WWF RAW IS WAR (10/13/1997)

taped 10/07/1997, aired 10/13/1997

Landon Arena, Topeka, Kansas, United States

(reviewed 08/04/2019)

[cw: mention of sexual assault]

This is a special episode that largely revolves around the Legion of Doom, who are putting their careers on the line tonight in a tag title match against the Godwinns. RAW thus opens with a quick recap of their careers, featuring a recorded sit-down interview with the two men, and a tease of that title match to come.

The Hart Foundation heads to the ring for a promo but they’re interrupted by Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Chyna, and Rick Rude, who are all goofing off backstage. They get their yucks in and replay footage from last wee, where Shawn was sticking the Canadian flag up his nose and superkicking Bret Hart. Notably Helmsley refers to himself as Triple H for the first time onscreen and also claims to have a much bigger dick than Bret. Eventually Bret fires back, calling them all degenerates and urging them to come to the ring right now. They laugh it off, saying they’ve already beaten the Hitman on WrestleMania and on RAW, so they might as well wait for Survivor Series. Then they take issue with Bret’s use of the word ‘degenerate’ and finally dub themselves D-Generation X. Bret threatens them before everyone moves on, saying that they won’t make it as far as Montreal.

The Nation of Domination then interrupts the proceedings, kickstarting the scheduled match between Owen Hart and Kama Mustafa. Before that actually starts up DX head down to ringside, allowing Kama to jump Owen as the Canadian is distracted.

Owen Hart vs Kama Mustafa

Shawn and Haitch shove their way onto commentary here, robbing me of any chance of enjoying this match. Jerry Lawler tries to convince DX to join him as the new commentary trio, saying they could be like three Marv Alberts. Instead they yell him before giving his headset to Rude. They all munch on bananas, theoretically playing up Bret’s use of slurs last week, and then proceed to take a dig at Stu Hart: “Stu Hart’s dead, although his body and brain don’t know it. The guy’s still walking around Calgary, Alberta like he’s alive for god’s sake.” Shortly afterward the Nation members attack the Harts as DX gleefully watch. In the bedlam Shawn dons a kufi cap from one of the Nation members, which is surely the closest he’s ever come to engaging with black culture. The brawl spreads to the two men in the ring, resulting in the ref calling the match off.

We head to commercial just as the Harts are staggering to their feet again, with DX laughing at them from up on the stage. After that break we get another clip from the LOD interview, wherein they talk up Paul Ellering’s role in making them the team they are.

That takes us to a promo from the Godwinns backstage. They’re willing to risk losing their titles if it means getting rid of the Legion of Doom. They grew up watching the LOD but it’s the Godwinns’ time now.

Tarantula & Mosaic vs Max Mini & Nova

Better than their PPV outing but it doesn’t get a lot of time to prove that. Tecnicos hit a pair of incredible topes moments before Max Mini puts Mosaic away with a slick sunset flip in two minutes.

Worth noting something that happens just before and during that match. Vince and Jim Ross confront Lawler for wanting to ditch the two of them on commentary earlier and citing Marv Albert. If you weren’t aware, Albert, who is a famous sportscaster known for being the voice of the New York Knicks since the 60s, was embroiled in sexual assault charges around this time. Several women accused him of biting them and forcing them to perform sexual acts, with DNA evidence backing these claims up. He pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery charges last month before ending up with 12 months of probation. He then resigned from his position at the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG being where the Knicks play) and was fired by NBC (where he was the lead NBA commentator), though he’ll return to both organizations before long. I’m bringing this up now because it’ll be relevant to a segment later on.

Heading into the scheduled match between Flash Funk and Shawn Michaels, we get a recap of Funk’s match on Shotgun Saturday Night a few days ago. During his match with the Rockabilly, the Honky Tonk Man accidentally swiped his own client’s foot and allowed Funk to win with a rollup. Afterward the debuting Road Dogg (the former Jesse Jammes) struts down and confronts both men, saying that Rockabilly deserves better than HTM and together they could be money. At first it seems like Rockabilly turns him down but then he cracks his guitar over the Honky Tonk Man’s head, forming a new partnership that’s going to plague these reviews for years to come.

