Royal Rumble RAW! For the FIRST time ever, as promised by the never deceptive Vince McMahon, the Royal Rumble will air in FULL on network TV! And if that isn’t enough to make you feel like an idiot for paying for the pay-per-view, the complete World title match was also promised on last week’s show. So unless you paid for the honor of watching the Trios match (sorry Guerrera family), every major happening is about to be given away free of charge.
In other news, RAW is suddenly 2 hours long. No television hype, it’s just a thing now; a desperation shot to remain competitive with Nitro who have decimated their audience to the wrestling die-hards. Of course, given the fact that there’s only about 5 guys on the roster that anyone’s ever truly paying to see, this could just as easily blow up in their face like a ringside TV during a critical pay-per-view match up.
Returning to the Skydome on Thursday (January 30th), and running their first major show out of the venue since Wrestlemania VI, they managed to draw over 25,000 fans in attendance, both a bragging point to their competitors, and a sore spot considering the dome holds over 65,000 spots.
VINCE MCMAHON and JIM ROSS welcome us to Toronto, but first want to take us back to the Royal Rumble. Alright! The completely Rumble!
Wait … this ain’t the full Rumble. Action picks up at the final 5 with Austin’s fake elimination and win. Well, it spoils things, but I sure can’t wait for that entire Rumble a little later.
VADER (with Paul Bearer) vs. STEVE AUSTIN
Heel vs heel here; but it’s Austin who receives majority of the inner Canadian rage. Before anything gets going, BRET HART rushes the ring and attacks Austin, and the crowd bursts into collective orgasmic bliss. A MILLION REFEREES jump into the fray as Hart turns to Vader and punches him in the nose a ton. As Hart gets escorted out, Austin jumps Hart and they fight one more time. A testament to the brilliant work of these two; you really get the feeling they *hate* each other even after the show. The facial expressions and raw intensity go a long, long way. With Hart out of the picture, the match actually starts and Vader takes over with his slow, vicious offense, and WHO’S THE MAN routine. He takes about 40 years to go for the Vaderbomb, giving Austin time to wake up, have a coffee, read the newspaper, and put his kids in college before finally punching Vader in the nuts to block it as we head to our first commercial.
Vader took back over, and brings us back live with a splash for 2. Austin finds a second wind, beating Vader down and hitting the axehandle off the second rope. Vince promises no bait and switch tonight, with two title matches scheduled. Awesome! Can’t wait for that Rumble and World Title match either since we aren’t in any kind of bait and switch mode! Vader tries to apply a sleeper, but Austin’s trick knee acts up and rears back for another ball-shot. The referee tries to get him to lay off, so Austin gives the referee a Stunner, turning him babyface immediately. Both guys spill out to the floor, and Austin whips Vader into the ringsteps. Earl Hebner hits the ring to DQ Austin at 5:34. Vader is positively awful at this point; how fast the mighty fall. *1/2
THURSDAY RAW THURSDAY! Next week – Michaels takes on Sid one more time!
FLASH FUNK vs. SAVIO VEGA (with Clarence Mason, D’Lo Brown, and several well-dressed men)
JIM ROSS stops Vega on his way to the ring and asks why he joined the Nation, but Savio doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and doesn’t give a real answer. It’s frustrating that Ross is ignoring the real story; the whereabouts of the Funkettes. He doesn’t seem to be too heart broken, which is never a good sign. Vega counters a clothesline with a sidewalk slam, and he chokes Funk out. He continues to stomp away, but Flash Funks up, nailing a backdrop. The Tumbleweed connects, but Vince gives away the finish by shrieking “ONE TWO HEGOTHIMNOHEDIDN’T, WHATTAMANEUVER!” A somersault legdrop sends Funk back to the top, but this time he turns his attention to D’Lo who’s standing a little too close to comfort on the outside, nailing a plancha. Back to Vega, he misses a moonsault, and Savio dives in for the easy pin at 4:22. FAAROOQ and KONA CRUSH meet Savio with a warm hug and a little Black Power. I can’t do the Savio thing much longer, he’s 31 flavors of awful. 1/2*
Earlier tonight, VINCE MCMAHON interviewed PETA WILSON, star of La Femme Nikita; legitimately (unbeknownst to me), the highest rated drama on cable TV. She describes herself as a woman of the 90’s, and Vince, not understanding, says “I see that!”, and immediately turns his attention to the sexuality of the show. A clip shows Nikita getting off, followed by Vince clearly getting off in the live area. Oh Vinny.
SYCHO SID is introduced by JIM ROSS, who is wildly cheered happily by a bunch of “booing” fans. The pumped in heat don’t work when everyone’s going mental, yall. Sid talks about his friendship with Shawn Michaels, talking about a rollercoaster of evil emotions, sometimes mistaken for half minutes. However when the rollercoaster comes home, and the ride halts, Sid remains the master and the ruler of the world. I have no idea what the hell ANY of that means, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have never seen a wrestler more in dire need of a go-pro than Sid.
