Friday, September 30, 2016

Raw #204 - April 7th, 1997

Mankind’s flash-paper fireball attack on the Undertaker from last week is this week’s cold opening, complete with dramatic music and slow motion. Tonight, Vince says that Shawn Michaels is going to “get a load off his chest.” Whose load it is remains unclear. Owen Hart and the British Bulldog come to the ring with their respective flags to wrestle a non-title tag team match. Owen Hart grabs the mic and praises his brother Bret for filling his family with love, then calls the audience, “haters”, years before the word would be run into the ground by social media.

The opponents are the Godwinns, who lead a “USA” chant. Hey, remember when the Headbangers won a title shot at Wrestlemania and got screwed by a DQ victory? No one else does…. Henry drops cousin Phineas butt-first onto Owen’s in what Vince would probably call “a double-team effort.” The “brother-in-laws” back Phineas into their corner, but the big hog farmer goes nuts with punches and kicks, culminating in a mule kick to the air in the middle of the ring before Henry can calm him down. Owen later hits Phineas with an enzuigiri kick, but Vince immediately urges us to “forget about it(!)”, so just ignore this sentence.
After the commercial break, Owen and Davey Boy are double-teaming Phineas, who knocks both men down with a double clothesline and makes the hot tag to Henry. HOG hits the Slop Drop on Davey Boy, but Owen breaks up the pin and covers Godwinn while the referee is distracted. Also distracted is the announce team (which includes Honky Tonk Man for some reason), who are so busy with an LOD inset promo that they overlook the finish of the match. To be fair, it was quite the promo from Hawk, who promised to knock the bile out of the champions’ bladder. What he lacks in anatomical knowledge, he makes up for in delivery. The Road Warriors then cut off the tag team champions from returning to the locker room, trapping them between themselves and the Godwinns, who are armed with slop. Unfortunately, Davey Boy and Owen duck, leaving the LOD to take the slopping. Now it’s Animal and Hawk who look like they want to get a load off their chests. Vince sells this like it’s one of histories greatest tragedies (Oh. Oh no. Oh no!). The Road Warriors proceed to brawl with the Godwinns as fans chant “LOD!”

Honky has left the announce table by the time Raw returns from break, and in his place is a teenage boy with a shirt requesting that Sesame Street’s Elmo manually stimulate his genitals. Hey, let’s save this year’s quota of homo-erotic taunts for D-Generation X, thank you very much. Backstage, Owen and Davey Boy watch replays of the LOD’s slopping. Stone Cold Steve Austin wrestles for the first time since Wrestlemania, and his opponent is the future “Mr. Ass,” Billy Gunn, who is accompanied by The Honky Tonk Man. Honky, in turn, is carrying the fragments of his broken guitar from last week. Steve Austin spends the first minute of the match kicking Billy Gunn’s ass (to use a technical term) until Gunn exits the ring for a breather In the meantime, Bulldog and Owen cut a split-screen promo in front of a monitor that shows a split-screen of Austin and themselves, which shows another split-screen, and so on. JR promotes “Sunday Night Heat” on the USA Network. No, not that Sunday Night Heat; I mean the Sunday Night lineup of Pacific Blue, Silk Stalkings, and The Big Easy, which pre-dates the WWF B-show by about a year. Austin flips off both Billy Gunn and the referee, Billy flips off Steve Austin and says the F-word, and Austin gives Billy the Stunner for the victory to get Gunn and Honky’s partnership off to a very inauspicious start. HTM grabs the microphone to give Gunn a pep talk and sales pitch. Billy rejects the offer with a punch to Honky’s face.
Backstage, two kids make an unfortunate pose facing two life-sized Undertaker posters whose crotches just happen to be at mouth level.

