The most enthusiastic group of fans known to man are here on Raw, says Vince McMahon, and they’ve brought their signs and grandmothers. In a rarity for these past few months, the show starts off with a wrestling match, in this case pitting LOD & Ahmed Johnson against Faarooq, Crush, and Savio Vega. The latter two fail to give the Nation salute, to their leader’s dismay. This is the second WrestleMania 13 rematch in as many episodes, although it will not be contested under street fight rules. After a few minutes of action, Ahmed tags in and eggs on Faarooq to step in the ring with him. Last night, Faarooq was beaten by The Undertaker after accidental distraction by the Nation. Taker then chokeslammed Faarooq repeatedly at Paul Bearer’s behest. Surprisingly, Ahmed Johnson took exception to Taker giving Faarooq “goozle after goozle after goozle” (“goozle” being the wrestling equivalent of the English word, “choke”), leading the Pearl River Powerhouse to give Undertaker his eponymous Plunge. Now, though, Faarooq and Ahmed are opponents again.
Ahmed gives Faarooq an ax kick after being Irish-whipped to the corner, taking advantage of the very worst telegraphing ever seen in wrestling history; Faarooq literally bent over in the center of the ring as Ahmed covered the fourteen-foot distance at his own pace. Did Faarooq think his opponent was just going to instantly rebound off the turnbuckle like he would off the ropes? The Nation leader crawls to his corner for a tag, but Crush and Savio are distracted squabbling with Clarence Mason. In an inversion of standard tag team psychology, the babyface team makes frequent tags, cutting Faarooq off from his team. Faarooq rolls to the outside and argues with his teammates before Animal and Hawk sandwich all three of them. Crush and Savio abandon Faarooq, who gets tiger-driven by Ahmed and pinned.
At ringside, Vince McMahon promises not only a great Raw, but a great War Zone (which finally has its own logo to justify it being a separate show). In the second hour, Austin will face Pillman and Sid will face Owen, but in the first hour (known simply as Raw), Goldust will challenge for the Bulldog’s European title. These two programs, it seems, are known collectively as Raw is War.
King Hunter Hearst Helmsley, accompanied by his “queen”, Chyna, comes to the ring with his crown. It’s a different one from the crown he was awarded last night; that crown, topped by a plastic WWF logo, was smashed by Helmsley himself in a post-match attack on Mankind. In real life, Hunter didn’t want to wear the crown, so he destroyed it. This story checks out, because if the WWF had really wanted Helmsley to use his crown as a weapon, they wouldn’t have made it out of velvet and plastic beads. Vince McMahon scolds the new King for Pedigreeing Mankind onto the announce table last night (forcing him and Jim Ross to stare at monitors on the floor the rest of the evening), then having Chyna smash him with the scepter. Hunter says he should have been King last year, but because of Vince’s politics, he didn’t get his shot. This must be confusing to fans who’ve been around longer than a year, as Helmsley was in last year’s tournament but lost to Jake Roberts in the first round. Helmsley, barely using his accent, issues an open challenge. After Mankind pops up on the Titantron to accept, Hunter defers to Chyna’s judgment. His bodyguard speaks for the first time, telling Mankind to kiss her ass. “It’s your lucky day,” says Mankind, “because I’m a good kisser!” It’s true; he said so in his interview. Instead, Helmsley smashes his no doubt disappointed challenger with his new crown. Helmsley and Chyna leave the ring, but Mankind puts on the badly bent crown, which falls off his head immediately. “Certainly what Chyna said was totally un-ladylike and totally uncalled-for”, says a contrite Vince. “Although Mankind did retort that he was a good kisser.”
Backstage, Sunny models a Raw is War t-shirt with the War Zone logo on the back.
Tonight, the British Bulldog will defend his European title for the first time on Raw — or pretty much anywhere, for that matter; Davey Boy has been wrestling in tag matches and non-title singles matches since winning the new title over four months ago. Diana Smith won the Mrs. Calgary pageant last night, so if Chyna is considered Queen of the Ring, then Davey Boy is Mr. Calgary. That city, by the way, is the site of the next WWF pay-per-view, which both Ross and McMahon agree is called “Canadian Collision”. Ross then corrects himself, calling the event, “Canadian Stampede”. Vince will agree with anything, like on the first Raw where he called Doink, “Dork” because Rob Bartlett called him that as a joke. During the match, Goldust channels Dusty Rhodes, leading Jim Ross to say that “a little bit of old Stardust [is] coming out in the kid”. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old Cody Runnels watches at home and thinks, Wow, “Stardust”. I wouldn’t want to have that gimmick. Goldust DDTs Bulldog and scores a pin, but Davey Boy’s foot is clearly on the bottom rope. Referee Tim White restarts the match.
