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.

Making their Raw debut are the New Blackjacks, made up of Barry Windham and Bradshaw, both now sporting jet-black hair and mustaches. As the cowboy tag team rushes in to battle the hillbillies, the letters, “ECW” are visible from the balcony. Early on in the match, Phineas Godwinn executes a head scissors in the corner, pulling Windham onto the ropes, where he struggles comically to fall to the outside of the ring. Meanwhile, Vince promises a “great big surprise” later tonight, as well as an arm-wrestling match between Marlena and Sunny. In the front row, a fan holds up the first “Die Rocky” sign, a placard of comparable historical significance to the first “Austin 3:16” shirt spotted on television way back at In Your House, eight days prior (and seven months after Stone Cold coined the phrase). Ken Shamrock of the UFC is picked out in the crowd, with whom Jerry Lawler claims to be old friends. “ABC Network said Ken Shamrock was ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man,’ says Lawler, “so it’s just natural he and I would hang out together.” Lawler may be referring to those posters of him hanging up in middle schools across Memphis. Bradshaw delivers a clothesline to Phineas, a Devastating Maneuver (#1), allowing Windham (whose hair loss is now pretty obvious now that he’s no longer blonde) to pin the hillbilly. Phineas manages to get his foot on the rope, but the referee does not see it, resulting in a win for the New Blackjacks. As Bradshaw and Freddie Mercury celebrate, The Godwinns argue with and slop the referee, leading Mike Chioda to flop around on the pretty blue mats that line the outside of the ring.
The announcers plug the upcoming Sugar Ray Leonard- Hector Camacho fight on pay-per-view before The Eliminators hop the railing and deliver Total Elimination to a ring attendant. The Eliminators consist of Perry Saturn (best known as one of The Radicalz who would jump from WCW to the WWF) and John Kronus (best known as Perry Saturn’s tag team partner). Paul E gets on the mic and says King’s challenge has been accepted before an ECW chant breaks out.