Backstage, OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG pose with their tag-team titles. Vince reminds Bulldog that Owen was the one who dumped him out, and Owen tells him to park it and stop causing trouble. “I accidentally put him out, I was trying to dump Stone Cold and Bulldog fell out.” Davey rolls his eyes, and Vince, smelling blood, reminds Bulldog he called Owen an idiot. Owen tells Davey he best not be doing any more named calling, he’s carried him to the top before and he’ll do it again. Looks like Bulldog’s getting set for a face turn.
DOUG FURNAS and PHILIP LAFON vs. OWEN HART and THE BRITISH BULLDOG (for the WWF world tag-team titles)
On his way to the ring, Owen tells us he’s the only good thing about Canada. I’ll let it slide, poutine hadn’t moved past the Quebec border in 1997. Lafon takes down Bulldog with a leg grapevine, but Davey makes the ropes. Lafon comes off the top, but Bulldog catches him and goes for the slam. Lafon escapes, but winds up taking a clothesline. JR starts sucking Furnas’ kneecaps for gutting this match out with the flu, like all good Oklahoma boys do. Owen comes in and rakes the eyes of the sicko; but Furnas hiptosses him. I love that Vince’s response to a guy getting the flu is putting him in the ring with several healthy wrestlers, rubbing sweaty bodies together. This would probably work best during the Royal Rumble, where the last man not to vomit or fill his shorts is the winner. Bulldog comes back into the match, and finds himself stuck in a headlock. Owen catches Furnas with a spinning heel kick. Bulldog beats down the strong man, while Owen fires up his team, leading the fans in an “OWEN” chant. Hart comes back in and gets caught in a sunset flip, but Bulldog has the referee distracted during what appears to be a 10-count. Owen works a headlock, but Furnas stands up straight with the electric chair and crawls for the tag. Bulldog cuts him off, and throws a cheapshot to Lafon. Hebner tries to keep Lafon in his corner, missing the small package from Furnas all together. Owen hits a neckbreaker on Furnas and looks to Davey to finish, but Bulldog is too busy posing for the ladies and misses Owen’s pleas for a tag. Furnas rolls Owen up, but he kicks out at 2, shooting Furnas into the still distracted Bulldog. Owen clotheslines Furnas, and screams at Bulldog for his posing. Vince calls for a commercial, as they work this out.
Furnas is still getting his ass kicked as we come back, but Owen and Bulldog are still sniping at each other. Furnas throws Davey with an overhead belly to belly, and inches towards his corner, desperately needing to tag out. This time he makes it to Lafon, and he takes out both guys quickly, nearly pinning Owen with a crossbody. A snap suplex gets 2. Owen tries a slam, but gets DDT and pinned at 10:13, giving us new tag-team champions!
But wait; Owen’s foot was on the rope and Hebner immediately recognizes his mistake. As a result, the show goes on, and Lafon thinks quickly with a small package for 2. Bulldog sets up to backdrop Lafon, but Phil reverses the whip and it’s Owen that goes flying! Bulldog realizes it, freaks for a second, but quickly turns back to Lafon and gives him the running powerslam. Owen’s the legal man though, and he’s twisted his knee and refuses to return, counting out the champs at 11:28. Having retained the belts, Owen happily jogs up the aisle. Bulldog isn’t happy with the cheap effort, so Owen collapses and shows Davey how injured he is. Bulldog waves him off and turns away angrily, where Owen takes a second to give one more jumping celebration. There was never any wasted movement with Owen, and it’s these little things that I miss the most. **1/2
AHMED JOHNSON discusses the Nation. Verbatim: “You know what JR I got something in store for erybody including you an Gance. Cuz guess what I don’t take my Prozzak anymore. And when I ghetto Prozzak brother you dunno WHOOMANAHHHH! SAVIO YOU WANNA JOY MAN? JOY MAN! BUT BROTHER YOU WILL PAY WITH DOUGH TO REST! If you wanna celebrate a squirrel circle den let tha party begin.” THE UNDERTAKER appears out of nowhere and goozles Ahmed, but Johnson slaps his fist away. “Look deadman you won be daddy nuff if you done drunk peein’”. Taker asks if he wants to bury the Nation together? I … have no idea what in the hell is going on.
