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Smackdown – April 24, 2003

Smackdown
Date: April 24, 2003
Location: Gaylord Entertainment Center, Nashville, Tennessee
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the go home show for Backlash and we have a Smackdown main event. This time around it’s going to be rookie upstart John Cena challenging Brock Lesnar for the Smackdown World Title, meaning it’s likely time for a big face to face showdown. Other than that it’s Rikishi vs. Roddy Piper tonight for reasons I don’t even want to begin to understand. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – April 17, 2003

Smackdown
Date: April 17, 2003
Location: Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s tournament night as we have the finals to crown a new #1 contender. John Cena will be facing Chris Benoit, which is pretty much the best final they could have gone for. Cena should be the favorite after having spent weeks taunting Lesnar but Benoit is one of those cases where it’s easy to see him pulling it off. Let’s get to it.

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What the World Was Watching: WrestleMania XV

Boyz 2 Men sing “America the Beautiful” to kick off the show.  They receive a Cena-like mixed reaction.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 22, 1999

Steve Austin arrives at the arena and comes across a driver of a Coor’s Light truck.  Product placement 101.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are calling the action and they are live from Albany, New York.  This is the last RAW we have to hear called by Cole for a while so I am happy about that.  This is the go home show for WrestleMania XV.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 15, 1999

A video package recaps the tensions building between the Rock and Paul Wight, whose nickname has been changed to “The Big Show” instead of the “The Big Nasty.”  We are also reminded that the Undertaker is going after Vince McMahon.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from San Jose, California.

WWF Champion The Rock opens the show and he tells Steve Austin that he will prove his status as “The Great One” at WrestleMania.  He demands that Vince McMahon come out and prove to him that the Big Show is not working with Austin.  McMahon complies and says that “Dwayne” needs a reality check for being ungrateful for all that McMahon has given him.  He says that three generations of his family have looked after the Rock’s ancestors and that Paul Wight is not as quick to understand the existing agreement.  Wight comes out and demands to know what McMahon is talking about, threatening he and the Rock.  McMahon does not kindly to that, leading Wight to manhandle him into a corner to get his point across.  McMahon collects himself and books the Rock and Wight to team up to face Mankind and Steve Austin, thereby making this a preview of WrestleMania.  The Rock and Wight shake hands to end the segment at McMahon’s behest.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 8, 1999

A video package chronicles Steve Austin attacking the Rock on Sunday Night Heat and Paul Wight not trying to save the Rock from the assault.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are calling the action and they are live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – March 1, 1999

A video package recaps the Undertaker’s recent threats against Vince McMahon, culminating in the Undertaker burning a teddy bear at the end of last week’s RAW.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from Cleveland, Ohio.

The Corporation comes out and Vince McMahon discusses how the audience does not understand his capacity to love.  He fires Kane for losing the inferno match to the Undertaker last week and has orderlies come down to send Kane to the insane asylum.  However, Chyna comes to Kane’s aid and they fight them off.  Chyna tells McMahon that she can control Kane and asks for Kane to be booked against Steve Austin, with Kane’s job on the line.  McMahon counters by also putting Chyna’s job on the line.  Mankind then joins the festivities and volunteers to referee the Steve Austin-Kane match to prove himself worthy of refereeing the title match at WrestleMania XV.  McMahon agrees on the condition that Mankind is able to defeat the Undertaker on tonight’s show (this is later clarified in the broadcast to mean that McMahon will consider Mankind for the role at WrestleMania based on how the match goes).  The Undertaker’s voice then comes on via the loudspeakers and he says that he has already told McMahon what he is going to take from him.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 22, 1999

A video package recaps the Rock winning the WWF title in a ladder match against Mankind on last week’s show.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are taped from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Vince McMahon comes out to hype tonight’s Inferno Match between the Undertaker and Kane.  He welcomes Paul Wight to the ring, who is booked to be the guest referee at WrestleMania.  Cole is trying to get Wight over as “The Big Nasty,” so I guess it is good that “The Big Show” name was chosen instead.  WWF Champion The Rock also comes out, quickly getting into a verbal confrontation with Wight, telling him to “Know his role.”  McMahon’s efforts at playing peacemaker get nowhere until Mankind marches onto the stage and volunteers to referee the WrestleMania main event, as well as referee a Rock-Wight encounter tonight.  Wight then proceeds to challenge the Rock to a match, which the Rock gladly accepts and he says he will put the WWF title on the line too.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – February 15, 1999

A series of narrated photographs recaps last night’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view.

Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Birmingham, Alabama.

Commissioner Shawn Michaels comes out and welcomes out the participants in the WrestleMania main event:  WWF Champion Mankind and Steve Austin.  Before anything can be said between them, Vince McMahon interrupts, wearing a neck brace and selling his beating from Austin the previous night.  McMahon claims to be a broken man and that he wants a fresh start with Austin on the condition that Austin apologizes.  Austin does apologize, but only for beating McMahon more than he intended.  McMahon tells Michaels that people deserve a WWF title rematch between Mankind and the Rock because their match last night ended in a draw so he needs to do his job and book it for tonight.  Mankind says he needs a week to recover, bringing out the Rock, who continues to goad Michaels into booking a title match for this evening.  Mankind decides to take on the Rock after all and to make sure that there is a winner Michaels announces that tonight’s title match will be a ladder match.  After that, McMahon welcomes out Paul Wight, who he says will be the special guest referee of the title match at WrestleMania.  Austin simply flips him off from the ring to end the segment.

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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – November 16, 1998

by Logan Scisco

A video package
recaps Shane McMahon screwing Steve Austin over in the WWF title tournament
semi-finals last night at the Survivor Series.
We get a new RAW
intro where it was always hard to know the exact lyrics, so I always make up my
own, even if they did not make any sense. 
So my life in the box and soy la vie!!!

