The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW–08.04.97

The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 08.04.97

It’s the night after Summerslam! And some big changes are afoot.

Live from Bethlehem, PA, drawing a record 4665 and $60,000 gate.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler

The Hart Foundation joins us to start, and you can bet Bret is gonna have some things to say. JR accuses Bret of provoking Shawn’s wrath. Bret says “They say you’re supposed to suffer for your crimes, but if you’re not suffering, then maybe it wasn’t a crime.” Words to live by. Does it apply to what happened a few months later, though? Anyway, Bret has his own accusation: Shawn favored the Undertaker for the entire match, thus breaking his agreement, and it’s only because Bret is smarter than both guys that he’s standing here as the champion today. So he thinks that they should stand by their word and leave. Maybe if Vince signed him to a 20 year unbreakable contract, he would. JR moves along to Bret’s upcoming title defense against the Patriot at Ground Zero, which lands with kind of a thud and basically turns Bret into a secondary character the night after winning the title back. Bret notes that Brian Pillman isn’t wearing any stupid dress because the Hart Foundation doesn’t wear dresses and Brian’s got too much class. Over to Owen, who is mad at himself for showing compassion to Steve Austin after ending his career and leaving him “a crippled freak”, so Austin should do the right thing and return the title. Since he’s a crippled freak and all. This brings out new Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter, who quickly ends up as one of the all time lame duck authority figures in WWF history. So Sarge says that Bret will defend against the Patriot (zzzzzzzz) and Bulldog will face Shamrock again “soon” (zzzzzzz) and Pillman will wear his dress and Owen will get his rematch with Austin when the doctors say it’s OK. Quite the run of proclamations there. This brings out Steve Austin, who by some goddamn miracle is walking the night after breaking his damn neck and accepts the rematch with Owen TONIGHT.

Ken Shamrock v. Kama Mustafa

So despite the announcement that Bulldog will be facing Shamrock again “soon” for the European title, Shamrock is immediately spun off into another direction completely. In fact, this whole show was re-written at the last minute due to Austin’s injury, as the original main event of the show was Bulldog & Owen regaining the tag titles from Austin & Dude Love thanks to Shawn Michaels turning heel. And then it was moved to Ground Zero, but that didn’t happen either. But we’ll get to that in a bit. They trade leg kicks to start while the crowd chants “Papa Shango” at Kama. Kama misses a blind charge and Shamrock slugs away on him, but Kama comes back with boots and drops an elbow for two. They slowly fight to the floor and Shamrock runs him into the post, but the Boriquas pop out of the crowd and double-team Kama on the floor. Back in, Shamrock with a belly to belly for the pin at 3:02. This was pretty heatless and terrible. ¼*

Meanwhile, BRAKUS is still German and still coming soon. We’re still waiting on that one.

Taka Michinoku v. Brian Christopher

Christopher beats on Taka to start and clotheslines him, and follows with a suplex and some “martial arts” demonstration. Taka escapes a suplex and hits his own, but Christopher blocks a rana with a powerbomb and follows with a fameasser. He charges and lands on the floor, and Taka hits him with the springboard dive. Back in, Brian goes up with a missile dropkick and gets another suplex, but Taka counters with a cradle for the pin at 3:30. Christopher was basically squashing him and treating him like a joke before the banana peel loss. Decent action, though. ** And then Christopher lays him out and tosses him after the match to really make sure this division doesn’t get over.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Slaughter delivers the dress to Pillman, and informs us that Brian is wearing it every week on RAW until he beats someone.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Vader

This feels like a weird clash of generations for some reason. Hunter attacks to start and Vader throws hands on him as a result, but Hunter gets a clothesline out of the corner. Hunter slugs away in the corner, but Paul Bearer trips him up, so Chyna goes after Paul and Vader goes after Chyna. They brawl on the floor and Hunter hits the post, resulting in a double countout at 2:20. When Chyna dropkicking a manager is the only thing getting heat, you’re having a shitty match. ½*

The Patriot v. The Sultan

Was this fucking guy seriously still around at this point? Patriot cuts the usual “America, love it or leave it” promo on Bret Hart before the match as the ratings probably dropped lower than today’s numbers. Sultan attacks on behalf of whatever vague Middle Eastern nation he’s representing (Qurac? Jobistan?), but Patriot comes back and slugs away in the corner. Sultan misses the charge and Patriot hits the flying shoulderblock and Uncle Slam to finish at 1:40. DUD Bret Hart comes out for a chat, but Slaughter intercepts Owen and Bulldog, leaving Patriot to attack Bret for the pullapart brawl. This could literally not be any more midcard. It’s literally the exact middle of the show! Like, this episode took the hottest act in the company and made him ice cold in one show.

