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.
After airing a clip of Shawn’s rambling speech from last Thursday, the announcers recap last night’s Final Four match through video stills, such as this one showing the second-worst eye injury of Vader’s career. Backstage, Sid vows that not “rain or hell-water or Stone Cold Steve Austin” will keep him from winning the title tonight. Overall, it was one of Sid’s more coherent promos.

Wildman Marc Mero, who along with Sable (and Bret Hart and Sid and Steve Austin and Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson and pretty much the entire roster) has been more “aggressive” in recent weeks, faces Savio Vega. Faarooq and Clarence Mason watch on from the balcony, perhaps scouting the former Johnny B Badd as the prospective second African-American wrestler to join the Nation. Injury-prone Ahmed Johnson was released earlier today, says JR, from a hospital in Lowell, MA, where he has been since Thursday Raw Thursday, so he’s unlikely to show up tonight to confront the Nation again. Instead, it’s Sable who takes it to the NOD, literally kicking a PG-13 member’s ass after he puts the boots to Mero. Sable then gets chased into the ring by the NOD, who look to gang up on Mero. The referee calls for the bell, and none other than Ahmed Johnson, clad in an orange sweatsuit several sizes too big for him, appears with a 2x4 to clean house.
Jim Ross announces that Wrestlemania 13 is presented by Playstation. The logo has changed since last night, when the pay-per-view cut away during Bret Hart’s victory celebration to advertise “Wrestlemania XIII” on Coliseum Home Video May 6th. Some time in the past 21 hours, someone in Titan Towers decided that Roman numerals are for suckers. This year’s Mania gets the In Your House treatment with its own nickname, in this case, “Heat,” so-called because the event would make for a passable episode of the WWF’s future Sunday evening program of the same name. Leif Cassidy, who has generic new non-Rockers music, awaits the arrival of Rocky Maivia, whom he is challenging for the Intercontinental title tonight. Leif earned the title shot by losing to Marc Mero last night. Backstage, Bret Hart gives an interview and expresses his support for Vader. Or proclaiming that he has proven himself the best for the fourth time. It’s kind of hard to tell from this screen shot. Lawler says Bret must be glad that Steve Austin injured Sid. “Shut up, Lawler,” says Bret nonchalantly. Rocky Maivia, who has been IC champion for four days and has generic theme music rivaling Leif Cassidy’s finally comes to the ring. So after about five minutes, we can finally start the match… after Sunny makes it to ringside as special guest time keeper. It’s a very important role, I’m sure, despite the fact that I can’t think of a single non-tournament bout in WWF history to this point that has ended in a time-limit draw. “I don’t know what the seven wonders of the world are,” says Lawler, “but Sunny’s got two of them!” For the record, the seven wonders are the Great Pyramid of Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes, the lighthouse at Crete, and Sunny’s breasts. Speaking of Sunny’s breasts, both they and Sunny will be featured on Entertainment Tonight tomorrow night in a piece called, “The Queen of Cyberspace,” which is sure to interest all the hackers out there surfing the information superhighway. Rocky and Leif grapple to basically no reaction, no matter how many arm drags and arm bars Maivia pulls off. When Jericho rattles of his list of 1004 holds and says, “arm bar” every other move, he could be describing The Rock’s offense early in his career. Jim Ross says he can’t remember a single rookie making as big an impact as Rocky Maivia, leading Jerry Lawler to proclaim Tiger Woods a flash in the pan following a key loss in competitive adultery. No, wait — golf. That’s what he was famous for in 1997. Jim Ross announces that in two weeks, Raw will emanate from Berlin, Germany for the finals of the European Championship tournament, not bothering to explain what the European Championship is or, more importantly, why it is being created. In the ring, Rocky tosses Leif Cassidy from the turnbuckles, but at the announce table, Jerry Lawler gets distracted by an “ECW rules” sign held up by a fan in the front row. Maivia hits a flying body press on Leif, but instead of pinning him, he stands up to do some stupid arm motions, then his finisher, the shoulderbreaker. Rocky pins Leif to retain the title. Jerry Lawler yanks away the ECW sign at ringside and rants about ECW. He says that 99% of people have never heard of ECW, but rather than keeping it that way, he gives them publicity by railing against “Extreme Championship Wrestling” from Philadelphia, PA. Check your local listings! The King challenges ECW to show up on next week’s raw from the Manhattan Center. Finally, Raw goes to commercial. Maybe the WWF is trying to gain a ratings advantage over Nitro by having fewer commercials (which of course would reducing the amount of advertising time available and defeat the purpose of having high ratings).

