Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw: Hunter Hearst Helmsley attempted to show Marlena what a “real man is like” by kidnapping her and carrying her to the back, for sex. He was stopped by Marc Mero, so he just threw Marlena at Mero and threw Goldust at both of them, knocking them down. None of this is important this week.
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.
Up first, I call shotgun!
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about Shotgun Saturday Night, WWE’s short-lived “edgy” show that aired from January of ’97 until August. It was WWE’s first of many attempts to make their own ECW, which to WWE translated to, “run Sultan matches in a night club instead of an arena.”
You’re Looking At The Real Deal Now
If you remember anything about Shotgun Saturday Night, it’s probably Ahmed Johnson Pearl River Plunging a dude on top of a parked car. It’s the “Hogan bodyslamming Andre” of Shotgun Saturday Night. In retrospect, the best part of the moment is that the guy being dangerously flipped upside down and almost paralyzed by a soaking wet trained seal covered in elbow pads is D’Lo Brown, future Intercontinental and 4-time European Champion. Ahmed Johnson would go on to gain 200 pounds and feud with Booker T over the use of the letter “T,” so remember, though life might be flipping you upside down on a car right now, you might not always be the one getting flipped.
Puppies, Woo Hoo! Etc.
The other moment you might remember from the first episode of Shotgun Saturday Night is Marlena taking off her top to distract the Sultan. The best part is that Bob Backlund gets in the ring and takes off his jacket to stop the distraction, and instead of covering up Marlena’s boobs, he throws the jacket on the Sultan’s head. Hilariously, that’s one of the most sexually progressive moments of the era. It’s not the boobs or the person choosing to show them that are the problem, it’s the Sultan’s inability to look at boobs without standing up.
Also, There Are Jokey Nuns
You know what’ll appeal to the kids and rebels in 1997? Tag teams based on Sally Field sitcoms from 1967.
Meet “The Flying Nuns,” aka Sister Angelica and Mother Smucker. Mother Smucker, get it? They’re the Headbangers in nun costumes, and WWF’s announce team insists that they’re women. Their match against the Godwinns on Shotgun Saturday Night is the “first ever mixed tag team match.” Since Headbanger Mosh eventually becomes an overtly sexual Leave It To Beaver character, I’m gonna guess “Spencer’s Gifts-quality curse and genital jokes gimmicks about sh*t from the 1960s” was his idea. Hey Chaz, here’s a good one for you: you’re a team of wrestling astronauts and you’re called I Dream Of Weenie. Both of you are named Dick.
The Flying Nuns win with help from Brother Love, who renames them “The Sisters of Love,” probably to avoid Sally Field’s lawyers bringing the hammer down on WWE. Maybe they should’ve undershot it and gone for the Gidget gimmick instead.
And now, as if there was even any need for a show, the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw for January 6, 1997.
Best: Owen Hart Vs. Mankind
Oh sh*t, can we do this for the entire episode?
This one doesn’t make a lot of sense — it’s heel vs. heel without anything on the line, and it’s got a clean finish — but it’s Owen Hart in his prime vs. Mick Foley before “being Mick Foley” became the point, so of course it’s great. In fact, it’s so straight forward and good that I’m not sure how to analyze it in the context of the rest of the show. It’s a strange reminder that the WWF employed some of the very best wrestlers on the planet during this era and still built their shows around Marc Mero and Phineas Godwinn.
But yeah, Owen and Mankind get about seven minutes and make the most of it, ending with Owen counter a mandible claw only to go crashing shoulder-first into the ringpost and getting caught with a piledriver for the loss. Mankind continues the good-work ascent that eventually leads to him becoming a superstar via an incredibly fast descent, and Owen is like, “hey, dangerous-ass piledrivers are a great idea, I should do more of those.”
Speaking of the best wrestlers in the world navigating the flotsam and jetsam a post-Hulkamania, pre-anybody else WWF …
Best, Shockingly: Fake Diesel And Fake Razor Ramon
Match #2 on the night is a shockingly-all-right circa-10-minute affair between the Can-Am Express and Jim Ross’ School For Misappropriated Gimmicks. Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon were the Dean Malenko’d-out Steiner Brothers so of course they were good, but what you’ll notice here is that fake Diesel and fake Razor Ramon probably would’ve been a really good tag team if they hadn’t been stuck cosplaying more interesting dudes from another show.
