WWF RAW IS WAR (11/03/1997)


Hersheypark Arena, Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States

(reviewed 08/11/2019)

[cw: sexual assault, gay slurs]

Stone Cold Steve Austin stomps to the ring to start us off. Vince McMahon joins him for an interview, noting that Austin’s finally getting his long-awaited rematch with Owen Hart on Sunday. Austin’s pissed off that he’s had to sit around at home instead of doing what he does best here in the ring, so he’s taking out his frustration in getting his revenge on Owen. Vince notes that Austin’s managed to piss off just about everybody in the WWF on his way to Montreal but Austin doesn’t much care. All he did is watch Owen’s back so he could regain the Intercontinental title himself. If someone like Ahmed Johnson gets in his way it’s just somebody being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ahmed then hits the ring, accompanied by a flock of officials who are trying to avoid a showdown between the two wrestlers. Vince steps to Ahmed to get a word and strongly, hilariously urges everyone to keep an eye on Austin as his back’s turned. Such a perfect little thing for Vince to do there. Ahmed tries to speak but he’s pretty well drowned out by chants for Austin. Up until last week he respected the man but now he’s got no choice but to kick Austin’s ass. Austin might have all these fans behind him but Ahmed’s never cared about standing on his own, as he’s been living alone since he was 13 years old. Kind of a shame that Ahmed’s career is basically over at this point because he cuts a pretty good promo here in challenging Austin to a match tonight. Austin agrees so we’ll get the dude’s first televised match since SummerSlam later tonight, supposedly!

Sunny’s out next to introduce the first match in the light heavyweight title tournament. Brian Christopher also joins commentary for this one and does his usual thing of running down the competing cruiserweights.

Aguila vs Super Loco

WWF Light Heavyweight Championship Tournament First Round Match

You’ll probably know Aguila either by this name or as Essa Rios while Loco is a pre-ECW Super Crazy. These guys are talented and all but this match never really gets going, in large part due to some huge botches on Loco’s end. He’s a ten year veteran but doesn’t yet have nearly the same amount of confidence and slickness that he’d have even a year or two later while Aguila’s only 19 with three years of experience, so all that contributes to a real awkward match with some nifty moves here and there. Aguila advances with a standard moonsault, which feels pretty weak after some of the other stuff that actually clicked here.

Next is… god, I don’t even know. Several times throughout the show already Jim Ross has hyped up footage of what he refers to “the rape of [Marlena’s] dignity” by Goldust. (I take so much umbrage with this segment and angle but I also fucking hate Jim’s description of it.) We get that here, which turns out to be a sit-down interview between the three of them, the interview we’ve been promised since Brian Pillman’s passing. Marlena addresses how happy she is to be back with her husband and child after the Pillman angle (they don’t call it an angle but might as well have) as Goldust sits and stews in the seat next to her.

Eventually Goldust has had enough and says he can’t do this anymore. Turning to Terri he says everything coming out of her mouth makes him sick. All his life he’s lived for his father and for her and it’s only ever made him unhappy, living under their rule. He asserts that no one, least of all her, knows who he really is inside. Finally, Goldust makes a revelation. A quote:

“I wasn’t at home sitting there for a month. I watched you occasionally and I was wondering what the hell you could have been doing. Do you know what? I found somebody. I found somebody, somebody who knows me now, who understands my insides, who believes in me and lets me do whatever the hell I want to do.”

He continues as Marlena breaks down and questions why he’s choosing to do this here of all places, saying that he hasn’t loved her for a long time. Goldust says he’s starting his life over, hands her the ring off his finger, and leaves her sobbing in front of the camera as we head to commercial.

So, to recap, the kayfabe, on screen series of events unfolding here are as such:

1. Brian Pillman insinuates that he has a prior history with Marlena and that he, not Goldust, is really the father of young Dakota, setting up a match between the two men. If Goldust wins, Pillman will leave WWF forever. If Pillman wins, he’ll get to enjoy Marlena’s services as a manager for 30 days.

2. Pillman wins this match and literally drags Marlena into a car and speeds away from the arena.

3. Pillman repeatedly shows footage from hotel rooms insinuating that he’s sexually assaulting Marlena, which, based on her onscreen reactions, certainly looks to be the case.