Jim Ross and Jerry
“The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Lexington,
Kentucky.  I remember really wanting to
go to this show, but my dad refused to get tickets for it since he hated
wrestling.  He would finally cave and get
tickets for Thunder the next year.  At
least that show would feature Hulk Hogan, but it is still a downer to know that
I missed a post-pay-per-view RAW.
Vince McMahon,
Shane McMahon, the Big Bossman, and the stooges come out to massive boos and
Vince rips the crowd for being hypocrites because they kiss up to their bosses on
a regular basis and should do it more. 
He introduces the new WWF champion, the Rock, who gets a ton of heel
heat and the crowd chants “Rocky sucks” to his theme
music.  The Rock justifies his heel turn
by saying that he did what he had to do to get ahead, unlike the trash in the
crowd that get by on minimum wage.  He
also brings up the “Die Rocky die” and “Rocky sucks” chants from his initial
face run, saying he never forgot that and he rechristens the People’s Elbow as
the Corporate Elbow.  Vince goes to
explain the conspiracy and he informs Steve Austin when he walks out that under his new contract he cannot touch Vince
unless provoked.  Austin shows footage of
how Shane promised him a post-Survivor Series title shot two weeks ago on RAW. Vince says that that shot was changed to Survivor
Series, but Austin counters with legalize, saying that he has a contract
promising him a title match tonight and Judge Mills Lane confirms it.  The crowd loses its mind over this news and
McMahon is incensed.  They covered a lot
of bases here, but kept things moving in such a way as to keep you interested
throughout this lengthy segment.  1 for 1
Opening
Contest:  The New Age Outlaws & X-Pac
defeat The Oddities (w/Luna Vachon & The Insane Clown Posse) when Billy
Gunn pins Kurrgan at 2:52:
Remember the Insane Clown Posse’s heel turn on the
Oddities a few weeks ago?  Well, things
appear to be patched up before the match, but tensions continue as Shaggy 2
Dope accidentally delivers a flying elbow smash to Kurrgan instead of Billy
Gunn to cost the Oddities the match.
After the match,
the Headbangers do a hit and run attack on the Road Dogg.
An angry Mankind
arrives at the arena, screaming that he is coming home.
Call 815-734-1161
to get your DX football jersey for $39.99 (plus $9 shipping &
handling).  The sports jersey items were
some of the best the WWF was selling during this period.
Vince directs the
Big Bossman to stay close to him and asks the stooges to go take care of
Mankind.  None of them want to do it, so
Vince assigns Pat Patterson the job since he knows Mankind the best.  He reminds him that Mankind is gullible.
Intercontinental
Champion Ken Shamrock walks out and says that he was screwed at Survivor Series.  He issues a challenge to the Bossman and says
he will put his Intercontinental title on the line.  These shorter promos that cut straight the
point were the way to go with Shamrock.
Val Venis beats
Mark Henry (w/D-Lo Brown) with a schoolboy at 2:37:
Ross and Lawler use this match to take jabs at Paula
Jones and her nose job.  Chyna makes her
return on the ramp after some back and forth action, distracting Henry, who
loses in the WWF trademarked distraction rollup finish that had not yet become
a running joke at this point.
After the match,
Henry says he just wants to have a nice dinner with Chyna “with no sex
involved.”  He reads a poem to her, but
Chyna just walks to the back.
Steve Austin gets
some coffee, with a Pepsi cup placed as a convenient product placement.  Does this mean CM Punk will even the odds
tonight?  TUNE INTO….you get the idea (©
Scott Keith 1998.  All rights reserved.).
Patterson tells
Vince that he could not find Mankind in the arena and Vince hilariously
responds “you could not find your ass.” 
Gerald Brisco volunteers to find Mankind.
Steve Blackman
& Goldust defeat “Double J” Jeff Jarrett & The Blue Blazer (w/Debra
McMichael) when Blackman pins the Blazer after a pump kick at 2:09:
This match is the result of an angle on last week’s show
where both men were attacked by the Blue Blazer.  Ross calls the Blazer outfit something out of
“1960s lucha libre.”  This is an
accelerated tag match, where the Blazer jobs in short order to a pump kick, but
you see, it is not Owen Hart under the mask, as Owen runs in for a beatdown on
Blackman after the bout.
Brisco says there
are some weird noises in the boiler room and he was too scared to go in.  Commissioner Slaughter calls him a wuss and
Vince freaks.  Slaughter is sent after
Mankind.  After the break, Slaughter
comes back and says that Patterson and Brisco are needed to reason with
him.  Vince recommends getting some riot
gear to take care of the Mankind problem and that he expects the problem to be
solved in short order.  Now THIS is good
comedy.
The Godfather
(w/Hos) beats Stephen Regal via forfeit when Regal takes the hos:
Is the Godfather worthy of the Hall of Fame?  I have to think so as he
successfully pulled off two popular gimmicks with Papa Shango and being a
pimp.  Regal’s facial expressions as the
hos flaunt their stuff are great.  He
eventually settles for the hos and the Godfather wins via forfeit.  However, as Regal is leaving, the Godfather
lets him know that “England is just for the fags,” (chalk that up to something
that will be censored on the WWE Network) which leads to a pull apart brawl
between the two.
Backstage, Kane
destroys parts of the production crew. 
Unfortunately, Kevin Dunn is not among the casualties.
Steve Austin being
screwed by Shane McMahon in his match against Mankind at Survivor Series is the
Glover Rewind segment.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Ken Shamrock
(Champion) wrestles The Big Bossman to a double disqualification at 3:55
Average brawl between these two, which culminates in the
referee getting decked by both of them. 
Eventually WWF officials intervene to stop the fight, but the pull apart
brawl does not come across as well.  Rating: 
*½ (1 for 2)
After officials
separate Shamrock and the Bossman, Vince and Shane McMahon walk out.  Vince tells Shamrock that he can use a man
with his set of skills and that they are a lot alike because they came from
broken homes.  He promises Shamrock a
family if he aligns with him and Shamrock shakes Vince, Shane, and the Bossman’s
hands.  Vince’s manipulation of the roster continues.
Some fans seek
Kane’s autograph outside of the arena and he chokes one of them against the
wall.  A police siren can be heard in the
distance.  He walks off into the mean
streets of Lexington.
Edge &
Gangrel (w/Christian) defeat LOD 2000 via count out at 2:12:
This is the Droz and Animal combination of LOD 2000.  Hawk walks out less than two minutes into the
match and begins walking up the Titantron. 
Droz and Animal go to investigate and get counted out.
After the
commercial break, Animal tries to talk Hawk, who is threatening to go out in a
blaze of glory, off the Titantron.  Paul
Ellering says he cares about Hawk’s life and Droz climbs the Titantron.  He seems to shove Hawk off and we go to
commercial.  I get what they were going
for here, but this was really tasteless and segments like this are a turn off
to viewers who may have struggled with suicide. 
1 for 3
And the fans
quickly forget about that awful segment because Sable, the new WWF Women’s
champion is here for an interview with Michael Cole!  Shane McMahon quickly interrupts her
interview to say that she is a creation of his father, which Sable refutes.  Shane says that real women like Sable work real
hard for their place, but Sable says that she is not for sale.  Like other Sable segments, this has a
punchline and not much else.  1 for 4
The Rock’s attack
on Mankind at the end of Survivor Series is the MediEvil Slam of the Week.
The stooges, wearing
UK Football helmets and pads head into the boiler room of Rupp Arena for
Mankind.  Patterson screams “Mankind we
love you,” which cracks me up. 
Unsurprisingly, Mankind attacks them, much of which we cannot see
because it is so dark.  2 for 5
Before the main
event, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, the Big Bossman, and Ken Shamrock walk
out.  Vince says he is not happy about
the upcoming WWF title match and ridicules the Southern hospitality he is
receiving due to the “asshole” chants. 
He says that this is Austin’s last title shot.
WWF Championship
Match:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeats
The Rock (Champion w/Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, The Big Bossman & Ken
Shamrock) by disqualification when the Undertaker interferes at 7:59:
This was a great piece of booking because Austin regained
the WWF title after he lost it to Kane at the King of the Ring, so it was not
beyond the realm of possibility that he would regain the title immediately from
the Rock.  Despite not getting much
action throughout the show, the crowd is engaged in this match from bell to
bell, as both men fight into the crowd and all around ringside.  The match is a really abbreviated version of
what Austin and the Rock will do later and is used more as a vehicle to advance
other feuds as Mankind runs out six minutes in to try to get at Vince, but ends
up brawling with the Bossman instead, and the Undertaker does a run-in after
Austin hits a Stunner to cost him the title. 
This bout is a prime example of how a crowd can take an average match
and make it seem like something special. 
Rating:  **½ (3 for 6)
The Final Report Card:  I could have done without the Hawk nonsense,
but this show was really all about the Austin-Rock title match and it was a
ratings coup in that regard, drawing the second-highest rating in the U.S. for
a RAW up to this point and pulling in a big rating on TSN in Canada.  You could hear some of the moans in the crowd
at the prospect of more Undertaker-Austin, but at least we have a pissed off
Mankind to rally behind for a few months before WrestleMania.
Monday Night War Rating:  5.5 (vs. 4.3 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Survivor Series 1998

by Logan Scisco

Jim Ross and Jerry
“The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from St. Louis,
Missouri.  As a side note, this is the
first Survivor Series pay-per-view not to feature an elimination match of any kind.
Vince McMahon is
at ringside with the WWF title and does introductions for the first match.

WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  Mankind beats
Duane Gill with a double arm DDT in 30 seconds:
Mankind was booked to face a mystery opponent here, who
some thought could be Randy Savage or Shawn Michaels.  Instead, it is just lowly jobber Duane Gill,
who Mankind – wearing a tuxedo – dispatches. 
At least Gill, the “man, the myth, and the legend,” gets a specialized
introduction, saying he had one loss in his prior WWF tenure and then jumped to
WCW.  Ross cracks me up by saying that
Gill “has spent more time on the canvas than Rembrandt.”  Gill also freaks out when pyro goes off around
him, which is a nice touch.  Crowd hated
this mystery opponent, but it fits the storyline.
Footage of
Jacqueline attacking Sable on Sunday Night Heat is shown.  Kevin Kelly interviews Sable, who says she is
pissed off and more determined than ever to become WWF Women’s champion.
WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  Al Snow (w/Head)
defeats “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra McMichael) when he nails Jarrett with Head
at 3:31:
The small feud between these two has been built as Head
vs. Jarrett’s guitar and we get a small showdown between the two with Head
coming out on top.  Nothing more than a
rushed match to squeeze everything in on tonight’s card.  Rating:  *¾
WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  “Stone Cold”
Steve Austin beats The Big Bossman via disqualification when the Bossman hits
Austin with his night stick at 3:17:
This is actually Bossman’s first match since he debuted
more than a month ago in the company as Vince McMahon’s bodyguard.  The match is a battle of wills between Austin’s
trademark offense and the Bossman’s rest holds. 
The Bossman blasts Austin with the night stick outside of the ring,
thereby blowing Tony Schiavone’s theory of how you cannot get disqualified out
there.  The Bossman completes a
thorough beating of Austin with the night stick before heading to the locker
room.  These tournament matches have been
pretty bad so far.  Rating:  ¼*
Michael Cole
interviews Vince McMahon, who is not concerned about Austin winning.  He reminds the audience that the night is
still young.
WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  X-Pac wrestles
Stephen Regal to a double count out at 8:09:
X-Pac has flawlessly recovered from getting a fireball to
the eyes on RAW.  Clearly, a Z-Pak did the trick!  WWF tournaments usually have a draw of some sort – the 1990 Intercontinental title tournament featured two of them – and it is fitting that one of them takes place in a Regal bout.  Both
men initially fight to a double count out before McMahon orders a five minute
overtime period, but that does not happen as X-Pac seemingly has a serious
injury so Austin gets a bye to the semi-finals. 
That was all sorts of confusing.  This
was Regal’s only WWF pay-per-view appearance under this gimmick, as he would
head to rehab in early 1999 and be released. 
Rating:  **¼
WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  Ken Shamrock
beats Goldust via submission to the ankle lock at 5:55:
Ross calls Shamrock’s Intercontinental title run dominant, but it is hard to see that when he has lost the majority of his bouts
since becoming champion.  The crowd is
clearly becoming restless by all these matches that have featured tons of
restholds thus far.  Shamrock came into
this as the clear favorite and he does prevail in a RAW-type match after the
referee blocks Shattered Dreams.  We even
get Lucha Shamrock as he pulls out a flying hurricanrana off the
second rope.  Rating:  **
Cole tells us that
Steve Austin is refusing medical attention. 
He says he knows Austin will keep competing!
The next
tournament bout is scheduled to be the Rock against Triple H, who has not been
seen since September.  Well, Triple H is
not here as he is still nursing a knee injury. 
Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco do make a funny walk out to the
D-Generation X theme music and do the crotch chops.  Ross takes another jab at Patterson’s sexual orientation
by saying that he is “still circulating Uranus.”  They announce that the Rock has a new
opponent:  The Big Bossman.  This leads to…
WWF Championship
Tournament First Round:  The Rock pins
The Big Bossman with a small package in four seconds:
The description of the match above says it all.  The Rock navigates himself into the
quarter-finals.  Initially, this came off
as stupid, but it made more sense by the end of the show.
Ross and Lawler
discuss the bracket, but Lawler still cannot figure it out.
WWF Championship
Tournament Quarter-Finals:  The
Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) defeats Kane with a Tombstone at 7:16:
This is the sixth time that the Undertaker and Kane are
squaring off in some capacity on pay-per-view in 1998 and if you do not think
that is enough, well they had a lot more bouts in subsequent years!  The Undertaker wears Kane down with some dull
offense and a Paul Bearer distraction cuts off a Kane comeback, enabling the
Dead Man to advance to the semi-finals.  Just awful.  Rating: 
½*
WWF Championship
Tournament Quarter-Finals:  Mankind beats
Al Snow (w/Head) with the Mandible Claw at 3:57:
Seeing Snow this deep in the tournament is just
weird.  However, we had to have this
match in the quarter-finals because Socko has been missing and is around Head.  McMahon and the stooges joke during the match
that they stole Socko from Mankind and put it there.  Mankind eventually finds Socko and in a part
of the match that is humorous and sad, he beats up the Head.  Seriously, he puts it in a headlock and just pounds away on it.  Another quick tournament match, nothing more
or less.  Rating:  **
WWF Championship
Tournament Quarter-Finals:  The Rock pins
Ken Shamrock after hitting him with the Big Bossman’s night stick at 8:22:
There is some nice symmetry with this match as Shamrock
forced the Rock to tap out at last year’s Survivor Series in Montreal.  This is also the final major battle between
the two, at least on pay-per-view, as they have squared off at four of the five
big pay-per-views of 1998:  the Royal Rumble,
WrestleMania, King of the Ring, and here. 
Shamrock got the King of the Ring nod, but now is just the Rock’s
time.  Shamrock’s look of despair when
the Rock reaches the ropes to break the ankle lock is a nice touch,
communicating that he has given the Rock his best shot and cannot finish
him.  This is the match of the night thus
far and it ends when the Bossman’s night stick toss to Shamrock is intercepted.  Rating:  ***
Cole interviews
Paul Bearer, who promises that the Undertaker will win the WWF title.
WWF Women’s
Championship Match:  Sable beats
Jacqueline (Champion w/Marc Mero) with a Sablebomb to win the title at 3:15:
Jacqueline won the title two months prior to this, but had
never defended it because these two women were the only two competitors in the
division.  They continue booking Sable as
the female version of Hulk Hogan, as she hits Jacqueline with a TKO less than a
minute in and then low blows Mero and powerbombs him on the floor.  Jacqueline never really lands any offense of
significance as Sable wins the title, but now she needs a new rival, so who
will that be?  Rating:  *½
WWF Championship
Tournament Semi-Finals:  Mankind pins “Stone
Cold” Steve Austin after Gerald Brisco hits Austin with a chair at 10:27:
So this semi-final gives us McMahon’s choice versus his
biggest foe and he makes sure to come down to ringside to see it.  These two put on a sloppy brawl for much of
the match, likely due to the tournament conditions, but things pick up when a
chair is introduced into the match for spots. 
Somehow doing a Stone Cold Stunner on a chair hurts your opponent more
than you, though.  The conspiracy really
unfolds after the stooges pull the referee out of the ring and McMahon rises
out of his wheelchair perfectly fine and decks him.  Shane McMahon then runs in and does his
famous two count turned into flipping Austin off and Brisco gives Austin a weak
chair shot to send Mankind into the finals. 
Evidently, the Big Bossman was supposed to do that, but pulled a Papa
Shango.  The crowd is just SHOCKED at the
finish.  In kayfabe terms, this was
probably Mankind’s biggest win since defeating the Undertaker at the 1996 King
of the Ring.  Rating:  **½
After the match,
McMahon and the stooges run to a waiting limo and it speeds away before Austin
can catch up to them.  Austin carjacks a
poor soul to pursue them, though.
WWF Championship
Tournament Semi-Finals:  The Rock defeats
The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) via disqualification when Kane interferes at
8:24:
With Austin out, the Rock now becomes the crowd favorite to
go all the way.  You can tell, though,
that a sizable number of fans are incredibly disappointed that Austin is
out.  These two do not have good
chemistry and the Rock plays the Randy Savage role here.  By the way, why is “playing Ricky Morton” a thing and not “playing Randy Savage”?  The Big Bossman comes out for
another Rock match, but proves ineffective. 
The bigger interference is run by Kane, who storms in and chokeslams the
Rock, thereby sending the Rock to the finals via disqualification.  The Undertaker and Kane brawl into the crowd
after the match because this feud MUST go on! 
Rating:  DUD
Cole interviews
Mankind, who is clearly exhausted.  He
says he only has one more hill to climb to be the WWF champion.
Triple Threat
Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship: 
The New Age Outlaws (Champions) defeat The Headbangers & D-Lo Brown
& Mark Henry when Billy Gunn pins Mosh at 10:10:
To the WWF’s credit, they did a lot of work the last two
months to give the Headbangers a push, but they just never caught on as
evidenced by the fact that they have no heat in this match.  The rules for this bout allow for three men
to be in the ring at one time, an innovation that I prefer over a standard
triangle match where only two teams have men in the ring and a third team is
completely left out.  Of course, what is
good in theory does not always work in practice as this match devolves into a
big mess of miscommunication spots and Tim White mistakes.  You can tell on Billy Gunn’s face that he was
not happy with the quality of this match. 
Rating:  *½
Before the title
match, the McMahons wish the Bossman a goodnight and say that they will take
care of the finals personally.  This
means that the limo that sped away just had the stooges and was meant as a
distraction to get Austin out of the building. 
That is a pretty brilliant piece of writing.
WWF Championship
Tournament Finals:  The Rock defeats
Mankind via submission to the Sharpshooter to win the title at 17:18:
If you had told someone at the beginning of 1998 that
Survivor Series would be headlined by Mankind and the Rock they probably would
have laughed at you.  Maybe not on the Rock,
but definitely on Mankind, who was in between three gimmicks and wrestling with
Chainsaw Charlie.  The crowd really does
not know what to make of these guys in the finals, both of whom are noticeably
exhausted, and they only come alive when the McMahons walk out.  It takes a while for this to get going, but
Mankind sacrifices his body to finally draw the crowd in, diving through the
Spanish announce table and taking some vicious chair shots.  I remember many months prior to this that “The
Informer” section of WWF Magazine predicted another Survivor Series screwjob and guess what?  That is exactly what we get as the Rock
cannot finish Mankind off, so he locks in a Sharpshooter and Vince gets the
bell to ring, making the Rock the new champion. 
I probably overrated this a bit, but Jim Ross did a great job keeping
you engaged in the match.  Without him,
this thing is probably less than two stars. 
Rating:  ***¼
Initially, the
crowd pops for the Rock’s win, but as they realize he is the true “chosen one”
by the McMahons, their positive reactions fizzle.  Vince gets on the mic and gloats about
screwing Austin and the fans, who were as gullible as Mankind.  Poor Mankind does not quite understand what
is happening and Ross does a great job getting him some sympathy.  The Rock runs down the fans and then smashes
Mankind in the back of the head with the title belt, thereby solidifying the
double turn.  At the end of the show,
Steve Austin walks out and runs to the ring, brawling with the new champion as
the McMahons flee.  Austin gives the Rock
a Stunner and tosses him out of the ring, something that I think was best saved
for when the show went off the air.  He
also gives Mankind a Stunner for good measure.
The Final Report Card:  This has been deemed as Vince Russo’s best
work, but honestly, this show has not aged well at all.  If you lived through 1998, you can still feel
some excitement from this show because you remember all of the storylines that
led up to it.  However, if you are a relatively
new fan and just randomly plug this show in, you miss a great deal of the
context.  It is like if you missed all of
the episodes of a certain television series but then watched the series
finale.  The bright spot of this show is
obviously the Rock’s first WWF title win, making him the first wrestler of
African American descent to win the championship (and yes, I know he is really half black), but even
that is not enough for me to give this show a thumbs up.
Attendance: 
21,779
Buyrate: 
1.3 (+0.41 from previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

