SummerFest Countdown: 1998

(Something a little different for this one, as there is the original rant from 1998 from the live show, but I never did an official redo.  However, a few years ago I did a Tandem Rant with someone else on InsidePulse, so I’ll splice in my half of that rant as needed, and I also did Austin-Taker for the 90s DVD so I’ll add that in there as well for sake of comparison.  Also, wanted to go off on a bit of a rant about the Anthology DVDs before we start, because the planning on these was kind of shitty in a way.  So the first two sets go 88-92 and then 93-97, and that’s great because I needed all of those.  However, volume 3 is 98-2002, and therein lies the problem, because I already bought 99-2002 in their originally released form and I’m not dropping $50 to get the shitty blurred versions.  However, 98 was never released as a standalone DVD, since the first WWE DVD ever was Wrestlemania 15.  So basically the only way I have of getting 98 in non-bootleg form is to buy the entire set and use the last four years as coasters.)  The Netcop BIRTHDAY Rant for Summerslam 1998: Highway to Hell! Sunday Night Heat quickie results: Too Much over Animal and Drunk Hawk, Gangrel over Dustin Runnels, DOA over Vader & Bradshaw (who broke up and fought after the match). Austin wreaks some havoc for fun. Live from New York, New York. Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Opening match: European title, D’Lo Brown v. Val Venis. Val’s take on NY: “I came, I saw, I came again.” Brown is now the only black guy from Helsinki. The concept here is that the chest protector is loaded. Kind of a lot of stalling to start. Solid, if totally unspectacular, opener. Crowd is hot to start but cools off. D’Lo controls, as per rule #459a of the WWF. (Well, I mean, he was a heel, so it’s kind of a given.)  Brown works on the back and even applies a Texas Cloverleaf. He misses a senton off the second rope and Val comes back. Val off the top but D’Lo catches him with the Lowdown (or Skyhigh, I always get those confused) powerbomb for two. (Skyhigh.)  D’Lo with a DDT for another two. D’Lo gets caught off the second rope with a Val powerslam for two and the crowd is back into it. D’Lo gets snapped off the top rope and Val with a butterfly suplex, but D’Lo lifts the knees to block the Moneyshot. The crowd starts chanting “D’Lo!”. D’Lo messes up a powerbomb, badly. Try #2 and he hits a running powerbomb, but Val moves on the Lowdown. Another Val comeback and he rips off the chest protector. Val powerslam and he puts on the chest protector and goes to the top rope, but the referee causes him to slip and crotch himself. Val gets up and tosses the ref out of frustration to draw the DQ. Bad ending to a pretty good match. Ref takes the Moneyshot in retaliation. **3/4 (Take 2!)  European title: D-Lo Brown v. Val Venis This was very early in Val’s run when he was the hot new thing and was expected to carry the promotion in later years. Funny how things very rarely work out like they expect. They fight for the lockup and D-Lo offers the handshake of sportsmanship, then gives a cheapshot on the next one. Val tries a forearm shot to the chest, but D-Lo’s chest protector does its job, so Val slugs away until D-Lo knocks him down with a shoulderblock. D-Lo follows with an avalanche to really drive the point home, but a second one misses and Val takes him down with a legsweep and follows with a dropkick. D-Lo runs away, but Val slingshots him back into the ring. Criss-cross and Val has a rollup blocked, but comes back with a spinebuster for two, back before it became the standard setup move for every main eventer. Val with a clothesline and splash, but it misses and D-Lo slugs back. Backdrop suplex follows and D-Lo whips Val into the corner With Authority, but Val wants a slugfest. Val follows with a t-bone suplex, but D-Lo clotheslines him and gets a legdrop for two. Leg lariat gets two. Val fights up and tries a slam, but D-Lo clotheslines him down again and goes up with an elbow off the middle rope for two. Val tries a suplex, but D-Lo reverses him into a Texas Cloverleaf and forces Val to make the ropes. D-Lo goes up again, but misses a senton and Val comes back with the running knees. Elbowdrop and he goes up, but D-Lo catches him with the Sky High powerbomb. That gets two. DDT gets two off a nice reversal sequence. D-Lo heads up again and gets caught this time, but fights Val off. He comes down and gets caught in a powerslam, however, and Val gets two. Val goes up again and then changes his mind and goes with a butterfly suplex instead, then heads up for the Money Shot…but it hits the knees. D-Lo tries the running powerbomb, but can’t get Val up and drops him on his head by accident. That might hurt someone one of these days! Another try works and he goes up, but the frog splash misses and Val makes the comeback. He elbows D-Lo down and then steals the chest protector, hitting him with a powerslam before donning the protector and going up. The ref tries to stop him, however, and inadvertently crotches him, so Val shoves the ref down for the DQ at 15:20. That’s a long match for such a lame finish. They were really letting it all hang out, though. ***1/2 Mankind surveys the damage to the hearse caused by Steve Austin. The Oddities v. Kaientai. ICP does a quickie concert to introduce the Oddities. Kurrgan is dressed like a rastafarian. Golga takes on all the members of Kaientai with headbutts. He steals Yamaguchi’s shoe as this threatens to further degenerate into a comedy match. (Was there any doubt going in what it would be?)  