The SmarK DVD Rant for The Best of RAW 15th Anniversary (Disc Two)
– Welcome to the Russo Era, and not surprisingly the 1998-2002 era is rather lighter on matches than the first disc was.
– From January 19 1998: Vince McMahon introduces Mike Tyson as the special referee for Wrestlemania XIV…but Steve Austin takes exception. Best $5 million Vince ever spent. No sarcasm at all, this was huge and Tyson paid for himself at least 10 times over after the buyrate for Wrestlemania came in. This was the official start of the Vince v. Austin feud as well, as Austin attacks Tyson after verbally punking him out, thus ruining Vince’s big moment and making an enemy of him forever.
– From February 2 1998: DX gives a press conference, sadly still bleeped here, where Shawn gives the State of Union and clarifies that he did NOT sleep with that intern…he was up all night! Chyna fighting to keep a straight face, while Hunter reads the list of words they will no longer say, is pretty fun, too.
– From the same show, Cactus Jack fights Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) and they end up in a dumpster, at which point the New Age Outlaws run out and dump them off the stage in a hokey angle. The elbow off the Titantron into the dumpster was pretty badass…until the packing peanuts flew up. Luckily they don’t show the whole angle, which spanned nearly a half an hour and bored the crap out of the crowd. This was fairly important, however, because it was the next rudimentary step in Russo’s attempts to bring “realism” to the WWF by having people acting out of character to sell how “real” the angle was.
– From March 30 1998, the night after Wrestlemania, as HHH fires Shawn Michaels from D-X and introduces his replacement…X-Pac. This was money. Not only did this turn D-X into a totally different group, but it turned the Monday Night Wars around and was the first huge defection from WCW to the WWF, rather than the other way around. JR’s disgusted “Well look who’s back” is great. Sadly they omit the end of the show, where the Outlaws also join.
– From April 13 1998: Vince McMahon steps into the ring against Steve Austin, generating the first win for RAW in the ratings in 82 weeks, and they never look back. I would have also included the training regimen earlier in the show with Brisco teaching him to counter the stunner, but you can’t have everything. Of course, the whole thing is a big swerve and new corporate lackey Dude Love attacks Austin instead, setting up that match for Unforgiven. I really wish they’d bring the giant eagle belt back, actually.
– From April 27 1998: D-X invades WCW when they’re both in Virginia. Kind of cheesy, but again this was huge, as it turned D-X into faces and gave the WWF that “cool factor” they had been lacking.
– From July 8 1998: D-X parodies the Nation! Another Russo trademark, that being one group of people imitating another group of people. However, this was important not only because it was funny, but because it gave the Nation actual personalities where none had existed before. It also gave the world Jason Sensation as Owen Hart, doing a dead-on impression. Poor choice of words, I guess. “I tried to be a tough guy but I just couldn’t grow my damn beard in” is a great line.
– From September 28 1998: The World title is vacant and Vince is about to award it to either Kane or Undertaker, but Steve Austin interrupts on a zamboni and all hell breaks loose. Vince is so pissed that he decides to keep the belt, and an enraged Undertaker and Kane team up and break his ankle as a result, although the segment omits that part and reduces it to a pop-up factoid. An absolute classic moment regardless.
– From October 5 1998: The next week, Vince is in the hospital having his leg set, and Mick Foley decides to stop by and cheer him up with Yurple the Clown…and Mr. Socko! Now we’re really getting into the prime of Vince Russo’s run. Vince thinks he’s safe when the doctor chases Foley away…but of course it’s Steve Austin, who delivers an enema the hard way. Vince’s disgusted reactions to all the craziness around him show why he was such an incredibly effective character.
– From October 12 1998: The next week, Vince brings his classic Corvette to the arena…and Austin dumps a load of cement in it, completely destroying it.
– From October 19 1998: Topping off the worst month of Vince’s life (as noted by the pop-up just as I’m typing that), Austin holds Vince hostage with a “gun” and makes him piss his own pants, before “firing” and revealing a little sign that says “Bang 3:16”.
