The SmarK 24/7 Rant for Monday Night RAW – June 16 1997

– And now for the other half of the Monday Night Wars for June 16.

– Live from Lake Placid, NY.

– Your hosts are Vince & JR.

– So we lead off with a hot story about a backstage fight between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels (which was a shoot, although a bit more trumped up on TV than it really was according to both participants). And the upshot is that Austin & Michaels are stripped of the tag team titles and there’s a tournament to determine who will face Austin and the partner of his choosing. That brings out Steve Austin for the opening interview, all pissed off and taking it out on Vince, albeit only verbally at this point. Mankind quickly interrupts and makes a case for himself as Austin’s tag team partner, which gives us “I’ve got a nice ass!” as your quote of the week. Mini-rant: As great as the Austin v. Dude Love matches in 1998 were, they really dropped the ball in not playing up their “former partners gone bad” history with each other. Next up to interrupt is Ken Shamrock, who’s a bit upset about getting stunned last week. It’s supposed to be Austin v. Pillman tonight, but Kenny wants the match instead. Now there’s a match that could have drawn a few bucks if they had any clue what to do with Shamrock at that point. Sadly, by the time Ken would have been ready to hang with Austin in a title match, he was pretty far down the card.

– Meanwhile, Brian Pillman lets us know that they’re making a mistake in handcuffing the Hart Foundation tonight during his match with Austin, because you’re supposed to put the cuffs on the felon. Namely, himself. In case you didn’t get that. Just wanted to make that one clear.

Tag team tournament round one: The New Blackjacks v. Owen Hart & British Bulldog

Owen starts with Windham and misses a leg lariat, resulting in Barry hitting a standard lariat for two. Bradshaw adds a big boot and it’s back to Windham for a suplex that gets two. Owen takes him down with an armbar, however, and the Harts work him over for a bit before Bulldog follows with a backdrop. Delayed suplex into Owen’s missile dropkick follows, but Windham comes back with a backdrop suplex. Lukewarm tag to Bradshaw and he throws the boots and clotheslines everyone. Powerslam gets two on the Bulldog. He goes for the piledriver to finish, but Owen hits the leg lariat to break it up and Bulldog gets the pin at 3:39. Dissention between the Blackjacks is teased, in case it was keeping you up at night wondering when they broke up. Blackjacks are just so sad to watch, specifically Barry Windham. *

– Let us take you back to last week, as the Nation IMPLODES and Faarooq goes on a quest to only have black people in his crew.

King Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Phineas Godwinn

Just a King, not the King of Kings yet. HHH pounds on PIG in the corner to start, but Phineas gets all riled up and mule kicks him, then follows with a back elbow. HHH has none of that and stomps him down in the corner in response, and I’m impressed with his reluctance to go right to using the knee. And then he hits a high knee at 90 seconds in to prove me wrong. Touche, Hunter, touché. PIG gets dumped and beat up by Chyna, and back in HHH comes off the top and gets clotheslined coming down. PIG makes the comeback with a backdrop and a clothesline out of the corner, but he gets distracted by Chyna and it’s a KICK WHAM PEDIGREE at 3:31. 1/2* Henry Godwinn comes out and gives Phineas what for, all pissed off since having his neck broken by the LOD, which sets up the heel turn that no one was waiting for.

– Meanwhile, Faarooq again promises a bigger, and more importantly, blacker Nation.

Brian Christopher v. Chris Candido

This is billed as USWA v. ECW, with Sunny doing ring announcing duties in a wink-wink moment. Just to pile on the surreal, Paul Heyman is on color commentary. Candido overpowers Christopher to start, but gets caught with an atomic drop and backdrop. They slug it out in the corner and Candido gets a neckbreaker and follows with a legdrop off the middle rope for two. Top rope rana follows while JR badgers Paul into “outing” Christopher as Jerry Lawler’s son, and that draws Lawler out of the back for a DQ at 2:41. Even 10-20 years before this show, if you had said some of the stuff on commentary you would have been blacklisted from wrestling, or worse. You have to give Vince credit for having the courage to make a GIANT change in the status quo of wrestling at this point, if nothing else. 1/2*

Goldust v. Jim Neidhart

Anvil pounds on Goldust to start, but he slugs back and gropes himself. Punches in the corner, but Neidhart comes back with a knee to the gut to take over. Bulldog comes out to hit on Marlena as the match drags on, and they attack Goldust on the floor. Back in, Goldust gets his sliding punch…and pins Neidhart at 3:45. Yes, Jim Neidhart got to job to a PUNCH. And then they play the Bulldog’s music. This was all kinds of messed up and awful. -*

