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WWF 'Royal Rumble RAW' Review: February 3rd,1997

It's not good, it's not bad...It's just a House Show Match!
It's not good, it's not bad...It's just a House Show Match!
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Last week we witnessed Ahmed Johnson trying to get even with the Nation of Domination & failing to do so despite three attempts. Savio Vega had a ‘real’ bad day, so I guess he decided to join the Nation. Owen Hart proves that he’s the best there is at being awesome (& the best there ever will be…)

For those who have no idea about what went down during last week’s show, (27th January 1997) you can check my exclusive recap by clicking here.

As for this week, it’s ROYAL RUMBLE RAW!

First question- What is Royal Rumble RAW? Well, from a historical standpoint, Royal Rumble RAW was the first ever 2-hour RAW broadcast. It took place at the Skydome in Toronto, Canada. However, the story behind its culmination is not so majestic. You see, instead of fans getting a Royal Rumble match for free on TV, (as they were promised) all they got was a glorified piece of House-Show footage with some 1997 Royal Rumble highlights added in between as filler.

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Pay-Per-Views were a huge deal back then, & there was no way Vince McMahon would be allowed to air the whole PPV on free TV. Hence what we’re presented with is two hours of dark, murky footage of the Toronto house show with some memorable Royal Rumble moments added in bits & pieces throughout its runtime a.k.a ROYAL RUMBLE RAW!

With all that being said, let’s get right into it—

MATCHES-

1) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vader (w/ Paul Bearer).

2) Savio Vega (w/ Clarence Mason) vs. Flash Funk.

3) The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (c) vs. Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon {WWF Tag Team Championship Match}.

4) Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Crush (w/ Nation of Domination).

5) Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. Marc Mero {WWF Intercontinental Championship Match}.

6) The Undertaker & Ahmed Johnson vs. Farooq (w/ Nation of Domination) & Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) {No Holds Barred Tag Team Match}.


House Shows & Egg Yolks!

MATCH #1: Stone Cold Steve Austiin vs. Vader (w/ Paul Bearer).

Bret “The Hitman” Hart attacks Stone Cold in the ring during Austin’s entrance. Officials try to separate both of them apart, & Stone Cold versus Vader begins eventually.

Of course, Bret attacks Austin- The two of them are currently embroiled in a feud against one another, & they just so happen to be a part of The Four Man No DQ Elimination matchup (to decide who will main-event WrestleMania 13 for the WWF Title) which will take place in the future.

Vader is dominating Austin. Remember, they only wrestle each other for about 8 minutes. So things pick up quickly & Austin gets the upper hand. He does his signature elbow drop from the middle-rope. Just to clarify how house-show(ey) this match feels, things keep changing constantly in order to hype the crowd, & this rarely leaves any room for storytelling.

Later on, Austin’s back is facing Vader. So when Austin feels Vader getting closer to him, the Texas Rattlesnake lifts his leg right between Vader’s thighs.

Some shenanigans ensue, as Stone Cold delivers a stunner to the referee. Again, things just happen for some reason (perhaps in order to satisfy the crowd). In situations like this, the story rarely does move forward, & before we even realize, Steve Austin & Vader are brawling outside. The bell rings instantly.

The footage is so murky, that it is very difficult to make out what went wrong. But apparently, Vader has defeated Steve Austin via disqualification.

Vince McMahon keeps on digging about the fact that this show is not "bait & switch" (unlike WCW). But the irony is, ROYAL RUMBLE RAW itself is the ultimate example of "bait & switch" tactics.

Heck, gears shift so quickly after this match, that it almost feels as if Vince McMahon put these two together just to attract more viewers.

It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just a House Show Match (should that be a T-shirt or something? I don’t know).

RESULT: Vader wins via DQ.


MATCH #2: Savio Vega (w/ Clarence Mason) vs. Flash Funk

Here we see an egg-yolk jumping off the top-rope
Here we see an egg-yolk jumping off the top-rope

As Savio Vega is accompanied by N.O.D, Jim Ross interviews Vega mid-way through their entrance. JR asks Vega about his betrayal towards Ahmed Johnson.

Savio states that he doesn’t care about what fans think anymore but he’s still going to make all Latin American people proud (I think it’s safe to assume that most of Savio Vega’s fans are Latin American in the first place). He also says that N.O.D is going to rule the WWF from now on...

