Princess Rant on the Infamous Halifax Raw of 1997

Scott’s not going to review the box set so…why the hell not?

RAW
IS HALIFAX

From Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 21, 1997

Hosted by Vince, JR and The King

JR does the intro spotlighting how Bret Hart can be so hated in one country and
loved in another. The soundbites from Canadians are awesome, especially the guy
with about three teeth wearing something that looks like Carolina Panthers
gear. Hart’s sound bites on Canada talking about taking care of their people
and a land not riddled with racial prejudice makes it seem like quite the utopia.
Husband and I spent part of our 10-year anniversary in Canada so I’m down with the Great White North…although I’ve heard Canadians hate that term. Geez.

The classic 1997 RAW Intro. We got Hart, HBK, Ahmed, Sid and Austin as the
primary figures. And lots of pyro. Can’t forget the pyro. And I sort of miss
Vince saying “IT’S MONDAY NIGHT RAAAAAAAAW!” We’ve got a triple threat tag
match, HBK and the big six-man flag match which was currently just an open
challenge from Bret, Bulldog and Owen to whomever. No opening promo so let’s
get to the matches!


Vader (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Ken Shamrock

Shamrock actually gets a huge pop, the first and last time he would be cheered
in Canada. This is a rematch from IYH: Cold Day in Hell. Shamrock goes for the
takedown but Vader backs off in the corner. Shamrock with some leg strikes but
doing no damage as Vader stalls. Crowd is just going apeshit for no reason in
particular. We finally get a collar and elbow tie-up and Vader with a thumb to
the eye but his hip toss is reversed to a take down. However, Vader up first
and clubs Shamrock before dropping him with a clothesline. Vader with a elbow
to the mid section and a second one. Vader hits the big splash and gets a two
count. The referee admonishes Vader for something so Bearer can rough up
Shamrock with his shoe. Vader then throws Shamrock to the floor and sends him
into the stairs. Back in the ring and Vader continues clubbing as the crowd
starts to get behind him? Powerbomb is countered and Shamrock rallies with a
belly to belly suplex and a single leg lock. Bearer interferes again and this
time Shamrock clocks him. Back in the ring Vader drops an elbow and slams him.
Vader goes to the second rope and hits the splash but barely gets two. Shamrock
mistimed his kick out there and made the move look weak. Vader bomb attempt
hits knees and Shamrock kicks the shit out of Vader in the corner. Shamrock
goes for a frankensteiner but Vader dumps him over the top. Vader gets
admonished by the ref some more and the Bulldog comes out and powerslams
Shamrock on the steel ramp. Oh yeah they are fighting at Summerslam. Anyway
Shamrock gets counted out.

(Vader def. Shamrock, countout, **, match had some potential if not for the
stalling and a few issues. Not sure why they felt like they needed to keep
Vader strong as he was pretty much wallowing in the mud by this point. Shamrock
still hasn’t been pinned.)

More Canadians profess their love for Bret Hart. They really went to great
efforts to find the goofiest looking jokers possible too.


Brakus
is coming. That one didn’t work out.


Vince
is in the ring to interview The Hart Foundation. Crowd goes absolutely
RABID. The pop is pretty awesome and the Halifax arena is small and intimate
enough to really bring it out on television. Hart mostly panders to the crowd
and makes fun of Texas, which that state certainly deserves. The weird thing
about this whole angle is I never really understood how much Canadians hate the
United States of America. I know this is just a “work” and all but…fuck that
this is REAL heat as far as this crowd is concerned. Good stuff from Bret and
Owen but Bulldog’s promo fell flat. They call out their respect opponents for
Summerslam – Undertaker, Austin and Shamrock. Owen suggests that Austin can
suck his toes and that queues up Austin to interrupt. He says he’ll shove all
their toes up their asses and agrees to take part in “the stupid little flag
match.”

Let’s go back to last week when Los Boricuas “accidentally” messed up one of
the motorcycles from the DOA. And they fought. Shitty brawl too. Really this
whole gang wars thing sucked without any blood or workrate…preferably blood.