What the World Was Watching: SummerSlam 1998

by Logan Scisco

Jim Ross and Jerry
“The King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from New York, New York.

Opening Contest
for the European Championship:  D-Lo
Brown (Champion) beats Val Venis via disqualification when Venis throws down the
referee at 15:26:
D-Lo was really having fun with the European champion
concept as he had himself billed from different parts of Europe.  For this bout, he is announced as being a
resident of Helsinki, Finland.  Edge is
shown watching the match in the crowd, which becomes important later in the
show.  This is a very well-paced,
back-and-forth match, and the crowd eventually comes around to appreciating it
at the ten-minute mark.  D-Lo blocks the
Money Shot with his knees and botches a powerbomb spot, which foreshadowed the
unfortunate botch the ended Darren Drozdov’s career.  Venis eventually takes off D-Lo’s chest
protector and puts it on, but the referee does not care for that and his
attempt to get Venis to take it off leads to the disqualification.  D-Lo carried a good chunk of this match and
the Madison Square Garden crowd was actually cheering for him by the end.  A few botches at the end and the finish bring
this down a notch, but kudos to the WWF for giving these two guys a lot of time
and exposure.  Rating:  ***½
After the bout, a
frustrated Venis gives the referee a Money Shot.
Michael Cole is
backstage with a hearse that Steve Austin destroyed on Sunday Night Heat.  Mankind rants about his “SummerSlam ride” not
being in good condition and how he will not be able to toss Kane in there
later.  He hopes to use a sledgehammer
against Kane later in the show.
The Insane Clown
Posse, one of the most controversial musical acts of the late 1990s, perform
the Oddities theme song.  The Oddities dance
around.  Only about 50% of the crowd –
and that is being generous – bother to wave their hands for the ICP.
Handicap
Match:  The Oddities (w/Luna Vachon)
defeat Kaientai (w/Yamaguchi-San) when Golga pins all the members of Kaientai
at 10:13:
So, we get this handicap tag match between the three
giants of the Oddities and the four men of Kaientai simply because the Insane
Clown Posse were booked for the show. 
Jim Ross makes us aware that he likes the ICP, which I find hard to
believe.  The match hides the
shortcomings of Kurrgan and Giant Silva by having them do a few token spots and
Kaientai works in some nice quadruple team maneuvers.  Still, this match was given way too much time
and the result did not matter in the end scheme of things as most of the
participants were gone from the company by the end of the year.  Rating:  ½*
Hair vs. Hair
Match:  X-Pac (w/Howard Finkel) pins
“Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Southern Justice) after hitting him with a guitar at
11:12:
On Sunday Night Heat, Jarrett and Southern Justice shaved
Howard Finkel’s head, so he accompanies X-Pac to the ring in a DX shirt.  Sadly, he is not very well coordinated when
doing the crotch chops with X-Pac.  The
announce team today would never let him live that down.  Based on the capabilities of both men, this
match is a disappointment and never seems to click.  There are lots of double knockout spots and
Jarrett pulls out a spot that I hate where he applies the figure-four without
working the legs at all.  Southern
Justice appear to miss their cue, requiring Jarrett to kick out of the X-Factor
and X-Pac proceeds to take a guitar from Dennis Knight and cracks it over
Jarrett’s head for the win.  After the
bout, all of the people who have had their hair cut by Jarrett over the last
few weeks hit the ring and cut his hair, thereby significantly transforming his
look for the first time in his WWF career. 
Rating:  **¼
Dok Hendrix
discusses the Lion’s Den structure.
Cole interviews
The Rock, who took out Triple H’s knee on Sunday Night Heat.  He cuts a generic promo and makes fun of
Triple H’s injured knee.
Edge & Sable beat
“Marvelous” Marc Mero & Jacqueline when Sable pins Mero after Edge slams
her into the cover position at 8:26:
Sable’s mystery partner for the match is revealed as
Edge, which sort of fits existing storylines since Edge attacked Mero a few
weeks prior on RAW.  It is also a nice
way to elevate a new star and is much better than putting someone like Kurrgan
into the match.  This is a glorified
squash as they book Sable as Superwoman and she manhandles her opponents.  That takes away from any real drama the match
might have.  Edge almost becomes an
afterthought until he works in a plancha spot late.  WrestleMania XIV this was not.  Rating:  **¼
Cole tells Mankind
that Kane is not going to be here to help him defend the tag team titles and
asks if he is going to forfeit.  Mankind
says he is going to get killed against the New Age Outlaws, but Vince McMahon
gives him a pep talk about how he belongs in Madison Square Garden.  McMahon says that if Mankind overcomes the
odds that he will get into the MSG Hall of Fame by next week.  Mankind says he needs a weapon and McMahon
hilariously grabs some random stuff and hands it to Mankind to use.  Now THIS is what a backstage segment is all
about.
A video package
hypes the Ken Shamrock-Owen Hart Lion’s Den match.
Lion’s Den
Match:  Ken Shamrock defeats Owen Hart
(w/Dan Severn) via submission to the anklelock at 9:16:
This was an ingenious idea because it added a unique
match to card and allowed the WWF to sell more tickets to the show in the MSG
theater.  Imagine a wrestling match in a
UFC-type structure and that is what this match is like.  It features some nice spots, such as Shamrock
using the angled walls of the structure to rebound off of and then using them
to escape a Sharpshooter and a dragon sleeper. 
Since Owen never tries that, it fits well within the story they are
trying to tell of this being Shamrock’s environment.  Dan Severn angrily walks out when Owen is
placed in the anklelock, thereby ending that relationship.  A great action packed match that lived up to
the hype.  It also holds up really well
today and is one of Owen’s better matches. 
Seriously, if you haven’t seen this, check it out.  Rating:  ****
Cole interviews
WWF Champion Steve Austin, who says he will use any means necessary to walk out
of Madison Square Garden as the champion.
No Holds Barred,
Falls Count Anywhere Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship:  The New Age Outlaws defeat Kane & Mankind
(Champions) when The Outlaws pin Mankind with a spike piledriver on a tag team
title belt at 5:18:
Poor Mankind is left to defend the titles on his own
after he is the odd man out of the Undertaker-Kane alliance.  The Outlaws bring a large dumpster filled
with weapons to the ring and Mankind suffers a nasty two-on-one onslaught.  Jim Ross must have watched too much
SummerSlam 1991 before this one, as he criticizes the referee for not making
the Outlaws tag in and out.  Mankind
survives an Outlaws side suplex-neckbreaker combination and a spike powerbomb
through chairs, but a spike piledriver gives the Outlaws the tag team titles
for the second time.  Typical RAW match,
but it served its purpose of getting the titles back on the Outlaws and making
Mankind look resilient.  Rating: 
**
After the match,
the Outlaws toss Mankind in the dumpster and after closing it, Kane emerges out
of the dumpster and smashes Mankind in the face with a sledgehammer.  The Outlaws wisely flee to the locker room.  Jim Ross’s outrage meter reaches 0.8 for
this.
A video package
hypes the Rock-Triple H ladder match for the Intercontinental title.
Connecticut Yankee
comes out to give Triple H some live entrance music.
Ladder Match for
the Intercontinental Championship: 
Triple H (w/Chyna) beats The Rock (Champion w/Mark Henry) to win the
title at 26:14:
This was the first ladder match that the WWF had featured
on television since SummerSlam 1995.  I
miss the old visual for ladder matches with the champion surrendering the title
to the referee and then having it slowly raised above the ring.  The small aisle of the MSG venue gives us a
great visual early in the match of the Rock beating Triple H down and having
the fans on top of him shouting that he sucks. 
The story of the match is the Rock working on Triple H’s injured knee to
prevent him from climbing the ladder and Triple H evening some of the odds by
busting the Rock open with a baseball slide into the ladder.  The Rock also manages a split reaction,
working a 50/50 “Let’s go Rocky!  Rocky
sucks!” chant.  One thing to really
criticize this match for are the slow climb spots.  They work for Triple H, since he has one leg,
but the Rock doing them after pulverizing Triple H’s knee for five minutes is
ridiculous.  Whatever your thoughts are
about Triple H, you have to admire him taking some the brunt of the sick bumps
in this match.  This brutal war comes to
an end when Triple H hits a Pedigree, but gets powder tossed in his eyes by
Mark Henry.  That produces a double climb
of the ladder with Chyna coming in and giving the Rock a low blow so Triple H
can win to a HUGE pop.  This match ended
the first phase of the Triple H-Rock feud, as well as the Rock’s nine month
reign as Intercontinental champion, but unfortunately for Triple H he lost some
of the momentum gained from this match when a knee injury put him on the
shelf.  The Rock now moves out of the
Intercontinental title level and into contention for the WWF title, with this
match showing he had the skills needed to make that jump.  Rating:  ****½
WWF Championship
Match:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Champion)
pins The Undertaker after a Stone Cold Stunner
Austin suffers a concussion about two minutes into the
bout when his head collides with the Undertaker and that just ruins the match’s
flow.  McMahon had to freaking out
backstage because when that collision took place Austin went down in a heap and
appeared to be knocked out.  Kane does
walk out around the seven minute mark, but the Undertaker waves him off,
thereby squandering his primary advantage. 
I understand the idea of the Undertaker wanting to win on his own, but
does that not negate the story on the previous RAW of Kane and the Undertaker
being an unstoppable combination?  The
highlight of the contest is the Undertaker giving Austin a guillotine leg drop
on the Spanish announce table (I can’t say through because the table doesn’t
break).  Austin rallies from that to win
after giving the Undertaker a low blow during his ropewalk spot, but after all
the buildup, this match was a disappointment to say the least.  And again, we get a slow Earl Hebner three
count for no reason at all, since he wasn’t bumped.  Some people give this match over ***, but I
just don’t get that rating in light of its disjointed nature and botches.  Rating:  **¼
After the match,
the Undertaker takes the WWF title from Hebner and, after a tense few moments,
hands it to Austin.  Kane walks out to
stare down Austin with his brother in the aisle as the show goes off the air.
The Final Report Card:  Disappointing main event aside, this was a
fantastic SummerSlam.  The ladder match
is the highlight of the show, but the Lion’s Den match is deserving of credit
as well. I always wonder how good Austin-Undertaker could have been if not for
the concussion Austin suffered minutes into the match.  If the WWE wants to remember how to
adequately build to a big show, they should rewatch what they did for this
pay-per-view, which attracted the highest buyrate for a SummerSlam since 1992.
Attendance: 
21,588
Buyrate: 
1.48 (+0.68 from previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Fully Loaded 1998 – In Your House