Kurrgan’s in and he takes out all the members of Kaientai, including a human tug of war. Silva is in and Kaientai argues over who gets the honors. Silva takes out all the members of Kaientai. It’s official, it’s a comedy match. JR admits they didn’t advertise it as a classic. KDX finally manages to get control on Golga with a quadruple splash and the usual KDX routine but it doesn’t last long. Kurrgan gets the hot tag and destroys everyone. Kurrgan and Silva do stereo double chokeslams on KDX and Golga splashes everyone for the pin. Ugh. DUD. Well, I was thinking it would be negative stars, so I guess it’s an improvement. Dok and Shawn hype the hotline. Haircut match: Jeff Jarrett v. X-Pac. Howard Finkel, who was shaved by Jarrett during Heat, comes out in a D-X shirt with X-Pac and does the crotch chops with him. X-Pac with a great counter for the sunset flip: Move out of the way. Out of the ring and Jarrett does the most vicious ballshot on the post I’ve ever seen. EEEEEEEEEEE-YOWCH! Everyone in the room feels sympathy pains. More nice stuff here, including a tornado DDT. Fink cheerleads at ringside. Jarrett controls and gets the figure-four. X-Pac comeback, Bronco Buster. JJ with a cross-body off the top but X-Pac rolls through for a two count. Ranabomb by X-Pac for two. Another Broncobuster try but Jarrett lowblows him to block. Howard protests but Jarrett knocks him off. Facebuster by X-Pac for two. Southern Justice out, but the guitar misses, X-Pac grabs it, levels JJ, and gets the pin. Good match. ***1/4 DX and the Handbangers comes out to hold down JJ while X-Pac shaves him. Howard cuts some off for good measure. (Take 2!) Haircut match: X-Pac v. Jeff Jarrett This probably would have been more effective had Jarrett still had his 80s hair rather than his post-WCW longish cut. Howard Finkel, whitest guy in the room, is an honorary member of D-X tonight after being attacked and shaved by Southern Justice on Heat, which gives us the disturbing image of the Fink doing crotch-chops during X-Pac’s entrance. JJ attacks to start, but X-Pac hits him with the spinkick and dumps him with a clothesline. He follows with a slightly botched springboard tope, and then dodges Jarrett coming back in. JJ hits him with a pair of dropkicks to put him on the floor, but they brawl out there and Jarrett rams him nut-first into the post. Well that’s OK, Chyna has the bigger dick anyway. Back in, Jarrett slugs him in the corner and whips him into the turnbuckles, but a blind charge hits boot. Jarrett recovers with a powerslam for two and a corner clothesline, but X-Pac gets a tornado DDT for two. Jarrett goes with the sleeper and X-Pac reverses to his own, but Jarrett puts him on the top rope to break. X-Pac elbows him down, but misses a bodypress and both guys are out. JJ gets two off that. X-Pac tries to fight back with a spinkick, but whiffs completely and Jarrett gets the figure-four. X-Pac makes the ropes and Jarrett tries it again, but X-Pac kicks out this time and hits a backdrop suplex for the double KO. X-Pac recovers and a reversal sequence sees X-Pac hit a bodypress out of the corner for two. JJ tries a rana, blocked with a powerbomb for two. X-Pac charges and hits the corner, allowing Jarrett to roll him up for two, reversed for two by X-Pac. Broncobuster, but Jarrett gets his foot up to block, which draws the ire of the Fink. Jarrett gets distracted, however, and the X-Factor gets two. Southern Justice heads out and brings the guitar, but X-Pac gets it, El Kabong, and Jarrett goes bald at 11:11. Lemme just stop and ask: Who really bought the Godwinns as badass bodyguards? This was good stuff, with X-Pac bumping all over the place back when he cared enough to die just to spite WCW. You have to respect that a little. ***1/4 Mixed tag team match: Marc Mero & Jacky v. Sable & ???. Edge is the partner. No gender mixing allowed here. Standard match from Edge and Mero. Finally Sable and Jackie get in and a catfight erupts. Sable nails Mero for good measure. Mero almost takes a Sablebomb but Jackie makes the save and goes after Sable. Sable with a TKO on Jackie but Mero makes the save. Edge is a non-factor here. Jackie misses a