The Best And Worst Of WWF Raw Is War 12/22/97: Jingle Balls

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Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated the entire Nation of Domination to keep The Rock from becoming Intercontinental Champion, then decided to forfeit the title to Rocky, then beat him up and took back the belt, then threw the belt into the river. Honestly, Austin’s the most chaotic neutral character in wrestling history.

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.

Hey, you! 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 thought of these shows. We’re almost to the 1998 Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 14, so support us at least until we get to make jokes about Mike Tyson calling Austin “Cold Stone.”

And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for December 22, 1997. Ho ho ho, son.

Best, Mostly: Night Of 1,000 Christmas Costumes

It’s December 22, three days before Christmas. While the folks over at WCW Monday Nitro decided to spend the holiday season by destroying your will to live with nWo Nitro, the World Wrestling Federation took a safer approach: tape a 2-hour show where nothing really happens, everyone’s extra safe, and most of the roster’s wearing Christmas costumes. The worldwide leader in sports-entertainment! (Note: It was the right call.)

The best Christmas moment was actually taped last week, but aired on this week’s show as a “Raw exclusive.” Which is funny because the rest of the show is taped, too, making … all of this a Raw exclusive, I guess. But isn’t every Raw a Raw exclusive? They’re taping in Lowell, Massachusetts, where the arena’s so small they have to greenscreen-in the commentary team. Badly, I might add.

But yeah, no, Santa Claus shows up to pull a kid out of the crowd and ask him what he wants for Christmas. The kid he chooses has Christmas. ON LOCK. Hanukkah. ON LOCK. Kwanzaa. ON LOCK.

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At some point during the day, WWF decided that the most realistic Lowell resident to have front row corner-ramp seats for Raw was a 12-year old Samoan kid with long hair and a San Francisco 49ers Starter jacket. I think the funniest part is at this point the Usos weren’t the “sons of WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi,” they were the Sultan’s kids. Those twins could’ve easily debuted as mute Arabic guys. ANYWAY, Santa kicks him out of the ring for saying he’s “not the real Santa.”

That brings out Stone Cold Steve Austin, FRIEND TO THE CHILDREN, to poll the audience on whether or not this is the real Santa. They choose, “Hell no.” He also tries to confirm Santa’s identity by asking him what six-year old Steve Austin asked for for Christmas. Dude could’ve played the percentage and said, “a bow and arrow? Some kind of Power Wheels ATV?” Instead, he responds with, “I think it was a Barbie doll and Tiddlywinks!”

Austin’s response: “IT WASN’T NO BARBIE DOLL AND I CAN TELL YOU WHAT TO DO WITH EVERY LITTLE ONE OF YOUR LITTLE TIDDLYWINKS.” Santa catches a Stone Cold Stunner, as you’d expect:

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I like to imagine Austin’s reaction would’ve been the same if this had turned out to be The Real Santa. Like if Austin was like, “what did I ask for for Christmas when I was six,” and Santa read him his entire Christmas list in detail from memory — toy guns, something camouflage, new jean shorts, it’s not hard to guess — Austin would’ve been like, “holy shit, the real Santa. Sorry about this,” and then Stunned him anyway. Because yes, if Stone Cold Steve Austin encountered a magical, mythological creature he would ABSOLUTELY try to Stunner it. Like, what else is Austin gonna do when he meets a centaur?

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The Real Santa actually makes an appearance later in the show, live on tape, to interrupt The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust’s dramatic reading of The Night Before Christmas while dressed as a sexy Christmas tree. The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust is really great when you aren’t a sexually confused Virginia teenager who’s embarrassed to confront some buried truths about himself

Uh, Santa shows up and hits him in the face with his Bag of Goodies. They then confirm that the Real Santa is Vader, which makes that Two Years To Live documentary even MORE depressing.

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In addition to a fake Santa, a real Santa and a confrontationally kinky tannenbaum — tannenbum? — we get Sable in a full Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer mascot costume. She’s forced to not be the center of attention for five seconds and stand at ringside while Mero spends two minutes beating up Scott Taylor. Not satisfied by simultaneously getting the victory and successfully shielding his wife’s bosom from public consumption, Mero punches Scotty in the balls (as he does) and tries to do more wrestling moves to him.

