week before. Interesting that DOA were mostly the precursor to Undertaker’s 2000 revamp. Savio attacks Crush to start, but gets booted down and pounded, as the crowd makes Crush into the de facto babyface early. Backbreaker and Crush holds it as a submission move, but Savio comes back with a leg lariat to put Crush on the floor. This triggers a showdown between the factions, and back in the ring Crush comes back with a bad clothesline to put Savio out. DOA attacks him for the DQ at 2:21. * Just storyline stuff.

Meanwhile, Paul Bearer continues to insist that Undertaker’s brother, Kane, is still alive. And Undertaker is a murderer. A MURDERER! Man, who knew that silly idea would last 20 years and counting?

WWF Tag team tournament finals: Faarooq & D-Lo Brown v. Owen Hart & British Bulldog.

Winner faces Steve Austin and a partner of his choosing next week for the tag titles. Steve insists that Mankind will never be his partner because he’s an earless freak. Owen hiptosses D-Lo to start, but gets elbowed down. Over to Bulldog, so Brown brings Faarooq in and we get a posedown. Bulldog with a powerslam and clothesline, but D-Lo gives him the cheapshot as you get a pretty good shot of Zen with a “Lawler’s Hardcore” sign at ringside. The Nation works Bulldog over in the corner, but he comes back with a faceplant. D-Lo cuts off the tag and suplexes Bulldog for two, then goes to the chinlock, but Bulldog fights out and then runs into a knee. Back to the chinlock and Owen gets suckered in to break it up, allowing more shenanigans from the Nation. Faarooq with his shitty powerslam for two, but a splash hits the knees and D-Lo has to cut off another hot tag. Brown chokes Bulldog out and pounds him down for two, but Bulldog escapes the Dominator and it’s hot tag Owen. Leg lariat for D-Lo and Faarooq and the crowd is losing it, especially when Pillman attacks Kama with the Canadian flag. They all brawl on the floor and Owen beats the count at 6:49 to win the tournament. Weak finish that really dragged a hot match down. Mankind (with an Austin 3:16 shirt) comes out and promises to see them next week in a funny bit. Kind of neat seeing uber-heels Owen & Bulldog wrestling a total babyface formula here and popping the crowd the whole way, but it worked. **3/4

Meanwhile, a pissed-off Austin gives his thoughts to Vince McMahon, and when Vince finishes with “Thank you for joining us”, Austin tells him to shut up. That’s the kind of touch that made him a superstar.

Steve Austin v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

Some doofus at ringside has a sign that says “Hunter: Future World Champion”. Yeah right, Nostradamus. And I suppose he’ll marry Vince’s daughter and take over the promotion after that, too, because that’s about as likely. Lockup to start and Hunter gets all in Austin’s face, so Steve decides to out-wrestle him. Austin offering a formal bow is great. Austin starts working the arm, so HHH goes to the eyes and slugs away, forcing Austin to fire back and interrupt his wrestling exhibition. Hunter bails and Austin follows to dump him on the railing, then offers another bow. This one was weird because we (the crowd) really WANTED to cheer for Austin, but it just wasn’t the right place for it. Back in, Hunter with a rollup for two, but Austin flattens him with a lariat for two. Austin with the facelock as we take a break, and return with Austin going for a superplex, as Vince puts forth my theory about the crowd wanting to cheer for Austin but being afraid to. Weird, I’m thinking like Vince now. And yet I don’t have a creepy childhood neurosis about getting beat up by muscular men, so that’s good. Hunter stomps away in the corner and adds the kneedrop for two. Austin comes back with an atomic drop, but walks into a clothesline, as the crowd now starts cheering for Hunter to overcompensate. Austin comes back with the Thesz Press and clotheslines Hunter out of the corner, but Chyna trips him up and draws a face pop. Hunter grabs a chair, but Mankind runs out to save his buddy and take the chairshot in his place, and KICK WHAM STUNNER ends it at 6:15. This was pretty good, with the weirdest crowd dynamic you’ll see outside of Goldberg v. Lesnar. *** Austin, impressed with Mankind’s moxie, offers him a spot as his tag partner, and turns on him after a hug. DTA, Mick, DTA. Mankind promises that drastic measures will be taken next week and he’ll never be the same again. Gotta say, given that buildup it should have been Cactus Jack introduced to the WWF as the payoff.

Eric Shelley v. Brian Christopher.

Shelley is representing all of Canada, according to ring announcer Sunny, which doesn’t say much for us. Christopher attacks after offering the handshake, but Shelley monkey-flips him and goes to the armbar. Christopher comes back with the Stroke and a northern lights suplex, but Shelley gets a bad rollup for two. Dropkick puts Christopher on the floor and Shelley tries to follow with the highspot, but splats on the floor and looks stupid in the process. Back in, Christopher with the missile dropkick while Lawler does Polish jokes about Ivan Putski. Shelley comes back and misses a corner splash by a mile, allowing Brian to finish with an inverted DDT and flying legdrop at 3:45. Shelley was pretty awful here. *1/2 They were trying to do a “WWF-ized” version of the cruiserweight division with storylines and heels, which shows how they didn’t get what made it work for WCW in the first place.

More with Steve Austin, as he promises that if he doesn’t win the title from Owen Hart at Summerslam, he’ll kiss Owen’s bare ass right there in the ring.

Bret Hart v. Goldust.

Bret attacks on the floor, and into the ring for an atomic drop and clothesline, but Goldust slugs back. A slam is reversed by Bret for two and he whips Goldust into the corner and works the back with a backbreaker, then hangs him in the Tree of Woe. Goldust bails as DOA heads down to ringside now. The Hart Foundation also joins us and we take a break. Back with Goldust and Bret brawling on the floor, and back in Bret drops the elbow for two. Russian legsweep gets two. Goldust slugs back as this drags on, and we hit the chinlock. And now LOD & Shamrock head down as Goldust gets the lariat for two. And back to the chinlock. Much of the match has been taken up by people looking menacing, which I’m sure works great for TV but isn’t exactly enthralling viewing. Bret comes back with a suplex for two and then blocks a sunset flip for the pin at 7:24. ** And we’re out.

I mean, this one of course holds a special place in my heart, which no Macho Man-DDP angle can tear asunder.  But both shows were pretty damn great this week.