WWF RAW IS WAR (10/20/1997)

10/20/1997

Myriad Convention Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

(reviewed 08/05/2019)

[cw: gay slurs, racist imagery and epithets]

Tag team action kicks things off right away. The Legion of Doom hit the ring to back up Ahmed Johnson and Ken Shamrock (the latter of whom gets a big-ass reaction here) in their fight with the Nation of Domination. They all brawl for a minute before the match actually gets under way.

The Nation of Domination (Rocky Maivia & Kama Mustafa) vs Ahmed Johnson & Ken Shamrock

We see that DX are lounging up on the stage again during this match and they’ve brought signs in support of… well, not any of the guys in the ring, just themselves.

March 29, 1998 can’t come fast enough. This match kind of rules. Crowd is hot for all these guys and they manage to live up to that heat for once, especially Shamrock. Eventually Rick Rude wanders down to the ring but we don’t actually catch sight of what he does, though a few minutes later Faarooq rushes the ring with the briefcase Rude is always carrying around and beats Shamrock down with it as the referee’s distracted. That allows Rocky to crawl over and steal the pinfall.

When Rude leaves with the rest of his pals he’s suddenly recovered his briefcase. Hmmmm. Seems like something fishy’s going on between DX and the Nation of Domination or at the very least DX is able to manipulate the extremists to their own gain. Wonder how that comes back around. Anywho, Shawn flashes the crowd as Triple H holds a sign up to cover his bare ass. Ahmed chases the Nation to the back. As the LOD leave the Godwinns come out of the crowd and attack them with trash cans. Tons of shit happening all at once, baby, it is the Attitude Era!!!!!!

Back from a break we actually get a good look at Rude handing off his briefcase to Faarooq:

After that Vince hypes up the appearance of a former WCW champion later on tonight! Wonder who that could be. Also scheduled: Bret Hart vs Faarooq and Shawn Michaels vs Owen Hart in a title vs title match!

Michael Cole’s backstage to talk to the Nation of Domination but they stormed out moments ago after realizing their locker room had been trashed and defaced with all sorts of racist shit:

You might catch certain things there that suggest that some Canadians perpetrated this hate crime, including the very on-the-nose “Hart’s Rule”. Huh. Before Cole can get too far in describing the scene, we cut back to ringside to find Faarooq yelling in Vince McMahon’s face. He’s clearly pissed about the graffiti and about Vince’s claims that there’s no racism in his company. Vince can barely respond before Faarooq’s in the ring with a mic and the rest of the Nation, running down his usual spiel before demanding that Bret come to the ring for their match right here and now. As they wait for the Canadians to arrive, Vince drops this classic white guy line: “Vandalism does not necessarily relate to racism.”

Faarooq vs Bret Hart

The Hart Foundation members all come out one by one, each pulling on their gear and dragging titles around, clearly unprepared to be called out like this. It’s almost as if they were in their own locker room and not running around causing mischief. DX wanders down to see what happens shortly after the match starts, sitting in on commentary and feigning shock at Bret Hart’s apparent racism.

Faarooq goes right after Bret as soon as he gets in the ring, kicking off this little barnburner in a big way. As soon as Bret gets the chance he stomps over to take a swing at Shawn, but he’s stopped by the Nation members and kicks off a brawl on the floor that dissipates during commercial. After the break DX is gone and the match continues, being as snappy and forceful as anything these guys have done over the last two years. Wish they could’ve hooked up in a match this intense without such a shitty angle. Another brawl kicks off when Bret goes for the corner figure four but the ref still refuses to throw the match out and instead busies himself trying to break up the fight. During the bedlam Stone Cold Steve Austin emerges from the crowd, slides in the ring, and hits the stunner on Faarooq to a truly u n b e l i e v a b l e pop. Cannot emphasize how huge the reaction is. Bret staggers back in the ring and is more than willing to take an easy win, covering Faarooq to win his final match in WWF (not just on TV, in general) until 2010.

