You asked (not really) and now I'm delivering! Each and every week I'll be diving into the network archives and reviewing a retro episode of Monday Night RAW. As someone whose fandom developed during the Attitude Era, I knew I wanted to explore this period in time more than any other. Within these articles, you will find my thoughts on the show, match ratings, quotes, and other miscellaneous musings.
10- Perfect, 9- Excellent, 8- Great, 7- Very Good, 6- Above Average to good, 5- Average, 4- Slightly below average, 3 or below: Poor
Each match starts at a 5 and slides up and down based on entertainment, execution, time, environment, reaction and stakes. The ratings are in no way an indication of a "star rating," which is a completely different system.
JUNE 23, 1997
Location: Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan
Synopsis: "Paul Bearer forces The Undertaker to team with Vader against the Nation of Domination in the main event. Plus, Bret Hart, Mankind, and more!"
General Thoughts: This felt like a great jumping on point and one that has me eager to see what happens next. Everything was explained and I never felt lost. The in-ring action left a lot to be desired. The moves are not nearly as crisp as we've become accustomed to and the pacing is much more deliberate. That said, the matches have a more authentic, street fight type feel which I did appreciate.
The storytelling, however, makes up for all other shortcomings. Starting the show with the Nation of Domination and new member Ahmed Johnson brought an immediate intensity, and I thought the racial discrimination/equality angle was poignant. They were interrupted by Crush and the debuting Disciples of Apocalypse (DOA), who immediately attacked the Faarooq led faction. This promises to be an interesting sub-plot moving forward.
Between matches, the show would slide in-and-out of the larger through-line with various video-packages and backstage interactions. The two main ones on this evening involved a potential split between Sable and Marc Mero ("are they inseparable, or is she on the prowl"), and a power struggle between Undertaker and Paul Bearer. The only clue we're given as to what may be coming is when Bearer exclaims "THE FIRE, REMEMBER THE FIRE!" to Undertaker as he's being choked (he deserved it). This falling out had an exclamation point put on it at the end of the night with a big tease for next weeks episode.
The main players on the night, however, were the Hart Foundation. They are running roughshod through the locker room and are building towards a match against Stone Cold, Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and the Legion of Doom at the upcoming Canadian Stampede. Bret delivers the quote of the night when he, with a straight face, says "Ken Shamrock, fresh out of the Ultimate Fairy Championships." The USA/Canada feud raging between the Harts and everyone else is more heated than anything in recent memory and, given the current political climate, as relevant as ever. As an Albertan myself, I'll be watching with obvious rooting interests.
Ken Shamrock defeated Rockabilly
- Dan Severn was great on commentary defending MMA and the differences between it and wrestling.
- Shamrock's transitions into submission holds are silky smooth.
- Quick match, but the face-to-face between Severn and Shamrock after the match felt special because of commentary putting over both men as the "two greatest UFC fighters of all-time". Whether or not that's true, I don't know, but it served its purpose here.
Legion of Doom defeated The Godwinns
- This was part of the WWF Tag Team Championship tournament. The winner would go on to face the winner of the Nation of Domination vs Undertaker and Vader match later in the night.
- Ken Shamrock was attacked backstage by the Hart Foundation. Jim Ross says they'll keep us posted on any new happenings. I lost all interest in the match after this because I wanted to see the fallout of the aforementioned beatdown.
- The commentary team is always highlighting the strengths of both teams.
- The action is sloppy and the finish is particularly bad. Hawk and Animal win after a clothesline from the top rope.
- Hart Foundation comes out and beats up the Legion of Doom after the match. Bret Hart surveys the action from atop the ramp. Brian Pillman steals the scene by beating up all the referees.
Flash Funk defeated Sabu (w/ Bill Alfonso)
- Bill Alfonso blowing his whistle the entire match was insufferably annoying.
- Sabu's somersault plancha was the nicest maneuver but, like the rest of his high spots, incredibly sloppy and haphazardly performed.
- Why does Paul Heyman keep calling Sabu "genocidal"? Who exactly is he wanting to kill, en mass? Should we be concerned?
- Sabu setting up a table immediately after the match started was nonsensical. He got himself disqualified for no reason whatsoever. Even more pathetic is the fact that it took him 3 attempts to break the table.
Mankind defeated British Bulldog
- Stone Cold joined commentary via telephone and added a great deal to the match. I laughed hysterically at how upset he was with Vince McMahon calling him collect. It was also nice to have him involved given the fact that Mankind is petitioning to be his new tag team partner. "He's Mankind, but he's also a kind man." - Stone Cold Steve Austin
- The story of Mankind wanting to earn the respect of his peers was hammered home. Bulldog using a low-blow and several violent chair shots to the head to end the match helps move that narrative forward.
Guest Referee Pat Patterson
Owen Hart defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Goldust
- Owen petitioning for Brian Pillman to be at ringside was funny. Saying that he deserves accompaniment because the other guys were "bringing their broads with them" was very jarring given how careful the WWE is with verbiage in 2018. He was complaining about the match all night, especially because he was facing two Americans (in the USA no less).
- It was strange to watch a triple threat match where all the competitors stayed in the ring the entire time. I'm used to someone taking a rest on the outside.
- I enjoyed the urgency of the match. All men were going for pin attempts after every move.
- Pat Patterson made a mistake and missed Owen's foot on the rope and counted the win for Goldust. I like that Gorilla Monsoon came out and restarted the match. I wish that happened more in big matches. It makes the company look like they care about upholding the integrity of their matches and product.
- Bret Hart cuts a promo after the match (see above) and calls out Thomas Hearns who is in attendance. Bret calls Hearns "The Chicken-Man" and sends the Hall of Fame boxer into a tizzy quicker than Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II.
Brian Christopher defeated Scott Taylor
- This was the bathroom break match of the evening. The only thing worth noting was the ridiculous Brian Christopher pre-match promo where he lists all his accolades and then tells the audience "you'll learn why they call me Too Sexy". It had nothing to do with anything he said and felt very out of place.
Nation of Domination defeated Vader and Undertaker
- Another quick match that placed an emphasis on story.
- Undertaker is frustrated with Vader and punches him. This allows for Faarooq to get the pin. Vader attacks Taker after the match but gets hit with a sorry looking boot to the face and a Tombstone Piledriver.
- Paul Bearer grabs the mic and says "You've done made your casket now, Undertaker, and next week you're going to lay in it because I'm going to tell the world your secret!" The show goes off the air with Undertaker making his patented throat-slash gesture to his, what seems like, former confidant. This was all great, even if the seven-day wait to destroy Undertaker's world makes no sense.
- Needless to say, this is a great way to hook a new viewer and get them to come back.
I hope you'll do the same and join me when I review episode 216 (June 30, 1997) of Monday Night RAW!