’97 RAW is WAR Review: June 30

After being away on vacation, let’s resume our review of RAWs from 20 years ago. We are on the road to the Canadian Stampede and the teams are set as Austin will begrudgingly team with the LOD, Goldust and Ken Shamrock ! Triple H is the King of the Ring and has said that after being held down, he is taking his own career in his own hands. The Nation of Domination has disbanded and is now, as Faarooq puts it “Bigger, better and blacker!” and after months of feuding, Ahmed Johnson has joined this new Nation! This has also led to the formation of the Disciples of Apocalypse. Rocky Maivia is out with a knee injury. ECW has been getting some promotional life on WWE program. Mankind is looking to be a tag team partner of Austin. The Hart Foundation continue to look dominant and have temporarily rid the WWE of Shawn Michaels setting up a Tag Team Tournament for a team to challenge Austin and a partner of his choosing. The WWE Champion, the Undertaker appears to have finally severed ties with Paul Bearer who looks to reveal this burning secret.

RAW kicks off with a video package recapping the relationship between the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, ending with last week’s announcement by Bearer that he plans to reveal the secret TONIGHT!

Ken Shamrock def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Prior to the match, Chyna notes that Hunter will have “The World’s Most Dangerous Woman” in his corner for this match with Shamrock. Mankind makes his way ringside to confront his opponent on Sunday and as Hunter is distracted, he turns around into a belly-to-belly suplex and Shamrock picks up the victory.

We have a recap of Ahmed Johnson addressing why he joined the Nation of Domination stating that people did not back him up. This also featured the debut of the Disciples of Apocalypse (DOA). We learn also that Ahmed was injured and tore ligaments in his knee and will be out.

McMahon throws to their new broadcast partner, Michael Cole, backstage with the LOD. The LOD cut a promo on the NOD, but I was just looking at a young Michael Cole who has moved up the ranks in 20 years to be the lead voice on RAW and producing commentators for the future.

Sunny is backstage promoting a million dollar giveaway for Summerslam with money in a casket.

NOD (Faarooq & D’Lo Brown) def. LOD (Animal & Hawk)
The semi-finals of the tag team tournament continue as its LOD vs. NOD. Ross notes that Vader will square off against the Undertaker as a replacement for Ahmed and that the NOD is upset that no other member was chosen to replace him. The Godwinns get involve in this one behind a distracted referee’s back and nail Hawk with the slop bucket as Faarooq makes the cover. Side note, Hawk still tries to kick out after 3 and I hate that the weapon shot wasn’t just sold and that Hawk went into business for himself trying to still look strong in defeat. To make matters worse, the LOD just start to chase the Godwinns backstage, again no selling the bucket shot.

Post match, Faarooq asks McMahon why Vader was chosen instead of a member of the NOD. Faarooq says because Vader is white, which gets booed. McMahon asks Faarooq about the DOA. Faarooq says the Undertaker sent them because he didn’t want to fight Ahmed Johnson. Faarooq talks about beating up Savio Vega last week and Vega proceeds to come out. Vega says he’s coming for revenge and Faarooq tells him to get his “jalpeno picking a**” in the ring. Vega whistles and motions for some back up as Vega and three other men come in and brawl with the NOD. Officials try to separate these men and we hear motorcycles as the DOA make their way out. Now all three “gangs” begin to brawl with one another. Police enter the ring and attempt to separate the gangs.

Michael Cole is backstage and Savio Vega and his gang come yelling in his Spanish. Coles says “English please” Vega says they are Los Boricuas and they are gonna kick some a**.

A feature on Sunny and her photos in the upcoming RAW magazine.

Brian Christopher def. Scott Putski
Prior to their match we see highlights of Ivan Putski and Jerry Lawler as their sons compete, despite Lawler denying claims of being Brian Christopher’s father. Ross reminds that the Lightweight division is 215lbs or less so not only has the weight class name changed but 10lbs has been knocked off too. Lawler ends up looking to distract Putski but it’s reversed and Christopher nails Lawler. Lawler grabs the feet of Putski and Christopher rolls up Putski for the win. Another interference leading to victory.

Undertaker is backstage warning that Bearer will attempt to poison minds by revealing this secret. We also see a promo hyping a Lightweight match between the Great Sasuke and Taka Michonuku.

