30th August 1998. Madison Square Garden. New York, New York.
A lot seems to have happened on Monday Night Raw since the last PPV, Fully Loaded, occurred last month. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker have dropped the tag team titles to Kane and Mankind whilst any doubts about Undertaker and Kane working together have been fully cast to one side. The Brothers of Destruction might be less than one year from setting each other alight but it looks like they’ve begun to arrive at a mutual agreement. The opening video package is all about Undertaker going up against Stone Cold tonight for the Rattlesnake’s WWF title. Will Kane be in the building to help his brother?
The very definition of optimism comes up next as the European Title match between Val Venis and D’Lo Brown is announced as being ‘set for one fall with a sixty minute time limit’. Being European champion Brown is announced as being from Helsinki, Finland. J.R notes that on Raw just gone he was apparently from Lisbon. Lawler simply adds that D’Lo gets around a lot. D’Lo Brown’s chest guard is said to have been reinforced due to an ongoing injury.
There’s a rather lovely sense of sportsmanship in the beginning of this match. Both men tie up, are pushed towards the ropes and D’Lo offers Val a handshake at the break. A few minutes laters however and the same thing happens. Only this time D’Lo slaps Val across the face instead of shaking his hand. After rebounding off the ropes D’Lo rams Val Venis full force with his protected chest and then squashes him in the corner. Val gains a little bit of momentum back by applying a Drop Toe Hold and a lovely looking Dropkick.
Edge is seen standing amongst the crowd.
D’Lo reverses a Sleeper Hold into a Side Suplex and the following Leg Drop gets him a two count. It’s at this point that Val gains a back injury that prevents him from body slamming D’Lo. Not long after this D’Lo locks in a Boston Crab that Val barely escapes. Val does manage to get to the top rope and is looking for The Money Shot but D’Lo gets up and reverses this into a Powerslam. Val looks like he’s been tasered.
Later on D’Lo tries a Powerbomb but ends up slipping and dropping Val straight down on his head. Straight after this D’Lo goes for it again, this time getting a Running Powerbomb in. The following attempt at Lo Down is missed and Val uses this opportunity to grab the chest protector off D’Lo and put it on himself. The ref starts getting in Val’s face about it. Val goes up top for another Money Shot but the ref pulls his ankle meaning he crotches himself on the ropes. Upon his recovery Val gets really annoyed at the ref and ends up pushing him across the ring. The ref then disqualifies Val and D’Lo retains his title. As D’Lo goes off back down the aisle Val attacks the ref and Money Shots him for good measure. It’s a solid opener that perhaps goes on for five minutes too long.
Michael Cole is in the parking lot alongside a Hearse that Stone Cold apparently destroyed during Sunday Night Heat. Mankind appears and says he can use his sledgehammer tonight.
You know how these days it’s much less likely that the nation you’re born in will be part of your gimmick? Finn Balor is announced as coming from Ireland but he thankfully didn’t get lumbered with an Irish jig or followed by Hornswoggle. Back in 1998 however it was a different story. It’s only been a few months since Taka Michinoku won the Lightheavyweight Championship and yet he’s here taking part in this absolute shambles as The Oddities (who are very large) take on Kai En Tai (who are very small). This match seems to go on for an age and I cannot bear to write too much details about it so here’s my notes.
South Park t-shirts, Insane Clown Posse, beer in shoes, Golga gets the pinfall.
Jeff Jarrett turns up for his Hair Vs Hair match with X-Pac with Southern Justice on tow. They seem to have attacked Howard Finkel on Sunday Night Heat and chopped his hair off. X-Pac arrived with Fink beside him wearing a DX shirt. Southern Justice, in exactly the same idea as last month, are sent to the back before the match has even begun. JJ jumps X-Pac before the bell rings but the DX member gets a Spinning Heel Kick in. The match spills to the outside and JJ uses an Atomic Drop to ram X-Pac crotch first into the ring post. X-Pac very nearly gets counted out as a result.
Back in the ring there’s a heavy Irish Whip into the corner from JJ following by a lovely looking Powerslam. We then get the first sample of Lawler’s idiotic commentary tonight with something about how the shears they’ll be using will ‘go right down to the skull’. I’d argue that might be the wrong setting.
