Mike Reviews – WWF Raw is War (13th April 1998)

Welcome to the Warzone!

I decided to review this episode as I’ve enjoyed dipping into 1998 WWF recently and this show represents the moment the WWF finally won a round in the Monday Night War after 80+ weeks of WCW handing them their rear ends.

The event is emanating from Philly, PA on the 13th of April 1998

Calling the action are Jim Ross, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler

We open up with a video of WWF Champ Stone Cold Steve Austin teasing that he was going corporate last week, only to then tear off his suit and bonk Vince McMahon right in his grapefruits in an all-time great Raw angle.

We get the classic intro that also made its way onto WWF Warzone for the PlayStation.

Stone Cold joins to open the show, greeted to a big pop from the crowd of course. Stone Cold challenges Vince McMahon to come down to the ring, and promises he won’t clean Vince’s clock if Vince does indeed join us. The show will NOT continue until Vince joins us. Vince eventually does join us, with Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco and some riot cops as backup. It’s strange seeing Vince when he still didn’t have his entrance music yet. Stone Cold wants to know who his opponent will be at the April pay per view, but Vince hasn’t made up his mind yet. Austin says that Vince wants a certain person to be WWF Champ, and that certain person just happens to be Vince himself, so why doesn’t Vince just step up and wrestle Stone Cold for the belt? Vince’s reaction to being challenged is pretty great, as he mixes in both shock and disgust in equal measure and the crowd loves it. Austin stokes the flames further by saying he could even beat Vince with one hand tied behind his back. Austin says Vince can either wrestle him in the ring or Austin will just batter him in his office. Vince has 30 minutes to decide whether he wants the match or not, and he can’t run away because his limo has four flat tyres. This was a fantastic segment and I can totally see why a viewer would stick around to see what Vince’s decision would be.

I do love as well how Ross and Cole are horrified at the thought of Vince wrestling and getting hurt as it could mean disaster for their jobs.

Patterson and Brisco are into the idea of Vince stepping up to Austin.

Match One
Chain Match
Los Boricuas (Jose and Savio) Vs Disciples of Apocalypse (Skull and 8-Ball) w/ Chainz

D-X join us at ringside for this as they had angered DOA the previous week by urinating on their bikes. This is worked as tornado rules, with all four guys going at it whilst D-X cause mayhem at ringside by attacking Chainz with chairs. The crowd is utterly lost as to what to pay to attention to here as there is so much going on. We barely see any of the match as the director is more interested in watching D-X pummelling Chainz. D-X then come into the ring once Chainz is taken care off and batter Skull and 8-Ball for good measure to draw a DQ.

WINNERS BY DQ: DOA
RATING: DUD

Yes, they actually ended a chain match with a DQ. We barely saw any of the match, and what we did see was pretty awful and the crowd was close to comatose after that hot opening angle

Ross says this will actually be a no contest due to the run-in, but I’m not sure if that’s actually the case or he’s just doing his best to cover for the awful booking. D-X beats up Jose and Savio following the match as well, with Chyna clocking both of them right in their respective nether regions. Los Boricuas had helped D-X out multiple times prior to this, so this angle represents the end of their tenuous allowance.

Shane McMahon is trying to talk Vince out of fighting Stone Cold later on.

Too Much, Aguila and Pantera are all in the ring for a tag match, but Vince McMahon joins us and clears them out so he can cut a promo. The WWF has apparently always been about honour and integrity (Yeah, in the 70’s maybe) but Stone Cold has none of those qualities and that’s why Vince is going to wrestle Austin later on for the belt.

Jim Ross decides he’s going to head backstage to try and talk Vince out of this crazy idea, whilst The Undertaker comes down and kills the four guys in the tag match. The crowd loves that at least, and the four guys all sell really well for him. Taker grabs the mic following that and says he’s going after Kane tonight.

There is just stuff happening all over the place on this show, as Vince Russo tries to squeeze a 3 hour show into 2 hours.

Starbust Slam of the Week is Austin giving Vince a Stunner two weeks ago.

Kevin Kelly is backstage saying that no one can talk Vince out of this, including Shane and Ross. Vince tells Shane to get Vince his gear and tells Ross to go back to commentary.

Match Two
J-E Double F J-A Double R E Double T w/ Tennessee Lee Vs WWF Light-Heavyweight Champ TAKA Michinoku

Putting a Heavyweight in there with the Cruiserweight/Light-Heavyweight Champ like this is almost always a bad idea outside of Japan, as the Heavyweight almost always wins and they never really give the match any time, so it just makes the entire smaller weight division look bad that a middling guy from the heavier ranks can just stroll in and clobber the Champ. At least in Japan they’ll give the match some time and keep it competitive before the Heavyweight usually wins.

