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WWF Monday Night RAW - March 3, 1997
by Scrooge McSuck
Taped on February 26th from the Deutschland Halle in Berlin, Germany. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and The Honkytonk Man are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Tonight, we crown the 1st European Champion, capping off a tournament we have zero knowledge of, but if you're that interested, you'll get the minimal details I feel like divulging later in this recap. Years ago, I made it a project to recap all the WWF TV footage I compiled in my youth, with this episode being the end of the road for that era, as I finally got burned out on the product, and only seldom watched following WrestleMania the 13th, so we're entering a period where I'm getting to "enjoy" the content for the first time. (As we move forward in the 1997 recaps for Raw, these are the Peacock versions, so if anything is missing, now you know)
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley:
Any bets on Helmsley's Amazonian making an appearance? No, I don't have inside information, I have no memory of this episode minus the European Title Tournament Finals. We get a pre-match promo from Hart saying he hopes and prays Austin is watching at home and knows the exact same thing that happens to Helmsley will happen to him. Ross compares Bret to Rodney Dangerfield, because he's not getting any respect lately. Someone tosses trash in the ring, so Hunter punts it back into the crowd. OK, half-a-star just for that. Hunter opens with a blow to the body. Whip and Bret takes control with a hip toss and side headlock takeover. Meanwhile, Stone Cold has arrived at the WWF studios in the United States. Helmsley counters with a head-scissors, but Bret quickly escapes and goes back to the headlock. We run down the rest of the card tonight, including Bulldog vs. Owen, Sid vs. Mankind, and Vader vs. Maivia. Crisscross and Hunter buries a knee into the midsection. We come back from commercial with an advertisement for the 1997 Slammy Awards, coming Friday, March 21st on the USA Network. Helmsley is still in control with a series of mounted right hands. Bret gets sent to the post shoulder first. Helmsley with an arm bar takedown and now we advertise "The Terminator" on Friday Night. Whip and Helmsley with a high knee. Helmsley takes too long climbing the ropes and gets taken down with a Super-Plex. Bret with a leg drop and Russian leg sweep for two. Back breaker and second rope elbow for two. Snap suplex for two. Vince describes Helmsley's new friend as a "bionic-type-looking woman." Bret counters the Pedigree, sending Helmsley into the post. He goes for the Sharpshooter, but Hunter thumbs the eye. Whip is reversed, flipping Helmsley into a tree of woe. Bret puts the boots to him and tosses the referee for a cheap Disqualification at 9:00 (shown). Post-match, "THAT BIONIC WOMAN" shows up and gets in Bret's face before being escorted away by Garea, Brisco, and Dave Hebner. This was your typical lazy formula house show match. *½
Steve Austin isn't in the studio for that interview we were promised. Maybe we'll see it later.
Highlights of Owen Hart "accidentally" eliminating the British Bulldog at the Royal Rumble.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Vader (w/ Paul Bearer):
Odds we get a clean finish here are slim. We see clips from In Your House
where Vader kept battling despite being a bloody mess. We see highlights of Vader pinning Rocky Maivia in the 1st Round of the European Title Tournament in Chemnitz, Germany (Vader went on to lose to the Bulldog in the Semi-Finals). Would that mark the first acknowledged defeat of Maivia in the WWF? Vader opens with a right hand to the throat. He works Rocky over in the corner with rights and lefts and lays him out with a short clothesline. Vader stretches Maivia out as we discuss the recent retirement of Sugar Ray Leonard following his loss to Hector "Macho" Camacho. Maivia fights to his feet and comes off the ropes with a rolling schoolboy for two. Vader pops right up and hits him with another clothesline. Whip across the ring with Vader charging in with an avalanche. Whip and Maivia's sunset flip attempt is countered with a seated splash. Maivia blocks a suplex, countering with his own for only a one-count. He comes off the ropes with a pair of clotheslines and takes Vader down with a back suplex for two. We come back from commercial with Vader hitting a splash for two. Vader with a second rope splash for another two-count. Now we promote some live events in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit as Vader hooks a leg-lock. Maivia counters a flying body press with a slam for two. Maivia with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Whip is reversed and Rocky with the spin-around DDT. He comes off the top with a flying body press but comes off him with too much impact. Maivia with a dropkick, knocking Vader over the top rope. Maivia follows and suddenly Mankind shows up to nail him with the urn for ANOTHER cheap Disqualification at 7:20 (shown). Post-match, Vader keeps punishing Maivia with forearms. This was a decent match until the non-finish. **¼
Recap of the recent involvement of Extreme Championship Wrestling and the rivalry developing between Jerry Lawler and Paul E. Dangerously.
