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WWF Monday Night RAW - March 17, 1997
by Scrooge McSuck
Presented LIVE from the War Memorial in Syracuse, NY. I'm skipping over covering the WWF show televised from Madison Square Garden the night earlier since we've already got it covered and it doesn't seem like it needs to be redone. It's a sub-par show with no outstanding matches, and that would be it for the MSG Network running live shows again for the company. In that recap, I said I didn't know why they ran it in the first place. The likely answer is "stick it to WCW, running Uncensored on PPV." ANYWAY... this is the go-home episode as we head to WrestleMania the 13th, and we have a HUGE Main Event with Sid defending the WWF Title against Bret Hart inside a Steel Cage! If you've never seen or heard of this episode, get ready for something special. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry "The King" Lawler are in the WAR ZONE to call the action unless otherwise noted.
The Legion of Doom vs. Crush & Savio Vega (w/ The Nation):
Consider this a sneak preview for the Chicago Street Fight at WrestleMania the 13th. I love that Animal and Hawk are still introduced as "Road Warriors." Faarooq is barred from ringside, meaning only 6 Nation members are at ringside instead of 7. Ross keeps hyping the Street Fight as "come dressed as you are", as if everyone will work the match in jeans and cowboy boots. Hawk and Animal bring the fight to the floor to kick things off. Is this a sample of what we're going to see in Chicago on Sunday Night?! Hawk throws a dropkick at ringside that the camera practically misses! Animal sends Crush into the corner and... they blow the spot. They do it again with Crush cutting Animal off, but that's short-lived, as Animal comes off the ropes with a diving shoulder tackle. We cut to a split-screen with Ahmed Johnson as the Nation regroups on the floor. Back inside, Savio unloads on Hawk with rights. He connects with a piledriver and Hawk pops right up to hit him with a clothesline. Now we get comments from Faarooq as Hawk throws a dropkick for two. Animal with a snap mare into a chin-lock. We see highlights of the match between Ahmed and Savio from MSG where the Nation did a big beat-down on Ahmed. Hawk and Crush have a stalemate with a clothesline. Hawk throws his third dropkick and connects with a jumping fist drop as we take a break. We come back from commercial with Savio sending Hawk to the corner and hitting a spinning heel kick. Crush cuts off a comeback with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Another cut backstage to see Faarooq ambush Ahmed with a nightstick. Meanwhile, Animal with the hot tag, hitting Savio with a powerslam. He flips out of a double back suplex and connects with a double clothesline. Whip to the corner and Animal charges in with a clothesline. He signals for the Doomsday Device, but Faarooq runs in with the nightstick for the Disqualification at 7:30 (shown). If he's barred from ringside, wouldn't this justify a steep punishment? Ahmed soon follows, 2x4 in hand, and gives one of the PG-13 guys a Pearl River Plunge as the LOD give D'Lo a Doomsday Device. I thought this was a decent match up until the finish. I guess they had to save a clean finish for the PPV. **
The Slammy Awards are this Friday Night! Tune in at 11 pm/10c only on the USA Network! I've noticed a lack of Awards being hyped or the fake ability to vote for them.
There's some speculation that tonight's Cage Match may or may not be for the Championship, but don't worry, Gorilla Monsoon will be here to clear things up. Lawler has heard another rumor: Shawn Michaels is on his way to the building! What isn't a rumor is that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is here.
Flash Funk (w/ The Funkettes) vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna):
Helmsley being scheduled for a match on the actual PPV, along with the new muscle in his corner, should make this an easy one to predict. Ross says at the Slammy Awards we might see a LIVE performance from the Funkettes. "Among other things!" Vince says it'll be part of the talent competition for the "Miss Slammy" Award. BREAKING NEWS: Owen Hart hasn't been nominated for a Slammy. Flash has no problem putting a finger in Chyna's face. Lockup and Helmsley snaps him over with an arm drag. Vince uses the word "pomposity" to describe Hunter. Flash strings together an arm drag, dropkick and clothesline to send Helmsley out of the ring. Hunter avoids the baseball slide and lays Flash out with a clothesline. Back inside, Flash counters a back body-drop but gets caught in a leapfrog with an electric chair drop. Heck of counter there you didn't see often. Helmsley with a suplex and knee drop for two. Funk fights out of the corner with right hands and takes Hunter over with a back body-drop. Funk with a splash into the corner, followed by a slam and leg drop. He makes the trip to the top rope and hits the leg drop, but Chyna pulls him off out of view of the referee. Helmsley takes advantage of the distraction and hits a German Suplex for two. Helmsley gets nailed coming off the top with a Super-Kick to the chest for two. Funk teases going high risk again, but this time Chyna greets him on the apron. Hunter pops up, and its kick-wham-pedigree for three at 5:49. Post-match, Chyna and Helmsley give some parting shots to Flash. Good match. **½
Shawn Michaels is HERE as Raw is War continues...