Shawn Michaels joins us to kick off the second hour, and he immediately turns on the crowd and blames them for fucking up his life. Vince wants to know if he’s in cahoots with Bret Hart, and Shawn replies that he now knows Vince is the dumbest son of a bitch he’s ever met. Shawn gives him the scary fingers and sends Vince packing, and proceeds to finish doing his heel promo alone. Shawn moves onto Undertaker and the crowd turns on him, so Shawn declares that “he lays down for absolutely no one”, including Bret Hart or Undertaker. And then he tells the fans to go to hell and tries to storm off, but Undertaker interrupts and Shawn runs the fuck away. So Taker declares that he’s been too much talking and it’s time to start kicking ass again. Now this, THIS, was main event promo and instantly made you know what the big money at Ground Zero really was. Shawn in particular was spectacular with his bitter promo against the fans, and we all know where it was leading. Anyway, the idea was originally for Shawn to cost Austin the tag titles to get heat, but then the injury happened and he just decided to get himself over. Also, Kane is coming. But you knew that.

Meanwhile, Steve Austin’s doctor will not allow him to compete in the advertised main event, so in a medically motivated bait and switch, Dude Love will face Owen Hart instead. So I guess it’s OK to screw the fans over as long as you’ve got a doctor’s note.

Ahmed Johnson v. Chainz

Ahmed is more knee brace than man at this point. Slaughter sends all the extra people to the back before the match. What a crazy concept. Chainz wisely hits him in the giant knee brace and goes to work on it. JR notes that Chainz is tough as Nailz. I dunno, Nailz was a former convict and seemingly had mental problems. Ahmed gets a pair of god-awful sit out slams, looking like he can barely bend his knees, and now the Boriquas come out and mess with the bike despite Slaughter putting up the pretense of getting rid of all the interference earlier. Pearl River Plunge finishes at 2:00 and Ahmed can barely even get down for his own move. And then the NOD returns and turns on him, setting up the most iconic version of the Nation that was shortly to come. This whole thing was some incredibly awful TV. -**

The Godwinns v. The Headbangers

The crowd immediately turns on this match, and the Bangers chase the Godwinns out to “boring” chants. Godwinns work on Thrasher with their boring offense and this match has zero heat, even for Mosh’s hot tag. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and people are chanting “boring” during the hot tag segment, and HOG hits a Slop Drop behind the ref’s back and puts PIG on top for the pin at 3:59. Completely pointless time filler. *

Brian Pillman v. Bob Holly

The heel in the dress gimmick is of course an old Jim Cornette trick, although the eventual end of the story was not a happy one. Pillman attacks and pounds away in the corner, but Holly comes back with an atomic drop and powerslam. He goes up and misses the Alabama Jam, but Goldust taunts Pillman at ringside and Brian goes out and gets counted out at 2:20. The end was near for Brian and he had nothing left in the ring except this kind of silliness. DUD

Dude Love v. Owen Hart

The match graphic weirdly Photoshops the IC title on Dude Love’s shoulder, I guess since Dude was taking Austin’s place? Bret Hart on commentary also goes off on Dude carrying the IC title to the ring, and Vince corrects him that it’s the tag titles. I wonder if that was another plan that changed at the last second and Dude was supposed to be defending the title for Steve originally? Dude gets a clothesline and goes up with a joke clothesline, but Owen comes back with a leg lariat and Dude dumps him. They fight outside and back in for an armbar from Dude. They slug it out and Dude drops an elbow for two. Vince stops to call out Lawler for suddenly being “all buddy buddy” with Bret Hart after years of talking shit about his family. That’s a nice touch. Owen dumps Dude and we take a break from all the excitement. Back with Dude missing an elbow on the ramp. “He’s stupid,” notes Bret. Back in, Owen with a missile dropkick and they slug it out on the apron, where Owen gets the enzuigiri. That’s the hardest part of the ring! Back in, Owen goes up with the flying elbow for two and British Bulldog comes out to distract Slaughter, which allows Bret to send Dude into the post and Owen to get the Sharpshooter. And then Austin comes out and steals the Slammy, and hits Owen with it to put Dude on top for the pin at 12:28. This Dude Love stuff was death and it just was not a main event character for Foley. *1/2

The Shawn interview was AMAZEBALLS, everything else was pretty terrible this week. Which basically sums up the next few months as the company seemingly goes into a death spiral before miraculously rising from the ashes, so get used to it.