Worth noting that Jerry Lawler, the heel commentator, is the only one to stand up for the Harts and cast aspersion to DX during that whole angle and match, once again suggesting that you are meant to be cheering for the guys framing other people for hate crimes.

Two kinds of wrestling fans:

WOOOOO THE KARATE FIGHTERS TOURNAMENT IS BACK! Unfortunately so is Kevin Kelly.

Can’t figure out who the hell this ‘Grand Master Robbie’ is, in large part because any relevant information online is just passing mentions of his name in old blog posts about Sunday Night Heat. This man may in fact be the earliest surviving creation of WWE’s horrifying commentator clone experiment. As you can see he can only really communicate in short, uninteresting quips, so he’s about as good as any other commentator WWE have dredged up over the last two decades.

After the commentary team talks up an article about Kane in the newest WWF Magazine, the former WCW champion Vince mentioned earlier finally arrives: it’s Jeff Jarrett! Crowd doesn’t seem to recognize who he is (which sort of makes sense, given that he’s in a suit and collared shirt in a real departure from his usual look) but more importantly they don’t care what he says, which ain’t good. He starts by saying that Jeff Jarrett was all but dead last week on WCW Nitro, as Eric Bischoff did everything he could to bury the man since he refused the boss’ offer for a new contract. Since he wasn’t one of Bischoff’s boys, there was a hard limit to his potential. Jarrett says he was one of the youngest, hottest wrestlers Bischoff had but he let him stew in mediocrity. He takes a jab at Steve McMichael and his then-wife Debra, which is a fun little preview of the upcoming Austin/Jarrett debacle (that, to be clear, has nothing to do with Debra). Turning his attention to the booth, Jarrett tells Vince not to snicker and smile because he left WWF two years ago for these same reasons. Bischoff did what he did out of ignorance or inexperience in the business, but what was Vince’s excuse?

Feels like a good time to mention that there are quite a few fans throwing trash in the ring during this promo. That’s been becoming a bigger and bigger issue of late in basically all three of the major American wrestling companies. You can probably trace it back to Bash at the Beach ‘96 but it will continue to be a constant factor for at least another year or two before everybody starts to crack down on both this and fans hopping the barricade. We’ll hear about it soon in regards to a few incidents with Shawn Michaels but I bring it up here because somebody decides to throw a Scream knockoff mask at Vince as Jarrett’s laying into him:

Jarrett’s issue is that Vince wanted to make him out to be this big goofy country singer and that idea sucked. Vince booked him with a clown, a drug addict, and a black man who can’t even speak English. One of those things ain’t like the other, Jeff. The way Jarrett sees it, Vince took out his aggression about not being able to kill off Memphis in the 80s on him, Jerry Jarrett’s son. Now Vince has him back and for a much bigger contract too, because Vince needs him. The boss told him to come out here and shoot and that’s exactly what he’s doing. Vince can take “With My Baby Tonight” and stick it up his butt.

Bafflingly, the promo continues. Jarrett turns his attention to the state of affairs in WWF, first with Bret Hart. Bret says he’s the best there ever was and Jarrett agrees with him, with “was” being the key word there. His shtick of running off name recognition for the last 15 years ends tonight. Shawn Michaels, he’s only fit enough to wrestle once a week and somehow he’s proud of that. Once upon a time Shawn was the main event but now he’s so broken down he can only hide behind his infantile attitude. And speaking of attitude, what about Steve Austin? Here’s a guy who’s lowered himself to coming out 10 or 15 times a week and saying the word “ass” just to get himself noticed. As far as his blasphemous merchandise is concerned, Jarrett is offended by that. He’s offended by someone ripping off the Bible to put money in his pocket. When they meet up, it’s gonna be Stone Cold’s judgment day.

