by Logan Scisco
-The announce crew discusses the results of last night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
-Vince McMahon, Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
-In a great segment to start the show, Bret Hart comes out, snatches the house mic from Howard Finkel, and tells McMahon that he hasn’t been given his opportunity for the WWF title because he has been screwed by Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the WWF, and McMahon. Bret says that since he isn’t being given a fair opportunity to win the WWF title, he’s quitting, which leads to the crowd chanting “We want Bret.”
-After Bret walks out through the audience, Steve Austin comes out and gets on the mic and says that when the going gets tough, the Harts get going. He is angered that Sid’s concussion prevents him from facing the former WWF champion tonight, but he says he isn’t afraid to face the Undertaker, who has been penciled in as his new opponent.
-McMahon walks backstage for a reason that is not announced, but Ross says it is probably connected to Bret’s decision to leave the company. This gives us our first glimpse of what a Ross-Lawler combination looks like in the booth.
-Opening Non-Title Contest: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Champions w/Clarence Mason) defeat Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon when the Bulldog pins LaFon with a running powerslam at 9:37 shown:
Clarence Mason’s position is very awkward at this point in the company, since he’s the manager of the tag team champions and one of the major figures in the Nation of Domination. However, in storyline terms he’s able to keep those interests separate. Aside from the Survivor Series, this is Furnas and LaFon’s first crack at the tag team champions and they give them everything they can handle. The hot crowd is very receptive to this match, which maintains a brisk pace, and the champions barely win after Owen clocks LaFon with his Slammy. I expected Furnas and LaFon to get a victory here, since it was non-title, but the WWF must have thought this was a way to even things up from the Survivor Series. If there was one fault with Furnas and LaFon it was the lack of a memorable finishing maneuver. They had multiple moves that looked devastating and that could beat you, but having a single tag finisher is a great way to connect to the audience. Rating: ***
-Some brief footage of the Ahmed Johnson-Faarooq match at the Royal Rumble is shown.
-Faarooq (w/the Nation of Domination) pins Bart Gunn with a Dominator at 5:16 shown:
As the WWF transitions to the Attitude Era, Bart Gunn’s cowboy act looks really out of place. I know Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was still a big hit, but I don’t think that was the demographic the WWF was reaching out to at this time. Faarooq shows off chinlocks until Bart works the crowd into a frenzy by bulldoging Faarooq and attacking PG-13 after they place Faarooq’s foot on the bottom rope. This shows the quality of PG-13’s heel work and the distraction allows Faarooq to nail Bart from the apron and finish him off in the ring. Ross’s voices his usual indignation, albeit in a PG sense, at the outcome. Rating: *½
-Dok Hendrix hypes the next Madison Square Garden show, but it’s not updated to reflect the results of the Rumble because Sid is still defending the WWF title against the Undertaker.
-McMahon and WWF President Gorilla Monsoon come into the ring. Monsoon says that he can’t overturn Austin’s victory in the 1997 Royal Rumble, but he can deny him his title shot at WrestleMania 13. He announces that at In Your House, Steve Austin and the three men he illegally eliminated in the Royal Rumble: Vader, the Undertaker, and Bret Hart will be in a four way elimination match, with the winner becoming the number one contender for the WWF title and facing the WWF champion at WrestleMania. Steve Austin comes out and tells Monsoon that Bret Hart already quit, but regardless of that he’ll go to In Your House and still be going to WrestleMania. Austin threatens to get violent on Monsoon, which leads to him getting in McMahon’s face, and Bret Hart returns out of the crowd, announces that he’s back, and brawls with Austin in the aisle until WWF officials separate them.
-The Western Union rewind is a massive brawl from Shotgun Saturday Night.
-The Undertaker defeats “Stone Cold” Steve Austin by disqualification at 6:37 shown:
The match starts on a chaotic note as the Undertaker gets into a brawl with Bret Hart in the aisle before moving on to Austin. Austin uses his technical skill to wear down the Undertaker and it’s odd to see the Stunner used as a move to generate a double KO. During the match, the cameras cut to the back where Vader and Bret are being separated by WWF officials, thereby reinforcing the tensions and high stakes of the In Your House match. Vader runs down to the ring when the Undertaker starts his comeback and Bret Hart soon follows, creating a four way brawl that sends the crowd into a frenzy as we go off the air. This match was serviceable, but the real fun came with the post-match activities. Rating: **
The Final Report Card: Finally we get an episode of Raw that maintains a good story arc and builds momentum during the show. The interaction of Bret, Austin, McMahon, and the Undertaker was fantastic and started to move the company into a new direction where face/heel distinctions were not as clearly defined. The hot crowd in Beaumont also helped the show as they reacted to everything, including the midcard match between Faarooq and Bart, and anytime you have a hot crowd it adds another element to the show. An easy thumbs up effort by the company for this week.
Monday Night War Rating: 2.2 (vs. 3.7 for Nitro)
Show Evaluation: Thumbs Up