The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 03.30.98
Someone e-mailed me yesterday specifically asking about this show, so I figured “What the hell”. That’s the beauty of the WWE Network! I can just call up random episodes of RAW and review them.
This is one of course quite notable for being one of the biggest “Post-WM RAW” shows of the Attitude Era, kicking off the Austin Era in particular.
Live from Albany, NY, drawing a sellout 11,000.
Your hosts are JR & Michael Cole
Vince McMahon joins us to start, bringing out the brand new WWF World title belt that would come to be known as the Attitude Era Belt. The crowd is so loud that Vince can’t hear himself on the PA and actually stops to give the production guy shit for giving him a mic that’s not working. So he introduces Steve Austin, who swaps belts with Vince, thus retiring the venerable Winged Eagle Belt after a decade of service. Of note, there’s a bunch of jagged little points on the edge of the new belt, which Austin promptly cuts himself with while carrying it. So Vince wants to clarify that he’s proud of Austin becoming the champion and representing the company, and together, they can combine skills to make Steve the greatest WWF champion of all time. But of course Austin isn’t interested in a group effort, even though Vince declares himself “incapable of hate” and thinks Austin is a “swell guy”. Then Vince makes the mistake of telling Austin that he “loves him” and Austin flips out, even though it’s “just a figure of speech”. So Austin will continue to do things how he wants and give Vince more grey hairs (that proved prophetic) and Vince offers him a deal: Do things the easy way, or the hard way. So Austin thinks it over after being given the options, and it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER for Vince and I guess he’s doing it the hard way, thus kicking off the biggest feud in WWF history.
The Legion of Doom v. Los Boriquas
The Boriquas are represented by Jose & Jesus tonight and LOD quickly destroy them with the Doomsday Device at 0:30. As repackages go, this one wasn’t the most effective, of course.
Next up, the AMAZING WWF Attitude promo where all the legends put over the new guys while reminiscing about their careers.
Kurrgan v. Chainz
Speaking of failed pushes, this was the start of an attempt to do something with Kurrgan that veered into a wildly different direction soon after. Kurrgan boots away on Chainz in the corner and gets a backdrop while growling a lot, but Chainz makes a comeback as this match is so terrible that it’s even managed to kill this molten post-WM crowd. They exchange big boots and Chainz goes down, allowing Kurrgan to finish with the IRON CLAW at 2:20. And then he drags Chainz to the back while refusing to relinquish the hold. -**
Meanwhile, the police arrive to probably arrest Steve Austin.
And in our THIRD failed repackage of the evening in a row, Tennessee Lee introduces Jeff Jarrett’s new-old gimmick, and Jeff is now riding a horse to the ring in an “electric cowboy” gimmick that was pitched to Bret Hart way back in the 80s before he wisely turned it down.
Jeff Jarrett v. Mr. Aguila
Jarrett chokes Aguila out on the ropes and gets a clothesline in the corner, then follows with a suplex, but Aguila does some backflips into a leg lariat to make the comeback. He follows with a moonsault, which gets completely botched, and Jarrett finishes with the figure-four at 2:28 as they just completely hit the reset button on Jarrett and pretend like the last few months didn’t happen and it’s 1995 again. *
Meanwhile, the cops find Austin and haul him off as promised. Why is it that we saw thousands of people get arrested on this show over the years but never had a storyline where someone needed the week off for a court date related to their charges?
Vince McMahon and his stooges join us again, and Vince didn’t want to have him arrested, but he had no choice. And he struts out.
Meanwhile, the Rock is going to lay the smackdown on Ken Shamrock tonight, and afterwards the Nation is going to be the strongest it’s ever been. This appears to be news to Faarooq.
