Welcome to another This Day in Wrestling History as we bring you two of the more memorable events in WWE Raw history.
On February 13, 1997, Raw was set to have a number of firsts. It was also the second episode that was two hours long, as the previous week made the switch to compete with WCW’s Monday Nitro. While it aired in it’s normal time slot in Canada, it was pre-taped and shown in the United States three days later (Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was aired on Monday on the USA Network). The American showing was dubbed RAW Thursday.
Rocky Maivia Becomes Intercontinental Championship
Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) beat Hunter Hearst Helmsley to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Rocky became the youngest Intercontinental champion in WWF history at 26 years old. Randy Orton is the current record holder when he won the championship in 2003 when he was 23 years old.
Thank you @awrestlinghistorian for the excerpt.
“Shawn Michaels went on RAW Is War and announced he would not be defending his title at Wrestlemania. This kind of thing happens in our business sometimes. Guys will refuse to do a job or balk at following a storyline. What Shawn’s reasons were.. I don’t know. I only know that it led to yet another opportunity for me.
“After Shawn relinquished the title, the office felt something was needed to spike the fans’s interest. So on a special Thursday night edition of RAW in Lowell, Massachusetts, I became heir to the throne.
“Hunter Hearst Helmsley was the Intercontinental Champion at the time. The Intercontinental Championship is the second most important title in the business. It naturally gets a lot of exposure and publicity. If he’s talented and charismatic enough, and the fans seem to embrace him strongly, he could become the World Wrestling Federation Champion, but there are no guarantees. A lot of Intercontinental Champions do not become WWF Champion.
“Still, the Intercontinental Title is considered one of the biggest prizes in the industry and when I learned Triple H was going to drop the title to me on RAW, I was shocked. So were a significant number of our fans who, perhaps not unjustly, felt that Rocky Maivia was being forced down their throats.” – The Rock Says book.
On a personal note, Rocky Maivia was my favorite incarnation Dwayne Johnson brought to the WWE. As great as he became as the Rock, there was something special about the hungry, excited young man he was when his journey began that really stood out. It was a cool chapter in his career as we watched him grow from an enthusiastic youngster, to an established star, and then a seasoned pro. Too many times we only get to see one, maybe two different gimmicks unless we’ve watched them early in their career elsewhere. Johnson’s rise was one that felt as unique as it was exciting.
No one puts Shawn Michaels in the corner
Not be outdone, Shawn Michaels took the spotlight as the Rock mentioned above and vacated the WWF Heavyweight Championship allegedly instead than go along with the planned storyline or opponent.
At the time, we didn’t know about kayfabe or what was real or not, so when Shawn gave his speech, it really got to a bunch of us that were watching.
Promo transcript courtesy of Cagesideseats.com.
“Well there’s uh, one thing about me is I can’t do anything halfway and I, and I come here and I hear the people and they chant uh, Sid’s name or they chant Bret’s name or they chant a lot of peoples’ names, and one thing’s for sure, you’re going to have all of that in the future, um, and that’s what I want for the World Wrestling Federation fans. In spite of, uh, what people may think about me, what I’ve always wanted for all these people is, is for them to have a good time and 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. But what was always important to me was the performance, was the performance so that these people, each time they reached in their pocket, they paid to get a WWF ticket, they didn’t regret it because they knew that if they saw my name on the card they could yell, they could come and they could cheer and they could boo and they could do whatever they wanted as long as they had a good time.
“Over the last couple of months, uh, there’s been a lot of talk of people, uh, having bad attitudes and a lot revolving around this belt. Uh, all I know today is that one thing that’s not going to revolve around this belt, for a long time, is going to be Shawn Michaels. I don’t know where I’m at right now. I have to, uh, I have to have everything checked. I may have… I may be beyond reconstructive 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, I can’t perform. I can’t come out here and just go half-ass. I have to come out here and I have to romp and stomp and I have to get tossed around. I have to toss people around and I have to have fun.
“The schedule over the last year I took on because I didn’t feel like I could say no. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to enjoy my life as the WWF Champion. I wanted to, I wanted to ride in lear jets and ride in limousines and I wanted to be on TV shows and I wanted to do autograph sessions and I got to do every bit of that. If nothing else, I have all of that to take with me. Again, and I know right now we’re in the middle of a time where toughness is real big here in the World Wrestling Federation, and unfortunately all I’ve got right now for you is a lot of sorrow, a lot of tears, and a lot of emotion. I don’t have any toughness for anybody, so I guess, here you go, here’s your belt.
“What I’m going to do is go back home and see what’s left for me; whether it’ll be in this ring… whether it’ll be out of this ring. I know that over the, uh, the last several months I’ve lost a lot of things and one of them has been my smile. And, and I know it doesn’t mean a whole lot to everbody else, but it means a lot to me. So 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 and I don’t care, really, I don’t care if it’s unpopular, and I don’t care if, uh, people want to make fun of me because I’m an emotional guy. But, um, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do and uh, over the last year I got to do it and whether you like me or not, I just want to tell you that, uh, last year was the most wonderful year of my life. And, uh, if I never do get to do it again, it’ll be okay because I got to live one full year as being the number one guy in this business and it was the single greatest year of my life. And I have you to thank, and I have everybody here to thank, and it means a lot to me and, uh, I’m gonna go home now. Okay?”
Sadly, they don’t cut promos as epic as this one was, even if what we’ve learned dampens our feelings on it. What it did do was open up a rivalry between what would be some of the WWE’s future and proven superstars that added a whole new depth to the upcoming scramble between Bret Hart, Vader, Steve Austin, and the Undertaker.
An additional note on this is Michaels became the first wrestlers to relinquish all three major WWF championships — the Intercontinental Championship in 1993 and the Tag Team Championship he shared with Diesel (Kevin Nash) in 1994.
He would also relinquish his half of the Tag Team Championship four months later when he was suspended following a backstage fight with Bret Hart.
See you next time on This Day in Wrestling History as we delve into the history of our favorite sport for historic events and memorable stories. Very often, we don’t know what’ll come up in these segments, and that makes this all the more fun to do.
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