Steve Austin v. Brian Pillman

Last week’s main event, take two. The Hart Foundation is all handcuffed to the ringposts, which is playing off the original idea for King of the Ring 97’s aborted Austin-Hart main event . Austin attacks right away and gets an atomic drop, then beats on Pillman outside and back in for a stun gun that is totally missed by JR’s history spewing. Man, that one was a LAY-UP. Pillman begs off, so Austin attacks him again and hits him with a clothesline out of the corner. Pillman goes to the eyes and heads up, but Austin drops him on the top rope and then starts attacking the helpless Hart members. Pillman chooses that moment to choke Austin out with a TV cable and we take a break. Back with Pillman chopping Austin down for two, but Steve goes low. Pillman catches him with his head down and gets two, then hits the chinlock while gushing blood from his nose due to a chairshot gone wrong. Austin escapes and gets caught with a sleeper, but escapes with a jawbreaker. Pillman takes him down again and spits some blood on him, but that just motivates the guy and Austin pounds him on the mat. Austin stomps a mudhole and walks it dry, then gets sick of listening to the ref and gives him a stunner. Just because. Pillman goes for the nuts and then pulls out brass knuckles and puts Austin out with them, and referee #2 counts two. Meanwhile, Owen steals the key from the dead ref and lets himself loose, and all hell breaks loose for the DQ at 8:31. Should have been epic, but Pillman just couldn’t hang anymore. Still, it was a fun brawl with tons of blood and weapons, kind of a precursor to the craziness that Russo would really usher in after Pillman’s death. *** Ken Shamrock, Goldust and the Legion of Doom all make the save and calm Austin down, thus setting up the ten-man tag at Canadian Stampede.

Bobby Fulton v. Tommy Rogers

The Fantastics EXPLODE. This was Vince’s answer to the cruiserweight division of WCW, showing that all the ideas weren’t winners. Rogers takes Fulton down with a flying headscissors to start, into a hiptoss, and they slug it out in the corner. Fulton, clearly playing heel here, grabs a headlock and cheats, then throws a leg lariat for two. He pounds Rogers on the apron with an elbow, then baseball slides him into the railing. Back in, Fulton goes for a piledriver, which Rogers reverses into a dropkick, but Fulton gets two in the corner. Rogers comes back and finishes with the Tomikaze (Unprettier) at 2:45 to finish. Duller than dishwater.

Tag team tournament round one: Rob Van Dam & Jerry Lawler v. The Headbangers

Rob flips around at Mosh, but gets splashed in the corner as a result. The Bangers do some double-teaming, although the focus is on Paul E and Tommy Dreamer at ringside. Thrasher misses a blind charge and RVD takes him down with a monkey flip into a one foot missile dropkick. Over to Jerry Lawler, and he punches and kicks at Thrasher on the ropes. Rob comes in with a five star frog splash and Lawler gets two off that. JR comparing the move to Jimmy Snuka instead of, say, Art Barr, shows how out of touch they were still at that point. King with the piledriver on Thrasher as the match breaks down, and Sandman comes in and canes Lawler right in his bad testicle , and the Bangers finish with the double-team splash at 3:57. This was all storyline and no match. * As great as the Hart feud was, the ECW feud was a total misfire on almost the same scale.

Undertaker & Ahmed Johnson v. The New Nation

Faarooq debuts the first new member in the form of his tag team partner — Kama Mustafa, the Supreme Fighting Machine. That gimmick would obviously get tweaked as they went along, to say the least. Kama attacks Undertaker and whips him into the corner, but UT comes back with a clothesline, but the Nation double-teams him in the corner. Taker comes back with a Fameasser on Faarooq, and with Ahmed not tagging yet I hope everyone can see what’s coming a mile away. D-Lo and Faarooq work Taker over on the floor, and we take a break. Back with Taker getting the flying clothesline and a chokeslam for two on Faarooq. JR speculates that it might be Mr. Hughes or Butch Reed as the other new Nation member, while Kama hits Undertaker with a Rock Bottom and pins him clean at 3:46. Yikes. Ahmed chases off the Nation as the crowd is just shocked by that finish…and then turns on Taker to join the Nation. Yup, that’s gotta be Vince Russo. This would have been a pretty bad-ass heel stable if Ahmed could have gone two weeks without getting seriously injured. Well, they’d have better days after the addition of another member in the fall.

Big storyline show, terrible wrestling show with a dead crowd. Can’t blame them in a lot of ways. Back in 97, RAW gets the win this week for being shocking, but now I give the win to Nitro for being more fun and offering better wrestling. I’m funny like that.

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