Previously on the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw: WWF followed up one of the most important Raws ever, Thursday Raw Thursday, with the debut of Chyna, the Raw debut of the Hardy Boyz and Paul Heyman calling in on the phone to accept a challenge to bring ECW talent to Raw. Also, the Head Bangers have to be a thing now.
If you haven’t seen this also-kinda-monumental episode of Raw, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes you may have missed at the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag page. Follow along with the competition here.
If you want us to keep doing retro reports, share them around! And be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you think about the show.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Hardcore TV … sorry, Monday Night Raw, for February 24, 1997.
Best: ECW Is In The House
Before we begin, there are two important things you need to know about this episode of Raw:
1. Half the WWF roster is over in Germany establishing the new European Championship (in one of the best matches ever aired on WWE television), so the company needed to pad this already New York-based episode with talent from an upstart promotion they were absolutely not involved with whatsoever, Philadelphia’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. You may know it the passionate, murderously politically incorrect Paul Heyman joint that changed wrestling forever and stocked the most popular era of WCW and WWF television with a huge chunk of its most popular and/or beloved stars. Even modern day WWE TV is full of ECW alumni, from Chris Jericho on Raw to Rhyno on Smackdown.
2. The show is held in front of what Vince McMahon won’t stop calling a “partisan crowd,” and can be divided clearly into two halves; the half where ECW is clearly pulling its punches but wants to get as much of its roster on primetime TV as possible, and the half where the WWF guys who didn’t get to go to Europe sh*t the bed in slow motion. I’ll divide the show in half as well, just to show you what I’m talking about.
It’s hard to watch this episode and not prefer the ECW product. It’s honestly the most direct illustration of what the WWF was doing wrong, and I think even they saw it and worked to fix it. Two weeks from now, Raw is war.
Best: Ladies And Gentlemen, His Name Is Paul Heyman
After the first commercial break, a “ring attendant” who is clearly REALLY not into the idea of getting kicked in the face gets kicked in the face by legendary ECW tag team The Eliminators, Perry Saturn and John Kronus. You may know Saturn as a member of Raven’s Flock in WCW, the fourth most important Radical or that guy whose gimmick was that he’d been hit in the head too many times, had brain damage and talked to a mop. You may know Kronus as that guy who tagged with Perry Saturn in ECW.
They show up out of nowhere and hit Total Elimination, their combo spinning heel kick/leg sweep, which loses about 40% of its power without Joey Styles screaming “TOTALLIMINASHAAANNNNNN” into a microphone that barely works at the top of his lungs.
Paul “E. Dangerously” Heyman makes his Raw debut, announcing that “ECW is in the house” while ten dudes in Blue World Order shirts ROAR. Jerry Lawler, the man who invited ECW to the show in the first place, spends the entire show burying them, including a bunch of people he’d be praising a few years later when they became WWE stars. Saturn and Heyman are the first two (2). We’ll keep a running count.
By the way, this all culminates in Heyman and Lawler getting into a catfight at the announce table, which loses about 40% of its power without Joey Styles screaming “CATFIGHT!” into a microphone that barely works at the top of his lungs. It’s the most Larry Zbyszko-ass move Jerry Lawler ever pulled. You invited ECW to the show, arranged it with Vince McMahon that they’d get several matches on the show with just ECW guys vs. ECW guys, then tell them they don’t deserve to be on TV after they’ve been on your TV for two hours.
Best/Worst: Say Hello To The Blue Guy
I guess they wanted to make those dudes in the shirts happy right away.
The world’s most watched introduction to Extreme Championship Wrestling ends up being a comical Italian stereotype vs. a parody of a WCW faction, featuring a guy in a half shirt and daisy dukes doing famous wrestling poses with an overweight albino raccoon man. Like, we couldn’t have started with Sabu?
Anyway, Big Stevie Cool of the Blue World Order takes on Little Guido. All of these guys ended up in the WWF at some point, with Little Guido becoming Nunzio, Big Stevie Cool of course being like five incarnations of Stevie Richards — he’ll show you, you’ll see! — Blue Meanie being a figurative and literal punching bag for JBL, and Hollywood Nova morphing into Simon Dean. So that’s six future WWE employees by the time we get to the first match. Raven makes an appearance standing in the aisle doing nothing to bring us to seven.
