With my apathy towards Raw at the moment, and in a more general sense WWE overall, I thought it would be a good idea to go back in time to one of the most exciting times in WWF history – 1997 – and review the entire wrestling calendar from that year.
1997 is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial years in wrestling history. We see the Monday Night Wars really escalate and the feud between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart go to the next level in a series that would eventually conclude with the Montreal Screwjob at that year’s Survivor Series.
Anyway, so Raw on 6 January 1997 which took place on December 30, 1996 at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, New York. Remember this was the time that the WWF still recorded Raw.
Champion Roll Call:
WWF Champion: Sycho Sid
WWF Intercontinental Champion: HHH
WWF Tag Team Champions: Owen Hart and the British Bulldog
We start with a video package of Vader hyping his match that night with Bret Hart, highlights of Ahmed Johnson beating the Nation of Domination on Shotgun Saturday Night and Marlena flashing the Sultan on the same show.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler.
Match 1: Owen Hart v Mankind: The show starts with Owen Hart’s music in the background as he’s in the ring as he locks up with Mankind. Clarence Mason, holding Owen’s Slammy, has accompanied him to the ring while Paul Bearer leads Mankind to the ring. Vince informs us that as well as Bret v Vader later, on which Shawn Michaels will commentate, we will hear from Psycho Sid.
Owen hits a belly to belly to start the match and goes for an early sharpshooter but Mankind reaches the ropes and clings desperately to them.
Hart is whipped into the corner and takes a hard bump before Mankind runs knee first into one-half of the tag team champions. Mankind locks in the Mandible Claw but Owen bites his way out before a clothesline from Mankind takes both me to the outside. Mankind tries to hit Hart with a chair but is attacked with the Slammy first, drops Mankind on the guardrail and hits him with the tag title.
Mankind is rolled back into the ring and Owen continues the beating with a series of kicks to the chest before a spinning heel kick. Mankind is able to reverse an abdominal stretch with a hiplock and catches Owen’s boot but is knocked to the outside with an insiguri. Before Owen can take advantage he’s whipped into the guardrail.
We return from a break and Owen is down in the ring but is able to reverse a neckbreaker into a DDT but is caught with another Mandible Claw as he comes off the top rope. Owen charges into the corner but Mankind moves and picks up the win with a piledriver.
Your winner: Mankind
We’re backstage now for an interview with Jose Lothario, his son and Shawn Michaels. More highlights from Shotgun next as the Nation of Domination take it to Ahmed Johnson ahead of his match with Farooq at the Royal Rumble. We also see the debut of the Flying Nuns – who later became the Headbangers.
Match 2: Diesel and Razor Ramon v Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon: We return to ringside as Diesel’s music hits. Of course, it’s fake Diesel, played by Glen Jacobs, as he makes his way down to the ring with Fake Razor Ramon played by Rick Bognar. They are locking up with the late Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon. Lafon and Diesel kick this one off as Diesel starts with those big punches that make up a sixth of his move set. A big shoulder barge then has Lafon on the ground. Lafon counters a suplex with an armbar and Razor is in the ring and hits him with a fallaway slam.
Furnas is in now and takes Razor down with a side headlock and hits a great looking overhead belly-to-belly suplex. The heels gain the advantage when Diesel catches him from the outside and has him down with a big clothesline. Razor is back in and throws Furnas with an overhead pump handle slam. Diesel is back in as Furnas just misses out on the hot tag. Diesel gets a two with a sidewalk slam and again stops Lafon getting into the ring. The heels then double team Furnas in the corner.
Honky Tonk is rattling on about a potential protégé which I assume is him hyping up to the Rockabilly Billy Gunn. An uninteresting announcement but more probably cared about that than did about this match. Lafon is back in and has Diesel down with an insiguri and gets a two with a spinning heel kick before reversing a Powerbomb into a sunset flip, with help from his partner, for another near fall.
Razor is back in and is caught with a suplex before Furnas tags in to get taken straight down with a clothesline. An attempted Razor’s Edge is stopped by Lafon and the faces double-team Diesel out of the ring before hitting their top rope Hart Attack finisher for the three count.
Your winners: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon.
Pretty much a nothing match here. Few fans really cared about Furnas and Lafon and even fewer were bothered about the fake Diesel and fake Razor duo.
We then get clips from last week’s raw where Goldust faced Jerry Lawler with HHH, who was commentating, abducting Marlena before attacking Goldust. Next week on raw Goldust and Marc Mero team up to take on HHH and Jerry Lawler. We get more footage from Shotgun as Marlena flashes the Sultan to break the camel clutch he had applied on Goldust.
Interview with Bret Hart next as he gets asked about Shawn Michaels commentating on his match later that night. I expect a number of barbed comments from HBK. Hart starts laying into Vader before Sid’s music hits and an angry Hart cuts short his interview.
J.R. is in the ring now to interview the WWE Champion. Sid gives pretty incoherent interviews generally and this is no different. Shouting is no substitute for the ability to cut a promo. Michaels’ music hits at the end of the interview as he makes his way down to the ring to commentate on the edition of Raw’s main event which is up next.
Match 3: Bret Hart v Vader: Bret hits the ring first to a good ovation from the crowd as Michaels’ criticises his white boots. All pink costume and white boots is a fairly strange look… The Jim Cornette-less Vader is out next as Vince starts talking about “attitude”. A phrase we would soon hear a lot more of. We see clips of the Undertaker attacking Cornette on the previous day’s Superstars and tombstoning Vader’s manager and putting him in a body bag. This was a move used to get Cornette off the road to focus on his backstage duties. We then get a little dig at JR from Vince as he calls him the best play-by-play man in the business. So good he’s been relegated to superstars, huh Vince?
Anyway, in the ring Vader hits Hart with the series of punches in the corner before dumping him to the outside. Bret makes a comeback as Vader hits the ringpost before the Hitman throws him into the guardrail.
Back in the ring now as Hart hits a few elbows then a shot to Vader’s groin. The big man is up as Hart hits a series of punches and works on his arm and takes him back down to the mat. Vader catches Hart coming off the ropes and again takes it to him in the corner with his pounding fists and a short arm clothesline.
Breaktime next as we see another recap of Shotgun and the NOD attack on Ahmed.
We’re back as Vader continues to beat on the Hitman and hits a big splash off the second rope for a two count. His Vader Bomb attempt is countered as the Hitman raises his knees and hits a number of punches to Vader’s upperbody before the punch to the gut and Russian Legsweep Combo which draws derision from HBK. An impressive splash followed by a diving elbow gets a 2 count for Hart. A backsuplex gets another two. Vader then catches a running Hart but the momentum takes both men over the top rope to the outside where the fight continues.
Both men hammer away at each other as Sid makes his way to the ring and drags the camera man to the back. We return to see Stone Cold hit Hart with a Stunner behind the referee’s back and Vader roles Hart back into the ring to hit the Vader Bomb and get the win.
Your winner: Vader.
Post match we see Sid hit Pete Lothario, Jose’s sun, with a powerbomb backstage. We see the bizarre spectacle of Aldo Montayo in a suit complete with mask.
Overall: Not a bad show but not a great one either. The opening and closing matches are good but the middle one was very flat. A lot of hype for both Shotgun and the Royal Rumble. The latter isn’t much of a surprise but the former highlights just how keen Vince was to the idea of Shotgun. Much of what happened on Shotgun and on this Raw was geared towards building up feuds for the Royal Rumble.