Monday, July 13, 2015

Raw #200 - March 10th, 1997

The first episode of “Raw is War” (and the 201st episode of Raw, sort of) gets off to a less-than-auspicious start as the in-arena noise is audible during the opening seconds of the intro, allowing the viewers at home to hear Howard Finkel instruct the live crowd to make noise. A new intro sequence plays to the strains of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People,” used without permission. Thus begins Raw is War, one of the strangest titles for a wrestling program in history. You didn’t see Nitro re-naming itself Nitro is Awesome, now did you? Or Nitro is Ortin? The WWF’s flagship program would retain this self-referential title up to and including the September 10th, 2001 edition.

Sid walks under the brand-new Titantron and down the giant entrance ramp to set the tone for the next five or six years of programming by kicking off the show with an in-ring promo. Sid expresses doubt about his tag team partner, The Undertaker’s motives tonight before proclaiming that at Wrestlemania, the Dead Man will become another symbol of Sid’s victories. Sid’s promo is interrupted by The Undertaker’s music as his Wrestlemania opponent makes a slow march to the ring and Sid just stands there like an idiot not saying a word. Get used to this scene repeating with slight variations ten times a night, every Monday night, for years to come. Undertaker refuses to team with Sid tonight, claiming he can beat Mankind and Vader on his own. A very loud, “Ohhhhh yeeeeees!” from Paul Bearer leads to an angry promo by the fat man as he and his two proteges come to the ring. He proceeds to get the name of the show wrong, calling it “War on Raw” while slipping in the tidbit that Vader and Mankind will be challenging for the tag team titles at Mania for some strange reason. The two heels attack Sid and Taker in the ring, but the babyfaces fight back, allowing Sid to break out his patented windmill punches. Undertaker mistakenly believes Sid punched him from behind, leading to a short stand-off.
Raw (is War) returns with a low-angle Andre-shot designed to put over the size not of Rocky Maivia, but of the new Raw set. With all this re-formatting of the show, somehow Vince managed to sneak a squash match onto the show, with Maivia taking on Tony Roy, last seen in a losing effort to Kama in late 1995, whose name is now pronounced “R-wah,” like the hockey player Patrick. Roy is War. Before the match can started, however, incomprehensible speech is heard over the PA, the kind that can only come from the Iron Sheik. At least he has an excuse for being impossible to understand, as he’s speaking Farsi and not English. I think. Regardless, Sheiky Baby does slip in a few words about Rocky Johnson and how the Sultan is going to win the IC title at “Wrestling Mania.” At least I think that’s the Sultan; in the dim lighting, it’s hard to tell whether that’s The Sultan or whether Kevin Nash has returned to the WWF as Super Shredder. Bob Backlund then rants about putting morality back in everyone’s lives while Roy attacks Maivia from behind. “We’re gonna procure — procure, I said, ladies and gentlemen — the championship!” Something tells me The Sultan is a last-minute sub for Marc Mero for WM13. Rocky hits a floatover DDT, a Devastating Maneuver (#1), not letting Backlund’s match-long rant distract him. One stupid pose and a long flying cross-body later, and Maivia picks up the victory. Sultan and company invade the ring, forcing Rocky to defend himself and get out of Dodge before he and the cameraman spot Tony Atlas, his dad’s former tag team partner, in the crowd. Tony Atlas back in the WWF? Something is definitely afoot.

Tonight’s Slam of the Week is sponsored by Cool Boarders for the Playstation, where you can “pull off insane snowboarding maneuvers.” Do you think Vince wrote this ad copy? Ahmed Johnson’s demolition of Leif Cassidy on Shotgun is this week’s highlight. Ahmed puts Cassidy in the Pearl River Plunge, a move Jim Ross says Johnson has in the past performed on a car and on a table. That is, onto a car and onto a table; a tiger driver executed against an automobile would have been Slam of the Decade.
Next is a six-man tag match between the only six luchadors not contracted by WCW. The announcers ignore the action between the hired hands in the ring as they discuss tonight’s debate between Jerry Lawler and Paul Heyman, which JR compares to the debate between JFK and “Tricky Dick Nixon.” However, it sounds like he calls the 37th president, “Turkey-Dick Nixon.” Getting back to the action, Vince notes the Very Quick Maneuvers (#2) used by Latin Lover, et  al. Octagon and Pentagon, who look exactly the same, exchange running moves for the benefit of the confused audience. A split-screen interrupts the action as security ejects the “bionic woman,” that is, Chyna, not Jaime Summers.

