The Best And Worst Of WWF Monday Night Raw 1/13/97: Smile Like You Mean It

Previously on the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw: Shotgun Saturday Night debuted, helping us take our next extremely slow, tiny baby step toward the Attitude Era. Also on the show, Sid powerbombed Jose Lothario’s kid onto a table and Shawn Michaels got real cussy about it.

You can watch this week’s episode here, and check 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 tell us what you think about the maneuvers, quite frankly.

And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for January 13, 1997.

Worst: The End Of A Taping Cycle

I thought this week was the show after the ’97 Royal Rumble — you know, when the Road to WrestleMania starts, and things that matter for 1997 and the future of the promotion actually start happening — but it turns out I was wrong. Agonizingly, we’ve got one more show before the Rumble, and it’s at the end of the old antiquated Raw tapings cycle. Normally I’d type “woof” here, but I’d have to genetically splice my DNA with a dog’s and become a living, anthropomorphic dog-man to woof hard enough.

The most important thing here is that the tragic powerbombing of Jose Lothario’s infant teen son Pete from last week is totally meaningless. This week, Shawn Michaels shows how fired up and ready for vengeance he is by … going to San Antonio and looking bored in a room full of Shawn Michaels fans. No, seriously:

They show him having fun with “close, personal friends” in his hometown. This is right before Shawn “loses his smile,” and as phony as that explanation still sounds, you can kinda see it. Look at him. It’s that Bojack Horseman quote. One day you’re gonna look around and you’re gonna realize that everybody loves you, but nobody likes you. And that is the loneliest feeling in the world.

In contrast, Sid actually cuts a really great promo — pre-taped, as all Sid promos should be — where he stands in the center of the Alamodome and points out where all of Shawn Michaels’ friends are gonna be and what they’re gonna be doing when they realize Sid’s going to end him. Spoiler alert, though: Shawn Michaels doesn’t have any friends. I mean, until that rich guy starts kissing his butt and they get super into pointing at their dicks. But that’s still a ways away.

Worst: The Moment Everyone Stops Taking Marc Mero Seriously

Speaking of ol’ Dick-pointer, he and Jerry Lawler team up against Goldust and Marc Mero. Goldust is mad at Helmsley for, you know, sexually threatening his wife, trying to kidnapping her and violently lobbing her at Johnny B. Badd. The story of the tag is that Goldust wants to get his hands on Helmsley, but Helmsley keeps ducking him. It’s a hell of a lot of Marc Mero getting double-teamed until Goldust finally, finally makes a hot tag and confronts Hunter, only to tie him up in the ropes and choke him until he gets his team DQ’d. This would all be perfectly fine if it wasn’t 15 minutes long and, as mentioned, at the end of a taping cycle. So it’s infinite AND silent.

The best and/or worst moment of the match happens after the disqualification. Goldust is choking Helmsley in the ropes, and the ref steps in and tries to separate them. He can’t, so Lawler comes over. Lawler can’t separate them either, so Mero tries. Goldust gets sick of it, turns around and starts punching his own tag team partner in the face. That picture above is of Mero’s response, which is to make a face like a kid about to be dragged out of a K-Mart by his wrist, followed by nothing. Mero wrestles for 15 minutes, loses the match because his partner gets disqualified, gets PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY HIS OWN PARTNER and responds with NOTHING.

Pretty soon after this, Mero’s character becomes “fragile guy who can’t handle people thinking his wife is attractive and taking it out on her for some reason,” and thematically it starts here. What a chump.

Best: Steve Austin Is Still The Best Part Of The Show

Okay, so the day before Raw, Stone Cold Steve Austin jumped Bret Hart on Superstars and Pillmanized him. Imagine them doing that now. Imagine WWE having Seth Rollins attack and injure Finn Bálor on an episode of Main Event.

Because Bret Hart is a lot better than Brian Pillman, he’s walking around the next day, albeit with a limp. He’s not going to let a silly thing like a totally crushed ankle keep him from walking several hundred feet to sit down and talk into a microphone. He does commentary for the British Bulldog vs. Rocky Maivia match, and Raw actually puts some effort into tying together all of their stories. Remember how the Harts were sort of backed into the same corner by Steve Austin recently? Well, Bulldog retaliated to Austin’s attacks by running into one of his matches and causing him to get pinned by jobbers, so now Austin has to do the same to Bulldog. Bulldog has Owen Hart at ringside for protection, but Owen is obsessed with paying attention to Bret, like always. This gives Austin an opportunity to sneak attack Bulldog behind Owens’ back, but with something also keeping Bret at bay. It’s a shockingly perfect alignment of heel logic and character relationships.

Austin chop-blocks Bulldog on the outside and hits a Stunner to get him counted out, hilariously giving future blood rival The Rock his first high profile Raw victory. Austin’s incessant need to confrontationally and permanently end anyone who has mildly threatened him continues to put all his enemies on the same page, and it only gets worse from here. A terrible match, of course, but a great story.

Worst: More Not Wrestling

Finally, because honestly nothing important really happens on the episode and everyone including the crowd and performers are tired of wrestling, we get Crush vs. The Undertaker. If you remember any of those Brothers of Destruction vs. Kronik matches, you know that’s a terrible, terrible combination.

They sorta choke-wrestle for a while until it’s time for the finish, which is Crush taking the world’s lowest and least impactful chokeslam — he keeps one foot on the ground as it’s happening, if that tells you anything about the level of effort involved — and causing everyone tangentially related to the situation to run in for another disqualification. That’s two DQs and a count-out for the episode, if you’re counting. Undertaker tries to fight off the combined forces of the Nation of Domination and Vader, but gets overwhelmed. Ahmed Johnson shows up again, but gets overwhelmed too. Basically everyone’s overwhelmed except the people watching the episode.

And that’s it. Raw is War, y’all.

Next week is live, and things finally start to get better. The Royal Rumble happens, Raw starts focusing on the story that matters — Hart vs. Austin, and the creeping doom that eventually becomes Mr. McMahon — and Nitro’s such a pile that you could arguably say Raw was clearly better than it in all ways for maybe the first time ever.