Brian Pillman def. Mankind by Countout
We learn Brian Pillman attacked a heckling fan on Shotgun Saturday night and has been fired from that show only. He offers an “apology” and says he won’t apologize for taking his incisors to the ear of Mankind and he’ll show Mike Tyson what it’s like to take a bite out of the human anatomy (historic reference). Mankind comes out with a “Pick Me Steve” sign around his neck and also offers JR a gift which is a mandible claw. Austin comments about Mankind wanting to be his partner. Now Helmsley and Chyna come out for perhaps another distraction finish. Pillman makes several attempts to bite at the remaining ear of Mankind. Hunter comes down but Mankind nails him. Pillman capitalizes and holds up Mankind on the outside but Hunter nails Pillman with a chair instead of Mankind. Mankind chases Hunter away with the chair and is counted out.

Paul Bearer comes out for the reveal of the secret. Bearer talks about the family of the Undertaker. He notes the Undertaker’s father was a mortician and there was also a mom, a red headed punk kid and another sweet brother named…Kane. Bearer notes he was an apprentice at this time and says the children would run around this funeral home. Bearer notes he saw these two kids smoking cigarettes which gets a reaction from the crowd. Bearer says one day he came back from school late at night and saw this funeral home in flames and that he saw the Undertaker in the bushes. Bearer accuses the Undertaker of burning down the funeral home and killing his parents.

We see Sable and Marc Mero again with the casket of money. We get a clue which is a key.

Owen Hart & British Bulldog def. The Headbangers
Tag Tournament semi-finals continues. Bret Hart is on the phone talking during this match and says he’s watching on TSN from Calgary. Bret hypes their 10-man tag match this Sunday in Calgary and praises Canadian fans. After their win, we hear Jim Cornette on the mic. Cornette says there is a team he has that didn’t debut in time for the tournament but Cornette blows a whistle and out comes the Headhunters or Squat Team Members #1 & #2 without the facepaint. They aren’t that impressive in this as they move rather clunky. When the Authors of Pain debuted in NXT, they reminded me of a more athletic and more imposing version of the Headhunters.

Undertaker is backstage and confirms what Paul Bearer said is in fact true. Undertaker notes he and Kane had been playing with matches and that after his chores he saw the funeral home in flames and inside were his family. Undertaker notes that he now draws power from the spirits of his family and that power will allow him to strike down Paul Bearer. It’s incredible to think that the Undertaker (and his brother later on) got this story over and made it a convincing one for a sympathetic babyface in the Undertaker.

Vader def. Rockabilly by DQ
Gunn nails Vader with a guitar in his back which Vader essentially no sells. Undertaker runs down for the apparent DQ. Bearer gets on the mic and yells “Murderer, murderer.” Undertaker goes outside the ring and slaps Bearer in the face, yelling “Tell them the truth!” Bearer mumbles “Kane told me” and then yells “KANE IS ALIVE! HE’S ALIVE!” Vader attacks Undertaker after the momentous announcement.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin def. Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart by DQ
Another main event match between the two but it was about the aftermath after the match. Bret Hart (who isn’t in Calgary) interferes  and attacks Austin leading to the DQ. Hart applies the beautiful figure four leglock around the ringpost on Austin. Mankind attempts to make the save and applies the Mandible Claw on Bret which was a sight I don’t remember ever seeing in my WWE fandom between two of my favs. McMahon and the commentary team lose it and are yelling at all the action as RAW closes.

An incredibly eventful RAW to go into the Canadian Stampede. We had an attitude change of the Godwinns, the debut of Michael Cole, a third faction to join the race war fray against the NOD & DOA, the revelation of the Undertaker’s secret and that his brother Kane is alive. My personal highlight was seeing the Squat Team come out because of their unique stature and look but they were far from impressive. Lastly, we see Mankind continue to be an aid for Austin which begged the question why he wasn’t in the upcoming 10-man tag.

 

 

 

 

 

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’97 King of the Ring Review: June 8

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King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Ahmed Johnson
The commentators make note of how these two are from completely opposite worlds. Chyna comes on the apron to distract Ahmed and they exchange words which leads to Ahmed turning into a Pedigree and Hunter moving on to the King of the Ring finals.

King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Mankind def. Jerry “the King” Lawler
Mankind receives another positive ovation and cuts a babyface promo prior to the match so it looks like the turn is in full effect now. Mankind uses the Mandible Claw for the win and will meet Hunter in the Finals; a first of many encounters between the two.

