Retro Ratings: RAW is WAR (October 20, 1997) - Racism in the WWF

RAW 230

OCTOBER 20, 1997

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Synopsis: "DX looks to cause dissension in The Hart Foundation by any means necessary. The Undertaker refuses to end Kane's path of destruction."

Impressions: Overall, I thought this was a mediocre episode of Monday Night RAW. The focus is solely on the Hart Foundation/DX feud, with the Nation of Domination and Stone Cold Steve Austin mixed in for good measure. Everything else feels insignificant. The main event segment is also inexcusably weak. If the matches had been better and not felt like an over-booked car crash, I might be more forgiving. I'm still looking forward to seeing everything play out, but as it stands, there is nothing here that I would consider required viewing.

Nation of Domination (Kama Mustafa and Rocky Maivia) defeated Ken Shamrock and Ahmed Johnson (w/Legion of Doom)

5/10

  • Legion of Doom (L.O.D.) opens the show sporting their newly won WWF Tag Team Championship belts.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about announcing that the match has a 20-minute time limit.
  • The crowd is fired up! The "Rocky Sucks" chants are deafening.
  • DX (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rick Rude, and Chyna) are sitting atop the stage, taking in the action. They're holding up signs such as "I'd Rather Be In Chyna", "Spank Me Vince", and "Who Booked This Crap?".
  • The action feels very choppy and a good rhythm is never established. Shamrock's belly-to-belly suplex and hurricanrana are the highlights.
  • Ahmed Johnson had his hand out for a tag the entire match, but Shamrock decided to go at it alone.
  • Rick Rude starts making his way to ringside and has a conversation with Faarooq. Commentary quickly asks "what is the relationship between the Nation and DX?" I don't know yet either.
  • L.O.D., D'Lo, Ahmed Johnson, and Kama start brawling outside the ring, distracting the referee. This allows Faarooq to slide into the ring and hit Shamrock with Rude's Halliburton briefcase. Rocky capitalizes and gets the pin for the win.
  • The camera cuts back to DX, where Shawn is shown pulling down his pants. Triple H covers him up with an "X" sign.
  • Production throughout the entire show was frustrating. The camera always seemed more concerned with what was happening outside the ring than the action inside. The moves are almost always shot from far away and with zero variance of angles. This is contrasted by today's product which is shot with too many cuts and zooms. Maybe one day they'll figure it out.
  • Post Match: Ahmed Johnson chases the Nation up the ramp, but quickly gets beat up. They brawl behind the curtain, but we never see what happens. L.O.D. follow but are attacked on the ramp with trash cans by The Godwinns (the team they defeated last week to win the Tag Team titles).
  • 14 men were involved in this opening match/segment. It felt chaotic, but I do like the interconnectedness between them all.

Backstage Segment

  • Michael Cole is shown standing in a vandalized Nation of Domination locker room.
  • Their gear is torn up and there is graffiti on the walls. You can visibly see "Canada Rules", "Go Back to Your Country", "Don't Cross the Border", "Hart's Rule", as well as symbols/words representing Malcolm X, a watermelon, KFC, and "Jerry Curl".
  • Racism is an obvious angle to do, but I give them credit for being willing to tackle it. It wasn't handled subtly, but I'll wait to see if it pays off.
  • They want you to believe the Hart's were behind the attack, but it feels like a ruse.
  • Based on this, all prior works of vandalism by the Riott Squad seem incredibly tame.
  • The Nation goes to ringside and screams at Vince. Faarooq gets on the mic and says that "this country was built on the back of a black man". He continues on and claims that "as far as I'm concerned, we're the original natives of this country".
  • The Oklahoma crowd is booing him and throwing trash. This is very telling of the era. The camera cuts to a fan with a sign that says "Faarooq is Hooked on Ebonics" for a good 10-seconds.
  • Vince, on commentary, says that "vandalism doesn't always relate to racism". What? Did he not see what was written?
  • Faarooq calls out Bret and demands that they have their match right now! This should be good.

