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!

Tonight’s Raw was taped a few days early at the Sky Dome in front of a crowd of 25,000 fans, the largest ever for a Monday Night Raw but nowhere near the arena’s 68,000-person capacity. Still, they probably didn’t have to give away 20,000 free tickets to fill up the arena, and, unlike 1997’s Royal Rumble, the WWF didn’t do a hard sell of it every week on TV for months. The opening match is Vader vs. Steve Austin, and, since this match pits two heels against each other, by law it has to be called a “Tough Man Contest.” If Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel had had their “no face punches” match on Raw, Vince probably would have called that a Tough Man Contest, too. Before the match even starts, Bret Hart storms the ring to brawl with Austin, who really should have seen the Hitman coming, given how long the Sky Dome’s entryway is. Paul Bearer gets knocked down in the “mee-lay,” but, as this is a special episode of Raw, it’s Jim Ross who mispronounces that word tonight, not Vince. When the dust settles, Austin still gets the jump on Vader when the bell rings, stomping him. Vader soon takes control, playing the heel in this match, but blows his advantage when once again he attempts the Vader Bomb, then steps up to the top rope to tease a moonsault, then steps back down, meeting a low blow from Austin.
After the break, Vader misses a butt splash, then gets body-slammed by Austin, a move that is completely overlooked by the announcers as they talk about the next pay-per-view main event. Austin stomps away at Vader while the big man is on the ropes, leading the mustachioed referee to intervene and get a stunner for his trouble. The two wrestlers brawl up the aisle as more referees come to the ring and throw out the match, meaning that another “Tough Man Contest” ends in a DQ.

Flash Funk is in the ring next to take on a member of the Nation of Domination. Several nation members walk down the aisle, including Clarence Mason, Savio Vega, the as-yet-unnamed D’Lo Brown and… good ol’ JR? Say it ain’t so, Jimmy! No, sorry, he’s just trying to get an interview with Savio. Vince assures us that there will be two title matches tonight, and there will be no “bait-and-switch tactics”, unlike, presumably WCW Nitro. Easy for Vince to say; this show was taped days in advance. Just wait till next week, Vince, and see how the WWF title match turns out. Dok Hendrix joins the commentary team, kicking off his night with the extraordinary statement that Savio Vega turned his back on his “millions of fans” by joining NOD. Flash Funk tries to put Savio away early with a Great Maneuver (#1 - twisting sunset flip). The New Sensation Slammy-nominee manages only a two count before getting choked out by Vega. The WWF’s answer to Turbo Man fights back, however, taking out his frustrations with the unflattering yellow-and-red bodysuit by ramming Vega’s head into the turnbuckles. He then hits a High-Risk Maneuever, spinning in mid-air to hit a splash. What a Maneuver (#3)! Flash gets him (no he doesn’t), so he hits another Devastating Maneuver (#4), the somersault leg drop. After climbing to the top once again, Funk jumps onto D’Lo Brown on the arena floor, but misses a moonsault on Vega and gets pinned. Savio’s victory earns him a hug from Faarooq.
We catch an interview taped earlier in the night with Peta Wilson, star of La Femme Nikita. Vince asks, and I quote, “What about the, uh, sexuality, if you would?” If you’ve ever wanted to know what Vince sounds like when he talks dirty, there’s a hint (“Oh, yeah! Show me your pectoral area!”). He goes on: “Seems to me there’s a… well, there’s a certain degree of sex that I’m sure everyone appreciates.”

Jim Ross interviews Sid, who is supposed to challenge for Shawn Michaels’s title next week. Key quote: “Evil is just that. It is evil! And sometimes, we mistaken it for happiness.”
Next, Dok Hendrix wants you to call the Superstar Line to find out what happened to Yokozuna, Brian Pillman, Sunny, and Jim Cornette.