…And then there’s Flash Funk. Get a hold of this guy. Amidst this dark, fuzzy telecast of RAW, we see a bright yellow flame standing in the middle of the ring. No, this is not a metaphor or something. There is LITERALLY a bright yellow flame jumping around the ring (more like an egg yolk). Except, this bright yellow flame is a wrestler, & that wrestler is Flash Funk. Move over Hulk Hogan, because Flash Funk’s wrestling attire is about to BURN IT DOWN!

However, there is a new attitude in Savio Vega. He just wants to demolish this bright (no pun intended) athletic guy, & he doesn’t need to please the fans anymore by doing it in some flashy (again, no pun intended) manner.

Forget the puns, even Vince had to acknowledge his bizarre appearance by commenting—

“He (Funk) will take a high risk in a moment…in a FLASH, if you will!”

Sneaky bast*rd.

Oh. Sorry. I was distracted from the match because of his attire. Here’s the thing, Flash Funk can do flips. He got the crowd into it too. They loved it. Spin kick, mid-air rotating Frog Splash, a somersault leg-drop. In the end, Funk goes to the top & dives right onto an N.O.D member outside the ring.

He gets back in the ring, goes to the top again & attempts a Moonsault. But we all know what’s going to happen- Flash Funk has wasted too much time, & Vega moves out of the way right at the last second.

What happens next? Vega does nothing but pins him…successfully (for the three count). Savio Vega wins the match. Throughout the whole contest, the Toronto audience was like— “Oh, so you can do flippy stuff all the time?!”

A fast-paced match (comparatively) with an underwhelming finish. But its Flash Funk, with all his athletic moves, fans seated at the rafters would almost think that they were witnessing an egg yolk jumping off the top-rope…

RESULT: Savio Vega wins via pinfall.

WWE Erase Their Past, Psycho Sid Talks About Roller Coasters & Owen Hart Hates Canada!

You won't find this segment on the WWE Network
You won't find this segment on the WWE Network

It doesn’t matter when you’re reading this, because on October 28, 2018, a ‘historic’ All-Women’s PPV titled ‘WWE Evolution’ will have taken place. But shifting gears back to February 3rd, 1997- We see Vince McMahon interviewing Peta Wilson, star of La Femme Nikita (a show which aired on the USA Network right after RAW at that point in time). This segment has been erased from WWE Network's history, & you will soon find out why.

The show itself was very infamous for its raunchy portrayal, so Vince asks Peta about the ‘sexuality’ involved in her show. He says that there’s a ‘certain degree of sex that everyone appreciates’ in it. I mean, is Vince cheekily hinting at the near future right now? Or is it all just a big coincidence?

Of course, the star herself brushes all of that & calls it a very ‘proper’ show that you can watch ‘quietly’ at your home. And boy, the look on Vince’s face right when she says those words almost hints as if he is thinking— “Oh we’ll see about that. Sure.”

Just saying, 30-second women’s matches did not automatically turn into Main-Events just because the ‘fans asked for it’, no, it’s only one man- Vince McMahon who controls everything in the end.

Now you know why this interview doesn't exist on the WWE Network.


Psycho Sid strikes again!
Psycho Sid strikes again!

JR conducts an in-ring interview with Psycho Sid. Let’s hope Sid doesn’t stumble through this one (Yeah, sure. Who am I kidding?).

The main purpose of this interview is to hype the HBK-Sid rematch for next week’s Thursday RAW Thursday. After Sid’s loss at the Royal Rumble PPV, JR asks Sid about his ‘personal feelings’ towards Shawn Michaels.

Boy, here we go.

Psycho Sid delivers a weird, over-complicated promo about his relationship with Shawn Michaels. What makes it complicated is the fact that he uses Roller Coasters as an example here. You heard that right. Sid says something about Roller Coasters going up & down just like his relationship with Shawn Michaels while the fans ride on that same roller coaster all along.

In between, he also says something that doesn’t make sense— “…We sometimes mistake evil with happiness.”

No, we don’t. No, we certainly don’t. He then goes back to explaining how Roller Coasters work. That’s pretty much it. See you on Thursday RAW Thursday, Sid.


MATCH #3: The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (c) vs. Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon {WWF Tag Team Championship Match}

Nobody can top Owen Hart's comic timing...
Nobody can top Owen Hart's comic timing...