Bret Hart (w/The Hart Foundation) defeated Faarooq (w/Nation of Domination)

5.75/10

  • I like that the Hart Foundation came out slowly, one by one. It helped sell the fact that they were not ready for this impromptu match.
  • DX comes out again and joins commentary. Shawn talks about Bret being a racist and how he is a much better representative for the company and thus should be the WWF Champion.
  • Bret is tremendous in the ring and keeps a great pace. He targets the left knee of Faarooq and clinically works it over from start to finish.
  • Bret is attacked outside the ring by the Nation twice, but the referee does absolutely nothing about it. I hate how rules are only enforced when they serve the story.
  • DX is chased backstage by Bret while the Nation and Hart Foundation brawl at ringside.
  • With the referee distracted, Stone Cold comes from out of the crowd and jumps into the ring. With his back turned, an unsuspecting Faarooq is hit with a Stone Cold Stunner. Austin falls backward giving the middle finger as the crowd goes wild. He hightails it back over the guardrail.
  • Bret, not knowing what happened, gets back in the ring and pins Faarooq for the win. He does not look happy and also doesn't address the locker room situation.

In-Ring Promo

  • Jeff Jarrett, unannounced, comes to the ring and tells us that he has left WCW.
  • He says that Eric Bischoff wasted him because he "wasn't one of his boys". Claims that Vince did the same thing with him two years earlier. From the sounds of it, maybe Jeff isn't as good as he thinks he is.
  • Jarrett asks Vince if he remembers the gold tooth. He says the idea for Double J sucked (Vince agrees that it may have) and that he can take 'With My Baby Tonight' and stick it up his butt.
  • The claims get crazier as Jarrett exclaims "Vince you tried to bury me. You booked me with a clown, a drug addict and a black man who can’t even speak the English language". Maybe Double J vandalized the locker room?
  • JJ says that Vince wanted him to come out here and shoot, and "that's what I'm doing, right between your eyes".
  • At this point, Jarrett has been rambling for what feels like an eternity. He is now taking aim at Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold, who according to Double J, will always be The Ringmaster to him.
  • The segment mercifully ends with me popping an Advil to ease the dull throbbing headache brought on by the incessant moaning of a 30-year-old man.

Marc Mero (w/Sable) defeated Brian Christopher (w/Jerry Lawler)

4.75/10

  • Mero looks physically impressive. I'm also happy to see he got rid of the long hair and mustache.
  • The crowd loves Sable. If she wasn't there I'm not sure Mero would get any reaction, positive or negative.
  • J.R. never misses an opportunity to mention that Christopher is Jerry Lawler's "boy".
  • Mero throws some nice punches, but this match offers next to nothing in terms of wrestling.
  • Jerry Lawler puts a Stone Cold hat on Sable, and for some reason, this infuriates Marc Mero. He quickly leaves the ring and chucks the hat into the crowd. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship.
  • Christopher capitalizes by attacking an unfocused Mero. Jerry Lawler jumps on the apron to distract the referee, presumably so that Christopher could perform an illegal maneuver, but it backfires horribly.
  • Mero throws a straight right hand and hits Too Sexy, and I quote, "RIGHT IN THE PENIS".
  • TKO by Mero finishes off Christopher. He quickly grabs Sable and angrily heads backstage.
  • The low blow was funny, but otherwise, this was a complete waste of time that no one in attendance seemed to enjoy watching.

War Zone

Owen Hart vs Shawn Michaels - Title for Title Match

5.5/10

  • Pre-match vignette does a good job of hyping the bout and making you believe Owen could win. They reference the time Shawn passed out during one of their matches, and also how Owen injured Stone Cold at SummerSlam. They dub him "the real Hitman" of the Hart family. Commentary helps too by mentioning how he has been a fighting champion.
  • Owen comes out and challenges Shawn to leave DX in the back. He wants to prove that he is the better man. The challenge is accepted.
  • Owen's belly-to-belly suplex and spinning heel kick are great, but not nearly as devastating as the piledriver Shawn delivers on the outside of the ring.
  • Shawn hits a gorgeous elbow from the top rope and then attempts Sweet Chin Music, but Owen counters with an enziguri.
  • With both men down, Austin hits the ring again and Stunner's the ref.
  • Shawn gets up and hits his finisher on Owen but the referee is unable to count. J.R. mentions that Austin is facing Owen for the title at Survivor Series and that is why he most likely interfered. I like that explanation, otherwise, his actions are confusing.
  • Bret, seeing what happened, comes to the ring and attacks Shawn. DX follow suit and pull him to safety.
  • The match ends with no decision being announced. Commentary believes it to be a no contest.
  • I love this feud because you get the sense that there is a genuine dislike between the factions. There is nothing on RAW and SmackDown right now that evokes the same type of intensity and emotion.