The WWF was on hand to see the "death of a tax bill" in New Jersey, as the WWF will return to the state with SummerSlam. This one is far too complicated to cover in detail, but there was a comission that taxed them like a professional sport instead of an entertainment troupe.
Mascarita Sagrada Jr. & Mini Goldust vs. Mini Mankind & Mini Vader:
I'm not a fan of covering these Lucha-libre mini matches, not because it's not exciting, but it's impossible to recap without reading like a complete mess. Goldust and Vader start. Vader doesn't appreciate the Goldust shtick and lands a boot to the chest. Whip to the ropes and Vader with a BAAACK body-drop. He tries it again, but Goldust flips over and takes Vader over with a pair of arm drags before sending him to the floor with a dropkick. Mankind charges in with a clothesline and whips him to his own corner. Sagrada gets the tag and comes off the top with a flying body press. He takes Mankind over with a spinning head-scissors and a pair of arm drags, getting some pops from the crowd. Vader comes in with a boot to the back of the head that got an "ooh" from the crowd. Goldust knocks Vader to the floor with a dropkick and dives off the apron with a senton. Back in the ring, Sagrada with a victory roll on Mankind for three at 2:59. Post-match, Vader tries another ambush, but Sagrada sends him running. He pushes Vader off the ramp and dives off with a body press! The crowd was surprisingly into it, especially when Sagrada was involved.
Gorilla Monsoon is standing by to clear up the rumor and innuendo surrounding tonight's Main Event. Monsoon says flat out: THIS WILL BE FOR THE WWF CHAMPIONSHIP. Vince asks him if it's true that Undertaker fans have expressed how unfair it is to him. Monsoon mentions how many times Bret Hart has been wronged, but then Lawler AND Vince bring up how many chances he's had by comparison.
Kevin Kelly is in the ring for an interview with Bret Hart. You'd think with less than an hour before his big Championship Match, he'd be readying himself backstage and not concerned with coming out to brag about how great he is. Kelly calls it unprecedented for the circumstances of Hart getting to challenge for the WWF Title only days away from WrestleMania. Bret doesn't care what anyone thinks, he won the Rumble, he won the Final Four, he's a 4-time WWF Champion, and he deserves a little respect. Undertaker may not be thrilled, but there's a new motto in the WWF: "If you scratch my back, I'll stab yours." After he wins the WWF Title tonight, Undertaker will get his shot when he gets in line with everyone else. When he steps in the ring with that lousy, stinking hyena, Steve Austin is in for the worst thrashing of his life. As for Ken Shamrock, he hopes he calls it down the middle and gets in nice and close to hear the magic words "I quit."
We get a weird commercial for WrestleMania jackets that also includes comedy like J.R., The Fink, and Vince things like hats (JR), a tape of ring announcements (Fink), and a toupee (Vince). OK, that was dumb, but Vince getting in on the joke is fine in my book.
The Sultan (w/ The Iron Sheik & Bob Backlund) vs. Mike Bell:
Rocky Maivia joins the commentary table for the match. There's no reason to really care for their clash at WrestleMania the 13th for the Intercontinental Title, but we've got to get at least one segment this week to give it a little heat. I may have my enhancement talent cross, but I believe Bell is the guy that Perry Saturn roughed up after taking a botched arm drag. Sultan attacks before the bell, clubbing Bell with rights and charging across the ring with a clothesline. Whip and Sultan with a boot to the face. Sultan with a piledriver, followed by a splash from the top rope. Camel Clutch finishes at 1:00. The crowd doesn't react well to Sultan. They tease a physical altercation at ringside, but Tony Atlas hops out of the crowd to keep Rocky from... standing up for himself? I would've lit a $20 bill on fire if Vince screamed "That's Saba Simba." Are you excited for the Intercontinental Title Match at WrestleMania?! Me neither.
