F-RAW. It took one second of seeing the coffin to get me to turn it off and watching another one of my random tapes.
The not-too-wayback machine is set to December 1997/January 1998 on these.
1. From Nitro, Ultimo Dragon vs. Psicosis. For the fashion conscious, Ultimo's wearing the teal green and red ensemble. Lodi's at ringside with a "WAKE UP SHAKSA" sign, but he hadn't officially been named yet. Psic is debuting the black and white look for this show. A whole buncha kicks to Psicosis to the apathy on the crowd. Psic's slingshot legdrop to the floor also is done to silence. The announcers talking about Bischoff/Zbyszko doesn't help things. It's strange, as it's the mat segment is used for the middle of the match, with the crazy spots at the start. It quickly reverts to the big finish, as UD crotches Psic on the top. Top-rope rana, then the Dragon Sleeper for the win. The way the match was built was different from the usual lucha stuff, but it still allowed Psic to act like a fine rudo.
I'm allowing about 2 minutes between matches for the mythical commercials on this, my personal RAW.
2. Chris Benoit vs. Kidman (w/ Lodi). It was supposed to be Raven, but this was the Raven ducking Benoit angle, so we get Kidman. Walls of Benoit-cho! YES! Benoit quickly rips off Kidman's shirt, so we can see Benoit chop Kidman's chest into all different shades of red. "Kidman World Tour 1997", as per Lodi. "I like wrestling" as per an in-crowd sign. Kidman gets in some offense, most notable a shooting star press off the apron, but this one's squash city. Kidman is damn good as the warm body Benoit can pummel. Crossface submission.
3. Furnas & Lafon vs. The Hardy Boys. No Zed in their name at this point. This is notable as the first time Jeff almost died in front of WWF/E cameras, as he tries a springboard moonsault to the floor, only to slip off and land flat on his back with a horrific THUD. Phil LaFon pretty much craps himself watching this. Also the first appearance of the "Whisper in the Wind", which of course is called the Tom Pritchard equivalent of whatta maneuver! After the big miss, it's tag team by mumbers, as Jeff is face-in-peril with the ring cut in half by F&L. Walls of Furnas-cho, more like the Walls than Benoit's, which was more like the Liontamer. A running Lafon's Edge gets a two. A commercial break during a squash. What a concept. 2 off the reverse superplex by LaFon. Tom Pritchard does put the Hardys toughness over, even though I don't think they officially signed with the WWF until months later. Hot tag, and both Boys springboard away onto Furnas, but F&L take over as Jeff gets backdropped to the floor in his second insane bump of the contest. LaFon superkick. Clothesline from behind by Furnas into a LaFon DDT for 3. Drawn-out for a squash, but very entertaining. 4. Faarooq (w/ the Nation) vs. Vader. Kama & D-Lo engage in clubberin' on Vader as he approaches the ring. Fortunately, we do see Vader being unafraid to blast fist after fist into Faarooq's head. This is way too stiff for Shotgun. The rest of the match is pretty non-descript, though. Vader wins it with a splash from the sceond turnbuckle, after Rock prevents the Vaderbomb. The Nation argue, but the split would progress agonizingly slow.
5. Sultan gets squashed by Undertaker in short order.
6. Mark Henry vs. The Brooklyn Brawler. You see, on RAW in 1997, stuff like this would get air time.
7. Jose (w/ Boricuas, including a rapping Savio) vs. Steve Blackman. Another RAW match. I think this was Steve' first official RAW match. A UFC from Japan is promo-ed during this. Blackman's stuff is really basic here. Kicks, punches, and a half-Boston. It's a short match, and an easy win for Blackman via a German suplex. 8. Vincent vs. Ray Traylor. Oh boy, do I have some strange choices on this tape. Mercifully short, but why the hell did I tape this, and NOT tape over this? Vincent's offense was nil. Traylor spike.
9. Psicosis & La Parka (in yellow!) vs. Juventud Guerrera & Rey Misterio Jr! YES! YES! YES! YES! This is an improvement over the previous few selections. I'm not even going to attempt play-by-play, but this was pretty much a spotfest, and the crowd in Charlotte crowd slowly warms up to the action. No typing needed, I'll sit back, relax and enjoy this one. The big spot is Juvy reversing a top-rope powerslam into a victory roll. 450 from Juvy to Psicosis ends it, and the crowd is popping like crazy for this. And deservedly so. A great free TV contest. 10. Savio & Jesus vs. TAKA Michinoku & Scott Taylor. Sunny ring announces in Penn State cheerleader uniform. Wasn't Katie Vick supposedly wearing a cheerleader uniform on Monday? If so, insert your own Sunny joke here. We're now in January, as they hype Mike Tyson at the Royal Rumble. Surprisingly, it isn't Taylor but TAKA that is face-in-peril. This is a RAW match. TAKA bumps nicely for Savio off both a powerbomb and a slam on the floor, after Savio catches a moonsault. Vega then hooks Taylor's legs as Scott's going to the top. Reverse superplex for a quick win.