by Logan Scisco

The video package
raises the big questions for tonight’s main event:  Will Kane and the Undertaker work together?  Will Mankind be the odd man out?  Is Vince McMahon organizing everything?  Hopefully tonight we will find some answers!
Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from Fresno, California.

Opening
Contest:  Val Venis pins “Double J” Jeff
Jarrett (w/Tennessee Lee) with a rollup at 7:51:
This is Venis’s pay-per-view debut and he teases
stripping before Jarrett’s entrance puts a stop to that.  Kaientai tries to get a spot at ringside for
the match, but they and Southern Justice are evicted before the opening bell.  Yamaguchi-San is allowed to do commentary,
though, and Lawler tries to get more information on what his relationship is
like with his wife.  This is a very solid
opener, with Venis pulling several false finishes before running Jarrett into
Tennessee Lee and getting the win.  Venis
remains undefeated.  Rating:  ***
After the match,
Venis tells Yamaguchi-San that he will never “measure up” to the Big Valbowski
.
Non-Title
Match:  D-Lo Brown (European Champion
w/The Godfather) beats X-Pac (w/Chyna) with a Sky High at 8:26:
This is the first of a series of matches that these two
would have in 1998.  The European title
functioned as the WWF’s version of WCW’s TV championship during the late 1990s
and it gave someone trying to make a name for themselves like D-Lo something to
do.  Ross makes sure we know that D-Lo is
a Certified Public Accountant.  The chest
protector gimmick is quite brilliant because not only can D-Lo do more harm to
his opponents if he hits a splash or the Lo Down, but he also does a lot of
damage to himself if he misses those moves. 
D-Lo gets the win to continue building him as more than a paper
champion, although he gets an assisted distraction from the Godfather to finish
X-Pac off.  These two would go on to have
better matches, but this was still a solid effort.  Rating:  **½
Kevin Kelly and
Tom Pritchard let us know from the WWF.com center backstage that the Undertaker
has not yet shown up.
Terry Funk tells
the audience that the next match is going to be his last for a while because he
is so beaten up.  Bradshaw, his teammate
for the next match, is not very happy about hearing this news.  Since Bradshaw has had a rough 1998, I can’t
say that I blame him.  Besides, it is
pretty lousy to tell your tag team partner that you are leaving the company
right before walking through the curtain.
Faarooq &
Scorpio defeat Terry Funk & Bradshaw when Scorpio pins Funk with a 450
splash at 6:49:
Scorpio abandoned teaming with Terry Funk to work with
Faarooq and they had wrestled a few matches on Shotgun Saturday Night in the
weeks leading up to this.  We get an
entertaining and stiff exchange between the future Acolytes in this bout and
Bradshaw brings his working boots by going to the top rope on several
occasions.  Since this match was hastily
added to the card, you might think it’s just filler, but we get some very
entertaining wrestling until an awkward brawling segment at the end.  The crowd does not appreciate it, but that is
more of a fault of not giving many of the guys in the match a sense of
direction in the booking than anything else. 
After the bout, Bradshaw takes out his frustration on Funk and decimates
Scorpio and Faarooq for good measure.  Rating: 
**
Mark Henry pins
Vader with a splash at 5:03:
These two actually have an issue as Henry and Vader
ruined each other’s chances of advancing in the King of the Ring last
month.  Their feud has largely been relegated
to Shotgun Saturday Night.  This match is
a complete train wreck as Vader is not capable of carrying the younger Henry
and we get awkward combinations of power moves. 
Henry kicks out of Vader’s splash off the second rope and then
unceremoniously finishes him with a splash that causes the crowd to moan.  It’s just sad to see Vader reduced to the
level of an enhancement talent, especially if you grew up following his WCW
career.  Rating:  ½*
Kelly and
Pritchard continue to discuss whether the Undertaker is going to show up on
tonight’s show.
WWF Tag Team
Champions Kane & Mankind walk out with Paul Bearer.  Bearer gloats about how the Undertaker does
not want to face Kane because he wants to keep his main event spot at
SummerSlam.  The New Age Outlaws show up
and issue a challenge to Kane & Mankind for the titles tomorrow night on
RAW.  When they do not get a response,
they tear into the champions and WWF officials have to separate them.  Seeing Billy Gunn and Kane share 50-50
offense in this segment is just so wrong.
Ross and Lawler
recap Hawk showing up late to save Animal from the DOA on the last edition of
RAW.
The Disciples of
Apocalypse (w/Paul Ellering) defeat LOD 2000 when 8-Ball pins Animal after a DDT
at 8:51:
With Sunny out of the picture, I no longer have a reason
to care about the LOD.  You can sense how
the LOD are past their expiration date by listening to the crowd, as they get
very little reaction for anything in the match. 
They also do not care about the DOA’s constant cheating throughout the
contest.  Ellering’s excited attempts at
interference are laughable as he continually whiffs in his attempts to make a
difference.  It takes forever for Animal
to get the hot tag and Skull does eat a Doomsday Device, but the match
continues a little longer and the DOA do an illegal switch and win.  You would think that the LOD would have that
scouted based on the numerous times they have faced the DOA up to this
point.  The WWF gave this way too much
time and after this bout the LOD, DOA, and Ellering should have been cut loose
for good.  Unfortunately, this feud
continued!  Rating:  DUD
Vince McMahon and
his stooges come out and McMahon says that he is not to blame if the Undertaker
does not show up.  Instead, he points the
finger at Steve Austin based on his provocations of the Undertaker.  McMahon reads the “card subject to change”
addendum on the programs that the crowd bought before the show and announces
that Austin’s “suitable replacement” for tonight’s main event if the Undertaker