I’m a bigger defender of Jeff Jarrett than your average wrestling fan but goddamn is this just an awful way to debut a returning character, or any character at all. I get wanting to play up to the anti-establishment and shootier elements that have become all the fucking rage in wrestling but it’s not at all Jarrett’s forte, especially when it makes him come across as a real prude in some ways. Being the kayfabe-breaking religious defender throwing jabs at the three most popular guys in the company is a recipe for disaster and unsurprisingly it works out real poorly for the guy. Aside from the opening match, this segment does the weakest quarter hour rating of any segment on RAW tonight, all as Nitro does their highest rating ever for an opposed show. Not a good sign for the guy going forward.

Marc Mero vs Brian Christopher

Sable again comes to the ring with her husband while Christopher is accompanied by his dad. Jim Ross does a great job of hyping up Mero, saying that this is a make or break time in his career after spending so much time away due to injury, but Lawler and Vince literally say that they want to talk about Sable and Christopher instead. Really sums up the guy’s career. Do I mean Mero or JR? Yes.

Match is actually alright, thankfully. Christopher’s antics finally find a good use in ridiculing and then selling huge for Mero’s boxing ability. Most of the stuff they do outside of that is mediocre but Mero’s past the point of attempting much in the way of highflying so they at least avoid anything that ends up being too clunky or awkward. During the match Lawler takes issue with the way WWF Shop has been advertising the new Stone Cold Steve Austin ballcap, so he takes one over to Sable and forces it onto her head. Mero sees her wearing another man’s merch and angrily rips it off her head before throwing it into the crowd. Lawler tries to interfere but just opens his son up for a low blow behind the ref’s back, which is followed quickly by the TKO that puts him away.

Top of the hour opens with a neat little hype package for the Owen/Shawn match up next. Owen Hart may be the true Hitman of the Hart Foundation due to the way that he’s severely injured the likes of Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the past. Shawn Michaels and D-Generation X are public enemy number one of the Hart Foundation, having humiliated the Harts endlessly in recent weeks. It’s on tonight in a title for title match between two bitter rivals.

Owen Hart enters first, coming to the ring alone. He challenges Shawn to leave his pals behind too so the winner of this match can walk out with all the gold that they won on their own. Triple H, Chyna, and Rick Rude come out on their own and confer between themselves for a while, sort of acting like their microphone is dead when it very clearly isn’t. Guess it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening when you’re as pilled out as this group is. Eventually Rude does his usual promo and introduces Shawn, who urges his friends to the back in agreement with Owen’s challenge.

Owen Hart (c) vs Shawn Michaels (c)

WWF Intercontinental Championship and WWF European Championship

Good as usual. Oklahoma can’t decide whether or not they want to cheer for Owen, which isn’t helped by some mixed signals from this heel vs heel match itself, but it doesn’t stop these two from delivering some snappy, highflying action. Owen lays Shawn out with the enzuigiri just like he does in all these matches but before he can capitalize Stone Cold again emerges from the crowd. He hits a stunner on the referee as these Sooners lose their goddamn minds.

As you can see Shawn then connects with Sweet Chin Music but the ref isn’t able to make the count. Bret Hart hits the ring and beats down on Shawn but soon DX, the Hart Foundation, and a bunch of officials break things up. No announcement is made on air but Jim Ross speculates that the match will be ruled a no contest.

Making his first appearance of any kind since Badd Blood, the Undertaker speaks in a pre-tape promo. For over twenty years he’s walked the face of this earth carrying the grief of a family lost—but in a moment’s time the brother he thought he lost forever appeared before him. But he didn’t see brotherly love in that man’s eyes. Instead he saw the hatred of a man whose mind was poisoned. Paul Bearer has ensured that he is now living in hell but it doesn’t matter. He vows to never fight his own flesh and blood. The Undertaker will never fight Kane.

Scheduled next is a match between Dude Love and the British Bulldog but Kane interrupts the Dude’s entrance. Dude tries to fight back, first with some punches and then a steel chair, but he’s treated to a chokeslam on the ramp for his troubles. A second one, this time facing down the ramp, leaves him motionless as Kane stomps off.

