An introduction first. For those of you who may not know, my name is Matt but am also known as the "Stats Man" for my incredible in-depth knowledge about the world of wrestling. I maintain what I consider the 'Most Complete Wrestling Database (not)Online Project' which has been in existence since circa September 2008. I've been associated with John Canton for about three years, occasionally writing a yearly article titled "Year In Review" (computer issues postponed the 2011 version, my apologies.), as well as a one off Royal Rumble Anthology where I discussed the Royal Rumble using stats, streaks, figures, and records compiled by my database.

In this project though, I am traveling back in time. I'm re-watching old tapes of WWF Monday Night RAW, starting in January 1997. I will not be using any real-time commentary or statistics from my database. What I will be doing is watching the tapes as if I've never seen them before (and a majority I have not) and will proceed as if I don't know anything about the future of the product as the events unfold. You will receive thorough play by play of every event, from in-match details, to interviews, segments, and huge announcements as they happen.

The matches will be graded from 0-4, with half points included. Usual match ratings are on a 5 star scale, but to keep things unique I'm going to grade with 4.

Welcome everyone, to WWE Classic RAW Reviews!!

 

Aired: January 6th, 1997

Taped: December 30th, 1996 Albany, New York

Pepsi Arena

Attendance: 6,855

Neilsen Rating: 2.1

 
RAW logo


It's time. It's time. It's Vader TIME! That's the opening segment we get. The Man They Call Vader opens up RAW with a message for Bret Hart. The message being, "It's Vader Time". Vince McMahon and Jerry "The King" Lawler welcome us to RAW. McMahon tells us later tonight we will see Vader against Bret Hart. They mention that Shawn Michaels will be ring side, and that WWF Champion Pyscho Sid is in the building. King tells us that we will finally see the end of Bret Hart!

Owen Hart is standing in the ring with his Slammy awards, wearing one half of the Tag Team gold. We're told he'll be taking on Mankind. King downplays the Hart family and claims Owen as the only decent Hart in the WWF. Vince adds that his manager, Clarence Mason, represents Owen Hart, the British Bulldog, and the entire Nation of Domination. Enter Mankind. He's with Paul Bearer.

1) Owen Hart vs Mankind

Bell rings at 3:19. Owen starts off quick with a Sharpshooter. Mankind reaches the ropes, Owen gets pushed away by the referee, and Mankind gets up. Mankind fights Owen to a corner with hard rights at Owen. Headbutt by Mankind, another hook to the head and whips Owen into the turnbuckle. Running Foley Knee in the corner! He lifts Owen up with a headlock, but Owen fights and does an arm breaker across the shoulder!

Owen gnaws at Mankind's hand. Hart sends Mankind hand first into the turnbuckle. Announcers say he's targetting the hand. Down to the mat, Owen stomps away on Mankind's hand. Mankind fights back. Headbutt! Owen stumbles off the ropes and Running Foley Splash over the top rope! Mankind grabs a chair. Owen jabs Mankind in the gut and Mankind drops it. Owen grabs Mankind and lifts him waist first over the railing. Owen grabs the Tag belt and smashes the metal across Mankind's hand. Owen stomping away on on Mankind now. Mankind to his knees. Owen off the ropes, spin heel kick! Owen kicks him in the groin on the mat. Owen with an abdominable stretch. Mankind reverses with a hip toss. Owen goes for a boot to the gut, Mankind catches it.. and ENZUGURI! Mankind falls out of the ring. Mankind drops Owen Hart face first into the steel barricade. Mankind grabs a cooler and smashes it into Owen's head. The fans quietly chant "E! C! DUB!" Owen gets sent face first into the steel barricade again, as Mankind has enough and drags him to the ring. We get a commercial break..

We come back with Mankind in control, hitting a spinning neckbreaker. Mankind sends Owen off the ropes, kicks him in the gut and attempts a neckbreaker that Owen reverses into a DDT! Owen Hart to the top rope, and jumps off into a MANDIBLE CLAW! Owen escapes and nails Mankind with a spinwheel kick! Owen charges at Mankind, but Mankind moves and Owen goes into the turnbuckle shoulder first! Mankind puts Owen between his legs and falls backwards with a pulling piledriver. Mankind with the pin, and three! 

