Torch Flashbacks WWF RAW FLASHBACK 15 yrs. ago (02-13-97): Rare Thursday Night Raw - HBK relinquishes WWF Title (w/Cover Story), Rock-Hunter IC Title match, Hart-Vader
Feb 13, 2012 - 5:25:04 PM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY
WWE Raw Flashback Report
February 13, 1997
Originally Published: PWTorch Newsletter #428
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
(Live from Lowell, Mass.). They opened the show with the announcement that Shawn Michaels would be relinquishing the WWF Title later on the program. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler introduced the program. When McMahon brought up Michaels, he looked dejected, but didn't explain why Michaels was relinquishing the title.
(1) Rocky Maivia pinned Hunter Hearst Helmsley at 17:08 to capture the Intercontinental Title. During the match Ross said Gorilla Monsoon would later explain the title situation. At 5:00 Hunter went to an armbar. The fans chanted "Rocky, Rocky." Honky Tonk Man joined in on color commentary and said every man he has looked at in the WWF has let him down. At 15:30 Hunter executed a superplex and got a two count. Hunter tried to get Rocky into position for the Pedigree, but Rocky collapsed and almost seemed to be legitimately knocked out or groggy. In reality, he was playing possum and caught Hunter with a small package for the pin. Nice finish, but the match could have used a bit more energy.
Immediately after the match Dok Hendrix interviewed Rocky at ringside. Rocky was too tired and shocked to even smile. He thanked his father and grandfather and said he'd make them proud. Rocky then celebrated among the fans against the aisle... They aired clips of The Godwinns and Jesse James on Nashville Network.
(2) Head Bangers beat Aldo Montoya & Bob Holly when Mosh pinned Holly after a top rope legdrop. McMahon said during the match that the knee injury did not happen all of a sudden, saying the damage was done over the course of his busy WWF schedule. McMahon said the knee surgery Michaels has scheduled could be career ending. Ross said they won't know Michaels's future until the doctor opens up his knee. Lawler said the doctor told Michaels it is most likely career ending surgery. McMahon really talked up Michaels as giving 100 percent every time he went to the ring. The match itself was nothing special.
McMahon interviewed Michaels in mid-ring. A dejected Michaels came to the ring (see cover story)... Upon returning from a commercial, McMahon said they would be following Michaels's progress during his time off.
(3) Undertaker pinned Savio Vega after a chokeslam at 8:59. After the pinfall the NOD attacked Undertaker and Ahmed Johnson made the save. The match was nothing special.
Dok interviewed Monsoon who officially announced the title would be up for grabs at the Sunday pay-per-view and that Sid would face the winner on Raw.
(4) Sid fought Steve Austin to a no contest when Bret Hart ran in at 3:44.. Sid and Austin fought so viciously because both showed up wearing the same outfit -- plain black trunks and black boots. Austin's left knee was wrapped and he seemed to be favoring it, which may explain the brevity of the bout and the lame finish. After Bret and Austin exchanged blows, Sid and Bret exchanged blows.
(5) Faarooq & Crush beat Owen Hart & British Bulldog via countout so Bulldog & Owen retained the WWF Tag Titles. During the match a split screen interview aired with Bret Hart who wished Michaels well and said he believes Michaels will return. Late in the match Owen got the hot -- tag and hit Crush with a top rope dropkick, but Faarooq made the save. Bulldog clotheslined Faarooq who had to leap over the top rope as part of his bump. Crush then threw Owen over the top rope. Owen landed and grabbed his knee in pain. Owen struggled to return to the ring, but was counted out. Meanwhile Bulldog got beat up in the ring and Owen couldn't make the save. Owen limped to the back, leaving Bulldog to chase him down from behind. Bulldog wasn't happy.
(6) Bret Hart pinned Vader at 7:15. During the ring introduction of Bret Hart, Undertaker interrupted and said he is tired of the lack of respect he receives and he will make them pay on Sunday at the pay-per-view. Vader then attacked Bret from behind, pounding on him with uppercuts and forearms. During the commercial break Austin came out and stomped on Bret at ringside. At 6:00 Vader fell backward over Bret and Bret applied the sharpshooter. Vader reached the ropes, but Bret initially refused to break. Austin then showed up in the upper deck taunting Bret. Vader nailed a distracted Bret from behind and clotheslined him to the mat. Vader then went to the top rope for his moonsault, but Bret moved (as usual, Vader overshot him enough where if Bret hadn't moved, he wouldn't have hit him anyway). Bret then covered Vader for the pinfall.
PWTorch Newsletter Cover Story - Michaels shocks WWF, forfeits belt on Raw
Vacant title captured by Bret Hart at PPV, Sid beats Bret next night on Raw; Michaels future in question
By Wade Keller, Editor
Thursday night on live television, Shawn Michaels turned in his badge. With no prior notice, Michaels showed up in Lowell, Mass. for the Thursday Raw Thursday live special on USA Network and informed WWF officials and fellow wrestlers that he was in too much pain and decided to quit wrestling because of a knee injury.
