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.
Vince again refers to tonight’s arena as “The War Zone,” not to be confused with the War Room, where Billionaire Ted and his buddies plot in vain to snatch up WWF Superstars like Razor Ramon, Diesel, and the 123 Kid. Faarooq is AWOL from his locker room, while Ahmed looks straight at a backstage monitor with his back to the camera like a normal person would, instead of standing off to the side and craning his neck like today’s superstars do. Shortly thereafter, he is hit from behind by Faarooq; I guess that’s why no one watches TV like that on Raw anymore. Johnson keels over in a heap of trash cans and clown pants. Back in the ring, the Road Warriors set up for the Doomsday Device, but Faarooq breaks it up with his nightstick, drawing a DQ. Ahmed the Clown rushes to the ring with a 2x4 to help out the Road Warriors. Team Bum Rush cleans house and takes out PG-13.

The Larry Flynt Freedom of Speech Slammy is advertised, featuring nominees such as Howard Stern. Vince tells us when and where we can watch the Slammys, but gives the wrong time. The announcers then tease that tonight’s cage match may not be for the WWF title. What a way to get fans to stay tuned! Shawn Michaels may also be on his way to the arena (or is that, “war zone”?).
Triple H comes to the ring with the woman now known as Chyna. Flash Funk is Hunter’s opponent, accompanied by the Funkettes, who will be competing as a unit in the Miss Slammy competition this Friday. Flash and Chyna have a small skirmish before the bell, but “you can’t hit a lady,” says Vince. That must mean you really can’t hit Sable, who as we all know is quite a lady (a classy lady, if you would). Vince notes Hunter’s “obsequious” bow and “air of pompisity” [sic]. Speaking of “classy,” Vince praises Flash Funk’s Classy Maneuvers (#1) before adding that they are also “flashy,” which is probably what he meant to say to begin with. Flash then counters a Telegraphed Maneuver (#2) by Helmsley. Hunter catches Flash on his shoulders following a leapfrog, dropping Funk down onto his own shoulders. The crowd is hot, much like Peeta Wilson of La Femma Nikita, which will air in its entirety after Raw. Flash hits a flying leg drop on Hunter, but gets pulled off Helmsley by Chyna. Hunter hits a German suplex, but misses a Risk-Taking Maneuver (#3) when Flash hits him with a superkick. Funk signals for a top rope move, but Chyna threatens to push him off the rope, distracting him before eating the Pedigree (not the dog food). HHH pins the Funkster. Shawn Michaels enters the arena, although he surely will be unable to inject himself into any of the in-ring action, what with his injured knee and his career being over.

Mini Mankind and Mini Vader, who teamed up weeks before their full-sized counterparts ever did, square off against Mini Goldust and Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. Does that mean he’s a mini version of Máscara Sagrada, Sr., or the son of the mini version of Máscara Sagrada, Jr.? We see footage from a New Jersey press conference announcing the death of a tax bill preventing “The War Zone” from appearing in New Jersey. the Undertaker presented a paper tombstone to Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who looks like Linda McMahon, but not as much as the woman to her right, who looks even more like Linda McMahon because she is Linda McMahon. Mini Goldust (not to be confused with Stardust) starts off with Mini Vader, no doubt hooking in viewers who would otherwise be watching that silly cruiserweight division on Nitro. While the announcers marvel at the news on JR’s Superstar Line that a WWF Superstar had recently been strip-searched at an airport, Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. pins Mankind with a victory roll. After the match, he hits a flying body press off the stage onto Mini Vader.
Gorilla Monsoon delivers the major announcement that the WWF title match announced last week will be a WWF tile match as previously announced. Earth-shattering!

The earth-shattering announcement gives Bret Hart occasion to come to the ring for an interview with Kevin Kelly, back when long in-ring promos at least had the superficial appearance of a scheduled interview. Fans boo Hart as he justifies his title shot just a week before Wrestlemania. He assures The Undertaker that he will give him a title shot down the line, which is a relief to all the Undertaker fans wanting Taker to get the title shot he earned (how exactly, I don’t know, but it might have to do with putting up with long feuds with Harvey Wippleman and the Million Dollar Corporation).
A skit airs involving a marketing meeting at WWF Headquarters, which sees all sorts of dumb ideas being proposed, such as JR pitching black hats, Howard Finkel pitching a video tape of his greatest announcements, Vince McMahon pitching a combination toupee/headset, and superfans Adam and George pitching Wrestlemania 13 denim jackets. That last idea was apparently supposed to be the good one, as Kevin Kelly announces that the jackets are available for $99.

Smilin’ Rocky Maivia comes to the ring to scout his Mania opponent, The Sultan, who is most likely a last-minute replacement for Marc Mero. Sultan wrestles Poughkeepsie’s Mike Bell in an effort to remind viewers who the hell The Sultan is. He hits a Samoan — er, Middle Eastern splash from the top rope and finishes off Bell with the Camel Clutch, a Submission Maneuver (#4). After the match, Rocky pulls “The People’s Belt” away from The Sultan. Rocky offers to fight the Sultan right then and there, but before he can put his foot in his mouth, Tony Atlas hops the rail and separates the two of them.
Due to a tear in the space-time continuum, Raw’s opening theme plays again, accompanied by pyro. The gravely-injured Shawn Michaels strolls down the ramp to a mixed reaction for an interview with Vince McMahon. Michaels opens up with a joke about looking for his smile and another one about how difficult he is to deal with. Vince says that Shawn is a trend-setter, with various superstars and even the President following in Shawn’s footsteps by hurting their knees. These two are just a barrel of laughs tonight! Shawn says that he’ll probably be back in the ring within a few months, pending an evaluation next week, and, more importantly, when he steps in the ring again, his clothes are coming off. The pre-teen girls and middle-aged ladies in the crowd go wild. Shawn says he has an issue with Vince McMahon for not putting him on Wrestlemania (probably because he wussed out of jobbing to Bret Hart), so he is putting himself on the show as a guest commentator for the main event. He also claims to have a lot of “face to spill” in his new home, so he’d like to take home some Slammy Awards.