11. Goldberg vs. Jerry Flynn. The opening is almost shootish, as the two fight on the mat for legbars. But they quickly move to the usual ending. Spear. Jackhammer. Probably the best Goldberg match up to this point, though.
12. Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit. YAHOO! A very good basic match, but these two clicked well every time. The chain wrestling is perfect, with my favourite spot being Dean holding on to and armdrag, slapping on an armbar, only to have Benoit power out into a pinning position, and then an almost Electric Chair, all as Dean continues to hold the armbar. The little stuff can be just as entertaining as a million highspots. Other nice counters include Dean rolling through a reverse suplex to deliver a German suplex. The finish is nice as well. Benoit escaping a Victory Roll into the crossface. Incredibly nice to watch. The Flock run-in and attack everybody post-match.
13. Rey Misterio Jr/Hector Garza/Super Calo vs. Psicosis/La Parka/Silver King. I guess three Psicosis matches more than make up for appearances of the Brooklyn Brawler & Sultan. La Parka mocks Rey's height, and then does the PARKA POLKA! The rudos take control and establish their heelness with a 3-on-1 beatdown of Rey. If you have old tapes, watch a WCW Trios match to see how many times Mike Tenay says the phrase "see the luchadors in their true element". Tomikaze by Rey, then the tecs stomp down Parka 3-on-1. Garza & King are up next. Early on, Hector flips off the turnbuckle, and in doing show, blows his knee into about the third row. Dusty blasts Psicosis for not destroying Garza's knee after the obvious injury. But Hector gets rolled to the floor, and this one will be 3-on-2. The dive sequence at the end is a rolling headbutt by Calo to Psic, and Parka launching King into a moonsault on Calo. More Parka dancing as he dominates Rey. Dusty marks like crazy when Rey trips up a running Parka. Parka goes tothe top, where Rey catches him. Parka gets knocked off, crotching himself. As he climbs out of the crotching, Rey ranas him for the win.
14. Rick Martel vs. Hardbody Harrison. HH was just another Power Plant guy. Martel worked at a level beyond himself for his entire run in WCW at this point, and manages to make even this squash look impressive. Lousy, stupid injuries.
This couldn't have been worse than spending 2 hours with the Triple H Smile Time Variety Hour. 3 matches with Psicosis, and 2 more with Benoit. I feel like a happy King, even without Mr. B. Natural playing the French horn.
I too have taken a similar route. However all I had to do is pop in a tape from 1 YEAR ago to see how far the product has sunk. I remember clearly we were all bashing the show this time last year, yet now that I go back and watch the tapes everything seems like masterpiece theatre in comparison. (On a side note, I found it kind of surreal going back and watching Heel-Edge cheat to defeat Face-Test. Maybe that means I'm still a mark!)
That's sort of what I do, only I watch my tapes during the commercials of Raw, this way I don't miss anything interesting that might happen, but during the commercials I get to see some actual entertaining stuff.
As a matter of fact last night during Raw breaks I watched the first Raw on TNN which featured... Stone Cold returning to Raw after his long absence (you know the whole got ran over by a car thing) has an interview with Foley, Angle and Benoit both interrupt. This is the first time Benoit and Austin are together in a WWF ring, maybe Angel too.
Bubba Ray vs. Tazz - Raven's Raw debut, which i was excited about because i'm a Raven fan.
Edge/Christian vs. Hardys in a ladder match for the tag titles - Mic made the stipulation that it would be Edge/Christian's only chance to get the tag titles back, which i think is what led to the Conquistadors angle. Anyway, this was a great match with the famous Edge spearing Jeff hanging from the belts.
Chris Jericho vs. X-Pac First Blood - Good for a X-Pac match, Jericho bled pretty good (and first) but got his revenge with a Walls of Jericho on the announce table.
The Rock vs. Christ Benoit for the World Title - this had run-ins galore. Shane, Stephanie, HHH, Angle, Benoit doesn't win the title but ends the show by headbutting Stephanie.
There may have been more on the first Raw on TNN but those were the only matches I recored from it.
After that show my tape had a tag team battle royal from Nitro which was decent once it was down to the last two teams Jindrak/O'Haire and Rey/Juvy.
But after that match? Booker T vs. Russo, for the title. I cried.
If you really want a way to enjoy RAW, try watching KOTR 95, or the main events of Rumble 94 and Summerslam 94. Undertaker/Giant Gonzalez at WM IX is horrible too. Sure, Raw's angles will still blow but you'll really appreciate the matches.
I agree with most of what has been said, but you're forgetting something important. Protecting your opponent, if someone goes out there and makes crisp moves and keeps the flow of the match going but injures his opponent, does not have good workrate.