There’s not much in-ring action worth mentioning. They’re still pushing (albeit weakly) the Jeff Jarrett/Ahmed Johnson “feud”, but there’s nothing there of interest. We haven’t really seen much out of Johnson yet and Double J’s just annoying. Unlike Nitro, neither guy ever really gets mic time, which is so critical to developing interest in the characters.
We finally find out that Shawn Michaels will not be retiring, and will in fact be competing in the Royal Rumble. For some reason though, this announcement was done via a pre-taped press conference that was filmed earlier in the day. Why wouldn’t they have Shawn do this live and in front of a crowd? These are the kinds of obvious mistakes that the WWF just keeps making for some reason.
Once again they decide to take up a big chunk of their program by replaying a match from In Your House, this time the last 10 minutes or so of the British Bulldog/Bret Hart match. It was a pretty intense match that actually had Bret bleeding all over the place, but we shouldn’t be taking up time on Raw to re-air that stuff. They should constantly be moving story forward. If you want to emphasize that match, then get Bret and/or Davey Boy to come on and cut a promo or get back in the ring.
They also air a little skit making fun of WCW (and Ted Turner, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage in particular). They refer to them as Billionaire Ted, the Huckster, and the Nacho Man. This might have been an interesting move if Raw had ANYTHING to back it up with. Honestly it just serves to underline how delusional they are about their own product.
The one silver lining in this show is the introduction of The Ringmaster, or as he was known before and after this short-lived gimmick, Steve Austin. We’re almost through the dark times, baby, and Steve Austin’s the man that’s gonna save us.
Meanwhile on Nitro, there’s nothing too crazy going on, but we get a couple of solid matches out of the program. And really at this point, that’s all they need to keep doing to put Raw away.
Chris Benoit fights Das Wunderkind Alex Wright. Brian Pillman is at ringside and interferes a couple of times, but otherwise Wright and Benoit have an excellent match. After Benoit wins, Pillman taunts Wright while he’s on the mat and spits on him. Eric Bischoff comments that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Pillman released from WCW if he keeps on being such a loose cannon. Foreshadowing?
We also get an interview with Lex Luger and Sting, but we still don’t really get any answers as to what’s going on with them. This is a pretty big misstep I think. At this point, I think they just need to lay their cards out on the table and stop teasing it out. If they were waiting for a pay per view for some big reveal, several have come and gone. All we end up finding out is that they’ll be joining forces soon as an official tag team.
The main event of the night is Ric Flair & Arn Anderson VS Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage. Naturally Hogan & Savage get the win, but immediately afterwards, the Dungeon of Doom runs down and begins attacking the Four Horsemen. While they’re distracted The Giant chokeslams Hogan and Savage. So now we’ve got a three-way feud on our hands. Will we see both heel stables teaming up to take down the good guys? Or will the Horsemen decide there’s not enough room for two groups of bad guys and team up with the faces to take out the Dungeon of Doom? No matter what, I don’t see the Horsemen going away anytime soon.
Verdict: Without any of it’s most interesting personalities being showcased or talked about on any given week, Raw can’t help but flounder when compared to the likes of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan being given the spotlight every Monday. Hopefully Steve Austin can kick Raw’s butt into gear soon though.
Winner this week: Nitro
Score to date: Nitro 16, Raw 1
(Television Ratings: Raw - 3.0; Nitro - 2.8)