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1997 WWF


Kev
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I started going through Raw from around mid-96ish a year or so back and got to Mania 97 before giving up the Network. Picking up where I left off, so sharing thoughts as I go. Please jump in with thoughts or any nuggets of info as I’m interested to get any context that I may not be aware of.

I got into wrestling in 98 so, although I’ve seen most of the big moments and probably all of the ppvs from this period, I wanted to go back and see the weekly stuff as it seems to be widely regarded as WWF’s best year.

So starting with the Raw after Mania. Opens with the tag champs, Owen and Bulldog, who’ve been running a dissension angle for a couple months. This is basically an extension of that as they face the Headbangers, match is fine but nothing notable, ends on a dq as Bulldog shoves the ref as he and Owen argue, leading into them setting a Euro title match for next week.

HHH-Bart Gunn. I was impressed with Bart here. The opening headlock exchange of all things was pretty cool, with a nice struggle over it. Bart hits a couple of nice power spots with a press slam and delayed vertical, and some nice bumping, particularly going backwards over the top off a Chyna low bridge, which leads into the HHH win.

Nice little surprise as we get a quick lucha 6 man. Not big on lucha so don’t know many of the guys in this, only name I recognise is Abimso Negro, and after looking it up, it looks like one of the guys is Super Crazy as Hysteria. I couldn’t really keep track of who was on which team but it was a fun little sprint and seemed to get over, hoping there’s more of these coming up.

Flash Funk-Brooklyn Brawler with HonkyTonk on commentary, although the attitude era hasn’t really officially started, guys like Brawler and Honky already feel so out of place. The same can probably be said for Flash to be fair, I wonder how he would have done had he just been brought in as 2 Cold, seems like really unfortunate timing to be stuck with such a cheesy aesthetic just as the Attitude era is starting up, and by the time he became Scorpio I think he’d been established as an afterthought.

Bret’s official heel turn promo is pretty great, there’s a real authenticity to Bret here, possibly because some of the underlying resentment is legit and because it builds off previous events so well. The one negative is some casual homophobia as he disdainfully refers to HBK posing for a gay mag. HBK comes out and does a rah rah America speech about freedom of expression and also gets in some homophobia, leading to Bret taking him out before Sid makes the save.

IC champ Rocky Maivia-Leif Cassidy, non-event which Rock wins. Bret, who’d came back out to commentate, takes out Rock. Nice moment as Bret and Leif come face to face following the attack, with Leif giving him an awkward thumbs up.

Ahmed-Savio. I’m really interested to see how Ahmed plays out after watching this. Obviously he was reckless but it adds to the unpredictability, which kind of makes me think he’s great. There’s a spot here where he crotches Savio on the ropes then just dives in with a shoulder block taking them both to the floor. Also pulls out a flip senton, plus just flies into a missed elbow. He was really over as well. Match just ends as the Nation pull Savio out, leading to Ahmed making a challenge, although it’s not really clear who to as Faarooq isn’t there. Has much been said over the years about why Ahmed left? Was it just a case of them losing patience as the injuries stacked up? and what happened between that and him  showing up in WCW having put on the weight?

Weird ending to the show as new champ, Taker, comes out for a promo. I assume they legit ran out of time as Bearer and Mankind (separately despite having recently been together) interrupt and the show just finished without anything really being said.

Notably absent from the show is Austin, but there’s numerous references to how tough he is after not giving up to Bret, it borders on overkill but it works in the context of annoying Bret as they talk more about the opponent he beat than him.

I may need an editor for future write ups, but in conclusion Ahmed rules!

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Raw 31/03 starts with Owen-Bulldog. Owen hits a nice baseball slide as Bulldog enters and then controls the match from there, limiting Bulldog to brief strikes (which don’t look good). They emphasise Owen using his speed and resourcefulness to neutralise Bulldog’s power which is nice simple storytelling. Owen blatantly kicks him in the balls at one point which is acknowledged but no explanation why it doesn’t result in a dq. There’s a really good Bulldog piledriver sell in here, before he eventually takes over and gets a run of power offence. Owen with a nice sharpshooter counter into an enzuigiri. There’s also a moment where Bulldog goes for a backdrop and Owen seems to realise mid-air that he isn’t going to rotate so smoothly drops into a flapjack sell.