We learn after the break that the muscular woman has been arrested, I suppose for trespassing, meaning that security in 1997 is far better than it will be in a few years when they crazy chick from Tough Enough 3 cons her way backstage and meets Vince. Brian Pillman shows up on the spilt-screen and says he’ll be on Shotgun Saturday Night. Hector Garza wows the crowd with a spinning dive off the top rope onto his opponents and teammates, but Latin Lover drops the ball by coming up several feet too short on his body-press attempt. While the announcers get their jollies looking at the replay of Garza’s dive, they completely ignore the finish, which sees Latin Lover get pinned.
Ahmed Johnson faces off against the evening’s second jobber, Roy Raymond. “That big Johnson weighs 305 pounds,” says Ross. Just imagine how much the rest of him must weigh! Ross wonders whether the Chicago Street Fight at Mania will be the last match of Ahmed’s career; it won’t be, but it probably should have been. Harlem Heat 2000, anyone? The Nation of Domination interrupts the match by standing on the entrance ramp, just like Sultan and company did in the squash match just a few matches ago. While the NOD’s theme plays, Johnson pins Raymond. Faarooq gets on the mic and calls Ahmed an Uncle Tom. Ahmed calls Faarooq, “charcoal-colored” and brings out the Road Warriors, who enter through the crowd while their music plays. Hawk tells the NOD that by the end of their match, they’ll look like a pile of “raw sweat socks,” which I believe was an old item from the old WWF merchandise catalog. Ahmed accuses the NOD of turning white — not in a racial sense, but from fear.

JR hassles Owen and Bulldog on their way to the ring about their dissension. Barry Windham of the New Blackjacks tries to stir up trouble between the champions. That’s to mess up their tag team cohesion, you see. Bradshaw then says Owen has “some real purdy lips.” I don’t know what that’s for. Owen doesn’t take too kindly to the implied threat of anal rape, brawling with Bradshaw. Vader cuts a promo on the split-screen about “The Pain Game” he and his partner will win at Wrestlemania.
The nondescript brawling continues after the break. Vince announces that Bret Hart will get a title rematch against Sid next week, just six days before Wrestlemania 13. Tazz threatens Jerry Lawler via the split-screen before former WWF referee Bill Alfonso blows his whistle. As soon as Tazz walks away, the 6’ Lawler makes a series of short jokes about the 5’9” Human Suplex Machine. Owen has Bradshaw locked in the Sharpshooter as the referee is distracted by the chaos in the ring caused by the two illegal men. Windham clotheslines Owen before the referee rings the bell and awards the match to the Blackjacks for reasons the announcers can’t understand. In fact, Bulldog shoved the referee, but none of the three commentators were paying close enough attention to catch that. A commercial for the Slammys airs, urging fans to vote for the Loose Screw award, a category that includes Cosmo Kramer.

Taz confronts Lawler at ringside, grabbing him by the jacket, before Sabu leaps out of the ring and through a table. to the uninitiated, it would appear Sabu was trying to hit the ECW-hating Lawler rather than his mortal enemy Taz. A swarm of ECW wrestlers, including former Bodydonna Chris Candido, separate Taz and Sabu.
Leif Cassidy takes on Miguel Perez, Jr. who is Puerto Rican, as evidenced by his music and the flags on his tights. Jerry Lawler accuses the Caribbean’s answer to Chewbacca of being jealous of Savio Vega’s success. Two crappy kip-ups and a miscue later, and the fans greet Perez with apathy. Paul E. gets on the split-screen and gets real, referring to himself as Paul Heyman while ranting against Lawler. Miguel Perez counters a powerbomb for the night’s third Maneuver before pinning Leif with a victory to cap off one of the most lackluster debuts since Avatar, who bombed so badly he had to be repackaged as Leif Cassidy. Backstage, when asked for his reaction to the newly-announced title match next week, Sid screams, “I don’t react, Vince McMahon! I react with the action!”

The Marilyn Manson intro plays again to mark the 9 o’clock hour. Jim Ross is in the ring with Ken Shamrock, who will referee the Austin-Hart submission match, which, pending the outcome of next week’s Hart-Sid match, could be for the WWF title. “Shut yer hole, Shamrock!” says Stone Cold on the as-yet-unnamed Titantron. Austin doesn’t understand how Bret is getting so many title shots, but he hopes Hart wins next week so that Stone Cold can win the title at Wrestlemania. Austin and Shamrock exchange threats before Bret Hart enters in flannel to his theme music. Bret complains about the lack of justice in the WWF and admits to screaming and crying at Gorilla Monsoon until he got a steel cage match with Sid. Most fans boo the prospect of The Hitman winning the title, and that’s before he rattles off the list of people by whom he has been screwed. Hart says he likes Shamrock but he better not screw with Bret at Wrestlemania. Shamrock says he’s not a marriage counselor who’s hear to listen to his problems. If he were a marriage counselor, he’d probably have a word with Bret about his many extramarital affairs. Steve Austin walks through the curtain for two seconds before walking right back as the show cuts to commercial.
The Honky Tonk Man comes to the ring as Aldo Montoya waits around. Honky refuses to sing for the crowd, drawing cheers from the Worcester fans. Billy Gunn, who hasn’t been seen since he got his neck fake-injured against his fake-brother, comes to the ring for his comeback match. Honky Tonk says that the he has narrowed the list for his next protege down to about three candidates. Honky hits on some topical references to Dolly the sheep by saying that he himself should be cloned, forgetting about Greg Valentine from their old tag team. Honky Tonk repeatedly mentions that McMahon is in the running to be the next Honky Tonk Man based on his dance skills, leading to chuckles from Vince. In a further excuse to ignore a Billy Gunn-Aldo Montoya match, Sunny talks about her new segment on Shotgun, “Undercover with Sunny,” suggesting that Billy would like to get under cover with Sunny. I remind you that Billy Gunn is married and that his wife was on hand during his last match, so the former Smoking Gunns shouldn’t be sleeping with Sunny. Anymore. Speaking of Sunny, Vince remarks, “Billy Gunn has polished off Aldo Montoya” after pinning the Portuguese Man-O-War.

