Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart played WHEELCHAIR MIND GAMES, culminating in the return of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and Austin getting tossed off the stage and sent to the hospital. Also on the show, literally nothing else even 1% as interesting or fun as Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin.
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes you may have missed at the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War and Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag pages. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for May 5, 1997.
Worst: As The 2X4 Turns
This is a picture of Ahmed Johnson hitting Rockabilly in the face with a guitar. I’ve seen people play Russian Roulette, and they weren’t cheating death as much as Billy Gunn was letting Ahmed By God Johnson swing a musical instrument at his face. Look how hard Ahmed’s swinging, the force of his blow has literally propelled him into the air. Good lord. This headshot is probably why Billy’s spent the last 20 years like, “I like asses! I’m an ASS MAN! I love to love ’em!” He’s not into asses, he has fucking brain damage.
This is a big episode for the love child of John Henry and Jim Duggan. Up first, he loses this match to Rockabilly via disqualification. Then, oh God, he attempts to pull a fast one on wrestling Rhodes scholar Crush by pulling a Locke from Final Fantasy VI and stealing an NPCs clothes. I’m not kidding. Let’s take it from the top.
At IN YOUR HOUSE 15: A COLD DAY IN HELL, Ahmed is set to wrestle a gauntlet match (kind of) against the Nation of Domination. If he wins all three falls, the Nation will be forced to disband. I say “kind of” in parenthesis (and quotes) because it’s not actually a gauntlet match; Ahmed just has to wrestle Crush, Savio Vega and Faarooq “during the course of the evening,” meaning he gets to rest between matches and it’s honestly not that big of a deal. Also meaning “Ahmed Johnson can’t remember three straight matches, so let’s let him go to the back between them so he doesn’t kill somebody.”
On Raw, Faarooq puts Crush in a gauntlet match against three jobbers so jobbish you can’t even find their names on the Internet. Seriously, even WWE Network calls them “jobbers.” The first guy is future NWA Heavyweight Champion Adam Pearce, who showed up a few weeks back to lose to the Nation as “Adam O’Brien.” He’s got “AP” on his boots, so we’ll say he’s “Advance Placement” Adam O’Brien.
Guy number two deserves a special mention for wearing one of those weird lingerie pieces they put in WWE video game create-a-wrestler modes that you’d never use, but have to scroll through when you’re looking for a wifebeater. Look at this thing:
Nice lederhosen, dork. He was probably backstage like, “my tights are gonna fall down,” and Adam Pearce was like, “I got you, bro, I’ve got a roll of duct tape, I’ll give you them Billie Kay stomach blockers.” And presumably guy was like, “who’s Billie Kay,” and pre-cog-ass Adam Pearce was like, “don’t worry about it.”
The back of it looks even worse, which you can see in the background of this pic of MYSTERIOUS JOBBER NUMBER THREE:
oh my, who could that be
During jobber #2’s match, the announce team talks about hearing a commotion backstage, and how they’re unable to send cameras back. It turns out that commotion was someone mysteriously beating up jobber 3 and taking his place. Jobber 3 runs in when Crush has his back turned, hits a Pearl River Plunge and scores an instant victory. He then rolls out of the ring, and like before his feet even hit the ground he’s removing the disguise.
This is clandestine Ahmed Johnson. His disguise is a Green Bay Packers Starter Jacket and PANTYHOSE over his head. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Ahmed Johnson, but pantyhose can’t disguise his Exogorth head. He runs down to the ring and nobody from the Nation is paying attention to him, and before he even attacks, he removes the jacket hood. Then he hits Ahmed Johnson’s finishing move, and before he’s at the ramp he’s got the pantyhose off and is like, “LOOK, TIS I, AHMED JOHNSON.” As if nobody could tell. And THAT’S when the Nation notices what’s going on and the fact that Crush has lost, meaning Ahmed could’ve just jogged down as Ahmed Johnson in his red panties and 45 elbow pads, hit a Pearl River Plunge and gotten the hell out of dodge before the feeling reached Faarooq’s brain. Instead, we get the world’s largest and stupidest Solid Snake attacking the bad guys from behind. YUH! GUH! DUH!
Spoiler alert, this story does not end at A COLD DAY INSIDE OF HELL. It goes on for another year.
Best: Don’t Let Me Get In My Zone
One of the best (albeit not exactly perfect) parts of this episode is the sudden dedication to “real stories.”
The first is for Ken Shamrock, who gets a video bio about his life growing up as a violent nut without a family, and how channeling his rage into competitive fighting has not only helped him find a purpose in life, it’s GIVEN him a family, both in and out of the sport. It’s great, especially in that it reveals the only clothes Shamrock owns are those windbreaker warmup suits and HAMMER STRENGTH tees. It also features the introduction of Ken Shamrock’s “zone,” which is, for modern fans, the place where he hears voices. His explanation of The Zone is like, “when I go into my zone, I’m the only one in my zone, and nobody’s allowed in my zone except me, you can’t come into my zone, the zone has an occupancy of one and that’s me, if you try to get into my zone I won’t let you into my zone.” He shows up on commentary for Goldust/Vader to explain it a little more, in case you didn’t get it.