Winner by pinfall at 7:06+commercial: Mankind

Rating: 3/4 I call myself a hard critic, but that's a damn good match. Both men worked hard and really showed off some intensity.

Shawn Michaels Interview (w/ The Lothario Family)

We're backstage with Shawn Michaels, Jose Lothario, and Pete Lothario. Vince asks Jose how he's feeling and Jose says he's much better. Jose, is.. looking at the wrong camera. HBK slaps his back, smiling...Jose now looks at the right camera. Jose adds that HBK will dominate Pyscho Sid and win the World Title back at the Royal Rumble. Pete gets asked if he's been helping his father, he tells everyone that he's been helping his dad out very much and won't be afraid to help out at the Royal Rumble. King says that's a threat! Shawn adds that what Pyscho Sid did to the entire Lothario family was a threat, and that he's caught his attention now. He tells Sid to bring six cameras, a kitchen sink, and whatever else he can find because he's going to need it. Vince plugs the main event and tells Michaels that he'll be doing commentary for the main event. HBK says he'll be there. Vince asks him if he plans on interfering tonight. Michaels confidently says his word is as strong as he is, and he'll keep his word that he will not, and never, interfere in a Bret Hart match.

I will be grading interviews and promos through out my reviews. I will be looking at Delivery (how was the composure of the interview?), Purpose (what did it accomplish?), and Reasoning (why was it needed?). They will graded from 0-4 in each category including half points.

Delivery: 3.0 (Strong statements from Shawn Michaels concerning how Sid has treated his mentor, and mentioning he'll need everything he can bring. Jose looking at the wrong camera was humorous)

Purpose: 3.5 (I can't find anything wrong with the purpose, but it wasn't crucial. It didn't tell us anything we weren't informed of already. Michaels plotted revenge out very well.)

Reasoning: 3.0 (Did we need this? Maybe. Could have we survived without? Yes. Vince and King spent enough time talking about flavor and fluff during the first match that they could have added this stuff in impromptu, and just told us HBK said it.)

Overall Rating: 3.3/4

We're taken back to the inaugural episode of Shotgun Saturday Night. We get highlights from Ahmed Johnson against The Nation and his match against Crush. Nice spot to open the match was shown, as Ahmed cleared the top rope from the outside to nail Crush inside the ring with a flying clothesline. The Nation interfered about beat down Ahmed Johnson with a steel chair. They battled outside the arena with Ahmed getting an advantage, and hitting the Pearl River Plunge on top of a parked car.

At the announce booth we see Honkeytonk Man has joined us for some guest commentary. They discuss HTM's search for a wingman. HTM says he's willing to take someone under his wing and teach them the ropes. Vince says HTM requires them to sing, dance, shake rattle and roll, AND play the guitar. Honkey says he'll make a winner out of who he deems fit to become the next Honkeytonk Man.

2) Fake Diesel and Fake Razor vs Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon

We get the entrance of LaFon and Furnas, who Vince puts over as being undefeated here in the Federation since their debut. Bell rings at 15:42. Fake Diesel and LaFon start us off. LaFon gets off some nice moves to start. Razor gets tagged in after an elbow and forearm. He hits the Fallaway Slam. Vince asks HTM if Razor Ramon could be the next Honky Tonk Man. HTM says yes. King adds that Razor's hair is like HTM's.

LaFon starts to beat down Razor. Vince tells us that Furnas and LaFon give the WWF moves they've never seen before and how great technical wrestlers they are. Razor tries to put Furnas in an armbar on the mat, but Furnas reverses into a move I've never seen before. He got under Razor in a cradle, while still in the armbar, and lifted Razor in the air and drops backwards. Furnas with a standing release belly to belly suplex. Furnas off the ropes, catches a knee to the back from Diesel and Razor makes the tag. Diesel continues the beat down. Tag to Razor. Razor hits a release pumphandle slam, throwing Furnas across the ring, and we get a commercial break..

