’97 RAW is WAR Review: May 26

Austin and Michaels kick off RAW. Austin calls himself the captain of the team and they argue but agree they are focused on taking something from the Hart Foundation and Michaels notes they will kick some a**. The Legion of Doom come out and tell Stone Cold and HBK to give them the title shot should they win tonight and Michaels agrees.

LOD def. Pillman & Neidhart by DQ
Not much of a match here as Bulldog and Owen almost instantly interfere. This was to set up a brawl as Austin and Michaels returned to make the save. Michaels looked to hit a baseball slide on Neidhart but nails Austin instead. Austin and Michaels begin to brawl with one another further teasing they have no chance of functioning as a team later tonight.

Another Sunny super soaker ad, this time with the Honky Tonk Man.

Paul Bearer is backstage and notes his change in appearance and he isn’t the same anymore and says he’ll reveal the Undertaker’s secret by the end of the program.

D’Lo Brown def. Bob Holly
Faarooq was on commentary during this match and was essentially the focus. Faarooq asks McMahon what were his thoughts when he heard he (Faarooq) was the #1 Contender. McMahon responds saying he thought it would be an extraordinary match. Faarooq disagrees and says he believes McMahon was scared there would be a black champion. McMahon says “I have no problem with you being champion but you haven’t been one of my favourites.” Faarooq says he didn’t come out to be a favourite and that he tells the truth. Faarooq asks if a civil war and slavery took place in America and what colour were the slaves? McMahon says unfortunately yes but what game is Faarooq playing here? Faarooq says he and McMahon can be friends at work but if he moved beside him in his neighbourhood the neighbours would guard up their homes. McMahon says he can’t defend there is racism in the country. Faarooq notes as the fans cheer Holly’s comeback and tells McMahon to listen. McMahon asks “You think they are cheering because he is white?” Faarooq says the country was built on a black man and McMahon acknowledges that all the events Faarooq brings up are factual but says Faarooq is being patronizing. Again, it is incredible to see such a debate on a wrestling show. I guess whatever your stance is on race relations, Faarooq is either a whiny heel or an honest babyface.

Undertaker is backstage and says he has a decision to make.

King of the Ring Quarter Final Match
Jerry “the King” Lawler def. Goldust
King is backstage prior to the match and says he knows why Dusty Rhodes doesn’t like Goldust. He lists it’s because he married a gold digger, wears a woman’s wig and started kissing men like a flaming f**. He mocks Goldust emotion and says to bring his family ringside and they’ll cry too. Lawler even sinks so low to say they should have named their daughter Target because everybody has a shot. Lawler is just reprehensible here with lines that you won’t get anymore from a publicly traded company with tons of endorsement partners. Despite all this, JR notes they are in Evansville which is a popular location for the USWA where Lawler also competes as you hear cheering for Lawler during the match. Lawler wins as he has his feet on the ropes but Goldust gets revenge post match sending Lawler rolling down the ramp.

Backstage we see the Hart Foundation beating down Austin.

Rocky Maivia def. Flash Funk
We saw a commercial plugging the inflatable King of the Ring chairs. The Headbangers join commentary and bring these chairs ringside. Headbangers are incredibly annoying throughout this match on commentary. They end up attacking Maivia and Funk during their match but no disqualification is made. Mosh ends up nailing Funk with a boombox (tremendous 90s term). Maivia pins Funk without seeing what happened to him outside the ring.

Hart Foundation promo backstage as Bret and Brian Pillman hype their respective matches with Michaels and Austin at the King of the Ring. Owen and Bulldog hype their tag team championship match for later tonight.

Ahmed Johnson def. Vader
If Vader were to win he would take Johnson’s place in the King of the Ring Semi-Finals since he couldn’t compete due to injury. Johnson beats him as Shamrock was on commentary.

Paul Bearer, once again backstage says he will do what no man, no warrior, no immortal could do and that is bring the Undertaker to his knees.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Rockabilly
We had two babyfaces square off earlier and now two heels making for strange psychology. Rockabilly attempts a pin but Chyna pulls him off. Later in the match, Honky Tonk Man looked to blast Hunter with his guitar but Chyna punches him and slams him on the outside. Helmsley hits Rockabilly with the Pedigree for the win.

Undertaker backstage says Bearer should do what he has to do and he will do what he has to do.

Sable comes out to promote the inflatable King of the Ring chairs but says nothing.

We continue the Mankind sit down interview. Mankind talks about his journey to to Madison Square Garden to see Snuka fly off the cage onto Muraco. Mankind notes the emotion that match evoked and it led him to wanting to be a wrestler. They talk about his alter ego, Dude Love. Mankind mentions an encounter he had with Shawn Michaels saying he wanted to be him; Micheals understood it as Mankind wanting to be champion but Mankind explains he wanted to BE the Heartbreak Kid. We see highlights of Mick jumping off his friend’s roof and his trainer Dominic Denucci. They note they’ll discuss Cactus Jack and the death matches next week.

World Tag Team Championship
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels def. Owen Hart & the British Bulldog (c)
Shawn immediately proved there was no ring rust on him as he looked fantastic in his first match in four months. Fans were hugely into both Shawn and Austin and there was a huge ovation when they won the titles. The Hart Foundation immediately beats down Shawn as Austin grabs the belts and makes his way up the ramp towards Bret Hart. Austin attacks the knee of Bret, appearing to re-injure it. Returning from commercial we see Austin and Shawn arguing about Austin abandoning his tag team partner.

Paul Bearer is out for the final segment. He talks about knowing the Undertaker for years, even prior to Brother Love bringing him in. He says Undertaker knows the secret he will reveal. Bearer notes that at his parents’ internment there wasn’t only two graves but three. Undertaker’s music hits before we can find out who the third one was for. Undertaker says he hates Paul Bearer for what he is forcing him to do. Undertaker teases choking out Bearer but ends up taking a knee to end the show.
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I thought a decent edition of RAW. You had a great main event match with a lot of star power. It appeared that this week on both RAW and SmackDown Live that the theme was dissenting partners but if Austin and Michaels were the bar from 1997, no one was going to top them. The disdain between the two was tremendous and really made you think they could never dethrone the tag champs. It’s interesting to see that xenophobia continues to be a storyline theme 20 years later with Jinder Mahal. Mahal’s promos do not compare to that of Faarooq in the slightest. We also saw the return of Goldust this week to the character he was playing at this time in 1997. He was great then and appears to remain great now. I didn’t remember the Undertaker actually reuniting with Paul Bearer so I was caught off guard as I am waiting for Bearer’s announcement of just who might have been in that third grave.

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