The Stomping Ground: Old School Raw Recap 5.12.97 (Austin, Hart, Undertaker)

Yowza. There’s a lot of hostility in the air here at the Pulse, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you haven’t been reading the comments section for the past three days. Suffice to say, I don’t think many of us (myself included) are in our right minds now as we go through the motions of a pre-Summerslam lull. I did come across as quite jaded last week, so I decided to take a step back this time and go back to an era when wrestling was more about having a good time and less about analysis.

I checked WWE Classics on Demand and I will now, for your reading pleasure, recap an old school Monday Night Raw from May 12, 1997. The King of the Ring was still a yearly tradition at this time and Bret Hart was fully embracing his anti-American heel phase. Stone Cold Steve Austin was well on his way to superstardom and…well, let’s watch the tape, shall we?

Vince McMahon as a commentator recapped the “Cold Day in Hell” In Your House PPV from the night before. Ahmed Johnson (remember him?) nearly defeated the Nation of Domination in a gauntlet match and Ken Shamrock made his debut, forcing Vader to tap out. Austin faced Undertaker for the WWF Championship but lost due to interference from Brian Pillman and the Hart Foundation. Jeez, I actually remember that PPV. I also was on the Ahmed Johnson bandwagon for a while; it’s a shame his injuries began his downward spiral. Hey, remember when he showed up in WCW as “Big T” and legally took the T from Booker T’s name in a match?

Bret Hart is heading to the ring in a wheelchair surrounded by the Foundation, and I can’t help but feel terrible about this. Three out of four of his comrades are dead and the fourth is serving time for drug possession. This was a brilliant angle, with Bret playing the “Americans are scum” card for backing Austin’s actions. It’s great when heels can actually back up what they say. He leaves as the crowd chants for him to “go home.”

Here comes Triple H to face Ahmed Johnson in the first round of the King of the Ring tournament. Chyna is looking more like a woman at this point in time, but still nothing I’d stick my dick in: I’m not sure I’d ever get it back. Triple H looks like he’s 100 pounds soaking wet and I recall thinking he’d never amount to much when I saw this all those years ago. Boy, was I wrong (see: Cactus Jack). Ahmed no-sells before backing Triple H into the corner. Gorilla press slam and Ahmed is in full control, followed by a scissor kick. He makes this bizarre primal scream and for some reason I don’t remember that. Huh. Helmsley dodges a running shoulder tackle in the corner and takes advantage. One hilarious moment finds Helmsley delivering a punch and Ahmed yells out “Mother fucker,” which gets bleeped. Big spinebuster and Ahmed calls for the Pearl River Plunge! Chyna brings in a chair and hits Johnson in the kidney, drawing the DQ. Jim Ross calls Chyna a cyborg and King calls her a real woman. One guess as to who’s more accurate.

Austin heads to the ring to a rather lukewarm response, and I never thought I’d ever hear myself say that. Vince McMahon is in the ring to interview Austin and it’s obvious that Vinnie Mac hasn’t gotten on Austin’s bad side yet. Austin uses a classic metaphor about the Hart Foundation being a snake, and Bret’s the head. He goes on to say that he’ll take out the Foundation one by one, starting with Pillman. It’s a shame that feud never amounted to much, if I recall.

Hey, it’s “Leif Cassidy” aka Al Snow, ready to do the job for Scott Putski. All I remember about this kid was his gruesome knee injury that put him out of action just a scant few weeks after his debut. He was never seen in a WWE ring again. Lots of take downs in this one as the match begins with a technical twist. Putski hits a slow hurracanrana and Snow counters that with a double leg power bomb. The crowd doesn’t give a shit. At all. They’re not reacting to ANYTHING. Scott wins with a snap suplex to an underwhelming response. Snow snaps and attacks Putski. Not long after this, Al would “break kayfabe” and go all crazy.

Hawk and Animal get the backstage treatment as Hawk goes off on a rant about the good old days when they used to walk around the neighborhood and slaughter defenseless “domesticated animals” (his words, not mine). I’m not sure what time period he’s talking about, but then again, he IS insane. The Nation heads to the ring to meet them, complete with white rapping duo PG-13. Holy shit, I barely remembered those two! Faarooq demands that the rappers face LOD, and now I know why I don’t recall them. Hawk hip tosses one of them so hard he literally bounces and slides out of the ring! Hawk no-sells a double piledriver and we get the Doomsday Device to finish both of them.