X-Pac uses a Tornado DDT for two. A top rope Crossbody misses and JJ takes advantage by applying the Figure Four Leglock. X-Pac reaches the ropes, JJ goes to apply the hold again but is shoved into the ropes. After a Roundhouse Kick X-Pac is able to get the Bronco Buster in. The Fink, who has been outside the ring all this time, gets up on the apron and JJ smacks him one. X-Pac uses this distraction to plant a Facebuster on JJ for a two count. Southern Justice appear again and one member tries to hand JJ his guitar. X-Pac intercepts and, whilst the ref is busy dealing with Howard Fink being out on the arena floor, X-Pac smashes JJ with his own musical instrument. X-Pac then picks up the win by pinning a prone JJ.
Jarrett is then set upon by a small band of babyfaces who hold him down in a fold up chair as X-Pac tries to cut the blonde locks. The shears he’s been given, the ones that Lawler said were going down to the bone, are utter crap as they fail to cut anything. Resorting to scissors they manage to take about two chunks out of his hair before he runs away. This is just after Jarrett loudly calls everybody within the vicinity ‘pieces of shit’.
Doc Henrix is in another part of MSG in front of The Lion’s Den, home of the match between Owen Hart and Ken Shamrock tonight.
Michael Cole is with Intercontinental Champion The Rock. He’s playing the cocky bastard in this interview but the full on Rock isn’t quite there yet.
Must I sit through another Sable match? Even if they’ve tried to cover up how appalling she is by sticking her in a tag match? I suppose I’ll have to. At least this time she’s teaming with Edge and going up against Marc Mero and Jacqueline. The walking Barbie doll saunters to the ring and introduces Edge with quite possibly the most monosyllabic speech possible. He walks through the crowd and looks amazing as he does so. The match is mixed tag rules so the blokes can fight each other and the women can fight each other but not cross over.
Despite how terrible she is at actually wrestling and how seemingly devoid of any charisma she is the crowd are certainly into Sable getting her revenge on her ex Marc Mero in any way possible. Before any of that though it’s Edge who starts to go to town on Mero. This continues until Edge flattens Mero with a Flapjack and is held by Jacqueline as he runs the ropes allowing Mero to recover. Not long after this Edge reverses a TKO attempt into a DDT.
Mero tags out to Jacqueline and we see the first problem in the format of this match. There is no tension at all in Jacqueline waiting for Edge to walk across the ring and tag Sable in. It gives an awkward pause to the match like a video game loading. Sable then awkwardly shuffles forwards with all the grace of a rhino as she lumps Jacqueline around the ring. At one point Mero ends up standing between Sable and Jacqueline and Sable kicks him in the crotch. There is no disqualification despite the referee being in full view.
Sable gets a TKO on Jacqueline and goes for a pin attempt but Mero drags her off. Sable then gets a terrible clothesline in. Mero spills to the outside and Edge launches himself over the ropes towards him. It’s the high spot of the match thus far. It’s quickly followed by one of the worst spots as Jacqueline attacks a recovering Edge and he picks her up and spanks her arse. It was acceptable in the 90’s.
An Edge Neckbreaker to Mero is followed by a pinfall attempt that Jacqueline breaks up. Mero gets a Samoan Drop in to Edge and goes up to the top turnbuckle but Edge manages to crotch him on the turnbuckle. Sable tags in and hits a hurricanrana. Obviously, somebody has decided to drill some kind of training into her head for something a bit more crowd pleasing.
Edge gets a Downward Spiral in on Mero and then, in a move he apparently used to do with Christian on the indie scene, lifts Sable up to splash Mero for a winning three count. Edge then just walks off through the crowd again and leaves Sable in the middle of the ring celebrating. It’s been a functional match with a continuation of the Sable/Mero feud and introducing Edge but it’s really not much more than that.
Michael Cole is backstage with Mankind who is now coming to the conclusion he’ll have to defend the tag titles without Kane being around. Vince turns up and starts handing Mankind weapons. “It’s Madison Square Garden!” he screams as he hands him whatever happens to be around.