That brings out Jabber Tom Brandi for the save. To celebrate, Sable reveals that she has on a second, sexier Christmas costume on underneath the reindeer. The kung fu zoom into the one fan in the balcony having a religious experience is probably the best part.

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As we learned from the potato sack, Sable is the Mil Mascaras of sexy undergarments. If you tear off her bikini she’s got 99 additional, progressively smaller bikinis on underneath. They had to have a team undress her for like four hours before that Playboy shoot.

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The worst and laziest Christmas costumes go to the Headbangers — what a coincidence — as they just walk to the ring in personalized Santa hats, eating candy that’s for kids and not adults because these crazy guys are young at heart.

They’re also here to spread the true meaning of Christmas: losing by disqualification to a pair of Confederate hillbillies who attack them with leather straps to set up a strap match. Sorry, that was the true meaning of “strap match.” It’s a chicken and egg scenario. Did you attack them with leather straps and end up in a strap match, or did you find out about being booked in a strap match and attack them with leather straps to set it up? You never see someone attack an opponent with a ladder to not set up a ladder match, you know?

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First of all, perfect call from J.R. there.

Second of all, the Christmas thing you probably remember from this episode (because Austin stunned Santa Claus for like a decade, it feels like) is D-Generation X giving the pre-Crisis WWE Universe the gift of looking at their taints. The show opens with Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley stripping down to holiday boxers, then stripping down to (censored) Christmas thongs with mistletoe hung over their buttholes. Get it?

I saved this for last because it’s what the episode’s actually about. It’s honestly pretty funny to go back knowing what we know and watch how D-Generation X is handled after the Montreal Screwjob. I think at some point WWF saw WCW’s weird, neutered “Bret Hart is here, probably, and he’s in the nWo maybe, snicker snicker” booking where they couldn’t formulate a gameplan or plan ahead for shit, and were like, “okay, D-X are faces now.” They’re still “obnoxious” or whatever, but they’re following the Stone Cold Steve Austin plan: be heels until the people you’re heeling on become less popular than you, then just GO WITH IT. It’s honestly the best way WWE builds characters. I think we’re all waiting on people to become less popular than Roman Reigns. Probably not gonna happen.

Sgt. Slaughter shows up and ruins the holiday festivities by announcing that Shawn Michaels has to defend his European Championship against Hunter Hearst Helmsley. WWE loves to build up the “heels care more about themselves than their friends and will turn on each other for opportunity” story a lot, but it’s hurt by the fact that (1) heels are the only characters on the show that ever show traits like friendship or falling in love, and that (2) babyfaces are usually the only ones that turn on their friends for opportunities, and they only really do that when they “turn heel.” It just goes around in circles.

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The first time the match is supposed to happen, mid-show, Owen Hart jumps Triple H during his entrance and it gets postponed. Owen is attacking Triple H and not Shawn Michaels because “Owen is the last remaining member of the Hart Foundation, resents what Shawn did to Bret, doesn’t care about championships and just wants to end this guy’s career” turned into “Owen Hart wants to challenge Shawn Michaels’ friend for a championship” real fucking quick.

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The match ends up becoming the show’s main event, and only the announce team believes these guys are gonna get violent with each other over a third-string secondary title and break up on Christmas. They spend like an hour doing these backstage segments where Michaels is like, “oh, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, I’m gonna get you,” but yeah, no, they respond to a GM telling them they have to wrestle by doing what any sensible friends would do: decide beforehand who’s gonna win, then fuck around. WWE heels are always taking purposeful count-out losses and walking out instead of defending their titles and stuff; if you created an environment where every match was important and people actually cared about the championships, you could build some “will they or won’t they” drama, but as it stands, they don’t care usually, why would they suddenly care now? +1 to D-X for that.