Flash Funk comes out for his match with HBK but he’s met by Kane, who kills him like he did with the Hardy Boys last week. Bearer reiterates his plan to run through the entirety of the locker room until they’re able to take down the Undertaker. Once they leave DX finally shows up and Shawn rushes to cover the comatose Funk. Triple H counts the pinfall, Chyna rings the bell, and Rude announces the phony win. They all gesticulate toward their genitals on their way to the back.

Legion of Doom talk about their thousands of fans in another clip from the interview, saying that the reactions they’ve gotten over the years are like nothing else they’ve ever experienced.

The Truth Commission cuts a quick promo backstage heading into their match. They’re now being led by the Jackyl, who you’ll know as Cyrus the Virus from ECW or Don Callis from way too many promotions in the years since. The Commandant is no more, being that WWF was having difficulty getting his visa in order and the fact that he was a 40+ year old professional actor and thus somebody who couldn’t take the bumps they would want him to do. Jackyl says the DOA’s motorized joyride through the WWF ends here.

The Truth Commission (Recon & Sniper) vs DOA (8-Ball & Skull)

Bad. Bad bad bad. These guys are bad wrestlers to begin with but then Vince and Lawler spend the whole time cracking jokes about Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, being sure to dig into some good ol’ fashioned transphobia while they’re at it. Vince also takes a shot at Phil Mushnick AND BOY WILL WE HEAR MORE ABOUT THAT LATER. Eventually the Jackyl pulls down the ropes as one of the Neo-Nazis tries bouncing off, which is enough for the referee to call for a disqualification.

Big brawl between both teams takes us to another ad break. We get a recap of it and the Nation/Harts brawl from earlier once we return. Vince claims that all these teams are in the building still and tempers could flare once again.

Stone Cold Steve Austin once again heads to the ring for a promo at the top of the hour. He glances through the contract Vince has got in hand as the boss declares that he’ll be reinstated November 9th at Survivor Series once he signs on the dotted line. Austin demands that Vince signs first, since he trusts the man as far as he can throw him. Noting the crowd’s response, Austin plays to them directly for one of the first times, asking if he should trust Vince. They answer with a hearty ‘no’, unsurprisingly. Vince obliges him, signing the contract, and he stops Austin when he turns to leave. If he doesn’t sign, he can’t face Owen Hart in Montreal. That’s enough to persuade Austin, who steps up onto the ropes to allow the crowd to see his signature.

Now that that’s done, Austin thinks there’s only one thing left for him to do. Vince bristles, fearing another stunner, but Austin chuckles at him and says he just wants to shake the man’s hand.

Austin yanks the boss back in, muttering a threat before he goes: “Just like that I coulda turned your lights out and you know that’s the truth.” Vince again stops him, trying to get to the bottom of what Stone Cold was doing at Badd Blood. Austin says he’s got no problem with Faarooq or the Nation of Domination, just that the guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bottom line is that Steve Austin gets what Steve Austin wants and he wants Owen Hart’s ass and the Intercontinental title and he wants ‘em both quick.

Before he can leave he’s stopped by the Nation of Domination. Faarooq says that he crossed over to the wrong side of the railroad tracks at Badd Blood and there ain’t no white picket fence and three car garages over there. People on that side of town gotta sacrifice for whatever they get and Austin just sacrificed his ass to the Nation of Domination. Austin plays coy, pretending to not understand a single thing the gravely-voiced Faarooq said, but he gets that the guy is mad. If any one of them want to come to the ring and try to whip the ass of a man with a bad neck, they can go ahead and try. Rocky Maivia’s still eager to prove himself so Faarooq sends him down to make a little history:

Awesome, awesome segment. Austin’s antics and Vince’s reactions are both hilarious, it ties together a few stories in a more interesting way than we’ve seen lately, and it even manages to make a fun nod to a future feud. Couldn’t ask for anything better.