Before Pillman’s tragic death, the plan for this angle was for Marlena to reveal that she had been working with Pillman all along and used this stipulation to finally get away from Goldust. Obviously that’s all out the window as soon as the man is found dead in his hotel room.

But here, not even a full month later, they’re picking up that storyline again and flipping it around, where instead of Marlena revealing a dastardly plot and leaving Goldust it’s Goldust who leaves Marlena. And as he said in that quote, a big part of his reasoning is because he didn’t like the idea of whatever she was doing with Pillman, which, again, in the kayfabe of this story, was being raped by him.

So, after a month of being repeatedly assaulted, manhandled, and tormented by this deranged man from her past, Marlena is finally reunited with her loving family only to be accused of impropriety by her husband and subsequently has her marriage publicly ended on a national television broadcast.

If you couldn’t tell, Vince Russo is the key figure in the creative committee by this point.

After the break JR and Jim Cornette (who’s sitting in on commentary for the first half of this show) are upset with Goldust but after making mention of it briefly we just move on to a hype package for the Montreal main event. I hate how this show constantly just sweeps all sorts of serious and/or nefarious shit under the rug to get back to the hokey drama and the goofs, but this is quite a good hype package so I guess I’ll link to it:

Ahmed’s out next, looking to get his match with Austin earlier than it was scheduled, but as he’s waiting around in the ring Kane’s music hits and the monster stomps down to the ring. The former IC champ isn’t intimidated by him and takes a few swings, doing more damage to Kane than anyone has yet to do, but soon Kane just grabs him by the throat and delivers a chokeslam that leaves Ahmed reeling. After that Kane hits a pair of the most unsafe Tombstone Piledrivers I’ve ever seen. Before he can hit a third, Mankind runs down and applies the Mandible Claw on Paul Bearer before laying Kane out with a massive metal turnbuckle to a HUGE pop. He retrieves a chair and stands by Ahmed, looking to fend off Kane as the monster stands up again but another commercial break interrupts anything that would happen next.

Wrestling merch used to be so much better (by which I mean worse):

After the commercial we’re told that Ahmed’s receiving medical attention backstage, during which time Austin finally arrives. As far as he’s concerned Ahmed got off light with the ass-kicking he was meant to receive tonight. Austin says he’s still ready to fight so if Ahmed wants to drag his ass back out here or if anyone else in the locker room wants to get it on, he’s waiting. It takes a minute but eventually the Nation of Domination’s music hits and they all stomp out onto the stage, with Kama Mustafa taking point. Before that match can get under way, the Legion of Doom rushes down and attacks the Nation for some reason. Austin delivers the stunner on Kama before slipping back to the locker room, laughing at all the dopes fighting down at ringside.

Shawn Michaels is scheduled for an in-ring interview with Michael Cole next, so Rick Rude comes out to cut his tired promo and introduce DX. As Cole tries to ask him about his interfering in Bret Hart’s match with Ken Shamrock last week, Shawn takes the opportunity to lay a big smooch on the lips of both Triple H and Chyna. Trips takes the mic from Cole and is treated to some big “faggot” chants for his troubles before shoving the newcomer over Chyna’s back in a schoolyard prank.

Cole leaves and Shawn begins to rattle off his many nicknames, looking to add “Wrestling God” to them in a dig at Hulk Hogan. Blurting out things that are meant to sound like jokes, he and Trips riff a while on how you can only call yourself that if you’re actually as old as God himself. Shawn continues, saying that next week he’s going to “walk naked” on RAW and show Ken Shamrock who the world’s most dangerous man really is. They call Commissioner Slaughter to the ring to make the match official in a famous segment that sees the clowns don riot helmets to block the spittle flying from Slaughter’s mouth.

Slaughter doesn’t care for these antics, saying that if Shawn wants to face Shamrock so bad then he can do so in tonight’s main event! The Commissioner leaves and as they’re pushing to commercial, Shawn tries to get a homophobic joke in at Slaughter’s expense and whines when he’s told to shut the fuck up because they’re going to commercial. You’d think by now this guy would know how live TV works.

Heading into that break we get a brief clip of Marc Mero bursting into Sable’s locker room and nearly exposing the topless woman to a live audience. Fifteen minutes into the second hour of RAW, we finally are gearing up for the second match of the night. Did I mention Russo’s running things now?

