No cold-open this week; we go straight to the Raw is War theme. Too much bone, and not enough thigh! Vince and JR are our announcers this evening; Jerry Lawler has a match tonight. Brian Pillman will have his first match since his near-fatal car accident 13 months ago. Likewise, Shawn Michaels has his first match since his career-ending knee injury three months ago, teaming with Steve Austin, whom Vince calls, “the toughest SOB” in the WWF. They challenge Bulldog & Owen for the tag titles. In the ring, Jim Ross interviews the two men, who reiterate that they’re only teaming to hurt the Hart Foundation. Shawn says he and Austin are “the two meanest SOBs” in the Federation. The LOD then marches down to the ring to confront the SOBs, demanding a title shot if Shawn & Steve win the belts. Shawn promises to do so, but does it count if he doesn’t say it into a microphone? The Hart Foundation’s music hits, and they stand on stage before the break.
The LOD’s music plays as Raw returns with the Road Warriors alone in the ring. The Hart Foundation’s music plays, again, so they can come out on stage, again. Animal & Hawk brawl in the ring with Cannon & Anvil at the onset until Hawk and Pillman are established as the legal men. Hawk gorilla-presses Pillman, who falls prematurely. Hawk presses him again with greater success. Pillman tags out to “that big rhino”, Jim Neidhart. Between the “mastodon” Vader and the “rhino” Jim Neidhart, Vince was big on large mammal nicknames at this time. Jim Ross gives some background on Jim Neidhart (that newcomer), explaining that he went to UCLA as a political science major and later trained with the Dallas Cowboys despite never having played a game of football in his life. The “partisan” crowd chants, “LOD” as Anvil tags back out. Off camera, Anvil “waylays” Animal, then tags back in. The Road Warriors take control again and signal for the Doomsday Device on Pillman, but the tag team champions run in to cause a disqualification. Austin and Michaels then do a run-in themselves and drive the Foundation out of the ring, but an errant baseball slide by Michaels hits Stone Cold. The two reluctant partners brawl on the floor as Jim Ross wonders how they will coexist, a novel concept at the time. McMahon reiterates that Shawn striking Austin was inadvertent, but leaves the matter of Shawn giving Austin a giant wedgie up to the viewers to interpret. A “whole horde of individuals”, including referees and backstage officials, pry the two apart.
Sunny bugs the Honky Tonk Man about his “wet head”, then wastes him with her Super Soaker. Vince introduces Paul Bearer, who taps his watch backstage, then notices the camera pointed at his face and gets peeved. But first, we see a replay of Shawn Michaels accidentally kicking Steve Austin after Jim Neidhart moved Stone Cold into the way. Vince then asks Paul Bearer about the harm he could cause himself if he were to “spill the beans” tonight. He should be more concerned about the harm Paul could cause if he ate them. Bearer says he has “all the bases covered”, much as he would in a baseball game if he played infield. He says his attorney has a key to a safe containing the secret, just in case anything were to happen to him tonight. He also points out, like a health class film strip narrator, the obvious changes to his skin, hair, and voice.
Four members of the Nation come to the ring, but it’s D-Lo Brown who will be wrestling tonight against Bob Holly. This is D-Lo’s first match on Raw, although he had appeared as early as 1994, dropping Jerry Lawler’s throne. Faarooq joins the commentary team, while Crush and Savio return to the back. Faarooq wants Vince to admit that he is scared of the prospect of a Black champion. He quizzes McMahon on American history; Vince easily answers the first two questions about the existence of slavery and the Civil War, but goes mum when asked what color the slaves were. Faarooq says the earth will shake when he becomes the first Black WWF champion, but Vince counters as follows: “Aren’t you trying to patronize the blacks?” Faarooq says Vince would be okay with having a Black colleague, but not a Black neighbor. Frankly, this is unfair to Vince; if he’s so opposed to Black equality and integration, why would The Undertaker burn a cross on McMahon’s lawn two years later? “Listen, a lot of what you say happens to be true in terms of a factual nature”, concedes Vince in the most Vince way possible. D-Lo wins by countering a huracanrana with a powerbomb.