The WWF announced Michaels's decision at the start of Raw, saying the title would be vacated and the winner of Sunday's Final Four match would become the new WWF Champion. Michaels handed the belt over to Vince McMahon and Gorilla Monsoon after a moving speech.
During his "resignation speech," Michaels didn't focus on his knee injury, but instead stressed the need to take time off. He said he needed to "fix himself" and "find his smile again." He walked out of the ring, perhaps never to return.
That much is known. The rest of the story has been anything but easy to decipher. Fellow WWF wrestlers were skeptical of Michaels's claim regarding his knee, including Bret Hart on the air the following Sunday. Michaels wrestled the previous weekend, his last date being Sunday, Feb. 9 in East Rutherford, N.J. at Continental Arena when Sid & Bret Hart beat Michaels & Steve Austin when Bret pinned Michaels after his own partner Austin gave him a Stone Cold Stunner. He did not complain of a serious knee injury after the match, nor was he favoring it that weekend. He didn't wrestle again and showed up Thursday saying his knee was in too bad of shape to wrestle. Since then, the WWF has clarified that the problem with his knees was a cumulative injury that did not happen suddenly.
It is well known Michaels has legitimate problems with his ACL and meniscuses in his knees and has worn knee braces on both knees for a couple of years. Lately they had been bothering him more than ever and surgery was considered. On the live Monday Night Raw, a taped interview aired with Dr. James Andrews who said Michaels doesn't necessarily need surgery, but he does need to rehabilitate his knee for about six weeks. At that point, a judgement will be made whether or not Michaels needs surgery or can wrestle right away again.
There is not skepticism that Michaels actually has problems with his knee. But the timing of his decision has led to quite a bit of speculation. Among that speculation, as expected, were reports that Michaels, on his own at the urging of Vince McMahon, was headed into rehab for pain killers or other drugs. Sources say Michaels is not, in fact, going into drug rehab.
Other speculation was that Michaels quit so he could immediately jump to WCW. Michaels, though, is locked into a five-year contract with the WWF which has several years remaining. It's conceivable Michaels would ask to buy his way out of his contract if he were unhappy in the WWF, but the WWF would have to be willing to let him go and absorb yet another major name jumping to WCW. Even though Michaels is still friends with fellow "Clique" members in WCW (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman), Eric Bischoff has told people behind the scenes he doesn't think as much of Michaels as others. Publicly, in an interview with Prodigy last month, he said: "I'm not sure Michaels would ever fit on our roster." If Michaels does eventually show up in WCW, it won't be anytime soon.
The WWF wants Michaels to remain a presence on television, including being a guest referee or ring announcer at Wrestlemania. While Michaels's future in the WWF is in doubt -- and some sources say the WWF is not 100 percent confident he will return soon, if at all -- the WWF has more pressing matters to deal with, that being Wrestlemania. The WWF had to scramble to change its plans for Wrestlemania and that scrambling led to one of the more hectic five day periods in WWF history.
Sunday night at the In Your House: Final Four pay-per-view, Bret Hart won the four-way match to capture the WWF Title when Steve Austin, Sid, and Undertaker were eliminated by being thrown over the top rope. The title reign was a short one as the next night on Raw, Sid pinned Bret Hart to capture the title.
That set up a Wrestlemania main event totally different from the one everyone assumed was slated, that being Bret pinning Michaels to capture the WWF Title to even the Wrestlemania score between them at 1-1. Instead, it appears Bret will face Steve Austin in the secondary main event and it is confirmed Undertaker will face the WWF Champion, who in all likelihood will still be Sid.
Sources indicate that Bret is very upset with several aspects of the weekend, including that he is being used once against as a "transition champion" and that he has been booted from the Wrestlemania main event. Some suspect Bret is upset that Michaels chose such a "convenient" time to declare himself incapacitated to wrestle given it came so close to Wrestlemania. It's possible Michaels would have lost the WWF Title to Sid on Thursday Raw Thursday and that was part of his motivation for taking a personal leave of absence at this time. It's possible Michaels would have kept the title through Wrestlemania and has now avoided doing the job to real-life rival Bret Hart.
Michaels is financially secure due to a seven-figure inheritance he has (or is due to receive) and presumably does not need the guaranteed money remaining on his WWF contract. If he is as unhappy as he claimed to be during his live shoot-like interview on Thursday's Raw, he may not return to the WWF and Bret may not have a chance to get that rematch victory over Michaels, which even though it is a worked match personally means a lot to Bret.
Michaels has put himself in a position similar to what Bret Hart did a year ago in that he is taking a personal leave of absence at the end (or, in Michaels's case, a bit before the planned end) of his run as a main eventer. If the WWF struggles without him, Michaels may end up in the same catbird seat that Bret was in last summer. Michaels also gets to, in a sense, one-up Bret by leaving Bret to be the top babyface in the promotion even before doing a job for him.
