February 15th 1998. Houston, Texas.
Three days after the 1998 Royal Rumble Shawn Michaels awoke in the morning to find himself unable to move his legs. As a result of hitting his spine off the casket during his
match against The Undertaker he’d herniated two discs in his back and crushed another completely. He may have still held the World Wrestling Federation Championship but there was going to be very little actual wrestling he could do. Shawn would have no part in February’s ‘No Way Out’ PPV as the WWF waited to see what the prognosis was. DX would have to find another man to replace him as they prepared to go up against Cactus Jack, Chainsaw Charlie, Owen Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin tonight. “Don’t bother looking for a replacement for Shawn Michaels” says Lawler at the top of the show ‘because nobody else is like Shawn Michaels”.
Not for the first time in history Sable gets a much bigger pop than Marc Mero. To be fair they’re running with it and allowing Mero to play the heel who is jealous of the attention but the writing has to be on the wall for him as far as his WWF career goes. The background to this opening match seems to be around the arguments between Luna and Sable on Raw as their respective partners teamed with each other. Goldust makes his entrance looking rather a lot like Marilyn Manson which is very apt as they’re wrestling The Headbangers tonight. Mosh and Thrasher seem to have hit a career high point early in winning the WWF Tag Team Championship but then appear to have plummeted downwards sharply. Here they are tonight playing the spare parts in a feud that’s really
about two non-wrestling women.
Before the match begins Mero send Sable to the back. This decision is met with a vicious reaction from the crowd. Sable vanishes behind the curtain.
Mero starts with Mosh and already reverts to Golden Glove Boxing Mode. Only when Mero misses Mosh with an attack in the corner does the Headbanger manage to clothesline him over the ropes to the outside. A tag to Thrasher sees the other Headbanger go for a top rope clothesline. Goldust is tagged in as Thrasher instantly gets him with a Drop Toe Hold. Mosh is tagged in to deliver a Backdrop to Goldust before they both team to do the Superplex/Splash double team move after which Mero interrupts the
Mero gets a blind tag on Goldust and gives Thrasher a running knee. The ‘Sable’ chants begin again. Thrasher gets a few shots into Mero coming off the ropes until Goldust drops the top rope meaning the Headbanger falls to the outside. Luna attacks Thrasher behind the ref’s back as Goldust lifts him up and drops him on the steel steps. Thrasher gets back into the ring as his face begins to bleed.
Thrasher then spends the rest of the match playing the face getting beat up. Goldust holds onto him as Mero boxes some more. Goldust ditches his long wig and punches him some more. Mero takes off his glove tape and uses it to choke Thrasher before delivering a half baked Powerbomb. Mero makes a tag to Goldust whilst Thrasher finally gets across the ring to Mosh to get the hot tag. Mosh goes to town and eventually gives a Double
Flapjack alongside Thrasher. Thrasher then looks like he’s going for a Spike Piledriver until Luna shoves him off the turnbuckles.
The crowd go nuts as Sable comes stomping back down to the ring. Obviously twenty minutes in the back has given her plenty of thinking time to come to the conclusion that Mero might be a little bit of a bastard. Luna and Sable attempt to attack each other and have to be held back. In amongst all this confusion Mosh switches places in the middle of the ring with Thrasher. Mero steps back into the ring only to be rolled up by the illegal man and pinned for three.
The end of the match means absolutely nothing though as the Headbangers just slump off away from the camera. Luna and Sable still attempt to knock lumps out of each
other. Goldust eventually drags Luna away leaving Sable in the ring with Mero. The crowd pop as Sable shoves Mero to the ground. There’s your opening contest, a match which is little more than a backdrop to this.
Owen Hart is backstage with Michael Cole and is asked how he feels about being on the same team as Stone Cold Steve Austin tonight. Apparently it’s fine as long as ‘Austin stays out of my business’. This might be hard seeing as they’re on the same team.
Here comes Sunny again in her odd role of introducing any match involving Mexican wrestlers. This month though she only gets the one as Pantera takes on Taka Michinoku for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. Sunny takes so long to get down the aisle, pick up the mic and start talking that they begin to play Pantera’s music when she’s mid sentence. It’s almost like they’re trying to tell her something.
This might have been a good contest between two highly skilled aerial workers but the WWF’s attitude to smaller wrestlers comes shining to the fore early on as Brian Christopher comes walking down the aisle to provide commentary. They’re still running the gag that Jerry Lawler denies that Brian Christopher is his son. It takes Lawler about seven seconds to chuck out a ‘Taka is so small that…” joke. Brian soon joins in. There’s
a very thin line between doing heel commentary and running down those in the ring.
The match starts well enough as Pantera gets a Plancha to the outside a few minutes before Taka springboards to the outside also. Right after this Brian Christopher describes Taka as ‘slanty eyed’. Taka gets locked up in Pantera’s Surfboard submission move. The Mexican Lucha then launches Taka over the top rope with a backdrop and follows this by flying over the top rope with a Senton.
