Lee Maughan: Here we go with yet another Best of RAW compilation. This one would be entirely different to the RAW: Prime Cuts, RAW Hits and previous Best of RAW series, with three volumes instead focusing on the Attitude Era. Host is Michael Cole, who promises “great characters and storylines.” So long, kayfabe.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
– From late 1997, Mr. McMahon demands Austin defend the Intercontinental title against the Rock, but Austin does what he wants, when he wants, threatening to whip McMahon’s ass.
– We gloss over WrestleMania XIV and head to the next night on RAW as Austin surrenders the old winged eagle title belt in exchange for the belt more closely recognised with the Attitude Era. Mr. McMahon tells Austin he’s proud to have him as champion, and arrogantly offers him the chance to do things the McMahon way. Nobody tells Austin what to do however, and he punctuates that statement with a Stone Cold Stunner, setting up the rip-roaring Austin vs. McMahon feud.
– Cole informs that the Rock didn’t get over until he joined the Nation of Domination in 1997 (although he says it much more diplomatically than that), which leads to an angle in which Rocky gives three $15,000 gold Rolex watches to Mark Henry, D’Lo Brown and Kama. Nation leader Faarooq is less than impressed at his gift – a cheap, framed portrait of the Rock. Later, during a match with Ken Shamrock, Faarooq refuses to allow the Nation to interfere when Shamrock has Rock caught in the ankle lock.
Skipping ahead, Rock smashes Shamrock square in the head with a brain melting chair shot before getting into an argument with Faarooq. Faarooq in turn calls Rocky out for a nose-to-nose and they brawl until the Nation can separate them. Marching up the ramp, Rocky throws up the eyebrow, giving the Nation the signal to attack Faarooq.
The Undertaker & Kane
– After continued threats from Paul Bearer, Kane finally arrived in the WWF in October 1997 at Badd Blood with his sights firmly set on the Undertaker. Initially, the Undertaker refused to fight Kane, with Kane beginning to show sympathy towards his big brother, even saving him from a beatdown at the hands of DX. However at the Royal Rumble, it was all proven to be a ruse as Kane chokeslammed the Undertaker into a casket and set it alight. Shortly afterwards, the Undertaker’s corpse was wheeled out on the stage at RAW where it was hit by a lightning bolt, bringing him back to life. Yes, this really happened, and yes, because it was the Undertaker, people let the hokiness of it all slide. Finally accepting the challenge to fight, Undertaker pinned Kane at WrestleMania XIV following three tombstones.
D-Generation X Returns
– We skip the original Shawn Michaels incarnation of DX and instead head straight to the night after WrestleMania XIV as Triple H assumes control of the group and reintroduces Sean Waltman to the World Wrestling Federation. Sadly, Waltman’s impassioned promo against Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff fails to make the cut here, but we do get a series of quick clips of DX driving a tank to Monday Nitro to declare war on WCW. Out of context though those clips may be, they’re still tremendous fun to watch for anyone who lived through it.
– Mick Foley entered the WWF as Mankind and frequently battled the Undertaker in those early years, but Mick had another side to himself that emerged through Dude Love, his alter ego and the character he dreamed of becoming as a teenager. His third character was the “king of the hardcore matches”, Cactus Jack, who arrived in the WWF at Madison Square Garden in a memorable skit that saw all three personalities on screen at the same time.
– Cactus was soon reunited with Terry Funk (under the guise of Chainsaw Charlie) but the team were decimated by DX in a steel cage match. That leads to the following week where Mick cuts an absolutely blistering promo on the fans who chanted “Austin! Austin! Austin!” as he and Funk lay helpless in the cage:
“When I came here two years ago and I was Mankind, there were always people saying “You know, why don’t you just be Cactus Jack?’”Then I came out in tie-dye and some white boots and they said “Why don’t you just be Cactus Jack?’”Well I gave you Cactus Jack… I GAVE YOU EVERY GODDAMN BIT OF ENERGY I HAD! And when I was laying in there helpless, you chanted someone else’s name. This is not a knock on ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, hey, I’m happy he’s the champion, and he may not admit it but we’ve known each other a long time and he’s been my friend. But what you did to me and Terry Funk laying here in the middle of the ring was not only distasteful and disrespectful, it was Goddamn disgusting! And I’m gonna give you a chance to make it up to me, because I’m gonna accept a group apology right now. Well, I can finally say for the first time, after thirteen years of blood, sweat and tears, that it’s not worth it any more. It’s going to be a long time before you see Cactus Jack in the ring again.”
– A shift in attitudes (and fan responses) sees DX wage war with the Nation of Domination, leading to that popular late 90’s wrestling staple: the costumed parody, giving us such classics as Triple H as the Crock, Road Dogg as B’Lo, and X-Pac as Mizark Henry, complete with unfortunate 1950s style blackface. Unfortunately, impressionist Jason Sensation’s spot-on Owen Hart voice isn’t included.
– According to Cole, Val’s history of working in the adult entertainment industry was not considered an impediment to a successful career in the WWF. That would certainly change once the promotion went PG in July 2008.
– Val offers Kaientai a special look at his new skin flick, Land of the Rising Venis, in which he porks manager Mr. Yamaguchi’s wife. Out for revenge, Yamaguchi forces his wife to undergo the “crawl of shame” through his legs as he prepares to spank her ass with a paddle. Val however steals the paddle, makes the save and rescues the damsel… I mean, slag in distress, so dreadful Asian stereotype Yamaguchi threatens to slice Val’s dick off with a samurai sword. “I choppy-choppy your pee-pee! Ha ha ha ha ha!” It truly was a different time.