WWF World title: The Rock v. Mankind
I forget if I’ve ever ranted on this before, so we’ll do it anyway. From January 4 1999 (although it was taped the week before). D-X and the Corporation are all at ringside. Rock attacks to start and slugs Mick out of the ring, then whips him into the stairs and hits him with it. I hope that Test had someone take lots of pictures of him at ringside holding the WWF title, because that’s the closest he ever got to it. Rock suplexes him on the floor and then grabs the headset and does his own color commentary, which allows Mankind to fight back. Mick adds his own commentary in a great bit, but Rock hits him in the face with the bell and chokes him out with a cable. Rock Bottom through the table, and that gets two back in the ring. Russian legsweep gets two. Mankind comes back with an elbow out of the corner, but Rock slams him and follows with the People’s Elbow. That gets two. Mick with the neckbreaker, but Rock hits him with the belt for two. Mankind gets the double-arm DDT for two and it’s time for the sock, but Ken Shamrock comes in and breaks it up with a chair. It turns into a big brawl at ringside, but Steve Austin trumps everyone by coming in and nailing Rock with the chair, then putting Mick on top for the pin and the title at 8:45. “Yeah, that’ll put butts in the seats.” I hope they engrave that on Tony Schiavone’s tombstone. Just kind of a sloppy brawl compressed into TV time, but obviously the match quality wasn’t the issue here, the insane crowd reaction and huge feelgood moment WAS. They pulled the trigger and created a new star and hopefully they remember that lesson with Jeff Hardy as well. **1/2
– From March 22 1999: Rock and Vince are doing an interview in the ring…and Austin drives a beer truck down to ringside and soaks everyone with it. This was voted the #1 moment on RAW on that horrifying “RAW X” special a few years back, and it’s hard to argue too strenuously about that.
– From April 19 1999: This isn’t actually the segment, it’s a video package about it, but Rock reveals that he still has the smoking skull belt, and Austin drives a monster truck into the arena and crushes the hearse that was being used by the Rock.
Gerald Brisco & Pat Patterson v. The Mean Street Posse
From May 10 1999. Shane was trying to replace his dad, so the Stooges fought for the honor of Mr. Mahon. The Posse attacks Brisco in the ring and Rodney drops a leg on him. They stomp away on Brisco in really bad fashion, but Pat fights them off with a motorcycle helmet and Brisco suplexes Pete Gas. Patterson dumps Rodney while Brisco puts Pete in a figure-four for the submission at 2:08, and that was it for the Posse. And not a moment too soon. -** The use of “Real American” and Patterson’s posedown were a funny slap in the face of Hulk Hogan.
– From June 7 1999: The Greater/Higher Power was Vince! It was Vince all along, Austin! Again, this is just a video package rather than the actual segment. This led to some horrendously stupid stuff, like the Magic Briefcase and the Corporate Ministry and whatever Vince Russo’s brain could concoct on a napkin before showtime.
– From August 9 1999: Y2J! Chris Jericho debuts after months of the Millennium Countdown, gets an insanely huge reaction, and then promptly goes to waste for months afterwards because they don’t know what to do with him. Luckily he was talented enough to recover. I’d have to say this ranks as the biggest and best debut ever. Here’s a weird thing: 24/7 currently has this segment up as well, but they air it unedited (plus blurring, of course) whereas this one does a weird edit when he says “WWF”, cutting to the crowd and altering the audio so that he says “World Wrestling Federation” instead, cutting in that phrase from earlier in the interview.
– From September 27 1999: This Is Your Life, Rock! This was the peak of Russo’s creative powers and the highest rated segment in the history of the show, and also one of those segments that polarized the audience. Mick Foley, desperate to reunite the Rock N Sock Connection, brings out a series of people from Rock’s past, and it goes on for nearly half an hour. It’s all Rock improvising and Mick doing crazy reactions, and although it’s very entertaining, there’s no payoff forthcoming and it didn’t build to a match. ANY match. Still, “You cut the Rock off at second base!” is worth the price of admission.