Jarrett was feuding with Steve Blackman at the time, and he does a cut-in promo from the backstage whilst the match goes on. He’ll be getting revenge on Jarrett soon. The ring is full of flyers for Jarrett’s musical performance at the April pay per view event. They actually have a decent match here, as both guys can work, but the crowd doesn’t really care and the actual wrestling is just background noise to everything else that is going on in the segment. TAKA actually gets a bit of a flurry going but Lee stops him doing a dive to the floor, which leads to Kai-En-Tai running in to beat TAKA down.

WINNER BY DQ: TAKA MICHINOKU
RATING: *1/2

The wrestling itself was fine, and they at least saved TAKA from a loss, but the crowd could not have cared less

Jarrett beats up TAKA following the match, just to ensure he doesn’t get over and his DQ win ends up meaning even less than it already meant, which wasn’t much to begin with.

Stone Cold is backstage and says he’s not surprised that Vince answered his challenge and that he’s going to settle their issue later on.

Patterson and Brisco are giving Vince wrestling tips backstage in hilarious fashion. That was great.

Ross and Cole are terrified about Vince getting killed later.

Faarooq joins us with taped ribs and new music after being kicked out of The Nation of Domination. Faarooq calls out The Nation for a fight, even though he’s all by himself, and they of course like the sound of those odds and join us. Rock cuts a great cocky Heel promo, where he says he’ll lay the Smackdown on Faarooq and there are two things Faarooq can do about it, nothing and like it. Alex Shane would notably go on to steal that line for himself in the 00’s. Faarooq salutes though and that leads to Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman showing up to help him out, leading to a big pull apart brawl. This was a hot angle and Rock’s promo was excellent. Yeah, Rock cut a good promo, in other news; water is still wet.

The WWF rewind, Cactus Jack cuts an angry promo on the fans for chanting for Stone Cold whilst he and Funk were laid out, leading to him walking out on the WWF.

Match Three
Les Quebecois (Jacques et Pierre) Vs Terry Funk and Too Cold Scorpio

Scorpio is a former ECW guy, so I think they were expecting him to get a big pop here, and he gets a reasonable reaction and there is an ECW chant from the crowd, but that soon peters out after a bit. I had no idea The Quebecers lasted this long in the WWF as a team. I know Pierre did the Brawl 4 All but I thought Jacques was long gone by WrestleMania season.

This has some good wrestling in it, notably from Pierre and Scorpio, but it also suffers from a lack of crowd heat once the match itself starts. The Quebecers work some heat on Scorpio but he dodges their Senton finisher and comes off the top with a 450 Splash to Pierre for the win.

WINNERS: FUNK & SCORPIO
RATING: *

Too short to be any higher, but it was okay for what we got

Luna joins us for some promo time in the ring, as she’s got a match with Sable scheduled for Unforgiven at the end of the month. Luna doesn’t want to wait for the pay per view though and calls Sable out to come and get her right now. We get the Warzone intro to “All Together Now” first though. Not a bad tease to make people stick around though to be fair as the Luna/Sable storyline was hot at the time. The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust joins us in drag instead though, which leads to Luna stripping him of his clothes whilst he sells it in a funny manner. The real Sable joins us though and we get our CAT FIGHT spot of the evening, which TAFKA Goldust seems happy to just let happen until a gaggle of refs and officials run down to break it up. Sable’s overness was something to behold and you couldn’t blame them for booking her as strong as they did when she was getting those reactions each week.

Stone Cold is backstage getting ready for the match later.

Lawler is super excited for the match later on.

Match Four
Non-Title
NWA Tag Champs: The New Midnight Express (Bob Holly and Bart Gunn) w/ Jim Cornette and Dan Severn Vs Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman

Severn and Shamrock go nose to nose before the match starts, as Shamrock is notably limping and they’d write him out with an injury angle a couple of weeks after this so he could recover in real life. This is another match that is fine for what it is, but the crowd just doesn’t care, except for when Holly botches a rana attempt on Blackman at one stage and they start booing.

Blackman works the majority of the match due to Shamrock having his ankle issue, and he’s fine as a face in peril but the crowd just isn’t biting. Shamrock gets the hot tag eventually and does a decent segment where he mostly stands in one place and lets the Heels come to him. Shamrock and Blackman run wild and the ref throws the match out. OH COME ON!!!