It breaks down with a ref bump and Owen bringing in a chair before Bret runs out to reunite the family with his family values speech. Second really good Bret promo in as many weeks and everyone plays it perfectly here, complete with a great disdainful look to the crowd from Bret as they hug it out. Obviously the match is a non-finish but it’s still worth watching for how well it leads into the angle at the end.

Sunny out for commentary, I can’t remember her doing anything of note in her last year or so before briefly managing LOD, is there a reason she never really got anything to work with during this time?

Nice, another lucha match with El Mosco v Super Nova. This is decent but a bit slower paced than last weeks 6 man and doesn’t really get over, ends on a slightly weak Arabian press moonsault from Mosco. It’s treated as an afterthought with Sunny joining the Spanish commentary being given more attention.

LOD, who will challenge tag champs at the ppv, out for a shouty promo, forgettable and skippable.

Honky on commentary as Roadie comes out with a child, who’s only referenced as a guest manager. JJ beats an unnamed jobber quickly, nice over the top bump off an atomic drop from the jobber here. Honky offers up his guitar to JJ post-match which he smashes, turning down the chance to be his protege, this gets over to be fair. And I’ll leave it here as my child has announced his distaste for this segment by waking up crying.

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NOD team of Savio and Crush squash two nameless jobbers. Actually not bad, Savio with some nice strikes and Crush throws them around a bit, finishing with the decapitation.

The second hour starts with fireworks and Vince shouting ‘Explosion! Contusion! Concussion!’. Seriously.

Bearer and Mankind with a setup on Taker, pretending to have split, leading to a sneak attack and a fireball to Taker. Sid randomly out for the save. Fireball was decent, but Bearer’s shtick doesn’t work for me, and feels particularly goofy when you’ve got quite well acted stuff with the Harts earlier on. Sid then cuts a fire-based promo.

HHH-Goldust have a decent little match, feels like an appropriate level of aggression as it’s been a long running feud. Chyna, who was barred from ringside, interferes for the dq then hits a slightly awkward spin kick but kind of looks great. HHH and Pat Patterson end up scrapping and it’s all got a nice chaotic feel to it ending with a Chyna-Goldie stare down, surprised they held off as long as they did on Chyna actually fighting given the reactions she was already getting this early.

Austin-Bret promo, decent stuff, both feel totally authentic to their characters. Austin pretty much acknowledges his new tweeter status, talking about kicking assess whether he’s in with good guys or bad guys.

Rock-Bret. Decent match but probably most notable as (I think) it’s their only match. Establishes Bret’s increased aggression, ends on a dq when Bret won’t release the ring post figure 4. Chaotic ending with Austin, followed by Bulldog/Owen, followed by LOD out for the brawl. They’re weaving the feuds together nicely here, but the big negative is that all the big matches ended in non-finishes here, this could get old quickly if they overdo the match breaks down into chaotic brawl thing.

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7 hours ago, Kev said:

Honky on commentary as Roadie comes out with a child, who’s only referenced as a guest manager. JJ beats an unnamed jobber quickly, nice over the top bump off an atomic drop from the jobber here. Honky offers up his guitar to JJ post-match which he smashes, turning down the chance to be his protege, this gets over to be fair.

Did it get over? I remember thinking at the time they were banking pretty heavily on the audience having been watching a decade ago and knowing that Honky was supposed to be an obnoxious heel, because they did nothing to establish that here. If you were unfamiliar with the character, Roadie comes off as a giant asshole here.

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8 hours ago, tbarrie said:

Did it get over? I remember thinking at the time they were banking pretty heavily on the audience having been watching a decade ago and knowing that Honky was supposed to be an obnoxious heel, because they did nothing to establish that here. If you were unfamiliar with the character, Roadie comes off as a giant asshole here.

Well it seemed to pop the crowd, although not sure if there’s any sweetening involved in that. You’re right Roadie does come as as an asshole though as Honky, although obviously looking like a total goof, didn’t feel like he was heeling it up that much. It’s funny that Honky here is the same age as Lashley now, plus a good few years younger than the likes of Edge and R-Truth.

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I actually started something similar about a year or so ago. Only I'm doing both WWF and WCW. I've made it to August of 1997. Has been a blast to watch the formation of the nWo as well as Raw gradually improving. I plan on watching all the way to the Invasion, although that will probably take a long time. Will be fun to read these and contribute though. 