Faarooq & The Rock v. Ken Shamrock & Steve Blackman
Rock demands to start the match and then immediately tags out to Faarooq while claiming a hamstring problem. Faarooq powerslams Shamrock, but Ken fights back with kicks and brings in Blackman. Faarooq misses an elbow and Shamrock takes over again with a back elbow and dropkick. The martial artists double-team Faarooq in their corner, but he hits Shamrock with a spinebuster…only to have Rock short-arm on the tag and walk out on the match. Shamrock quickly finishes Faarooq with the belly to belly at 4:20 as a result. Nothing much to this one aside from the angle with Rock. *1/2 So afterwards, Faarooq calls him back out for an ass-whooping, at which point the rest of the Nation breaks them up. Rock goes to leave again, but Faarooq wants more, so Rock gives the MAGIC EYEBROW RAISE and the Nation turns on Faarooq to choose their side in the battle once and for all. After that, the next step was to start giving the individual members character traits beyond “big black guys standing in the background”.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley is out for the interview that swung the tide in the Monday Night Wars…according to him. Wait, didn’t he ride a tank to the ring for this one? Must be that Mandela Effect. So HHH gives the State of the Union address for DX, complaining that Shawn dropped the ball on Mike Tyson and now he’s picking it up and running the show. So tonight, it’s a brand new D-Generation X, led by him, and his first recruit is a completely wasted Sean Waltman, fresh from getting fired by WCW. He of course proceeds to cut a bitter promo against Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and claims that Hall and Nash would be right there if they weren’t “being held hostage” by WCW. Yeah, we should all be so lucky to be “held hostage” for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Poor Kevin Nash, never doing jobs and winning the World title over Goldberg at Starrcade later in the year. He’s the real hero!
Meanwhile, Val Venis is COMING soon…
Marvelous Marc Mero v. Taka Michinoku
Luna comes out before the match to challenge Sable to something called an “Evening Gown Match” at Unforgiven and then calls her a slut so you know it’s the Attitude Era. Taka quickly gets a leg lariat, but Mero powerbombs him and faceplants him before choking out with a rope for two. Sable inadvertently distracts the ref and Mero finishes with a TKO at 1:40. So for those keeping track, both halves of the light heavyweight title match at Wrestlemania were used as enhancement guys in 2:00 squashes the next night. ½* I’d like to say the title recovered, but it definitely didn’t. And then we continue the shocking debuts as “three oriental men” storm out of the crowd and attack Taka, giving us the first appearance of Kaientai.
NWA World tag team titles: The New Midnight Express v. The Headbangers
The Headbangers double-team Bodacious Bob or Bubbalicious Bob or whatever the fuck his name was, but Thrasher gets caught in the heel corner and the crowd completely dies. Bob with an elbow and he slugs away in the corner, but goes up and lands on Thrasher’s foot as the crowd empties out for a piss break. “Hot” tag Mosh and he runs wild with a powerslam on Bart, but they come back with the Rocket Launcher for the pin at 4:00 and WIN THE TITLES? Wait a minute, so the HEADBANGERS were the NWA champions at this point? They literally made no mention of who the champions were before the match started and I just assumed it was the other way around. Dan Severn also debuted here as Cornette’s new bodyguard in case anyone cares, by the way. Anyone? No? Just checking. ½*
Kane heads out while the crew sets up the cage for our main event and Paul Bearer challenges Undertaker to an inferno match at Unforgiven to kill 10 minutes of cage setup. Whoever came up with the idea of hanging the pre-built cage above the ring deserves a huge raise and stock options.
WWF tag team titles: Cactus Jack & Terry Funk v. The New Age Outlaws
I don’t know if it’s ever been established 100% if Jack & Funk were actually former champions after Wrestlemania, but I choose to believe they were. The Outlaws attack and Gunn stomps on Funk’s injured kidney, but Team ECW hangs him on the cage. The Outlaws regroup and handcuff Funk to the cage by the neck, and then proceed to kill Cactus before he comes back with a double DDT and tries to climb out. This brings out HHH and The Kid, who batter Jack with chairs to send him back into the ring, allowing the Outlaws to finish with a spike piledriver onto the chair and regain the tag titles at 4:24. And with that, we have D-Generation X 2.0 and WCW might as well have just packed it in right there. Oddly, I was checking the Observer and he didn’t mention anything about the ratings suddenly swinging to the WWF for good that week, but maybe he just forgot to mention it.
You can’t say lots didn’t happen, but MAN does this episode not hold up at all in retrospect. Guess that’s why they say history is written by the winners.