’97 RAW is WAR Review: April 21

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Steve Austin opens RAW as he approaches the ring for an interview segment. It’s great to see the WWE start the show off hot with the man who is quickly becoming their most popular superstat. Austin is named the new #1 Contender at the next In Your House PPV. Bret versus Austin in a Street Fight is announced for tonight on RAW. There is a timer for Bret’s acceptance despite the match being announced, Bret gets on the titantron and accepts the match. Also to be noted, this is apparently the debut of the Austin 3:16 t-shirt.

McMahon announces it will be Ahmed Johnson vs. the Sultan tonight as well Ken Shamrock to challenge Mike Tyson, an update on Vader being detained in Kuwait and our main event is the Undertaker versus Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

The Sultan def. Ahmed Johnson by DQ
The Nation come down during this match as Ahmed and the Sultan are battling outside the ring. Ahmed sees them and grabs a 2×4 from under the ring. The Nation backs up the ramp. Ahmed nails the Sultan for the DQ. As the Nation looks on, Ahmed continues to beat down the Sultan with this 2×4.

Austin is backstage trying to get into the Hart Foundation dressing room. Bret has agents with him and tells them to tell Austin to get to the ring and that he’ll be there.

Ken Shamrock versus Vader is also announced for the next In Your House. There is a recap of Tiger Ali Singh winning the Kuwaiti Cup. This leads to why Vader was Kuwait and we see highlights of Vader on the talk show. He is asked if wrestling is fake and gets heated and flips a table and grabs the host by the tie and asks if it feels fake. Vader challenges the frightened host to come to the show to see if it ‘s fake. Shamrock talks about bullies and says Vader is a bully and after his trial he’ll have Shamrock to deal with. Ken then talks about hearing what would happen if he and Mike Tyson ever got in the ring. He challenges Tyson and says he is a bully too. I wonder the box office appeal of Tyson/Shamrock compared to McGregor/Mayweather.

Street Fight
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart ends in a No Contest
I like that both men were in jeans and shirts and not their wrestling attire for this street fight. Bulldog and Owen attack Austin prior to Bret making his way down. Shawn Michaels then comes through the crowd with a steel chair. He nails Owen in the face and then blasts Bulldog with the chair to clear them from the ring. Owen and Davey Boy run through the crowd with Michaels in pursuit. Bret, with the upperhand, continues to beat down Austin. He grabs a chair and looks to shatter the ankle of Austin. As Bret readies himself to stomp from the top rope, Austin moves and grabs the chair and viciously assaults the knee of Hart. Stone Cold then applies the Sharpshooter on Bret and refuses to let it go as referees attempt to get him to relinquish the hold.

Monsoon confronts Austin afterwards in the back and says he’s out of control. Austin ignores Gorilla and Monsoon says he wants Austin’s a** out of the building. Crazy to hear the family friendly Gorilla Monsoon of the 90s with some attitude.

Bulldog and Owen are with Bret and deem the EMTs useless as they help carry Bret off the stretcher and hold him up and walk towards the back.

Tiger Ali Singh def. Salvatore Sincere
Singh wins in his RAW debut in a less than impressive match.

Owen and Bulldog are backstage and continue to give out medical advice of how to best take care of Bret. Bret is now being stretchered out and Bulldog repeatedly keeps muttering “This shouldn’t have happened.” Every groan by Bret gets Owen irate as he yells “WATCH HIS KNEE YOU IDIOT!” to the medical staff. As Bret is placed in the back of the ambulance the paramedic tells the driver they are ready to go. We see Austin in the driver’s seat and he makes his way to Bret and continues his assault. Owen and Bulldog drag away Austin and the commentators are reacting to what they are seeing. As the ambulance drives off, Owen and Bulldog say they will kill Austin. Funny how 20 years later you have another ambulance spot. In 1997, this spot was designed to get Austin cheered for destroying a man on a stretcher. Braun Strowman was also cheered despite being a heel. This ambulance attack was, well, stone cold given who was involved compared to the cartoonish attack by Braun as he yelled “I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!” and proceeds to flip the ambulance.

Rockabilly def. Jesse James
This gimmick sucks. Rockabilly uses Shake, Rattle and Roll for the win. Jesse James attacks Rockabilly post match and is nailed with a guitar by the Honky Tonk Man.

We go backstage and you see Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels arguing. Michaels says he wasn’t there to save Austin but to get a piece of the Harts. Monsoon tells both guys t calm down.

Mankind gives an update on Paul Bearer as he describes the smell and the sound of scraping off skin as Bearer is presumed disfigured. Mankind ends with a “Get well Uncle Paul.”

Undertaker def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley by DQ
It is remarkable to see the featured talent in 1997 who still hadn’t reach their peak; Austin, Mankind, Rocky Maivia (not on this show) and Hunter who’d go on to be the pillars of the WWE in upcoming years. Mankind makes his way ringside with a blow torch (yes you read that right). Mankind attempts to burn the Undertaker but Undertaker fights him off and they brawl through the crowd. During the match we see Goldust and Marlena out of character. As Hunter and Chyna walk by after the Mankind interference, they are attacked by Marlena and Goldust. Marlena has her purse straps around the neck of Chyna as the two men exchange fists.

Our final segment of the night is the same way we started RAW. Austin says he’s sent Bret back to Canada. The crowd cheers and Austin says he doesn’t understand why everyone is happy because he did it by himself. He says they wave around Austin 3:16 and McMahon is suddenly complimentary of him on commentary but Stone Cold obviously doesn’t care. He talks about his championship match and says it will be a cold day in hell for the Undertaker and that he won’t be a good role when he is champion.  Owen and Bulldog once again attack Austin. McMahon tries to break it up but Owen shoves him. Shawn Michaels again comes to the ring to make the save and chases off the tag team champions. Austin is left alone in the ring when Brian Pillman comes through the crowd and attacks him. Pillman looks to destroy the ankle of Austin, something Austin had done to him previously. Before he can get his revenge. Shawn makes his way back ringside and Pillman retreats as RAW ends.

I thought this was an exciting and captivating edition of RAW is WAR. I know Stone Cold was in numerous segments on the show but he was tremendous in every one of them. As a Bret Hart fan as a child I never truly appreciated Austin but I am absolutely loving his rise to the top. He always spoke with confidence and emotion and you could believe in him which is probably why his fanbase would continue to grow. The ambulance attack was great and Owen and Bulldog were equally awesome in all their segments. Owen and Bulldog’s comedic antics and timing was great and comparable to Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in late 2016/early 2017. I liked the surprises of Michaels and Pillman being added to the main event story. As noted this is a very strong roster and has me excited for the upcoming stories in the weeks to come!

 

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