Speaking of Goldust, he gets a sit-down interview to introduce the world to Dustin Runnels, the man behind the paint. They’ve been working hard to change Goldust from a pansexual creeper Oscar statue to an Average Joe who just plays mind games, and this is that story’s pièce de résistance. We learn that he, like Shamrock, is just a family man who grew up trying to impress his dad, and though they’re estranged, he hopes they can find peace. This is what allowed Dustin to play the character off-and-on for 20+ years; the ability to go into the character, but step back from it and remind us that he’s a RHODES, and that the Rhodes are fucked-up wrestling royalty.
The segment is very good but doesn’t really hold up in places, though, particularly the part where they compare him breaking kayfabe to gay people coming out of the closet in the ’90s, and when he says he “knows how Ellen feels.” You, uh, probably don’t, but I get what you’re saying, and I know y’all are trying to be nice.
The number isn’t blurred out, your brain’s just having a seizure from the gloriousness of 1997 Sunny wearing nothing but boots and a t-shirt.
Best: A PACK OF LIONS
So, back to the Hart Foundation. This week, we finally get them at their full strength: Wheelchair Bret Hart, Blasphemous Hippie Brian Pillman, Journeyman Jim The Anvil, Caucasian Ultimo Dragon Owen Hart, and Confused Anthropomorphic Muscle-Puppy Davey Boy Smith. They open the show in the ring to thank every fan in the world except the lousy stinking pack of lousy stinking hyena American fans, and say they’re gonna do to “Boy Toy” Shawn Michaels what they did to “Adult Collectable” Steve Austin. They didn’t call him that, but suddenly I don’t want to call him anything else.
Anyway, the spend the entire show backstage looking for Shawn Michaels, bursting into the locker room and attacking some rando with long hair who stumbles out of the men’s room. They even go out into the parking lot and look for him under trucks and in barrels (?), which is hilarious because he’s just at gorilla waiting to do a 15-minute in-ring interview with Vince McMahon. Great detective work, Canada.
Shawn explains that (1) he’s not attacking the Hart Foundation to help Stone Cold Steve Austin, he’s doing it to hurt the Hart Foundation, and (2) he’ll return to the ring in one month’s time at King of the Ring. His major talking point, again, is that Freedom Of Speech means Americans can do “whatever they want, whenever they want” — it doesn’t — and that if Bret doesn’t like it here, he better not let the door hit him in his “Canadian butt” on the way out. He begrudgingly admits that the United States isn’t totally perfect, having elevated “someone like Homer Simpson to icon status,” but that we’re still the best. Bret, in the single greatest act of babyfacedom in pro wrestling history, shows up on the TitanTron and says this:
TELL HIM, BRET.
Bret is like, “you seem fine to wrestle now, how about you accept the challenge of Jim The Anvil Neidhart.” So Neidhart runs out, and before like, five punches have been thrown, the rest of the Hart Foundation’s out there too. That brings out the Legion of Doom to help Shawn. They have a match up next against a guy from Canada. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS!
Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon, the only wrestlers boring enough to do live picture-in-picture promos while they’re walking to the ring in some parallel timeline, remind us that they are the Most Exciting Wrestlers, and that the fans will cheer for THEM this time, and not the Road Warriors. The announce team is straight up like, “uh, y’all are boring as balls,” which will always be one of the weirdest things WWE does. If a wrestler is boring, try to make them less boring maybe instead of pointing out how boring they are. Nobody’s ever gotten behind a “boring” gimmick. It’s boring.
But yeah, the match ends shockingly with the British Bulldog distracting the referee and Road Warrior Animal, allowing Owen Hart to sneak in and snap Hawk’s neck across the top rope, giving Furnas and LaFon … is this right? The win? Sure, whatever.
All of that informs the main event, because the key component of Vince Russo’s Raws is that everything tied together and everybody had a place. Even if that place was “shitty Honky Tonk Man who gets instrumented in the face by a guy we couldn’t physically trust to hold a kitten.”
The Hart Foundation keeps trying to jump Shawn Michaels backstage, and Stone Cold Steve Austin makes the save. Well, less “makes the save” and more “agrees with Shawn’s point that they aren’t helping each other, they’re hurting Bret.” We end up with Stone Cold vs. Bulldog in the main, and you know how that ends. Kick, wham, stunner. We’re far enough into Austin’s importance now that anyone who isn’t Bret or Shawn or the Undertaker is getting got.
After the match, the Hart Foundation attacks. That brings out Shawn, the Legion of Doom and Furnas and LaFon for a MELEE. The worst part is that Furnas and LaFon don’t seem to remember which side they’re on, and just kinda attack everybody. I wonder why you guys never caught on? Anyway, the fight breaks down when the Undertaker’s dong interrupts, and everyone bails until it’s just Taker and Austin left alone. Taker sees Austin carrying the WWF Championship as a foreign object again, objects, and beats the shit out of him in a pull-apart brawl.
It’s weird to see Austin positioned as the new babyface hotness against an evil Canadian heel faction but still propped up against the Undertaker as the default bad guy, but I suppose it let Austin keep some of his edge. He wasn’t just suddenly a fan favorite, we just liked how psychotically violent and one-track-minded he was.
Like usual, great stuff from the Harts and Austin, too much “I WANT TO BE THE ONE YOU CHEER” from Shawn, bad gothic eyebrows from the Undertaker, and bad everything else from Ahmed and the Nation. Raw rolls on, after this!