The best moment of the match (and maybe the show) is Heyman on commentary. Lawler tries to sh*t on the bWo by saying they’re nothing but a rip-off, and Heyman gloriously puts him on the spot with, “Who are they ripping off?” Vince McMahon responds with some level zero improv by saying they’re not to be confused with the New World Order “clothing line.” YES AND nobody thought this through, and Paul Heyman is quicker and smarter than both of you.
Making a cameo appearance with the Blue World Order is “7-11,” a Syxx parody played by future Ring of Honor founder Rob Feinstein. 7-11? LOL, I’ll pretend you said 18.
Best: A Real Rocket Buster
The second ECW match of the night features future Smackdown color commentator and Guy Who Briefly Seemed Tough Until Jim Ross Made Him Cry By Hitting Him In The Face With Candy, Taz. Sorry, “Tazz.” He gets a quick squash win over Mikey Whipwreck, proprietor of the Stone Cold Stunner. Thanks, Mikey. How much would we remember Stone Cold Steve Austin reversing a Sweet Chin Music into the Million Dollar Dream at WrestleMania 14?
That weird falling blur you see on the right of the picture is SABU! IT’S SABU! That’s how you have to type it when you see him for the first time. It’s a “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight” pro wres scenario. Sabu interrupts the middle of the match to leap off onto Tazz’s ring attendants for some reason, never actually coming close to the ring or affecting the match. He was just like, HEY, I’M UP HERE, GET ME DOWN. He also inadvertently reveals that the R in the RAW set doesn’t have a lot of stability, and it almost comes out from under him.
The reverse angle shown after the break looks a lot better:
Still, sucks to be the guys in the front of the huddle who realized Sabu somehow got Erik Watts air on a falling attack and had a crazy dude torpedo them head-first. Solid chance at least one of those guys is Alex Wright.
Worst: Undertaker Likes To Watch
The final ECW match of the card is Tommy Dreamer vs. D-Von Dudley, which takes the totally reasonable “everybody into the pool” booking to … well, the extreme. Oh, and we miss the final minute of the match because we needed a closeup of The Undertaker trying to remember which order “demons” and “hail” are supposed to come out of his mouth in.
But yeah, this is easily the most “ECW” match of the night. Dreamer and D-Von almost immediately fight to the outside, where Dreamer starts grabbing weapons from the audience and just kinda New Jacking D-Von in the face with them. Man, how great would it have been if NEW JACK had shown up on Raw? The Real Double J would’ve ended up his fifth justifiable homicide. They fight with the stairs, and Lawler is just non-stop IT’S CRAP, IT’S CRAPPY, THIS SUCKS, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SUCKS, I HATE IT, EVERYONE DOING EVERYTHING IS EMBARRASSING AND TERRIBLE. And one part of you’s like, “I don’t agree with that heel announcer, ECW is great,” and the other half is like, “yo, I wonder if Rey Mysterio’s on Nitro right now, they aren’t gonna repeatedly tell me he blows.”
D-Von brings Dreamer’s manager/girlfriend/lesbian threesome tentpole/childhood friend Beulah McGillicutty into the ring — ECW stories were weird — and tries to use her as a human shield. Dreamer is like YOU CAN’T TREAT THE WOMAN I’M ASSUMING IS CURTIS AXEL’S KAYFABE MOTHER THAT WAY, but Beulah (as Beulah does) stands up for herself, kicks D-Von in the balls and frees him up to take a DDT onto a chair and the loss. Again, we miss all of this to look up the Undertaker’s nose.
After the match, Bubba Ray Dudley hits the ring and we get the first-ever WWE edition of the 3-D. When it looks like all is lost, the wonderful garbage-ass SANDMAN appears from the crowd, pours beer all over himself, smacks himself in the head with a stick until he bleeds and awkwardly clears the ring by flipping his sh*tty dad body at people until his Zubaz knocks them unconscious and/or sends them fleeing. Two of ECW’s most memorable icons just brawled with the future most decorated tag team in wrestling history, moments after one of the most popular and bulletproof tandem finishers ever, and Lawler’s like, “nobody would like this, GFY.” I remember watching this and being like, “yeah, this is way better, I wish this was the whole show.”
