’97 RAW is WAR Review: March 31

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Wrestlemania has come and gone in 1997. It looks like a few old rivalries will be renewed and that new superstars will be getting their chance in the spotlight.

European Championship
British Bulldog (c) vs. Owen Hart ends in a No Contest
RAW kicks off with the European championship match between Owen and Davey Boy. Both men had a classic earlier on in the year but this match had a lot of animosity leading up to it and the commentators did a great job enforcing how this was tearing up the Hart family.

McMahon gives a rundown of RAW noting the possibility of a reunion between WWE Champion, the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. We’ll also see Hunter Hearst Helmsley versus Goldust, Steve Austin will be on and an Intercontinental Championship match between Rocky Maivia and Bret Hart.

Speaking of Bret Hart, he makes his way ringside as the match continues. He attempts to separate both men and tackles down the British Bulldog and holds him down with a steel chair almost as though he were an actual rabid dog. Bret gets on the mic and asks why are they fighting, for these fans? (in reference to the American audience). He knocks the fans for their lack of family values and that’s why they loved whenever the Harts went at it. He goes over his history with Bulldog and Owen. Bret tells Owen he loves him and Owen does a masterful job of breaking down in such a phony way. They all hug and this appears to be the beginning of the New Hart Foundation. I personally would have preferred if an angle like this took place on the RAW after Mania as it shows a new angle and direction for all men but overall I thought a great segment.

El Mosco def. Super Nova
As we return from commercial, Jerry Lawler appears emotional and touched by the reunion of the Harts and did a great job throughout the night at just being over the top about the angle. Sunny comes out and joins the commentary team. She also says how touched she is by what she just saw. Sunny also went on Spanish commentary saying a few words in Spanish before returning to comfort a distraught King. Nothing much to say about the match here, good lucha libre style wrestling with guys I wasn’t familiar with.

Jesse James wins a squash match
Honky Tonk Man was on commentary during this match. Jesse James was accompanied by a little boy. I don’t think he was a relative or apart of a charitable foundation. Honky Tonk gets in the ring after the match and congratulates Jesse James and presents him with his guitar. James appears speechless and honoured but then destroys the guitar and tells Honky Tonk it’s out of tune.

Nation of Domination (Crush & Savio Vega) win a squash match
Nothing to say here as the NOD win a squash. Shawn Michaels spoke to the commentary team during the match over the phone. He gives an update on his knee and says he won’t address Bret Hart over the phone but next week on RAW.

A feature on Ken Shamrock with highlights of his encounter with Billy Gunn and his refereeing of the Submission match. It’s announced he will have a match on next week’s RAW.

As we return from commercial break, Vince yells “EXPLOSION! CONTUSION! CONCUSSION!” as fireworks go off. Given the WWE’s knowledge on head injuries this exclamation is just bewildering to go back and hear.

Papa Shango’s theme hits and I got really excited to see a nostalgic character but it was Paul Bearer. We see highlights of what I presumed was cut off from last week’s RAW with Bearer saying he wants to walk on the dark side again and to be back with the Undertaker. Mankind is on the titantron asking him not to leave. Paul Bearer notes he was the reason the Undertaker was never champion and held him back. Now that the Undertaker is champion he ready to come back home. Undertaker makes his way ringside and locks a casket that is nearby, suspecting Mankind will pop out as he traditionally has. Undertaker notes he does owe Bearer a lot and in fact hands him the title. Bearer turns to the crowd with a grin on his face and as he turns back around the Undertaker nails him with a right hand. As they are outside the ring, the Undertaker picks up the urn to nail Paul Bearer once again but Mankind creeps out from under the ring. Mankind throws a fireball of sorts right into the face of the Undertaker. Sycho Sid comes down to make a save but Mankind and Bearer take off. Undertaker proceeds through the crowd with his face covered, stumbling to make his way backstage.

Return from commercial and Sid is backstage. Sid cuts a promo on Mankind, apparently on behalf of the Undertaker, hyping the championship match between the two at In Your House. Sid is scheduled to face Bret Hart at the same show but just calls out Bret while going on about Mankind and the Undertaker.

Jerry Lawler continued his greatness as he talks about the emotional night it’s been for the Harts and the Honky Tonk Man. JR asks Lawler how he can be cheering for the Harts after the history they’ve had. Lawler notes, Bret saw the light…like the Undertaker (after the fire). Brilliant!

Goldust def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley by DQ
Despite being banned from ringside Chyna eventually makes her way to ringside as Goldust presumably has Hunter beat. Chyna gets in the ring and kicks Goldust in the ribs for the DQ. Chyna hits a spin kick on Goldust and Hunter and her stomp on Goldust as referees and agents come in to break up the attack. Pat Patterson comes out with other agents and Hunter nails him with a punch. As Chyna is held back by numerous referees, Patterson gets back up and exchanges punches with Hunter. Chyna breaks free and sends all the referees to the ground and joins Hunter in assaulting Patterson. Goldust gets back up and clears the ring of Hunter and then goes face to face with Chyna. She motions a challenge and Goldust looks ready but McMahon notes that Goldust knows he can’t hit a woman to end the segment. The great build of Chyna continues.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin comes out for an interview segment with Vince McMahon. Austin notes he never uttered the words “I quit!”. He says on his best day, Bret still couldn’t get the job done. Austin calls Bret a piece of trash and says Bret came back because he thought the fans needed a hero which Stone Cold notes is garbage. Austin says he isn’t changing for anyone and it doesn’t matter if he’s in the ring with a “good” guy and they boo him or a “bad” guy and they cheer him; he’s the 1996 King of the Ring and he’s in that ring to whoop someone’s…you know what, and it doesn’t matter if people like how he does it. The crowd cheers this. Austin calls out Bret and Bret makes his appearance via titantron and says he’s done with Austin. Austin says he’ll have to kill him to be finished with him and that one day Austin will look at Bret’s grave and it’ll say that here lies Bret Hart the biggest piece of trash because Steve Austin whipped his pink and black a** and that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so. Awesome promo!

Rocky Maivia def. Bret Hart via DQ
Rocky Maivia is backstage preparing for his match as JR refers to him as the Rock. Recap of last week’s attack that led to this match. Really cool to see Bret versus the Rock but this was a quick TV match that ended in a DQ as Bret had Rocky’s legs in the figure four leglock around the ring post and wouldn’t break the hold. Of all people to come save the Rock, Steve Austin comes down for the save. Owen and Bulldog come down to fight off Austin. LOD comes down to even the odds but the Hart Foundation run off to end the show.

Overall, I loved the reunion of the Harts and Jerry Lawler’s reaction to it all. I could have done without all the squash matches and DQ finishes. I’m not too interested in Undertaker’s first feud but we know when he squares off against Mankind we’re guaranteed a brawl. Finally, Steve Austin cut a tremendous promo and is really starting to feel (in 1997) big time star and must see part of the show.

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