What the World Was Watching: Unforgiven 1998 – In Your House

by Logan Scisco

With some of my graduate work behind me, I finally had
time to devote three hours to this show and continue my reviews of the World
Wrestling Federation in 1998.  Before
academic responsibilities got in the way, Steve Austin and Vince McMahon’s feud
started moving to another level and ended WCW Monday Nitro’s 82-week winning
streak.  Dude Love, Austin’s former tag
team partner, was inserted into the angle as McMahon’s alleged representative.  However, that match on this show is
overshadowed by the Inferno match booked between the Undertaker and Kane.  Meanwhile, Ken Shamrock and Faarooq have
joined forces because they hate the Rock and Triple H has dominated his feud
with Owen Hart.  The Legion of Doom have
been rechristened “LOD 2000” and given Sunny as a manager, but it’s sort of
like putting lipstick on a pig and their best days are behind them.  Still, their victory in the WrestleMania XIV
tag team battle royal gives them a title shot on this show against their rivals
the New Age Outlaws.  Finally, Sable is
becoming the top diva in the company and Luna Vachon has threatened to rip her
clothes off in the first Evening Gown match in WWF history.  Got all that?
Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are broadcasting from Greensboro,
North Carolina.  They speculate on what
Vince McMahon means when he says something “catastrophic” is going to happen
tonight.