shot and hits Mero. Edge in with a spectacular tope suicida on Mero. Jackie tries to interfere but gets spanked. Literally. Edge with a cross-body for two. Yes, Virginia, Edge is over. Rude Awakening off the top rope. More miscommunication with the heels. Mero with the Samoan drop and the Merosault, but Edge crotches him and tags in Sable. Sablecurana off the top rope! Edge with the Downward Spiral and then he slams Sable on top of Mero. Sable pins Mero. Edge retreats back into the crowd. **1/4 (Take 2!) Marc Mero & Jacqueline v. Sable & Edge Edge is the ever-popular Mystery Partner, and the other Great White Hope for the promotion along with Val Venis back in 1998. Well, they were half-right, at least. Mero slugs away on Edge in the corner, but he comes back with armdrags and forces Mero to tag Jackie in. So it’s over to Sable, but Jackie runs away and tags Mero again. So we’re back to Mero v. Edge, and Edge gets a flapjack but gets caught from behind by Mero, who adds a kneelift. He sets up for the TKO after taunting Sable, but Edge counters out to the DDT, and it’s hot tag Sable. She tosses Jackie around and it turns into a footrace, but she goes after Mero and kicks him low to set up a Sablebomb. Jackie breaks that up lest she somehow defy the laws of physics by actually pulling it off, but Jackie’s offense ends with a TKO from Sable that gets two. The heels double-team Sable, but miscommunication puts Mero on the floor, and Edge tags in for an EPIC tope con hilo. Jackie dives onto him, but Edge gives her a spanking and then heads back in with a high cross on Mero for two. Neckbreaker out of the corner gets two. Rollup gets two. Mero comes back with the samoan drop out of the corner and goes up, but Edge brings him down and Sable hits a Sable-canrana for two. Edge whips Mero into Jackie for the standard “headbutt to the nuts” spot, and Edge finishes Mero with a downward spiral and drops Sable on him for the pin at 8:25. Man, Edge just looked SO green out there, and the match just kind of meandered from spot to spot. Edge got quickly repackaged into Gangrel’s lackey after this. ** Mankind is concerned because Kane won’t be there tonight and he doesn’t have a partner. He offers to play in traffic for Michael Cole’s amusement. Vince makes him a counter-offer: Defend the titles by himself and become a part of history. He even provides weapons for him. Mankind says he has 13 words for the Outlaws: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Lion’s Den match: Ken Shamrock v. Owen Hart. The Lion’s Den is a kind of faux UFC octagon. It looks cool. Pretty non-stop action. Owen bleeds hardway from the mouth. Some super-cool spots from Shamrock as he springboards off the cage at various points. This is just spot after spot with zero resting. Owen gets the Sharpshooter in the middle, but Shamrock fights to the cage and claws up the cage to break. Owen spears him into the cage and Shamrock with a tornado DDT. Owen sends him to the cage and applies the Dragon sleeper, but Shamrock gets to the cage and reverses to a Fujiwara armbar and anklelock for the tapout. Dan Severn walks off. Call me crazy, but this was the best match so far. **** (This was really fun, but probably not to that level.)  WWF tag team title match, falls count anywhere: Mankind v. The New Age Outlaws. The NAO bring out a dumpster for old times. Mankind and Billy spar with chairs. Then the Outlaws take turns whacking him with metal trays. Mankind holds his own, and puts Billy through the Obligatory table. The Outlaws comeback by powerbombing him on two chairs. They toss the belt in and spike piledrive Mankind on the belt and that’s that. They dump poor Mick in the trash and celebrate…and Kane suddenly pops up in the dumpster with a sledge hammer. He slams it down into the dumpster and closes it. Disappointing. *1/2 (This actually was the character arc that ended up with Mick getting the WWF title by the end of the year, oddly enough.)  Review of The Rock v. HHH. Connecticut Yankee come out to play HHH down live. Intercontinental title, ladder match: The Rock v. HHH. Slugfest to start. Both go for the finisher early but neither can hit it. HHH goes for the ladder first and it comes into play via Rocky. He makes the first try for the belt but HHH nails him from behind on the slow climb. HHH makes his own go for it but Rock yanks him down and he lands wrong on his ankle, injuring his knee. Rock works on it. Crowd is super hot. Rock drops the ladder right on the knee and then sandwiches the knee in the ladder and jumps on it a lot. Rock puts the ladder on top of the steps and the railing and drops HHH on it, right on his knee. Ouch. Rock goes for the belt but HHH barely gets there in time. Back out on the floor, and HHH gets slingshotten into the ladder. HHH gets the crap beaten out of him as he tries the Pedigree on the ladder on the floor, but Rock backdrops