Back in the ring Pantera gets a Tilt The World Backbreaker in and a Moonsault for 2. He goes for a second Moonsault but misses it. Taka gets a Top Rope Knee in and goes for the Michinoku Driver but gets rolled up. Taka does get a Powerbomb in and follows this with the Driver for the three count. The ending seems really sudden but Taka isn’t quite done. As Brian Christopher gets up from commentary to ‘do something about him’ Jerry Lawler follows him to try and drag him back. Taka uses this moment to fire off the top rope and crash into them both. Brian gives chase but Taka has already taken off through the crowd.
Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie are in the ‘AOL Room’ sitting in front of what now look like huge laptops. Charlie tries his level best not to swear during the entire segment as he says his left fist is the hospital and his right fist is the graveyard.
The Quebecers have returned and, in a probably prod towards the events of Survivor Series last year, they’re waving both Quebec and Canadian flags. This PPV is being held
in Texas meaning that this is thoroughly booed. They’ll be wrestling the Godwinns tonight meaning that this Texan crowd are being asked to support racist pig farmers rather than people from another country.
The match begins with something of Armbar City as Phineas and The Mountie..sorry, Jacques begin. It’s at this point you notice that Pierre still has an eye patch on which
harks back to the terrible pirate of the high seas gimmick he had circa 1994. Maybe after this much time away he figured it was the only way most fans would know him.
Henry takes over but gets a battering before getting a Double Clothesline in. He follows this with a Shoulder Breaker to Jacques and a Spinebuster for a two count. At this point the usual Vince led joke about Arkansas comes into commentary and it is noted for the eight hundredth time that The Godwinns hail from the same state as the then president Bill Clinton. “Where is Lee Harvey Oswald when his country needs him?” asks
Lawler. That’s correct, The King has just advocated the assassination of the President on live television.
Jacques gives a boot to Phineas and tags in Pierre so no reaction whatsoever. He gets a Powerslam in for a two count. Jacques later gets a Piledriver in on Phineas. Jacques
then hoists Pierre up in the air from the corner so he gets extra height on his Senton Bomb but Henry breaks the resulting pinfall. Henry and Jacques spill to the outside as Phineas sends Pierre into the ropes. Henry then kicks Pierre as he runs past leaving Phineas to simply fall on top of the former pirate and pin him. It’s a lame ending for a lame match. The Godwinns attack the Quebecers with buckets afterwards, once again to little reaction.
The New Age Outlaws are with Doc Hendrix. They have no idea who the eight man is either so endeavour to go off and find out for themselves.
The National Wrestling Alliance championship will be defended next on this show. It almost defies belief now but eighteen years ago the WWF would sometimes allow other
company’s belts to show up on TV. Current holder Jeff Jarrett turns up with Jim Cornette, The Rock and Roll Express and Barry Windham on tow. Bradshaw turns up in leather chaps and a bull whip which he uses to clear the ring. The referee sends everybody bar Jim Cornette (as a holder of a manager’s license apparently) to the back. In amongst all
this Jarrett tries to sneak attack Bradshaw before the bell but gets a smack to the teeth instead. Bradshaw then uses his leather chaps as a weapon against the man from Tennessee.
Bradshaw ducks down to try and backdrop Jarrett but Jeff just kicks him. Bradshaw stands up and Big Boots Jarrett straight afterwards. There then follows a brilliant moment when Jarrett rolls to the outside and is practically smothered by Cornette as they hug before Bradshaw attacks them both. Cornette attacks Bradshaw with the tennis racquet a little later, Bradshaw gives chase but Jeff catches him. Jeff’s Sunset Flip attempt is thwarted by Bradshaw dead lifting him.
Once again Cornette batters Bradshaw with the racquet, this time catching him on the knee. Jarrett catches on to this and goes for a Figure Four before Bradshaw pushes him
away. Bradshaw misses a Lariat and Jeff turns it into a DDT. Jeff goes for a Crossbody but Bradshaw catches him. There’s a Bradshaw Fallaway Slam and then a Powerbomb. Before the pin attempt Cornette gets up on the apron. Bradshaw hauls him into the ring and whips Cornette into Jarrett.
Whilst the ref tries to get rid of Cornette from the ring Jarrett uses the racquet himself to smash Bradshaw. Sadly for Jeff this brings about the disqualification ending. Rather better for Jeff is the fact that The Rock and Roll Express and Windham come back down to beat on Bradshaw. This goes on until The Legion of Doom come down. Bradshaw ends the match the victor but not champion. It’s probably been the best match so far tonight but there hasn’t been a great deal of competition. It’s probably key to note that Bradshaw looked brilliant here.