Bryan Walsh vs. Brian Christopher

Walsh claims he’s Canada originally and now resides in Rhode Island, like there’s
a difference. He has two little cute Canadian flags and of course the crowd isn’t
feeling him. He looks like Paul Orndorff without any of the muscle tone or a
good tan…hell maybe he is Canadian. Shockingly Christopher doesn’t get blown up
walking to the ring. He beats up Walsh and defaces his little flags for the
cheap heat. Walsh rallies with a monkey flip and a second one. Christopher
fucks up and simple transitional move but his the stroke and a pretty nice
release german suplex. Rollover suplex gets a two count, he misses a fist drop
and Walsh gets a body slam and an elbow drop. Christopher back with a bulldog
as JR chides Lawler for being Christopher’s dad. Second bulldog attempt is
unsuccessful as Walsh gives Christopher the 10 punch and a drop kick.
Christopher reverses a high cross body into a slam and gives Walsh and inverted
bulldog and a top rope leg drop for the pin.

(Christopher def. Walsh, pinfall, **, much better than I expected)


The Truth Commission
from South Africa is coming…actually I think they already
came or were coming next week. Wow only 10 years after Colonel DeBeers completely dragged every bit of heat out of the evil South African character. Not much came of them outside of Kurrigan
although I thought Recon and The Sniper were an ok tag team.


Sable
flaunts her stuff as Marc Mero stands there pissed. Ahhh “Marvelous” Marc
Mero had so much potential once he got it going.

They do a little video package on Mick Foley, as he had recently showed the
Dude Love character. Of course this was all set up by a tremendous set of
interviews between Foley and JR to get him over. It worked. Of course I don’t
think they have tried it much since. What made this whole thing work was how
much they acknowledged Foley’s past. They even show “Jack Foley” getting his
ass kicked by the British Bulldogs. I remember Dynamite Kid being especially
dickish to him in that match. The Austin-Foley interaction actually set up
their great program roughly a year later. I admit I fell hook, line and sinker
for the whole story and when Dude Love came to help Austin win the tag titles I
legitimately felt happy for Mick Foley the person and the fact that he was
finally getting this acceptance that he yearned for…like any of that shit was
real…and naturally those were the emotional strings they were looking to tug. Of
course I doubt they thought Foley would later become a multi-millionaire
best-selling author but that’s what happens when the right guy gets the right
vehicle.

Austin begrudging shows respect for Foley but he hates him and hates the idea
of having a tag team partner because…well because he says so.

Can we get a match? No, just more stuff from last week? Okay, the Godwinns
attacked the Legion of Doom. And now the LOD drops a promo. And even though
they were pretty much booked to look like a bunch of pussies at this point,
Hawk still cuts a cool promo.

And now we have a match.


The Godwinns vs. The New Blackjacks vs. The Headbangers


The winner of this match faces the Tag Team Champions, Austin & Dude Love,
next week. The rules are just odd. Three men in the ring at once and you can
only tag your partner. Windham, PIG and Mosh start things off and it’s a bunch
of guys clotheslining each other.  No
real flow to this one. HOG hits a nice flapjack on Thrasher for two and then
Hog and Bradshaw knock each other out with clotheslines. Putting all three guys
in the ring at once is one of those ideas that probably sounded good in theory,
but it’s impossible to follow and the crowd is completely disinterested. Ross
says there’s never a dull moment in these types of matches but I vehemently
disagree. The Godwinns win, not sure how, really don’t care.

(Godwinns def. Headbangers & Blackjacks, DUD, I’d give it negative stars if
I paid attention.)

Time for the War Zone…which has the exact same intro as RAW, they couldn’t have
switched things up a little? Yay, more pyro, can never have enough pyro!


