Today’s episode begins with a “viewer discretion advised” warning so you know we’re in for a treat! The main event will be a no holds barred match between the Undertaker and Mankind, so it’s a safe bet that that’s the reason for the warning. This is also the go-home show before the In Your House pay per view on Sunday so hopefully that will improve the quality of the show overall.
The first match is Sycho Sid, the World Heavyweight Champion, VS Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the Intercontinental Champion. I don’t think a matchup like this would happen very often anymore except under special circumstances. They certainly wouldn’t just throw it together for no reason like they did here. That aside, it’s still a compelling aspect of the fight, even if it’s not actually a storyline. What happens if one loses to the other? Do they then hold both titles? Unfortunately we won’t find out here as Hunter manages to crawl out of the ring after taking a powerbomb and loses by countout instead of pinfall.
Goldust then takes on Bart Gunn in a singles match. Seems that Billy and Bart have been fighting with each other recently because Billy thinks he’s been carrying his brother for his entire career. Another pair of feuding brothers? Let’s leave that particular angle to the Hart family.
Keeping the cowboy theme going, the next match is Jesse James in a handicap match against both Justin Hawk Bradshaw & Zebekiah. Jesse’s mad about getting double teamed last week so tonight he’s taking them both on. What? I’m not exactly sure what his logic is for that one. I suppose this way at least he knows he’ll be double teamed. Luckily for him, Zebekiah tries to hit him with the branding iron, but misses and hits Bradshaw instead, which costs them the match. Afterwards Bradshaw knocks out Zeb and brands him while he’s down. This might be the end of their partnership. Boy these cowboy types don’t have any friends.
Finally we reach the much-anticipated brawl between The Undertaker and Mankind. Taker’s been looking way more menacing recently, eschewing the purple gloves and boots for an edgier leather outfit. He’s also been drawing on a black tear drop underneath one of his eyes to represent, uh...the murder he committed? Not sure about that, but in any event, he’s been much more dynamic in the ring recently so he’s been great fun to watch, especially since Mankind is so crazy and unpredictable that you really never know what’s going to happen when they get in the ring together. This time, Taker makes sure to focus specifically on Mankind’s mandible claw hand, even going so far as to gnaw on it for awhile. The plan works because Undertaker walks away with the victory, but it’s short lived as the Executioner jumps into the ring and puts Taker in a chokehold. They’re set to face each other at In Your House, so we’ll see who winds up on top then.
WCW’s bringing out the big guns right off the bat as we start with Rowdy Roddy Piper coming to the ring and cutting a promo on Hollywood Hogan. The last time we saw Piper he was being accosted by the nWo for his hip surgery. Today he demonstrates that he’s fired up and in perfect physical condition by hopping around the ring on the leg he had surgery on. Seems good to me. Let’s get to the fight already!
The first match is Mike Enos VS M. Wallstreet. During the match, Ted DiBiase comes down to the ring with a contract in his hand. Enos sees it and begins gesturing to the Million Dollar Man to give it to him. Taking advantage of this momentary distraction, Wallstreet picks him up and hits him with a Samoan Drop (which he cutely calls the “Stock Market Crash”). After the win, DiBiase hands the contract over to his old tag team partner. Looks like Money Inc. is back in business!
We move on to a video of Chris Benoit and Woman enjoying a romantic dinner together while trash-talking the Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan. I don’t know if they’ve mentioned it yet on one of the supplementary WCW shows, but Woman and Kevin Sullivan are married in real life. They’ve decided to turn their marriage into an angle by having her leave Kevin Sullivan for Chris Benoit in kayfabe. After the video is shown, the Taskmaster comes down to the broadcast booth in his street clothes (consisting of jeans and a Four Horsemen shirt that has Benoit’s face crossed out) and angrily confronts Tony Schiavone for airing his dirty laundry on national television for ratings. Sullivan has had a bone to pick with Benoit for as long as I can recall so this is just one more reason for them to come to blows.
Today’s episode is taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina: the hometown of Ric Flair and the current home of Mongo McMichael’s ex-friend Kevin Greene who has helped the Carolina Panthers reach the NFC championship game this season. So of course, Mean Gene brings both men out together for some cheap pops and they spend the entire time putting each other over. Later, Gene interviews the Japanese manager Sonny Onoo who accidentally speaks without his usual accent. When Gene calls him on it, he admits that it’s an affectation that he uses to take advantage of affirmative action and stupid Americans. It’s basically just cheap racist heat. Both of these interviews are pretty gross ways to fill time if you ask me.
Verdict: Raw brings the heat this week while gearing up for their next pay per view. They’re starting to take a page out of WCW’s playbook and are blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s fake recently. I think WCW still does a better job of this, but this particular episode is just a little too padded out with segments that only people in Charlotte would care about.
Winner this week: Raw
Score to date: Nitro 44, Raw 17
(Television Ratings: Raw - 2.3; Nitro - 3.3)