WWF Raw — New Haven Coliseum — New Haven, CT
Steve Austin opens the show, telling all the other Royal Rumble competitors to watch out for the 316 on their pagers. For some reason, these days this promo isn’t emulated, or celebrated, or remembered at all, really.
Too much grub, and not enough chow — it’s time for the first WWF Raw of 1998! And the last WWF Raw taped in 1997! Faarooq, who was volun-told by The Rock last week, faces Ken Shamrock. In their last encounter, recall the announcers, Faarooq caused Shamrock Internal Injuries™️.
More recently, Ken has used his ankle submission to beat D-Lo and Kama, who are both at ringside. The Rock isn’t. Though Faarooq throws Shamrock out of the ring twice, the Nation members refrain from interfering. Before the commercial break, Rocky appears at the top of the ramp and casually strolls down.
Faarooq is still in control when this marathon of a match (by Attitude Era standards) returns from the break. Meanwhile, The Rock talks strategy with the other Nation members. Shamrock makes a brief comeback with a huracanrana counter, but Faarooq has already shifted the momentum back in his favor when Kama, at The Rock’s behest, holds a chair in the corner of the ring. Faarooq ends up smacking into it, then taps out to the ankle lock.
As Kama and Faarooq argue on the outside, The Rock and Shamrock nearly come to blows inside the ring. Luckily, Stone Cole intervenes to teach them the futility of violence. Or give them Stunners.
Later tonight, Owen Hart faces Savio Vega in a Summerslam ’96 rematch, plus WWF Raw will air footage from the Hell in a Cell match. No, there hasn’t been a second one; they’re talking about the match from three months ago. All this, and Mike Tyson’s Lucius Sweet-like manager. But as WWF Raw heads to another break, Jim Cornette walks to the ring with two middle-aged guys in suits. Talk about a cliffhanger!
Cornette introduces his guests, Howard Brody and Dennis Coralluzzo of the NWA, the National Wrestling Alliance, the oldest and at one time largest governing and sanctioning you’re asleep already aren’t you? Anyway, it’s a very prestigious organization, and that’s why they’re going to award their prestigious North American title to whoever wins this next random undercard match. Kevin Kelly is offended that another promotion’s title would be contested on WWF Raw, making him the only one at the booth or at home who cares either way.
Jeff Jarrett takes on Barry Windham, whom Cornette hypes on commentary as having once been a great singles wrestler. Jimmy then name-drops Frank Gotch and William Muldoon, even throwing Abe Lincoln out there while he’s at it. Kevin Kelly, meanwhile, wants to know whether there are DQs for throwing one’s opponent over the top rope. Cornette doesn’t even know, but while the ref is distracted, he hits Windham in the back with his tennis racket. Jeff lays an arm over Barry, winning the match and the title in 3:37 after a random Russo-style swerve. Tradition!
Jarrett’s championship celebration lasts only seconds before he’s laid out by Stone Cold — better known as The Ringmaster.
The announcers then promote upcoming WWF live events in New York’s Madison Square Garden and Scranton’s Catholic Youth Center.
After the commercial, Michael Cole asks Ken Shamrock about Steve Austin’s attack tonight, “notwithstanding” his match against The Rock at the Royal Rumble. Vince may be off commentary, but his spirit lives on, and things of that nature. Shamrock says he wants Austin one-on-one at the end of the Rumble match. “Let’s get it on, Stone Cold!”
Speaking of getting it on, Sunny is here, and she knows you want her. Tonight, she’s dressed as a… ahem, sexy schoolgirl. Fortunately, Jerry Lawler is hundreds of feet away, perhaps per court order. I often wonder why Sunny is even on the payroll at this point, but you try hyping up fans for a Sniper/Recon vs. Skull/8-Ball match and tell me she has an easy job.
The Jackyl spends most of his time on commentary talking about himself and Kurrgan, stopping occasionally to laugh when the other Truth Commission guys hurt themselves. He even calls Recon, “High Spot” before the future Bull Buchanan misses a top-rope move. Kurrgan appears on stage and begins sauntering to the ring just in time to see his stablemates lose to a DOA DDT.
The two stables engage in a slow motion brawl that ends when Kurrgan locks his claw hold on 8-Ball’s skull (or possibly Skull’s 8-ball). Michael Cole wonders how anyone could dump Kurrgan over the top rope in the Royal Rumble, even though, as of 2023, the tallest man in the match has never won it.
This week’s Twix Rewind is Kane and The Undertaker teaming up last week to beat up seven guys. I think they got the spot because there are two of them.
During the commercial break, Home Improvement’s Richard Karn tells central Wisconsin viewers, on behalf of Lakeland Overhead Door Corporation, about Wayne Dalton’s garage doors with patented TorqueMaster counterbalance.
Chyna wheels Triple H down the ramp during D-X’s entrance. Last week, Hunter cost Owen Hart the WWF title by hitting him with a crutch. This week, he meets with Dr. James Andrews.
Hunter and Shawn, pair of boobs that they are, stare at Chyna’s chest before beginning their promo. Triple H says Owen has gone from the hunted to the hunter; he has actually gone from the Shawn to the Hunter, which is an even bigger downgrade. Also, ladies, Helmsley’s crutches are made of wood — get it?
Owen Hart appears on the Titantron and tells him he’ll let Hunter’s leg heel, then break his other one. Hunter tells him to watch his back (much like he and Shawn watch Chyna’s front).