KONA CRUSH (with Savio Vega and Clarence Mason) vs. GOLDUST (with Marlena)
I can’t help but notice that we’re moving into the 2nd hour and we haven’t started the Rumble yet, let alone the World Title match … but I believe Vince! You wouldn’t lie to me, would you? Goldust clotheslines Crush to the floor, where he chats strategy with Clarence. Back in, Goldust works a hammerlock, while a couple of people try a “JAILBIRD” chant to little avail. During an extended armbat, HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY comes strutting right down towards Marlena. Goldust is distracted long enough to take a pitiful snake eyes on the guardrail. As he’s rolled back in, I’m going to stop and take a moment to remind you that it was 15 years ago this week that Madonna released her version of Don McLean’s classic “American Pie”. Stuck between her late 90’s “Frozen/Ray of Light” era, and her “Britney Spears’ Personal MILF” era, Madonna opted to change the tempo of the song, and pump up the techno. On the strength of her name alone, the song eventually found itself at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Panned by critics, the song dropped away quickly, and has nary been heard since.
Did you enjoy that? Even a smidgen? Because, as Goldust loses to Savio interference leading to a Heart Punch at 8:19, I would rather listen to this song on a continuous loop for the rest of the day than sit through these two putting on a performance like this, ever again. -**
THE BLACKJACKS WILL RIDE AGAIN! In other news, GLACIER IS COMING!
SHAWN MICHAELS arrives, with a big smile on his face. Next week on a special Thursday edition of RAW, Michaels will defend his title against Sid, lest he lose anything at the border. VINCE MCMAHON welcomes him to “Bret Hart country”, which is one of those nuances I miss after everyone’s hometowns have been effectively killed off over the years. Shawn admits that the belt has brought out the worst in a number of WWF stars; himself included. However, if being bad is what it takes to be the champion, then he vows to be the worst guy the WWF has ever seen. He has no interest in popularity anymore. He looks back at Muhammad Ali, someone everyone hated while he was on top, but is largely considered the greatest of all time. That’s who he strives to be. BRET HART has heard enough, and heads to the ring with the fans picking up their buzz, ready to blow. “Muhammad Ali? I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman, maybe.” He finds it impossible to like Shawn anymore, noting he’s a Degenerate (first signs of the future?), and as far as he’s concerned, Shawn is a punk. Michaels cuts him off to respond, but a pissed off STEVE AUSTIN has already charged the ring and picked up with Bret exactly where they left off an hour ago. SYCHO SID sees the distraction, and makes a bee-line for Shawn to … stand around and rant like a mad-man. God bless that man.
After a break, the chaos has been cleared up, and Shawn is once again face to face with Bret. Bret intentionally stands on the WWF title belt, keeping Shawn from picking up his gold. He eventually throws it back to Shawn, flips him off, and heads to the back while the fans boo the ever loving shit out of a posing Shawn Michaels. If you have any doubts whether Bret’s walking out of Final Four as the #1 contender, get it out of your head, we’re headed to Bret / Shawn Part II, and the heat is going to be off the charts ridiculous.
Earlier tonight, TIGER ALI SINGH signs his WWF contract, and he hopes to carry the Canadian flag to even greater heights than Bret Hart. Oh.
MARC MERO vs. HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY (for the WWF Intercontinental title)
Both managers are banned from ringside, largely because of Hughes’ recent actions during Helmsley’s matches; though Sable’s been no saint either. JR figures Mero’s desperate to regain the IC title having had a “taste” previously. Is the belt made out of meth? For the record, I’m not opposed to this. Mero knocks Helmsley to the floor, but Hunter sidesteps a plancha. Mero stops himself from going full-tilt, and slams Helmsley’s face to the ringpost. Back in, Mero slingshots himself back in, right into the knees. A delayed vertical suplex gives Hunter plenty of time to do a curtsy, and a kneedrop gets 2. Mero fires back with a monkey flip for 2, but Hunter stops the comeback with a facebuster. With the champ in full control, we take a quick break.
