’97 RAW is WAR Review: April 7

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We continue to see the evolution of WWE and Monday Night RAW. The ring ropes are no longer red, white and blue but red and black. The ring posts went from traditional blue to black and presumably this showed a shift in attitude of WWE at large.

Owen Hart & British Bulldog def. The Godwinns
Our first match featured the tag team champs. Owen and Bulldog come out with the Canadian and UK flags. Owen comments on how he is reunited with his brother Bret and that it was Bret who stopped Owen and Davey Boy from hating one another. Owen warns Shawn Michaels not to come out and say anything about Bret. Shawn was backstage and comments that he is going to probably upset Owen. LOD was also backstage and they comment on their upcoming tag team title match and proceed to cut a nonsensical promo. Owen pins Henry Godwinn during the split screen interview. As Owen and Bulldog proceed to the back, the LOD comes out to confront them and the Godwinns sandwich them. Henry Godwinn looks to slop Owen and Bulldog but they duck and Hawk and Animal end up getting slopped. The LOD were irate and begin to brawl with the Godwinns.

Backstage, Owen and Bulldog are asking to see replays of the slopping. Owen calls both the LOD and the Godwinns some stupid Americans acting like this. Steve Austin who had an upcoming match interrupts their viewing of the replays and talks trash to the tag team champions.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin def. Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn is accompanied by the Honky Tonk Man in this one. Owen and Bulldog are talked to once again backstage. They challenge Austin for his trash talk and McMahon notes this is the second person they’ve threatened. After being admonished by the referee the referee turns his back and Austin gives him the finger and the crowd cheers. There is an advertisement during this match for Sunday Night Heat but this is in reference to upcoming USA Network programming. Crowd loves it as Austin picks up the victory. Honky Tonk comes in the ring and tells Gunn there is nothing wrong with losing to someone the likes of Austin. Honky says he can help change the career of Gunn but Billy punches the Honky Tonk Man in the face.

Next up we have the surprise debut of the Commanding Officer of the Truth Commission, a South African militant group. He hypes that next week’s RAW is WAR will be in Johannesburg. He talks about studying the democracy in America and labels it sissy and liberal and notes that the criminals rule the legal system. The Commanding Officer says his group will beat the truth in their opponents. The Commanding Officer then throws to a promo from Bret Hart who is in Cape Town, South Africa. Bret notes that in South Africa they respect values and is cheered here and only in America is he treated differently.

McMahon notes the RAW magazine cover of Bret Hart and Bart Simpson and Shawn Michaels is backstage. Michaels makes a comment in reference to Hart’s understanding of family values from the Simpsons and reminds Bret that it’s just a cartoon.

Shawn Michaels comes out for an in-ring interview segment with Vince McMahon. They go over the attack on Shawn two weeks ago as Shawn told Bret love it or leave it in reference to being in America. Shawn says he won’t tell McMahon when he is coming back but that like Bret he has some stuff to get off his chest. Shawn says that he and Bret hate one another. He addresses Bret’s comments about the WWE pitting him and his family against one another. Shawn says that Bret is willing to exploit his family for financial gain and says Bret isn’t a bad guy now but has always been a bad guy. Shawn talks about being the second fiddle to Bret when Bret first won the WWE Championship. He says he did it with a smile but when it came time for Bret to return the favour, Bret did it kicking and screaming. Shawn says Bret left the WWE to see if Michaels could carry the company and Michaels says they did the best business they had done in six years and McMahon confirms (not entirely factual). Michaels goes on and says Bret takes personal digs at his dancing, his long hair, his piercings and tattoos and how could the fans like a guy like this? Michaels brings up Bret using WCW as leverage in contract negotiations, presumably, and that Bret is only back because of money. Shawn says Bret cannot separate from his character whereas Shawn can. Shawn encourages the fans to cheer whoever they want and ends by saying Bret’s obsession with HBK and the World title will be his destruction. He dedicates his dancing to Bret but Owen and Bulldog come to ringside and Michaels quickly grabs a chair as they circle the ring.

Overall, I felt a disconnect in this segment as it sounded like Michaels wasn’t attacking Bret Hart’s character but his real life moments. Much of what Michaels said didn’t take place on WWE television but behind the scenes so it didn’t make much sense. Michaels also calls himself  a free agent which makes no sense since he was obviously under a WWE contract. We know that this rivalry got very personal and it appears this was beginning of the gloves being off.

