The SmarK Rant for WWF Monday Night RAW – 04.13.98
Back to 1998 again by special request. Of course, this show is notable for being the NITRO KILLER, shattering all ratings records for the show to that point and then only going up from there.
Last week: Steve Austin supposedly joins Mr. McMahon as the corporate champion, but then reveals that it’s all a ruse and hits Vince in the nuts.
Live from Philadelphia, PA, drawing 14280 for a sellout.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Michael Cole.
Steve Austin of course joins us to start to a massive reaction from Philly, and he wants to have a talk with Vince and isn’t leaving the ring until it happens. And he promises not to hit Vince, so the chairman reluctantly joins us, along with a security force. Just in case. Vince hasn’t actually made up his mind yet who Austin’s opponent at Unforgiven will be. Austin accuses him of holding a grudge because Steve likes to drink beers and swear and doesn’t have an Ivy league education. In fact, Austin thinks that Vince wants to be WWF champion himself! In fact he probably wore the belt around the house in his pajamas until Linda told him to take it off because he looks like a jackass. So TONIGHT, IN THIS VERY RING, Steve puts the title on the line against Mr. McMahon, and if Vince doesn’t want to go along with it, Austin will follow him back to the office and beat the hell out of him there. Oh, and Austin has already beat up the limo driver and flattened his tires, so Vince can’t leave. Thus, Vince has exactly 30 minutes to decide what he wants to do.
Meanwhile, the Stooges try to convince the boss that tonight is the night to end this Austin crap once and for all.
Los Boriquas (Savio & Jose) v. DOA (Skull and 8-Ball)
This is a chain match, where all four guys are chained to the posts, but a minute into the match D-X joins us and destroys Chainz with a piledriver on the ramp before running into the match and attacking DOA for the DQ in a no-DQ match at 2:11. Even JR is confused about how that decision went down exactly. So they team up with the Boriquas to take out DOA, and then tease initiating them into DX before turning on them. Obviously the “DX as badass megaheels” thing would be tweaked significantly soon after this.
Meanwhile, Shane tries to talk his dad out of the match.
Vince McMahon interrupts a potential tag team match before it begins and kicks everyone out of the ring so he can cut a promo. He’s been a part of the WWF for 50 years, and it’s been about honor and integrity for him the whole time, and Austin is NEITHER of those things. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Oh great, now Flair is gonna sue HIM, too. So tonight, Vince will accept Austin’s challenge, and Jim Ross is pretty sure Vince is going to die tonight. So he leaves the announce position to go talk some sense into him, but the lights go out and Undertaker appears and destroys all the geeks in the ring, looking to settle things with Kane.
Meanwhile, JR indeed joins the chorus of people trying to sway Vince, but as usual Vince is too stubborn for his own good.
Jeff Jarrett v. Taka Michinoku
JJ gets a neckbreaker while pamphlets rain down from the heavens like World War II propaganda or something, and he adds some choking on the ropes while JR rejoins the commentary again. Taka with a bulldog on the pamphlets, but he goes up and Jarrett catches him with a superplex and adds a dropkick. Taka clotheslines him to the floor and goes for a dive, but Tennessee Lee runs interference and Klub Kamikaze runs in for the DQ at 2:40. I’m so glad someone came to their senses and changed the name back to Kaientai. Total yawn here with JJ basically squashing the light heavyweight champion. *
Meanwhile, Austin has no sympathy for Vince and if he’s gotta beat the boss’s ass to settle things, so be it.
Meanwhile, the Stooges give Vince some wrestling lessons, like grabbing the leg to block the kick that sets up the stunner. “You just get in there and grab the leg, and then YOU OWN HIM!” Amazing.
Faarooq is here to call out the Rock and the rest of the ingrates in the Nation. So the Rock answers and offers to use his very big hand to lay the smack down, but Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman give a Black Power salute to Faarooq and attack the Nation. Um, that’s a tad uncomfortable.
Last week, Cactus Jack said goodbye to the fans.
Terry Funk joins us to announce that he’s got a new partner and he’s not quitting. And so his new partner is Flash Funk.
Terry Funk &
Flash Funk 2 Cold Scorpio v. The Quebecers
Oh man, the Quebecers in 1998 wearing powder blue outfits. Terry gets double-teamed by the Quebecers for a bit, but Flash comes in and now he’s 2 Cold Scorpio again apparently. He goes up and Pierre brings him down with a superplex to set up the cannonball, but that misses and Scorpio finishes Pierre with the 450 at 2:11. Flash Funk suddenly getting repackaged into an older gimmick is very much a Russo-ism. Sadly, this did nothing to revive the careers of either Funk brother. In fact, going back to Scorpio pretty much destroyed his career and he ended up with a group of people who were literally self-defined jobbers. Should have stuck with the shiny pants, I guess. *1/2
Luna Vachon joins us to call out Sable in advance of Unforgiven and wants to settle things immediately.
Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
Back with Luna’s challenge, but The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust comes out in drag and gets his dress ripped off. “That’s it, I’m naked, you’re the champion.” Well I’m sold. Of course Sable runs down and attacks Luna.
Meanwhile, Austin laces up his boots because Vince could call him out AT ANY MINUTE. So don’t change it to Nitro!
The New Midnight Express v. Steve Blackman & Ken Shamrock
I should clarify that this is NON TITLE, in case you were worried about the NWA World tag team titles going to such an undeserving team by mistake. Bodacious Bart slugs away on Shamrock to start, but gets beaten down, so it’s over to Bombastic Bob. Blackman gets a backslide on Bacterial Bob for two, but Belligerent Bob gets a rana (completely blowing the move) and the Express go to work in their corner. Boisterous Bob slugs on Blackman in the corner while JR points out that they’re the organization that DOESN’T allow all the old guys to wrestle. Yeah, this classic match is SO MUCH better than old guys wrestling, sure. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA as Shamrock gets the hot tag and this match has managed to even kill the Philly crowd, and then the bell rings at 3:50 for no adequately explored reason and it’s a double DQ. I didn’t even have a chance to use all the “B” adjectives that I googled! But I’ve got one left for this match: BAD. *
Meanwhile, Vince was not afraid of the government or Ted Turner, and he’s not afraid of Steve Austin.
Undertaker returns to kill the Headbangers this time, but Kane interrupts and Paul Bearer challenges him to a confrontation at the cemetery so they can literally fight on their parents’ graves.
Meanwhile, Val Venis is doing some casting couch work for his new movie, Lust in Space, and he’s gonna explode inside the WWF and give it his all inch by inch. I feel like these vignettes wouldn’t fly today. Just a hunch.
Owen Hart v. Billy Gunn
So this was an open challenge from Owen to D-X, and they pick the person who wrote the best 500 word essay, which was naturally Billy. It came in a clear professional plastic binder with illustrations of Owen having sex with a small barnyard animal and everything! Owen actually looks like he’s having trouble keeping a straight face during HHH’s promo here. Luckily for Owen, LOD 2000 joins him as backup. So we take a break and join the match in progress with Billy getting a suplex for two. Gunn drops some knees for two and goes to a chinlock while HHH and X-Pac make senior citizen jokes about LOD on commentary. Owen comes back and Gunn gets a lariat for two while X-Pac dubs him “Owen FART”.
HHH continues on, dubbing Sunny “Skanky” and they’re really on a hot streak, although the match is not. Gunn dumps Owen to the floor and we get teases of a showdown as we take another break. Back with Owen getting a missile dropkick while HHH goes on a wacky run about “this business” that sounds like he’s trying to be Kevin Nash. Gunn gets the fameasser and we are apparently done with all commercial breaks, although there’s still 30 minutes left in the Network version of the show. Gunn hits a powerslam, but stops to showboat and Owen gets a surprise rollup at 8:03 for the pin. *1/2 The Owen-HHH program was losing heat by the day.
WWF title: Steve Austin v. Vince McMahon
This marks the debut of the Vince Strut, I believe. Although Vince’s stooges are fully supportive, Shane comes out and tries to talk sense into him again, back before he was a regular on-screen character. So before the match, Vince points out that Austin said he could win “with one arm tied behind his back”, so Vince produces a rope and demands Austin work the match with his “stunner arm” tied up. So they go through a whole deal where Austin gets his arm tied to Vince’s satisfaction, although Vince is unable to elicit a “Hell Yeah” from Philly even so. And finally, after milking the buildup via Vince’s preparation to incredible heat, we get the inevitable bait-and-switch before the match can happen, as Dude Love interrupts. And Vince cuts the cheques, so he turns on Austin and puts him out with the mandible claw to step up as the challenger for Unforgiven. At the time people were really, REALLY pissed about the show-long tease and weak payoff, but these days it’s just something we’d expect and taken out of the context of the time it’s totally fine.
After the show ends, Dude cuts a promo about how Austin isn’t actually that tough, and then a brawl randomly breaks out with LOD and D-X and Undertaker and Kane and Austin. And I guess it’s a match because Austin hits a stunner on Road Dogg and pins him after a minute.
Steve Austin, LOD 2000 & Undertaker v. D-Generation X
As noted, Austin pins Road Dogg after a minute.
Definitely not a show that holds up well today. The Austin-McMahon is legendary, of course, but the rest was a mish-mash of bad matches and characters that didn’t go anywhere. Dave had some interesting thoughts on the show in the Observer, however, noting that the show was hot all the way through, and in fact may have changed the way that wrestling TV shows are produced in the future. And that certainly proved to be correct.