Michaels made it very clear as he concluded his live interview on Thursday's Raw that the knee wasn't the only, or even the primary, motivation for his sudden departure. "What I'm going to do is go back home and see what's left for me whether it be in this ring or out of this ring," he said. "I know over the last several months I've lost a lot of things and one of them has been my smile. I know it doesn't mean a whole lot to everybody else, but it means a lot to me. I have to go back and fix myself and take care of myself and I have to go back and I have to find my smile because somewhere along the line I lost it. I don't care if it's unpopular, if people want to make fun of me because I'm an emotional guy, but this is all I've ever wanted to do and over the last year I've got to do it. Whether you like me or not, the last year was the most wonderful year of my life. If I never get to do it again, it'll be okay because I got to live one full year being the number one guy in this business. It was the single greatest year of my life. I have you to thank (looks at Vince McMahon) and I have everybody here to thank and it means a lot to me. I'm going to go home now, okay."
Michaels hugged McMahon and Monsoon. He left the ring, and as he cried he took a final lap around the ring as fans grabbed at him and hugged him. As Michaels walked away, Jim Ross said it takes a "man's man to do what Michaels just did." Lawler broke from his heel persona and said he bet Michaels would be able to come back from this.
Michaels began the speech by saying, "It seems like we've done this before." Two times in the past he has forfeited the Intercontinental Title, once due to a real life WWF suspension, the other time because of an angle built around the real life Syracuse. N.Y. beating. "This time unfortunately for me it's much more serious than it was last time," he said (although last time the storyline was the head injuries were career-threatening). I've never had a doctor look me in the face and say I may never be able to wrestle again. I was told that the other day. Of course, it's not something I believe, but the fact is it's something I have to deal with. Time has taken its toll on my body."
Early during the moving speech by Michaels, fans in the arena chanted, "We Want Sid" loudly, clearly not understanding the gravity of the announcement Michaels was making. By the end, they caught on and were silent for him.
"There's one thing about me and that is I can't do anything half way," he continued. "I come here tonight and I hear people chant Sid's name or Bret's name, they chant a lot of people's names. One thing's for sure, you're going to have a lot of that in the future. Despite what you may think about me, what I wanted for these people is for them to have a good time, to enjoy themselves. I've always tried to be the one to provide it whether it was on the good side or the bad side. What was always most important to me was the performance so that these people, each time they reached in their pocket to buy a WWF ticket they didn't regret it because when they saw my name on the card they could come and cheer or boo or do whatever they wanted as long as they had a good time."
After losing the title to Sid last November, backstage in a corner in the locker room he openly cried. The crowd reaction, McMahon asking him to give up the title after such a successful year, and seeing the handwriting on the wall that Bret moved ahead of him again in the hierarchy took its toll on Michaels. Michaels had fun when Clique buddies Hall, Nash, and Waltman were around. When they left, he became a virtual recluse according to other wrestlers, hanging out almost exclusively with Hunter and otherwise being off-putting to other wrestlers and road agents. He had shown severe signs of mental and physical fatigue from various aspects of his lifestyle and schedule on the road.
Said Michaels: "Over the last couple of months there's been a lot of talk of people having bad attitudes and a lot revolving around this belt. All I know tonight is one thing that's not going to revolve around this belt is Shawn Michaels. I don't know where I'm at right now. I have to have everything checked. I may be beyond reconstructive knee surgery. I may or may not be able to fix it, but if I can't come back and perform at the level I performed at before, I can't perform. I can't come out here and just go half-assed. I have to come out here and romp and stomp and have to get tossed around and toss people around and have fun.
"The schedule over the last year I took on because I didn't feel I could say no. I felt I could do everything. I wanted to enjoy my life as the WWF Champion. I wanted to ride in leer jets and ride the limousines and be on TV shows and do autograph sessions. I got to do every bit of that. If nothing else I have all of that to take with me. I know right now we're in the middle of a time where toughness is really big here in the WWF. Unfortunately all I have for you right now is a lot of tears and sorrow and emotion. I don't have toughness for anybody. So I guess here you go, here's your belt."
The WWF did not bad-mouth Michaels at all and in fact Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler went out of their way to gush over what Michaels had done in the WWF the past year, talking hopefully that he would return. They said they would follow his progress during his rehabilitation of his knee.
Michaels's indefinite leave of absence came at an inopportune time for the WWF since they just expanded Raw to two hours. Already under the gun due to a relatively thin roster, especially in the category of good-to-great workers who can carry longer bouts, the WWF now faces even more pressure to create some new stars out of wrestlers they already have or available free agents. Their premier event of the year now has a make-shift main event rather than a match that has been built up for over a year.
THE TORCH REACHES MORE COMBAT ENTERTAINMENT FANS THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE
PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
REACHING 1 MILLION+ UNIQUE USERS PER MONTH
500 MILLION CLICKS & LISTENS PER YEAR
MILLIONS OF PWTORCH NEWSLETTERS SOLD
PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.
Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.
The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...
-New Digital PWTorch Newsletter every week
-3 New Digital PDF Back Issues from 5, 10, 20 years ago
-Over 60 new VIP Audio Shows each week
-Ad-free access to all PWTorch.com free articles
-VIP Forum access with daily interaction with PWTorch staff and well-informed fellow wrestling fans
-Tons of archived audio and text articles
-Decades of Torch Talk insider interviews in transcript and audio formats with big name stars. **SIGN UP FOR VIP ACCESS HERE**