NO CONTEST
RATING: *

I mean, would it kill the WWF to actually give us a finish?! It was non-Title for goodness sake, put the babyfaces over to pop the crowd and then do a rematch for the belts the next week where The Nation runs in and THEN you do the cheap finish when there’s actually a reason to do so

Kevin Kelly is backstage with Vince, Patterson, Brisco and Sgt. Slaughter. Vince says he’s not afraid of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The Head Bangers are in the ring, but the lights go out and Undertaker joins us to give them a kicking. Kane and Paul Bearer join us following that, with Bearer saying that next week it’s Kane Vs Undertaker in a fight at the cemetery. Ross’ disgust at Bearer’s comments is great as always.

Val Venis is coming….to the WWF.

Match Five
Billy Gunn w/ Road Dogg, X-Pac, Chyna and Triple H Vs Owen Hart

Billy Gunn apparently won an essay contest amongst D-X in order to earn this match with Owen. Chyna trying not to crack up during Triple H’s promo is the clear highlight here. Owen thankfully isn’t a dumb babyface this week at least as he’s brought The Road Warriors and Sunny with him as backup. At Unforgiven it’s going to be Owen Vs Triple H and Road Warriors Vs New Age Outlaws, so this match is here to hype those two respective matches up.

Triple H and X-Pac sit in on commentary, with X-Pac constantly making WCW references and referring to Owen as “Owen Fart” whilst Lawler laughs along. The match itself is decent, but the crowd once again couldn’t care less and the camera crew seem more interested in focusing on everyone else around ringside.

Sadly Owen’s goose was already cooked as a babyface by this stage due to Triple H getting the better of him on so many occasions, and The Road Warriors were losing overness every week despite being retooled with Sunny, so we have a situation where the supposed Heels are both cooler and more popular than their babyface opponents so the crowd doesn’t really know what to make of Owen working as a babyface against Gunn here. Gunn looks to have the match won, but he stops to taunt and gets rolled up for three.

WINNER: OWEN HART
RATING: **

As a match this was fine from a purely wrestling perspective, but they may as well have been wrestling at the Emirates due to how much of a library the arena was

D-X are annoyed at Owen’s victory

Vince is making his way to the ring.

Main Event
WWF Title
Champ: Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs Vince McMahon w/ Brisco, Patterson and Slaughter

This is all angle, as Shane once again tries to talk Vince out of the match and fails. A dismayed Ross saying “I just bought a house!” on commentary is awesome. Austin then joins us, but before the match can start Vince slaps him in the face and the crowd is up for this. Vince grabs a mic and says that he’s going to put Austin’s prior boast to the test and have the Champ wrestle with one arm tied behind his back, which Austin agrees to. Vince demands they tie the “Stunner arm” specifically in a great bit of Heel knobbery.

Vince is just fantastic in this. In fact, everyone plays their roles perfectly, including the commentary team and all of Vince’s cronies. They build it all perfectly and the crowd is practically salivating at the prospect of Austin cleaning Vince’s clock once and for all, only for Dude Love to join us because he doesn’t want Austin to injure Vince and thus stop Dude from earning his money. Vince isn’t happy about this intrusion either and shoves Dude down, which leads to Dude stalking Vince, only to then turn around and put the Love Handle on Austin for our non-finish.

NO CONTEST
RATING: N/A

This was an angle more than a match, but it was a darn good angle and it set up two excellent Dude Vs Austin pay per view Main Events

Dude continues to tear into Austin whilst Vince McMahon has to be held back from trying to get him for ruining his match with Austin. SHADES OF GREY BRO!!!

In Conclusion

The Vince/Dude/Austin angle was one of those situations where a hot company on the rise like the WWF could get away with it but a cold company would have been raked over the hot coals for. To tease a huge match like Vince Vs Austin for a whole show only to then not deliver it was a risky proposition, but the product was so hot at the time that the fans were willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt and see where they were going with the story, and the end result was that the Dude Love Vs Stone Cold feud ended up being a big success.

The show itself was a pretty flat episode of Raw outside of the Vince/Austin stuff and the Kane/Undertaker feud, but the fans were REALLY into those two storylines and The Rock was really getting over in the mid-card, so the show had enough on it to make it feel fresh and different enough from WCW in order to keep delivering strong ratings. The show overall was a bit of a hard watch but the stuff that was good was really good.

Not a recommended show overall, but the Vince/Austin stuff is great and well worth watching in isolation