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Much like as I detailed in the lead up to Wrestlemania, the early part of 1997 was a weird time in the WWF. Moving Raw to two hours, something which based on the months that followed they seemed massively unprepared for, put their TV schedule in a funk that even a month after Wrestlemania they weren't quite out of.
Case in point was the April 14th Raw, which was a hybrid show formed in part of some segments filmed at the Raw the week before, and in larger part of matches filmed on a tour in South Africa. The hodge-podge show was dreadful, so bad in fact that Jim Ross outright said the show "sucked" on his WWF hotline in the week that followed. The pre-taped segments in the USA felt weird, and the matches filmed in South Africa (often devoid of commentary) were just awful – including two hideously long matches between Rocky Maivia and Savio Vega and a main event of Crush vs Ahmed Johnson.
The impact on this pay per view, as much as anything, was the lack of build. Steve Austin and Bret Hart were still going at it hard following their Mania classic, but a rematch so soon (particularly after a win so decisive) felt rushed, even if it was caused by an injury to Sid. Mankind vs Undertaker had to be rebooted again from cold after plans for Undertaker vs Vader fell through, and while from a television perspective all three of the undercard matches looked dead on arrival, all three had at least had some build on the TVs prior.
The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) vs Owen Hart and The British Bulldog for the WWF Tag Team Titles
Mercifully, the WWF tag team division had come a long way from the floor it had bottomed out on the year prior, but to say the current action is only slightly better than that would be damning it with feint praise. Still – at least Bulldog and Owen are on the same page now, even coming out to Bret Hart's music, which was a bit of an odd one.
The action was flat, and the booking killed any chance of this match being anything other than bad. After a few minutes of competent action Animal hits a powerslam from the second rope and gets the pin... to a pop and to my surprise. Until things unravel for the next couple of minutes as it's shown via a second ref that Bulldog wasn't the legal man. The match restarts, Owen eats a Doomsday Device, then in a finish completely fucked by a timing error, the ref tells Hawk to get out of the ring before starting the count, allowing Bret time to get in a break up the fall for the DQ. Not good.
Savio Vega (w/ Crush and the NOD) vs Rocky Maivia for the WWF Intercontinental Title
At least this wasn't going to be 18 minutes long as it was on the previous Raw. This match is basically a backdrop for Farooq (separated shoulder and all) to get his shit in on commentary, which he does effectively. The match was really bad, Savio working Rocky's shoulder for much of it. We do see what I believe is the first version of the Rock Bottom (a transitional move at this stage). Rocky gets dropped to the outside, Crush hits a heart punch and Rocky cannot recover in time and gets counted out. This causes a ruction between Crush and Savio, broken up when they return their focus to beating up Rocky until Ahmed Johnson charges out to run them off.
Jesse Jammes vs Rockabilly (Billy Gunn) (w/ Honky Tonk Man)
Yikes... speaking of dead on arrival – Rockabilly. Rockabilly is basically exactly like the normal Billy Gunn, except he stalls a bit more between moves. Match is nothing, Jammes (yes, Jammes) wins with a roll up.
Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) vs The Undertaker for the WWF Title
So – this was gonna be the main event, but they did an angle involving Bulldog and Owen attacking Austin – so Gorilla Monsoon shifted things around to give Austin more time to cover.
This was a wild match. While not no-DQ on the billing, it might as well have been. We get a lot of brawling early on at ringside around the guardrials, Mankind drops an elbow from the second rope to the floor – which looks like a horror show on his hips. Mankind hits a pair of piledrivers before Undertaker finally starts to rally on instinct.
The we get one of the great spots you'll ever see. The ring steps – which are now in the ring – get hoisted above Undertaker's head who takes a run up and crashes them off of Mankind's head who's on the apron. Mankind gets thrown across the gap and goes basically head first through the Spanish announcers table. And when I say "through" - I mean, there was a Mankind shaped hole in a table top that was otherwise still in tact. Mankind is able to kick-out of a chokeslam, but eats a tombstone and Undertaker retains. A brutal match, Mankind killing himself to an international audience is compelling to watch.
Bret Hart vs "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
A match that was never going to have a clear winner, and one in which Owen and Bulldog (who accompanied Bret to ringside) were ejected from immediately from was only going to end one way.
The match itself was pretty similar to the Mania. Bret now fully embracing his heel role going after Austin's knee in the usual rotation of spots. It's not to say this was bad – as you'd expect it was good, but this was not the right time for this rematch, and combine that with the inevitable finish (Owen and Bulldog forcing the DQ with Bret in a sharpshooter applied by Austin) it was just a bit flat. Shouldn't have gone on last, shouldn't have gone on at all.
Score Rating: 3/10
Go Back And Watch: Mankind vs Undertaker is wild, Bret vs Austin is good but didn't have much of a chance – the rest is dreadful.