Vader, whom Jerry Lawler calls, “The Maxi Vader” (which sounds like a competitor to Always with Wings), faces one half of the tag team champions, The British Bulldog. Perhaps King was referring to the bloody mess that Vader was at the Final Four match. The Slammy Award-winning Owen Hart walks to the ring with his partner, insisting that they hold the European belt together. Vader opens the WCW rematch by pummeling Davey Boy in the corner. The two men then trade shoulder blocks, throwing themselves together faster than the WWF threw together their Wrestlemania match. Bulldog lifts and drops Vader with a vertical suplex.
As fans at ringside advertise RF Video’s phone number, Vader splashes Bulldog. These two men will team with their respective partners this Sunday at Wrestlemania 13, which is still not sold out. Bulldog catches Vader on a corner splash, body slamming him to the mat. Bulldog attempts to powerslam Vader, but Mankind interferes. The two heels double-team the other heel (Owen) while Bulldog swipes Paul Bearer’s urn to even up the sides.
Louis Farrakhan is nominated for the Best Bow Tie Slammy Award, along with Yokozuna (who is nominated for the time he wore a bow tie at last year’s Slammys), Bob Backlund, Clarence Mason, and Pee Wee Herman. The Nation of Islam leader would be replaced by Steve Urkel come awards night. I guess the WWF wouldn’t want to be controversial by referencing that organization — I mean, except for the near-identical heel faction led by Faarooq that features heavily on all of their programs.
Billy Gunn takes on Aaron Ferguson with Ken Shamrock on commentary. Vince speculates that the submission match that Ken referees could end up being for the WWF title, adding to the pressure on the UFC fighter. Ken says that he’s used to pressure, which Vince finds incredibly funny, chuckling in his Vince McMahon way. Gunn addresses Shamrock from the ring; in two years, he would be mooning Ken’s kayfabe sister. A small “Billy You Suck” breaks out before Gunn applies an arm bar to beat Ferguson. Billy confronts Shamrock at the announce table and challenges him to step into the ring. Vince wants Ken to have no part of it. “He doesn’t have his fighting clothes,” says Vince, ignoring that his adversary is wearing jeans and cowboy boots. Shamrock puts Gunn in an arm bar, prompting Vince to make the first on-air mention of “tapping out.” Shamrock releases the hold, but Gunn wants another go and gets taken down again, this time with the ankle lock, resulting in another tapout. Finally, Billy threatens Shamrock with a chair, then leaves ringside.

Backstage, Stone Cold says that all Ken Shamrock did to get famous was to have some street fights while someone filmed him, using the old Hollywood Blondes movie camera pantomime. Austin says he’ll make sure Bret Hart wins the title tonight so they can wrestle for it at Wrestlemania. The ring crew puts together the jungle-gym cage, requiring the WWF to fill time with, for instance, a Sid promo.
Bret Hart starts off the cage match with Sid as the aggressor, stomping the big man in the corner. Bret makes an early attempt to climb the cage, but gets his leg pulled by Sid, who then slams him repeatedly into the cage. Sid tries climbing the cage, but Hart starts a punchout on the top rope before both men eventually return to the mat. Sid tries to crawl through the door, but Stone Cold holds it shut as Raw goes to commercial.
Sid powerbombs Bret and attempts to climb out of the cage, but Austin meets him at the top and tries to punch him back into the ring. Hart and Austin double-team Sid until the Undertaker comes to the rescue of his Wrestlemania opponent. Bret superplexes Sid back into the ring and Stone Cold whacks Undertaker with a chair on the arena floor. Bret Hart then tries to walk through the door, but hesitates on the apron, allowing Undertaker to slam the door on him and let Sid climb out to the floor for the victory.
After the commercial, Vince McMahon approaches for an interview the terribly frustrated Bret Hart. “Frustrated isn’t the goddamn word for it!” says Bret, shoving McMahon to the mat. “This is bullshit!” says Hart, which goes uncensored. JR immediately apologizes to the viewers. Bret goes on a very angry rant about injustice, being screwed, blind eyes, and various goddamn things. “And if you don’t like it, tough shit!” Jerry Lawler, in a rare role as the voice of reason, tells the production people to cut off Hart’s mic. Stone Cold comes onto the Titantron to cut a promo on the (S)Hitman about being a loser who couldn’t win the title even with Austin’s help. Bret makes an angry pun about Austin’s “stones” being “cold.” Sid comes to the ring again while Bret Hart yells at him that everyone including Sid knows that his belt belongs to Bret. “I don’t know shit!” replies the champion in a classic Sid moment. Well, it makes sense in context. The two argue in the ring until Bret dives through the ropes at The Undertaker, then gets stomped by Steve Austin. The two sets of Wrestlemania opponents brawl separately. Vince returns to the announce table to lament Bret Hart’s growing bitterness and paranoia. Hart punches Pat Patterson, leading Vince to call him a “dirty, rotten son of a—.“ While Hart and Austin punch each other, Sid and The Undertaker choke each other, but you don’t care about that, do you? Amid the chaos, a news ticker assures viewers that La Femme Nikita will air immediately after Raw. Shawn Michaels then walks down the ramp and does nothing, really, except stare at Bret Hart, pick up and drop a pole from the cage, and step into the empty ring with a chair. Next stop, Wrestlemania! Hope it doesn’t suck. (It does)

Final tally:

4 Maneuvers (Year total: 47)
10 My Goodnesses