After the break, Davey Boy is in control. Vince notes that “thus far”, we haven’t seen any of Goldust’s “histrionics, if you will”. Jim Ross repeats that last line, imitating Dusty, although Vince doesn’t seem to get the reference.That’s just how Vince normally speaks. Often, Vince points out, Goldust will use these histrionics (known in legal terms as “sexual assault”) to throw his opponents off their game. The Bizarre One escapes a long chinlock but tumbles through the ropes when he hits Davey with a body press. The two exchange punches outside the ring, where they are counted out. I bet if he’d had made Davey Boy fondle him, he’d have won. Bulldog drops Goldust on the steps. Marlena slaps Smith — twice — so he grabs a chair to take it out on Goldust. Marlena puts herself in front of Goldust as a human shield (What other kind of shield could she be?). Before Bulldog can decide what to do, Ken Shamrock rushes in and takes him down. Bulldog backs down from a standoff.
Jim Ross teases a million dollar giveaway at Summerslam — but you’ll have to watch Raw is War to find out how to get the money. Dok Hendrix is outside the Nation of Domination’s locker room, where there is a loud argument. Hendrix says he can’t get in because the door is locked; I don’t think Michael Hayes would be welcome anyway. Faarooq, D-Lo, Mason, and the unnamed Nation members file out of the room, leaving Crush and Savio, the latter of whom yells in angry Spanish about the Puerto Rican people. Crush, the WWF’s forerunner to Baghdad Bob, tells Dok that everything in the Nation is just fine. Faarooq is now in the ring with most of the Nation and Jim Ross. Faarooq said he took Savio Vega out of the field, “literally picking jalapeño peppers”. That’s Mexico, Faarooq. But then, Savio stabbed him in the back, so now he’s fired. The same goes for Crush, who argues with the monitor backstage. Faarooq then kicks out the nameless suits who “never took a bump”; as they’re not being paid to emote, they leave without argument. As Faarooq announces one more firing, Clarence Mason tries to shuffle D-Lo out of the ring, only to learn that he himself is the one who’s fired. The leader of the two-man Nation promises to build a new Nation and challenges The Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson next week.
Backstage, Marc Mero is talking with Sable. Vince says he hopes to see “a lot more of Sable” (I think he’s talking about her t-shirt modeling). Jim Ross hints at “huge news” involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, but you’ll have to call the WWF Superstar Line to find out about it. I’ll save you the $1.49 per minute and tell you that Bret and Shawn had a fight backstage, resulting in Shawn Michaels losing a chunk of hair and quitting the company.
Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer walk to their seats, while Tony Chimel introduces a “tag team attraction”. Furnas & LaFon have insisted that Chimel call them “the most exciting tag team in the history of the World Wrestling Federation”. Jim Ross sarcastically praises the team’s non-existent theme music, pyro, and robes. Their opponents are The Headbangers, who beat up Rocky Maivia and Flash Funk two weeks ago for no apparent reason. Maybe Rocky and Flash should join the Nation. The fans chant “ECW” and “Paul E” as Vince and Jim try to downplay Paul Heyman’s publicity stunt. Otherwise, the fans are totally apathetic about the action in the ring, and I can’t figure out why. Could it be due to McMahon and Ross talking incessantly about how Furnas & LaFon have no charisma? As Thrasher covers Furnas, LaFon jumps off the top rope to try to break up the pin. Thrasher doesn’t move out of the way in time, so LaFon first lands on his feet, then delivers a splash to his own partner. Crash Holly would later do that move on purpose. The ‘Bangers then pin Furnas for real. Jerry Lawler is with Rob Van Dam, telling Paul E Dangerously that he can’t prevent RVD from wrestling tonight. King sounds like he has a sore throat, a possible effect of the mandible claw he got last night.
