Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: The “Triple Threat,” eventually known as D-Generation X, put the Undertaker in a body bag. Also, Owen Hart debuted his “Owen 3:16” shirt, Road Warrior Hawk wore Faarooq’s hat, and the Brian Pillman/Goldust angle soldiered on without anyone knowing where it’d end up by Sunday.
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Up first, let’s talk about one of the most important In Your House events ever, for good and bad reasons.
Before We Begin
Up first, here’s what you need to know about In Your House: Badd Blood, which is sadly not a true crime procedural about burglars who broke into your place and ritualistically sacrificed Marc Mero.
The Most Important News From This Show Is That The Godwinns Are Tag Team Champions
That’s what everyone talks about when they mention Badd Blood, right?
In a booking decision that still influences like 70% of championship arcs today, the Headbangers won the Tag Team Championship because one half of the team the WWF actually cared about got injured only to spend several weeks losing and getting their asses kicked, building to this pay-per-view title defense they also lose. And then the next night on Raw, they have a rematch which they win, to start the same cycle for the Godwinns.
The Actual Most Important News From The Show
As you know if you’ve been reading these columns or you lived through it back in the day, Brian Pillman was found dead in his hotel room about six hours before this show started. He was supposed to have a match with Dude Love with Goldust handcuffed to the ring post so he couldn’t interfere, setting up a bit where Goldust and Marlena would “renew their vows” the next night on Raw only to reveal that the whole “Pillman gets to sexually assault Marlena for a month” thing was a work and they’ve been together all along. Instead, he died.
The 10-bell salute you see in the picture doesn’t happen until the next night on Raw. They’re still trying to figure out what’s up while Badd Blood is on, and I guess they talked about it more on the pre-show, but Vince just kinda opens the pay-per-view mentioning that the death happened and was “unfortunate” and that they’re moving on. They replace Pillman vs. Dude Love with a minis tag team match. What else can you do, I guess?
And man, 20 years later that 10-bell salute is especially depressing. Close-up on Owen Hart. Close-up on Rick Rude. Close-up on Road Warrior Hawk. Just heartbreaking.
Speaking Of Owen, He’s Intercontinental Champion Again
It’s an incredible shame to have this conversation with him as the subject, but how hard must it have been for Owen Hart to go out and wrestle like an hour and a half after finding out one of his best friends had died? The match with Faarooq is terrible, but Jesus, you can’t blame anyone.
The finish is another modern classic: a wrestler making a decision for a very, very obvious reason and the announce team who is paid to be there every week, watch every show and pay enough attention to talk about it in real-time has no idea why. Here, Stone Cold Steve Austin bashes Faarooq in the side of the head with the Intercontinental Championship to give Owen the tournament win and the strap. The announcers are like, WHAT, NO, HOW COULD THIS BE, THEY’RE ENEMIES, WHY WOULD, HOW COULD, OH MY MEDICATION! I at least wanted Jim Ross to say, “he probably wants Owen to be the champion so when he returns he can get revenge on the guy he hates and get his belt back at the same time.” I know they’re trying to not say shit to get us to figure it out ourselves, but c’mon guys.
This show is understandably terrible, but is maybe the greatest-ever example of a “one match show” in WWE history. The main event is Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker in the first (and arguably still the best) Hell in a Cell match. You can’t get much better than that. Undertaker beats the living Christ out of — into? — Shawn, knocks him off the side of the cage through a table and is ready to finish him off when the lights go out. Then they go red.
Here’s Vince McMahon delivering a call so good a lot of people remember it as JR:
Kane finally debuts by ripping the door off the cell, Tombstone piledriving his brother, and setting off like 20 years of the most ridiculous cartoonish nonsense you’ve ever seen on a North American big leagues wrestling show. Without this match we wouldn’t have electrocuted testicles, Shane McMahon killing Kane in a literal dumpster fire, Jim Ross being burned, multiple kidnappings and pregnancies and wedding mishaps, necrophilia stories, supernatural blackmail rape angles, people having fireballs thrown at their faces, hilarious “demon in therapy” segments, like a half dozen actual murders, Zack Ryder getting pushed off the stage in a wheelchair, and easily the most absurd mayoral candidate in Knox County, TN, history. That’s gotta be Kane.
Also of note: he debuts to help D-X, and his first words as an adult man end up being “suck it.”
