-Vince McMahon and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from Hartford, Connecticut.
-Opening Contest: The Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson defeat The Nation of Domination (w/D-Lo Brown & Clarence Mason) when Ahmed pins Faarooq after a Pearl River Plunge at 6:06:
Savio doesn’t care to give the Nation’s salute prior to the match and that creates a beef between he and Faarooq. The crowd is hot for this opener and the booking of the match helps as the faces dominate much of the action. The match continues the storyline of the Nation falling apart as Savio and Crush are too distracted to tag in to help Faarooq because they are jawing too much with Mason and walk out on Faarooq after he confronts them. Faarooq also gets some nice hang time when taking the Pearl River Plunge from Ahmed. This was a really entertaining squash to start the show. Rating: **
-Hunter Hearst Helmsley, carrying the King of the Ring crown, and Chyna are interviewed by McMahon. Helmsley says that he should have been the King of the Ring last year, but missed out because of McMahon’s politics. Helmsley says that it’s his time to rise to the top of the World Wrestling Federation. He issues an open challenge to the locker room and Mankind appears on the Titantron. Mankind asks for a rematch from the King of the Ring and comes out, but gets attacked with the crown by Helmsley. Helmsley did okay with this promo time, but some of his exchange demonstrated his lack of acting skills at this stage of his career.
-Sunny models as Raw is War t-shirt, which you can buy for $25 (plus $6 shipping & handling) by calling 815-734-1161!
-Footage of the British Bulldog winning the European championship in the winter is shown.
-European Championship Match: The British Bulldog (Champion) and Goldust (w/Marlena) wrestle to a double count out at 7:14 shown:
This is the first European title defense on RAW and McMahon hypes it as a big deal. I suppose that the booking team realized that it made little sense for the Bulldog to have a title that was never defended on television. This is a methodical match, which has been the Bulldog’s forte when he’s not facing a technically gifted opponent, and it ends with a really weak double count out, as both men mindlessly brawl after Goldust ends up outside of the ring following a body press. Rating: ½*
-After the match, the Bulldog hot shots Goldust on the steps and goes to hit him with a chair, but Marlena gets in the way. As the Bulldog tries to decide whether to use the chair, Ken Shanrock rushes the ring and slams the Bulldog and the two tease a confrontation before the Bulldog decides to leave.
-Dok Hendrix is outside of the Nation of Domination’s locker room and we can hear them arguing in there. Faarooq storms out of the locker room and tells Hendrix that he is going to the ring to talk. Hendrix goes to talk to Crush and Savio Vega and Savio rants in Spanish and Crush tells Hendrix that the Nation is fine.
-Ross interviews Faarooq and some black members of the Nation. Faarooq says he rescued Savio Vega and Crush’s career, but they just stabbed him in the back so he fires them from the Nation. Faarooq then fires the other flunkies in the Nation except D-Lo Brown, which includes Clarence Mason. Faarooq promises that a new Nation will be formed that will be more powerful and loyal to him. Faarooq challenges Ahmed Johnson and the Undertaker to a tag team match on next week’s show so that they can become the first victims of the new Nation.
-Footage of Steve Austin “Pillmanizing” Brian Pillman’s ankle in October 1996 is shown.
-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to hear more about what is going on between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart!
-Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer are shown walking through the crowd.
-The Headbangers beat Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon after Thrasher pins Furnas when LaFon inadvertently splashes Furnas at 3:34:
Furnas and LaFon are continuing their “most exciting team in the history of the WWF” gimmick, which is just incredibly lame and unbecoming of the structure of their team. I’m really not sure what the logic of giving them this gimmick was other than the WWF just giving up on both guys and realizing that they weren’t going to make it in the tag division. If anything, LaFon and Furnas would have been nice additions to the Hart Foundation, but they are really out of place in a heel role without a manager. There isn’t anything wrong with this match except for the finish, which is botched since Thrasher and Furnas are too far from the opposing corner. Rating: *½
-Jerry Lawler is with Rob Van Dam in the back and Lawler tells McMahon that ECW doesn’t want Van Dam to compete, but he’s going to tonight.
-Clips of the infamous gun incident between Pillman and Austin from late 1996 are shown.
-McMahon and Ross recap the entire show thus far.
