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WWF Monday Night RAW - February 3, 1997
by Scrooge McSuck
- Taped on January 31st from the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It's ROYAL RUMBLE RAW with Vince McMahon and Jim Ross calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Yes, RAW IS IN THE SKYDOME, with a respectable 25,000 in attendance considering this wasn't a Pay-Per-View date and TV was having a hard time filling 5,000 seat buildings, let alone the SKYDOME. With WCW successfully running larger buildings for Monday Nitro, it was inevitable for the WWF to do the same, though the overall presentation here isn't as strong as the typical episode of Raw, almost giving it a second-rate feel despite the location filmed thanks to the dimmed lighting.
- We see the closing moments of the Royal Rumble Match, with Steve Austin being eliminated, only to sneak back in with the referees distracted and clear the ring for the tainted victory. Last week, they all but said they would show the entire Rumble Match from the latest PPV, but then the Pay-Per-View providers caught wind of that and instead we'll be seeing random highlights. ROYAL RUMBLE RAW, WOOO!
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Vader (w/ Paul Bearer):
There's no rhyme or reason sometimes with how the WWF randomly presents heel vs. heel and babyface vs. babyface matches around this time. Bret Hart rushes the ring and engages in a brawl with Austin, then with Vader, all before the match is about to begin. WHAT A HERO, AM I RIGHT? Austin boots Vader rolling into the ring to kick the match off officially. Vader doesn't take kindly to an unsportsmanlike act and clobbers Austin from behind with a clothesline. Whip and Vader with another clothesline as Vince calls this a "tough-man" match. I guess that's the official code for doing heel vs. heel. Vader brutalizes Austin in the corner and hits a short clothesline. He plants Austin near the corner with a front slam, but Austin recovers and hits him low (just as the referee is looking away). Whip is reversed, sandwiching the referee in the corner. We come back from commercial with Vader slamming Austin for a two-count. Big splash for two. I want to say the referee is their usual timekeeper, who has been known to pull referee duty in the past. Austin comes back with a slam and elbow drop for two. We have two title matches tonight, NO BAIT AND SWITCH TACTICS. Nope, that'll be next week, right Vince? Austin with another low blow, this time with the referee looking. "That's the second Golota of the evening!" Austin gets annoyed by the referee trying to force him off Vader, so it's KICK WHAM STUNNER to a babyface pop. Vader from behind, knocking Austin out of the ring. They brawl at ringside, with Austin sending Vader into the steps. Earl Hebner and a host of officials come out to restore order and we finally get a bell at 5:34 (shown) with Austin Disqualified. **
- THURSDAY RAW THURSDAY on February 13th, with Bret Hart taking on the Man They Call Vader, and Shawn Michaels defending the WWF Title against Sycho Sid! NO BAIT AND SWITCH!
Flash Funk vs. Savio Vega (w/ The Nation of Domination):
Savio only has the dollar store members of the Nation with him, as well as Clarence Mason. Jim Ross cuts him off heading to the ring to get a word from Savio, who's still establishing he's now a heel and a proud member of the Nation. Dok Hendrix joins commentary for some reason. Vega opens with a boot to the midsection and quickly goes to work on the arm. Flash rolls through with a counter but Savio goes to the eyes to break. Whip to the corner, Flash avoids a charge and hits a flying sunset flip for two. Whip is reversed and Savio with a sloppy side slam. Vince hypes the Slammy Awards as Savio controls with Greco-Roman choking. Hip toss out of the corner and Savio unloads with blows across the back. Funk fights back with chops and a BAAAACK body-drop. He hits Savio with a soft clothesline and sends him from corner to corner as if this were Strap Match Rules. He comes off the top with a twisting splash for two. He randomly hits D'Lo at ringside with a plancha and spinning heel kick. Back inside, Flash misses the moonsault and Savio covers for three at 4:24. Wow, can't bother hitting an offensive maneuver?! I don't get the point of Flash going after D'Lo, so he deserved to lose. Post-match, Faarooq shows up to give Savio a hug. *
- Jim Ross is in the ring for a special interview with Sycho Sid, the first live appearance for Sid (on Monday Night Raw) since losing the WWF Championship. WHY FOR ONLY SID'S INTERVIEWS DOES THE ENTRANCE MUSIC CONTINUE TO PLAY? Jim Ross catches us up to date on Sid's last few months. Sid compares his relationship with Shawn to a roller coaster, but next Thursday, the ride stops, and he'll again be the master and ruler.
- The Superstar Line asks the hot question "Where have you gone, Yokozuna?" He ate himself out of the lineup and would never be seen on WWF television again.