A military man starts barking orders at the top of the stage, identifying himself as The Commandant of The Truth Commission. He gives a long, boring speech about democracy straight out of Star Wars Episode 3. He says he Truth Commission’s mission is to study the effects of democracy on stupid, liberal Americans, which initially earns him boos for being anti-American. Then he just keeps on talking, earning him boos for being some nobody who is wasting minutes of valuable airtime during what is supposed to be a wrestling show. The highlight of his promo is the introduction of another promo, this one a pre-taped one from Bret Hart on a WWF tour of South Africa, where Raw is War will be held next week. Hart carries the South African flag to the ring. There is also a cut-away shot of Shawn Michaels sitting in the locker room watching the pre-taped promo. Hey, isn’t there another wrestling show on another channel right now? Vince closes the segment by commenting on the latest WWF Magazine cover, which features Bret Hart and Bart Simpson. We’ll have to take his word for it, as Kevin Dunn’s production team misses its cue and fails to put the cover on screen. Coming up later tonight, says Vince, is a “no holds exhibition” featuring Ken Shamrock. Vince has no excuse for messing up that phrase; he co-wrote a whole screenplay with Hulk Hogan called “No Holds Barred.”
Shawn Michaels comes out to the ring for an interview with Vince, posing while a fan’s sign blocks the camera. Shawn says he wants to get something off his chest, leading to cheers from the women in the audience. HBK says that Bret Hart has always been a “bad guy” who exploits his family on TV for money, even being willing to sell Helen if it could make him money. I shudder to think who’d be willing to pay up. Shawn complains that Bret didn’t like it one bit when he had to “return the favor” to him at Wrestlemania, when Michaels won the title. In fact, he had to be forced, “kicking and screaming”, to drop the belt… which I thought was the whole point of title matches. Michaels then outed Vince McMahon as “the boss” to get him to back up his claim that the WWF did its best business in six years with Bret gone. And as for Bret coming back to the Federation out of his loyalty to the fans, that’s “a load of horseshit”, because he leveraged his way to a big-money contract by negotiating with WCW. Bret can’t separate his WWF persona from real life, which, if we are to believe kayfabe, is the exact same thing. It’s then time to do his proto-Cena shtick about how it’s great that the fans can boo him or cheer him, because of the First Amendment. Then, in some frighteningly prophetic words, Shawn warns Bret that his obsession with him and the WWF title will be his destruction. He then closes his promo by dedicating his striptease to Bret Hart, then dancing up on Vince. However, Davey Boy and Owen come to the ring to break up the show before we even get to see so much as a nipple. Shawn arms himself with a chair, which keeps Smith and Hart at bay even though it’s covered in padding. He does a handstand to close the first hour.

It’s now time for the first match in half an hour. Unfortunately, it involves the Headbangers, and worse yet, they are the odds-on favorites to win, as their opponents are Barry Horowitz and Freddie Joe Floyd. A man in the crowd with his t-shirt tucked into his jeans pledges his lifelong allegiance to the heavy metal duo. Thrasher executes a waistlock takedown on Horowitz, who wrestles out of the hold with a Nice Maneuever (#1) that warrants a pat on the back. He follows this up with a headlock takedown, then is pushed into the ropes only to slap on another headlock after Thrasher drops to the mat with a Telegraphed Maneuver (#2). Barry is kicking ass. It looks like a good night for underdogs, so Vernon White, an unknown MMA fighter, comments on his upcoming exhibition against Ken Shamrock. White stands a fighting chance, given that this is a “no holds” match, meaning the ankle lock and every other submission move is presumably barred. The Headbangers shift the momentum until Horowitz hits a jawbreaker on Mosh and makes the tag to Freddie Joe Floyd. Jim Ross notes that the Jack and Jerry Brisco went to grade school in Floyd’s hometown of Bowlegs, Oklahoma, which is a mighty coincidence considering that their real names are Freddie Joe and Floyd, respectively. The ‘Bangers hit their combination leg drop/powerbomb double-team for “a cover, a count, and a victory.”
Vernon White is already in the ring as porno music plays over the speakers. I’m not sure which film it comes from; perhaps “Rear Naked Choke 6”. I made that title up, but there almost certainly is a real porno by that name. Shamrock enters with his name on the screen along with a graphic of a flaming trash can that is unfortunately too large to fit in its frame. As Ken and Vernon exchange kicks, one announcer laments that the “no holds barred style fighting is most misunderstood by individuals in America.” Vince McMahon continues to defend the sport, adding that no one has been seriously hurt in the UFC. I guess he figures that UFC will never be competition for the WWF, so he might as well promote it for the sake of getting Shamrock over. Immediately afterwards, Shamrock punches his opponent’s bloody face repeatedly until he taps out. Despite some obvious editing and quick cuts, it’s obvious that White is bleeding from both the back and front of the head. While Shamrock is being interviewed, Vader comes to ringside. It takes one Patterson, one Dohn, and two Hebners to keep them apart.

