We are back in business! I’ve regained access to my on-demand section of the WWE Network. I will resume my review as of today. Since my last review of Thursday RAW Thursday we have seen Shawn Michaels relinquish the WWE Championship which was won by Bret Hart in the Final Four. The next night, Sycho Sid defeated Hart for the championship. ECW has also made it’s presence known on WWE programming as we’ll see more of them in this episode. The Wrestlemania card has begun to take shape with Undertaker as #1 Contender and will face Sid and Austin and Bret will meet in a submission match. We also had the debuts of Chyna and Ken Shamrock and the Roadwarriors return. Lastly, a new title was unveiled in Germany. The Bulldog defeated Owen Hart for the European Championship in the best WWF match of 1997, in my opinion, to date.
It is notable as this RAW kicks off that we begin a new era in RAW’s history. The elevated ramp and titantron debuts on this night and we continue to see it’s incarnation to this day. RAW is now WAR which is fitting for all the attitudes of the superstars in the WWE!
WWE Champion Sycho Sid comes out and says he is unwilling to team up with the Undertaker when they face off against Vader and Mankind. Undertaker confronts Sid and tells him if he’s scared to just say it and at Wrestlemania 13 he will rest in peace. Mankind and Vader come out with Paul Bearer and they all brawl. Undertaker thinks Sid takes a shot at him too and stares him down.
Our first match is Intercontinental champion, Rocky Maivia squaring off against a jobber. Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund and the Sultan come out and say they will take the title from Maivia. Rocky ignores their distraction as Backlund rambles on and on. Maivia picks up the victory. If this were today Maivia would have lost as many superstars of today are rendered helpless at the sight or sound of anything. Sultan seeks to attack Maivia but Maivia retreats and Tony Atlas sees him from the crowd and they walk off together.
Next up we have AAA competitors in a six-man tag match. Heavy Metal, Pentagon, Pierroth versus Latin Lover, Octagon, Hector Garza. This match is comparable to the Cruiserweights of today with some great in-ring wrestlers but no one seemed to be in this match–including commentary. Brian Pillman has a promo feature during this match and says he ‘ll be back at Shotgun Saturday this Saturday.
Another squash match featuring Ahmed Johnson. The Nation seeks to distract but Ahmed ignores the distraction. McMahon notes the similarity of the Nation and Backlund which begs this question why similar angles were presented almost back to back. This one was to set up the reveal of who Ahmed would choose as partners to face the Nation of Domination at Wrestlemania. Faarooq did a great job of making this personal but Johnson is definitely among the worst on the mic in wrestling history and so his response was awful and this announcement could have been better with a more charismatic individual. The Legion of Doom are announced as his partners and get a good reception but they cut an equally bad promo. I guess this moment should have felt better but kind of fell flat in my opinion.
Owen Hart and British Bulldog make their way out next to square off against the New Blackjacks. Jim Ross interviews Owen and Davey Boy and praises the European Championship match and asks if this will cause more tension. Owen does a great job of being annoyed with Ross and his allegations. Vader and Mankind have a promo feature but Vader rambles on and McMahon cuts him off. This one ends with a DQ as the New Blackjacks are declared the winners.
Tazz and Bill Alfonso go face to face with Jerry Lawler. Alfonso annoyingly blows his whistle constantly. Sabu also comes out and does a Swanton but misses everyone and goes through a table. Lawler’s debate with Heyman is still to come.
Miguel Perez versus Leif Cassidy is next. Perez has George Steele like body hair but other than that comes across as rather generic. There is tease that Perez being in the WWE will lead to him meeting Savio Vega down the road. Paul Heyman has a promo feature hyping the in-ring segment between him and Lawler. Perez picks up the victory in this one.
Sycho Sid talks about his title defense next week against Bret Hart in a steel cage on the go-home RAW before Wrestlemania.
Ken Shamrock is out in the ring with Jim Ross for an interview segment. Shamrock is announced as the special guest referee for the match between Steve Austin and Bret Hart. Austin comes on the titantron and talks about Shamrock being the referee and Bret’s match next week for the title. Austin and Shamrock exchange words and Shamrock challenges Austin to come to the ring. Bret Hart makes his way ring side. Bret Hart files all his grievances and recaps all his injustices and lists all the people who have screwed him over. Bret tells Shamrock not to screw with him and Shamrock has a great response saying he isn’t a counselor and doesn’t need to hear all of Bret’s problems.
Honky Tonk Man is out next as Aldo Montoya is in the ring for the next match. We are still in early 1997 where gimmicks like the Sultan, Montoya and his opponent Billy Gunn in full cowboy attire still remain on the roster which can be contrasted to the serious characters like Austin, Bret, Shawn, Sid, and Faarooq. Billy Gunn looks to be in great shape in this one as the commentators say he is returning from injury. Sunny has an promo feature hyping her segment “Undercover with Sunny” on Shotgun Saturday. Billy Gunn wins this one while Sunny’s promo in on-going.
Mankind has a backstage promo. I’m not sure if guys weren’t being given time cues but we went to a commercial break as Mankind continued his promo but was cut off similar to Vader earlier.
Goldust in a squash match is next. Hunter and Chyna come out to the ramp to watch and Goldust sees them but isn’t distracted (the third such angle tonight). At the match’s conclusion Chyna methodically makes her way to ring as Hunter is no longer on the ramp. As Chyna enters, Hunter comes flying off the top turnbuckle and nails Goldust. Marlena jumps on Chyna’s back and tries to apply a sleeper hold. As referees and agents come out to separate the four. Chyna presses Harvey Wippleman and throws him at the other referees. This impresses everyone on commentary as Chyna and Hunter proceed to the back.
The great debate is next. Paul Heyman comes out and Jim Ross states how the debate will go. The coin toss leads to Lawler making his first argument about whether ECW should and does exist? He criticizes the talents and style of ECW. Heyman seeks to rebut and yells at Lawler to shut up and Heyman praises the style and efforts of ECW. Things begin to take a bizarre turn and personal shots are exchanged. Both men say they are going to shoot now. Heyman asks Lawler “How are the seesaws in Louisville, Jerry, huh?” and that Lawler’s children don’t use the Lawler name. Lawler notes Heyman still lives at home with his mother and father and they finance this little thing (ECW). Tommy Dreamer confronts Lawler and asks if he wants to start a war to call out this guys from the back. Lawler motions but no one makes their way out and Lawler and Heyman continue to yell at one another as the segment ends.
Main event time with Vader and Mankind making their way ringside first. Sid makes his way out first and Vader and Mankind double team him. Undertaker makes his way to ring after Vader and Mankind get the unfair upper hand. Undertaker eventually takes out Sid with a chokeslam and after that dives over the top rope clearing the steps at the centre of ringside and takes out Mankind and Vader. Undertaker brawls with Mankind and as he goes back in the ring, Sid powerbombs the Undertaker and Vader capitalizes with a pinfall victory. Bret Hart shows up at the end to promote his championship match for next week as RAW is War ends for this week.
Overall, the two things of emphasis on this show was the tag team main event and the great debate. Both weren’t anything exciting but achieved their goals of storytelling in the main event and exposure for ECW in the segment. A lot of squash matches as filler with distraction attempts, so not much has changed in 2017!