“I hate Canada…I’m the only thing good about Canada!” — says Owen Hart, looking right into the camera, surrounded by fellow Canadians in the audience.

“Unbelievable. He lives here!” – Vince McMahon.

I mean, the match hasn’t even started yet, but Owen Hart doesn’t give a sh*t. He’s awesome.

The match starts off quick, Lafon goes for a technical takedown. Later on, The British Bulldog catches Lafon mid-air & attempts to execute a power slam. However, Lafon escapes & pushes him towards the post.

But what’s more interesting to McMahon, is Lafon’s partner— Doug Furnas. Why? Well, Vince says that ‘Furnas has the flu tonight’.

HBK had the flu a few weeks ago. Is there already a flu epidemic in the WWF locker room? I bet Furnas got it from HBK.

The match goes on pretty good, but slows down after a while, allowing the commentators to plug ads & have an in-depth discussion about the flu itself. By the way, Michael Hayes is on commentary under the name Dok Hendrix.

Anyways, after 2/3rds of the match is over, the Bulldog is showing-off in the corner whilst Owen wanted to tag him in. Both of them have a war of words with each other. Remember, Owen & Davey Boy Smith have a love/hate relationship despite being Tag Champs at this point.

This altercation almost cost them their titles as Furnas/Lafon goes for a quick roll-up pin.

Later on, Lafon goes for an amazing float over DDT that you see in those WWE 2K Games (but rarely on the WWE main-roster these days). Heck, Lafon goes for a pin & the referee counts immediately. 1,2…3! What?! Lafon & Furnas are the new tag champs?

Ugh, no. Owen’s foot was on the ropes. It’s a glorified house show, don’t expect the titles to change hands just like that.

However, out of all the matches so far, this one has great storytelling. Towards the climax of this bout, The British Bulldog accidentally back-body drops Owen Hart over the top-rope. Owen falls outside & immediately grabs his own ankle, grimacing in pain.

‘What’s wrong?’ asks Owen’s tag partner. And Owen is back at it again- He is asking for a frickin’ time-out! He even makes those cute little time-out gestures with his hand. Like a little kid- He is faking all of it. But it’s just so goddamn hilarious when Owen does it because you know he is ribbing, especially when it’s a house show.

Time out!
Timeout!

The referee counts him out. Furnas & Lafon win the match, but technically Owen & The British Bulldog are still Tag Champs. But hey, Owen is not done yet. He gets up & zooms with full speed towards the entrance ramp. Vince immediately points whether Owen really sprained his ankle or not. When Owen notices that the camera is back on him again, he instantly stops & pretends to be injured once again.

The British Bulldog doesn’t like it, but Owen raises his brother-in-law’s hand anyway…

RESULT: Furnas & Lafon win via count-out (but Owen/Smith retain their tag titles).

Ahmed Johnsons's Anti-Depressants & Marlena...(Marlena?)

Ahmed's off Prozac, brother!
Ahmed's off Prozac, brother!

The WWF recap all the three Ahmed/N.O.D segments from last week. We see Ahmed Johnson backstage, and JR asks him about Farooq. To that question, Ahmed Johnson loses his cool (like always) & says something that made me laugh & feel sorry for him at the same time—

“…Guess what, I don’t take my Prozac anymore…and when I get off Prozac BROTHER, you don’t know what might happen to you!”

So when Ahmed Johnson doesn’t take his antidepressants, you might want to steer clear of his path. You too, Savio Vega!

Just after this segment, we see Crush making his entrance into the ring, accompanied by the Nation. Our view turns split-screen, as on one hand- Crush is still entering the ring, & on the other screen- Ahmed Johnson reveals that he’s gonna go after N.O.D right now.

But unexpectedly, a hand reaches out & stops him in his tracks. Ahmed is baffled. Who could have stopped him? Ladies & Gentlemen, it is none other than Mr. Deadman himself- The Undertaker!

‘Taker says that if Johnson goes out right now, he goes alone. But if he waits, then they’ll bury Farooq together. We have our main-event ladies & gentlemen, but there’s still time for that. Will Ahmed stay off Prozac till then?


MATCH #4: Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Crush (w/ Nation of Domination)

Marlena.
Marlena

The less said about this contest, the better. Goldust tries to keep this match going, while Crush does nothing but lumber around like a log.

Goldust goes for various technical moves, but the crowd didn’t necessarily pay their money to see that.