Vince interviews Owen and Bulldog briefly about their recent troubles, giving the WWF another excuse to show snippets from the Royal Rumble. We also get this perplexing quote from Vince: “The tag team championship could disintegrate right here tonight on Raw!” Does he mean that the champions will split up, or that the belts will turn to dust or something? At least that’s a better way to get rid of a title than putting on Hornswoggle.
Before the tag title match, we get promo copy for Raw’s advertisers, including Dok Hendrix subtly suggesting that Jim Ross use Stridex pads and Jim Ross’s first plug for Skittles (which does not include the words, “fruity” and “delicious” repeated dozens of times). The challengers, Furnas and LaFon, face an uphill battle, as Doug has the flu. Plus, the titles might disintegrate before they can win the match. The two teams take turns being all technically sound while Dok plugs Shawn and Sid’s “rubber match” (so called because Shawn will seriously stretch the truth to avoid having it). The babyface team have the match won numerous times, but the referee is distracted away from the pin each time. Once, Bulldog is so caught up in posing for the crowd that he’s the one completely oblivious to Owen being pinned. The two argue as Raw goes to commercial.

After the break, Furnas hits an overhead belly-to-belly to Bulldog and makes the hot tag to Phil LaFon. Owen also tags in and lands a Beautiful Maneuver (#5 - flying body press) that LaFon rolls through for a pin attempt. Lafon then hits a DDT and pins Owen for a three-count, but the referee throws out the pin when he sees Owen’s foot on the bottom rope. Bulldog then proceeds to break up a series of pin attempts on Owen, risking disqualification according to Vince, although every tag match would be like this during the Attitude Era. Bulldog back-drops Owen over the top rope accidentally, insofar as that is possible, before powerslamming LaFon. However, Owen is the legal man who, after feigning an injury, gets counted out, costing his team the match but not the championships (which, as far as we know, have not disintegrated). Bulldog argues with Owen, who sells his injury but jumps up and down on it when Davey Boy’s not looking.
Ahmed Johnson, who teams with the Undertaker tonight, tells us that he doesn’t take Prozac anymore. He gets interrupted by The Undertaker, who grabs Johnson’s throat for some reason before telling him to wait till Taker is around to take on the Nation.

Goldust is in the ring as the announcers stick it to WCW once more by assuring us that tonight’s main event definitely will take place. He takes on Crush, who gets clotheslined to the arena floor early on. He then works over Crush with arm bars and hammerlocks while the graphics on the side of the screen malfunction. Hunter Hearst Helmsley strolls to the ring to stalk Marlena, distracting Goldust, who gets sneak-attacked by the jailbird and beaten up very boringly for the next few minutes. Goldust turns it around with a DDT. Before he can hit the Curtain Call, Savio sneaks into the ring and kicks the spit [sic] out of him. Crush wins with the Heart Punch.
A vignette promoting the New Blackjacks airs, featuring only Blackjack Mulligan rambling in front of a campfire.

This week’s Slam of the Week took place fifteen days ago at the Royal Rumble. I guess it’s a slow week for slams in the WWF. Shawn Michaels comes to the ring for an interview. Jim Ross praises the WWF champion for not being in his mid-forties, not being bald, and “not making promises that he can’t keep,” since he promises to defend his title at next week’s Raw. Ha! The HBK gets booed by the “partisan crowd” (consisting mostly of members of the Bret Hart Party). Vince tries to make sense out of Sid’s promo earlier in the night, claiming that the WWF title brings out the evil in people, and Shawn Michaels agrees. Shawn says that if he has to be bad to keep the title, he’ll be the worst guy the WWF has ever seen. He’s right about the latter statement, but he won’t hold onto the title. Shawn says that Bret Hart can call himself the best there is, was, etc., but he won’t call himself champion. He then compares himself to Muhammad Ali, who was hated when he was champion, so Bret Hart comes out and says HBK is more like Dennis Rodman, the freaky cross-dresser of the Chicago Bulls and current unofficial diplomat to North Korea. Bret agrees with Shawn’s self-assessment from a few months back when he called himself a “degenerate,” then calls him a jackass and a punk. Steve Austin runs to the ring and brawls with Bret Hart, who is also apparently too near-sighted to see him coming. Next, Sid strolls into the ring as Raw cuts to break.
After the break, Shawn and Bret are back in each other’s faces with the WWF title belt on the mat between them. Shawn tries to pick it up, but Bret puts his foot on it and picks it up himself before dropping it in front of Michaels. You know, for a guy with only a 50% chance of retaining the title next week, and for a guy with only a 25% chance of emerging the #1 contender in two weeks, these two are talking an awful lot about being WWF champion.