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55 minutes ago, Tuna Boss said:

I actually started something similar about a year or so ago. Only I'm doing both WWF and WCW. I've made it to August of 1997. Has been a blast to watch the formation of the nWo as well as Raw gradually improving. I plan on watching all the way to the Invasion, although that will probably take a long time. Will be fun to read these and contribute though. 

Yeah, I did WCW as well, but never lined them up. Got up to around Nov/Dec 97, lots of fun but it’s frustrating watching a lot of the bad booking decisions and knowing where it leads. The 3 hour Nitros have put me off going back to that.

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I might do that for '97 but right now I've been watching '93 WCW and WWF.  It doesn't help that I'm now at the point where there's no more Saturday Night to watch from September so I may call it quits.  But it is interesting to see how those two companies were plus seeing ECW try and find their footing by being extreme but still try and be a regular small-town show.  If anything I want to see how the rest of the year plays out as by then you get more of the ECW regulars you know of and as I saw previously from '94 ECW they had a nice transitional year before going full extreme.

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Posted (edited)

Owen/Bulldog again start the show. Honky is already out on commentary. Owen, who is slicking back his hair around this point, seems to have a little front quiff brushed in and I spend too long wondering if this is some sort of rib on Honky. Owen with a nice little petulant promo telling HBK, who’s gonna ‘get things off his chest’ later, not to even say a word about his brother.

They face The Godwins, strange production choice as they do an inset LOD promo just as PIG get the hot tag and its not clear what happens for the finish. Replay shows the champs win when Owen breaks up a pin coming off the top with an axe handle, which looked pretty weak. Match was fine, mainly demonstrated the champs being back on the same page. LOD & Godwins brawl post-match after an accidental slopping. Stone Cold then interrupts the champs promo in the back.

Austin faces Billy Gunn (who comes out with Honky). I like that Austin doesn’t seem to have added any obvious face spots but he’s clearly over as a face now. I like Billy here as the slightly goofy heel with these jerky movements when he’s  bumping. Gunn turns down Honky post-match.

The Commandant out for a promo which is  leading to the upcoming debut of the Truth Commission. He talks about them coming to study democracy and it’s shit, gets no reaction other than some cheap heat when he refers to Americans as sissys. They’re gonna be in South Africa next week and obviously some of the roster are already there as there’s a Bret pre-tape promo from there. 

HBK cuts a bit of a shooty promo. He mentions the WWF doing its best numbers in 6 years with him as champ, which seems wrong, wasn’t he generally not considered a draw as champ? And he says Bret can’t separate this from real life, which crosses into business exposing shit, and contradicts another of his points about Bret only being in it for the money.

Headbangers vs Barry Horowitz & Freddie Joe Floyd. Nice fire from Smothers on the hot tag before losing. Not a good sign when the squashees look more impressive than the squashers. Headbangers are early front runners for least interesting thing about these shows, they timed their powerbomb>top rope leg drop finish quite well, but otherwise just completely unremarkable.

They do Shamrock vs MMA fighter, Vernon White, in a no holds barred exhibition. Some early grappling ,which was a bit different back then, but seems fairly commonplace in 2021. White with a chest kick off a break then Shamrock with a takedown and punches from the mount leads to a quick stoppage. Crowd seems a little confused by this. I’m assuming there’s a blood capsule used here as there’s lots of blood from White, which they mention but isn’t really focused on and there wasn’t any visibly stiff shots there. Think this is the beginning of the whole Shamrock snapping thing, but it doesn’t really work here. Vader (with Bearer) gets in his face afterwards.

Followed by a Vader squash, a big release german is the highlight. The jobber appears to be called Frank Stilletto and seems to have Hammertime written on his trunks.

Slightly unusual setup for an upcoming Austin-Bret match as they say Sid hasn’t shown up for the main event so Austin will replace him, but Austin only agrees if he gets Bret. Is this actually the end of Sid’s run?

Mankind cuts a good promo, this is maybe the first shift to a slightly more realistic presentation of his character as he talks about his family. Some weird references to Taker liking fancy cars and flash hotel rooms, which seems out of place. Ends on a shitty Taker voiceover promo (presumably he’s in S. Africa), which drags. Bearer here (and with Vader) feels completely unnecessary and for me he actively detracts from both with his cartoon look. 

Austin and Foley basically do a no dq brawl with Hebner looking typically inept. Foley gets in a low key death bump going backwards off the side of the ramp into the railings. The match is fine but it’s clearly building to a non-finish, which happens as Bulldog/Owen come out, which brings out LOD, followed by Vader, who accidentally hits Mankind, they brawl, Austin goes after the champs and it ends with Bearer stopping his guys fighting.

