Monday Night Raw – January 6, 1997: You Can See The Talent Mounting Up

I spend so much time talking about how awesome 1997 was that I might as well watch all of the Raws from that year. This is the year where the WWF was completely destroyed by WCW, but they were planting the seeds for their return to glory. This year includes the Border War storyline which was the setup for Austin’s rise to the top of the wrestling world. I’ll be doing two episodes at a time of this year followed by two each from 2003, as that way I can have everything from 1997-2003. Let’s get to it.

Monday Night Raw
Date: January 6, 1997
Location: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, New York
Attendance: 6,855
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross

We’re less than two weeks away from the Rumble, which means a lot of stuff is going to start happening on raw in a hurry. Sid is currently world champion, having taken the title from Shawn in MSG at Survivor Series. He then beat Bret at IYH 15 to do what likely no one else did in this era: beat Bret and Shawn in PPV title matches. Like I said though, the focus at the moment is the Rumble so let’s get to it.

Also for the next few weeks, the show is still just one hour. That would change in February.

Vader wants a piece of Bret Hart.

We recap the debut of Shotgun Saturday Night, which arguably is the start of the Attitude Era.

Old school opening sequence still rocks.

Mankind vs. Owen Hart

Both guys are heels here and Owen is a tag champion. It’s amazing how different things look here with the set just being the big RAW letters. Owen takes him down almost immediately and tries the Sharpshooter but Mankind makes the rope. Mankind, who is looking SLIM here, jabs Owen in the throat to take over. There’s the running knee in the corner and Mankind screams in his face a lot.

Owen grabs the arm but has to fight off the Claw to slow him down all over again. Hart bites down on the leather thing Mankind uses for said Claw before punching him in the face some more. A Cactus Clothesline puts both guys on the floor where Owen blasts Mankind in the ribs with a Slammy and drops him over the barricade stomach first. Back in and Owen stays on the ribs to knock Mankind to the mat.

Off to an abdominal stretch from Owen as we get some good psychology from a Stu Hart student. Who would have seen that coming? Mankind escapes the hold but gets taken down by an enziguri, sending him back out to the floor. Mankind finds something like a drink tray to blast Owen in the head as we take a break. Back with Mankind in control but having a neckbreaker reversed into a DDT for no cover. Hart goes up but jumps into the Claw which he rolls through out of nowhere to escape. Owen is sent shoulder first into the post and walks into a piledriver out of nowhere for the pin.

Rating: B. Good solid wrestling match here with both guys working well together. That’s no surprise as these two are wrestlers who seem to fit together with anyone. Mankind was still pretty new here and was viewed as incredibly bizarre, which would be the case for most of 1997 until he became more of a strange tough guy.

Shawn and the Lotharios are looking forward to Sid’s interview later.

More from Shotgun with Ahmed beating up D’Lo Brown on the streets of New York. Literally.

Here are Fake Razor and Fake Diesel as Honky Tonk Man is now on commentary. He’s looking for a new protege at the moment.

Razor Ramon/Diesel vs. Doug Furnas/Phillip LaFon

Diesel and LaFaon start. Ok so LaFon has the short hair. Got it. Kane had one thing going for him in this angle: he actually looked like Diesel. Razor on the other hand looks like he’s wearing a homemade Halloween costume. Off to Razor for a fallaway slam before he misses a charge. Tag off to Furnas for a quick headlock before Razor cranks on the arm for a bit. The announcers talk about the main event until it’s off to Diesel.

We get some classic big man clubbering before Razor hooks an abdominal stretch. We take a break and come back with Diesel hitting a side slam for two. Furnas can’t fight out of the corner and we stay in the slow beatdown segment. Furnas finally escapes and makes the tag to LaFaon who fires off forearms and kicks to take the imposters down. A dropkick gets two on Diesel and things break down again. A Frankensteiner gets two on Ramon and a middle rope Hart Attack gets the pin on Diesel.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t bad but it went on WAY too long. It felt like it was supposed to be a squash but it wound up being a long match which didn’t make any of these guys look any good. Fake Razor and Diesel didn’t work at all and I don’t think anyone was actually entertained by them. Does it seem like I have nothing at all to say here?

We recap Goldust and HHH last week where Marlena was injured.

More Shotgun with Marlena flashing Sultan to save Goldust.

Bret wants Shawn to interfere in his match tonight. He isn’t worried about Vader either.

Here’s Sid for a chat. Sid goes on a rant about how he’s going to destroy Shawn in San Antonio. I think that’s what he’s talking about at least, as Sid isn’t the easiest guy in the world to understand. He might have been wishing Shawn a spicy pasta. Shawn comes out to do commentary and some stripping.

Bret Hart vs. Vader

Not bad for a main event. Vader is feuding with Taker at this point and yesterday, Vader’s manager Jim Cornette got destroyed on Superstars. Vader pounds Hart in the corner and sends him to the floor but Hart sends him into the steps to reverse control. Back in and Bret works on the arm on the mat but it doesn’t last long due to Vader running Bret over. A middle rope clothesline puts Bret down again and Austin is watching in the back as we take a break.

Back with Vader running over Bret again for no cover. A HUGE middle rope splash gets two but the moonsault takes WAY too long to set up. Bret starts in on the Five Moves of Doom which has Shawn cracking some very funny lines about how Bret is repetitive. Bret goes up for the middle rope elbow but gets shoved to the floor instead. Sid comes in out of nowhere and steals a cameraman. During the distraction, Austin comes out and Stuns Bret on the floor. That and a Vader Bomb are enough for the kind of upset pin on the Hitman.

Rating: C+. This was Bret’s bread and butter: beating on guys bigger than he was. The interference was a bit much but the matches these four would combine to have over the upcoming weeks would be more than worth it. Bret getting screwed again would be a major factor in the coming weeks and months, which made things very awesome.

Sid powerbombs Jose Lothario’s (Shawn’s manager and mentor) son in the back. Shawn runs to the back to end the show.

Overall Rating: C+. Long matches aside, you could see the pure talent in this company that would wind up saving the company in the long run. WCW had the star power, but at the end of the day this is wrestling, and if you can’t deliver a decent match, you’re going to lose some fans. It would take time, but eventually it would work out in the end.

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