JR
welcomes Shawn Michaels to the ring and he’s completely in heel mode. It’s
actually refreshing to see too as he knew they were going to hate him and he
completely goes over the top, even working in a couple of quick crotch chops as
we hadn’t officially gotten to that point yet. He does a back flip off the top
rope to fuck with those people that bitched about his knee injury. Seriously
the jeers are completely drowning out the announcers. HBK quickly mocks the
fans and mentions something about the US freeing Canadian ferries and says they
will free the heterosexuals too. He proceeds to make Canada his bitch and just
trolls the fuck out of the crowd. Oooo…a “faggot” chant; how American of you
Canadians…and HBK retorts “if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were
talking about me.” He throws his hat in the ring for tonight’s stupid little
flag match. But that’s not his only announcement as he says he’ll be the
special guest referee at Summerslam. Which match? Well of course Shawn Michaels
only works one match…the Main Event. The stipulation is either he calls the
match fair or he can’t wrestle in the U.S. which means he “will have to wrestle
in front of you guys for the rest of his life.” And declares “if you can’t
trust Shawn Michaels, who can you trust.” This was absolutely a road test for
his DX persona and it was awesome.

More Canadians cracking at Americans, one of them looks like Kip Dynamite. I know
this had to be some sort of an inside joke.


Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. The Patriot

The Patriot is greeted exactly how you would expect…but much worse…shockingly
no one throws a beer on him. If they had I might have declared this the
greatest crowd ever. Wilkes says something about supporting your country and
patriotism is never bad thing but pick better role models than Bret Hart.
Personally Owen was my role model of the group so I’m good. HHH jumps him to
start and the crowd explodes with cheers. Patriot no sells some of HHH’s
offense and hits him with a couple of shoulders. Powerslam from the Patriot
gets two as The Hart Foundation saunters to the broadcast table. Patriot with a
suplex but now the camera is completely on Bret bitching at Vince about
something. Owen tries to hold Hart back and it looks like he’s successful but
Hart returns and slaps McMahon’s headset off. Crowd is about to riot. McMahon
shouts back at Hart as the Foundation tries to hold him back. Hart comes back
again and he and McMahon have a PULL APART BRAWL! Holy shit. McMahon actually
gets the better of it as he pulls Hart’s shirt over him in a nod to
hockey-style fights…that will soon be outlawed in hockey. Crowd is the red
zone right now, like they are rushing the railings and completely stretching
the lengths of whatever security is there. Patriot comes to break things up and
the Harts jump him as several referees and officials come out to break up the
melee. This was incredible stuff as it felt like two guys having a legitimate
fight. First of all McMahon had never gotten physically involved up to this
point despite six months of Hart and Austin and HBK and everyone bitching at
him. So finally he was brought over the line. Also we’re now really
acknowledging the fact that he’s the guy calling the shots in this company. Of
course we already knew that but it hadn’t completely been spelled out on WWF
programming before. The whole thing had me in SHOCK when I saw it live.

(Patriot vs. HHH is a no contest due to unforseen brawl between company owner and talent, match looked to be able *1/2 and the brawl was a solid ****1/2, needed blood and a connecting punch.)

After the break Paul Bearer takes about Kane being alive…yeah whatever…talk
about a segment that could have easily been scrapped because no one was
thinking about it at that exact minute. Anyway he reveals his proof that Kane
was alive.


Farooq vs. Goldust

Shockingly Goldust gets a huge face pop despite being part of the opposition in
the 10-man tag a month ago. Goldust jumps Farooq to start as the announcers
talk about what just went down and King chides McMahon for his decision making.
McMahon says “oh no” and leaves the broadcast table. Farooq hits Goldust with a
clothesline from the second rope as McMahon takes the walk of shame past a
booing crowd. Ross says that there has been an altercation with Bret Hart and
Shawn Michaels in the back and Michaels has been injured. Meanwhile in the ring
Goldust hits Farooq with a bulldog. Kama the Godfather pulls Goldust outside
and beats the hell out of him while Marlena inadvertently distracts the referee.
Back in the ring Farooq hits a dominator but the referee claims he saw interference
he didn’t see and disqualifies Farooq.

(Goldust def. Farooq, disqualification, DUD, this match was background noise
and nothing more.)

Back in Shawn Michaels’ dressing room he’s clearly “injured” and cursing out
McMahon and the stooges as the crowd approves of what apparently just went
down.