After the match, McMahon asks The Undertaker on the Titantron to comment on Faarooq’s remarks, setting off a comedy of errors. First, Taker’s mic isn’t working. Then, Vince switches his own mic to come through the house PA, as if that will help. The production truck switches to a graphic of the upcoming Jerry Lawler-Goldust King of the Ring match, at which point Taker’s mic starts working. The Dead Man has two weeks to worry about Faarooq, but only an hour to worry about what to do with Paul Bearer and the secret. In fact, it has already been two weeks since Paul Bearer first made his ultimatum.
We shift from racism to homophobia, as Jerry Lawler cuts a blistering uncensored promo backstage on Goldust, telling him his dad doesn’t love him because he “married the biggest gold-digger in Georgia”, then “put on a woman’s ring” and “went around the ring kissing men like a flaming f**”. Lawler continues questioning Terri Runnels’s fidelity, saying their daughter should have been named “Target” because “everybody in Atlanta had a shot at it.” There are two possible interpretations to that remark, the most charitable being that the fetus’s paternity was in question.
“Man,” says Jim.
“Uh,” says Vince. “Let’s take you now, ladies and gentleman, to a chair fit for a king.” It’s an inflatable King of the Ring-branded chair, costing $59.99 plus $11 for shipping and handling.
As we await the start of the King-Goldust match, we see a replay from December. Back then, Jerry Lawler was hesitant to even ask Goldust whether he was “queer”, a word that, when he finally built up the courage to utter it, he spoke so fast it came out more like “qr”. In the replay, they bleep out the word, “queer”; that’s the word Jerry Lawler said that they decided to bleep out. Jerry Lawler, who has wrestled in the area for years, is cheered against Goldust during the match, despite (?) his pre-match promo. Goldust escapes a piledriver and delivers one of his own to Jerry Lawler, who manages to get his foot on the ropes. Goldust kisses Jerry Lawler, but just like the word “queer”, it gets censored, this time via a wide camera shot. Lawler wins with his feet on the ropes to advance to the semifinals. Goldust chases Lawler up the ramp and gets booed when he hits King with Dusty Rhodes-style punches and sends him rolling down the ramp. Marlena steps on the King on her way out. Backstage, Steve Austin is about to talk to Vince when Brian, Owen, and Davey ambush him. Pat Patterson goes banana trying to break it up.
Flash Funk makes his entrance when Stone Cold confronts Shawn Michaels. HBK himself was apparently just jumped by the Hart Foundation and is being helped up by Bob Holly. Michaels yells at Austin for not watching Michaels’s back.
Funk’s opponent is Rocky Maivia, who has admitted that “success perhaps came a little too early for him”. In kayfabe, though, success didn’t simply “come to him”; he won a lot of wrestling matches, including against the Intercontinental champion. There’s a lot of cheering all of a sudden, which certainly isn’t for Rocky; Mosh and Thrasher are walking through the crowd carrying inflatable King of the Ring chairs. Mark the date, “May 26th, 1997” down — it’s the first and only time the Headbangers will upstage The Rock. In all the hubbub, fans miss Rocky’s Beautiful Maneuver (#1), a dropkick. “Look at the booger I picked,” says Mosh as he and Thrasher make themselves at home next to the announcer’s table. Flash Funk hits a Tremendous Maneuver (#2) of his own, a spinning knee. The fans pop for the Rock(y) Bottom, but it’s not Maivia’s finisher yet, so Funk kicks out. Flash sidesteps another Maivia dropkick, then clotheslines his young opponent almost over the top rope. Regardless, Rocky ends up on the outside, Funk flattens him with a plancha, and the Headbangers beat up both men. Mosh even hits Funk with a boob box. Inexplicably, the referee lets the match continue; Vince points out that, since both men were attacked, the referee wouldn’t be able to disqualify either one of them. I’m not sure about that reasoning, Vince. You know those disqualifications that are, like, double disqualifications? Back in the ring, Maivia hits a flying crossbody to pin Funk. Both Rocky and Flash are upset about the interference and hug it out after the match.