Next, tragedy. The first New Age Outlaws match on Monday Night RAW.

They’re not called that yet but Road Dogg’s doing the whole intro shtick and they’ve both got their nicknames, so we’re basically in hell already. Never occurred to me before now how awful Gunn’s nickname is, by the way. Just calling himself “Badass” long before he ever starts doing the butt stuff is hilarious lame, which I guess fits with the team as a whole.

Road Dogg & Billy Gunn vs The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher)

The not-Outlaws dig into a lot of power offense and simple cheating, none of which gets any reaction at all. Headbangers at least gets some pops for their creative (not good, but creative) tandem moves. Gunn grabs the boombox the Headbangers brought to the ring and smashes it over Thrasher’s head to cut off their comeback and hand his partner an easy win.

Road Dogg gets up in the faces of the commentators afterward. He tells Vince, who’s not wearing glasses, to take his glasses off or he’ll smack ‘em off his face for him. He then calls Vince and JR both freaks before adding in that Lawler is a faggot. Cool, I guess. Very compelling heel work from a team I expect big things from.

Coming back from a break we get a brief clip from Bret Hart’s latest appearance on MADtv, which will be airing next month. After that Sunny heads to the ring in a hell of a white dress, kicking off her heels before announcing the competitors in the following match. That’s accompanied by clips from the recent press conference announcing Taka Michinoku’s signing with the WWF and yet another insane botch of a Japanese name they’ve gotten right before several times.

Shit has to be a rib at this point. Like goddamn.

Taka Michinoku vs Yoshihiro Tajiri

Great, great stuff for as long as it lasts. Both guys hit (and miss) some massive dives and connect with lots of other slick highflying and some strong striking to boot. Hate that this doesn’t even get three minutes. During this match we hear about the upcoming light heavyweight tournament for the first time, which will crown the first ever (not ever, but, y’know) WWF Light Heavyweight Champion. Both Taka and Brian Christopher are announced as competitors, so Lawler spends this entire match talking up his son and shitting on anything these guys do.

After that we get another goddamn Jim Cornette rant about Phil Mushnick, cocksucking shit ass fuck. Couldn’t find this one uploaded anywhere already so I had to clip it out myself.

I just… I’m so fucking tired of wrestling and its fans.

Godwinns are in tag team action next. Despite being from Arkansas, they’re attempting to get some local heat by defacing some Sooners merch in favor of the Texas Longhorns.

We get a recap of the Godwinns’ actions last week during and after their title match. They also rough up the referee during the DOA’s entrance, so the company is clearly doing everything they can to get heat on them.

This is supposed to be Skull and 8-Ball against the Godwinns with TV time remaining but the full force of the DOA just jumps the hog farmers so the match never actually gets going. For some goddamn reason the Truth Commission then gets involved, fighting on the side of the Godwinns, and everybody wanders their way through a listless brawl during which you could hear a fucking pin drop.

Then, OUT OF NOWHERE, we cut to a promo from Mankind back in the boiler room. He says everyone thinks they’ve seen madness but they don’t know what it is. He’s the master of madness, of mayhem, of malice, and even cruelty. The Undertaker might have qualms about fighting his own brother but Mankind has no such principles. If it were his own dear, sweet grandmother who dropped an innocent kid like Dude Love on his head, then the old bag would go down. So Kane, Mankind will fight you anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Have a nice day!

Foley promo aside, what a fucking atrocious end to RAW. I suppose it makes some sense, in that this is one of those times where Nitro starts an hour early so RAW can load up on shit in the back half when there’s no other wrestling on, but I truly cannot fathom watching something like the last ten minutes of this show and then tuning in again the next week. Guess I’m the fucking putz for doing it 20+ years after the fact.

Three onscreen appearances for Chyna tonight and none of ‘em featured any shitty jokes thrown her way. Ratio comes to 10 transphobic jokes in 48 appearances.

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