Pillman is backstage talking about his upcoming match with Austin the following night on RAW when he is attacked by Austin. Austin shoves his face in the toilet and flushes it.

Goldust def. Crush

The Hart Foundation (Owen, Davey Boy & the Anvil) def. Sycho Sid & LOD
LOD and Sid cut a very early 90s style promo but remain very over with the crowd. Hart Foundation win with a bit of botched sunset flip into a pin by Owen on Sid.

Highlights of last year’s KOTR with the Austin 3:16 speech.

King of the Ring Final
Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Mankind
One of the great rivalries in it’s infancy here as these two square off. There were boring chants to begin with but this match was paced methodically and told a great story. There is a great ovation as Mankind applies the Mandible claw on Helmsley. Chyna gets involved numerous times. She nails Mankind with the KOTR scepter and even moves Hunter out of harm’s way as Mankind goes head first into the steel barricade. Hunter at one points rips off the mask of Mankind. He also hits a Pedigree driving Mankind through the announce table. Mankind attempts to get back in the ring after this but while on the apron, Helmsley hits a high knee sending Mankind into a camera man. Mankind, wrestling a great babyface style valiantly keeps getting back up and has the crowed solidly behind him as the story plays out. There’s a great reaction as Mankind kicks out after a close nearfall. Hunter hits another Pedigree and it does the job as Hunter Hearst Helmsley is your 1997 King of the Ring! Chyna (presumably now the Queen) aggressively brings Todd Pettengil in the ring for the coronation. Hunter dawns the robe but uses the crown (which he apparently hated) and nails Mankind in the back of the head as he stands over him, the new King. Commentary continue to praise Mankind as he eventually gets to his feet and makes his way to the back.

Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation comes out prior to the Austin-HBK match. Bret was supposed to remain ring side but ends up in the back but not before challenging 5 American wrestlers to a 10-Man Tag at the next pay-per-view; the Canadian Stampede!

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels ends in a Double DQ
I thought match of the night so definitely one to check out. Austin inadvertently hits the referee knocking him out and when he covered Michaels, the ref couldn’t make the 3-count. Austin ends up stunning the referee which the crowd enjoyed. Another referee comes in to check on the fallen ref despite Michaels now covering Austin. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music on this referee and a THIRD referee comes in to disqualify both men. The finish made sense as it protected both men and kept them both at equal footing.

WWE Championship
Undertaker (c) def. Faarooq
The story of this match was that we may see the first African-American champion. 20 years later we have had only the Rock as WWE Champion and Booker T and Mark Henry as World Heavyweight Champions. A cool spot happens when the Undertaker looks to walk the ropes and hit “Old School” (which I guess was just “school” at this point). Undertaker ends up diving onto the Nation who were outside the ring and takes them all out. At the end of the match, Faarooq is distracted by the dysfunction he sees among the Nation members. Faarooq turns around and the Undertaker hits the Tombstone for the win! Post-match, Paul Bearer orders the Undertaker to chokeslam Faarooq multiple times. Ahmed Johnson comes down and asks why the Undertaker is listening to Bearer and doing this. Ahmed hits the Pearl River Plunge on the Undertaker, perhaps also as retribution for the chokeslam the Undertaker hit Johnson with last week on RAW. There was no apparent alliance between Faarooq and Ahmed.

I thought overall a good show. I enjoyed the King of the Ring Final more than I thought I would and both men left that match better than when they went in so that was a plus! The Shawn Michaels-Steve Austin match was really good. There was a bit of a disruption early on with a fan with special needs falling over the barricade, but Michaels looked to ensure he made it back to his seat safely which made Shawn all the more endearing to his fans. I thought the main event was fine, I knew it couldn’t surpass the HBK/Stone Cold match but it was passeable. For all the great promo work Faarooq had done it was a bit of a shame that there really wasn’t a huge payoff and that this title program was essentially one and done.

’97 RAW is WAR Review: June 2

RAW starts off with a recap of the Tag Title win by Austin and HBK and also shows the Undertaker on bended knee as he reunites with Paul Bearer.