We see footage of today’s contract signing by Tiger Ali Singh, the second-generation Indian Canadian superstar whose career highlight will be managing Nation of Domination lackey D’Lo Brown and Chaz of the Flying Nuns to numerous victories on Sunday Night Heat. Shane McMahon and Brother Love look on, quite pleased with themselves.
Marc Mero, who two months ago lost what was stipulated to be his very last Intercontinental title shot against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, now receives an Intercontinental title shot from Hunter Hearst Helmsley. This time, the stipulation states that neither Sable nor Helmsley’s “butler” Curtis Hughes are allowed at ringside. I’m going to guess that Hunter didn’t suggest that rule himself. On the other hand, Sable has interfered in Mero’s matches as of late, having kicked The Undertaker in the ribs this weekend on Superstars. Helmsley backs off Mero in the early going, drawing comparisons to the cowardly TNT Network Robin Hood, who, the announcers remind us, has smaller arms than La Femme Nikita. Helmsley gets the upper hand but is nearly pinned by Wildman’s Maneuver (#6 - leaping leg cradle from behind). Hunter responds with a Maneuver (#7 - knee smash) of his own.

When Raw returns from break, Hunter gets his prominent proboscis run into the top turnbuckle after Mero ducks out of the way. Helmsley gets sent over the top rope, allowing the Wildman to hit a Maneuver (#8 - somersault plancha) onto the floor and score a near-fall back in the ring. An ill-advised attempt at top-rope offense by HHH allows Mero to take down the champion with a huracanrana off the second rope. Triple H removes a turnbuckle, but gets Samoan-dropped by Mero, who follows it up with the Beautiful Maneuver (#9) known as the Merosault. Hunter kicks out and tries to ship Mero into the exposed turnbuckle. Mero catches himself and points out the turnbuckle to the referee, allowing Hunter to strike Marc with a foreign object in the confusion. HHH pins Mero to retain the title, and Vince somehow segues into a clip of Jerry Lawler getting eliminated in seconds at the Royal Rumble.
Mankind, who is supposed to be in a new tag team with Vader, teams tonight with Faarooq in the main event to take on Ahmed Johnson & The Undertaker in a No Holds Barred Match. In a year and a half’s time, you’ll be able to recreate this match in WWF Warzone for Playstation and Nintendo 64. Faarooq puts a sleeper on Ahmed, but gets clobbered by Undertaker, reminding the Nation leader that there are no DQs. Ahmed chases off the excess Nation members, but in their place come Crush and Savio.

When Raw comes back from the break, Mankind puts Taker in the mandible claw, which is broken up by Ahmed, who puts Mankind in the Pearl River Plunge, but the pin is interrupted by Faarooq, who hits Ahmed with the Dominator, but the pin is interrupted by the Undertaker. The “everybody does his finisher” sequence ends before Taker can execute a Tombstone. Savio and and Crush, I must say, have been very well-behaved, considering that there are no disqualifications and they haven’t just beaten Ahmed the whole time. Nonetheless, Ahmed and his wedgie rough up Faarooq’s mooks, then chase Assad to the back with a 2x4, leaving Mankind and Taker in the ring. Vader comes to the ring and “accidentally” hits Mankind with a chair but gets tossed out by Taker, who Tombstones Mankind for the victory, just in the nick of time as this taped edition of Raw goes off the air.

Final tally:

9 Maneuvers (Year total: 20)
1 Ahmed wedgie

1 comment:

  1. This was the beginning of a string of really weird RAWs... this looks like it was a house show they taped and decided to use as RAW, there's the Thursday RAW Thursday because of the preemption in February, then that horrible house show in Germany that drew the worst rating in the history of RAW a few weeks later before finally morphing into RAW is WAR shortly before WrestleMania 13. The WWF really wasn't putting up much of a fight in against Nitro in early 1997, were they?