no shows is the Brooklyn Brawler. 
Forgetting about this sixteen years later, I cracked up pretty hard at
this, especially because the Brawler comes out screaming “I’m ready” and is all
amped up.
Hart Family
Dungeon Match with Dan Severn as Special Guest Referee:  Owen Hart defeats Ken Shamrock with a
crossface at 4:54:
This is the first extensive footage of the famous Hart Dungeon
on television.  It appeared in some video
packages before this show, but we actually get a match that takes place in
it.  Shamrock walking down the steps to
the basement is like something out of a C-level horror film.  This is a submission match and they work a
quasi-UFC/WWE style that I am sure was not taught in the actual Dungeon by Stu
Hart.  I am more amazed that they managed
to work a five minute match within the confines of the Dungeon than anything
else.  However, since this Vince Russo we
need some type of ref bump, so sure enough that happens with Severn getting
knocked loopy, thereby allowing Owen to hit Shamrock with a dumbbell and then
tapping Shamrock’s hand on the canvas when Severn awakes to win.  Seriously, they booked a screwjob for this!  Finish aside, this was a fun change of pace,
but I can’t get past some of the ridiculousness of the contest like Shamrock’s
head going through some drywall and Owen swinging off pipes.  Rating:  **
-Two-Out-of-Three
Falls Match for the Intercontinental Championship:  The Rock (Champion) wrestles Triple H
(w/Chyna) to a time limit draw at 30:00:
This match has a caveat on the traditional
two-out-of-three falls format as there is a mandatory one minute rest period
between falls.  The WWE’s current
creative team should be forced to rewatch this DX-Nation feud and realize how
you can go about making a secondary title important.  Ross and Lawler hyping the thirty minute time
limit is a clue of where this match is heading, especially since that time
limit was not discussed in the build to the match.  Sure enough, after both men’s factions
interfere at various points and after exchanging falls, with the Rock winning
the first after a Rock Bottom at 20:20 and Triple H winning the second after
Chyna DDT’s the Rock on a chair at 26:34, the time limit expires.  This is deemed as the first “classic” between
the Rock and Triple H, but most of the heat on the match comes from
interference (five run-ins!) and not from the two participants.  Also, they really struggled to continue the
match with unique moves after the twenty minute mark.  It felt like this was a fifteen minute match
drawn out to thirty minutes.  Their
Judgment Day Iron Man match in 2000 would fix these problems and because both
men’s characters had reached another level, it was a much better match.  Rating:  ***
After the bell,
the Nation and D-Generation X brawl, with DX standing tall in the ring.
Kevin Kelly and
Tom Pritchard inform us that the Undertaker arrived during the Intercontinental
title match.
A video package
hypes the bikini contest between Sable and Jacqueline.
Bikini
Contest:  Jacqueline (w/Marc Mero) beats
Sable by disqualification:
Before the contest, Dustin Runnels issues a prayer.  Why that did not produce a feud with Jerry
Lawler, the WWF’s resident pervert is beyond me, but I guess Runnels feud with
Val Venis made the same point. 
Jacqueline has a wardrobe malfunction by dancing too much in her
bikini.  Sable goes without a top and
wears body paint, which she says was not what Vince McMahon wanted.  That’s not a bikini, though, so she loses by
disqualification.  Seriously, a
disqualification in a bikini contest!?!?
After the contest,
McMahon walks to the ring and covers Sable. 
This McMahon-Sable angle is not making any sense in light of existing
storylines.
A video package
chronicles the events leading up to the main event for the WWF tag team titles.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  “Stone Cold” Steve
Austin & The Undertaker defeat Kane & Mankind (Champions w/Paul Bearer)
when The Undertaker pins Kane after a Tombstone at to win the titles at 17:27:
This is the first time that the WWF tag team titles are
on the line in a pay-per-view main event since In Your House 3 in September
1995.  I really feel bad for Mankind as
the odd man out in this main event angle, but he was actually able to
capitalize on that later for his late 1998 run. 
The Undertaker and Kane are skittish about contact throughout the match,
lending some credence to the view that they are working together, but the
Undertaker reluctantly agrees to hot tag in and fight Kane late in the
match.  You see, we are back to the “tag
team partners that do not like each other” that has been an Austin staple since
he first won the tag team titles with Shawn Michaels in the summer of
1997.  I do not like the WWF champion
holding the tag titles to build their feud since it weakens the overall tag
division, so the result of this match was rather silly.  The crowd was into this, but it was really an
extended RAW main event.  That said, what
did you expect from a throwaway pay-per-view before SummerSlam?  Rating:  **
The Final Report Card:  Despite achieving an all-time record buyrate
for In Your House shows, this was the very definition of a middle of the road
pay-per-view.  Outside of the LOD-DOA
debacle, there was nothing that was awful about this show, but there was also
nothing really great or memorable aside from Sable’s moment, and that was
lessened when she later did Playboy. 
Triple H and the Rock, as well as Shamrock and Owen, would go on to have
better, more memorable contests at SummerSlam. 
If you are looking to burn some time, this is as decent a card as any to
watch, but do not expect anything fantastic.
Attendance: 
9,855
Buyrate: 
0.9 (+0.31 over previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Neutral

What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw – June 15, 1998

by Logan Scisco

Kane and Mankind’s
beatdown of Steve Austin at the end of last week’s show is replayed.
Jim Ross and Michael Cole are in the booth
and they are live from San Antonio, Texas. 
Hell in a Cell is hanging above the ring, but Ross does not know why.