-McMahon interviews Steve Austin, who comes out to an explosive reaction. McMahon says that Austin’s attack on Brian Pillman last night at the King of the Ring was unbecoming, but Austin says it brought a smile to his face. Austin says he’ll kick Pillman’s ass all over the ring tonight and he volunteers to be part of the five man team to face the Hart Foundation at the Calgary Stampede and that he’ll wrestle the Hart Foundation five-on-one if he has to. This is a great promo because it sets up two matches and appeals to the American fan base, which sees Austin as a hero, and makes Austin come off as a heel to the Canadian audience, which was the Hart Foundation’s center of fan support.
-In an interesting piece, the WWF uses pieces from its AOL website to show how great the King of the Ring was. It’s like Twitter before there was Twitter.
-Rob Van Dam (w/Jerry Lawler) defeats Flash Funk with a split legged moonsault at 4:28:
During Van Dam’s entrance, Dreamer tries to attack Van Dam with a chair, but is held at bay by WWF officials. Funk is falling into Koko B. Ware territory, as he’s an entertaining act that hasn’t won a match over a significant opponent for a while. Both guys showcase their aerial offense, which is a refreshing change of pace on the show, and put together a solid match that would be more than acceptable by Nitro cruiserweight standards. Rating: **½
-After the match, Heyman hopes the guardrail to attack Lawler, but Lawler beats him down and Dreamer hops the barrier and brawls with Van Dam.
-Ken Shamrock comes out to do commentary for our next match.
-Non-Title Match: Sid pins Owen Hart (Intercontinental Champion w/Jim Neidhart) after a chokeslam at 4:13:
This is a match that was made following the King of the Ring six man tag, where Owen pinned Sid to win the match for his team. Sid makes one guy’s day who has “Sid is God” painted on his chest by giving him a fist bump. Owen works the leg, which is the only strategy he can realistically try, and when Neidhart interferes Shamrock is outraged, so he gives Neidhart a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor which is an impressive sight and generates a big crowd reaction. Left to his longsome, Owen can’t fight off the “Master and Ruler of the World.” I’m puzzled by this booking because Sid was on his way out of the company, but it did make Shamrock look like a bad ass. Rating: **
-Sable comes out to model the Raw is War t-shirt. However, Marc Mero comes out and gets her after she’s nearly finished her seductive dancing routine.
-The final part of Mankind’s interview with Jim Ross is shown and Ross said that he felt really helpless at the end of the interview and wished he had not taken the assignment. Mankind says that he wishes Vince McMahon took him while he was good and he thinks of that when he applies the Mandible Claw to an opponent. It is a rather dark interview, as Mankind talks about pain and suffering. This is the interview where Mankind puts Ross in the Mandible Claw at the end and Ross sells it like death.
-Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man) beats Bart Gunn with the Shake Rattle N’ Roll at 2:53:
So we go from something very serious to Rockabilly. Talk about the contrasts in 1997 booking. The alleged storyline here is that the Honky Tonk Man got the match signed so Rockabilly could move on to other feuds. See, that’s what made this particular era nice. Nearly every match had some type of issue behind it and didn’t appear random. A slow, glorified squash that gives closure to the Smoking Gunns feud, which has to constitute one of the most subdued blowoffs to a feud in WWF history.
-The Hart Foundation is shown talking strategy in the back before they chase off the camera man.
-Steve Austin “Pillmanizing” Brian Pillman’s ankle on Superstars in October 1996 is the Super Soaker Rewind segment.
-Steve Austin comes down to wrestle Brian Pillman, but the Hart Foundation attacks him. Mankind runs out and makes a small save and then runs into the ring and starts to wrestle Pillman, which sets up this bait and switch match…
-Mankind defeats “The Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman by disqualification when Owen Hart interferes at 5:12 shown:
You can tell throughout this match that the crowd is not happy that they did not get Austin-Pillman. The match is a train wreck, as it builds little momentum for either guy. The reception of the match is so poor that McMahon and Ross are forced to acknowledge it on commentary. Mankind applies the Mandible Claw, but the Hart Foundation intervenes and Austin and Shamrock come out and force the Hart Foundation to flee. Rating: ¼*
-After the Hart Foundation flees, Austin gives Mankind an evil eye and gives Shamrock a Stone Cold Stunner as we go off the air.
The Final Report Card: This show was building nicely until the swerve at the end that was disappointing for all parties. The WWF was really testing some of its fans by hyping Austin-Pillman twice but not delivering the match. There were some good points of storyline development throughout the show, with the Nation of Domination breaking up and starting a reformation and Ken Shamrock starting a grudge with the Hart Foundation, but there wasn’t much else to report. I might’ve gone thumbs up before the bait and switch at the end, but instead I’ll go neutral this week.
Monday Night War Rating: 2.2 (vs. 3.4 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation: Neutral