– The following week in a tag team match, Taka Michinoku turned heel on Venis and joined up with Kaientai, a group he had previously been part of in Japan’s Michinoku Pro Wrestling and ECW. The union made little sense in the WWF however, as the stable had initially been brought in as opponents for Taka in the ailing light heavyweight division. In one fell swoop, they killed that idea off completely, all for the sake of a dumb angle. And speaking of fell swoops, a camera bursts into a locker room just in time to see a bare-arsed Val with member spread out across the table, as Yamaguchi brings his blade down just as the lights go out. And that’s it, no further explanation given.
McMahon and Austin
– In response to months of angles in which Mr. McMahon has Steve Austin arrested for his hell raising ways, Austin turns the table after tricking McMahon into admitting he assaulted him. McMahon’s reaction to being cuffed is a classic, as he just hams it up a treat.
– Special guest refereeing a match later in the night, McMahon gets himself chokeslammed by the Undertaker before Kane arrives for a brawl through the crowd. Left alone in the ring, Austin arrives to dish out Stunners to stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, before walloping a chair-wielding Dude Love in the face with a chair of his own.
– At Breakdown ‘98, the Undertaker and Kane simultaneously pinned Austin to render the WWF Title vacant. The following night on RAW, Mr. McMahon (armed with the old winged eagle belt for some reason) attempts to sort out the confusion, but before he can make his proclamation, Austin drives to the ring on a Zamboni to open up another can of whoop ass.
Mr. McMahon Gets Hurt
– Later that night, McMahon, having been attacked three times in the span of a week by ‘Stone Cold’, decides to renege on his deal to make either Kane or the Undertaker champion because: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s like dealing with the handicapped! One’s physical, and the other is mental.” Undertaker warns Vince to watch his ass and not get out of line or he’ll be the one who ends up handicapped. Unfortunately for Vince, the Undertaker catches him flipping the bird, so the brothers break his leg.
– Vince’s injuries lead to some thoroughly unexpected results as, laid up in a hospital bed, he gets an unlikely visit from Mankind who presents him with a string of terrible gifts including a clown called Yurple, a collection of balloon animals, and a lousy puppet named Mr. Socko. Socko quickly takes on a life of its own, thanks in large part to Vince’s deadpan disdain for it, and Mankind uses it administer the Mandible Claw for a victory over Mark Henry.
Austin and McMahon
– Back at the hospital, Mr. McMahon receives expert analysis from Dr. Austin, who pounds his broken ankle, zaps him with a defibrillator and smashes him over the head with a bedpan. Because this is Vince McMahon we’re talking about, the skit ends with Austin shoving a tube up Vince’s ass in an effort to “find out how full of shit you really are!”, which surely should have gotten Austin done for sexual assault.
– On another live episode, Austin fills a wheelchair-bound McMahon’s $50,000 Corvette full of cement.
– At Judgment Day, Austin was forced to referee a match between Kane and the Undertaker to determine a new WWF Champion, with a warning that if he didn’t raise somebody’s hand in victory that night, he would be fired. In one of the dumbest finishes to a match ever, Austin counts both guy’s shoulders down, then declares himself the winner. Incensed, McMahon fires him, so Austin decides to take him hostage. Displeasingly, “Bang 3:16” and “I just pissed my pants!” are missing from this tape. Why show the first half of an angle and not show the conclusion to it?
– Aggrieved at not winning the title the previous night, the Undertaker introduces his new look, having reconciled with Paul Bearer, promising that his Ministry of Darkness will unleashed a plague upon the World Wrestling Federation, with Faarooq, Bradshaw, Phineas Godwinn (as Mideon), Mabel (as Viscera) and the entire Brood all joining forces with the ‘Dead Man’.
Austin is Reinstated
– Following Vince’s kidnapping, Shane McMahon makes his debut as an on-screen character (after having previously been a commentator on Sunday Night Heat), signing Austin to a brand new contract as an act of rebellion against the father whose standards he could never live up to. The logic gap caused by Shane’s heel turn on Austin a short time later at Survivor Series: Deadly Game would go quite some way to negating what a great angle this was, but in fairness to WWF writer Vince Russo, it didn’t really have much place else to go after the first big reveal, so why not do the swerve turn?
Summary: Not a tape for anyone who’s looking for actual in-ring wrestling action, but if you’re after those “great characters and storylines”, well, they’re here in abundance. At just over an hour long, the tape absolutely flies by with some of the more outrageous and downright entertaining aspects from a time when it felt like everyone and everything was over with the WWF audience. Throughout the course of our Complete WWF Video Guides, we’ve watched and re-watched so many Attitude Era events full of wall-to-wall boring matches and bad booking that we’ve often found ourselves wondering why we ever liked the late 90s in the first place. Watching so many classic clips back in this rapid fire format however makes it easy to see why people are still so very nostalgic for it. Taken in isolation and free of any of the storyline continuity problems that plagued Vince Russo’s booking reign of terror, this tape is just pure, unadulterated fun, even if it does feel at times like you’re watching an introductory promotional piece. Very recommend for fans of the era with an hour to spare, Best of RAW: Vol. 1 stands as the rose-tinted spectacles of Attitude Era VHS.