A replay after the commercial gets a clear shot of that fag. You know, the one Pat Patterson keeps behind his ear. Shame on you, Pat. Smokers are losers (Razor Ramon, 1994). Vader faces Frank Stiletto in the fourth consecutive jobber match. Vader launches Stiletto across the blood-stained ring with a German suplex, and just generally beats the stuffing out of him (no pun intended, since it’s nowhere near Thanksgiving). Vader wins after a series of bombs, both Vader- and power-. A noticeably thin Gorilla Monsoon addresses Sid’s absence just minutes before his scheduled main event with Mankind. He names Steve Austin as Sid’s substitute in case the big man doesn’t show, which Stone Cold takes exception to, having already wrestled tonight. Austin demands that he take Sid’s spot against Bret Hart at the next pay-per-view, to which Gorilla agrees. Smart move, as softball opening day is approaching, and Sid won’t be back anytime soon.
Jim Ross interviews Mankind in the ring about burning The Undertaker, whom he resents for his “fancy cars” and “posh hotel rooms”. Breaking kayfabe is the theme of the night apparently, as few would imagine the Dead Man driving a Porsche or living it up in any accommodations larger than a casket. Mankind mentions his wife and children, than chastises the audience for not picturing him with a family. He’s talking about reality, he says, just like WWE’s current “Reality Era”, except for the part where he mentions his seventeen concussions. Mankind quotes The Kinks’ “Give The People What They Want” regarding the audience’s bloodlust. Paul Bearer holds up a second Mankind mask, which Taker is going to need after Mankind is through with him. Taker’s voice then echoes throughout the arena, managing to use the phrase “eternal damnation” twice.

Stone Cold comes to the ring to wrestle Mankind, thus booting Sid from the Bret Hart match and rendering inconsequential Bret Hart’s repeated interference against Sid in the dreadful Wrestlemania event. The two brawl on the outside before the match officially begins. Kayfabe-breaking continues when Bulldog appears on the split-screen to scold Vince McMahon for booking Stone Cold against Mankind when, just minutes earlier in the broadcast, it was on-screen authority figure Gorilla Monsoon who made the match on the spur of the moment. Owen covers for him by singling out Monsoon. As Stone Cold continues brawling with his opponent, Vince notes that Mankind is “no Billy Gunn”, with apologies to Mr. Gunn. Even as the two men finally make it into the ring, the bell does not sound. Austin used the ropes for leverage for his chinlock before noticing Bulldog and Owen in the crowd and begging them on.
Bulldog and Owen, who are still standing in “the cheap seats”, appear on the Titantron overlooking the ring, perhaps to get a better view of the action. Is that how that works? Jim Ross announces a newly-made match between The Godwinns and their accidental slopping-victims, The Legion of Doom. JR must have heard about that match from President Gorilla Monsoon, since he’s the boss in the WWF, I think. Mankind attempts a piledriver on the ramp (actually, on Austin, but while standing on the ramp), but Austin pushes him off into the guard rail. Bulldog and Owen make their way through the crowd and hop the rail, but are cut off by LOD before they can interfere. It’s revenge for the tag team champions’ “shenanigans”. Vader then comes to the ring and charges at Austin, who sidesteps the “mastodon”, causing him to collide with his partner Mankind, causing a disqualification for… uh, Austin? Mankind? There is no official announcement. The two Paul Bearer clients punch each other briefly, until their manager calms them down and the broadcast ends.

Final tally:

2 Maneuvers (Year total: 58)

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