Unfortunately, it is not.
Worst: Into The WWF Abyss
The opening match of the show is the most New Generation WWF garbage you can imagine. Seriously, read this and try not to throw up in your mouth a little.
The Godwinns (hurk) take on the New Blackjacks (HURK). The Blackjacks debuted on Shotgun Saturday Night just two days earlier in a match against the Head Bangers (hurrrrk) that began when the Blackjacks interrupted a scheduled Godwinns/Head Bangers classic a minute in, replaced them as the Bangers’ opponents, then lost when the Godwinns interfered on THEM about two minutes into THAT. Jesus take the wheel.
Here, we are seriously protecting the f*cking Godwinns by having them only lose to the new team of reportedly super tough and effective cowboy guys after Phineas gets pinned with his foot on the rope. A second referee even runs out to point it out and make it obvious to everyone — please don’t stop loving THE GODWINNS, every man woman and child in the country — but the original referee says his decision stands. So the poor sport babyface Godwinns dump slop on his head (pictured), and we watch him slip and slide around in it for a few minutes while hillbilly chase music plays. Note: THIS IS THE BEST WWF MATCH OF THE NIGHT.
Best: Hey, The Legion Of Doom Is Back!
Were you wondering why the Road Warriors hadn’t been on Nitro in a while? Me either, but at the beginning of 1997 they were like, “hey, let’s go back to that other promotion where we were never really taken seriously, I bet they’ve got lots of creative ideas for us based around airbrushed motorcycle helmets and suicidal alcoholism.”
But the Road Warriors are legitimately one of the most legendary tag teams of all time, so even the Partisan Crowd pops hard for them. LOL, enjoy that while it lasts, because-
Worst: They’re Wrestling The Head Bangers
Head Bangers aaand, Head Bangers aaaand …
Worst: WE HAVE TO PROTECT THE HEAD BANGERS AGAINST THE ROAD WARRIORS IN THEIR RETURN MATCH
Not a joke. WWF could not book THE LEGION OF DOOM in a clean victory over Mosh and goddamn Thrasher in the LOD’s surprise return to the company. Instead, they have them wrestle a competitive match (??) for about seven minutes until they boringly brawl to the outside and everyone gets counted out. Yep, they brought back the Road Warriors to have them not be able to beat a be-skirted Beaver Cleavage.
Absolutely unreal. There are four WWF-branded matches on the show where they’re supposed to be proving they’re better than ECW, and zero of them end clean. All the important guys are in Germany, and they didn’t have the stones to put one hopeless undercarder over another.
Worst: The Curse Of Crush
There are two (2) Nation of Domination matches on the show, and both of them end in a disqualification.
The first is Goldust vs. Savio Vega Dark, which goes on for almost ten minutes before the worst wrestler in history, Jailbird Crush, runs out and attacks Goldust, getting Vega disqualified for no reason. They continue to put the very slow, uninteresting Payless boots to him until a “fan” runs in and makes the save.
No, that’s not Tommy Dreamer’s non-union Mexican equivalent, it’s Miguel Perez. You may remember him from that unexpectedly great match he had with Juventud Guerrera on a random episode of Nitro, or as the guy who looks like the Soup Nazi had a baby with Prince Albert. Not sure why he’s dressed like Kerwin White cosplaying his own caddy, but here he is.
As you might’ve imagined, the alignment between Perez and Goldust doesn’t last long, because if two non-white people interact on WWE TV and share a heritage, they end up in a tag team together. By June, both Perez and Vega are Boriquas. I bet you’ve got lots of fond memories of Los Boriquas, right?
That’s not the only thing Crush ruins on the night. The main event is supposed to be Faarooq and The Undertaker going one-on-one, but Savio and Crush jog out to cause a DQ. The Legion of Doom returns to run them off, because I guess Ahmed Johnson and his board and his old-timey pajamas are in Germany.