In this week’s 1-800-COLLECT Slam of the Week, Vader hits a moonsault on Julio Sanchez on Shotgun.
“We’re All Together Now” signals the start of WWF WarZone, which kicks off with Los Boricuas rapping to the ring. Owen Hart, who nearly beat Shawn Michaels for the WWF title last week, faces Savio — a step down from Michaels, as viewers of the No Way Out of Texas pay-per-view will discover next month. The numbers aren’t in the favor of Hart, who’s surrounded by not only Los Boricuas (who Lawler says put the “panic” in “Hispanic”), but also D-X, who watch from the stage.
A second referee, Jack Dohn, runs to the ring to have a word with the other Boricuas after they gang up on Owen. Hart then locks Vega in the Sharpshooter but breaks it up to fend off Jesús. Owen pins Savio with an O’Connor roll, then runs after Triple H before the Boricuas catch him. With Owen restrained, Triple H slaps him, then gives the Boricuas a wad of cash.
Paul Bearer comes to the ring to the Undertaker’s theme (now that he’s lost Mankind *and* Kane). He’s clearly despondent, but that doesn’t excuse or explain the atrocious haircut. Nor the high-pitched voice, which he’s started using again.
Backstage, “something has just transpired”: Steve Austin has laid out Mark Henry. This is shocking — how long has Mark Henry been back? “But up next”, says Lawler, “Sable! And oh yeah, Marvelous Marc Mero is gonna take on Tom Brandi.”
Michael Cole narrates a montage of Marc Mero’s mistreatment of Sable. Besides verbally abusing her, he has humiliated her by making her wear a potato sack, a reindeer suit, and a denim suit (Editor’s Note: It was Marc himself who wore that one). But, much like Moesha’s premiere on UPN, it was Brandi to the rescue.
Nevertheless, Jerry Lawler calls Tom Brandi “a bigger loser than Marty Schottenheimer” (the NFL coach whose Kansas City Chiefs just lost to the Denver Broncos). Lawler shoehorns in another topical reference, which doubles as a boob joke: looking at Sable, he mentions the recent attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon.
Mero beats up on Brandi in the early going with closed fists, which Jim Ross reminds us are illegal. Marc then freaks out when fans chant, “Sable”. Brandi knocks Mero to the outside, where he lands on Sable and yells at her. Brandi tries to carry her away, but Marvelous Marc knocks them both over.
Back in the ring, Mero gives Brandi the TKO, then attempts a second one before Steve Austin shows up to give him the Stunner. There’s no Stunner for Tom Brandi, even though he’ll not only enter the Royal Rumble but last twelve seconds in it. Austin eyes Sable on the way out.
On the WWF Superstar Line, Jim Ross has scoops about NWA stars coming to the WWF, plus twelve hopefuls at a WWF training camp.
A montage airs of Steve Austin’s Stunners and implied Stunners from tonight’s WWF Raw before a replay of his Crapper 3:16 hijinks from last week. Austin’s victim, TAFKA Goldust, faces Flash Funk tonight.
Naturally, Goldust enters wearing an afro wig, gold chains, and full blackface. Jim Ross says Funk is “not amused” but won’t elaborate. Flash knocks down Zwarte Piet with a spinning kick, then attempts a 450 splash. Luna pushes Funk off the top rope, causing a DQ. After Goldust hits Flash with the Curtain Call, Vader roughs up the Bizarre One, then hugs Flash Funk.
Speaking of a Blackman, black belt Steve is going to enter the Royal Rumble. You can win big at the Royal Rumble with the Stone Cold pickup truck contest. No phone call necessary! Just call the number on screen.
The USA original movie Atomic Dog premieres January 14th. “No dogs were harmed in the making of this film”, says the commercial. “The people, on the other hand…”
The Head Bangers, who appeared on Regis & Kathie Lee this morning, face The New Age Outlaws in a non-title match. The Road Dog says that he and Billy Gunn are from the Sunshine State, and they’re going to stick their belts where the sun don’t shine on the Head Bangers. Except Dog is from Georgia. Maybe Roadie could have threatened to stick the belts up Mosh and Thrasher’s respective peaches.
The Godwinns, whom the Outlaws seemingly owe a title shot, watch the match from the stage. After Dog and Thrasher dropkick each other in the groin, Mosh makes a hot tag. However, Billy Gunn counters the Bangers’ powerbomb-leg drop combo and pins Thrasher, who tagged back in. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie then chase off the tag team champions.
Down in Florida, Don King is “excited”, his “creative juices… flowing like never before” in anticipation of “one of the greatest explosions you’ve ever seen”. WrestleMania will be “an affordable pleasure at an affordable price”. Okay, calm down, Don.
Tonight’s main event is a Shawn Michaels promo. But before that, they air a video package of Shawn and Taker’s last match at Hell in a Cell, set to the stock music pieces, “Lost Soul” and “Hostage”. In the ring, Michaels tells Underaker to bring out his “big dead-ass carcass”. No really, dead-ass.
Druids roll a D-X casket down to the ring, and Shawn thinks Hunter and Chyna are inside. But those two show up on stage and try to wave Shawn off. “I-i-if you two are up there,” says Shawn, struggling against fear and chemical impairment to put the pieces together. “Then… then who’s in the casket?” Taker then pops out and drags Michaels into the casket, where an improbable camera angle shows total darkness.