Stupid little Flag Match: Bret Hart, British Bulldog & Owen Hart vs. Steve
Austin and  ???

Before the match Hart wants to hear ‘O’Canada’ which I must admit is quite the
jam up national anthem if there ever was one. Austin comes out by himself but
is quickly joined by Dude Love. They decide to go at this two on three and the
Harts quickly take control of the brawl to start the match. Owen dumps Love and
Bret hits Austin with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline that sends him
to the floor. Owen hits an enziguri on Love and tries to climb but Austin dumps
him to the floor. JR sends it to a break and as he does the bell tolls. Uh oh.

We’re back and the Undertaker has joined forces with Austin and Love. Bulldog
and Owen work over Love but Owen sets too early and gets kicked. Love sends Owen
into the turnbuckle and makes the lukewarm tag to the Undertaker. He cleans
house and puts a double armed chokeslam on Owen. Now the more traditional
one-armed chokeslam gets a cover but this is a flag match. Tag to Austin and he
pounds on Owen and drops him with a clothesline. Suplex from Austin, snapmare
and the FU elbow drop. Austin with a chinlock and he heels it up by putting his
feet on the ropes. Ross says USA Network will stay with the match until we get
a winner. Owen fights out of the rest hold but runs into a kitchen sink knee.
Tag to Love and he drops Owen on his head but Owen reverses a neckbreaker into
a DDT. Austin comes in to stop Owen’s momentum and Love slaps on a body
scissors…hey why not? Owen fights out of it but Love goes to the eyes. Tag to
Austin and he sets Owen on the top rope, going for a superplex and but Owen
dumps him off the ropes. Austin tags Undertaker as we take another break.

We’re back and Love has a sleeper on Owen but he counters with a suplex and
misses an elbow drop. Love misses a clothesline and Owen hits a leg lariat.
Still the heels keep Owen from the tag, Owen misses an enziguri and Austin goes
for the sharpshooter. Owen kicks out of him and gets the hot tag to Bret. He
goes for the ringpost figure four but Love hits him with a clothesline. Austin
tags Undertaker and gives Bulldog a chokeslam and goes for the tombstone but
Bret breaks it up. A slugfest ensues and they fall victim to a double
clothesline but the Undertaker sits up and begins the climb. Owen stops him
there’s a race to make the climb as Brian Pillman comes from out of nowhere and
impedes the Undertaker allowing Bret to grab the flag and celebrate with his
countrymen.

(Hart Foundation def. Austin, Love & Undertaker, capture the flag, ***1/4,
decent match, ridiculous heat.)


The Bottom Line:
A pretty incredible RAW on several fronts. The wasn’t much actual wrestling to speak of but you saw the first glimpse of the new
Shawn Michaels persona and the beginning stages of the Mr. McMahon
character.  The crowd was absolutely molten
and the main event was solid work. Definitely worth tracking down on YouTube
(pretty much every 1997 RAW is on there) and watching.

Infamous HHH Locker Room Speech?

Hi Scott,


A long time ago, maybe even close to ten years ago, you once mentioned this speech that HHH made to the WWE wrestlers backstage. It was kind of a motivational talk and referenced how the wrestlers were playing video games more than paying attention to what was happening in the ring, etc. It just made me laugh thinking of how clueless and out-to-lunch HHH was, especially since the speech was delivered around 2003, when he was basically in the midst of one of the worst main-event runs ever.

I wonder if you have a copy or something of your rant/take-down of that speech you could post. I remember reading it and thinking it was all a joke but it was actually close to what HHH actually said.

All best,

J

I *vaguely* remember that speech, where he basically told the locker room that no one knew how to work and that they should be in the empty arena watching other guys instead of playing video games in the hotel rooms.  If I'm remembering right, which I might not be, the idea was that Rock and Austin were on the way out and HHH and Undertaker decided they were going to step up and carry the promotion or something.  As motivational speeches go it apparently wasn't the best.  Someone else might have better recollection of it, though.