Shawn Michaels makes his return to WWF television to kick off the 2nd hour of RAW IS WAR. Jim Ross gushes over him, calling Shawn a franchise player whether you want to admit it or not. I'd ask why Vince isn't giving him the treatment, but then we see Vince is in the ring to talk to Shawn himself. Shawn said hearing the crowd helps him find that smile he lost a month ago. Guess what, it was in San Antonio where he left it, but he decided to bring it with him wherever he goes. Nobody but his parents (and maybe Vince) know how difficult he can be to deal with and thanks the crowd for their unwavering support. WHAT ABOUT THE KNEE? The knee is "coming along" and he'll see Dr. Andrews next week for a reevaluation. Hopefully in a couple of months he'll be in the ring again. He has a bone to pick with Vince, though. After all the years being in the WWF, he sits at home and notices that WrestleMania is around the corner and the phone never rang once. How can there be WrestleMania without inviting Shawn Michaels? Since Vince didn't invite him, he's going to have to invite himself to WrestleMania, and he's going to sit next to Vin-Man and make sure he calls the WWF Title Match right down the middle.
The British Bulldog (w/ Owen Hart) vs. Vader (w/ Mankind & Paul Bearer):
YES! The Half-a-Team Pre-PPV Challenge! The world will never grow tired of this trope. I love that Owen continues to pose with the European Championship, irking the Bulldog in the process. Lockup and Vader shoves Bulldog into the corner. He unloads with a series of rights and lefts, pummeling Bulldog to the canvas. Whip to the ropes and Vader with a body-block. Bulldog no-sells a short-clothesline and comes off the ropes with a pair of shoulder tackles. Crisscross and Bulldog with a diving shoulder tackle, followed by a clothesline and the delayed vertical suplex! We come back from commercial with Vader in control and coming off the second rope with a splash for a near-fall. Bulldog comes back with a body press, but a crucifix cradle is countered with a Samoan drop. Vader with a big splash for two. He nails Bulldog with a body-block from the middle rope and lays him out with a short clothesline. He goes high risk again but this time Bulldog counters it with a slam. He catches a body press in the corner and tosses Vader with another slam. Bulldog goes for the running powerslam, but Mankind hops on the apron to save, drawing a bell at 5:58 (shown). Owen goes after Mankind, but now it's a 2-on-1 until Bulldog cleans house with the urn. It feels like they're going hard with getting Bulldog over as a babyface. Solid action with a predictable non-finish. **¼
Billy Gunn vs. Aaron Ferguson:
Ken Shamrock joins the commentary team for this match. He'll be the referee for the Submission Match, in case you've missed that being mentioned. Gunn pounds away to start. Whip and Gunn with an elbow. He plants Ferguson with a slam as he spends a lot of time pointing at Shamrock. He hooks a leg lock, but Ferguson is in the ropes. Gunn with an abdominal stretch, and he immediately grabs the ropes and gets caught, somehow not understanding the point of the spot. Shamrock isn't impressed by Gunn's showboating on an inexperienced opponent. Billy wins with an arm bar at 2:04. Post-match, Gunn confronts Shamrock at the table, saying he doesn't think Shamrock can live up to the hype. Shamrock says he's never back down in his life, and he isn't going to start with this chump. Shamrock quickly takes Gunn down with a side arm bar and makes Billy tap. Gunn doesn't think he can do it again, so Shamrock takes him down and gets him to tap to the ankle lock. Billy grabs a chair, but the referee holds him back. I guess this was intended to familiarize the WWF audience with Shamrock.
We cut to a backstage promo from Austin. He says he's not impressed by Shamrock taking advantage of a man who just had a grueling match. He's overrated and when the day comes Austin promises to beat the hell out of him. McMahon asks why Austin is here if he's not scheduled for action. He's here because it's his job, and by hook or crook, Bret Hart will be the WWF Champion, and when WrestleMania is over, he will walk out as the WWF Champion. He won the Royal Rumble, and Bret only won the Final Four because he was crippled and sick. He will beat the hell of Bret, because that's the bottom line.