Stories are being moved along nicely but the theme continues of almost every big match ending in some sort of non-finish.

Edited by Kev
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On 3/1/2021 at 2:09 PM, Kev said:

I’m assuming there’s a blood capsule used here as there’s lots of blood from White, which they mention but isn’t really focused on and there wasn’t any visibly stiff shots there. Think this is the beginning of the whole Shamrock snapping thing, but it doesn’t really work here. Vader (with Bearer) gets in his face afterwards.

This is humorous to considering their FMW match where Vader slammed Shamrock (or maybe it was a powerbomb) and he started spitting up blood for real. 

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33 minutes ago, Curt McGirt said:

This is humorous to considering their FMW match where Vader slammed Shamrock (or maybe it was a powerbomb) and he started spitting up blood for real. 

I never knew about this. What was WWF getting out of letting their guys work a FMW show? Was there any more examples of WWF guys working their shows?

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44 minutes ago, Kev said:

I never knew about this. What was WWF getting out of letting their guys work a FMW show? Was there any more examples of WWF guys working their shows?

Mick Foley worked W*ING Kanemura at their 1996 stadium show in a "King of the Death Match" title decider... he'd already started as Mankind but they let him keep the booking. It was originally going to be Mick vs Matsunaga, but the WWF knew there was going to be a ton of bloodshed and apparently there was a rumor that Matsunaga had hepatitis B, so they nudged FMW and Kanemura got the booking.

 

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We also can't forget Shawn Michaels reffing Hayabusa vs. Gannosuke with the worst guest appearance since Gene Kiniski reffed the Flair for the Gold match.

EDIT: I need to read better haha

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54 minutes ago, Pete said:

Mick Foley worked W*ING Kanemura at their 1996 stadium show in a "King of the Death Match" title decider... he'd already started as Mankind but they let him keep the booking. It was originally going to be Mick vs Matsunaga, but the WWF knew there was going to be a ton of bloodshed and apparently there was a rumor that Matsunaga had hepatitis B, so they nudged FMW and Kanemura got the booking.

 

I’ve watched very little death match stuff so I’m not sure how common it is, but going into a death match in a singlet and fringed boots seems ridiculous. 

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  • 1 month later...

Getting back to this. April 14 97, Raw is split between the US and South Africa.

First match in the US is LOD vs Godwins. Hawk pulls out the piledriver no sell as a throwaway early spot. Godwins win after after interference from Bulldog. This just isn’t very interesting, kick/punch WWF heavyweight style.

To SA, HHH vs Jessie James, real house show feel to this, which is compounded by no commentary due to technical issues. It’s fine but a bit dull, JJ is quite good in this, gimmick is a dead end obviously but he still shows charisma, gets the crowd behind him, and everything he does looks good. HHH wins after Honkytonk interference as he hypes a mystery protege for the ppv, I assume this was when Disco was rumoured to be coming in. 

Rocky vs. Savio in SA, again a house show feel as this goes quite long with nothing much interesting to fill it out. Savio works in a nerve hold 5 different times ffs. However he does take a nice bump missing a shoulder charge into the corner. Rock pulls out a Rock Bottom, possibly for the first time, for a near fall. Savio wins with a roll up, this is Rocky’s first defeat but it doesn’t feel notable at all, not helped by the lack of commentary. Savio must be on a fairly short list of guys who have wins over Austin and Rock. Quick Nation beat down followed by an Ahmed save, with young D’Lo in a comically oversized suit getting a 2x4 to the back.

Austin in-ring interview with Vince, nothing spectacular here but it still feels effortlessly good, it’s only 2-3 minutes of tv time and does what’s needed, Austin is gonna kicks Bret’s ass and I believe him. Couple of minor flubs here by Austin but doesn’t hurt the promo at all and kind of adds to the authenticity, anger isn’t supposed to be well-spoken and polished.

There’s a couple of minutes of Goldust vs Sultan in SA before HHH and Chyna run-in, Sultan hit a cool piledriver during the match with Dust going up almost ganso bomb style, the run-in then includes a spike piledriver which looks a lot less impressive in comparison. 