Mero’s just starting a comeback when we return, hitting a faceplant on Helmsley, and snapping off a rana. Vince keeps hammering on the fact the main event isn’t a bait and switch, but I can’t figure out what from WCW he’s talking about, since they’ve typically given us what they advertise. It’s the finishes that stink. A somersault plancha dizzies Hunter, and a slingshot legdrop gets 2. Helmsley kicks Mero in the face, and heads up. Da fock? Mero cuts him off before we find out what laughable move Triple H was planning, and the super Frankensteiner gets 2. In desperation, Helmsley unties the buckle, and after a series of faked out reversals, Mero hits the Samoan drop. Merosault is on point, but Hunter kicks out, drawing a wide-eyed look of disbelief. Helmsley whips Mero towards the corner, but he stops short and points out the gimmicked buckle. Hebner stops to put it back together, so Triple H reaches into his tights, pulls something small out, and smacks Mero in the face with it for the pin at 11:14. *1/2
FAAROOQ (with Clarence Mason and D’Lo Brown) and MANKIND (with Paul Bearer and Urn) vs. AHMED JOHNSON and THE UNDERTAKER (in a no-disqualification match)
Mankind hilariously tries his best to give the Nation “black power” salute, awkwardly stumbling around with his fist in the air. The poor guy so desperately wants to fit in, and is willing to attach himself to anyone willing to show him a little love. Hell, he doesn’t even LIKE Vader that much, but just the fact that Vader’s willing to talk to him is ample reason to keep him around. A Triple H/Eugene type of set up would have been some quality stuff, and Mankind has far more credibility than Eugene did; making a brutal, violent revenge for the abuser’s betrayal so delicious that I’m already annoyed they never actually ran this storyline. (Vince doesn’t count, Mankind was too goofy by then.) So it’s been clarified now that Ahmed and Undertaker were making some sort of alliance earlier, but that’s easier to see, visually, than understand with Ahmed spelling it out. Taker and Mankind square off in the aisle, leaving Faarooq alone to eat a vicious spinebuster! Faarooq comes back with a sleeper, which is far less extreme. Taker leaves Mick for dead and heads back into the ring to lay some punishment into Faarooq. Ahmed slams Mankind into the ring steps, while Faarooq runs over Taker with a clothesline. Taker sits right up, and gives it right back. Mankind, meanwhile, gets run spine-first into the ringpost. Undertaker heads up top for a little old school, while Ahmed chases Clarence to the locker room to get rid of him. Mankind crawls into the ring, but Undertaker’s in there waiting. Mason re-emerges with KONA CRUSH and SAVIO VEGA as Vince, gasping, heads to our last commercial break.
It’s gonna be a bitch to fit that whole Rumble match in with just 5 minutes left, but technological miracles happen every day. I believe!
We’re back, clearly seconds from where we cut it off, because Taker is headed up for old school on Mankind, but as he flies off the top, he leaps right into the Mandible Claw! Ahmed stops that quickly, and nails the Pearl River Plunge. Faarooq breaks up the pin, and hits Ahmed with the Dominator. Taker makes the save there, and turns his attention back to his fist-fight with Mankind. Mick grabs a chair, but Undertaker stops his attack with a kick to the face (through the chair). Ahmed, meanwhile, has decided his best course of action is to fight every member of the Nation, on the floor, by himself. Taker nails Mankind with a Chokeslam, because poor Mick can’t catch a break. Ahmed chases the cavalry back to the locker room with his 2x4, but Taker’s been left alone to take a 2-on-1 attack. Johnson returns to save, and smacks Faarooq with the board. Mankind hits a desperate swinging neckbreaker on Taker and grabs a handful of powder. Taker knocks it back in Mick’s face, but now VADER lumbers into the ring with a big splash on Undertaker. He throws the blinded Mankind on top, and he holds Taker hostage for a chairshot. Undertaker ducks, and he plants his buddy … for the second week in a row. Taker no-sells his chair-shot, and knocks Vader to the floor. Tombstone on the chair ends this one at 7:46. Paul bursts into tears. This was a fairly wild mess, a template of what we’d come to expect in the attitude era. Great crowd heat, so-so ringwork. **
So, despite crowing about his lack of bait and switch tactics, Vince aired virtually nothing on “Royal Rumble RAW” that would lead you to believe this was a show that was all about the last pay-per-view. Apparently the distributors weren’t all that pleased when they discovered Vince’s plan to air the footage for free, and put the kibosh on that REAL fast, leading to these house-show highlights and the occasional 15 second clip from the Rumble.
Not a bad show, but it’s clear that the rest of the stage for Final Four is to be set at Thursday RAW Thursday. If I were guessing the Wrestlemania card at this point:
Shawn vs. Bret (WWF title)
Vader vs. Mankind
Steve Austin vs. … Undertaker? This is the tough one, Austin’s beef is with Bret, but Bret’s clearly tied up with Shawn; and Austin needs a big match to cement himself as an upper-tier player.
Owen vs. Bulldog
Faarooq vs. Ahmed Johnson
The obvious loser here is Sid, who’s been fairly directionless since dropping the strap to Shawn in January (other than yelling and screaming, as is the norm). Unless they’re willing to bring in someone for a one time shot, he’ll likely be left off the card or stuck doing a quick mid-card squash.
The undercard is an absolute mess of awful workers, and that’s where their efforts need to be concentrated. Austin’s clearly Bret’s first challenger post-Mania, and Ahmed Johnson’s lurking in the shadows for the rocket push, but the rest of their locker room has clearly been decimated by Bischoff’s raid and we’re almost guaranteed a negative star match per show these days.
So, to sum up, we have hope in the upper tier, and we’re wallowing in waste in the lower tier. They truly are WCW’s alternative.