Monday, May 18, 2020

RAW After Mania (March 24th, 1997): The Rebuilding Process

Well, it's the night after Wrestlemania 13, featuring one of - if not THE - best Wrestlemania match in the history of the event... and also Undertaker beat Sid for the title.

1997 was the year that began the rebuilding process for the WWF, taking the promotion from a money-losing entity relying on cartoonish gimmicks to a multi-million dollar empire producing edgier content appealing the teenaged anti-establishment audience that dominated much of the 1990s. This was the first step in forging this new direction.

The British Bulldog and Owen Hart get DQ'ed in a match against the Headbangers because they were arguing and Bulldog pushed a ref down. It seems this troubled relationship has gotten to the point where Owen challenges Bulldog to a match for Bulldog's European championship next week on RAW. The tag match itself meant nothing, as it was just dressing for the tag champs to come to blow and provide a prelude to next week.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Bart Gunn in a boring match. Only highlight is Chyna slamming Bart Gunn on the outside, which is probably the whole point of this match to begin with, so good for Chyna.

And then there's a Trios match with a bunch of luchadores whose names I don't know and this was a complete waste of time. This was somewhat countering WCW's excellent Cruiserweight division, which had great talent... but this was half-hearted, the announcers sounded like they didn't care, and I ended up skipping this one.

Flash Funk squashes the Brooklyn Brawler... well, they needed to fill time somehow.

Ken Shamrock explains his reasoning for stopping the Bret Hart/Steve Austin match at Wrestlemania and put over Steve Austin... and that leads us to Bret Hart coming out to cut a scathing promo on the American fans; calling them disrespectful pricks for treating the beaten and bloodied Austin like a hero while booing the righteous Hitman. He takes the time to bring up his Canadian roots and tells the Americans to kiss his ass. This brings out Shawn to defend America and after a few words, Bret beats on Shawn's "bad" knee and applies the figure four around the ring post for further damage before Sid shows up.

Words do not properly convey how good this was. Bret Hart, a guy who was always criticized for being a bland promo guy, delivered what I thought was a very passionate and very believable segment that laid the groundworks for the Harts Vs. America feud that permeated the middle part of 1997... probably because he actually believed what he was saying. It's something that gets mocked by others, but honestly, if more people put more effort into their stuff and treated it with more seriousness and gravity, wrestling would've been seen as more than just shitty fake stuff.

Intercontinental champion Rocky Maivia beat Al Snow in a match, then got attacked by Bret Hart, which earned him a thumbs up from Al Snow. Excellent.

Ahmed Johnson fights Savio Vega and gets beat up by the Nation of Domination. Ahmed then talks about a match to get rid of the Nation... yeah, good luck with that, pal.

Finally, WWF Champion Undertaker comes out from a promo, gives props to Sid for being a man (and not pooping his pants... maybe not) and then talks about Mankind being a dangerous fellow. Then Paul Bearer shows up, and then Mankind appears on screen, and then the show ends... okay.

This was a one-segment show. The Bret Hart promo is the one thing that holds this show together and for what it's worth, the rest of the show isn't terrible. It can only get better from here.

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