We see a clip of “Double J” Jesse Jam(m)es singing his one song on TNN, The Nashville Network. Years later, Joey Styles would claim that TNN considered Hee-Haw cultural programming, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see the cable station air country music in a wrestling ring during prime time. Goldust comes to the ring with Marlena, who was attacked last night by “a fan,” for an in-ring interview with Kevin Kelly. Marlena says that despite the rumors, Goldust is “all man.” “She sounds like she knows from experience,” says Lawler. He means sex. Hunter Hearst Helmsley comes to ringside and throws a cup of water in Goldust’s face. Well, the water, anyway, but not the cup. He then Pedigrees Goldust but gets slapped by Marlena. The same woman who attacked Marlena last night enters the ring and shakes Marlena like a rag doll, if kids shake rag dolls. Maybe she shakes her more like a maraca. Of course, the huge woman is Chyna, the Ninth Wonder of the World (after Andre the Giant, Sunny’s breasts, and the other five wonders). “That’s a woman!?” shouts Lawler. Event staff take the mystery woman away, while Goldust carries Marlena away.
Without going to commercial, The Hardy Boys take on resident jobbers The Headbangers. But this is 1997, so it’s the other way around. While the match is going on, Faarooq cuts a promo about how Ahmed Johnson lives in luxury while pretending to know what “the streets” is like. Faarooq explains what exactly “the streets” entails, including having to rewash one’s underwear every day. Oh please. Do not lecture Ahmed on needing to wash his underwear. The leader of the Nation then challenges Ahmed at Wrestlemania to a Chicago Street Fight, which may or may not be won by washing a pair of underwear faster than one’s opponent. Getting back to the match, Lawler bets Matt Hardy thinks he’s in a mosh pit right now against the Headbangers. He then asks JR whether he has ever seen a mosh pit, to which Ross replies, “a couple of times on the news,” confusing Lawler. Ross wonders aloud whether the Headbangers are “disciples — what’s that lady’s name? Marilyn Manson?” Mosh clotheslines a running Jeff Hardy, flipping him onto his shoulders. Thrasher pins Jeff, whose title match with The Undertaker Jim Ross would commentate in five years’ time.

Tonight’s Raw is brought to you by Twix cookie bars and the US Army, which has still not figured out that registering and advertising its own URL would be a lot easier than telling people to go to a hyperlink on the WWF AOL site. Bret Hart makes his way toward the ring from backstage but is attacked from behind. Sid intervenes to ensure that his opponent doesn’t get injured, leading to numerous officials including Vince McMahon himself rushing in to pry the men apart.
Gorilla Monsoon is backstage with Kevin Kelly, where he guarantees that the advertised Bret Hart-Sid title match will take place. Unlike other places, in the WWF they deliver what they promise and don’t pull a bait-and-switch. Keep in mind that the only reason that Sid is getting a title shot tonight is because his advertised match against Shawn Michaels last week was cancelled.