We're back with Furnas in control, nailing Razor with a firemans carry drop. But he throws Razor too far and Razor makes the tag. Diesel takes Furnas down. Diesel nails a massive sidewalk slam, and attempts a pinfall. Two! Diesel drives Furnas to the corner, and beats him down. Razor in, Furnas beats them both back with elbows and punches, but Razor and Diesel are too much and send Furnas back into the corner. Diesel chokes Furnas over the top rope and stomps on him. Diesel attempts a legdrop but Furnas rolls out of the way. Furnas nails a dropkick that sends Diesel into the turnbuckle and....tag to Phil LaFon! LaFon comes in and nails an inverted spinning mule kick and then a jumping enzuguri on Diesel! LaFon with a spinwheel kick and Diesel goes down again! LaFon tries a pin, but only gets two. LaFon tries a double underhook powerbomb, but Diesel flips LaFon over his back, but LaFon reverses into a sunset flip. Furnas in the ring and hits a dropkick into a sunset flip,.. ONLY TWO! Diesel nails LaFon with a big boot as LaFon tried to go off the top rope. Diesel makes the tag to Razor. Razor in, and LaFon nails Razor with a northernlights suplex! Furnas in after a tag, and gets caught with a hard clothesline by Razor. Razor tries a Razor's Edge but it's countered as LaFon gets in the ring and Furnas flips Razor over his back. Razor off the ropes... FRAKENSTEINER! by Furnas... he tries a pin, but Diesel breaks it up. Both Furnas and LaFon clothesline Diesel over the top rope and drag Razor to the corner as they hit a double team clothesline and bridge pin. That gets the three count though.

Winners by pinfall at 9:00 + commercial: Phil LaFon & Doug Furnas

Rating: 2.5/4 That crowd was hot after every technical move they got to see. I'm not talking golf claps people. The crowd was popping. If it wasn't for some sloppy in ring work by Diesel and Razor, this match could have amazing. LaFon and Furnas know how to work.

Vince announces that next week we will see Marc Mero and Goldust take on Jerry Lawler and Hunter Heart Helmsley in tag action. We see clips of Goldust carrying Marlena to the back last week on RAW after an assault by Helmsley as King questions and insults Goldust's manhood. We get brought back to Saturday Night Shotgun as Vince replays Marlena disrobing to prevent Goldust from losing a match on Shotgun. Vince questions what Marlena would do to prevent her team from losing next week.

Bret Hart Interview 

We go backstage to see Bret Hart standing by backstage. Vince asks Bret if he's afraid of Shawn Michaels doing commentary and if he thinks Michaels will honor his word of not interfering. Bret says that we've seen how good Michaels's word is about interfering in his matches. Bret adds that he hopes Shawn interferes tonight and that it will be his pleasure because it will be his business. Vince asks Bret about Vader. Bret says Vader is big, but he's stupid. Bret Hart walks away.

Delivery: 1.5 (Very shaky. He stuttered a few times, and lost his train of thought twice. Walking off mid sentence was a bit weird too.)

Purpose: 3.0 (Hyped the main event. Addressed Bret not trusting Shawn, and targetted his opponent.)

Reasoning: 2.0 (Bret doesn't trust Shawn, and says Vader is stupid, alluding to being able to take advantage of that)

Overall Rating: 2.2/4

WWF Champion Psycho Sid Interview

We go to the ring where WWF Champion Pyscho Sid is in the ring for an interview. Jim Ross is in the ring for the interview. Ross asks Sid if he's ready to go to San Antonio and wrestle in a match where 70,000 fans will be rooting for the Heartbreak Kid. Ross asks Sid if he's intimidated by the environment. Sid begins to laugh psychotically and yells that he is intimidated by nothing. No man that walks. Sid tells us that in that environment you have to hit, or be hitten. You have to kick, or be kicken. (Yes, he actually said "kicken") You have to take a camera and hit someone, before you are hit first. He says that in the AlamoDome, everyone's going to see something ::snaps his fingers:: just like that and continues to yell about the day he was born "the man". He tells Michaels that when he will never be a man. He says that when he walks into San Antonio, he will walk in the man, and he will walk out the man. Sid ends this by saying he is the master and the ruler ...of the world.