Another clip from that LOD interview covers the famous moment when they rode their motorcycles into Wembley Stadium for SummerSlam ‘92. That takes us to the last of Sable’s lazer tag ads:

Don’t love jokes at the expense of little people but that’s a fun ad. It takes us to yet another LOD interview thing, with a lengthy examination of their origins as a team, and then an actual promo from the two backstage. Animal says tonight they find out if they have the fire and desire to be champions again. They had their opportunities months ago and didn’t get it done. They won’t end up as a pair of old-timers living off their laurels from the past, specifically citing Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage by name. The competition today is tougher than ever before and if they can’t cut it, they’re outta here. Hawk chimes in at the end, saying they’re gonna find out if they’re kings of the hill or over the hill. Far and away the most enjoyable, most endearing, and most coherent promo I’ve ever heard them cut. Hope that match pans out.

Heading into light heavyweight action, Vince mentions that we’re getting another Jim Cornette rant after this. This one will be on Phil Mushnick. Lawler asks what Vince thinks of the man and Vince says he’s a miserable son of a bitch, getting a loud bleep and the first one in several months. Gotta make the boss man look cool, I guess.

Brian Christopher vs Yoshihiro Tajiri

WOOOOO, TAJIRI’S BACK. He and Christopher get the longest match of the night so far, which rules. Lots of great kicks from Tajiri and Christopher does well to cover for when Tajiri loses the thread. During the match JR and Vince continue to point out that Christopher looks like Lawler’s kid but the King denies it. Years ago, he says, he got a vasectomy and put it on his credit card. When he forgot to pay the bill the finance company came over and got his wife pregnant. Very funny joke, first Lawler joke I’ve enjoyed in a long time. He then follows it up by saying Christopher doesn’t know martial arts and he thinks judo is the stuff they make bagels out of, so it’s always a fucking mixed bag with him. Tajiri very nearly scores with an O’Connor roll but Christopher uses the positioning to grab a handful of tights and trap Tajiri in a rollup.

Next is another Jim Cornette rant, this time on Phil Mushnick:

You might recall that Mushnick is a sportswriter for the New York Post who is an avowed opponent of professional wrestling. He’s appeared briefly in my reviews before. This is another example of Vince Russo riling up Cornette to go after a guy they both hate, being that Russo has long-standing beef with Mushnick due to his coverage of the WWF steroid trials.

Mushnick didn’t say much about Pillman’s death this week, basically just what Cornette reads here and a little more that I’ll get to in a second. Lately he’s been taking shots at WCW instead, though a few weeks before this he criticized the folks at Madison Square Garden for letting Marv Albert go but keeping WWF around. He’s got plenty of issues with WWF and wrestling as a whole but he tends to focus on steroid use, which was something he mentioned Pillman partaking in.

However inflammatory his language may be, Mushnick ain’t wrong. The proceedings of professional wrestling are handled either with kid gloves or a ten foot pole by the rest of the world, allowing all sorts of tragic events and nefarious actions to take place under the guise of redneck entertainment. There’s a quote that I’ll probably be returning to in the future that comes from Mushnick’s TV Guide webchat from this week and it reads as follows: “Sadly, the early deaths of professional wrestlers is treated much like the deaths of cartoon characters. They can’t be real people, so they can’t die real deaths.

That’s more true today than it was 22 years ago. Government oversight and a nonplussed public allow WWE (and other wrestling companies, don’t get me wrong) to grind their guys into dust, to bleed their employees independent contractors dry for the sake of the almighty dollar. Vince Russo riling up a close friend of the latest victim of that process and Vince McMahon signing off on what that friend says about one of the only people in the public sphere willing to address these and other issues is just as gross as the Melanie Pillman interview last week.

I almost can’t blame Cornette because he’s just another cog in the machine designed to put bodies in the ground for the sake of butts in the seats. Still, he’s the central figure in a pre-emptive strike by WWF against their most public, most vocal opponent, who they fear will soon turn the spotlight on them in the wake of Pillman’s demise if they don’t stir up an outcry against him first. This is rallying the troops, circling the wagons, readying the pitchforks and torches in preparation for the other group gathering across town, all in the name of a man they allowed to work himself to death. It’s no different from the Stand Up For WWE shit we saw more recently. It’s simply despicable, all the more so because it worked as we’ll begin to see next week. You won’t find more gutless, unscrupulous bootlickers than the ones who watch pro wrestling.

Vince is clearly pleased afterward: “Amen and amen.”