Flash Funk vs. The Sultan:
The Sultan is going solo. I guess they couldn't spring for tickets for either Backlund or the Iron Sheik. Jerry Lawler joins us via telephone. He can't believe McMahon wasted valuable television time highlighting those "ECW bums." Funk doesn't have his Funkadactyls, either. Lawler offers an invitation to Paul E. to be in Worcester for Monday Night Raw NEXT WEEK. We come back from commercial with the match already in progress. Whip to the ropes and Sultan with an elbow. The "Milky Way Double Feature" shows us that Sultan attacked before the bell. Funk makes the comeback, knocking Sultan to the outside with a dropkick and follows with a diving clothesline. Back inside, Funk goes to work on the arm as we find out he lost to Owen Hart in the 1st Round of the European Title Tournament. Sultan takes control with a sleeper. Paul E. joins us via telephone as Funk hits a springboard elbow and spinning heel kick for two. Whip and we get a clothesline double-down. Funk avoids an elbow drop and unloads with rights. He takes Sultan over with a Franken-Steiner and comes off the top with a moonsault for two. Sultan blocks a spinning head-scissors, slamming Funk face-first to the canvas, and the Camel Clutch finishes at 4:05 (shown). Nothing special, but it didn't have much time to get going to begin with. *½
Highlights of Steve Austin raising hell in the studios on Monday Night Raw last October. We're REALLY digging deep to pad the show this week.
Sid screams a promo about Mankind spending more time "getting ready for the game" instead of brushing up on his German.
Highlights of the meltdown between Owen and the Bulldog at In Your House, but they still managed to walk out with their Tag Team Titles.
Ahmed Johnson comes out to accept Faarooq's challenge for WrestleMania the 13th for a Chicago Street Fight. He won't come by himself, though, and leads the crowd in a chant of "Your Gobba Don!" Whatever that means. Wouldn't you know it, the very next segment is bridged by a commercial for WrestleMania the 13th, already advertising the one-man army of Ahmed against the Nation.
We see highlights of the return of the Legion of Doom, ignoring the fact they didn't even win the match. We follow that with their promo from Shotgun Saturday Night, hoping they'll be at WrestleMania in Chicago.
WWF Championship Match:
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer):
I don't think we're getting a clean finish here, either. We get a pre-tape from Mankind, who is nothing more than a lame-duck challenger here. Before we get to Sid's entrance, we recap what has happened so far tonight. Sid charges in and unloads on Mankind with rights. He sends Mankind to the floor with a clothesline and follows with more right hands and boots to the body. Mankind fires back, only to wrap his own arm around the post. NEXT WEEK: Sid and Undertaker will be a Tag Team when RAW IS WAR! Back inside, Sid works a Fujiwara arm bar. THE F*CK?! We get a split-screen to cram a short interview with Steve Austin that was promised all night long. He gets violently ill every time Bret is on WWF TV whining and crying. Meanwhile, Sid stomps Mankind out of the ring. Oh, I guess we'll get a FULL INTERVIEW later. Mankind takes control, choking Sid across the middle rope. Sid doesn't stay down for long and we get more clubbering. We come back from commercial with Sid throwing awful rights and knocking Mankind over the top rope with a clothesline. Sid follows, sending Mankind backwards into the post. Back inside, Mankind hangs Sid up across the top rope as Vince takes a shot at WCW because the WWF doesn't have guys past their prime on top. Ross shills the Superstar Hotline as Sid fights out of a chin-lock. Mankind cuts him off with the Mandible Claw and gets several near falls from it. Sid manages to break the hold, only to get taken down with a double-arm DDT for two. Mankind hops on Sid's back with a sleeper but Sid breaks it by falling backwards on him. Sid throws more awful punches and goes after Paul Bearer on the apron. Mankind accidentally hits Uncle Paul and a Chokeslam gets two. Mankind has one last hope but sets for a back body-drop and the Powerbomb finishes at 10:21 (shown). This wasn't good. Sid's style doesn't mesh well with anyone, and it takes a super-human effort to get a watchable match out of him. *
Recap of the British Bulldog dismissing Clarence Mason as his and Owen's manager from two weeks ago on Shotgun Saturday Night.
