The SmarK Rant for WWF Summerslam 98 (08.30.98)
(Originally written partially in 2008 and then finished 06.02.18)
Live from New York, NY.
Your hosts are JR & King
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
Meanwhile, Mankind is offended that Steve Austin has previously destroyed the Undertaker’s hearse, since he was in it at the time, but that’s OK because he’s got a sledgehammer anyway.
The Oddities v. Kaientai
Taka attacks Golga to start and gets nowhere with that, as Golga cleans house on the little guys because they’re little. Do I need to draw you a map here? So yeah, he steals Wally’s shoe and throws water at him, which is apparently hilarious because reasons. Kurrgan comes in and makes some racist jokes to Funaki before putting him down with a Bossman slam. Kaientai tries to quadruple team him, but he’s big and they’re small so that goes nowhere. Wally Yamaguchi gets beat up by the Oddities as well while Kaientai regroups and does rock-paper-scissors to decide who goes next. So DICK MOTHERFUCKING TOGO tries next and Silva beats on him and then stacks all the Japanese guys in the corner and beats on them as well. He apparently reminds JR of Andre the Giant, which is a whopper even by JR’s standards. Kaientai bails and Silva tosses Taka onto them on the floor. Because he’s big and they’re small, you see. Back in, Golga drops elbows on DICK MOTHERFUCKING TOGO, but Funaki and Terry Boy finally get some offense with a double slam and Kaientai does four flying splashes onto him. They do the old school quadruple-team dropkick on Golga, but that’s end of their offense as Golga clotheslines them all at once like they’re ninjas in a Bruce Lee movie, and Kurrgan comes in to clean house on them before double chokeslams finish at 10:02. And we immediately cut to the next segment before we can hear any of that cursed ICP music that they’d have to pay money for! Completely insulting on nearly every level and not even particularly entertaining. -**
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. 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 Unfortunately the clippers were dull and Jarrett wasn’t shaved properly here.
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. **
Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock v. Owen Hart
The gimmick here is that they’re fighting in a UFC-ish round cage in the theater in the basement. Frankly it looks like a giant Keurig coffee pod. I bet this kind of wackiness was right up Owen’s alley, though. Ken tries a takedown and sends Owen into the cage before trying for the armbar, but Owen reverses out and goes for the leg. Owen actually gets a double leg on him and they slug it out on the mat, with Shamrock getting a backdrop suplex off that. Owen goes low because anything goes and whips Shamrock into the cage, but Ken rebounds off with a clothesline and he’s hitting HARD tonight. Geez, I know it looks like an MMA cage, but maybe lighten up. Ken leaps off the cage with a kick (which would eventually become a very real and very famous finish in WEC years later) but Owen runs him into the cage and slugs away on him. Enzuigiri stops a single-leg attempt from Shamrock, and Owen stunguns him into the cage. Owen tries a piledriver and Shamrock backdrops out, but Owen takes him down for a Sharpshooter and Ken has to fight out of that. Shamrock tries a rana and Owen powerbombs him, but Shamrock rebounds off the cage with an elbow and puts Owen down with a high kick. Another flying move off the cage, but Owen catches him with a powerslam and follows with the belly to belly. Sharpshooter, but Ken grabs the cage and walks himself up the fence to escape the hold until Owen spears him into the cage. Ken holds onto Owen’s head out of that and comes back with a tornado DDT to make the comeback. High kicks put Owen down, but Owen sends him into the cage and tries the Severn choke. Shamrock walks the cage again to escape and flips into the anklelock, and Owen taps out at 9:17 as a disgusted Severn walks out on his man. It flowed kind of weird because of the lack of pinfall attempts, but it was ALL ACTION and an underrated hidden gem. ***3/4
WWF tag team titles, falls count anywhere: Mankind & Kane v. The New Age Outlaws
Things had been going south for the champions for weeks leading up to this, leading up to Mankind basically being left alone here thanks to Kane being busy off with Undertaker doing Undertaker stuff. The Outlaws bring out a dumpster in a callback to Wrestlemania, so Mick comes out swinging chairs and manages to fight off Billy Gunn until the Outlaws wisely double-team him and then pummel him with road signs or cookie sheets or whatever until he goes down. Mankind backdrops Gunn over the top for a bump that looked like it almost went horribly wrong and follows with a neckbreaker for two on the floor. He tries a suplex Road Dogg into the dumpster, but the Outlaws team up on him and ram him into it. Back in, a table gets involved and Mankind puts Gunn through that for one last effort, but the Outlaws hit a double team neckbreaker for two. The Outlaws are supposed to be babyfaces, but Foley is the one getting all the sympathy heat here. They set up chairs and powerbomb Mick through them, and that gets two. The Outlaws have had enough of that, and a spike piledriver regains the title at 5:15, which draws big heel heat. They throw poor Mick into the dumpster so they can finish celebrating in peace, and Kane pops out of the trash, finds Mick’s sledgehammer, and apparently smashes his face in with it to end that relationship. That would seem to be the low point for Mankind, but to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Foley might have been lying in the dumpster, but he was about to be looking to the stars. Total nothing of a match that actually got the complete opposite reaction it should have. It was all downhill from here for the Outlaws anyway. *1/2
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 shit 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: Steve Austin v. Undertaker
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
One of my favorite Summerslams of all time, no question. And of course the ladder match made Rock and HHH into two of the biggest stars of the next decade. Highly recommended!