Delivery: 3.5 (He didn't make much sense, but it was psychotically enjoyable. There was some enjoyment in being confused by the use of the english language. I'll dock a half a point for saying "kicken" though. )

Purpose: 3.0 (Sid is pyscho.)

Reasoning: 2.0 (Both wrestlers have an under dog personality going in? They tried to make it seem like Michaels had the entire advantage, just because he's from San Antonio. They had to reassure to us that Sid is not scared of anyone. Didn't we get that from Michaels earlier? I didn't get the reasoning too much.)

Overall Rating: 2.7/4

Afterwards, "Sexy Boy" starts up, and Vince tells us Shawn Michaels is on the way to the ring! Sid doesn't like this too much, and starts laughing crazily in the ring as Michaels makes his way down to do commentary for the main event. Michaels makes his way around the ring, and joins the commentary team. Sid begins to laugh in the ring. He's back on the mic and says that this is why he needs to apologize to everyone. He need to apologize for what he's going to do, and he's not going to be responsible. Sid finally leaves as we go to commercial break.

3) Bret Hart vs Vader

Bell sounds at 36:08. Vader dominates early and takes Bret into the corner, before throwing him outside and beating him down. Hart gains an advantage and takes down Vader with a running body attack, and throws Vader shoulder first into the ring steps. Hart takes apart Vader outside using the barricade, the ring post, and the ring apron. Michaels alludes to Hart cheating and Vince says that Bret Hart is more defensive than offensive and waits for his opponent to make a mistake. Hart drops a double knee to Vader's face. 

He takes Vader out of the corner still in the arm wrench. Hart off the ropes, and Vader counters with a running body splash. Hart goes down hard. Vader sends Hart down again with a slingshot clothesline. Vader with a scoop slam, and climbs to the second rope. He connects with a diving body splash. The cameras show Stone Cold Steve Austin in the back watching the match on a monitor and we go to a commercial break..

As we come back, Vader comes off the second rope with another diving body splash attack. Hart is motionless. Vader climbs up top again and nails flying splash! Hart quivers in pain, Vader goes to the pin but only gets a two. Vader drags Hart to the corner and and signals for a moonsault. The ref stops Vader from trying a moonsault with a five count. Vader attempts a Vader Bomb instead, but Bret Hart gets the knees up.

They battle back and forth, Vader gets sent off the ropes and RUSSIAN LEGSWEEP! Michaels says he called the move before it happened and Vince comments that Michaels has watched Harts tapes. Bret Hart scoop slams Vader and jumps off the top rope with patented DIVING FOREARM KNEEDROP! Cameras show Stone Cold Steve Austin watching on from the back again. Hart attempts a side suplex. Bret gets a two count. Hart off the ropes. He leaps into Vader's arms but the momentum carries both over the top rope as they battle outside. Sid comes out of no where and distracts the referee. Steve Austin attacks Bret in the entrance ramp. Vader tries to lift the ring steps but the referee stopped him. Vader argues with the ref as Steve Austin nails a STONE COLD STUNNER on the outside. Vader takes this opportunity and rolls Bret Hart into the ring, where he nails a Vader Bomb for the pinfall.

Winner by pinfall at 8:36+commercial: Vader

Rating: 2/4 Decent match by two main eventers. Both worked well together and made it work. There was a big size difference but it didn't matter.

 

Show Rating: C+

Thoughts: All three matches went eight minutes in a one hour show. A negative was the lack of attention on apart of the announcers, and really playing up the main event that had no bearings what so ever on anything. The highlights were the opening match and the offense provided by Furnas and LaFon in the tag match.

MVP: Phil LaFon and Doug Furnas (Good action by an interesting team)

Non-MVP: Main event. (Meh compared to the other matches)

 

-Matt the Stat Man

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..Your Stat Of The Day: The Intercontinental Championship has changed hands 12 times at Summerslam, more than any other title, and represents more than 33% of all title changes in the event history