RETRO RAW Review - July 7, 1997

RAW 217

JULY 07, 1997

Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Synopsis: The Hart Foundation celebrates a recent victory in their home country of Canada. Plus, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and more!

***

This is a significant episode of Monday Night RAW. Beyond being the follow-up to In Your House: Canadian Stampede, this was the first live wrestling show I ever attended. It threw kerosene on the fire of my proverbial fandom, and to this day, I’ve never experienced a more raucous atmosphere.

I was curious, however, to see if the actual show lives up to the legend of that day; the one that’s been growing in my mind for 21 years.

Naturally, it’s hard to completely separate yourself from something so formative, but I thought this was a solid hour and a half of television. Bret Hart’s promo at the start of the show is pointed and arguably more relevant than ever. In the few episodes I’ve reviewed thus far (RAW #215, RAW #216, IYH: CS), Bret is proving himself to be a far more interesting promo than I remember. Nothing he says feels rehearsed and it’s that delayed, choppy cadence that lends an air of authenticity to his words. Stone Cold also shines in his handful of appearances. Whether it’s a match or hilarious trash talk, he truly is must-see-TV.

Once again the show leaves a lot to be desired in the ring, but I don’t mind as much because of how heavily they push the story. Not everyone has to be on the show every week and I'm okay with that. Right now there are three major angles and I can’t blame the writers for zeroing in on those and not spreading themselves too thin. There were a few nonsensical decisions made, as you’ll see, but overall, I continue to anticipate the next episodes.

***

Rating Guide

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.

***

Opening Segment: Vince McMahon Interview's Bret Hart

  • Bret comes out wearing the classic 90’s Oilers jersey. The Oil had just recently lost to the Aves in the second round of the playoffs, but I’ll never forget Todd Marchant in OT, knocking out the Stars in Round One. Classy move by Bret, a Calgarian, to dawn an Oilers sweater.

  • Bret thanks the crowd for believing in him and letting him be their hero. He receives a thunderous ovation. The crowd will literally cheer for anything he says at this point.

  • Bret claims that he is not Anti-American, "JUST VERY VERY PRO CANADIAN!"

  • Canada is a Country where we still take care of the sick and the old. Where we still have Health Care. We got gun control, we don’t kill and shoot each other on every street corner. Canada isn’t riddled with racial prejudice and hatred. Across Canada we all care for each other and I am proud to be Canadian and I am proud to be your hero and I’ll continue to live up to doing my best and keeping my word.” - Bret Hart

  • WWE loves nationalistic promos. This came off more biting and grounded than the ones we’ve become accustomed to hearing.

  • Bret issues himself a SummerSlam ultimatum and promises the fans that if he doesn't come back to Canada with the WWF Belt, by hook or by crook, he will never wrestle on American soil ever again. This is an effective and easy way to add additional stakes to an already heated event.

  • Bret brings out all the other Hart Foundation members one by one. He apologizes to the crowd for having to consume an entirely American product every week and invites everyone to partake in the Canadian National Anthem.

  • Stone Cold Steve Austin sneaks into the ring and assaults the Hart's with a steel chair. Jim Ross calls it "indignant" to interrupt an anthem. Vince apologizes vehemently for disrespecting the anthem and says that "there are very few things as sacred and solemn as the National Anthem". At least he's consistent, right?

The Great Sasuke defeated Taka Michinoku

5/10

  • Jerry Lawler brings Bryan Christopher to the commentary table.

  • The Great Sasuke cuts a backstage promo entirely in Japanese.

  • Lawler spends the majority of the match insulting Canadian women. His commentary does not hold up.

  • Sasuke hits a Tope Con Hilo on Michinoku, but his legs hit the railing awkwardly.

  • Sasuke’s kick combinations look terrific, as does Taka's missile dropkick to the back of Sasuke’s head.

  • Michinoku almost dies on a springboard dive to outside. He also misses horribly on a Moonsault.

  • Vince calls the competitors “Kamikaze Pilots”. His choice of adjectives is disheartening.

  • Thunder Fire Bomb gets Sasuke the win.

  • The crowd seems to have enjoyed the match, but there were no stakes and too many mistakes to call it anything more than average.

FACTION WARFARE

Crush (D.O.A) vs Savio Vega (Los Boricuas ) - DQ Finish

5/10

  • Both teams are “trying to establish their turf.”

  • Savio’s ‘“gang” shake hands with the Spanish announcers. Displaying loyalty to one's brethren is key in 1997 WWF.

  • Vince references that Harley Davidson motorcycles are made in the USA. This leads to a preposterous conversation about whether or not Canada makes cars. I can see why Canadians got behind the Hart’s.

  • I’m confused as to why this match wasn't saved for a PPV. Also, I thought their problem was with the Nation of Domination. It seems foolish to beat up each other when your enemy is still running loose.

  • Crush's backbreaker and Savio's spinning heel kick are the only moves of note.

  • D.O.A. members lay a beat down on Savio outside the ring. This results in a disqualification.

  • It’s rare to see a clean finish on RAW. I’m noticing lots of quick pins and dq’s, the type of stuff that would warrant a rematch and not make either Superstar look weak.

Backstage Promo

  • Paul Bearer says that Kane is disfigured and that you wouldn't believe his charred body parts. He claims that he had operations and skin grafts, but that he couldn't go into the sun because of the scars.