A mash-up of Bret promos, now from Kuwait, chastising the US fans and really cementing that he’s a face everywhere else as he praises international fans. I suppose this isn’t something that could be that easily recreated, but is there any other examples where someone has played heel to one section of fans but face elsewhere? Considering how good this was, it seems strange that (I don’t think) WWE has tried to recreate it.

Headbangers vs Vader/Mankind tag which is a bit of a mess (by design) but not very interesting (which has been consistent for the Headbangers). Weirdly ends when Mosh spits “some kind of liquid” at Mankind causing a dq. It’s a clear liquid and there was no setup so there’s no visual impact to this, it blinds Mankind though causing him to put the claw on Vader as “he thinks that’s a Headbanger” (shades of ‘an Uso’).

There’s a quick Promo from the Commandant again hyping the upcoming Truth Commission debut. I’m sure he throws in “white is right”, were they doing a pro-apartheid gimmick?

Ahmed out and holds up a ‘Ahmed should be IC champ’ sign. Ahmed has no storyline beef with the IC champ that would make this relevant so it’s nice that the sign-making, Ahmed fan still only considers him IC level-worthy.

Ahmed vs. Crush. This is decent but falls short of good as Crush is a bore on offence, he has a shitty piledriver and doesn’t move on a Ahmed missed elbow spot causing Ahmed to half hit/half overshoot and look like an idiot. I was gonna compare Ahmed to Brian Cage as a big powerhouse who insists on working in ‘athletic spots’, which just look slightly shitty and make me think he should stick to power spots. However, Ahmed turns it round here as he counters the heart punch into a nice spinning heel kick and then wins with a smooth running schoolboy.

Kind of an nothing show overall, with technical issues killing the vibe a bit on the SA stuff. Interference and non-finishes are again a bit overdone. Ahmed still my favourite outside of the obvious Austin/Bret stuff.

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On 4/25/2021 at 5:13 PM, Kev said:

Getting back to this. April 14 97, Raw is split between the US and South Africa.

 

A mash-up of Bret promos, now from Kuwait, chastising the US fans and really cementing that he’s a face everywhere else as he praises international fans. I suppose this isn’t something that could be that easily recreated, but is there any other examples where someone has played heel to one section of fans but face elsewhere? Considering how good this was, it seems strange that (I don’t think) WWE has tried to recreate it.

 

There’s a quick Promo from the Commandant again hyping the upcoming Truth Commission debut. I’m sure he throws in “white is right”, were they doing a pro-apartheid gimmick?

 

 

Only wrestler off the top of my head to Bret 1997 is maybe Jerry Lawler in 1990-91 during his run as AWA/WCCW "Unified" champion. He was a face in Memphis and a heel everywhere else (though eventually he would turn in Memphis as well).

 

The Truth Commission was just ... extremely out of place in 1997 WWF. When you look at those early matches (before Commandant was replaced as manager by Don "Jackyl" Callis), you have to remember that the Commandant was (and still is) a professional actor from South Africa who befriended Bret Hart during one of his visits to the country. Hart apparently pushed the WWF to hire the guy, so they essentially try and make him the 1996-97 equivalent of the anti-American foreign antagonist that Hogan would eat for lunch a decade earlier. 

However, the shtick was out of date in 1990, let alone 1997. And they have him manage a 7-foot Canadian who is green as grass (Kurrgan/Interrogator), a grossly overweight masked man (Tank -- did not realize until recently it was the same guy as Mantaur), and another wrestler who was green as grass (Recon/Bull Buchanan). Replacing Tank with Sniper (Luc Poirier -- curious if Bret pushed for him as well) helped the in-ring product, but they were a lost cause from the get go. 

IIRC, one of their first WWF TV appearances was on Shotgun after Brian Pillman attacked a "fan" at ringside and was taken away by security. You see the Pillman video -- edgy, full of "attitude" so to say. Then it's off to a middle-aged guy in fatigues leading three random dudes in a march to generic "villain" music. It's like the TV went from 1997 to 1987 in 30 seconds. 

 

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8 hours ago, colonial said:

The Truth Commission was just ... extremely out of place in 1997 WWF.

It's like the TV went from 1997 to 1987 in 30 seconds. 

 

Yeah, I made a similar point in an earlier post about Flash Funk and Honky. This still feels like a bit of a transition period, the presentation has changed enough that the more gimmicky stuff feels out of place, but there’s still a fair bit of it - Flash, Honky, Roadie, Godwins, Bearer, Truth Commission, Sultan - and not all of them are just holdovers from previous eras.