– From November 8 1999: Big Bossman reads poetry in tribute to Big Show’s dead father. This didn’t really warrant inclusion.
– From November 29 1999: Again, not the segment, just a video package, as Test and Stephanie are trying to get happily married, but HHH interrupts and reveals that she already married him the night before while drugged. And who hasn’t been there?
WWF World title: HHH v. Chris Jericho.
From April 17 2000. Jericho takes him down with a drop toehold and pounds away on the mat, then backdrops a charging HHH to the floor. Jericho misses a baseball slide and HHH slugs him down on the floor, but Jericho dropkicks him off the apron. Back in, Jericho misses a clothesline and feels the wrath of HHH’s knee, and HHH takes over and pounds away on the apron. Jericho meets the stairs, and back in HHH suplexes him and adds the kneedrop for two. Jericho tries to come back, but puts his head down and gets DDT’d. HHH goes up, but Jericho uses Kurt Angle’s Pop-Up Superplex to bring him down, and fires away in the corner. Missile dropkick gets two. HHH comes back with KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but Jericho reverses to the Walls of Jericho, then catapults HHH into the ref by accident. He goes up and gets brought down by Shane, which prompts the APA to chase him away. The belt gets involved and Jericho hits him with it, but again no ref. A second ref comes in for the two count and gets put down by HHH, but that allows Jericho to hit the Lionsault for the pin and the title at 9:50. Or so we thought, since HHH whines that it was a fast count and has the decision reversed, thus getting the belt back. Decent match, and at least Jericho would get his win back when…uh…actually I’ve got nothing here. This was some monster heel heat for HHH, days before Rock kicked his ass and won the title to avenge the fans and Hebner. Again, dunno if it warrants inclusion based on match quality or anything (which was about ***) but it’s a good representation of HHH at his peak.
– From March 26 2001: The end of Nitro. Again, video package. Vince publically fires Jeff Jarrett in one of those weird things that only happen in wrestling, then we get the simulcast with RAW and Nitro and the reveal of Shane as the new owner of WCW.
– From August 20 2001: It’s Stone Cold Appreciation Night, as he bullies Tazz for not wearing a WCW shirt, but Kurt Angle interrupts and drives a milk truck down to ringside for his version of a beer bath.
– From January 7 2002: HHH returns from the quad tear. And then beats up Kurt Angle before going on to win the Royal Rumble and the World title. If he could have fixed the Nobel Prizes to give himself the Nobel Quad Tear Recovery Prize, I’m sure he would have done so as well.
– From February 18 2002: Hollywood Hogan invades WWE on behalf of the nWo, but the Rock appears to start a promo war and draw a gigantic buyrate for Wrestlemania. This was one of those weird deals where they did a super-intense staredown and history-making interview segment using only their natural charisma, and then they went and flushed the whole thing down the toilet by having Hogan try to murder Rock in a semi for some reason. Thankfully they omit that second part and leave things with Rock laying out Hogan with a Rock Bottom instead.
– And finally, from July 15 2002, hell freezes over and Eric Bischoff debuts on RAW as the new General Manager. They cut the death of Nitro down to a 30 second video package and they kept Bischoff rambling for 10 minutes complete? We really just needed The Hug and nothing else.
This was a weird one, with only a couple of matches and the rest angles and interviews. It was classic stuff, to be sure, but there were a LOT of glaring omissions here. Some involving Benoit (the Radicalz debut and the 10-man tag and the Jericho/Benoit tag title win, to name three) but what’s the excuse for leaving out the ECW/WCW Alliance reveal? Where’s Steve Austin v. Undertaker, the highest-rated match in the history of cable TV? Or Ric Flair returning to the WWF after 8 years? Or the Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club, which was stupid but important? What about Edge and Christian and their sodas? It’s mind-boggling what they left out and what they put in instead and although this disc represents the peak of the show, it’s a huge disappointment in a lot of ways.