It’s time for the War Zone! Too much drugs, and not enough crime! The pyro gets a big pop from the fans, one of whom holds up a Pee Wee Herman doll. Jim Ross welcomes us again to Hartford, CT, “the insurance capital of the world”. He could have called it the site of WrestleMania 11, but then again, why remind anyone of that? Steve Austin carries his tag team belt to the ring for an interview. “You know you’ve done some pretty dastardly things thus far here in the World Wrestling Federation,” says the interviewer. I’ll let you guess who it is. Okay, time’s up. It’s Vince. McMahon says that possibly the most “dastardly” thing Austin has ever done, he did to Brian Pillman. No, not breaking his ankle or invading his home, but dunking his head in the toilet last night at King of the Ring. I don’t know what prison term one would get for a swirlie, but it couldn’t be worse than what you’d get for installing a hidden camera in a bathroom stall like someone at the Providence Civic Center did. Steve Austin is unrepentant, regretting only that the toilet bowl was empty. McMahon asks Steve Austin about Bret Hart’s challenge to five American wrestlers at Canadian Stampede. Or, as Bret said it, “in the Canadian Stampede”. Austin threatens Gorilla Monsoon if he tries to assign Austin four partners. Jim Ross marvels that Austin is popular despite (or because of?) him having “the personality of a rattlesnake”.
Vince shares some comments on King of the Ring from AOL, although he’s too shy to read the comment that says the matches “kicked _ _ _…”. If I know my Morse code, the fan said it kicked os. Rob Van Dam is out next with Jerry Lawler. Vince explains that all the “legal technicalities” have been resolved, allowing RVD to compete tonight. I don’t doubt it; if Jerry’s lawyers could beat his ’93 rap, they can do anything. Ross mentions Lawler and RVD raising “holy hell” at the ECW Arena last Saturday (It was WrestlePalooza ’97). Referees have to separate Dreamer & Heyman, standing in the front row) from Lawler & Van Dam.
Vince McMahon celebrates the WWF’s recent award for their Summerslam 1996 ad before showing footage from ECW. Jerry Lawler joins the commentary team and confirms my suspicions about his mandible claw-related complications. Mankind’s claw was infected, it seems. Rob Van Dam battles Flash Funk, himself an ECW alum. Funk dropkicks RVD to the outside, then swings through the ropes to deliver another kick. “Whoa, what a Maneuver that was,” says Vince. “Ohhh, baby!” Later, Van Dam somersaults over the ropes onto Funk. Flash hits a moonsault, which Vince calls a “Beautiful Maneuver” (#2). It is. RVD kicks out to Lawler’s delight. The King says Paul Heyman reminds him of Marv Albert because “they both bite”. Fans of The Office may know him better as “Marv-something”, the “sportscaster that bit that lady”. If you ask me, Jerry Lawler is like Marv-something — great sportscaster, big weirdo creep. Rob Van Dam hits the final Maneuver (#3) of the match, a split-legged moonsault that earns him the pin. Paul Heyman hops the rail and runs at Jerry Lawler, who throws him down and punches him. Dreamer enters the fray, followed by RVD. Vince blames Heyman, who has lost his much-needed baseball cap for instigating this pull-apart brawl. “This is not what the War Zone is all about”, says Vince without irony, paraphrasing Dr. Strangelove.
The War Zone is sponsored by Raw Magazine, the latest edition of which hints that Sable is involved with The Undertaker, as if either of those two would ever hook up with a colleague. Ken Shamrock is here for commentary, and Owen Hart is here for his match. Owen is back to using his own music instead of Bret’s; the same goes for the Bulldog, who entered to “Rue Britannia” earlier tonight. Both Owen and Anvil are wearing leather jackets and defiantly holding up Slammys; Neidhart even holds a Slammy up to the camera, points to the word, “Slammy”, and says, “Look at that right there, baby. Slammy!” There’s also the Intercontinental belt, which Owen reveals like a flasher. Vince McMahon reports that Federation officials have restored ordered following the incident with the “ECW individuals”. He also reminds fans that they can do all sorts of things as fans, but not jump the rail. Jim Ross also extends that prohibition to throwing objects into the ring (as seen on Nitro) before calling rail-jumping “unforgivable”. Do you think this angle is a response to the fan with Down syndrome who hopped the rail last night, or is it just a terrible coincidence?
Sid enters, fist-bumping a fan with “Sid is God” written on his chest. Vince points out another Sid fan holding the sign “I’m Sycho 4 LIFE”, indicating either a devotion to Sid, an incurable mental illness, or an extremely positive outlook. Owen Hart attacks Sid before the bell, pulling Sid’s vest behind his arms to straitjacket the Sycho One. Owen then chokes him with the vest before the referee takes it away. Vince McMahon calls it unprofessional conduct. then refers to “very unprofessional conduct” earlier today between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels (whom just last week, Vince had praised for his utmost professionalism). He doesn’t elaborate on this conduct, possibly because in kayfabe, wrestlers have been get into fights backstage constantly these past few months without consequence. Michaels and Steve Austin were, however, fined (in kayfabe) for beating up referees last night. Ken Shamrock (he’s on commentary, remember) says there shouldn’t be guys like Jim Neidhart interfering on the outside. Owen and Sid get into an unintentionally comical exchange of blows, with Owen kicking Sid’s legs while Sid throws his ultra-light wind-up punches. Neidhart takes advantage of a distracted referee by dropping Sid onto the guardrail. Ken Shamrock, having seen enough, leaves the announce desk and takes down the Anvil. Sid chokeslams and pins Owen. “A cover, a count,” says Vince. “He’s got the victory!” Still to come is Austin vs. Pillman, which is promoted with a clip of a brawl between the two from Shogun. Also featured earlier in the night were replays of Austin shattering Pillman’s ankle and invading his home, although there is no gunfire (or “explosions”) featured.