And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for October 6, 1997.
Worst Best: The Actual Most Unfortunate Tonal Shift In The History Of Our Sport
So, remember how this week’s Nitro started with a silent tribute to Pillman, then transitioned directly into one of the Nitro Girls’ boobs falling out? Raw attempts to top that by doing a somber 10-bell salute for Brian, then going straight into Shawn MIchaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley giving Michael Cole a wedgie.
Feel free to use that when Cole says anything ever. This is to “welcome him” to the World Wrestling Federation, even though he’s been around since June.
Michaels runs through his list of nicknames and gets the “nimrods in the truck” to replay his victory at Hell in a Cell. But whoops, they play the Madison Square Garden incident where the Kliq broke kayfabe saying goodbye to Hall and Nash, and that causes Shawn and Hunter — wait, is that where they got the character from Boy Meets World? — to launch into a full-on VINCE MCMAHON OWNS THE COMPANY AND ALSO GOOD GUYS AND BAD GUYS AND WE STOMP WHEN WE PUNCH Exposed! Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Secrets.
If that’s not enough of a tonal shift, the Hart Foundation interrupts and Bret cranks up his dorky Canadian “that’s a GIRLIE magazine” backhanded homophobia to 11. He says the H in HBK stands for “homo,” identifies the “guy in the green shirt” (Helmsley) as a “homo,” and accuses Michaels of “barebacking” his way to the WWF Championship. Woof. Woof.
Interestingly enough, it’s Bret’s homophobia here that leads to the accidental creation of D-X’s catchphrase. Shawn’s response to all the “you’re gay” taunting is this:
So if you were ever wondering how “suck my dick” because a big hit at your local elementary school in the late ’90s, it’s because Bret Hart called Shawn Michaels gay so much Shawn told him to suck his dick. I think the most jarring thing of all is hearing Shawn’s nonchalant “not a catchphrase” delivery of, more or less, “we’ve got two words for ya,” and the Raw crowd not immediately screaming SUCK IT at the top of their lungs.
Best Worst: The (De)-Evolution Of Jim Cornette
If you ever wondered why Jim Cornette went from a funny, motor-mouthed runt manager to an old codger who can’t stop screaming at you about how literally every aspect of pro wrestling is wrong, take a look at these legendary 1997 “shoot” promos that start in this week’s episode. Cornette discovered that simply yelling about wrestling could get him more attention than standing near it.
They’re great bits, don’t get me wrong, especially for the time. Cornette’s always been a talented talker. But there’s already such a drastic difference between the mid-20s Cornette from the Best and Worst of NWA and the late-30s version here that they seem like completely different people. This Cornette feels like NWA Cornette’s pissed-off grandpa.
If you haven’t seen them, this one’s about how the nWo sucks but Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and (randomly) Mick Foley are all great. It also includes him saying Eric Bischoff is a “big fan of hanging around studly guys with long hair and beards who smoke cigars and ride Harleys so some of that can rub off on his little pansy ass frame.” How funny is it that these “WCW sucks” segments manage to put over the Horsemen in the nWo feud more than WCW ever did?
Anyway, I kept waiting for him to play laser tag.
Worst: Hooray, Marc Mero Is Back
Raise your hand if you’re ready for Pure Sports Build Johnny B. Badd!
Marc Mero is back with a new haircut, new gear and a new finish, hoping to make you forget about “The Wildman” and see him as a super cereal boxer in an attempt to postpone his eventual gimmick, “Sable’s husband.” As I’m sure you’ve heard in every Mero match ever, he’s a former Gold Gloves boxer, a talent extremely useful in a sport where closed fists are still kinda-sorta illegal. You know, WWE completely ignores that these days, but the reason closed fists were illegal in the first place is so fans watching could buy someone getting hit in the face for 10 minutes and not leave as a lumpy, bloody mess.
Anyway, Mero gets a re-debut squash over Miguel Perez with the “TKO”, the fireman’s carry into a cutter you gave at least one character when you joined an e-fed.
Best: Stone Cold, Meet The Rock
Suddenly Acknowledged Authority Figure Vince McMahon once again tries to reason with irrational injured person Stone Cold Steve Austin and ends up agreeing to Austin vs. Owen Hart for — get this, announce team — the Intercontinental Championship at Survivor Series.