We get a bizarre “reality check” commercial where some chick says her fat ass husband was disgusting for a long time, until he started dancing to HBK’s theme song. Weird.

Mankind is out to his “Silence of the Lambs” theme song and says he blames the Undertaker for burning Paul Bearer’s face some weeks ago. I miss Foley calling him “Uncle Paul.” Bearer comes out from the gorilla position with head wrappings reminiscent of the Invisible Man. Bearer demands that Undertaker return to his side or else he will reveal a big secret…..his brother is alive and is currently a dentist! Nah, but this promo began the slow reveal of the Big Red Machine, which wouldn’t actually happen until October of that same year.

Ah, remember when Raw is War and Warzone were “two different shows”? That was a dumb idea. I think the reason behind it was that Warzone was at 10 pm and was raunchier somehow. Faarooq heads to the ring by himself to speak with Vinnie Mac, who reveals that Faarooq is number one contender for Undertaker’s title. This was Faarooq’s race card promo as he name drops token Intercontinental Champions. This could have gone somewhere if the Nation gimmick was taken more seriously…and didn’t include Crush in his grunge phase. He says that Undertaker is a “white savior.” The crowd boos his comments…does that make the fans racist? Savio Vega heads to the ring with the rest of the Nation in tow to take on the Undertaker…hey, there’s D’Lo!

As Taker heads to the ring, I’m reminded that not much has changed in the past fifteen years; the WWE Champion TO THIS DAY only gets the 10 pm slot and doesn’t close the show! Taker hits Old School before it was called that. In fact, it never really had a name, come to think of it. Yada yada yada, Taker wins with the Tombstone and the entire Nation hits the ring to destroy the Undertaker.

I forgot to mention that this was the brief period where the WWF and ECW made a short-term arrangement to put ECW on the map. Rob Van Dam is out as Lawler runs down ECW. I don’t recall RVD running down his own company, but he’s right there talking shit about ECW. His opponent? Wait for it…Jeff Hardy! Jeff’s wearing some weird red attire and a headband as RVD makes Hardy his bitch. How bizarre to see these two going at it YEARS before they really hit it big. RVD wins with a split-leg moonsault as JR reminds us that La Femme Nikita is on next. The Peta Wilson version, mind you. Remember that?

JR sits down with Goldust in a kayfabe interview, discussing the character of Goldust as Dustin Runnels. Say what you will; the gimmick was a brilliant use of ring psychology in its prime. His ex-wife Terri sits beside him, and damn she was fine. The purpose of this segment was to humanize the character and turn him into a fan favorite, as well as to silence the bigots who thought Goldust was a legit thing.

JR asks Taker via Titantron what his thoughts are on Paul Bearer and the beating he just took from the NoD. He says he has to go to the “Vault of Souls” to unleash a “demon” to help him face the Nation. I don’t remember him getting any sort of help. Please, someone correct me if I’m wrong.

Headbangers vs Furnas and LaFon vs New Blackjacks vs Owen and Bulldog. Three of those names are dead now. Windham eliminates the French-Canadians rather quickly as JBL waits on the apron. That guy went through quite a few gimmicks. Remember Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw? My cousin still has his Jakks action figure! During a commercial break, the Headbangers pinned the Blackjacks. The Headbangers nail a double team move and we get a teased pin, but Owen had his foot on the ropes. The crowd barely comes alive for that. Holy shit, this audience sucks balls. They haven’t reacted to anything but Bret, Austin, and Taker. To be fair, I suppose it’s because this is a transitional period with the fans demanding more Austin and less early 90s shtick. Oh, right, the match…..Bulldog pins Thrasher after a clusterfuck, and neither man is actual the legal member of their respective teams.

Bret Hart is out again, this time to tell us he has a huge surprise. He sends the Hart Foundation to the back. Hmmm….Bret Hart in the ring in a wheelchair….could it be time for the infamous wheelchair Super Kick? A-yup. Bret says HBK represents all Americans and goes on and on and on and on….it’s like Lesnar promo. The show actually ENDS before we get the kick, which is shown the following week (if I recall correctly).

So what did I take away from this show? It was boring as all fuck. Seriously. I actually prefer the past couple of months to what I just re-witnessed.

I suppose you could say that if I’m longing for today’s WWE, then my mission to get myself out of this slump was accomplished. I’m raring to go for next week’s Raw!

After all, it can’t be as bad as 1997.

Can it?

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,