Seriously, that point JR kept trying to make about how we should notice what YOUNG STUDS they are is true. When fake Razor isn’t trying to be Scott Hall, he’s pretty good. When fake Diesel isn’t trying to accurately mimic Kevin Nash’s hair taunts (and isn’t confined to a gimmick that slows him down for effect, which I guess becomes his trademark), he’s pretty good. Furnas and LaFon trying various combinations of desperation pins and hoss suplexes is VERY good.
Of course, the entire thing is sorta ruined by the Honky Tonk Man on commentary, who screams in his Jerry Lawler Elvis voice about how he’s still looking for the “next greatest of all time,” and how it might be a tag team, but it might also be Jerry Lawler or Vince McMahon. Someone at the WWF was like, “you know what would make this All-Japan tag match better? An Elvis impersonator shouting about hypotheticals.”
Worst: The Lonely Ballad Of Pete Lothario
The rest of the show is dedicated to one angle: Shawn Michaels being the least likeable person in the world, but still being the babyface and therefore needing some motivation greater than, “the fans don’t seem to like me and shut up I’m fine with it, shut up.”
Early in the show, we jump backstage to find Shawn looking like a mid-90s alternative standup comedian, hanging out with his helpless fragile baby mentor Jose Lothario. Shawn says that Sid may have crushed Jose’s guts and sternum when he hit him with a camera at Survivor Series, but at the Royal Rumble, nothing will stop him. I like that he’s sorta saying, “go ahead, kill Jose Lothario, I don’t care, I’m Shawn Michaels.”
Anyway, when they’re done talking, the camera slowly pans to the right to reveal PETE LOTHARIO, son of Jose, sitting in a chair. Vince is like, “have you been taking care of your father, gentle Pete,” and Pete’s like, “yes sir Mr. Vince McMahon sir.” If this was Star Trek, you would’ve been able to see his red shirt before they even panned. Jose says he’s going to hang out backstage and keep a watchful eye on Jose, while Shawn goes out to do passive-aggressive commentary for Bret’s match.
(This becomes important later. Spoiler alert!)
So later in the show, Sid cuts a promo about how he’s Sid, and Shawn responds by taking off his clothes on the announce table. Keep in mind that Shawn has technically already “lost his smile,” so this is some Bojack Horseman-ass act of self-loathing. They go to commercial as he’s unbuttoning and removing his jeans. Sid’s like, “all right, I guess I will kill all y’all.”
Bret Hart wrestles Vader in the main event, and it’s fine, but Bret’s sort of on auto-pilot when he’s not wrestling Steve Austin. Shawn is on commentary, of course, and the highlight of the entire episode comes when he asks Vince who the “they” is in “the man they call Vader.” Vince says it’s the fans, but we all know it’s WCW. The match itself culminates in an actual pile of run-ins, all of which Earl Hebner misses by walking backwards up the walkway and refusing to use his peripheral vision.
Sid shows up and mysteriously drags a camera man to the back, and everyone’s like, “that’s probably fine.” Bret ends up on the outside and gets blindsided by Stone Cold Steve Austin, who stomps a mudhole in him and sits it dry with a Stone Cold Stunner. Vader is able to toss Bret back into the ring and hit a Vader Bomb for the win, keeping him out of big fat piece of sh*t territory for another few weeks.
Wither Sid, you ask? WITHER HENCE:
GASP! NO, NOT PETE!
We find out that Sid retrieved that camera man so we could watch him powerbomb fan favorite character Pete Lothario onto a backstage stable. Not through it, mind you, but onto it. I can’t believe they’d introduce someone as beloved and three-dimensional as Pete Lothario only to kill him in act three. Who directed this episode of Raw, Joss Whedon?
Shawn rushes to the back to tend to Pete alongside streetclothes versions of Savio Vega and Aldo Montoya (still in his jock strap mask, because in Portugal the mask is sacred), and the show ends with Shawn getting in the camera’s face and saying all the curse words he knows. We are SO CLOSE to the Attitude Era, and it feels like an entire locker room is standing around making puppy dog eyes waiting for Vince to be like, “okay, go ahead and point at your dicks now, it’s fine.”
Next Week: The Royal Rumble! Latin Lover’s in it!