I think late 97/early 98 is when they fully commit to ‘attitude’, which I think is when they first start using the branding. And by mid-98 all those gimmicks are gone, even Bearer drops the cartoony look in the build up to Kane.

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IYH: Revenge of the Taker

5 match ppv and 3 end on some-sort of non-finish.

LOD vs Owen/Bulldog - this is kind of worked as a sprint (as much as a 97 LOD match could be), with no big heat segment. LOD get the win but it’s on the illegal man, restart for a couple of mins, Doomsday Device and Bret in for the DQ.

Rocky vs Savio for the IC title, there’s a split screen with Farooq on commentary for most of the match and the match just comes across like an afterthought. Ends on a count out after Crush heart punches Rocky, they tease some NOD dissension before a beat down on Rocky and Ahmed save. Rocky really starting to look like a lame duck, after getting beat by Savio on Raw, now only keeping the title in this manner. Doesn’t do much for Savio either as he looks like an idiot not getting Rocky back in the ring.

Jessie James vs Rockabilly. The Rockabilly gimmick is just DOA, Billy keeps spamming Honky’s taunts which is all the gimmick appears to consist of, then loses on a roll up.

Taker vs Mankind, this is the best match on the show, typical sense of chaos with these two and some big bumps, most notably Foley going off the apron head first into a table. Taker throws a really shitty drop kick which I don’t think he ever tried again. This is almost worked no dq with various weapon shots right in front of the ref. Vince calls it out and wonders why there’s no dq but doesn’t offer any explanation. This is a bit of a recurring theme, with the hardcore elements starting to bleed in. Without any explanation for why it’s allowed it just makes the refs look incompetent.

Austin vs Bret, decent match but not on the level of their previous stuff, ends on a dq with Owen/Bulldog run-in as Austin has Bret in the sharpshooter.

The non-finishes are getting a bit much, it’s bad enough on Raw but there really shouldn’t be this many on PPV. A lot of feuds are being progressed quite well, but the lack of clean wins kind of makes it feel like the matches are secondary to the stories rather than what they’re built on.

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Raw April 21

Austin Bret promo starts, setting up a street fight later and they announce Austin vs Taker for the next ppv. Not a lot more to say on this, these two are nailing their character work each time out.

Ahmed vs. Sultan. Some peak Vince ridiculousness as he says that Ahmed galvanised an entire nation last week in S. Africa, something even Nelson Mandela couldn’t do. This is decent while it lasts, Ahmed with a nice pump kick and axe kick early. Sultan pulls out another nice piledriver. Ahmed gets a couple of power spots before the inevitable NOD appearance. It ends on a dq as Ahmed uses the 2x4 on Sultan to scare them off. Outside of the obvious guys, Ahmed is the guy I’m most impressed with on these shows, and not in an ironic way. 

They air the Vader Kuwait talk show clip, it seems slightly strange that they frame it as him being held hostage as he awaits trial, were they not risking antagonising the Kuwaitis here? 

Shamrock does a promo setting up his Vader match and also challenges Mike Tyson. Were they already in talks with Tyson at this stage? Was there ever serious talk of him working a match?

The street fight starts with a Owen/Bulldog ambush, leading to HBK coming out of the crowd with a chair to chase them off. It then seemingly settles into a match but it’s more of an extended angle. Austin takes over and works Bret’s leg with a chair then puts him in a sharpshooter. There’s no real ending as officials come out to get him off and they work an injury angle with Bret.

Tiger Ali Singh vs Sal Sincere, this is Tiger’s Raw debut having won the Kuwaiti Cup. He gets the win but doesn’t look good and this feels totally unimportant as they cut to a split screen of Bret getting treatment three times.

Austin attacks Bret in the ambulance. I like the contrast between Davey and Owen in the buildup, with Davey sort of encouragingly rushing everyone “c’mon, lets go guys”, while Owen shouts and calls everyone idiots. This angle feels very Attitude era, but it’s on the right side of wrestling ridiculous, still feels violent and gets across the hate between them.

JJ vs Rockabilly again. Vince not understanding the meaning of literal as he mentions bombs going off both literally and figuratively. This gets a good 10 mins and is almost an extended squash for Billy, as he comfortably picks up the win with the Honky swinging neckbreaker. JJ attacks like a dick afterwards and gets a guitar shot for his trouble. Its strange how much time they’ve dedicated to this Honky angle, but at the same time it’s given no real importance. They do the WCW thing of subliminally burying the match by talking about the NWO throughout, just replace NWO with Stonecold.

