I’m like many wrestling fans at the moment – I have plenty of free time. And while the likes of WWE and AEW are still going about their business as normal, giving fans something to watch each and every week, the prospect of watching empty arena shows has quickly lost its appeal. So I’ve been making good use of WWE Network’s (almost) bottomless vault by going down the wormhole that is 1997.
Inspired by The Attitude Era Podcast’s latest episode on In Your House: Badd Blood, I’ve been watching episodes of RAW from that period. While it’s been great to see what happened between Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Bret Hart, the Nation of Domination and so on, my curiosity for the period led me to find out what happened on the other side – World Championship Wrestling‘s Nitro.
However, before we see what the big boys are playing at, let’s see what the fallout was from Badd Blood. The show began in a mournful tone as the WWE roster put their differences aside to pay tribute to Brian Pillman, who had passed away just over 24 hours ago in a hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Shawn Michaels came to the ring alongside Hunter Hearst Hemsley and Chyna. Sporting stitches in his forehead, Michaels was in a jovial mood having defeated the Undertaker in the first Hell in a Cell match last night. Yet, before getting down to business, Helmsley and Michaels welcomed recent broadcast team edition, Michael Cole, to the company with a wedgie. “That’s going to leave a mark,” said Michaels as the others continued to toy with Cole. For the next few minutes, Michaels bragged about his greatness while taking a subtle dig at WCW and their current use of the word “icon”.
As they turned their attention to the “Titan Tron”, footage from the infamous “curtain call” in Madison Square Garden is shown as HHH and Michaels mocked the situation. Over on the commentary desk, Vince McMahon looked disappointed as the duo mock him “for being an ass”.
The Hart Foundation entered to a mixed reaction. Bret Hart addressed the “boy toy” calling him the lowest form of scum he’s ever come across before labelling him “a degenerate”. While his use of calling both HHH and HBK as “homos” definitely wouldn’t be accepted today. It’s clear the real-life tension between Hart and Michaels is simmering underneath as a match between Hart and Helmsley is made for later that night.
Next, we had tag team action as the Headbangers faced the newly crowned Tag Team Champions, the Godwinns, in a lumberjack match. With the Nation of Domination, Legion of Doom, DoA, the Truth Commission and others surrounding the ring, McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler discussed ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s situation – not being cleared to wrestle. Just minutes into the match, all the lumberjacks entered the ring for a melee before the Headbangers rolled up for the 1-2-3.
A returning Marc Mero made quick work Los Boricuas’ Miguel Perez (one of the hairiest wrestlers you’ll ever see), yet it’s Sable who got the biggest reaction from the crowd.
On our screen next was Jim Cornette sharing his uncensored opinion, something which he undoubtedly still gives today. He bemoaned the childish and egotistical new World order, especially Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean “Syxx-Pac” Waltman, takes aim at Eric Bischoff’s relentless spending to boost his own ego before he rallied fans to celebrate the likes of Cactus Jack, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair.
The Nation of Domination’s Rocky Mavia vs the Hart Foundation’s the British Bulldog was up next. They produced a well-paced match yet it’s difficult to enjoy due to the heel versus heel dynamic. A precursor to ‘The People’s Elbow’ was pulled off for a two-count before Bulldog won with a running powerslam. A melee between both factions inevitably happened afterwards.
We’re shown Austin’s involvement in Owen Hart’s Intercontinental title victory over Farooq. McMahon was in the ring with a clipboard as he’s joined by Austin. He refused to sign forms to reinstate himself to wrestle as he demanded an Intercontinental title match against Hart. McMahon agreed to give Austin what he wants, but Austin wanted paperwork with proof. Farooq interrupted on the big screen with a rambling promo about “ass” and how Austin’s belongs to him.
The new IC champion was action next, defending the title against Road Warrior Hawk. Beforehand Owen cut a promo aimed at Austin “to take his best shot”. The Godwinns made their way to ringside, before striking Hawk with a bucket. Animal came down to take out the Tag Team champions, yet Uncle Cletus and Henry Godwinn interfered to give Owen the win.
One of WWE’s most questionable moments was aired next as McMahon interviewed Melanie Pillman about her husband’s death. Even after 20 years, it’s not comfortable viewing especially as Vince questions about the use of medication, and what she’ll do next to support her family. In hindsight, it’s distasteful and disrespectful to expect a widowing wife to come on live TV and talk about her loved one’s passing. A potent tribute narrated by JR is followed.
In the ring, some young rookies called the Hardy Boys waited. The lights went out as Kane and Paul Bearer entered the arena. The red machine threw Matt and Jeff out the ring before Bearer cut a promo. Close up shots of Kane were shown as Bearer threatened the Undertaker and the destruction that is coming his way.
Finally, it was main event time as HHH with Chyna took on WWF Champion Bret Hart. Minutes into the match, HBK made his way down to ringside to use the Canadian flag to pick his nose. The rest of the Hart Foundation soon joined at ringside as Hart and HHH went back and forth. Rick Rude hit Bulldog with a briefcase as the ref got distracted. On the other side of the ring, HBK hit Bret with Sweet Chin Music as HHH won via count-out.
This episode of RAW has it’s good and bad moments. There’s the continuing dominance of the “triple threat” (the eventual D-Generation X) to the ongoing rise of Austin to Kane’s monstrous arrival. There are significant moments throughout, building up key storylines. Yet it’s countered by the distasteful Melanie Pillman segment, Hart’s use of homophobia and 20 minutes of Michaels unbearably showering himself in praise. While it seems everyone besides a handful of guys is aligned in a group. Sure it gives folk TV time but do we need reminding of the New Blackjacks or Rock-a-Billy?
You watch this episode of Monday Night Raw on the WWE Network.
Photos and video courtesy of WWE.