So, to recap, ECW had:
1. Three matches where outside interference occurred, but the matches continued and had decisive victors
1. a tag team match ending in a double count-out
2. a tag team match ending with a referee dispute and a hog slopping
3. two (2) Nation of Domination DQ run-ins
Oh, sh*t, wait, they also had a SEXY ARM-WRESTLING CONTEST.
Worst: Over The Tops
WWF was missing half their male roster and wanted to run a women’s match on the card, then realized, “sh*t, wait, we don’t have any actual female wrestlers.” So instead, they organize an arm-wrestling contest between Sunny and Marlena, two characters who have barely ever interacted, officiated by the Honky Tonk Man. Woof.
Marlena shows up with bruised ribs after last week’s attack from Chyna, which she accentuates by dressing like a Solid Gold dancer. Sunny, God bless her, wears this:
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an arm wrestling contest on a pro wrestling show, but here’s how it works. You’ve got a heel and a face. And, uh, an Elvis impersonator. The heel stalls and stalls and stalls, and when they’re finally forced to wrestle arms, they cheat just before they lose. Sunny manages to throw salt in Marlena’s eyes at the last second, despite wearing a bra and hot pants and honestly having nowhere reasonable on her person to store salt.
If you’re trying to figure out what the point of this is, imagine that you’ve got a VCR and you’re going through puberty in 1997. And you get off on the thought of one of the Del Rubio Triplets going to aerobics class and being blinded by a cloud of baby powder tossed in her face by a strung-out go-go dancer.
What else happened on this show? Let’s just burn right through it:
Green Lantern Fan is here! I don’t see the lady he proposed to on Raw four years ago with him, but I’m guessing he could tell you exactly how long it took Stevie Richards to pin Little Guido.
What else …
Tiny Tim died, so they showed that clip of Jerry Lawler making fun of him on Raw in 1993 without actually explaining why anyone would like Tiny Tim. Imagine if Ken Bone had a ukulele, that’s pretty much it.
Note: How great’s it going to be when you’re reading this in November and nobody has any idea what a “Ken Bone” is?
Oh, here’s something good: Raw is in Germany next week, so Vince McMahon hypes it up by saying it’s, well:
Hey German citizens, happy to finally live in a united nation after 30 years? We’ll do you one better: THE SULTAN VS. FLASH FUNK.
Finally, The World’s Most Dangerous Man Ken Shamrock makes his WWF Raw debut as a celebrity in the crowd. Jerry Lawler approaches him, gets the crowd to politely woo for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and asks Ken to regale the crowd with stories of them training together. Ken refuses the Yes And, straight-up calling him a liar. Later, Todd Pettingill somehow makes the situation even more awkward by asking Ken who he thinks will win the upcoming championship match between Sid and the Undertaker. Ken tries to avoid the question a few times, but when pressed chooses the Undertaker, because he’s “got a little more balance.” Slap me.
And that’s Domestic Raw! One of the worst performances from the Raw roster on record, and a grand total of 13 — 14 if you count Beulah — future WWE stars getting called worthless sh*tbirds for an hour. One of the craziest episodes ever at the time, and a huge reason why ECW sincerely turned into a “thing.” They’ll be back in a couple of weeks to keep it going.
Oh, whoops, one more important thing from this episode:
Best: TELL ME A LIE
Praise the Lord, it turns out the ECW invasion episode of Raw is also the debut of ‘Tell Me A Lie,’ the infamously melodramatic original ballad weeping for the imaginary injuries and hurt feelings of former WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. If you’ve never seen this, watch it with a giant smile on your face remembering that he’s back a couple of months from now, only “lost his smile” to get out of having to lose to Bret Hart at a WrestleMania, and told this lady a lie. Never say Shawn Michaels didn’t do what his fans asked!
♫ Maybe we could stay together
Maybe it could last forever
Maybe if you’d just tell me a lie
Maybe then we’ll never say goodbye ♫
Best Raw ever.
Anyway, stay tuned for an all new Best and Worst of La Femme Nikita.