We see a few highlights from last night’s pay-per-view and the Hart Foundation makes their way out. Bret says he surrounds himself with the best the WWE has to offer and that he’d take these men into the mouth of hell to fight the devil. He adds, he’d trust these men to breathe for him and to pump his blood with their hearts and names each member of the Hart Foundation. Bret says the fans have painted him as a bad guy but he isn’t a bad guy and that the fans are the bad guys. He sarcastically calls Steve Austin a “hero” and that as a true American hero he picked on a guy in a wheelchair. Bret calls Austin a loser and says he couldn’t even win the WWE championship one time. Bret says he has a surprise but heads backstage instead of revealing it.
King of the Ring Quarter-Final Matchup
Ahmed Johnson def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley by DQ
The King of the Ring Tournament kicks off in this one. Unfortunately for Hunter, Chyna nails Ahmed with a steel chair leading to him being disqualified. Chyna tries to apply a sleeper on Ahmed as he was beating down Helmsley.
Up next we have an “Stone Cold” in-ring interview with Vince McMahon. McMahon tells Austin it was a hell of a match last night. Austin says he doesn’t need McMahon to kiss up to him cause he’ll knock his head off his neck. Crowd cheers this. Austin admits defeat but says sooner or later he’ll be champion and if he says it than it’ll happen. Crowd cheers. Austin has Bret’s crutch and tells Bret to come out and get it. No Bret. Austin calls Bret a piece of trash. Austin calls the Hart Foundation a snake and that Bret is the head. He explains to McMahon how to kill a snake and that you cut off the head but he’ll have some fun instead and start with the snake’s a**. Crowd cheers (notice a theme?). He says the snake’s a** is Brian Pillman. Austin talks about crippling Pillman before and that he carried him in his back pocket in the bush leagues (WCW) and that Pillman’s a** belongs to him and that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so! (Do I need to add the crowd continues to cheer?)
Scott Putski def. Leif Cassidy
We have highlights of Ivan Putski prior to his son’s debut. Ross praises the abilities of Leif Cassidy. JR also notes that he’d like to see more of the light heavyweights; guys who are 215-220 (Maybe 205 Live needs to up it’s weight limit). Putski wins this one but is clearly still very green. Cassidy attacks Putski post match but Putski clears Cassidy from the ring. Cassidy gets in the face of the commentators and says he’s won displaying hints of the future Al Snow character.
LOD def. JC Ice & Wolfie D (NOD)
The Nation aggressively sends these two to the ring with Hawk and Animal awaiting. They destroy these two within minutes hitting two Doomsday Devices. The second one on Wolfie D sends him flipping right onto the body of his lifeless partner as the Legion of Doom wins this one.
Mankind is out next. He talks about the wall (not great balls) of fire he used to set the Undertaker on fire and talks about the Undertaker not taking revenge on him but on an innocent man in Paul Bearer. Mankind says Bearer is here tonight and Mankind brings him out with his entire face and head bandaged up. Bearer tells the Undertaker he has one more chance to return back to him or he will reveal a secret about the Undertaker.
Faarooq is out next for an in-ring interview segment with Vince McMahon. McMahon asks how it feels to be the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship. Faarooq says it feels great, that McMahon’s seen plenty of number one contenders before and brings up beating Ahmed Johnson last night. Faarooq says “Let me ask you a long awaited question. When was the last time the WWE had a black man wear that belt? Can you answer me that?”. McMahon says “Never.” Faarooq goes on to say that the WWE has had “token blacks” as champion like Ahmed Johnson as Intercontinental champion or Bobo Brazil as US Champion for short periods of time. Faarooq says these people don’t feel a black man i is worthy of being champion of the WWE but that they do feel a black man is worthy of washing their car, washing their clothes or raising their kids. He continues and says no longer are they (African Americans) marching or calling radio stations but taking things into their own hands. Faarooq says they (the fans) understand when he swings fists and kick feet. McMahon interjects and says this has nothing to do with being black and what’s the matter with him? Faarooq says their white saviour, the Undertaker, will be a dead man. McMahon asks “Don’t you feel your comments are racist?” Faarooq says he isn’t a role model but that he’s sure there’s a black kid somewhere who feels the anger he does. He says no longer are “we” passive and gonna take things into his own hands and that’s by any means necessary. Absolutely incredible to see such a promo on WWE programming. Race and wrestling is always a topic of discussion but I do believe that it represents a microcosm of the issues American culture faces at large.