Cole is with Triple H and Chyna. Apparently Hunter doesn’t even want an eight man and he’s willing to go into battle with just the three of them. Cole informs him that WWF
officials have insisted that they’ll choose somebody for him if he cannot find anybody himself. This match has to be four on four.
Doc Hendrix is with The Nation of Domination. The big question of there being any dissension in the ranks of The Nation is wonderfully answered by Doc asking for the words ‘of the leader’ and The Rock jumps in straight away. He’s cut off by Faarooq who grabs the microphone and delivers the wonderful line of ‘They say Ken Shamrock is the World’s Most Dangerous Man, well I’ve lived in the World’s most dangerous neighbourhoods’. Ken Shamrock, for no apparent reason, seems to have been given Ahmed Johnson (who will depart the WWF not long after this) and the members of the DOA that Crush has left behind. I’m sure he’s delighted.
A side note before this though. They’ve spent all night building up to an eight man tag main event. Why prefix this with a ten man tag?
The Rock is still getting under the skin of fans from the amount of ‘Rocky sucks’ chants going on. The rest of the Nation are pretty much ignored. Shamrock carries himself
in a really impressive fashion during his entrance, he looks like a guy ready to take on the world. After seeming a bit off kilter in his first few appearances on WWF PPV shows this is the first one where he looks noticeably more settled.
D’Lo and Skullz start and it’s pretty basic back and forth wrestling for a while. This is until Mark Henry steps in and demands that Ahmed Johnson tags in to face him. “Mark
Henry, the strongest drug free athlete in the world today’ says Jim Ross with a rather odd emphasis on the ‘drug free’ part of that statement. Eventually D’Lo gets back in and goes for a Top Rope Splash on a floored Ahmed. He’s way to far out for it so ends up crashing right down on Ahmed’s hip. It looks damned painful. Faarooq comes in and puts the boot in for a while until Ahmed manages to get up and Spinebuster Faarooq without any ill effect. The Rock comes in and looks crisp on his offence. Shamrock is worked over for a while.
D’Lo Brown misses a Moonsault and everybody storms the ring. Shamrock takes this opportunity to get the Ankle Lock on The Rock and the boy from Miami taps out. Shamrock’s rag tag army celebrate and The Nation begin the enquiry. The Rock attacks Faarooq, Faarooq gets back at him and The Rock tries to leave the arena on his own but is soon called back. He reluctantly holds his arm aloft with the other members of the group.
As a side note this match was billed as ‘The War of Attrition’. According to J.R in the opening moments of the match the word ‘Attrition’ means ‘survival, elimination’. The match actually ends after one fall. Good to see the commentary teams are clear on the rules.
Stone Cold is with Cole. He doesn’t give one or indeed two craps about who the eight man is. Jerry Lawler has Austin’s old Kindergarten reports. How he got hold of them is never revealed and I’m not sure if I should be suspicious or quite glad. Austin ‘doesn’t
play well with others’ says Lawler. I’m pretty sure we were aware of that already.
There’s a video package hyping up Vader. It’s about eighteen months too late. The big guy from Colorado has never truly hit the heights in WWF and is a shadow of the man who ran over WCW a few years earlier. Apart from his Summerslam 96 title match with Shawn Michaels he hasn’t really been in the main event picture. Tonight he’s a stepping stone for Kane on his way to a show down with his (by now very toasty) Brother.
“It’s as if he’s walked out of the mouth of Hell itself” screams J.R as Kane walks down the aisle with Paul Bearer. Vader goes on the attacks first and the opening exchanges of this match are mostly two very big men aiming very big punches down on each other. The fight spills to the outside and they brawl down the aisle.
Back inside the ring Kane accidentally smashes his shoulder into the ring post yet still manages to come back with a flying clothesline and a suplex. This match is slow paced but then it was always going to be that way. Kane quickly hangs Vader over the top ropes and comes down on the back of his head with a top rope elbow drop.
The match then falls off a bit with rest holds. The crowd seem really into Vader though as they chant his name and will him to make a comeback against the brick wall that is
Undertaker’s little Brother. Kane goes for a chokeslam but Vader kicks him in his balls. This leads to a Vader Splash and a huge Moonsault which Kane gets up from. Kane then dumps Vader over the ropes to be on the safe side.
Vader finds a fire extinguisher under the ring and fires it liberally towards Kane. For some reason the ref fails to notice the huge clouds of gas floating across the ring.
Vader gives Kane a Powerbomb and it seems like he’s done enough yet Kane rises again. Kane gets a chokeslam in and follows it with a Tombstone for the three count.