Paul Heyman, who is holding a flip-phone instead of his standard earl-90s brick-phone, introduces Little Guido (later known in WWE as Nunzio) of the Full-Blooded Italians (a faction later joined by Freddie Joe Floyd). The bWo, consisting of Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, Nova (who wrestled as Mike Bucci on early Raws and would later wrestle as Simon Dean in WWE), and 7-11 (co-founder of Ring of Honor and star of a Perverted Justice sting operation, Rob Feinstein), then arrive. Upon seeing Meanie imitate Scott Hall’s Razor pose, Lawler suggests they change their name to the BO. “Well, they may have some of that, too,” says McMahon. Paul Heyman joins the announce table, marking the only time he and Jerry Lawler would commentate together. “Yeah, Paul E!” says a fan in the front row, grabbing Heyman’s shoulder. Big Stevie Cool tells Jerry Lawler, “We’re taking over,” eliciting a hardy chuckle from Vince McMahon. Maybe Vinnie Mac thinks he can re-package Richards as the third Razor Ramon. Lawler calls the bWo a “rip-off,” getting another laugh from Vince, who says the men in blue have nothing to do with the “clothing line” known as nWo. This may mark the only time in the history of business that a company's selling loads of merchandise is used as an insult by the competition. Raven (who not only would later wrestle for both WCW and WWF, but was a mainstay of Raw in 1993 and 1994 as Johnny Polo, even beating Marty Jannetty in a match) appears in the aisle way, marking the first of many times that an ECW World Champion would appear on a Monday night wrestling show. Distracted, Stevie gets rolled up by Guido for a two-count, gets dropkicked, then gets erroneously labeled by Vince as “Stevie Ray” (one half of Harlem Heat who would later wrestle in the WWF as… oh, sorry. Force of habit. Lash Huffman wouldn’t do much of anything). Paul E offers Vince an announcing job at ECW, which would have made for some classic television. Goldust appears in an inset interview but doesn’t say much before “technical difficulties” prevent him from answering Vince’s question about his opponent for tonight, Savio Vega. Vince doesn’t ask him anything about Meanie, the once and future Blue Dust, who stands at ringside). Paul E admits admits in so many words that he’d be willing to have sex with Goldust so long as it was a three-way with Marlena. Goldust returns to the screen but doesn’t address Paul E’s offer. Instead, he says that tonight he’ll protect Marlena from the man/woman who attacked her last week. Jerry Lawler points out the hypocrisy of Goldust questioning another person’s gender. Big Stevie Cool jackknifes Guido, then Stevie-kicks him for the victory. So is he supposed to be Kevin Nash or Shawn Michaels? “Stevie Cool has never lost his smile,” says Paul. Sunny even appears backstage and physically demonstrates Michaels’s anatomical shortcomings. Or maybe it’s something having to do with her arm-wrestling match with Marlena. Vince repeats the same line about the nWo, in case anyone missed it the first time.
The Honky Tonk Man, the most extreme Elvis impersonator, arrives to Jerry Lawler’s delight to referee the arm-wrestling match. Sunny arrives to big cheers from the ECW fans, who must really appreciate the managerial skills of one Tammy Sytch. To get heat, Sunny revives her old Bodydonnas routine by calling them fat and out of shape, but she still gets cheered when she takes off her robe. Jerry Lawler squeals at what Vince calls Sunny’s “bumpin’ and a-grindin.’” Next out is Marlena, who Vince says has had some problems with “another lady. We’re not talking about Sunny, and actually, we’re not talking about a lady, either.” Well, that rules out the classy Sable, then! Of course, Vince is referring to the woman soon to be known as Chyna. Sunny offers to let Marlena forfeit the match due to injury. “Come on, Sunny, get up on the table!” shouts Honky. Marlena grabs the mic and implies that Sunny is a street-corner hooker, then refuses to forfeit. Sunny keeps pulling away right before the competition can start, so Marlena does the same thing in retaliation and gets threatened with disqualification. Ken Shamrock looks on. You know, it’s odd that Shamrock would be in the crowd for this particular Raw, since ECW has historically only worked with MMA fighters willing to job in exchange for broken promises of oral sex from Missy Hyatt. Take that, Paul Varelans! The match finally gets underway, and Honky Tonk cheers for Sunny to win. “Pull Sunny! Pull hard!” At least I think that’s what he’s doing. Just before Marlena can win, Sunny throws powder in her eyes. One fan is heard clearly yelling, “B***h! You f**king b***h! You f**king b***h!” This was uncensored as it aired, but thanks to my crafty use of asterisks, you now have no idea what that fan was screaming, right? Savio Vega then steps in the ring and grabs Marlena’s hair, but Goldust follows after him and beats him up, leading to the first non-Sunny-related “Oh My Goodness” from Vince tonight (making it the fourth instance overall). Goldy slams Vega into the arm-wrestling table before Raw goes to commercial.

After the break, Savio is in control, and the Nation of Domination is at ringside. Jerry Lawler is relieved to finally have some WWF guys out here. King, who is fed up with having to watch tiny, untalented nobodies from minor leagues dominated by has-beens, is glad to see PG-13 from the USWA, where Lawler himself is champion. A “Candido” chant is directed at Sunny, who is still at ringside, though it sounds more like, “Candy dough.” Miguel Perez of Puerto Rico is on commentary to express his disapproval of Savio Vega. Perez joins Vince and Jerry, who in a heel promo once said everyone ought to own one or two Puerto Ricans. “Would you want to say something in Spanish to your countrymen who are watching,” asks Vince. En español, he thanks the Puerto Rican people for all the support they had given to Savio in the past, and that he’s going to fix what’s going on with Vega. The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is, “Who is Miguel Perez?” No, Who is Jim Neidhart. Crush delivers a patented crappy piledriver to Goldust on the outside of the ring, eliciting another “Oh My Goodness” from Vince. McMahon reminds us of the “huge surprise” still to come tonight. Savio crotches Goldust on the top turnbuckle for a Maneuver (#2), but the Bizarre One fights off a superplex attempt, then, for the second time in Raw history, kisses Savio Vega before pushing him off the ropes. Goldust jumps off the ropes, catches Savio’s foot, but gets tripped by Crush while running the ropes. Goldy hits Crush to the approval of Faith No More Guy. Cursh soon enters the ring to double-team Goldust, drawing a DQ. Miguel Perez, who the fans have no idea who he is (Uh, how can I phrase that grammatically? “About whose identity the fans have no idea”?), delivers a dropkick to his future Boricuas tag team partner. The rest of the Nation members salute with their backs to the ring, oblivious to what’s going on in the ring. Vince plugs next week’s Raw from Berlin, the lowest-rated Raw ever.
We see a clip from Jerry Lawler’s 1993 interview with the late Tiny Tim, who is wearing some Mickey Mouse jacket (literally). Jerry Lawler interviews Ken Shamrock, taking credit for training the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Ken, looking like he he’s been caught in some kind of Candid Camera prank, then says he doesn’t know Jerry. Ken calls Jerry a liar, and Lawler looks shocked, as if he never expected this might happen. “Looking that egg dripping all over his face,” says Vince. He’s speaking metaphorically, of course. Jerry’s taste in girls ensures that he never has to worry about eggs.