A quick Mankind promo where he talks of Bearer’s handsome face getting disfigured.

Taker vs HHH, this is worked slightly strange with face Taker working in a chin lock and nerve hold at points, leading to heel HHH comebacks. As seems to be the theme for Raw main events of this time, it’s inevitably building to a non-finish, which happens as Mankind attacks with a blow torch. Taker fights back before he can burn him. Marlena and Dustin (without makeup) then attack HHH/Chyna from the crowd. The visual here is cool with Terri just hanging off Chyna’s back as she chokes her with a bag. They kind of spoiled this though by showing them sitting in the crowd a couple of minutes earlier.

Austin back out and kind of heels it up a bit. Not sure whether this was a deliberate attempt to a set him up as the heel for the Taker match but a highlight of this stage in Austin’s run in that there’s just no compromise or pandering with his character. Owen/Bulldog attack, before HBK makes the save. Pillman then attacks Austin and sets him up for a pillmanizer before HBK saves again. It’s almost bittersweet seeing Pillman here as you inevitably think what could have been with him in a featured role as the attitude era grew.

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  • 5 weeks later...

At the pace I’m watching these it’s gonna be around 2024 by the time I get through the 97 shows.

Raw April 28 - Pillman promo to start, doing a sort of hypocritical religious thing. Austin interrupts, avoids a Davey/Owen ambush then comes back out to chase them off with a weapon. This is fairly simple but effective booking, Austin was outnumbered and ambushed a couple of times last week, this week he doesn’t fall for the same tricks, he doesn’t have to really get over on anyone but he walks tall and doesn’t look like an idiot. Contrast with how it felt like NWO were constantly beating down the faces on Nitro around this time.

Flash vs Rockabilly - short, fine match, Flash with some dives, Billy kind of hits a jackhammer, plus a slightly lower impact fameasser. Funk wins with a rana roll up after a miscommunication spot with Billy and Honky. The gimmick is dead but I like Billy as big strong, athletic dude who has all the tools but is basically too much of a goof to really put it together. Guitar shot on Flash after the match.

Bret does a promo in his wheelchair. Someone on the board recently described Bret as sort of a lame old man neighbour in terms of his insults, but you still wouldn’t mess with him cos it looks like he keeps in shape, and I like that. He comes across as lame but still believable, rather than falling into the goofy comedy heel trap. Plus he’s arrogant but good enough to back it up, without being a cool heel. I think his heel work here really was perfect for this era.

LOD vs Furnas/LaFon - ends as Furnas breaks up a doomsday device only to eat the clothesline from Hawk, which looked a bit weak. Furnas/LaFon do a heel turn here with a pre-tape then post match promo, which is a bit muddled and isn’t helped by the announcers no selling that Hawk pinned the illegal man, which was one of their gripes.

Owen vs Rocky in a solid match, Owen hits a great spin kick out of the corner to a charging Rocky. Owen with the roll up and takes the IC title, I hadn’t even realised this was for the title. Rocky had looked like a bit of a lame duck champ for a while now so losing in this sort of low key manner almost seemed fitting. It didn’t feel like the crowd had turned on him at this stage, just ambivalent.

Austin hypes his title match with Taker, which is a bit of an afterthought to the Bret feud. I quite like that he has a heated feud with his main rival while also going for the title, again allows them to interweave stories which they were good at doing around this time.

A Shamrock behind the scenes-type video package. Nothing particularly notable but I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, easy way to get across a character without exposing weaker promo guys.

Roadie vs Vader - pretty much a squash, the Vader body attack thing looks great here. JR then does an in-ring interview, leading to Vader bullying him, playing off the Kuwait incident. It’s a bit awkward as I think Shamrock was a bit late but he eventually makes the save and hits a belly to belly which the crowd like, he then grabs the mic and says ‘it won’t be Vader time, it’ll be hard time’, there’s sort of a polite ‘ummm yeah ok then’ pop, not sure if this was an attempt at a catchphrase but it didn’t work (see earlier point about exposing weak promo guys). That probably sums up why Shamrock only had a certain ceiling in WWE, cool when he was throwing suplexes or whatever but kind of had negative charisma when talking.

