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Sunny Days – So with Raw being two hours now, and the WWF keen to get Bret Hart, Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels on television as much as humanly possible, we’ve seen a lot of Bret cutting promos lately, which is hardly his strong point. Including a closing segment on Raw where he went so long Raw actually went off the air before Michaels could superkick Bret out of his wheelchair.
On the May 19th Raw, after another long; rambling promo from Bret that eventually offered up a challenge to Shawn at June’s King of the Ring that Bret would beat him in ten minutes or never wrestle again in the United States, Bret was interrupted by Shawn. Shawn said that Bret struggled to make ten minutes in anything, let alone the hour he couldn’t beat him in last year, and that he’d also been experiencing “Sunny Days” recently. It came at a time when the pair had largely agreed to keep the personal jabs to a minimum.
Stung from both ends – WCW’s build of Hogan and Sting had, to date, been pretty simple. Limit Sting’s involvement, and protect him to hell whenever it came for the two to meet. So twice at the conclusion of Nitro this month we had variations of Bischoff calling out Sting, pretending not to be scared, only to shit himself when push came to shove.
In the first instance, Bischoff had the roof covered before Sting climbed up through the ring and pulled him under. In the second, Sting rappelled down from the ceiling, scaring off Hogan and the NWO. Which the idea was that as the NWO regrouped and surrounded the ring, Sting would be lined back up to the roof – but a timing snafu meant it did quite work. Still, the pairing was over as hell with the live fans. At the time it seemed like the first Hogan vs Sting match would be held well before December, the first was actually slated for a live event in June when both WWF and WCW were in Los Angeles on the same night.
My Enemies Enemy – The WWF/E have done the unlikely tag team champions thing to death since, but there was a time when this wasn’t the norm. Bundled into the feud between the Hart Foundation and Austin and Shawn was a challenge from Owen and Bulldog to defend the tag titles against Michaels and Austin – who barely co-existed long enough to listen to the challenge before they started tearing each other apart. Still, while the challenge had been accepted it seemed like both were looking for separate partners. Michaels had found a warrior in Ken Shamrock, Steve Austin seemed more content in his partner… Harvey Whippleman.
Still, the date was set for May 26th, and Austin and Michaels were indeed put in the main event against the Champs, and boy did they deliver… With a rabid crowd, Shawn Michaels first match since January and three other guys all over and good this match was a terrific TV match. Michaels and Austin found some common ground attempting to fight off the numbers game with Bret, Pillman and Anvil watching on. With the ref dealing with Owen, HBK leathered Bulldog with a superkick and Austin pinned him for the big win.
The Other Double J – JJ Dillon had been shipped in as the defecto representative of WCW in affairs against the NWO. While it didn’t carry the same gravitas as a Harvey Schiller or even Ted Turner himself (both of which who’d appeared in WCW business in the past few years). But Dillon was around more, and had a better grasp of wrestling so the switch made sense. But when he got involved in attempting to defuse a post-match NWO beatdown, he got more than he bargained for as both Syxx and Kevin Nash berated him on camera for his treatment of them “in New York”.
When Was The Last Black WWF Champion? – WWF in 1997 was just a weird time. They were still sponsored by water pistol commercials and they were still catering to as many audiences as possible. Still, while the batting average remained relatively similar to 1996, their willingness to go well beyond the boundaries of where they’d been before was significantly higher. Take the build of Farooq vs The Undertaker for King of the Ring – an in ring promo with Farooq and Vince saw Farooq quickly turn the question to race. Farooq asked when the last time a black man got a shot at the WWF title, even questioning why bitter rival Ahmed Johnson wasn’t offered the opportunity. It was an awkward question that probably hit a little closer to home than anyone in the WWF would’ve liked to admit. Still, little did anyone know that it was Farooq’s run-in (or lack-thereof) with Rocky Maivia later in the month that would provide a preview into that answer.
Wins For Raw? – While WWE history (correctly, for once!) says that Nitro defeated Raw for 84 consecutive weeks in the ratings, the asterisk behind that is that was only for head to head shows. For a four week run starting at the end of April Nitro was contracted to an hour and shunted to 7pm to accommodate then NBA play-offs. Nitro, for once, was playing the lead-in to Raw, which capitalised with four of its biggest ratings in months. Despite this, and despite Raw largely being pretty good, when Nitro returned to it’s usual time-slot at the end of the month it returned to winning ways. The talk in May, actually, was whether Raw may end up being pushed to a later time-slot later in the year.
Nitr-oh – With a change of booker in WCW, as Kevin Sullivan was offered a seemingly temporary hiatus from probably the hardest job in wrestling, and Nitro being one hour for the first few weeks – things were a bit flat, including one show where five of the six matches went a combined less than five minutes. They still had a hot product and, more importantly, still had a hot crowd – so it didn’t really matter. A return to two hours, and the return of Hulk Hogan helped start to bring a about a positive change.
Fields Of Gold – It’d be wrong to say the Goldust character had flattened out since his face turn, that would imply he’d been anything remotely interesting in the prior six months of his heel run. But with a change of approach on TV came a two part sit down interview with “Dustin Runnels” which was basically a shoot – talking about his strained relationship with his father, the time “Scott Hall” refused to wrestle him and about how the most important thing in his life was his wife “Terri” and his daughter Dakota. That lead to a change in-ring, including a listless pre-match segment where Dakota was given the change to run around the ring with her parents, and a change in ring action much more akin to Dustin Rhodes. Still, didn’t stop him losing twice in the month to both Vader and Jerry Lawler.
One Giant Leap – Goldust wasn’t the only one getting the shoot sit-down treatment – this month also featured a behind the scenes look behind “Mickey Foley”, including a look at the video of Foley jumping off of his house and the time where he saw Superfly Jimmy Snuka jump off of the cage at MSG. He also pulled back the curtain on the character “Dude Love”. This sit-down style of interviews was a sea-change from the WWF of even a year ago. Whether it worked or not depends on how much you want to focus on Foley and how little you want to focus on Dustin, but it cannot be denied how this series of tapes helped get Foley over not just in the eyes of the fans, but also with Vince McMahon.
Undertaker Submits – Undertaker vs Farooq was hardly being given the biggest billing. With Farooq still being featured in a feud with Ahmed Johnson, Undertaker himself was still being involved with Paul Bearer. After burning his face at last month’s pay per view, Bearer promised to reveal a secret about Undertaker that clearly shook him up – as Bearer gave Undertaker seven days to work it out, Undertaker returned at the end of the month initially defiant, before bowing before Bearer and once again re-aligning with him. Just what secret could be this big?