Paul Heyman gets on the mic again, saying, “Man, has this show sucked without ECW or what, huh?” When Heyman is nominated for the “Freedom Speech” Slammy award, this sound bite would be replayed, but with the word, “sucked” bleeped out. Mikey Whipwreck takes on future WWE commentator Taz, accompanied by former WWF referee Bill Alfonso. Taz is the second ECW wrestler named for a cartoon character to appear on tonight’s show, after The Blue Meanie. Paul Heyman and Jerry Lawler argue, with Lawler claiming that at ECW shows, they set the fans on fire, and with Heyman plugging the April 13th pay-per-view as much as possible. He also calls all of Taz’s suplexes without using the word, “maneuver.” The fans all at once stand up and look over towards the aisle, where Sabu stands on the giant red “R.” Since it’s a flimsy prop, Sabu basically falls off it when he tries to jump, but manages to land on a number of Team Taz members to break his fall. Taz gives Whipwreck an overhead belly-to-belly, nudging him over the ropes and onto Sabu when he gets stuck. Tazz wins with the katahajime over “Mickey Whipwreck.” Paul E corrects Vince and tells him, “You need to watch the tapes that Bruce Prichard leaves on your desk.”
The Headbangers arrive to little reaction as Vince awaits the arrival of the “big surprise.” That surprise is the Road Warriors, prompting the second chant of initials on tonight’s show, in this case, “LOD.” The Headbangers “don’t know what quite to make” of Animal and Hawk, says Vince, meaning “quite what.” After chants of “Bischoff sucks!”, Vince praises the WWF’s lack of censorship of the fans, an ECW-like quality that Jerry Lawler objects to. Vince dismisses Lawler’s claim to have taught Ken Shamrock Submission Maneuvers (#3), while Lawler says Vince doesn’t know anything about the music the Headbangers listen to, such as The Butthole Surfers. “I beg your pardon?” says Vince. After getting dominated early on, the Headbangers take control as the match, which should have ended five minutes ago, gets interrupted by commercials.

During the break, the Headbangers pulled off the leap-frog double-team that the Beverly Brothers used to do. Hawk takes both Headbangers down with a double-clothesline and tags in Animal. Both teams brawl on the outside, resulting in a double countout. The WWF sure knows how to debut returning talent, huh? The Road Warriors hit Mosh with the Doomsday Device, then motion for the title belts, which is an odd thing to do after failing to beat the Headbangers. Vince updates fans on the Shawn Michaels situation, saying that he may be able to avoid surgery, probably unlike Marc Mero. Rather than explaining what he means about Mero, he takes us to another Shawn retirement package set to the sappy, “Tell Me a Lie.” This is extreme!
D-Von Dudley, along with Sign Guy Dudley, awaits the challenge of Tommy Dreamer, who arrives with Beulah to the strains of “Man in the Box” - the real version, not the “Jimmy Hart Version”. Paul E says Tommy is headed to pay-per-view, though it would turn out he wouldn’t actually wrestle on it. Lawler complains about how much publicity the pay-per-view is getting; you’d think Jerry would be up for any PPV special called, “Barely Legal.” Tommy uses the blue WWF stairs to baseball-slide D-Von, but later gets whipped into into them by Dudley. Lawler rails against the “crap” he is seeing in the ring, which is rather rich considering that his own territory is famous for its gimmick matches, and considering that Lawler has wrestled comedians and referees in Memphis. D-Von pulls Beulah in front of him as a human shield, but McGillicutty gives him a mule kick to the groin. Tommy Dreamer DDTs D-Von for the victory, but Buh Buh Ray Dudley attacks him from behind; only Paul E is paying attention. Dreamer takes the Dudley Death Drop before The Sandman, with whom King once feuded when he was still a surfer, shows up to even the sides. Paul E exits the announce table and praises Vince’s “cajones” before getting into a fight with Jerry Lawler, who is standing on the table. ECW wrestlers intervene as the show goes to break.