Kane is not finished here however. He ends up in the possession of a wrench which he smashes across the face of Vader. J.R screams about Kane being sick and twisted whilst
Lawler barks on about ‘Vader’s eye orbit’. When thinking about the circumstances this is a very well set up match. Kane looks completely dominant and therefore a threat to Undertaker and Vader didn’t get completely obliterated but lost because he came up against a man with almost supernatural powers. The only thing that was really lacking
was the usual lights and trickery from Undertaker to suggest he wasn’t actually fried alive at the Royal Rumble. They’re saving that for Raw obviously.
We’re now told that Shawn Michaels will hand pick his replacement for the eight man tag tonight. So the WWF officials have changed their minds? They’ve just got off the blower to San Antonio? We can only assume that he must be on really strong painkillers right now because, after The New Age Outlaws, Triple H and Chyna make it to the ring, the eighth man is revealed to be Savio Vega.
Yes, Savio Vega.
He gets no reaction at all. No boos, no cheers, nothing. He brings with him a bin lid which proves to be a most deadly weapon in the opening stages of this match. Owen Hart is introduced, followed by both Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie. Then the roof nearly blows off when Stone Cold Steve Austin walks through the curtain. Stone Cold looks brilliant here. He’s lean with a steely look in his eye and can wrestle at a level of intensity rarely seen in the WWF at the time or since. You can easily see why he became the megastar he is in the build up to WrestleMania XIV. It seems a little unclear as to if this will be just an all out brawl or a tag match. Will it be elimination or will it be one fall? Neither J.R or Lawler seem very sure.
I’ll be honest and say that the first half of this match is impossible to follow by taking notes. There’s just too much happening everywhere you look. From the moment Stone
Cold whacks Billy Gunn one the whole thing kicks off. Billy Gunn falls victim to a Lou Thesz Press and a bin lid to the skull, He then just about manages to escape the set up for the Stunner before everybody else gets smacked with a bin lid courtesy of The
Stone Cold gets a broom as a weapon later on and uses it with gusto until he breaks it over Triple H’s back. A table is set up near the ropes which Owen Hart Powerslams Billy Gunn through. Charlie and Triple H later finds themselves in a war of who can hit each other with a bin lid the hardest. Owen gets a Sharpshooter in on Triple H only to have Road Dog batter him with a chair. Charlie throws a bin into the air and it ends up hitting him in the face on the way down. Charlie is then Powerbombed through two upright chairs.
After a good ten minutes of wild brawling which the crowd are loving the match settles into a tag format. Billy Gunn Piledrives Charlie onto a bin lid and Savio Vega
later punches Charlie whilst holding onto his braces. Cactus Jack keeps saving Charlie from all pinfall attempts. Austin somehow throws a bin halfway across the ring and makes sure it pans Billy Gunn on the way. It’s a marvellous throw. The main work during this section of the match is done by Cactus and Owen as Stone Cold is being saved for the end. Charlie gets a hot tag to Cactus and the man from Truth or Consequences sets up a table over Road Dog in the corner before whipping Billy Gunn into it.
An Owen Hart Missle Dropkick to Savio follows and Cactus gets a Double Mandible Claw on the New Age Outlaws. Not long after this Savio Vega, that well known hardcore wrestling icon, wraps barbed wire around Cactus Jack. Billy Gunn goes for a chair shot to Cactus whilst Road Dog holds him. Of Course, Cactus ducks at the last moment leaving Billy Gunn to waffle his tag partner.
The hot tag is given to Austin who comes and and clears house completely. After about thirty seconds of this he gives Road Dog a Stunner and pins him for three. “HBK beware, Austin is going to Wrestlemania!” hollers J.R over the noise of the crowd. The main event of the show has been a bit of a barn stormer which was obviously set up to showcase Stone Cold as a worthy challenger for the title. In that aim it succeeds.
Austin’s celebrations are cut somewhat short by Chyna who generally gets in Stone Cold’s face. Stone Cold tries to walk away but Chyna flips him the bird. Within a few seconds
she’s fell victim to the Stunner. Stone Cold grabs the mic, gives a quick ‘Hell Yeah’ and the broadcast ends there.
It’s probably a good job that social media wasn’t a thing in 1998 otherwise this show would probably have been torn apart. There would be plenty of..
‘OMG, build for WrestleMania terrible and Shawn can’t wrestle #fail #freetickets’.
Or probably something more about how Shawn versus Stone Cold will be utterly rubbish due to HBK being injured. The WWF have pretty much had to stitch this show together
with what they had at the time.
Stone Cold walks out looking like the true WWF Champion in waiting, Kane looks all powerful but that’s about it. Had Shawn been able to wrestle then the main event probably would have been much better (it would feature much less Savio Vega
for a start). Both of the team matches feature many wrestlers but only seem to expand on storylines for two or three of them and the rest of the card screams filler. No Way Out Of Texas represents a show which is fairly easy to skip and which nobody looks back on with any great levels of fondness.
Next month we move the bus onwards towards Boston and the biggest show of them all. It’s WrestleMania XIV.