At Odds with Wrestling Homework: WWF Monday Night Raw February 24, 1997

Welcome to another edition of At Odds homework. Each and every week without a “premium live event” a classic wrestling event is assigned. In the last episode, Joe gave the date of the show but not the details. I watched this on Peacock, and did not need an unedited original version. Because I have watched this show dozens of times. 

Many many years ago I taped wrestling every Monday night. Most of these tapes feature a lot of channel flipping between Raw and Nitro. Some had big segments that drew my attention and I kept those tapes. There are stacks of notebooks somewhere in which I wrote down everything that happened and started numbering the tapes. The internet grew bigger, WWE Network happened, and keeping bookshelves full of VHS seemed a bad idea. However, somewhere in storage I still have this original airing. Why? Because for the first time on Raw, ECW is in the house!!!!!

During the height of the Monday Night Wars this was a huge shock. An actual outsider company showing up on another company’s flagship show. Sure, we know a lot more now about how much money WWE was giving to Paul Heyman and ECW, but this was unprecedented at the time. Lets get right to the action and then take a nostalgic look back. 

This takes place from the Manhattan Center. Vince and the King are the commentary team. 

The Godwinns vs the New Blackjacks. 

Quick good fight to start the match. Oh hey, Ken Shamrock is sitting in the front row. It’s not bad but Bradshaw and Windham should have been an ass kicking team, much like a team that will be showing up later. Maybe Barry was being protected and couldn’t work much better than this. Bradshaw with a big clothesline, but not yet his signature one. Windham pins Phineas, who has his foot on the rope but the referee doesn’t see it and Windham moves it off anyways. A second referee comes in to argue, but the first one wont change his decision. That referee gets slopped. 

Average WWF tag match for the time. Nothing good but nothing bad. 

The Eliminators and Paul E Dangerously come through the crowd. Total Elimination on a member of the ring crew. Paul screams, “your challenge is accepted. ECW is in the house!” I don’t know what was airing on Nitro during the previous tag match but there’s no way anyone changed channels once this happened. 

Paul E introduces the ECW wrestlers for their matches. The bWo comes out. Paul joins for commentary. 

Big Stevie Cool vs Little Guido. 

Great commentary about bWo. “Who and what are we ripping off.” “The clothing line.” Very funny dig. Raven shows up as a distraction. Paul tells Vince, “if this announce thing doesn’t work out for you we can give you a job in ECW.” We all knew but this is before WWE admitted Vince is the owner. Goldust shows up for a picture in picture interview and I’m not sure if he’s trying to be weird and aloof or if he’s all screwed up. Oh hey, La Femme Nikita is next. Stevie Kick for the pin. 

Hey, Sunny’s in a robe. 

Honky Tonk Man comes out to officiate the arm wrestling match. Sunny comes out to remove her robe and does her best Rick Rude impression. To play up to my gimmick, her outfit would fit in with today’s women’s wrestling gear. Still the height of her powers Sunny. Marlena comes out gingerly and we see the attacks from last week when the yet unnamed Chyna debuted. Sunny offers Marlena a forfeit because she’s injured. Marlena makes her refusal a matter of pride. Which is a good way to go with this, because it damn sure isn’t for a title shot. The arm wrestling prep is suggestive as hell. Honky might be as perverted as King. Sunny keeps stalling, Marlena stalls to even it up. Again, because it’s me, Marlena’s “pants” or whatever they are are barely there. Sunny grabs powder from somewhere, I’m not really sure where, and throws it at Marlena. Savio Vega comes out to accost Marlena. Goldust makes the save which leads into…

Goldust vs Savio Vega. 