Opening
Contest:  Ken Shamrock, Faarooq &
Steve Blackman beat The Rock, Mark Henry & D-Lo Brown (w/Kama Mustafa) when
Faarooq pins the Rock with a Dominator at 13:35:
Faarooq is wearing his usual ring gear here, which does
not quite fit his face turn.  He does get
a big pop for whipping D-Lo with a belt in the early going, though.  Amazingly, Ross is able to restrain himself
and not discuss the football credentials of some of the participants until nine
minutes in.  A pretty dull opener that
quiets a hot crowd, but its booking follows logical wrestling principles as
Faarooq pins the Rock to make him seem like a credible challenger for the Rock’s
Intercontinental title and set up a one-on-one match between the two in the
near future.  Rating:  **
Michael Cole
interviews the winning team and Faarooq says this was the opening shot of a
long war that he is going to wage against the Nation.
WWF Champion Steve
Austin comes out and throws the timekeeper into the ring.  Austin interrogates him over why he rang the
bell to prematurely end the Dude Love-Steve Blackman match on the previous RAW
and makes it clear that if Vince McMahon tries to screw him out of the title
that he is going to give the timekeeper the beating of a lifetime.  Nice thread of storyline continuity here.
The announce team
recaps the Triple H-Owen Hart feud.
European
Championship Match with Chyna Suspended in a Cage Above the Ring:  Triple H (Champion) pins Owen Hart after
X-Pac hits Owen with a fire extinguisher at 12:27:
One fan has the ability to predict the future in the
audience tonight, carrying a sign that reads “Playboy needs Chyna.”  Commissioner Slaughter being an antagonist
for D-Generation X has lost much of its luster, as the arrival of Vince McMahon
as the owner of the company makes him look very weak on the totem pole, but it
is still a lot clearer than the five or six authority figures roaming around
the “WWE Universe” today.  Owen has lost
a lot of heat since starting this feud in January, illustrating why wins and
losses matter.  This is a good match, but
it lacks the atmosphere of their WrestleMania encounter and the focus is more
on Chyna bending the bars of the cage she is in, dangerously hanging onto it
while she is trying to escape, and then having the Road Dogg lower the cage so
she can get to the ground.  The ensuing
chaos allows Triple H to get another controversial win over Owen when logic
dictated that Owen goes over here.  This
did have a somewhat logical payoff, although that would require an Owen turn
and we’ll get to that in future reviews. 
Rating:  ***
Cole interviews
Owen Hart, who lets us know that “enough is enough and it’s time for things to
change around here.”
NWA Tag Team
Championship Match:  The New Midnight
Express (Champions w/Jim Cornette) defeated The Rock N’ Roll Express when
Bodacious Bart pinned Robert Gibson after a Bombastic Bob bulldog at 7:22:
This is a bonus match, which illustrates the lack of
depth in the company at the time, but we are in NWA country so the Rock N’ Roll
Express get a decent pop while the Express are greeted with silence.  God bless Ross as he tries to hype put over
the Rock N’ Roll and this match, but his historical references go over the head
of most of the audience since the WWF rarely emphasized wrestling history at
this time.  Referee Tim White and
Cornette have a funny showdown where Cornette dares White to fight him and
White scares him off.  You might assume
this would be decent, but there is more stalling than action and the match
moves very slowly.  The Express hit their
double dropkick on Bart, but shenanigans ensue and the Express retain the
titles, which no one cares about.  Rating: 
Dok Hendrix
interviews Goldust and Luna Vachon and Luna emphasizes that she wants to strip
Sable of all her clothes.
Evening Gown
Match:  Luna Vachon (w/Goldust) beats
Sable at 2:34:
Marc Mero does not come down to the ring with Sable
because he is allegedly humiliated by Sable’s recent antics.  Maybe he meant her promos.  The crowd chants for Sable, which makes sense
if you consider her the face, but little sense in terms of the match since they
want to see her without her clothes. 
Since we’re getting more Russo booking around this time it is not
surprising that this ends with a screwjob, as Mero shows up, distracts Sable,
and allows Luna strips Sable of the top of her dress.  After the match. Sable strips off Luna’s
dress and then takes off the rest of her clothing underneath the ring.
Vince McMahon, Pat
Patterson, and Gerald Brisco walk to the ring and McMahon reiterates that “anything
can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.” 
McMahon debunks that a conspiracy is in the works tonight and that he is
just going to be at ringside because he was born in North Carolina.
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to hear from the winners and losers of tonight’s matches!
WWF Tag Team Championship
Match:  The New Age Outlaws (Champions) defeat
LOD 2000 (w/Sunny) when Road Dogg pins Hawk at 12:21:
LOD 2000 did not get a lot of airtime before this match,
which is as close to a vote of no confidence from WWF management as you can
get.  Sunny’s dress is nowhere near as
eye catching as her WrestleMania XIV attire. 
The LOD get a nice nostalgia pop, but after that there’s not much to see
except some token power moves.  Animal does
a good job staying in peril, which was appropriate because Hawk botches several
moves throughout.  The finish makes
little sense, as the referee says Hawk does not lift his shoulders on a German
suplex, but Road Dogg never lifts his shoulders to earn a victory.  After the match, the LOD give the referee a
Doomsday Device and the referee does a stretcher job.  Thankfully, this is the end of the
Outlaws-LOD issue.  This was also Sunny’s
last WWF pay-per-view appearance.  Rating: 
¾*
Jeff Jarrett “sings”
with Sawyer Brown, a country music group. 
The crowd is so enamored with this performance that they chant “We want
Flair!”  It always baffles me that the
WWF brass thought this stuff was going to get Jarrett over.  At the end of the performance, Steve Blackman
attacks Jarrett, but after he puts Jarrett in a submission move, Tennessee Lee
blasts Blackman with a guitar.
A video package
hypes the Inferno match between the Undertaker and Kane.  Lawler has a hot dog ready to roast at
ringside.
Inferno Match:  The Undertaker beats Kane (w/Paul Bearer) at
16:02:
I’m really surprised that they did not make this the main
event of the pay-per-view considering how low key the Steve Austin-Dude Love
title match was, but maybe they were afraid of these two putting on a
less-than-stellar match like WrestleMania. 
This match is one of those that sounds good in theory, but is terrible
in execution because it is very difficult to build drama and this quickly
becomes a kick-and-punch affair.  Things
pick up after the Undertaker throws Kane over the top rope and Kane goes to
leave, which does not make a lot of sense for Kane’s character, but Vader makes
a surprise return to a big pop and fights Kane back to ringside, where the
Undertaker hits a plancha.  The
Undertaker destroys Bearer on the Sawyer Brown stage and knocks Kane’s arm into
the fire to win.  Things really didn’t
look good for Kane at the time, as he lost his second consecutive match, this
one definitively, to the Undertaker.  It’s
quite amazing that he maintained his upper midcard standing as a character
after this.  Rating:  *½
A video package
recaps the Steve Austin-Vince McMahon/Dude Love feud.
WWF Championship
Match with Vince McMahon at Ringside: 
Dude Love defeats “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Champion) via
disqualification at 18:48:
The big story of this match is whether Love and McMahon
are working together and if McMahon is going to screw Austin out of the title
by intimidating the timekeeper.  McMahon
waits to come out until eight minutes into the match and Pat Patterson
hilariously carries the folding chair for McMahon to sit in.  I always wondered during this feud why
McMahon favored Love.  Was he that much
better of an alternative?  Would you want
your company led by a man who’s stuck in the 1960s/1970s?  McMahon tries to get the timekeeper to ring
the bell when Love applies an abdominal stretch, but the timekeeper doesn’t
budge and the match continues.  The
referee eventually gets bumped, which causes him to miss Love applying the
Mandible Claw (or Love Handle if you prefer) and the battle spills to the floor
where Austin knocks McMahon out with a chair to a HUGE pop.  Austin counts his own fall and his music
plays, but we eventually hear from Howard Finkel that Love is the winner by
disqualification since Austin hit a WWF official.  McMahon does a stretcher job as well.  Love took some nasty spills in this match as
per usual and the brawling was technically proficient.  I’m not really a fan of the ending, but in
storyline terms it worked out for the best since McMahon wanted to make it
certain that Austin would lose the title at the next pay-per-view by stacking
the deck against him.  Rating: 
***½
The Final Report Card:  This show illustrates that most of 1998 was
Steve Austin and not much else.  His match
was the most exciting on the show and the midcard had lots of weird things
happening like the LOD getting another push, the Rock N’ Roll Express getting a
WWF pay-per-view match in 1998, and Jeff Jarrett feuding with Steve Blackman
for lack of something better to do.  The
main event is exciting and Triple H-Owen is their usual solid outing, but
compared with WrestleMania XIV this show did not blow you away or even make you
feel satisfied.  Owen loses again, the
Outlaws kept the belts in a match finish that made no sense, the Inferno match
was nothing special, and the main event had an inconclusive finish.  Some of these things, like the Owen loss and
the inconclusive main event finish, led to greater things down the road and those
shows will be the ones that will get a thumbs up rating, not this outing.
Attendance: 
21,427
Buyrate: 
0.85 (+0.35 over previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down