him on it. Henry tosses a backup ladder in because the first one is in bad shape. Rock does another slow climb as HHH fights off Mark Henry just in time to dump Rocky out of the ring. Baseball slide into the ladder right into Rocky’s face. Rocky bleeds. HHH makes his first attempt at the belt but gets dumped by the Rock. Rock sets up the ladder on the top turnbuckle and DDTs Hunter. Rocky climbs for the belt and Hunter follows him up the other side and we get the slugfest at the top. Hunter goes flying into the ladder on the turnbuckle, bounces off, and knocks the Rock off the ladder and onto the top rope. Rock grabs the ladder, but Hunter smacks him with a chair and beats the hell out of him with it. Rocky retaliates with a People’s Elbow on the ladder to a massive reaction. HHH back up and goes for the belt again, but Rocky pulls him off and hits the Rock Bottom to another massive pop. Rock back up the ladder again but HHH pulls him off and nails the Pedigree to yet another massive pop. Mark Henry then tosses a big bag of powder in his face and blinds him. HHH climbs but can’t see the belt. Another slugfest on top and Chyna runs in, ballshot to Rock, and he falls off, allowing Hunter to grab his second I-C title to a raucous ovation from the crowd. Rock is unconscious as D-X celebrates. Bold prediction: This match will *make* these guys’ careers. ****1/2  (Not THAT bold of a prediction, but I was indeed correct.)  (Take 2!) WWF Intercontinental title, Ladder match: The Rock v. HHH Man, I haven’t watched this one in 10 years. Mark Henry and Chyna are at ringside. This is weird for me because I was cheering for HHH at this point, since this was the match that turned me into a fan of the Rock. Now, of course, do I even need to say? HHH gets a facebuster and Rock tries the Rock Bottom, but HHH fights him off and they slug it out in the corner. Rock wins that one, but HHH goes for the Pedigree and Rock backdrops him to the floor. They brawl on the floor and HHH whips him into the railing and then back into the ring, where Rock slugs away on him. HHH USES THE KNEE and makes the first attempt at getting the ladder, but Rock clobbers him from behind to prevent that, and stomps away. Rock gets the ladder, but HHH sends him into the railing. Rock comes back and whips HHH into the ladder in a nice bump and finally the ladder gets into the ring. Rock makes the first slow climb, but HHH dives off the top and knocks it down to stop him, then hits him with the ladder for good measure. Now it’s HHH’s turn to do the slow climb, but Rock knocks him off and injures the knee. Rock goes to work on the leg (psychology in a ladder match? Say what?) and drops the ladder on it, then sandwiches it in the ladder and stomps it. See, at least that can explain the slow climbing, since HHH obviously can’t climb at full speed. Rock, however, has no excuse here unless he’s terrified of heights. Rock wraps the knee around the post and puts the ladder outside, then drops HHH on it with a kneecrusher. And with HHH obviously done, Rock brings the ladder in and does the incredibly slow climb, giving HHH a chance to make the save. HHH dumps Rock and sets the ladder against the railing, but Rock catapults him into it as Hunter is just bumping like a crazy man here. Speaking of which, HHH fights back and tries a Pedigree on the floor, but Rock backdrops him onto the ladder. Back in, Mark Henry tosses Rock another ladder and does the annoying rung-by-rung slow climb that no human being in the world ever does, and Henry brawls with Chyna at ringside until HHH is able to shove the ladder over. Rock hits the floor and HHH baseball slides the ladder into him and Rock starts bleeding just as I was about to complain that someone should be bleeding. They know me so well. HHH does the slow climb, but Rock shoves the ladder out from under him to save and slugs away in the corner, into a DDT. Rock recovers first and climbs…very….slowly, but HHH slowly chases him. They slug it out on top of the ladder and Rock tosses HHH into the other ladder, but HHH rebounds during his sell and falls into the Rock’s ladder, leaving everyone down on the mat. Chyna slips a chair to HHH, and he pounds the Rock down under the ladder with it. They slug it out again and Rock slams him onto the ladder, which gives us The Ladder Elbow. I think that was the moment where my Rock love truly began. Rock Bottom follows and the crowd is actually chanting for Rock now during the height of his heel powers in 1998. Rock climbs and fights off HHH, but he gets yanked down and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE follows. Mark Henry, however, tosses a big handful of powder to blind HHH, although I think his nose sucked up enough of it to save his eyesight. They slug it out on top of the ladder and Rock looks to win, but Chyna gives him an epic nutshot, and HHH is the IC champion