Jim Ross recaps last week’s Mankind interview, claiming the young Mick Foley had “an appetite for worms”, which, if you’ll recall, is precisely the rumor that ruined his social life. That’s a cheap shot, JR. This week, Mankind recounts his days playing lacrosse, a sport known, appropriately enough, for its athletes’ hideous hair. Foley got hit in the groin while playing goalie, then went back to school the next day with a swollen testicle “the size of a grapefruit”. Vince McMahon would co-opt this verbiage the following year. Later tonight, we’ll hear the deranged Mankind’s Jimmy Snuka story, where the homicidal lunatic traveled to Madison Square Garden and jumped off the cage with Mick Foley in attendance.
The Sega Slam of the Week is Brian Pillman’s neckbreaker on Tony Williams, Pillman’s first televised match in the WWF. Bret Hart continues his African savanna analogies, comparing his match against Shawn Michaels to “a lion ripping into an antelope”. Brian Pillman cuts a promo on his King of the Ring opponent Steve Austin (previously established as a hyena), while Davey & Owen cut promos on both babyfaces.
Cue the theme music again for the second hour. Too much junk, and not enough stuff! Ken Shamrock is here for commentary for Vader vs. Ahmed Johnson. One year ago tomorrow, these two wrestled in a first round King of the Ring match that saw Owen Hart give Ahmed a knock-out shot with his cast, Vader give Ahmed his first loss, and Goldust give Ahmed life-saving mouth-to-mouth. After being eliminated last week due to injury, Vader has challenged Ahmed to a match for Ahmed’s King of the Ring semifinal spot. As was the case last week, the “single-elimination” concept has flown out the window. Besides, shouldn’t Vader challenge Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who took Vader’s spot last week after being eliminated by Ahmed? Shamrock offers special insight from the UFC: “These are two big guys, two guys that way a lot. Heavyweights, as we would say.” Vince McMahon offers his own expert analysis, calling both Vader and Ahmed Johnson, “masters of psychology”. Jim Ross recounts Ahmed Johnson’s troubled youth, when he joined the Bloods, which might explain why Ahmed wears all red (Now if someone could explain the wedgie-prone trunks…). Somehow, I don’t imagine JR was supposed to mention the gang’s name on the air. Both opponents box each other as the announcers advertise this Friday’s UFC pay-per-view. Ahmed gives Vader a spinebuster “outta no-hwhere!” to pick up the pin and eliminate Vader a second time from this single-elimination tournament. Vince calls the spinebuster a Devastating Maneuver (#3). On the WWF Hotline, fans can learn about dissension and new members in the Nation of Domination, plus why Brian Pillman isn’t a full-fledged member of the Hart Foundation. I guess allegedly having a kid with Bruce Hart’s wife doesn’t qualify him for Hart family membership.
“Like sands through the hourglass, Undertaker,” says Paul Bearer, “so are the days of your life.” This is Paul’s revenge for Taker sending him to the general hospital. Bearer vows to do “what no giant [Gonzalez] could do, what no [Ultimate] warrior could do, what no immortal [Hulk Hogan] could do” and bring Taker to his knees.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley comes to the ring as Jim Ross plays up his wealthy upbringing in Greenwich, Connecticut. Footage airs of Helmsley buying jewelry at the kind of plays Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford used to shop. They’re in the news. Speaking of couples, Ross mentions a WWF Magazine article explaining Hunter and Chyna’s connection: they both trained with Killer Kowalski.
Because of an apparent shortage of babyfaces, Rockabilly (with Honky Tonk Man) is Helmsley’s opponent. Ross contrasts Helmsley’s affluent upbringing and education with Billy Gunn’s rodeo scholarship to Sam Houston University. How Jake the Snake’s brother ever got his own university, I’ll never know. Regardless of the clash of backgrounds, three of the four talents out here would be members of D-X by this time next year (Honky Tonk Man, unfortunately, did not make the cut). Ross wonders, if Helmsley becomes King of the Ring, whether Chyna would therefore be Queen of the Ring. Don’t Google it. Hunter hits Rockabilly with his signature knee smash (a Devastating Maneuver (#4), then curtsies. Chyna prevents Honky Tonk Man from hitting Helmsley with a guitar, then body slams him to the floor. If the ref had seen that, he might have disqualified Helmsley like he did Goldust last week. Helmsley wins with the Pedigree. On the Titantron, The Undertaker says that both he and Paul Bearer will do what they have to do, respectively.