For now, Flash Funk comes to the ring instead of the advertised main event, which, for a company that doesn’t pull bait-and-switch, has been teased and postponed an awful lot. The Slammy-Award Owen Hart arrives with not only his Slammy, and not only both tag team title belts, but his manager Clarence Mason, who is also the manager of the Nation of Domination. Do you think Owen could join the Nation? Yes, but only after both he and the NOD ditch Mason as their manager, and only after the NOD goes all-black. Go figure. Jim Ross relays bad news about Marlena coughing up blood backstage after the attack by “that lady.” Both announcers then imply that she might be a man. Jerry Lawler gets a phone call from Paul Heyman, then taunts him about how is biggest stars include The Blue Meanie, The Sandman, and Sabu, all of whom would eventually be signed by WWE. Paul E then takes a pot shot at Lawler’s legal history, vowing that “as long as the neighborhood watch doesn’t have to be informed” that the King will be in the area, his ECW wrestlers will be at Raw. Lawler yells about the time he broke Paul E’s jaw and has to be calmed down by JR, who reminds him that there is a match going on. Speaking of the match, Clarence Mason argues with Owen outside the ring, allowing Flash Funk to take advantage with a dive off the top rope. The Bulldog runs down and kicks Clarence Mason out.
Funk and Hart exchange pin attempts to no avail after the commercial break. Steve Austin then gives an interview backstage via split-screen. He says that Shawn Michaels quitting the WWF should make him, as the Royal Rumble winner, the WWF champion. He then announces his opening of “a whole keg of whoop-ass,” which I believe is his first mention of the drink on Raw. He skipped right past the can and straight to the keg, huh? Maybe they can put “whoop-ass” on a t-shirt like they did with “Austin 3:16,” except hopefully it will take less than eight months to do so. Owen crotches himself on the second turnbuckle while leaping at a cornered Funk, allowing Flash to capitalize with a scoop slam and flying body press. A moonsault from Flash fails to put away the Slammy-winner, so Funk runs the ropes, only to get bashed in the back with the statue by Bulldog and have his leg held down during the ensuing pin. Owen then argues with Bulldog, now that he knows what it feels like to have one’s opponent hit by a Slammy.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley arrives to the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, who JR speculates is in cahoots with Chyna. Lawler denies this, basically saying that the mystery woman is too ugly to associate with HHH and calling her a “deranged fan.” I guess you’d have to be deranged to wear wrestling tights in public.
This year’s Slammy Awards will be held the Friday before Wrestlemania and is presented by Full Metal, the only wrestling themes album to feature the entrance music of the superstars from WWF and WCW (considering that Razor, Diesel, The Kid, and Jeff Jarrett have all jumped ship by now). Helmsley takes on Bart Gunn as Honky Tonk Man pontificates on commentary about whether HHH was as great an Intercontinental Champion as he (the answer: no, Honky Tonk Man is the greatest IC champion of all time). JR advertises the Superstar Line and says that kids need their “momma’s and daddy’s permission.” Sorry, no single-parent kids allowed. The match ends abruptly as Goldust runs in and chases Helmsley up the arena steps, leading to a countout victory by Bart Gunn. JR proclaims that the WWF title match is next — for real this time — but that you should check out La Femme Nikita after the show.

But first: a medical update on Shawn Michaels by Dr. James Andrews. Guess what: no surgery for HBK! That’s the good news. The bad news: Andrews says Michaels “will be able to resume his rasslin’ career.” That must mean that he’s going to WCW, because as we all know, the WWF isn’t in the rasslin’ business, it’s in the entertainment business.
The company that doesn’t jerk viewers around next shows replays of the previous two times tonight that the main event was set to take place but didn’t. Finally, it’s time for the real thing (unless Austin interferes again). And here it is: Sid vs. Bret… after the commercial.

Bret Hart quickly puts the boots to the “bee-a-muth,” who fights back with a series of weak, telegraphed punches that Lawler nonetheless compares to a machine gun. Hart fights back with the Five Moves of Doom, starting with a backbreaker, followed a headbutt to the lower abdomen. Wait, that’s not part of the Five Moves? Dang. Well, one of these days, I’m going to catch Hart doing the mythical Five Moves of Doom in sequence. Sid goes back on the offensive with strikes, but Bret Hart cuts the big man down by working his injured knee, even smashing it against the ring post. He follows this up with a figure four on the ring post, which, evidently, he would not debut at the upcoming Wrestlemania 13. Back in the ring, Sid clubs his way out of the corner and clotheslines Bret, then hits a leg drop, which Hart kicks out of twice. He then leaps off the second rope for a rare aerial move, this time having a much better landing than he would with the last aerial move he would ever attempt. The leg drop connects, but Bret breaks out of a chokeslam attempt. Hart misses a crossbody and lands on the ropes. Hart back-drops Sid to the outside, where he lands on his feet and knocks down an interfering Steve Austin. At Wrestlemania, Bret Hart would emulate Austin by also interfering in the main event three times. From the ring apron, Sid actually performs a sunset flip on Bret, who rolls through and puts the sharpshooter on the Sycho one. However, Austin hits Bret Hart in the back of the head with a chair, which the referee misses somehow. Earl Hebner, taking a chance and thinking that maybe Bret Hart just collapsed on his own, lets this interference slide, allowing Sid to powerbomb Bret Hart. After an extremely slow count, Sid still gets the pin and wins the title, the first WWF title change on free television since Andre “beat” Hogan in 1988. The Undertaker’s music hits, and after a blackout, taker appears at ringside before confronting his Wrestlemania opponent face to face. Talk about changing plans in a hurry — this time last week, the Mania main event was supposed to be Bret vs. Shawn.

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