Goldust is on his own but the Nation of Domination is outside – Crush, PG-13, D’Lo, Clarence Mason. No Faarooq because he’s preparing for his match later. Sunny stays out there and she actually makes a lot of sense. She has a history with Faarooq. She’s doing nothing else. This might be one of the best examples of shitty WWE booking. Here is the most popular woman on the internet, the most attractive woman in wrestling, and they don’t know what to do with her. Sunny with the Nation could have been interesting. This is right before the Attitude Era. So what if WWE took the blonde girl next door and had her come out with a biker, a Puerto Rican, and a Black man. Play up the “by any means necessary” bit, maybe even have her overly sexualize it. On the other side though, here’s someone we don’t want to hear talk – Miguel Perez. Miguel joins for commentary to discuss Savio turning heel and either falls asleep, or forgets he’s there, or is waiting for a red carpet invitation from Vince to speak. The Nation walks around the outside. Crush has one quick moment of physicality against Goldust. Sunny is the most active on the outside and adds more to the Nation surrounding the ring than any actual member of the group does. Crush comes into the ring to attack Goldust and that’s the DQ. Miguel wakes up and jumps in to save Goldust. The rest of the Nation is too busy posing on the outside to notice. 

WWE remembers the late Tiny Tim. Ratings grabber. King interviews Ken Shamrock and his lacking promo skills. Slammy Awards commercial. 

“Has this show sucked without ECW?” Yes Paul. 

Mickey Whipwreck vs Taz (with Fonzie and Team Taz).

King and Paul are really getting into it on commentary. Faarooq has a picture in picture interview. Sabu dives off of the Raw sign onto Team Taz. Taz-mission for the win and it was a dominant win by Taz. 

Headbangers vs. ???

The Legion of Doom returns. Listen to the crowd. New York City crowd. Rabid ECW crowd. And the Road Warriors pop overtakes them all. Animal hits one of the Headbangers with a nasty power bomb. This match ends up being much more competitive than the return of LOD should have been. This should have been a dominant return. The match ends with a double count out, again a poor decision. LOD hits a post match Doomsday Device to give the crowd something. 

The Shawn Michaels “Tell Me a Lie” video airs and it’s even more cringe worthy than I remembered it to be. 

D-Von Dudley (with Sign Guy Dudley) vs Tommy Dreamer (with Beulah McGillicutty).

Dreamer looks like a kid. I mean, I know he’s older than me and was then too but now 25 years later he looks like a child here. Beulah looks beautiful here and probably could have given Sunny some competition on a larger platform like this. The plunder comes out. Dreamer drop kicks the steps into D-Von. King and Paul get even more heated. The Undertaker shows up for a picture in picture interview. D-Von drags Beulah into the ring. Beulah kicks him in the balls. Dreamer DDT’s Dudley onto a chair and gets the pin. Bubba Ray comes out to attack. Sandman makes the save. King and Paul finally get pissed off. King shoves Paul, thus making first contact. The ECW wrestlers come out to have Paul’s back. 

The European championship will be decided next week. King challenges Paul E for any time in the future. Bret vs Sid highlights. Way too many highlights shown here, especially now that ECW is done for this show and fans could turn to the other channel. Todd Pettengil interviews Ken Shamrock and he does a much better job speaking here. 

Faarooq vs Undertaker. 

The Nation overwhelmed the Undertaker. Oh hey, we get a Full Metal rewind. I think I still have that CD. The match is fun at first but then either the two of them get lost or maybe even tired. There is a far too long headlock rest hold. The Nation jumps in, which causes the DQ. LOD comes back out to make the save and that’s the episode. 

Honestly, the ECW segments are still the best ones on the show. Disqualifications, screwy pinfalls, and an arm wrestling match which also has a DQ from WWE. Meanwhile the ECW matches were decisive. Every WWE talent is booked terribly here and if they hadn’t stumbled into Attitude I really think WCW would have won. This ECW influence probably helped turn Vince’s booking decisions. Also, many ECW haters including King here talk about the excess and damage to their bodies and drug use. Yet every ECW wrestler who wrestled a match on this show is still alive. Not so much for the WWE talent. 

There’s also the passion for the crowd, for every ECW segment and for the Road Warriors. Where is that same excitement now? There’s no company that could show up on another show and get this kind of reaction today. Maybe that’s what’s missing. The underground punk rock aggression that drives an entire promotion to have blind loyalty from their fans.

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