Sycho Sid screams another incoherent promo while they construct the cage. Yes, we're still in the era of the big bar cage that is assembled piece-by-piece.
WWF Championship; Steel Cage Match:
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Bret "Hitman" Hart:
Would this be the biggest match to take place in the days leading up to the biggest PPV of the year? You can make a strong argument for it. Judging by Jerry Lawler's ranting, the only way to win is to either escape over the cage or go through the doors. Lockup into the corner and Bret goes to work on the midsection with right hands and boots. Sid fights to his feet, throwing rights of his own. Meanwhile, Steve Austin is watching backstage from a surprisingly natural angle. Bret cuts Sid off, taking him over with a snap mare and dropping an elbow across the chest. Bret climbs, but Sid interrupts him by straddling him across the top of the cage. Sid scoops Hart up and slams his back into the cage. Sid makes a s-l-o-w climb and Bret easily catches up to him. They trade blows while standing on the top rope. Sid knocks Bret off balance and lands a series of kicks to the chest. Bret with a rake of the eyes and a right hand coming off the top rope. Sid cuts off another escape attempt, slamming Bret from the top rope. Sid goes for the door, unsuccessfully. Here comes Steve Austin, slamming the door in Sid's face and holding it shut. We come back from commercial, with Bret working over the lower back. Whip is reversed to the corner with a rattling crash into the turnbuckle. Sid with a boot to the chest and he plants Bret with a Powerbomb. Sid climbs, but Austin meets him from the outside and pounds away. Sid fights Austin off, but the interference buys Bret enough time to recover. Bret and Austin momentarily double-team Sid, and now the Undertaker runs to the ring and comes to the aid of Sid to preserve his title shot on Sunday Night! Austin gets sent crashing to the arena floor. Meanwhile, Bret takes Sid off the top with a super-plex! Austin regroups, chair in hand, and smacks Taker across the back with it. Both men in the ring recover and make separate exit attempts. Bret is out the door, but Taker slams the door in his face! Sid climbs over on the opposite side of the ring and retains at 8:02. This was chaos wrapped in a standard brawling-style cage match, and it made for a far better experience than doing a straight one-on-one. ***
Post-match, Vince McMahon gets in the ring to get some comments from Hart while the cage is deconstructed. Bret snatches the microphone and shoves McMahon to the canvas! "Frustrated isn't the god-d*mn word for it! This is bullsh*t! You've screwed me, everybody screwed me, nobody does a god-d*mn thig about it! Nobody in the building cares, nobody in the dressing room cares, so much god-d*mn injustice, I've had it up to here!" Bret accuses everyone of turning a blind eye to all the injustice he's suffered. Everyone knows he's the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, and "tough sh*t" if you disagree. Austin cuts him off, calling him a loser, despite Austin himself trying to help him out. Bret keeps ranting, and out comes Sid ("I don't know sh*t, crybaby!"). Out comes the Undertaker while Sid and Bret trade shoves. Bret goes after Taker with a tope suicida, and now Austin joins the "Bret Hart is a crybaby club". Austin pounds away at Bret at ringside while Taker and Sid trade blows in the ring. After all that chaos, Shawn Michaels makes his presence known, though he never gets physically involved.
Final Thoughts: For the final hard-sell from the flagship program, this did as good of a job as you could ask for considering the weak under-card and limited star power booked for the show. Everything to do with Austin and Hart has been gold, and while it isn't for the WWF Title, feels like the true Main Event of the PPV, while Sid and Taker seem like they're in a forced set-up because the match was booked before there was any conflict. Shawn Michaels' sudden return to TV is a huge wild card, so who knows how he'll play into all the key storylines at WrestleMania. The growing dissension between Bulldog and Owen seems like a prime time for them to drop the titles, especially with Bulldog being treated as 100% babyface at this point. The only weakness on the card is a thrown-together IC Championship Match and the Tag Team 4-Way that has barely been mentioned on Raw over the last couple of shows.
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