Here’s what you should know though. Marlena is standing outside, with a cigar in her hand. I just love this dynamic somehow. There is something very intriguing & theatrical about Marlena blowing puffs of smoke in the background while her husband tries to put on a decent match against his opponent. It looks like a scene from a movie, & it also gives Marlena something more to do other than just to look pretty near ringside.

Anyways, unless if the reader wants me to explain loads of details behind every technical hold, let’s skip to the part where Hunter Hearst Helmsley comes into play.

HHH comes out & distracts Goldust so that Crush gets the upper hand. Not only that, but despite being such a large specimen, Crush still couldn’t get the job done. So, Savio Vega comes from behind when the ref isn’t looking, & attacks Goldust with a spinning heel kick.

Vega gets out quickly, & the referee is oblivious to everything. Crush finishes it off with a Heart Punch (or what people call a normal punch to the torso…BUUUT, it’s a finisher, so yeah).

Crush wins this match. Poor Goldust.

RESULT: Crush wins via pinfall.

Is Shawn Michaels WWE's Equivalent Of Muhammad Ali?

Vince McMahon conducts an in-ring interview with Shawn Michaels.
Vince McMahon conducts an in-ring interview with Shawn Michaels.

Vince McMahon conducts an in-ring interview with Shawn Michaels. We’re in Toronto, & we know Bret Hart doesn’t like HBK. Therefore, if Bret doesn’t like HBK- Canada doesn’t like HBK. Simple.

Shawn Michaels & Psycho Sid will face-off against each other next week on Thursday RAW Thursday. In anticipation of that, McMahon asks Shawn to respond to Sid’s comments (roller coaster stuff) that he made a few segments ago.

Shawn says he hates to agree with Sid, but the WWF Title does bring out the worst in him & others who have held it. Therefore, HBK says he’ll do whatever he can to hang onto the WWF Title.

“Everybody hated Muhammad Ali when he was champion…Now everyone refers to him as the greatest of all time” — Shawn Michaels.

HBK compares himself to Muhammad Ali, as both of them do share similarities during their respective reigns as champions. He takes a dig at Bret Hart in front of Canada, & as expected, the Hitman comes out immediately.

Bret says he tries to like HBK, but he just keeps on finding it harder & harder all the time. I don’t know about you, but this comment might indirectly hint at their real-life relationship backstage. In situations like this, we never know if both of them really mean what they say or not.

Bret even calls HBK a ‘punk’, & while all of this is going on- Steve Austin unexpectedly tackles Bret out of nowhere & drags him out of the ring. Meanwhile, Psycho Sid walks into the ring, yelling at Shawn Michaels.

Ad-break!

After we come back, Sid & Austin are nowhere to be seen. What happened? Looks like the officials escorted Psycho Sid & Stone Cold Steve Austin backstage during the ad-break. The management is waiting for the IC Title match to start, but Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels are staring a hole into each other, refusing to leave while the WWF Title lies in the middle of the two.

Shawn vs. Bret at WM 13? Fate doesn't work that way my friend...
This is what fans came to see

The crowd starts buzzing collectively, as the noise starts increasing in anticipation. What we’re seeing right here is basically two competitors who are eventually going to main-event WrestleMania 13. They have the story, they have chemistry & a lot of history together. It seems perfect.

But fate doesn’t work that way. Sure, Bret picks up the title & it looks like The Hitman will be personally handing the title to HBK. HBK extends his hand to grab the title, only for Bret to toss it away & leave the ring, disgusted.

No action happens, but the Canadians are cheering anyway. However, like I said, fate doesn’t work that way. Perfect coincidences have had a huge part in shaping up The Attitude Era, & one of those ‘huge’ coincidences is going to happen next week.

But that’s next week. We have 2 more fan-service matches to go…


MATCH #5: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. Marc Mero {WWF Intercontinental Championship Match}.

Somersault Planchas in 1997?
Somersault Planchas in 1997?

HHH & Mero’s respective managers- Sable & Mr. Hughes are barred from ringside.

This match is going well!

Marc Mero is doing all of those big fancy moves that the Main-Roster WWE wrestlers in 2018 do on a weekly basis. Hunter Hearst Helmsley does what Triple H would do, & vice-versa (he just wrestles like himself all the time, that’s all I’m saying).