  • Bearer says that we should believe him because Kane told him. An unconvincing argument to say the least. Finishes by telling Undertaker that “hate” is what kept Kane alive all these years. I like the descriptiveness of the promo. It would be great conversation fodder for a podcast had it happened today.

  • Undertaker was noticeably absent. At this point Bearer feels like Paul Heyman, except instead of screaming Brock Lesnar's name, he is shouting “MURDERER” at the Deadman.

Tag Team Tournament Finals

The Hart Foundation defeated The Nation of Domination

6/10

  • Brian Pillman comes out holding a "Nation of Masturbation" sign.

  • Stone Cold is backstage and says he doesn't care who his partner is, but that it won’t be Mankind because he sucks. Austin says that he’d just as soon let the WWF pick his partner because they screw him all the time anyway. Austin delivers every line with a conviction that we don’t see in the WWE anymore.

  • Owen has a great spot where he pretends to be laid out on the ground, but then kips-up after making D’Lo whiff on an elbow drop. He, laughing, goes for a tag and talks some trash.

  • Bulldog hits a series of Powerslams on Faarooq.

  • Fun Fact: D’Lo is a certified professional accountant. Vince says “he can do your taxes or do your teeth, he’ll knock them out for you!

  • Commentary heavily teases next weeks episode and reveal that Shawn Michaels will join them regardless of his in-ring status.

  • Faarooq goes for a splash but is so far off line that it was obvious Bulldog was throwing up the knees.

  • Owen gets the (scalding) hot tag and hits some great dropkicks and spinning heel kicks.

- Kama gets involved and lowers the top rope which sends Owen to outside. A brawl breaks out between both teams, but the Nation takes their eyes off the prize and Owen slips back into the ring for a count-out victory.

War Zone

Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna)

5.5/10

  • Austin is booed heavily.

  • Helmsley’s only form of offence is an eye poke.

  • Vince and J.R. are working overtime to put over the fact that Austin will be in his home state next week. J.R. mentions that Stone Cold is proud to be a Texan and even has a tattoo on his left calf. This is a fun tidbit that I wish we’d hear more of today. It’s a small touch but goes a long way in helping with fan connection.

  • Chyna trips Austin by grabbing his leg, but the official does nothing. Typical for Hunter's matches thus far.

  • Helmsley tries to hit Austin with a chair, but Mankind comes out and gets hit in the head instead, effectively making the save. Austin capitalizes and hits the Stone Cold Stunner for the win.

Post-Match

  • Austin gets on the mic and tells Mankind to get in the ring. Austin calls Mankind a long haired freak, a piece of trash and says that he doesn't like him one bit, but WILL go to war with him. Austin offers a handshake but Mankind goes for the hug. Austin accepts, but quickly Stunners him. Jim Ross popped me by freaking out and repeatedly crying out “not the Stunner!

  • Austin drops to his stomach and trash talks Mankind. “DTA, you stupid piece of trash! Don’t never trust nobody! You ain’t never gonna be my partner cause you’re a long haired freak and you suck!” Quote of the night. This is a 10/10 promo for making me laugh as hard as I did.

  • As Stone Cold exits, Mankind gets a microphone and tells Austin that he was only looking for respect, for a friend. He says that drastic measures will be taken and that next week he will do something that he didn't think he’d ever do again. “The WWF will never be the same and Mankind will never be the same.

  • I love that the viewer is always given a reason to tune in next week.

Brian Christopher defeated Eric Shelley

4/10

  • Sonny does the introductions, because, well, I’m not sure.

  • Ivan Putski wants to challenge Lawler next week in Sean Ross Sapp’s favourite city, San Antonio.

  • Shelly misses horribly on a dive to outside. It’s so bad that Vince even comments how it wasn’t as crisp as Sasuke’s from earlier in the night.

  • Christopher hits a leg drop from the top rope for the win.

  • This match was an absolute snoozer. Brian Christopher's constant cackling is fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying.

  • Lawyer and Christopher hit an assisted Piledriver on Shelly after the match as a way of sending a message to Ivan Putski.

Austin Promo

  • Austin says that he doesn't care who his partner is next week. After taking a shot at Gorilla Monsoon’s physique, he says that at SummeSlam if he can’t kick Owen’s ass than he will kiss it. Asks for it to be put in the match contract.

  • What is it with this company and ass-kissing?

Bret Hart defeated Goldust

5/10

  • Bret takes the match outside the ring and throws Goldust into the barricade.

  • Bret hits an inverted atomic drop and clothesline. Follows that up with a head-but to the groin.

  • Bret stomps away at Goldust who is tied up in the ropes. Bret has the most convincing corner stomps I’ve ever seen.

  • D.O.A come out for some reason. I didn’t know they were tied into this program. Bret pays them absolutely no attention. The Hart Foundation follow suite. L.O.D and Shamrock join as well. Austin is last to arrive and is situated at the top of the ramp.

  • J.R. says that this is like “walking through a room of dynamite with a big ole cigar. You just know it’s going to blow up in your face at any moment.”

  • Goldust tries to roll up Bret, but it is countered for the 1-2-3.

  • Absolutely nothing happens with any of the guys who came out. I assume there is more to this story because this ending is confusing.

***

This was yet another strong episode of RAW that felt very cohesive. The packaging of the show is a lot tighter and doesn't feel as random and chaotic. Everything is interconnected. The Canada/USA feud is what's driving my interest, but there is plenty else to be excited about.

We'll see what happens next week when I recap episode #218 of Monday Night RAW.

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