Undertaker makes his way ringside. Jim Ross on commentary compares the Undertaker to Andre the Giant and says Undertaker is not just a phenom, but THE Phenom. Paul Bearer also comes down ringside and tells the Undertaker he is his personal instrument of destruction. Bearer says with the Undertaker by his side he’ll be the ruler of the world. *Cue Sycho Sid’s music*. Sid comes out, returning to TV after a lengthy absence. Sid talks about their match and says he respected the Undertaker but now that the Undertaker is with Paul Bearer he can no longer put his rematch on hold. Undertaker and Sid go face to face and the match is on. Faarooq comes out and tells Sid and Undertaker that this time next week there will be black WWE Champion.

Faarooq def. Ahmed Johnson
We see highlights of the feud between Faarooq and Johnson. The Nation of Domination tries to interfere but the Undertaker makes the save and fights them off. Undertaker sends Faarooq into Ahmed and Ahmed ends up going head first into the steel steps on the outside of the ring. Faarooq tosses Johnson back in the ring and pins him for the win. Ahmed gets in the Undertaker’s face and they exchange words. Undertaker ends up choke slamming Ahmed.

We get a recap of Austin’s attack on Bret Hart’s knee followed by another ad for the the King of the Ring inflatable chairs. The Hart Foundation come out. Bret announces he will NOT be wrestling at the King of the Ring. Austin and Michaels (who are separate backstage) respond to Bret but end up arguing with one another via divided screen. Brian Pillman suggests that Austin square off against Michaels at the King of the Ring and then Pillman and Austin can fight the next night on RAW. Austin accepts and says he’ll kick Pillman’s little crippled, raspy, hoarse voice a**.

Intercontinental Championship
Owen Hart (c) def. Bob Holly
After getting the upset on Owen two weeks before, Holly earns a title shot. Owen retains with the Sharpshooter.

Michaels backstage and accepts the match with Austin. We also get a recap of Mankind’s sit down interview from last week. There is also another Sunny super soaker ad with Cornette, Honky Tonk Man and the Headbangers.

Goldust def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
This was a #1 Contenders match for the European championship next week on RAW. Chyna looked to drape Goldust over the top rope but Marlena grabs the leg of Chyna. Hunter looks to hit the high knee on Goldust but he gets out of the way and Hunter ends up nailing Chyna sending her off the ring apron. Goldust rolls up Huner for the win.

World Tag Team Championship
Legion of Doom def. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels (c) by Countout
This was a strange match as far as match psychology. Usually Hawk and Animal dominate their opponents but in this one they were up against two top stars. Hawk and Animal are weak as sympathetic babyfaces as Austin used heel tactics to his advantage and as much as they beat down Shawn, his come backs were great and fans were solidly behind him and Austin in this one.

Mankind’s sit down interview with Jim Ross continues as they look at his time as Cactus Jack and the death matches. Mankind says he was at home in these death matches. Mankind notes it was the first time he was respected and possibly even loved. Mankind says contrarily now in the WWE he is spat at and has forsaken his dignity. Mankind points to scars, his ear, and bruises from over the years and says it is a road map of all his previously destinations. Simple yet effective in adding layers to the depth of the Mankind character and perhaps creating acceptance of Mick Foley as a top performer.

Mankind def. Savio Vega
Mankind gets a positive reaction which is noted by commentary so we are amidst a babyface turn. Mankind attacks Lawler who was on commentary as Lawler would face the winner of the match in semi-finals of the King of the Ring. The referee restores order. As Mankind has the mandible claw applied on Savio, Crush looks to nail Mankind but hits Vega instead. Mankind picks up the win and Crush and Vega begin to fight. Faarooq makes his ways ringside but returns backstage rather than break up the fight.

The Undertaker def. Sycho Sid
I thought this was Sid’s championship rematch but it is announced as a non-title match. Sid gets a strong ovation upon his entrance. Undertaker hits the tombstone for the win. The Nation of Domination attacks Undertaker after the match. Sid looks to fight off Crush and Savio but Faarooq clips him at the knee taking him out. Faarooq begins to whip the Undertaker as the crowd chants LOD but LOD does not come out. Sid and the Undertaker are laid out and the Nation of Domination make their way backstage as RAW goes off the air.

I can’t say I enjoyed this go-home edition of RAW too much. The Mankind interviews continue to be a great hit but on this edition we lost all the major matches minus the title match for the pay-per-view. Bret and Shawn was called off due to Bret’s injury and Pillman and Austin was cancelled without cause simply to lead to Austin and Shawn without a proper build. Things backstage must have been in disarray because the WWE is usually pretty good at not changing plans last minute but overall not an exciting RAW compared to weeks past.

’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.