Vince declares that next week’s Raw will be the biggest thing in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall before handing it off to Jim Ross and Jim Cornette to recap last week’s title match. We even see a “Superstars Exclusive” of Bret Hart backstage after losing the title, which is no longer a Superstars exclusive, since this is Monday Night Raw and not Superstars. Vince claims that Sid and Undertaker’s snoozer at Wrestlemania will “set new standards for intensity.” It will take place, he says, at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, “notwithstanding” Bret Hart’s match with Steve Austin. Vince still doesn’t know how to use that word. At this point, the match is billed as “no holds barred,” but not “I Quit.”
Ken Shamrock appears for the fourth or fifth time, this time for an interview with Todd Pettengill. Todd lets Ken’s wife and father speak, then asks Ken his picks for Wrestlemania. In the main event, he picks The Undertaker. Todd then asks him about the “submission match” between Austin and Hart, since submissions are Shamrock’s specialty. Did the stipulation change for the match in the past two minutes? Bret and Stone Cold, who are probably asleep in Germany right now, don’t yet know anything about the submission stip. Ken refuses to make a pick because it’s going to be too close. Faarooq gets in Ken’s face, and Ken says Faarooq surrounds himself with people because he can’t fight on his own.

The Undertaker, the only wrestler here tonight from episode #1, enters to take on Faarooq. Jerry Lawler gets the camera man to show a sign held up by who he calls “the only intelligent person in New York.” The sign says “Extreme Chicken Wimps” and was made by three twelve-year-old boys. Undertaker roughs up D’Lo at the outset of the match, then hits School on Faarooq. Lawler still insists that he taught Ken Shamrock “how to choke guys out.” “Let’s not get into… choking, things of that nature,” says the most extreme and ultimate commentator in the WWF, Vince McMahon. D’Lo gets his revenge on Taker by chopping his leg out from under him and stomping him outside the ring as Raw goes to break.
After the break, Faarooq telegraphs a back body drop from about ten feet away, allowing the Undertaker to hit a leg drop to the back of his head for an Unbelievable Maneuver (#4). Fans chant “You still suck” at ECW alum Ron Simmons. At least the Manhattan Center crowd isn’t telling him to shine their shoes, like they did to Mr. Hughes. Speaking of noteworthy chants, the crowd later chants, “We are the Nation of Masturbation!” If this were a modern-day Raw crowd, at this point they would start chanting something lame like, “We are awesome,” which, ironically, means essentially the same thing as the “Nation” chant they actually said. Faarooq dominates, as the name of his stable suggests (The Nation of *Domination*, not Masturbation, although if you remember the promo he would cut on Reverend D-Von in 2002, he is quite fond of that, too), until Taker reverses a top-rope dive by Faarooq into a slam. D’Lo pulls the top rope down when Taker runs the ropes, but the Dead Man lands on his feet, then waits around until Faarooq charges at him with the ring steps. Undertaker boots the steps into Faarooq, leading one fan at ringside to point and cackle maniacally. Faarooq recovers and piledrives Taker, who no-sells it and sits right up. The nation interferes, but the LOD arrives to TCB on the NOD as Vince signs off.

Final tally:

4 Maneuvers (Year total: 28)
10 Oh My Goodnesses

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