Undertaker def. Savio Vega by DQ
This non-title match ends with the NOD attacking the Undertaker before he can defeat Vega. Faarooq proceeds to whip the Undertaker. Faarooq grabs the title and holds it up and then tosses it at the Undertaker who remains laid out.
Rob Van Dam def. Jeff Hardy
Yes you read that correctly in this recap of RAW in 1997. The King enters the ring and talks about his previous comments about ECW. RVD adds his own disparaging remarks about ECW. King titles RVD as Mr. Monday Night. Mid match, RVD dives out the ring and nails Hardy and gets his feet caught on the barricade and lands brutally on his head. RVD hits a Frog Splash and then a Split Legged Moonsault for the win. This was not a showcase for Brother Nero but his return 20 years later he’s still a top guy!
The second part of the Dustin Runnels interview is up next. King says he saw him crying in this part and asks if he is a sissy and that he thought this interview was to prove he wasn’t a sissy. JR responds saying he’s a real man. This language is incredibly dated in 2017 with it’s categorization of hetero- and homosexual men. This interview was kind of repetitive of what was shared in the previous interview. He says he wants to give his best for the fans and be a family a man and be there for his daughter contrary to his childhood experiences. He talks about his love for his father and how hard it was to become a wrestler and that he is now Goldust and hopes his dad is proud of him.
Undertaker addresses Paul Bearer’s comments from earlier in the night. He says there are things that occurred in the dark side that are better off never seen in the light of day. Undertaker addresses Faarooq next and says he has never won matches with his physical conditioning but his mental state of mind. He says he must unleash a demon to do battle with a Nation of Destruction and that they’ll rest in peace. Sounds like Undertaker needs a 15 year old Finn Balor to defeat the NOD.
Four Corners Elimination Tag Team Match
Owen Hart & British Bulldog def. Furnas & LaFon, the New Blackjacks and the Headbangers
My favourite tag team TV match is back; the RAW bowl. Furnas and LaFon are eliminated first by the New Blackjacks. New Blackjacks are eliminated next, during the commercial break, as LaFon holds down Bradshaw’s foot without the referee seeing. King brings up Frank Gifford, husband of Kathie Lee. He notes Gifford has been seeing a flight attendant on the side. Lawler then asks JR “Ross isn’t your wife a flight attendant?” JR says what an asinine thing to say and King laughs. Although it was a silly, sophomoric comment for heat, it was nice to hear a Jan Ross reference. My thoughts and prayer continue to go out to JR. This match ends with Bulldog hitting a powerslam on Thrasher for the win despite neither man being the legal man.
Final segment is Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for an in-ring confrontation. Bret sends the Hart Foundation to the back. Bret tells Michaels “There was a time when I just couldn’t stand you, but now when I look at you I realize that I hate your guts. And the reason I hate your guts, the biggest reason…” Bret doesn’t finish his point here as Michaels removes his suit jacket. Bret says that symbolizes Michaels as he’s hot, then he’s cold. Bret says Michael’s dancing, arrogance and cockiness is representative of America. Bret goes on a few more tangents saying Shawn never faced him at the past Wrestlemania, he responds to accusations about his pay and his family’s inclusion in the program. Bret brings up Shawn’s piercings, tattoos and his posing in magazines. Throughout this time, Shawn has yet to say anything. Bret says Michaels has to deal with whether he is as good as Bret and Shawn smirks as the crowd makes chants. Hart turns to the crowd and says “You people know he isn’t as good as me.” Ross notes RAW is going off the air. On the WWE Network we see the off camera footage with Bret finally telling Michaels he’d like to do something but he doesn’t have the insides to. Shawn responds with a superkick to a standing Bret. The Hart Foundation comes down and tries to beat down Shawn. An Austin chants erupts as Bulldog proceeds to press slam Shawn off the stage area. Austin comes out for the save. The Hart Foundation check on Bret in the ring as Austin makes his way back up the ramp and this bonus footage concludes.
This edition of RAW was probably the most capitivating RAW of 1997 to date. I thought you saw a lot depth to a lot of characters from the continued rise of Steve Austin, to Faarooq and his conquest to overcome barriers of oppression. The use of a sitdown interview to learn more about the man Goldust is a great tool and we even saw Leif Cassidy and RVD be given some depth. The feud between the Undertaker and Paul Bearer has also been given a new element as the secret will let us in to the seldom explored background of the Undertaker. Lastly, the personal issue between Michaels and Bret intensifies. We know that Shawn’s kick didn’t make TV and its notable that behind the scenes this led to this feud going from the script to real life. I absolutely loved this RAW and it feels that as the weeks go on the the brutality intensifies, the characters are getting stronger and the program is becoming must see!