The Best And Worst Of WWF Raw Is War 9/22/97: Austin Pity Limits

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Everybody fought, Taka Michinoku fought a kitty cat, and Stone Cold Steve Austin kicked a field goal with Jerry Lawler’s crown. Also, Brian Pillman revealed that being forced into sexual slavery for a month turns you into a Suicide Girl.

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 September 22, 1997.

Before We Begin, You Need To Know That A Freddie Blassie Hologram Has Trapped Sable In A Running Man Scenario In Which She’s A Secret Agent Forced Into Laser Tag Duels

No, seriously.

Behold the wonder that is Sable’s Secret Mission, which I assume is the prequel to Torrie Wilson’s Big Apple Takedown. Sable, on a secret mission, wanders into “Dr. Evil Madman’s Lazer Tag.” It’s a giant Freddie Blassie face in an eyepatch. Also, per the sign, pedestrians aren’t allowed in here.

But yeah, the Reverend Dr. Evil Madman forces Sable to do laser tags with Howard Finkel, who is still trying to make public announcements while he battles? And also referee Tim White is there to administer some Three Stooges-style shenanigans? There’s a whole backstory with these, including a separate mission where the good Reverend Dr. Evil Madman Esquire freezes Wildman Marc Mero and Sable has to … uh, help Marc Mero get heat? These got pretty real.

Join us in the coming weeks as we hope to put this narrative together. Hope this doesn’t become a Blonde Bytch Project!

Worst: They Don’t Know What They’ve Got

A few weeks ago, Rocky Maivia turned heel. A week later, he cut his first heel promo. Then he wasn’t on very much for a couple of weeks, and here he is cleanly losing an Intercontinental Championship Tournament first round match to oft-injured bridesmaid-ass Ahmed Johnson. It takes a while for these things to ramp up, sometimes. It took Austin 3:16 from May until November (or, arguably, the next summer) to really become a thing. The “yes movement” had a WrestleMania between the one where the “yes” chants took over and the one where the “yes” chants were encouraged.

I was gonna make a joke about Ahmed Johnson injuring himself again, but then he does it for real by being the only person in wrestling history to cut himself on an errant nail in the announce table. Later in the show he does a run-in with his hand all bandaged up, and has to do these hilarious overhead punches with a diaper hand. Meanwhile, Maivia is getting loud “ROCKY SUCKS” chants, and the Madison Square Garden crowd is connecting to him and booing everything he does. Really happy they figure this one out.

Oh, and speaking of guys always getting injured, you may notice in the graphic that despite losing to Ken Shamrock last week, Faarooq has somehow advanced in the tournament. That’s because Faarooq and the Nation attacked Shamrock after the match and gave him the dreaded and trademarked Ken Shamrock Internal Bleeding™. New rule: if you lose, injure the guy who beat you and they’ll have to pretend you won.

Everybody Fights!

It wouldn’t be the vintage Best and Worst of Raw without everybody fights, shining a spotlight on 1997 WWE’s favorite trope: ending a match with everybody’s friends running out and punching each other in and around the ring until a commercial break.

Up first this week is the Legion of Doom vs. Faarooq and Kama Mustafa, which ends with — get this — a Nation of Domination run-in. D’Lo Brown and Rocky Maivia interfere to prevent a Doomsday Device, and it becomes a 4-on-2 attack. That brings out ol’ tampon hand Ahmed Johnson, who throws wad and really wishes he’d worn an elbow pad on his hand that night. He’s quickly overwhelmed, because he has the proportionate strength and speed of a pre-wiped ass, so half a dozen referees have to run out and stop the Nation. Nothing stands up to separatism like seeing black and white united on the chest of laser tag henchman Tim White!

What’s good for the mid-card is good for the main event, so this week’s final segment is ALSO everybody fights.

Bret Hart taps out depressed bad decision machine Goldust (more on him later) to a Sharpshooter, but he’s a dick, so he won’t let it go. Shawn Michaels runs out and attacks him from behind to break it up, and Triple H shows up to help. That brings out Owen Hart to make it 2-on-2, and so many people start doing run-ins that they begin overlapping, like when a fast guy almost passes his teammate on a base-clearing double. British Bulldog tries to run-in, but he’s injured, so Rick Rude runs in right alongside him and kicks him in the leg. That triggers the long-awaited return of Natalya’s … I wanna say uncle? Definitely her uncle, Jim Neidhart. Bret is the dad, I watch Smackdown.

That eventually brings out the Undertaker, who brawls a little before ending the fight by chokeslamming Bret and Shawn at the same time. The highlight is probably watching Rick Rude trying not to void his Lloyd’s of London insurance policy by desperately explaining to Jim Neidhart why they can’t battle-royal brawl.

Oh, also, did I mention that Shawn Michaels is European Champion now?

Yep, that happened at One Night Only, their “restricted availability” British show. The win made Michaels WWE’s first “grand slam” champion, having held the WWF Heavyweight, Intercontinental, Tag Team and European Championships. Pretty soon that task got easier when they were like, “you can win either of the two heavyweight titles, either of the two tag team titles, either of the two secondary titles and either of the two tertiary titles.” You can spend a good weekend at the Impact tapings and come out a “grand slam champion,” but this was the first.

