Twenty-four years ago today, WWE presented a special live episode of RAW but instead of the regular Monday night, it aired live on Thursday. Looking back on it now, it would become a pretty infamous episode of RAW all thanks to the actions of one Shawn Michaels.
This episode of RAW was just three days prior to In Your House 13: Final Four, with a fatal-four-way main event scheduled at the pay-per-view which would feature the final four participants in the 1997 Royal Rumble match, those being Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Vader and Stone Cold Steve Austin. That match was happening due to the controversy surrounding the finish. (Check the results in the link above for more)
The following night on RAW, Hart told Vince he was quitting after McMahon ignored him when Bret demanded that Vince give him the WrestleMania title shot. Not long after, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon announced that, due to the long-standing policy in the WWF that all referee’s decisions were final, Austin’s win in the Royal Rumble stood. However, Gorilla refused to award Stone Cold with the WrestleMania title match due to his actions and instead came up with a new idea, entitled “Final Four” a special four-way elimination match in which Austin and the three men he illegally eliminated when he returned to the ring, those being The Undertaker, Vader and Bret Hart, which convinced Hart to rescind his previous threat to quit.
The original idea was for the match at In Your House was to determine who would receive the guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania 13. The main event of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view event saw Shawn Michaels defeat Sycho Sid to regain the WWF Championship; so, unless Michaels lost the title before WrestleMania 13, he would face off against the winner of the Final Four match.
The Thursday Raw Thursday episode began with a video package, with Vince McMahon’s voice being heard, revealing that Shawn Michaels was surrendering the WWF Championship title on tonight’s episode of RAW, leaving the title in abeyance.
The opening contest on Thursday Raw Thursday saw Hunter Hearst Helmsley defend the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Rocky Maivia. Helmsley dictated the pace for the majority of the match but it was not enough as Rocky Maivia reversed a Pedigree attempt with a roll-up, walking away with the WWF Intercontinental title.
It was a very good television title match to begin the show, and, as a result, would change a match for In Your House 13’s originally scheduled Intercontinental title match, as Hunter Hearst Helmsley was scheduled to defend the title against Ahmed Johnson but it was changed to Maivia defending it against Hunter in a rematch.
After an ad break, Sunny made her way down to the ring to ring announce for the next match: a tag team match between The Headbangers and Aldo Montoya and Bob Holly. A great contest of tag team action sees The Headbangers come away with the win after a powerbomb/diving leg drop combination on Aldo Montoya.
Shawn Michaels loses his ‘Smile’
After another commercial break, Shawn Michaels came out to the ring to forfeit the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Michaels claims that his doctor told him that he may never be able to wrestle again, due to his knee injury. Michaels mentions that he’s not sure if he’s able to come back and perform to the level he could before. Michaels hands the WWF World Heavyweight Championship title belt to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and then said that he would go back home and claims that one of the things he had lost in recent months was his smile.
He continues by saying that 1996 was the best year of his life and he is okay if he can never wrestle again because spending an entire year as the top guy has been the best experience of his life. He continues by saying once again that the past year had been the single best year of his life and then said he was going home.