Hunter pins Shawn by bouncing off the ropes so many times I had to cut the GIF down by half to fit it onto the site, then hitting the most Tamina splash you’ve ever seen outside of Jimmy Snuka’s kids. Slaughter shows up again smiling and declares that next week, Triple H will defend his newly-won European Championship against his blood rival (?) Owen Hart! This, of course, sets up Owen vs. Shawn Michaels for next week (?), Owen not winning the championship because of Triple H interfering, H not defending the European Championship for several weeks, and then Owen Hart wrestling Savio Vega. Then Owen doesn’t have a match at the Royal Rumble, enters the Rumble itself, and gets eliminated in two minutes. By Triple H. Because REASONS.

Also Appearing On This Show

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Mankind cuts a promo from the “bowels” of the Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, so the New Age Outlaws spend the entire episode wandering said bowels and beating up random strangers they assume are Mankind. They end up saying “bowels” so much that hour two color guy Jim Cornette chimes in with, “this building has got a lot of bowels.” Who better to comb the bowels of a place than Mr. Ass, am I right folks?

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Speaking of bowels, Kurrgan defeats 8-Ball of the Disciples of Apocalypse in two minutes via manager distraction and a transitional-ass side slam. It’s only two minutes long, sure, but it’s Kurrgan vs. 8-Ball of the Disciples of Apocalypse. Seriously, no matter how good Raw is and how bad Nitro is, the bad parts of Raw are so mind-numbingly in-ring shitty that you can’t even laugh at them. Like, holy shit, Kurrgan vs. 8-Ball. With a manager interfering, and 8-Ball no-selling the finish to get his heat back after the TWO MINUTE JOBBER SQUASH. And a big showdown between 3/4 of the Disciples and whatever’s left of the Truth Commission. I could type, “and then a hole opened up and swallowed the wrestlers and the entire audience” and you’d still skip it, because, Christ. Shit makes Mongo eighth-assing it with Meng look like Michinoku Pro.

Best: Let’s Get Back To The Good Stuff

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The best match on the show by far is The Rock vs. The Undertaker, which is the kind of match that just used to happen in the middle of Raw to set something else up. How many tens of millions of dollars do you think Vince would throw out right now to get The Rock vs. The Undertaker headlining a WrestleMania?

It ends prematurely when Kane arrives from beneath the giant tree entrance, like some sort of Christmas Creature. He once again does the “I’M EVIL PIKACHU, FIGHT ME, REGULAR PIKACHU” act with Taker, but Taker once again refuses to fight him.

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The Rock shows up again later at the end of Ken Shamrock’s victory over D’Lo Brown with a little too much promo confidence. I say this because it seems like he wants to do one of his big The Rock asides, but forgets where he’s going with it. He’s like, “KEN SHAMROCK, YOU BEAT D’LO BROWN, BUT LET ME TELL YOU THIS … HERE IS WHAT THE ROCK THINKS ABOUT THE GULF CRISIS. ACTUALLY NO, FORGET THAT, THAT’S FOR ANOTHER TIME.” Like maybe they’d been riffing on the Gulf Crisis backstage, Rock was like “lol let’s do that in the promo tonight,” and then got to “Gulf Crisis” before realizing jokes about the Troops need context and was like, “haha, nevermind, actually, UFC sucks.” Smooth audible, Rocky!

Rock doesn’t want anything to do with Stone Cold after that river incident, so he throws shade at Shamrock by saying the UFC is “nothing but has-beens and never-was, like yourself.” Feel free to save and use this image profusely when The Rock ends up teaming up with Ronda Rousey.

In all seriousness, this week was a huge help for the Rock’s career, because it showed that he’s (1) getting good enough in the ring to help carry his weight in a match with The Undertaker, and over-perform, and that (2) he’s good enough now to carry a feud with one of his peers, like Ken Shamrock, and not necessarily rely on a super hot fire veteran like Austin walking him through everything. Spoiler alert: things never really go badly for him again.

Next Week:

Taka Michinoku decides to battle the threat of Jerry Lawler by finding his own 60-year old tag team partner, Cactus Jack returns to deal with the Outlaws hanging around in his bowels, and Owen Hart gets what he wants without ever really getting what he wants.