Best: Cactus, Jack

This episode features the all-time Raw classic debut of Cactus Jack, wherein Mankind and Dude Love agree (as separate human beings, seen speaking to one another) that they should step aside and let Cactus do their dirty work. Coming in after the SummerSlam cage match but before the next spring’s King of the Ring Hell in a Cell match, I think this is the one that connected with the most people and really took Foley to the next level as a WWF guy.

It’s still great. Watch it again, if you’ve got ten minutes. In a totally unexpected match in the middle of hour two of Raw you get Chyna clotheslining Cactus over the barrier into the crowd, Foley taking unprotected bodyslams on the floor backstage, fire extinguishers, the entire guardrail getting tipped over, Chyna getting mashed into the ring steps, backdrops onto the steel ramp and, of course, the now legendary piledriver on the table on the stage.

Maybe I’m biased from having loved him in WCW and then ECW, but Cactus Jack as a persona really tied Mick Foley together. Without him, you’ve got “the deranged” Mankind and faux-ironic Shawn Michaels Dude Love, and they both feel a little artificial. By tying in Foley’s past as a legitimate death match legend with a super serious and bloody pedigree, it put the other two characters into perspective and made them feel almost like “escapes” from Cactus. Mankind was the version that didn’t handle it as well, and as time went on, Mankind became a more palatable fan favorite than Dude Love, Dude Love got corrupted, and Cactus Jack never stopped being crazy as shit.

Great stuff. Maybe my favorite of their matches until H levels up and Royal Rumble 2000 happens.

Best: Owen Hart, Or

Worst: Goldust Is Making Some Really Bad Decisions

On the Brian Pillman side of the Marlena angle, he’s indentured her in sexual servitude so long now that he’s basically dressing her in underwear and dragging her around by a dog collar with a chain on it. On the Goldust side, the announce team mentions that when this is all said and done, Goldust and Marlena plan to renew their wedding vows. Again, this point of this was that when they got to the wedding Marlena would flip the script and reveal that she’s actually been will Pillman all along, retroactively explaining away the grosser parts of this, but we didn’t get there … so it looks like Goldust’s response to watching his wife get abused on TV for a month is, “hey babe, when you’re done being abducted and raped for several weeks because I lost a wrestling match, let’s do something romantic!”

Pillman and Owen Hart face off in round one of the Intercontinental Championship Tournament, and it ends before it really gets going with a Goldust run-in. Goldust hits Owen on his way through and doesn’t actually get his hands on Pillman, so it counts as a DQ win for Owen. On a sad note, this ends up being Pillman’s last Raw match before he dies.

Owen, because he’s the greatest, goes on the microphone to brag about his victory and dedicates his tournament win to his brother Bret. Owen, brother, you are the opposite of the rest of this.

Best: It’s You, Austin, It Was You All Along

The most important moment of the Owen promo becomes the aftermath. Owen brings a bunch of policemen to the ring to protect him from a random Stone Cold Steve Austin attack, and, sure enough, he attacks. He jumps Owen from behind during his promo and gets ready to FIGHT A BUNCH OF COPS, Observe and Report style. Vince McMahon gets into the ring to cool things down, and maybe for the only time in the history of Vince McMahon The Television Character approaches the situation with compassion and a cool head.

He’s seen what’s been going on with Austin since Owen tried to break his neck. He keeps showing up and getting the short end of the stick, getting put on a medical leave he doesn’t want or agree with and having the Intercontinental AND Tag Team Championship stripped from him. In response he’s hit a Stone Cold Stunner on Sgt. Slaughter, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler. Vince knows that if Austin puts his hand on non-wrestling real-life police officers, he’s going to jail, and it’s going to be a huge mess. Plus, you know, he loses his show’s biggest star.

So he gets in the ring and is like, “Hey Austin, I get it. You’re having a really hard time with the injury, and it’s really unfair to you that we’re keeping you off cards and taking away the championships you won. It sucks really bad. But you have to relax enough to at least not attack police officers, which can get you sent to prison in real life.” Again, it’s Vince approaching Austin like a human being for maybe the one and only time ever.

Austin’s response:

Vince sells the Stunner like he died on the point of impact and is just a corpse now, Austin gets handcuffed and taken to jail for the first time — but definitely not the last — and what eventually becomes the most important and beloved storyline in WWE history, Austin vs. McMahon, is underway. By tbe end of November, McMahon would end up the most hated Lawful Evil in professional wrestling, and Fed fans would need a true Chaotic Neutral to bring him down.

And then they all swim in money for the next 20 years.

Next Week:

  • Vince McMahon gives Stone Cold Steve Austin some options
  • D-X “sells” for the Hart Foundation
  • Sable defeats the Tag Team Champions in a handicap laser tag match
  • Mike Chioda gets pimp-slapped by a diaper hand