Dok Hendrix emcees another t-shirt spot with the “sexy, hot, hot-lookin’ Sable”. Besides those three important qualities, Sable also sports a Raw is War t-shirt. Marc Mero grabs Sable by the arm and takes her back somewhat abruptly behind the curtain. It’s a harbinger of things to come, but Vince doesn’t give it a second thought here. Wild, man. It’s now time for the final part of Jim Ross’s interview with Mankind, whom Vince calls a “most interesting individual”. But there is a caveat, something horrible that happened to Jim Ross that made him wish he’d never conducted the interview. While his ECW footage plays, Mick Foley explains that he hates Vince McMahon for not signing him in his younger, healthier days. He also wishes “nothing but personal trauma and tragedy” for Shawn Michaels and others. Ross asks Mick whether he has been treated for mental illness, such as multiple personality disorder, and whether it’s time to accept responsibility for his own problems. Mankind turns against Jim for telling fans that Mankind enjoys pain (which, as you may recall, is how Jim Ross introduced this whole interview weeks ago). Mankind puts the mandible claw on Ross, then begs for some help for “Jimmy”. Heck of a way to warm the fans up to the new babyface! For the past month, Vince and JR have been rallying the fans to Mankind’s side, knowing full well that he’d assaulted Ross. That’s called manufacturing consent. Back in real time, Jim Ross tells the fans that he accepts some responsibility for asking the wrong questions.
In a bit of tonal whiplash, the silly lip-trill intro to Rockabilly’s music interrupts Ross’s super-serious comments. Rockabilly takes on Bart Gunn, who is already in the ring. Vince explains to newer viewers that the two opponents are brothers and adds that the match was Honky Tonk Man’s idea. Though their feud ended abruptly late last year when Billy suffered a stinger in kayfabe, Bart obviously still has issues with his brother. Otherwise, he’d be calling himself Rockabart. Bart knocks Rockabilly to the outside with a clothesline to the “chest area” and later delivers an elbow to the “sternum area”. The match is fairly even until Rockabilly hits the Fame Asser, followed by the swinging neckbreaker to secure the win. “I can’t help it,” Billy yells to the camera. “I’m just really good!” Jim Ross advertises the WWF’s Canadian Collision, which is, it turns out, the name of a live-event tour of several Canadian cities this week. The tour even includes a stop in Toronto where 25,000 fans are expected, enough to fill the SkyDome 35% of the way up. That may not sound impressive, but keep in mind, it’s a very big dome. Before the main event, a cameraman runs afoul of the Hart Foundation, much like the cameraman whom Stone Cold knocked off the apron last night, or the photographer whom Mankind landed on.
The Super Soaker Rewind is Steve Austin breaking Pillman’s ankle last October with a cane and a chair. Pillman enters first, then Stone Cold. “I don’t know why people like him,” says Vince, “but they do!” The rest of the Hart Foundation (minus Bret, who was sent home) ambush Austin on his way to the ring. The Anvil, the Rocket, the Bulldog, and the Loose Cannon all gang up on Stone Cold like a revolt of Monopoly tokens. As officials break up the brawl, Mankind comes to the ring and starts fighting Pillman in the ring. Austin appears to have injured his knee in the attack by what Vince calls, “four individuals”, despite the fact that they were clearly working as a group.
The Mankind vs. Pillman is now official. Pillman tosses Mankind around the ring as the announcers debate which man is more deranged. Both men exchange headbutts, and Pillman falls on his face after delivering one. Is Mick Foley Samoan? Mankind, whose mask is falling apart, locks Pillman in the mandible claw. Owen, Davey, and Jim run in, followed by Stone Cold and Ken Shamrock. The match is thrown out, as should be obvious, except that the officiating has been inconsistent for months. Austin gives Shamrock a stunner just because.
3 Maneuvers (Year total: 73)