for the second time at 26:00. Unfortunately for him, that knee injury turned out to be a shoot and he barely got to defend the title before forfeiting it and gaining about 40 pounds of muscle while he was off. The slow climbing bugged the s--- out of me, but this was two guys going out there and grabbing the proverbial ball and running with it, as they beat the hell out of each other to get each other over, and it worked big time, turning them both into the biggest stars in the world as a direct result. Plus I loved the idea of using the ladder to injure the leg instead of the contrived spots that followed once the match became a cruiserweight staple. So yes, it still holds up. ****1/2 WWF World title match: Stone Cold Steve Austin v. The Undertaker. And after the hype it comes down to this. Austin works on the arm early on. They trade offense for a few minutes and then Kane walks out and it looks to get interesting. UT tells Kane to go back to the dressing room and Austin jumps him as Kane walks off. Austin goes after UT’s knee on the outside but gets chokeslammed back into the ring. Austin clotheslines him out of the ring and they brawl into the crowd. Back to ringside and UT rams Austin to the ringpost. Back in the ring and UT tosses him over the top. Austin to the steps and you can sense the Spanish commentators are getting nervous. UT preps the table for surgery and chokes Austin on the table. UT to the top rope and legdrops Austin through the table! Back in the ring and Austin is spitting up blood. Undertaker misses a corner charge and we get a double knockout. Slugfest, Thesz press and elbow to the throat. Austin to the corner and he almost gets a Stunner on the charging UT but he blocks. Chokeslam and UT goes for the tombstone but Austin escapes and tries the Stunner. UT blocks and dumps Austin on the top rope. Russian legsweep from UT. Ropewalk but Austin lowblows him on the way down, Stunner and it’s over. Undertaker grabs the belt and hands it to Austin. An entertaining if not exactly technically sound match. Kane wanders out to stare down Austin from the aisle with Undertaker. ***1/4 (Take 2!)  WWF World title: Steve Austin v. Undertaker From Summerslam ’98, the first truly meaningful PPV headlined by this pairing. Slugfest to start and UT wins that one and follows with a clothesline for two. Austin flips him off in response (blurred out now, of course) and goes to work on the arm. Austin cradles with a handful of tights for two, and then takes him down with a drop toehold (!!) and it’s back to the arm again. Weird spot as they appear to crack heads and Austin goes down like a ton of bricks. They continue with Taker getting a suplex and dropping an elbow, but Austin recovers before walking into a stungun. Austin is just messed right up now and Taker keeps beating on him until he can get it together, and Austin finally pulls him down and wraps Taker’s leg around the post. UT comes back with the flying clothesline and chokes him out on the mat and goes old school, but Austin yanks him down to counter and stomps away. And here comes Kane, who may or may not be on the side of his brother. Taker sends him away regardless and slugs it out with Austin, then chokeslams him into the ring from the apron. Austin fights back with a clothesline to put Taker out of the ring, and they brawl at ringside and into the crowd. Back to ringside, where Austin gets a ride into the post, but recovers and tries a stunner in the ring. Taker slips out of the ring to escape and sends him into the post again. Back in the ring, Austin fires back, but gets tossed with MALICE by UT. And they brawl outside again as Austin is just totally unable to get things going because of what I suspect was a concussion earlier in the match. Taker puts him on the table and does an insane legdrop from the top rope to put Austin through it. Back in, that gets two. Taker charges and runs into the turnbuckle, but Austin just looks scary out of it, his legs literally wobbling. They collide for the double KO, but Austin fights up and slugs away. THESZ PRESS! THESZ PRESS! Taker reverses him into the turnbuckle and Austin tries a stunner, but they badly mess up the spot and Austin sort of falls on top for two. Taker comes back with a chokeslam, but Austin escapes the tombstone and again he’s just off in his own world as Taker has to improvise a spot to cover. Taker with a legsweep and he goes old school again, but Austin hits him in the nuts and KICK WHAM STUNNER finishes at 20:45. Austin owes him a beer after Taker almost literally carried Austin on his back for the entire match. ***1/4 The Bottom Line: All the issues were settled and everyone goes home happy, including me. Two ****+ matches kills any WWF undercard from this year and this show kicked ass. The Rock steals the show this year. Thumbs up!  (It is indeed one of the best Summerslams of all time.)