Goldust is up next to take on Massachusetts’s own Tim McNeany. Shortly into the match, Hunter appears on the stage (with lighting reminiscent of his entrances for years to come) along with the mystery woman. Jim Ross speculates that there could be two of that woman, since she had seemingly been arrested and escorted from the building earlier in the night. Imagine two Chynas: one could stay out of the spotlight and be the “before” picture in the plastic surgery photos. Goldust pins McNeany after a Curtain Call, and Chyna steps onto the apron. With Goldut distracted, Hunter clotheslines him from behind off the top rope/ It’s rare for HHH to jump off the top rope, and even rarer for someone to do it while wearing a suit. Marlena jumps onto Chyna’s back and has to be pulled off by officials. Chyna pushes through the suits to get to Marlena, who lands a punch on the Amazon. The mystery woman press-slams Harvey Wippleman onto two other referees before order can be restored. Who would have thought that Harvey would win the women’s title before her? Paul E. walks by Tommy Dreamer, Beulah, Sandman, and the Dudley Boyz backstage on his way to the “great debate” with Jerry Lawler.
Jim Ross hosts the debate in the middle of the ring while Jerry Lawler and Paul E. stand by a giant WWF podium. Sadly, this would not be a mainstay of Raw is War like the Titantron. Tonight’s debate question is “Should ECW exist?” As Lawler gives his opening statement, ECW wrestlers line the outside of the ring. The King goes over the 90-second time limit, and Dangerously lays into Lawler about the ECW guys busting their (collective) ass. Lawler says that the same number of people in Philadelphia who go to an ECW show would also watch paint dry. Paul E. says that as long as they’re shooting, “How ya doin’ at the see-saws in Louisville?” He also brings up the fact that his sons don’t call themselves, “Lawler.” Jerry plays the gay card and says that Heyman hangs around with all these guys because he’s “light in the loafers.” Tommy Dreamer challenges Lawler to bring his friends to the ring so they can have a war. Lawler calls on his buddies, but no one shows up. Realizing it’s past all his closest acquaintances’ bedtimes, Lawler steps out of the ring.

Mankind and Vader, who are inexplicably getting tag team title shots (except for the fact that Bulldog was supposed to wrestle Austin instead of defending the tag titles at Mania), team up to take on Sid and the Undertaker, who are scheduled to main-event Wrestlemania in 2 weeks. Vader and Mankind attack Sid before the bell before The Undertaker can arrive. Taker finally shows up with no entrance music to take out Vader with a chokeslam and a big boot before Mankind clotheslines the Dead Man and himself over the top rope. The Masters of the Power Bomb are left in the ring as the legal men while Undertaker, the only man in the match not best known for his WCW stint, waits in his corner.
After the final commercial break, Vince informs us that the USA Network has granted the WWF more air time for the finish of this match. Sid gets the hot tag to Undertaker, who chokeslam on Mankind. As Sid and Vader brawl on the outside, Undertaker jumps off the apron onto Vader, but inadvertently hits Sid, as well. The two get into an argument in the ring and Taker chokeslams his partner, then dives over the top rope onto Vader and Mankind. Undertaker beats up Mankind on the ramp, but Sid throws him back into the ring for a powerbomb. Vader covers Taker for the victory. Sid then pie-faces Vader, which is not as delicious as the 450-pounder would have liked. Backstage, Bret Hart says that next week, we’ll find out who is the king, and it won’t be a giraffe, referring to Sid. Harsh. He gets a title shot next week.

Final Tally:

3 Maneuvers (Year total: 43)

1 comment:

  1. Raw is War opening is sex. I remember this well. The war bombs footage, fireworks and huge screen with spinning War is fire.