- Currently available on WWE Classics on Demand, this is an episode of Raw that is very dear to my heart, and an episode I haven't seen since it aired. For those unfamiliar with my personal history of watching the WWF and the going on's of the time that made me almost give up on the WWF, this is the episode that brought me back.
- Vince McMahon opens the show to announce to the live audience (and, of course, us watching at home) about the untimely death of Brian Pillman. This might be the first time that the WWF had the entire roster gather together at the top of the ramp, regardless of babyface or heel allegiances. It's unfortunate this had to happen several more times over the years. We're live from the Kemper Arena, in Kansas City, MO, just to let you know.
- After the show opens proper, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna make their way to the ring for an interview conducted by noobie, Michael Cole. Yes, 16 YEARS AGO, Michael Cole was brand new to the WWF. They give him a wedgie as a welcome to the WWF. It was the night before at Badd Blood where Shawn Michaels somehow defeated the Undertaker. By somehow, we mean an incredible amount of interference from a particular someone we will get to later. I wonder if Shawn's remarks about "Icon's" and "Fossils" is a little dig at WCW being headlined by Hogan/Piper at the time. You know, I don't mind self-glorifying promos, when done now and then, but when they became a weekly thing with the same old people, it became quite tiresome by about 2001-2002, and is still a consistantly annoying problem still going, today. For whatever reasons, they show the "MSG Incident" with Shawn, Hunter, Diesel, and Razor, complete with comical reactions from DX to cheese off Vince McMahon.
We return from commercial, with Shawn STILL giving Vince crap, and out comes Bret Hart, reigning WWF Champion, and the rest of the Hart Foundation. Bret plays it up like a heel to taunt another heel... I don't understand it. After watching the Bret/Shawn DVD set, it's just hard to grasp what was a work, what was a shoot, when someone crossed the line, when something outrageous and "over the line" was actually a work... anyway, this is just a lame reason to set up their match at Survivor Series, because quite honestly, they really haven't done much interracting with each other since SummerSlam. Bret offers a match against Hunter Hearst Helmsley for later in the show... you think it's going to be at least 4/10? Running nearly 30-minutes with the commercial break... talk about overkill. I honestly remember flipping back and forth to Nitro by the end of this promo. I still wasn't used to long winded promos
- Jim Cornette is standing by for some shoot comments. Arn Anderson and Ric Flair are mentioned, as is Mick Foley, for talent who are over-looked and/or have their legacies tarnished. The New World Order is a bunch of guys in the backyard in a treehouse clubhouse. Kevin Nash is "the biggest no-talent in the business", Sean Waltman is employed because everyone thinks it's funny when he gets drunk and throws up on himself, and Eric Bischoff is a mark for himself and hangs around with big tough guys to make himself feel like he has a "big johnson." Eh... he did other promos where he equally attacked WWF talent, but this seemed more like another WCW smear campaign.
- We get photos from Badd Blood and the instant classic between the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. All the hype this match got after the fact made it one of the most anticipated matches for me in the history of all professional wrestling. I remember one Raw running a lengthy, maybe 5-6 minute long, video package of match highlights, and loving every second of it.
Time for HOUR TWO! (War Zone?)
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin comes out for more talking. It was last night at Badd Blood where he cost Faarooq his match against Owen Hart, ensuring that Hart would regain the Intercontinental Title. Austin's been inactive since SummerSlam, when a blown spot lead to a near instant career ending injury, but has made his presence felt on an almost weekly basis without having to step in the ring for an official match. Short and to the point... Austin wants the belt back and he wants it from Owen. Oh, and for no reason, he steals Lawler's crown and gives it to a plant.
- In a somewhat disgusting act, Vince McMahon puts Brian Pillman's widow on the air for an interview, basically asking her about Pillman's health and what might have lead to his death. I don't know how some people like to spin things. I've read it was tasteless to some because Vince came across as if he was trying to clear the WWF from being held responsible for it, but I just think it's wrong because this woman lost her husband THE DAY BEFORE, and you're preasuring her for details that couldn't possibly have been available that quickly.
- The Hardy Boys (Matt and Jeff) are getting ready to take on Recon and Sniper of the Truth Commission... but then the lights go out, there's a burst of fire, and out comes Paul Bearer, along with Kane, the long-believed-to-be-dead brother of the Undertaker. I see they got sync'ed up with the pyro a bit better as the weeks went on. He quickly goes after the Hardys and lays them out with a double chokeslam. He tosses Matt to the floor, then press slam LAUNCHES Jeff over the top, onto Matt, who was pretty much on the ramp for the catch. Paul Bearer gets on the microphone to formally introduce the WWF and the rest of the world to Kane. In what should've been a "one and done" gimmick, the excellent work from Paul Bearer cutting promos every week hyping him up, the surprisingly solid booking of making him an indestructable force, and obviously being a decent enough worker to stick around, extended what was meant to be a 6 month long gimmick into a 16 year run, and still counting.
I hate to beat a dead horse in the mouth, but again, I must make it clear how much I loved the whole angle surrounding Kane and the Undertaker, but more specifically, for Kane, the character. The must-watch vibe they gave him because of his unpredictable appearances and lack of wrestling on television made everything he did seem important, and dare I say, was the more hot topic of mine at lunch at the wrestling geeks table in school than the same old "Steve Austin is cool" and "DX is cool" crap everyone else spouted off. If not for word of mouth of what happened at Badd Blood, I wouldn't have watched Raw, wouldn't have gotten instantly hooked again, and who knows, maybe I would never have watched wrestling again. Of course, I said that back in 2007, and by 2012, I was back again, so even when it comes to watching it, forever isn't always forever.
... Wait, there's still more to this episode? Okay, let's finish things up...
We come back from break, with Owen, Neidhart, and Bulldog now at ringside. Helmsley comes off the ropes with a knee drop, and takes Bret over with a suplex for two. Whip to the ropes, and he grabs a sleeper hold. I doze off a bit, but from what I could tell, Bret fought free, only to be brought down with a DDT. Whip to the ropes, Bret punts him on the chest, sweeps the legs, and slaps on the Sharpshooter. Unfortunately it's near the ropes and Chyna offers assistance. Bret goes for the Ringpost Figure-Four, but Chyna interrupts and distracts Bret long enough for Michaels to lay him out with Sweet Chin Music, and it's a cheap Count-Out victory for Helmsley at 7:50 (minus one break). Total paint-by-numbers.
Final Thoughts: If not for Nostalgia over the debut of one of my favorite performers of all-time, there's not a whole lot to this show. Yes, it does a lot to build up stuff for Survivor Series, most notably Bret/Shawn and Owen/Austin, but there's really no heart behind either program, and were mostly served as a "let's get it over with" scenario rather than anything inspired. All other angle/character development included Marc Mero's subpar heel turn, more of the Godwinns/LOD, and really, what was with that Cornette promo!? Throw in a bunch of crappy matches and way too many heel vs. heel pairings, and you have yourself quite a boring 95 minutes to sit through.