Mero outwrestles HHH for the majority of this match & let’s be true to ourselves- At this point in the show, we don’t need a match that allows the viewers to look here & there all the time. Mero’s stuff keeps the viewers fixated on their TV Screens.

Triple H does methodical Triple H before even being Triple H & the commentators are bashing Robin Hood (WCW’s equivalent of La Femme Nikita) over La Femme Nikita.

There’s a great spot where Triple H is seated at the top rope & Mero flips him over with a Hurricanrana. HHH finally takes control by using a nasty backbreaker.

But HHH is a fraud, he immediately exposes a turnbuckle to finish this off fast. Mero reverses with a Samoan Drop. But Marc Mero isn’t done yet, he goes to the top & performs a sick moonsault to a standing HHH.

This is what house-show matches signify. It’s all fan-service without any major progress in feuds. So HHH takes bumps throughout the whole match, but in the end, he procures a foreign object from his right boot. What is the foreign object? I don’t exactly know, the footage is fuzzy & dark & off-putting (but it looks like a steel knuckle thingy). He punches Mero with it & pins him successfully. HHH retains the Intercontinental Title. Like the Flash Funk match, this one grabbed everybody’s attention but ended in an underwhelming manner.

RESULT: HHH retains via pinfall.

Royal Rumble RAW...Not Exactly.

MATCH #6: The Undertaker & Ahmed Johnson vs. Farooq (w/ Nation of Domination) & Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) {No Holds Barred Tag Team Match}

Not 'Royal Rumble RAW' exactly now...isn't it?
This is the Ultimate Fan Service of the Night.

I’ve typed ‘Nation of Domination’ so many times it feels as if they’re somehow included in each & every segment.

This is the ultimate fan-service of the night. Ahmed Johnson comes out with a 2x4 (& he’s off Prozac!). Everything is No Holds Barred, so he instantly drives every N.O.D member out of the ring using his weapon. GONG!

The Deadman comes out & the whole commentary team shuts up for the first time in the night. The bell rings & everything is chaos. There is zero teamwork involved because no rules apply, so nobody tags anybody in this match. It’s a straight-up brawl.

‘Taker immediately delivers an Old-School to Farooq whilst Ahmed goes after Mankind. What’s funny is that all I remember Ahmed doing is chasing after somebody, & then coming back to the ring, then chasing after somebody again but he’s just too slow & too tired to come back, so Johnson just stays there.

‘Taker goes for an old-school, but Mankind catches him mid-air & reverses it into a Mandible Claw.

Mankind & Undertaker have a good back & forth. But Vader unexpectedly interferes & splashes on top of the Deadman. Looks like Vader & Mankind have a lot more in common since their tag-team match last week. Also, Undertaker & Vader are two participants in the upcoming Four-Man No DQ elimination matchup.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if this is 2018 or 1997, Undertaker is The Undertaker, & he’s very well capable of taking care of two enemies at the same time. He tombstones Mankind on top of a steel-chair & wins it for his team. Toronto loves it!

RESULT: The Undertaker & Ahmed Johnson win via pinfall.


Bait & Switch.Huh?
Bait & Switch, huh?

Like I said, this all feels like a house show. Vince did not intend this to be WWF RAW’s first ever 2-hour telecast, & it clearly shows. He wanted to air a full-length Royal Rumble Match on free TV, hence the 2-hour length. But that didn’t work, so he had to put murky house show clips with Royal Rumble highlights as filler in order to make it work.

So it’s not ROYAL RUMBLE RAW exactly. The 1997 Royal Rumble happened two weeks ago. If this week’s episode was an article, it’d be pure clickbait. (Wait, is this recap clickbait?)

Viewers tuned in to watch a full-length Royal Rumble match, only to watch Royal Rumble clips that were clearer than the actual episode itself. Eh.

Other than that, sure, this week’s matches were better than last week’s matches. Many parts were interesting to watch, & the show didn’t have an Ahmed/N.O.D stamp throughout its runtime (unlike last week).

It’s almost an A-Show, but WWF is not ready for its 2-Hour Runtime (yet).

GRADE: B+

Join me next week, where I recap the 13th February 1997 Edition of Monday Night RAW a.k.a Thursday RAW Thursday, where everything changes forever as 'someone' drops a huge bombshell in front of us.

As always, you can check out last week's recap by clicking here.

Thanks for reading this recap, share it to spread the word, sound off in the comments section & stay tuned for more.

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Edited by Amar Anand
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