Dan Severn is shown running Owen Hart through his paces as he prepares for his Lion’s Den match with Ken Shamrock. The Lion’s Den itself is a funnelled cage that they’ve sent up in a smaller part of MSG in front of a crowd that seems far more lively. Due to the fast paced nature of this match, being as it’s much more presented as a MMA match rather than pro wrestling, it’s very hard to give even the most basic blow by blow account. Both men go at it full force and it looks fantastic. The action is relentless and pretty brutal for the setting. It’s unlike anything else on the card that night and probably anything the WWF will have presented at the time. After many moves off the cage and submission holds Owen taps out to an ankle lock. The lack of description does this match a great injustice. Dan Severn, who has been pacing outside the ring during all of this, seems to walk off in disgust when Owen loses.
“This is a no holds barred, pinfalls count anywhere match” says J.R “Vince seems to just like carnage”. The New Age Outlaws come out wearing South Park t-shirts, you can tell it’s 1998. Mankind comes down to the ring with a whole dumpster. Kane is nowhere to be seen. Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy then wails on both Outlaws with cookie trays regardless. This then moves onto steel chairs before the Outlaws make the numbers count by battering Mankind with more trays. Later on the Outlaws set up a table in the corner but Road Dogg turns his back and misses Billy Gunn being hiptossed through it instead.
Mankind is powerbombed through a stack of chairs for a two count but the following spike piledriver onto a title belt gets the job done. The New Age Outlaws are tag champions once again. Mankind is then shoved into the dumpster but it’s at this moment Kane rises up from within. Despite being in the rubbish all this time Kane still managed to attack Mankind with a hammer. It’s been a short match, probably more of a angle than anything else but it’s still pretty good.
Looking back at this point it’s been an evening of fairly functional wrestling that seems to have held a consistently good level of quality. Nothing truly terrible (although the 8 man tag was pushing it) but nothing mind blowing either.
We’re treated to an extended video covering the feud between Triple H and The Rock. A few months ago this seemed to be very much a battle between The Nation and Degeneration X but it seems to have now distilled to just these two men. They’ll fight tonight for the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match. It’s actually the very same building in which Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels fought for the same belt under the same rules at WrestleMania X. J.R actually referenced this early on, including mentioning Razor Ramon by name even though Scott Hall is firmly in WCW by now. Maybe Scott Hall and Razor Ramon are entirely separate things after all.
The DX Band come out and give a horrendous, out of tune version of the DX theme song live. Triple H tries to pick up the lead singer on his shoulders and he looks like he might just drop the guy to stop him singing. The Rock enters the arena with Mark Henry, nobody sings his theme song live. The Rock climbs a ladder which has now appeared in the aisle. The ‘Rocky Sucks’ are audible.
Both men brawl until Triple H gets a Facebuster in. An early Pedigree attempt is reversed into a backdrop which sends Triple H over the ropes and into the aisle. The Rock pushes Triple H into the ladder. The Rock then moves the ladder and leans it against the ring apron. Triple H is then whipped into it and quickly receives a stiff clothesline. Back in the ring The Rock sets up the ladder and manages to get about halfway up until Triple H axe handles him from the turnbuckles. Rock tumbles, the ladder wobbles and then lands right on Triple H’s back.
The Rock works on Triple H’s legs and he elbow drops the knee a few times and then goes to town by trapping one leg in between the folding ladder and batters it with a steel chair. Back outside the ring the ladder is rested between the guardrail and the apron. The Rock then lifts Triple H and brings his knee down on the metal. The Rock goes for the belt once again but Triple H just about manages to haul him off.
Triple H takes control and sets up a ladder against the barricade. This backfires as The Rock catapults the DX leader into it. A kick to the ribs in desperation just about stops The Rock from attacking any more. The ladder ends up on the floor in the aisle and Triple H manages to get Rocky in position for a Pedigree on the rungs. It’s quickly reversed into a backdrop.
Mark Henry chooses this moment to get another ladder from underneath the ring as the first one is looking a little bit warped now. Chyna is busy trying to get Triple H up. As The Rock sets up the second ladder in the ring Mark Henry holds onto a charging Triple H is an attempt to stop him entering the ring. Chyna soon punches out The World’s Strongest Man. Triple H gets a baseball slide into the ladder and, by extension, The Rock as well. The leader of The Nation is now bleeding.