- Vince McMahon gets comments from the British Bulldog and Owen Hart, who are definitely on the same page and aren't showing signs of a strained relationship.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (c) vs. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon:
To catch us up on the score sheet, the Bulldog and Owen won a non-title match the night after the Royal Rumble, and last week Davey Boy pinned Doug Furnas clean in a singles match. Did I mention they've announced this as a title match for the Pay-Per-View? People say the modern era began the beating rematches gimmick to death, but here we are in 1997 and we've got FOUR matches between these guys in a 4-week span. No Mason with the Champions, but J.R. is back in the booth with Vince and Dok. Bulldog and LaFon start. LaFon with a side headlock but a shoulder tackle doesn't do much. Whip to the corner and Bulldog catches a body press. LaFon slips out of the powerslam but Bulldog lays him out with a clothesline. Owen tags in and gets caught with an arm drag as we're informed Furnas has the flu (which has hit a lot of the locker room around this time). LaFon lands on his feet on a monkey-flip and captures Owen in a cross arm bar. Furnas in, taking Owen off the ropes with a hip toss and hitting a clothesline. Bulldog back in for a test-of-strength. Furnas controls with a side headlock. Owen with the blind tag, hitting Furnas with a spinning heel kick. Bulldog takes a shot at LaFon, drawing the attention of the referee for an illegal switch and double-team in the corner. Furnas with a sunset flip but the referee is distracted from making a timely count. Furnas counters a seated chin-lock, hitting Owen with an electric chair drop. Bulldog prevents the tag and takes another shot at LaFon. Furnas counters the suplex with a small package and again a delayed count saves the Champions. Furnas takes advantage of a distracted Owen and rolls him up. Owen's kick out sends Furnas into the Bulldog, knocking him off the apron. They argue as we take a break. When we return, it's Furnas still in danger. Whip is reversed and Furnas with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. LaFon with the tag, running wild with clotheslines and a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER. LaFon rolls through a body press and takes Owen over with a snap suplex for two. Whip is reversed and LaFon with a tornado DDT for three… BUT WAIT, Hebner sees a foot on the rope and waves it off. Small package but Bulldog saves. Standing heel kick for two. Owen and Bulldog take control, but we get a goofy contrived spot where Bulldog back-drops Owen over the top rope. Bulldog with the powerslam on LaFon, but Owen, the legal man, sells a knee injury and gets counted-out at 11:29 (shown). Post-match, we see Owen moving fine before he starts selling it again. Decent, but you can tell Furnas couldn't do much but sell. **1/2
- Highlights of the Royal Rumble Match, where Ahmed Johnson ran into the ring with a 2x4 and sent Faarooq jumping over the top rope for an unprecedented third self-elimination of the match, setting a new (at the time) Royal Rumble record.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Crush (w/ The Nation of Domination):
I can't say I'm too excited to see this one. Faarooq is again absent, though he's scheduled to compete in tonight's Main Event, so it makes sense. Ross and Vince continue bashing WCW for bait-and-switch tactics on ROYAL RUMBLE RAW WHERE WE WERE BAITED INTO THE SHOW WITH THE PROMISE OF THE ENTIRE RUMBLE MATCH AND SWITCHED TO ONLY A FEW HIGHLIGHTS. Lockup into the ropes and Crush pushes Goldust off with a pie-face. Goldust grabs a wrist-lock but Crush escapes with a shot to the throat. Goldust comes out of the corner with a clothesline and unloads with a series of short right hands. Goldust with another clothesline, sending Crush over the top rope. Back inside, Goldust hooks an arm bar. We hype some upcoming dates and find out SummerSlam (scheduled for August 3rd) will be at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. Crush with a slam but Goldust rolls through with the hold. Meanwhile, Hunter Hearst Helmsley comes to ringside, so I guess we're not done with that feud yet. Crush takes advantage of the distraction, hitting Goldust from behind with a headbutt and sending him to the floor. Back inside, Crush whips him hard to the buckle and stomps away. The excitement picks up with a chin-lock. I don't know why, but the way Crush executes a leg drop bothers me. Crush with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Goldust avoids a flying fist drop and counters a piledriver with a back body-drop. Whip, Goldust ducks an elbow and connects with the DDT. He comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline and follows with a bulldog for two. Savio runs in to nail Goldust with a spinning heel kick (with the referee distracted off camera) and Crush finishes with the Heart Punch at 8:19. This wasn't good. *
- Blackjack Lanza is standing by on location from the outskirts of the Double Cross Ranch to talk about the Blackjacks, and how they'll ride again. "DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU."
- Vince McMahon is standing by with WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. The last time the WWF was in the SkyDome for a TV/PPV presentation, Shawn was one-half of an undercard tag team. Shawn says the belt used to represent everything good about the WWF, but it has brought the worst out of some of the WWF Superstars, including himself. If being bad is what you have to be to be the WWF Champion, he'll be the worst guy the WWF has ever seen. He's won the most popular award enough times to not make him worry about it and it's all about keeping the WWF Championship. He talks about Muhammad Ali being one of the most hated men and now he's known as the greatest of all time. As for Bret Hart, he can call himself whatever he wants, except he can't be called "WWF Champion." Bret comes out for a rebuttal. He agrees with Shawn calling himself a degenerate and a jackass. As far as he's concerned, Shawn is nothing but a punk. Shawn interrupts, but here's Austin to pay him back from earlier with another pull-apart brawl. Sycho Sid casually makes his way to the ring but the focus is entirely on Bret and Austin. We come back from commercial and we've still got Bret and Shawn in the ring. Bret throws Shawn's belt down and flips him off before departing.