Headbangers def. Barry Horowitz & Freddy Joe Floyd
Crazy to me to see Horowitz and Tracy Smothers in an attitude era ring. They got in more offense than I thought they would but Headbanger pick up another win here. Vernon White, Shamrock’s opponent has a backstage interview segment as has zero charisma.

Ken Shamrock def. Vernon White by KO
Shamrock bloodies his opponent and there is a ref stoppage as White can’t continue. Vader makes his way out afterwards during Shamrock’s post fight interview. Vader gets in Shamrock’s face but referees and agents separate the two. I do like this match up because it pits the mixed martial artist in Shamrock against one of the stiffest pro wrestlers.

Vader wins squash match
Vader hits a great German suplex before winning this one. Mankind is backstage and says he has something in store for the Undertaker.

Gorilla Monsoon is backstage talking about Sycho Sid. Sid hasn’t arrived and Monsoon says of all the superstars on the roster he says it will be Austin versus Mankind in replacement of Sid. Quite the endorsement of the roster at the time as a man who has already competed is worthy over those who haven’t been on the show. Austin comes out and says he did his part and fought in his match and doesn’t care about saving the show’s main event. Austin says to give him Bret Hart at In Your House and he’ll fight this match. Monsoon agrees but notes Sid may still show up. Austin continues to by dynamite on the mic!

Mankind comes out next for an in-ring interview segment with Jim Ross. JR asks Mankind why he burned the Undertaker. Mankind says despite all their wars the Undertaker doesn’t really know Mankind. Mankind says he’s traveled 14 hours on flights with the scent of his burning flesh and when he goes home, his wife asks what’s that smell. He tells the fans that yes he has a wife. Mankind says he had to introduce the Undertaker to that part of his life. Mankind talks about his daughter (Noelle) and she says to protect her but he says he can’t because he’s on the road being spat on by scum in Undertaker shirts and getting paid half the money of pumped up pretty boys in the opening match. He tells JR, “You ask for excuses but Mankind only has reasons.” My favourite line of the promo comes when Mankind quotes a line from Give the People What They Want by Kinks “When Oswald shot Kennedy he was insane. But still we watch the reruns, again and again, we all [?] while the killer takes aim. ‘Hey mom, there goes the pieces of the president’s brain!’ We cannot throw the Christians to the lions anymore. There are no more public hangings. The closest we have is the Undertaker and Mankind” Mankind tells women and children not to watch the brutality that will come in their match, he says he has his reservation for the emergency room and has booked one for the Undertaker. He tells Uncle Paul to reveal the gift he has and it’s another Mankind mask and Mankind says they’ll be twins and that the Undertaker will breathe his last as champion. A fantastic promo by Mankind and contrasts to that of Shawn Michael but we’ll come back to that. The Undertaker interrupts and delivers a bit a long winded promo that I would say is similar to the ramblings of Bray Wyatt. The final line is the only one of note, “Hell hate no fury like the Undertaker’s revenge.

Again, I thought Mankind did a masterful job at hyping this match with the Undertaker. As you can see on RAW every week now a days, it is hard to get excited for a match you’ve seen numerous times but Mankind did a perfect job of saying of all the wars they had this one is must see. He also did a far better job of using his personal real life to add to the story all the while staying in character. On a night of mostly promos, this one was by far the best one of the night!

Mankind def. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin by DQ
A quick brawl here. Owen and Bulldog are spoken to backstage once again and Owen says Bret has been screwed again as he has another match with Austin while he isn’t even in the country.  Owen and Bulldog come out to the crowd to distract Austin during the match. Once they make their way ringside, the LOD come out to ensure they don’t interfere. Vader then comes out and inadvertently nails Mankind leading to the DQ. Vader and Mankind exchange blows before Paul Bearer pleads with them to break it up and they hug as RAW ends.

Overall as stated previously this was fairly promo heavy show so I’ve spent a lot of this writing recapping what’s been said. Shawn Michaels’ promo came across as more of a shoot that was a bit out of place as he wasn’t challenging the character Bret Hart but the real life man with accusations and facts never seen on WWE programming. In contrast you had Mankind tell his story and use it as his motivation for his attack and to build interest into his match. Another thing of note, I really find myself bored with the LOD. They come across as part-timers who are there based on their reputation and it feels like they are taking up a spot. I’m not sure my frustration with them on RAW but I find myself continuously disinterested with all their segments and appearances. This RAW was essentially a series of various promo styles from the Commanding Officer to HBK to Mankind.

 

 

 

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