Goldust vs Savio Vega

First time we’ve seen or heard from Goldust and Marlena since Pillman’s death. Vince mentions that the two of them were meant to renew their vows last week on RAW (which would have turned out to be a hoax, as Marlena would reveal to have been on Pillman’s side all along) but out of respect for the deceased they chose not to. Along with that Vince and Lawler take a number of jabs at Hulk Hogan and WCW, something they’ve been doing more and more lately as business turns around and their confidence picks up.

Match itself isn’t anything special, even if these guys are more than good enough for some snug strikes and the like. Savio’s Boricuas buddies distract Goldust long enough for him to take over, though it gets them sent to the back by the referee. The smaller of the two men retains control thanks to his quick thinking and famous spinning heel kicks but eventually Marlena starts slipping things to her man in the ring, so Goldust’s able to get the win off whacking Savio with his wife’s loaded purse.

Los Boricuas rush the ring to check on their man as Goldust and Marlena flee. That’s followed by a cute little ad for some action figures:

Next we’re meant to be getting The Patriot vs Triple H but as the masked man is entering Rick Rude sneaks up from behind and wallops him with a briefcase. Back in the ring Shawn Michaels announces Triple H’s hard-fought win as the supposed winner feigns exhaustion. Before long Commissioner Slaughter has seen enough and comes down to berate both men. Since it’s clear Triple H’s opponent can’t compete, they’ll have to find a new one for him. Luckily someone’s already volunteered. As Slaughter continues, DX sends Rude to the back to intercept whoever’s back there and drops the first ‘suck it’ on television, which gets bleeped out.

Ahmed Johnson’s music hits and he comes down to beat some ass but before he can get in the ring he’s attacked by the Nation of Domination. DX slip past and sit to watch up on the stage, munching on popcorn and cackling the whole time. Soon the LOD and Ken Shamrock hit the ring to run the baddies off so DX hightail it out of there. Road Warrior Animal grabs a mic, saying that they’ve got more to prove tonight, and he calls the Godwinns out for their title match.

The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) (c) vs The Legion of Doom (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal)

WWF Tag Team Championship vs The Legion of Doom’s Career

Sort of vaguely had hopes for this, and it certainly does still function for a live crowd who wants to see the good guys win, but man did I not like this match. The sit-down interview LOD did made me think that maybe they were going to put a little something extra into this match or change up the format in some interesting way to sell, y’know, their careers being on the line, but that’s not what we get. Instead we get a more dramatic, big match version of the shit they do twice a month on TV already. This is a better version of that than I’ve yet seen, sure, something a little more emphatic than usual, but it’s frustrating all the same. The Godwinns aren’t intense enough or vicious enough to milk the career-ending angle and I don’t find the LOD to be strong enough babyfaces to make up the difference.

LOD shines early before they manage to isolate Hawk by way of a cheap shot, thereafter going at his ribs and back in a big way. He manages to make a hot tag out but the ref doesn’t see it happen and escorts Animal back into his corner. That allows Henry and Uncle Cletus to jump Animal from behind as Phineas takes care of Hawk back in the ring, shoving Animal shoulder-first into the ring steps. He’s banged up so officials start to escort him to the back. As that’s happening, the remaining referee takes umbrage with the two-on-one assault by the Godwinns, so Henry gives him a Slop Drop for his troubles. Animal manages to see his partner getting beaten down with no rescue in sight up on the tron, so he gets real hot and rushes back to the ring to save him. LOD manage to rally but can only do so much against three men until Animal ducks out of the way of Uncle Cletus’ lucky horseshoe, which hits its mark on Phineas’ face instead. Phineas goes for a powerbomb on Animal but Hawk catches him with a clothesline off the top and that’s enough to save their careers when a second referee slides in the ring.

Godwinns are pissed at Uncle Cletus afterward, beating him down bad enough that they bust up his nose real good. RAW ends with them standing tall over their rejected relative.

So, with DX forming and everything, Chyna’s gonna be on these episodes a lot more often than she used to be. As long as they’re distinctly different segments I like to keep multiple appearances throughout a show separate, so I’m gonna start tallying them at the end of each review instead of bringing the count up every time. This time around she made three appearances onscreen and managed to avoid getting any shit slung her way, so our ratio improves to 10 transphobic jokes in her 45 appearances now.

 

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