In a thoroughly historic note, Faarooq shows up on the TitanTron flanked by the Nation of Domination to talk about how tough he is. This is playing on what happened at Badd Blood, but more importantly you’ve got The Rock staring at Austin over Faarooq’s shoulder. This is unofficially the beginning of the setup for a rivalry that would catch fire after Survivor Series, and only end after they’d main-evented three WrestleManias together in four years. This is getting good.
Best: Brother Nero, I Knew You’d Come
Kane’s official Raw debut makes him an instant star, giving us not only the full HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE entrance and a promo from Paul Bearer, but a violent squash job of the best possibly guys to squash in the World Wrestling Federation in 1997, Matt and Jeff Hardy. This is the pre-Crisis Daizee Haze-ass Hardys, if you can’t tell by Jeff’s bright neon pants with NERO down the leg.
Seven years later, Kane would defeat Matt in a “Til Death Do Us Part” match that allowed him to marry Matt’s fiancée, so Matt probably considers that time he got his brother’s nuts lobbed onto his forehead as the “good old days.”
Worst Ever: Jesus Christ, Guys
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it because holy shit, but the World Wrestling Federation’s followup to the death of Brian Pillman was to bring on his wife Melanie, ask her a bunch of questions about whether or not she feels bad that her husband’s dead, and do a slow zoom-in on her face while she answers. This shit makes Katie Vick look like a ‘My Sacrifice’ video.
Let’s get back to the wrestling as quickly as possible.
wait not this part
Owen Hart was in no shape to be wrestling at Badd Blood, so you can imagine how bad things are a day later on Raw when he’s had to be in a 10-bell salute and watch Brian’s wife mourn in extreme close-up. It doesn’t help that he’s wrestling Road Warrior Hawk, or that it ends with a Godwinns vs. Legion of Doom run-in fight and Owen hitting Hawk with a horseshoe.
In the interest of saying something nice about this, enjoy that awkward kid leaning all the way into the shot.
As for that Godwinns match I mentioned int he Badd Blood write-up, here is an actual picture, believe it or not, from The Godwinns vs. The Headbangers. This is the most “everybody fights” Everybody Fights I’ve ever seen.
It’s supposed to be a lumberjack match featuring a bunch of racially segregated teams that hate each other “working together” as lumberjacks, and God knows WWE can’t have a lumberjack match without making everyone forget the rules and start fighting. This brawl ends up involving the Godwinns, the Headbangers, the entire Truth Commission, the Nation of Domination, Los Boricuas, the Disciples of Apocalypse, The Sultan (?), Rockabilly (??) and so on. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t make The Godwinns vs. The Headbangers any better. It’s like putting ketchup on an off-brand cream soda.
The British Bulldog vs. Rocky Maivia ends about three minutes in with a Hart Foundation vs. Nation of Domination brawl, and I swear, at least WCW mostly confined the gang fights to one specific gang you could choose to love or hate and follow. On Raw, there were like 35 competing nWos that just showed up to battle-royal punch each other over literally anything. “Oh, a MATCH RESULT is about to happen? Send out four guys! SEND OUT FOUR MORE. NOW GO TO COMMERCIAL.”
Bret Gets Screwed
Not sure I can give it a Best or a Worst, it’s just something you’re gonna have to get used to reading for the next month of shows. WWE was kind of brilliant in the way they planned to screw Bret Hart in real life, so they laid all this kayfabe groundwork of him being an out-of-touch complainer who was always whining about “being screwed.” That way when he was actually screwed, they’d turned him into a Boy Who Cried Wolf. True evil shit.
Here, Bret goes up against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who is now officially “Triple H.” The announcers are already starting to gently bury Bret’s wrestling ability by winking and nudging at his moveset being predictable, and Bret loses by count-out when Chyna and Shawn Michaels team up to take him out on the floor. It’s not much of a match, as no Triple H match without Foley in it was good until he and The Rock decided to level each other up, but the major points are that (1) Michaels and H are childish goons, and (2) Bret is too self-obsessed and worried about everything to mentally out-fox childish goons.
Michaels and Helmsley’s faction finally gets its name, Stone Cold Steve Austin gets a pop for signing a waiver, and the Godwinns somehow prove to be worse Tag Team Champions than the Headbangers.