Savio Vega vs Marc Mero

Everyone in the building spends this match slobbering all over Sable instead of trying to enjoy the action, not that there’s much of that to begin with. Savio can match Mero for speed but can’t withstand the man’s boxing abilities or low blows, the latter of which opens him up for the TKO and one two three.

Michael Cole grabs Sable for a word before she goes, asking how she feels about Mero’s underhanded tactics of late. Sable’s happy that her man is winning but before she can address the topic at hand Mero interrupts her, yells at Cole, and drags her away.

As Vader makes his way down for the next match we hear that he’s captaining a team of Americans facing a group of Canadians at Survivor Series. He’ll be joined by Mero and Goldust but the fourth spot on their team is up in the air after a recent injury to the Patriot. First we’ve heard of this match—or any Survivor Series match, for that matter—at the PPV.

Vader vs The British Bulldog

Dog Collar Match

No idea why this is a dog collar match, as much as I love the gimmick when it’s not dragged down by the four corners stipulation like it is here. Bulldog comes out with Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil LaFon, with the last two again being affiliated with the Hart Foundation upon their return to TV. This doesn’t last long, with Bulldog quickly throwing Vader over the ropes and choking him with the collar as his pals beat down on the big man. Bulldog tries to win from there but Vader’s weight is too much to drag around. Vader clobbers him and prevents Neidhart from interfering again before winning the match to zero fanfare.

Hart Foundation and pals attack Vader but then some dude hops the rail and hits the ring and does a bunch of kicks to even less fanfare!

Neidhart takes him down but then Vader bowls over him when this mysterious man gains the upper hand again. Vader proceeds to just lay on top of the dude as the Hart Foundation continue to attack both of them and a gaggle of cops and officials hit the ring.

The crowd has absolutely no idea how to react to any of this because as far as they know this is some fan who jumped in the ring, even though it looks and sounds a whole lot like a weak angle. Eventually everyone is pulled apart and the pigs lead this guy back through the crowd. Awful, baffling debut of someone we’ll talk more about at Survivor Series.

Los Boricuas (Jose Estrada Jr & Jesus Castillo) vs Road Dogg & Billy Gunn

Fans chant “faggot” at Gunn briefly. It’s the highlight of this match.

During that match they mention things have run long tonight (HMMMMM WONDER WHO’S TO BLAME THERE?), so they won’t actually be showing the second half of the Jeff Jarrett interview tonight. They say they’ll air it on this weekend’s episode of Livewire instead but it actually gets pushed to next week’s RAW so I’ll talk about it then.

Shawn Michaels vs Ken Shamrock

This match is listed as a European title defense online but they don’t announce it as such here. Shamrock jumps Shawn during his entrance and cleans house with a mixture of straightforward ass-kicking and crowd-pleasing wrasslin’ spots. Shawn tries to cheat to get ahead but Shamrock’s just such a force of nature that he can barely do anything. It hits on some of the same things I’ve mentioned lately with the likes of Shawn/Mankind or the first Shawn/Taker where real-life emotions and situations blend in with scripted physicality to create something real interesting. Shawn clearly isn’t happy with the way Shamrock’s tossing him around with suplexes and hiptosses and, in a way, it makes the match so much more exciting. Shame these guys didn’t manage to have more than two matches together because looking at this, they match up in an appealing way. Chyna’s able to shove Shamrock face-first into the corner post when the action spills to the floor, allowing more interference from Triple H and Rick Rude. Shawn takes over with a series of chinlocks and stomps, actually building to Shamrock’s comeback in a more effective way than most any WWF match has this year. Awesome finishing stretch finds both men taking big shots at each other. Chyna hops up on the apron to distract the ref from seeing Shawn tapping out to the ankle lock but he manages to catch Rude and Trips beating down on the rookie so he calls for the bell anyway.

As RAW goes off the air, Triple H hits Shamrock with a Pedigree onto Rude’s steel briefcase while Vince McMahon (back on commentary for the second half of this show) groans about Bret Hart losing on Sunday.

Great main event to what was otherwise a miserable episode of RAW. My only other solace is the fact that Chyna managed to avoid any shitty jokes in her two appearances tonight, bringing the ratio to only 11 of those in her 54 onscreen segments.

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