Sunday, November 8, 2015

Raw #202 - March 24th, 1997

The Raw after Wrestlemania 13 opens with a long pan across the front row. Jim Ross informs us that Mankind is the number-one contender to The Undertaker’s WWF title, even though astute viewers who stayed awake during last night’s pay-per-view would know that Mankind got counted out in the tag team match. The Headbangers, who won an unannounced and terrible four-way tag team elimination match last night, get their promised title shot against Davey Boy (who has two titles) and Owen (who has two Slammys… and a title). The tag team champions after this match will face The Road Warriors at the next In Your House.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Raw #201 - March 17th, 1997

The last Raw (is War) before Wrestlemania is live from Syracuse, home to the nine thugs who aren’t responsible for Shawn Michaels forfeiting his title (this time). The Legion of Doom enters for the opening match while Vince welcomes us to “The Warzone” for “Monday Night Raw” before reminding us that “Raw is War.” That’s a lot of TV show titles to fit in a single sentence. Crush and Savio face off with the LOD, with both Faarooq and Ahmed banned from ringside. LOD starts fighting NOD outside the ring before the bell, kicking off several minutes of chaotic brawling among all four men. While the referee tries to establish order, Ahmed cuts a promo on the split screen about how in the Chicago Street Fight, we might see something we might not want to see. He doesn’t specifically mention his butt cheeks, but that’s what we’re all thinking. Faarooq responds with an inset promo of his own that he delivers in “Ebonics” so that Ahmed can understand. Through the magic of split-screen, we also see the finish to the Ahmed-Faarooq match at MSG last night, which ended when the NOD interfered to break up a pin.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Raw #200 - March 10th, 1997

The first episode of “Raw is War” (and the 201st episode of Raw, sort of) gets off to a less-than-auspicious start as the in-arena noise is audible during the opening seconds of the intro, allowing the viewers at home to hear Howard Finkel instruct the live crowd to make noise. A new intro sequence plays to the strains of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People,” used without permission. Thus begins Raw is War, one of the strangest titles for a wrestling program in history. You didn’t see Nitro re-naming itself Nitro is Awesome, now did you? Or Nitro is Ortin? The WWF’s flagship program would retain this self-referential title up to and including the September 10th, 2001 edition.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Raw #199 - March 3rd, 1997

Vince McMahon recounts the division of Berlin in tonight’s cold opening. Trying to play up the historical significance of tonight’s Raw (number 200, by the way, although the Network doesn't count Thursday Raw Thursday), he says that, as the eyes of the world were on Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall, so too will the eyes of the world be on Berlin tonight for the pre-taped episode of Raw. The difference, of course, is that significantly fewer eyes will be watching tonight’s episode than were watching the re-unification of East and West Berlin. Hell, significantly fewer eyes will be watching tonight’s episode than were watching last week’s episode. Tonight concludes the European title tournament, which has played out on the house shows in Germany for the past week or so. Tag team partners Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith wrestle for the coveted new title that was just announced two weeks ago and whose significance and purpose have still yet to be explained.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Raw #198: February 24th, 1997

Despite featuring an ECW “invasion,” this episode of Raw is more of a throwback to the first Raws of 1993. Not only does it take place in the Manhattan Center, but, like those early Raws, it doesn’t feature many of the top stars of the company, who, in this case, are touring Germany. That might explain why tonight is heavily packed with outside wrestlers best known from other wrestling organizations, much like the first Monday night edition of TNA Impact years later. Jerry Lawler calls tonight’s program as the blackest day in WWF history, referring either to the influx of ECW wrestlers or the many African-American fans sitting directly behind him. ECW, Vince explains, stands for “Extreme, ladies and gentleman,” killing off the company’s cool factor much earlier than the 2006 re-launch on Sci-Fi.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Raw #"197" - February 17th, 1997