Recap of the saga surrounding Bret Hart and Steve Austin at In Your House and the following night on Raw where Austin was heavily involved in Bret Hart winning and losing the WWF Championship across a 24-hour period. We're finally getting that studio interview from Austin. Austin says he's been screwed for seven years. When Michaels gets hurt, he has a video dedicated to him, or when he's sick, he has the flu. Austin reveals he walked into the Final Four sick as a dog and with an injured knee and didn't make any excuses as he went out and battled for 25-minutes. He promises to beat the hell out of Bret Hart at WrestleMania. He doesn't have any quit in him, and he won't look at the referee to say "I quit, I submit, I've had too much. There ain't nobody in wrestling that can make me quit, and that's the bottom line, ‘cause Stone Cold said so!"
WWF European Championship Tournament Finals:
The British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart:
These two are the reigning Tag Team Champions and penciled in for a defense at WrestleMania the 13th against the duo of Mankind and Vader, but tonight, it's a battle of brothers-in-law for the prestigious European Championship. At the time, I figured it would be like the "Kuwait Cup" and we'd rarely, if ever, hear about it again. Vince takes another shot at WCW, noting neither of these men are over 40 years old and are in their primes. At least half of that statement was true. Lockup to the corner and a clean break. Owen grabs a wristlock, leading to their signature sequence of counters. Whip to the corner and Bulldog cartwheels out of a monkey flip. Owen with a hip toss, Bulldog gives him a mule kick and Owen nips up to a neutral stance. They slap hands and lock knuckles. Owen springboards off the top with a counter into a hip toss. Bulldog counters a hurricanrana with a Powerbomb, sends Owen over the top rope with a slingshot, and does a little hotdogging for the crowd. Bulldog holds open the ropes for Owen in a gentlemanly gesture. Lockup and they trade hammerlocks. Owen flips over the back and rolls Bulldog up for two. Bulldog quickly regains control, taking Owen over and going to work on the arm. Owen tries another counter, but Bulldog drops him mid-air.
We come back from commercial with Bulldog still in control of the arm. Whip to the ropes and Bulldog with a crucifix cradle for two. Owen slips out of the suplex and feeds the boot, but whiffs on the enzuigiri. Not a counter you saw very often. Bulldog locks up the legs and lifts Owen with a modified surfboard. Owen uses the referee to pull himself out of the hold as we promote RAW IS WAR next week in Wooster. Crisscross and Bulldog with a monkey flip. Owen avoids the charging clothesline, dumping the Bulldog over the top rope, and now he's the one celebrating and holding the ropes open. Back inside, Bulldog controls with a side headlock. Crisscross and Owen fakes an injury on the leapfrog He takes advantage of Bulldog being gullible and puts the boots to him. Bulldog fights off a Sharpshooter attempt but gets nailed with a spinning heel kick. Owen with a scoop slam and leg drop for two. Bulldog fights free of a chin-lock but takes a knee to the midsection. Bulldog comes in from the apron with a sunset flip for two. Owen immediately cuts him off with a clothesline and drops an elbow for two.
Back from our second break (including a WWF Rewind brought to us by Karate Fighters) with Owen catching Bulldog off the ropes with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex for two. Owen with a seated chin-lock, countered with an electric chair drop. Charge to the corner meets a boot and Owen rolls him up with feet on the ropes for a near-fall. Hangman's neck breaker and flying elbow drop for two. Bulldog counters a super-plex, landing on top of Owen for two. Bulldog with three clotheslines and a delayed vertical suplex for two. He sends Owen chest-first to the turnbuckle and straddles him across the top rope. Bulldog tries bringing Owen in from the apron with a suplex but it's countered with a bridging German Suplex for two. Owen blocks the Powerslam, using the ropes to fall on top of Bulldog for two. Bulldog rolls through a cross body press for two. Owen gets the enzuigiri on the second try and locks the Sharpshooter in the center of the ring. Bulldog fights his way to the ropes, forcing the break. Whip to the ropes and Bulldog counters a Tombstone with the running Powerslam for two. Owen with a victory roll, but Bulldog reverses the momentum of it and pins Owen for three at 17:27 (shown) to become the FIRST European Champion. One of the best matches in the history of Monday Night Raw, putting on a wrestling clinic and mostly working it straight with minimal heel work from Owen. They did hot counter after hot counter to sell their familiarity, and even did callback to the WrestleMania X finish where Owen pinned Bret. ****½
Final Thoughts: A lot of bad wrestling and bad finishes, but an all-time great Main Event makes this a must-see episode. The road to WrestleMania doesn't look too promising with only a couple more weeks to go. When Ahmed vs. The Nation is one of the three biggest matches advertised, it's going to be a hard-sell, and as we'll see from the Pay-Per-View numbers, that line of thinking isn't too far off. Check out Bulldog and Owen if nothing else (unless you're into Bret Hart dogging it in a glorified house show setting).
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