Goldust vs HHH - Dustin throws some nice strikes in this. It ends when Marlena throws powder in Chyna’s eyes, leading to Chyna choking HHH (mistaking him for Goldust) for a dq. As we know, powder to the eyes disables both vision and hearing. This feels like a bit of a never ending feud, the work is generally solid and the feud is fine but they have too many nothing matches with weak non-finishes.

Quick Taker promo hyping his title match, even referencing Austin being distracted with Bret. 

There’s a couple of skits on the show, which I’d never seen before where you have actors playing a family, with the kid and grandpa kind of going crazy imitating different wrestlers. They’re labelled WWF reality check, was this their pre-Attitude attempt at branding this ‘era’?

Taker vs Bulldog - total non-event, pretty much immediately to commercial, Owen then runs in soon after they come back. Austin out to chase them off, leads to an Austin/Taker confrontation, surprising amount of boos for Austin, Taker pretty clearly the face there, so Austin wasn’t that over yet. Austin then confronts Bret who is watching from the stage in his wheelchair, this leads to Anvil attacking Austin, I like how they’ve slowly unveiled the Hart Foundation over a number of weeks. Bret then knocks Austin off the stage with a crutch shot. It’s a bit weird seeing this through modern eyes as they don’t do a big set-piece bump and don’t actually shows the landing, it almost looks like Austin just steps off the stage and the camera angle gives no perspective on height, but then they sell it like it’s a big fall.

They seem to be doing lots in the Austin Foundation feud, really building the shows around it, which I suppose sets the tone for the era. The positive though is that, despite dedicating a lot of time to it, they don’t burn through matches, which is one of their big flaws of today. 

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On 2/20/2021 at 6:58 PM, Kev said:

Bret’s official heel turn promo is pretty great, there’s a real authenticity to Bret here, possibly because some of the underlying resentment is legit and because it builds off previous events so well. The one negative is some casual homophobia as he disdainfully refers to HBK posing for a gay mag. HBK comes out and does a rah rah America speech about freedom of expression and also gets in some homophobia, leading to Bret taking him out before Sid makes the save.

I've been going through '96 Raw plus the associated PPVs.  For starters the year largely sucked by there were bits of attitude throughout the year (including Cornette going way overboard accusing Shawn of going after Davey Boy's wife and later calling Sunny a slut)  But there were definite building blocks that I loved seeing from scratch such as when Ringmaster went Stone Cold.  If you have the time after this it might be worth skimming through the last couple months of '96.

But in regards to your paragraph Bret said similar stuff on the first Raw of '97 when having a face-to-face talk with Shawn.  I want to give Bret the benefit of the doubt and say this was instructed to him in an effort to build up his edgy side.  At least that's what I'm hoping.

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1 hour ago, NikoBaltimore said:

I've been going through '96 Raw plus the associated PPVs.  For starters the year largely sucked by there were bits of attitude throughout the year (including Cornette going way overboard accusing Shawn of going after Davey Boy's wife and later calling Sunny a slut)  But there were definite building blocks that I loved seeing from scratch such as when Ringmaster went Stone Cold.  If you have the time after this it might be worth skimming through the last couple months of '96.

But in regards to your paragraph Bret said similar stuff on the first Raw of '97 when having a face-to-face talk with Shawn.  I want to give Bret the benefit of the doubt and say this was instructed to him in an effort to build up his edgy side.  At least that's what I'm hoping.

Yeah, about 2 years ago I actually started from after Rumble 96 but I quickly gave up and just did the ppvs. I started up on Raw again pre-Survivor Series 96. Watching from Bret’s return makes 97 and the heel turn a lot more satisfying as you see him go from respectful and largely unconcerned with Austin to pure hatred. Plus all the perceived slights build it up to the point that the turn, if not completely justified, is completely understandable. All the moving parts in the main event scene, possibly slightly accidentally given HBK’s absence, come together really well in that few months to Mania.

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Yeah, I just started '97 and I can't wait to get to that point.  I am also going to try and go through Nitro that year which means I'll have 3 hours to swift through then eventually 4.  Oh, man, and their PPVs too.  Man, what a time to be alive.

And yeah it's funny seeing Bret quickly descend into madness.  I also get a kick out of how there's multiple interwoven stories in the main event scene which does a solid jobof making every feud they can feel important.  I know that was an ECW thing that WWF aped from them but it still works quite well.

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