- "Earlier tonight", Tiger Ali Singh signed his WWF contract. Nice to see Bruce Prichard make an appearance in the ring for the special occasion. Singh cuts a 100% babyface promo here, as the son of Tiger Jeet Singh in what is basically a homecoming of sorts.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. "Wildman" Marc Mero:
This is Mero's last shot at the title, and both Sable and Curtis the Butler (Mr. Hughes) are barred from ringside. Don't worry, we won't see Hughes again by Helmsley's side, as he was quickly dismissed from the company. Lockup and they trade counters until Mero winds up in control with a hammer-lock. Crisscross and Mero with a hip toss as Vince takes a shot at Robin Hood and promotes Le Femme Nikita. Another crisscross, with Mero hitting a series of arm drags and a dropkick. Whip to the corner and Mero with a BAAACK body-drop, followed by a clothesline that sends Helmsley over the top. Back inside, Hunter brings up the knees on the slingshot splash attempt. He drives a series of knees into the midsection and takes Mero over with a delayed suplex for two. Mero flips out of a back suplex and hooks the arms with a rolling cradle for two. Helmsley quickly regains control, surprising Mero with a knee to the face. He unloads with his right hands and kicks combo in the corner as we take a break. We return from commercial with Helmsley meeting the turnbuckle face-first. Mero unloads with rights and comes off the ropes with a spinning head-scissors. Whip is reversed and Mero hits a diving clothesline, followed by a knee lift. Helmsley gets sent to the corner and takes the Harley Race bump to the floor, with Mero following with a tope con hilo. Back inside, Mero with a slingshot leg drop for two. Helmsley cuts Mero off with a boot to the face, but unwisely climbs the ropes. Mero straddles him across the turnbuckle and brings him down with a hurricanrana for two. Helmsley catches Mero off the ropes with a tilt-o-whirl back breaker and undoes one of the turnbuckle covers. Mero reverses a whip and catches Helmsley with the Samoan drop. He climbs and hits a double-jump moonsault for two. Mero avoids the exposed steel, but Helmsley pulls something from his boot and KO's Mero with the referee distracted in the corner, allowing him to retain the title at 10:54 (shown). Feels pointless to run this back after Helmsley won clean a month earlier on Raw. Good match, for what it's worth. ***
- Highlights of the Royal Rumble Match: Jerry Lawler hops in and gets knocked out in about 5-seconds. "WE DON'T DO BAIT AND SWITCHES!"
No Holds Barred Match: The Undertaker & Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq (w/ The Nation) & Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer):
Let me guess... Mankind takes the loss, as the one man of the four who doesn't have clear direction at this point, though he'll always have a link to the Undertaker. Earlier tonight, we saw Undertaker trying to keep Ahmed focused on the match. Taker/Mankind and Ahmed/Faarooq pair up. Ahmed plants Faarooq with a spine-buster but is quickly cut off with a low blow. Meanwhile. Taker and Mankind fight down the aisle. Faarooq grabs a sleeper on Ahmed, but Undertaker saves in such a casual, methodical way. Faarooq with a clothesline but Taker sits up. Whip to the ropes and Taker with a clothesline of his own. He wraps up the arm and hits the rope-walk clothesline as Ahmed stalks Clarence Mason away from the ring area, who quickly returns with Savio Vega and Crush. We come back from commercial with Mankind countering the rope-walk with the Mandible Claw. Ahmed saves and hits Mankind with the Pearl River Plunge. Faarooq breaks the cover and hits the Dominator (and a massive wedgie), and now Taker breaks up that pin attempt. Mankind hits Taker low and is fed a steel chair from Uncle Paul. He gets a running start and has the chair knocked into his face. Ahmed fights off the Nation at ringside as Vince rambles about how these guys aren't has-beens. Taker with the chokeslam on Mankind while Ahmed continues to be distracted. He comes in with the 2x4, walloping Faarooq and chasing him away too. Mankind with a swinging neck breaker on the Undertaker. Taker smacks some powder back in his face, but here's Vader to give Taker a splash. He accidentally brains Mankind with the chair. Taker no-sells a chair shot and knocks Vader over the top rope. He gives Mankind a Tombstone onto the chair and that's it for the three count at 8:21 (shown). This was a chaotic mess, but at least they gave us a finish. *1/2
- In the Dark Match Main Event™, Shawn Michaels retained the WWF Title against Bret Hart and Sycho Sid in a rather good match featured on the Attitude Era Vol. 3: Unreleased DVD.
Final Thoughts: It'll take time getting used to 2-hour episodes of Raw, and we can already establish a depth issue to fill out the shows every week without running it back with rematches galore. We continue to build up the Final Four PPV and a possible feud between Bret and Shawn and were treated to two solid matches for the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships. Other than Crush vs. Goldust, everything was at least watchable, though mileage will vary for stuff like the Main Event. Hope everyone enjoyed the 48-seconds of the Royal Rumble Match on what was constantly called ROYAL RUMBLE RAW.
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