Backstage Promo

  • Undertaker cuts a fairly blasé promo on a darkened purple set.
  • He mentions that he has been carrying the burden of what happened to his brother for over 20 years now, and see's the hatred of a man whose mind has been poisoned.
  • He finishes off by saying that he will never fight his own flesh and blood.

In-Ring Segment

  • Dude Love is in the ring, waiting for his match with the British Bulldog when Kane's music hits. I'm assuming that Kane is mad about what Undertaker just said and wants to take it out on someone.
  • It really bothered me that Dude Love just stood there for 2 minutes and let Kane do his entire walk-out, pyro included and didn't try to get away.
  • Keeping the lighting red during the segment is a nice touch.
  • Kane no-sells two chair shots to the head before Choke Slamming Dude Love on the ramp twice.

Road Dogg and Billy Gunn defeated The Headbangers

5/10

  • Having just formed as a tag team earlier in the month, it's interesting to see the early days of Road Dogg and Billy Gunn knowing what they go on to become. The entrance, in particular, is fun to watch because you can see Road Dogg work-shopping ideas that would later become crowd-pleasing singalongs.
  • Mosh and Billy start the match but are not on the same page. Their timing is off and there are a few instances of miscommunication, most notably on a botched Thesz Press.
  • Billy Gunn eats the turnbuckle on a corner splash and sells it better than anything else on the show. It might be a tad over-the-top and flamboyant for some, but it made me smile.
  • Road Dogg is not over with the crowd as they serenade him with "Road Kill" chants.
  • I'm not a fan, but The Headbangers' double-team offense is impressive.
  • With the referee distracted, AGAIN, Billy Gunn hits Thrasher with a boombox. Road Dogg pins him for the victory.
  • The referees are absolutely clueless. It's infuriating! Seriously, do you not see the hundred plastic boombox pieces scattered in the ring?

Taka Michinoku defeated Tajiri

5.25/10

  • There is a vignette played prior to the match showing the signing of Taka Michinoku. He is made to feel like a big deal.
  • There was a number of reasons to assume Tajiri was going to lose, not the least of which was when his nameplate read "TIJARI".
  • Sunny is the guest ring announcer, for whatever reason. I guess they needed a reason to get her on TV wearing a revealing dress. On the flip side of things, I can appreciate how there seems to be a conscious effort to get as many people exposure as possible.
  • Tajiri comes out firing hitting a springboard moonsault to the outside.
  • Taka regains control quickly. The elevation he gets on his dropkicks is impressive.
  • After Taka misses a moonsault of his own, Tajiri hits a powerbomb for a two-count and a nasty snap-suplex.
  • The crowd is not into the match despite it being the most athletically and aerially impressive bout of the evening.
  • Taka fights back and hits the Michinoku driver for the victory.

Jim Cornette Cuts a Promo on New York Post Reporter Phil Mushnick

The Godwinns vs Disciples of Apocalypse

N/A

  • The only person who felt any modicum of excitement from this segment was Vince, who couldn't stop gushing over the D.O.A's bikes.
  • D.O.A attack the Godwinns before the match can start. The Truth Commission comes out to make the save and it becomes a 6-on-4 beat-down. That was literally all that happened. It ends unceremoniously when the program abruptly cuts to a backstage segment.
  • I would have preferred to see something more substantial at the end of the show. This left a bad taste in my mouth.

Boiler Room

  • RAW ends with Mankind sitting on the floor of a boiler room talking about how he has no qualms fighting Kane.
  • Dude Love is, in my opinion, the weakest Foley character, so I'm glad to see Mankind back.
  • He says that he would have no problem fighting his own decrepit grandmother if she dropped a nice boy like Dude Love on his head.
  • Mankind says that he is depraved and malicious, and will fight Kane anytime, anywhere and anyhow.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing these two beat the hell out of each other.

Rating Guide:

10- Perfect, 9- MOTY Territory, 8- Excellent, 7- Great, 6- Good, 5- Average to above 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. A standard, non-offensive "TV match" lands at a 5. The gap between 5.75-6 is generally the largest, with anything reaching 6 being recommended viewing.

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