Sycho Sid’s music plays to open the live show in Nashville. He challenges new champion Bret Hart, who last night won the company’s first multi-man match (although every elimination was by throwing an opponent over the top rope, so it might as well have been a battle royal). The Undertaker, says announcers Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (no Vince tonight), is scheduled to challenge the winner of this match at Wrestlemania. Before the Hart-Sid match can begin though, Steve Austin rushes in and brawls with both men before being taken away by a what JR calls a “bevy” of officials. Odd choice of words, considering that “bevy” is usually used to describe a group of beauties. I suppose Rene Goulet is pretty cute. Sid gets hurt in the mayhem, suffering perhaps the second-worst leg injury he’ll ever endure. “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!” he says, perhaps auditioning for the role of Florida Evans in Good Times: The Movie. The match gets postponed until later in the night — so much for the WWF never pulling a bait-and-switch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Raw #196b - February 13th, 1997

Tonight’s episode is one of the most infamous in Raw history, in which Shawn Michaels will forfeit his WWF title live in the ring and give an incredibly confusing farewell speech. I guess they didn’t have enough footage from the last four or five times he forfeited a title to cobble together a video package explaining it all. This comes one episode after the announcers guaranteed that Shawn vs. Sid would take place and that Shawn doesn’t make promises he can’t keep. You’ve got to wonder what they were thinking, since it’s pretty easy to rattle off a list of promises Shawn hasn’t kept, like staying within the allotted time for his Wrestlemania X ladder match or wrestling Sid at Summerslam ’95 or dropping the title to Vader.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Raw #196 - February 3rd, 1997

It’s a special “Royal Rumble” Raw! Contrary to what last week’s promotion implied, this episode will not feature the Royal Rumble match aside from a few clips here and there, but it is the first two-hour Raw in history! And it kinda looks like crap!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Raw #195 - January 27th, 1997

Ahmed Johnson, who this past Saturday was betrayed by Savio Vega, opens up Raw. Thanks to an editing error, an off-camera Vince McMahon introduces footage of the Madison Square Garden event but gets talked over by none other than Vince McMahon, who now appears on camera to introduce tonight’s show and the Spanish announce team. Only then does the MSG footage air. With Crush and Savio Vega representing Hawaii and Puerto Rico, respectively, all Faarooq needs is Nation members from the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Raw #194 - January 20th, 1997

It’s the night after the Royal Rumble, and Bret Hart interrupts the proceedings, storming to the ring to cut a promo instead of wrestle to open the show. It’s a harbinger of how Raw will operate for the next two decades, except for the fact that Bret repeatedly refers to the “championship belt.” He addresses Vince McMahon as if he, rather than Federation President Gorilla Monsoon, runs the show, airing his grievances about being repeatedly screwed, first by Shawn Michaels in December, and again by Stone Cold at the Royal Rumble, which he would have won had the referees seen Austin get eliminated. Instead, Austin won last night, and Bret Hart unceremoniously quits tonight, hopping the guard rail to a mixture of boos and “We Want Bret” chants.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Raw #193 - January 13th, 1997

This week’s Raw may be taped, but Shawn Michaels is live from San Antonio, where he signs autographs for fans such as Double J Jesse Jammes, his future DX colleague (and by “future,” I mean 2012’s “Raw 1000” episode, the first time the two were in the stable at the same time). Bret Hart’s chances of winning this Sunday’s Royal Rumble just dropped drastically after Steve Austin Pillmanized his ankle on Superstars. Speaking of agony, the Honky Tonk Man is on commentary with Vince, filling in for his cousin Jerry Lawler, who teams with HHH against Goldust and Marc Mero.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Raw #192 - January 6th, 1997

Tonight’s Raw is rated TV PG. Therefore, it must suck. Tonight’s topics include whether Bret Hart is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be (which will be debated by Hart and Vader) and Marlena’s breasts, which she flashed at the Sultan on the premiere of Shotgun Saturday Night. Shocking, I know. I had forgotten The Sultan was even in the WWF.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Raw #191 - December 30th, 1996

It’s the last Raw of 1996, and Bret Hart will go “face-to-face” with Shawn Michaels, who calls himself “the World Wrestling Federation’s favorite degenerate.” The opening match sees Faarooq team up with an “unlikely” partner, according to Vince, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. What’s so unlikely about the black nationalist teaming up with a white Texan with a shaved head? They are set to take on Savio Vega and Jesse Jammes in an effort to sneak in one last Savio/Austin match in 1996. Also notable is that this episode is live, breaking an eight-month streak of one live Raw per month.