Sable models the inflatable King of the Ring chair they’ve been pushing all night. Between Sable’s outfit and the chair, it’s the most shameless double-vinyl money-grab since the Sgt. Pepper movie soundtrack.
Vince McMahon then introduces another part of the Mankind interview, picking up from the story about Mick’s “testicle, so to speak”. Mankind recalls hitchhiking to New York City from upstate New York and seeing Jimmy Snuka dive off the steel cage. This inspired Mickey Foley to be a wrestler and develop the Dude Love alter ego. Mankind recalls meeting Shawn Michaels, the former having always imagined himself as the latter – not as the champion, but as the Heartbreak Kid type of persona. This would have been last year, when, as now, Mankind was pulling his hair out, sticking his fingers in people’s throats, and rocking in the corner of the ring. Footage airs of the Dude Love movie that Mick made at 18 years old, including his jump off his own roof. When I got Have a Nice Day as a Christmas present, my mom blacked out the term “Dude Love movie”, thinking it was a gay p0rno. Foley then lived out of his ’79 Ford Fairmont making long trips to train with Dominic DeNucci (When this interview first aired, my parents had two ’79 Ford Fairmonts). “Cactus Jack” was only supposed to be a temporary moniker until he felt he was good enough to be Dude Love.
Shawn Michaels, the human disco ball, makes his entrance. Next out is Austin, whom Vince says, “if you’ll pardon the expression”, is ready to “open a can of whoop-ass”. Vince also confirms the Legion of Doom vs. Austin/Shawn title match, should the latter team win the titles tonight. The Hart Foundation huddles on stage before the break.
The match starts off hot between Austin and Owen Hart. Austin tags out to Shawn Michaels, who puts Owen’s arm in a wringer. Owen escapes with some Nice Maneuvering(#5) and a rake of the face, then tags out to Bulldog. Shawn puts a stop to Bulldog’s leapfrogging with a poke to Davey Boy’s eye, then knocks him down with an enzuigiri before tagging back to Austin. Backstage, the LOD look directly at the monitor before Owen Hart drops Austin onto the guardrail.
After the break Austin escapes an Owen Hart headlock with a jawbreaker, which seems like it would hurt more than a stunner. Both Shawn and Davey tag in. “It’s as if Shawn Michaels hasn’t missed a day”, says Vince before HBK gets dumped crotch-first on the top rope. Owen picks up Shawn outside the ring, where the Headbangers’ inflatable King of the Ring chairs remain, and rams Michaels’s back into the post. In the ring, Bulldog flips Michaels upside in the corner, then powerslams him, but Austin breaks up the pin. Owen tags in and tries another pin, which Austin breaks up again. When Shawn rolls up Davey Boy with a sunset flip, the referee is distracted with Owen. For the same reason, the ref misses Shawn’s tag to Stone Cold. Michaels finally gets the hot tag after Owen accidentally bronco-busters the second turnbuckle. Austin tries to stun Bulldog, the new legal man, but Owen breaks it up. With the referee distracted once more with Owen, Michaels superkicks Davey Boy, allowing Austin to make the pin and win the titles. This is now the second title Shawn Michaels has won from the British Bulldog. The Hart Foundation, now down to just two belts and two Slammys, beat up Michaels, whom Austin abandons to beat up Bret Hart on the stage. Austin gets in a bunch of punches to the head and a few shots to the surgically-repaired knee until the rest of the Foundation run him off.
The Super Soaker Rewind is Austin & Michaels’s title win from just a few minutes ago. Backstage, Steve Austin takes sole credit for the victory, which Shawn Michaels takes exception to, yelling at Stone Cold to get his “stuff” together. A redheaded Paul Bearer is in the ring to address the Undertaker and his secret. Before Brother Love brought him into the WWF, he explains, Paul had known Taker’s family for years. Bearer prepared the funeral for Taker’s parents… and a third person. Undertaker comes to the ring before he can elaborate. He says he despises Bearer and implies that he’s going to kill him, then goozles his former manager. After some vigorous finger-pointing by Bearer, Taker lets go and bows to him.
5 Maneuvers (Year total: 68)