The Rock gets his own brand of the DDT in (Jake Roberts never did it with the leg shake added). There’s is now a ladder in the middle of the ring and one set up in a corner. Eventually both en reach for the belt but The Rock punches Triple H and he lands smack on the corner ladder, rebounds off and hits the standing one which sends The Rock tumbling down onto the top ropes.
Chyna hands Triple H a chair, The Rock charges with ladder held aloft and steel clashes with steel. The Rock body slams Triple H on a flat ladder in the middle of the ring and then manages to connect with The People’s Elbow. A Rock Bottom follows but Triple H still manages to knock The Rock down during his climb. Finally Triple H hits a Pedigree but Mark Henry channels his inner Mr Fuji and throws powder into his eyes. A blinded Triple H climbs up the ladder and claws at the belt, The Rock climbs the other side and attacks. Chyna runs in the ring, low blows The Rock and watches as Triple H reaches the top and grabs the belt. The New Age Outlaws and X-Pac run to the ring to celebrate. J.R suggests on commentary that it’s been a good night for DX as Triple H now has the I.C belt, the Outlaws have the tag team titles and X-Pac has ‘Jeff Jarrett’s hair’. There can surely be no greater prize in this sport than the blonde locks of the Nashville native?
The WWE Network version of this show then cuts to ‘Exclusive video footage’ of a bloody Rock shouting at a medic who is trying to examine his wounds.
‘We’re on the Highway To Hell’ screams J.R as The Undertaker walks down the aisle with his huge collar robe on to his excellent Ministry music. The Undertaker has promised Austin that there will be no involvement from Kane tonight. Stone Cold gets a full on, glass shattering entrance. As soon as the bell rings both men start punching in the corner, first with Austin taking control and then Undertaker. Austin then pulls out a Drop Toe Hold which seems like a first in the WWF. Undertaker recovers to suplex Austin and then hot shot him against the ropes.
If I recall correctly then this is the match that Austin said on a episode of his podcast he was most disappointed with. Apparently this shot against the ropes knocked him out for a few seconds which completely threw him off balance for the rest of the match. Certainly a few seconds after this sees Stone Cold face down in the corner trying to get his thoughts back in order. Austin must have some really high standards for his performances though as the rest of the match gives no such signs he’s suffering.
The Undertaker hits Austin with a Flying Clothesline and then chokes him out as he’s on the floor. An Old School attempt is thwarted as Austin pulls him back to the ring. It’s at this moment Kane walks down the aisle. The Undertaker talks his younger brother into going right back where he came from though. “Austin cannot contend with these two monsters alone” says J.R.
The Undertaker chokeslams Austin from the ring apron, over the ropes and down in the middle of the ring. Before long they’re both off into the crowd and the camera cannot follow them. There’s actually a suplex you can’t see because of the crowd of people around them both. The lack of a count out is given the explanation that Earl ‘knows how important this match is and doesn’t want it to end on a double countout’. I’ve always found that a bit odd, as if the ref in a cup final won’t award a goal because it needs to go to extra time.
Austin is soon laid out on the announce table as Undertaker comes flying off the turnbuckles with a leg drop. Both men smash right through it. Austin is thrown back in the ring but Undertaker only gets a two count. Austin is noticeably spitting up blood.
Another chokeslam and Undertaker signals for the Tombstone. Austin gets out of the set up, goes for a Stunner but Undertaker grabs his legs and crotches him on the ropes. Undertaker then goes for Old School again but Austin punches him. As Undertaker falls he is caught with a Stunner than connects. Austin then gets the winning three count.
The Undertaker is actually the first to grab the belt but, instead of waffling Austin with it he simply hands it over and congratulates The Texas Rattlesnake. Kane also comes back and stand with his brother in the aisle whilst Austin celebrates in the ring. The show then goes off air.
Up until the last hour SummerSlam 1998 is a middling show. Most of the action is good such as Val Venis and D’Lo Brown in the opener and the Owen Hart and Ken Shamrock Lion’s Den match. The final two matches go up a few gears though and round the show of on a high. The I.C ladder match is certainly worth a watch back these days even nineteen years after the fact. Skip the 8 man though, it’s truly awful.