Sable walks out
and introduces Vince McMahon, who brought her back to the WWF.  A wrestling company not sticking with a
retirement stipulation?  No!  McMahon has Sable read a prepared statement
that denies his use of charitable organizations to get back at Steve Austin and
promising to bring those who attacked Austin to justice.  McMahon kisses Sable on the cheek, but before
he can leave, Austin comes out with his sights set on beating up McMahon.  McMahon begs Austin to listen to reason and
says that the Undertaker arranged Austin’s beating on last week’s show.  See, the cops that were called on him just gave
the Undertaker an excuse not to back Austin up. 
The Undertaker proceeds to come out and calls McMahon a liar.  Before the Undertaker can beatdown McMahon,
though, the lights go out and Kane and Mankind show up with Paul Bearer in
tow.  Bearer piles onto the Undertaker
accusations by claiming that the Undertaker worked with him on last week’s plan.  Bearer then challenges Austin and the
Undertaker to a tag team match in the cell against Kane and Mankind and argues
that the entrance ramp that separates them is the “highway to hell.”  The Sable part of this segment was
nonsensical, but McMahon begging for his life and planting the seeds of an
Undertaker-led conspiracy was nice storytelling.  1 for
1
Opening King of
the Ring Qualifying Contest:  The Rock
beats Vader with a Rock Bottom at 4:40:
The rest of the Nation is barred from ringside for this
bout, just like last week’s show.  Cole is
still calling the Rock the “co-leader” of the Nation, which makes no sense now
that Faarooq is no longer in the group. 
Looking back at things now, I wish they had given Vader more time off
and then had him come back as part of Paul Bearer’s faction.  It would have gelled with Vader’s post-match
promo at Over the Edge about needing to re-evaluate his career.  They also could have booked Vader to go to
the semi-finals and face Ken Shamrock in a rematch of their Cold Day in Hell
encounter.  The Rock knocks Vader out of
the ring, where Mark Henry attacks him and gives him a splash, and that allows
the Rock to advance into the tournament and face Triple H or X-Pac in the first
round.  Rating:  ** (2 for 2)
The Road Dogg
gives a scouting report to Triple H and X-Pac on how they can beat each other.
Edge is coming!
Darren Drozdov
pins “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Tennessee Lee) after Marc Mero gives Jarrett a
low blow at 2:15:
During the bout, Mero and Jacqueline come out and Mero
rants about Sable’s return to the company. 
Jacqueline and Lee get into a confrontation on the floor, which
distracts Jarrett and results in Mero giving his future King of the Ring
opponent a low blow.  Droz takes advantage to notch his biggest win to date.
Billy Gunn tells
Triple H and X-Pac why they are going to stage the Match of the Year tonight.
Val Venis defeats
Chainz with the Money Shot at 4:37:
The Val Venis momentum tour continues as he dispatches
with the directionless Chainz.  They gave
this match too much time since the crowd could care less about Chainz and the
booking team wasn’t going to do anything with him after this match.  Rating:  *½ (2 for 3)
The Undertaker
tells Kevin Kelly that he can’t trust Steve Austin, but Austin can trust him
since his intentions of wanting a WWF title shot at clear.
Triple H tells
X-Pac that he can’t lay down for him since it’s the King of the Ring.  X-Pac says that he doesn’t need to take a
dive and wishes Triple H the best of luck.
Dustin Runnels
beats “Marvelous” Marc Mero (w/Jacqueline) with a bulldog at 4:08:
Returning the favor, Jeff Jarrett, Tennessee Lee, and
Southern Justice walk out during the match and Jarrett runs Mero down on
commentary.  After Mero hits a super
hurricanrana, Jarrett distracts the referee and Sable walks out to distract
Mero, enabling Runnels to score the upset. 
Classic Russo overbooking of that match, but I have to give them credit
for making the Mero-Jarrett first round match much more than TV filler.  This is Runnels first win since ditching the
Goldust gimmick.  Rating:  ** (3 for 4)
Chyna tells Triple
H and X-Pac that it’s time for their match
.
Kevin Kelly
interviews Dustin Runnels, who says he is happy with ending his losing streak
and that he needs to thank Jesus Christ for his victory.
Jerry “the King”
Lawler joins Ross to do commentary for the second hour of the show.
King of the Ring
Qualifying Match:  Triple H defeats X-Pac
by count out at 5:15:
This is X-Pac’s first match since his return to the
company following WrestleMania XIV. 
Triple H is also defending his King of the Ring title.  Chyna plays the role as a one woman
lumberjack, tossing both guys into the ring and keeping the action flowing.  The Rock distracts Triple H by cutting a
promo in the crowd and that allows Owen Hart to crotch X-Pac on the guardrail
and disable him.  Triple H checks on his
friend after the Rock’s promo and does not want to take a count out win, but
X-Pac tells him to get in the ring and take the victory.  Standard match, but it was well booked in
that it did not make X-Pac look weak on his return, advanced the DX-Nation
storyline, and pushed the King of the Ring as a big deal.  Triple H will now face the Rock in the first
round.  Rating:  ** (4 for 5)
The Undertaker’s
chokeslam spree on last week’s show is the JVC Kaboom! of the Week.
Al Snow walks out
with his old Avatar mask and Lawler confronts him in the ring.  Snow says that the Avatar gimmick was a dumb
idea cooked up by Vince McMahon (which it was) and he says that he is going to
make two citizens arrests: McMahon for attempted murder of his career and
Lawler for lewd conduct.  Lawler tries to
throw Head into the crowd, but that leads to Snow attacking him and giving a
referee in the ring a Snow Plow.  Snow
beats up a security guard and proceeds to flee into the crowd.  They are really turning their wheels with
Snow right now and they need to get to the point.  4 for
6
Steve Austin tells
Michael Cole that he can’t trust the Undertaker because the Undertaker wants
his WWF title.
Owen Hart &
Mark Henry beat Ken Shamrock & Dan Severn via disqualification when
D-Generation X interferes at 4:41:
Shamrock and Severn are reluctant partners in this match
and Shamrock doesn’t even acknowledge his partner’s presence after making his
entrance.  This is also a preview of the
King of the Ring first round, as Shamrock will face Henry and Severn will face
Owen in upcoming tournament matchups. 
Everyone looks good in this match, which features some fun technical
sequences between Owen and his face opponents, and Owen manages to put Shamrock
in the Sharpshooter, but DX interferes before Owen can get him to submit.  Rating:  **¼ (5 for 7)
After the bell,
the Nation runs out to fight DX and Vader runs out to assist DX and attack Mark
Henry.  WWF officials have to separate
everyone.
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Tag Team Royal
Rumble to Determine the #1 Contenders to the WWF Tag Team Championship:  Kane & Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) win after
eliminating Terry Funk & 2 Cold Scorpio at 8:30:
This is the first tag team Royal Rumble in WWF history
and thirty second entry times are used, so the action is fast and furious.  Just like the WrestleMania XIV battle royal,
when one member of a team is eliminated, their partner must also leave the
match.  Kane & Mankind are surprise
entrants and enter as the second team, facing LOD 2000, who draws number
one.  Other participating teams are the
New Midnight Express, the Headbangers, the Disciples of Apocalypse, Kurrgan
& Golga, Too Much (Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor), Faarooq &
Steve Blackman (who seemingly love to tag together despite not wrestling that many matches as a team), Taka Michinoku & Bradshaw, and Terry Funk & 2 Cold
Scorpio.  The eliminations come slowly
and then accelerate once all of the teams have entered the match.  Funk tries to use a chair to help his team
win a title shot, but that doesn’t account for Mankind, who uses the chair to
wear out Funk and eliminate him.  Putting
Kane & Mankind in the match acted as a spoiler, since no other team could
possibly beat them, but the closing sequence with Funk and Scorpio was fun
while it lasted.  6 for 8
After the
commercial break, Hell in a Cell lowers around Kane and Mankind in the ring for
the main event.  Of course, the WWF isn’t
giving away that tag match on free TV, so we get a wild brawl instead between
Austin and the heels after the Undertaker does not show up when announced.  As Austin fights his opponents on the ramp,
Paul Bearer locks himself in the cell, but the Undertaker climbs out from underneath
the ring and beats him to a bloody pulp. 
After Austin decimates Mankind, he climbs to the top of the cell to
fight with Kane and that plays us out. 
The crowd loved every moment of this. 
7 for 9
The Final Report Card:  This show really started to move us through
the “Highway to Hell” storyline with the Undertaker accused of plotting behind
Steve Austin’s back.  Since the
Undertaker had not been a heel since early 1992, the possibility that he might
turn was a big deal at the time.  The
midcard is also developing nicely, although the Al Snow storyline is beginning
to wear thin.
Monday Night War Rating:  4.3 (vs. 4.0 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up