October 18th 1998, Rosemont, Illinois.
This has taken a little while, even as I’m typing this introduction I haven’t watched the entire show. I thought I was onto a one way street towards Survivor Series 98 and the Championship Tournament. For all the Attitude era is lauded as the best period of WWF there were some shows that only seemed to really centre on the antics of Stone Cold Steve Austin. In tonight’s case he’s not even wrestling having been forced to referee the match between The Undertaker and Kane for the WWF Title. Vince has told Stone Cold that he must declare a winner between the two and hand the belt over to them. If he fails to do so then he’ll be fired.
“All the titles pale in comparison to the big one” says J.R in the opening section of the show. This must really make the European champion happy.
Al Snow makes his entrance for his opening match against Marc Mero. complete with Head. I have reached the stage during all of this when I feel the need to write ‘Head’ with a capital ‘H’ rather than just ‘a head’. At least it’s getting him over with the crowd. Jacqueline, who is with Mero ringside, is probably wearing more clothing than at any point in this PPV project so far.
Before anything can get under way Jeff Jarrett walks down the aisle and seems to demand in the match. Al Snow begins to argue with the guitar swinging one before he’s jumped by Mero to kick this one off officially.
Snow does get a fair bit of offence in first though with a Powerslam followed by two clotheslines. Later on Jacqueline gets up on the apron and starts jawing with Snow. A Mero low blow during all of this only gets him a two count. Mero gets a DDT in alongside a Knee Lift and a Moonsault. Jacqueline gets involved again later as she pulls a prone Mero out of the ring as he’s being lined up for Snow’s own Moonsault. Eventually Snow reverses a TKO effort into a Snow Plough for the win. It’s a pretty basic opener which does the job just about enough but it’s not much to write home about.
Steve Austin arrives backstage and is immediately herded into the ‘referee’s locker room’ which looks suspiciously like a store cupboard next to the car park. The Texas Rattlesnake is not happy with these proceedings.
We get a six man tag next featuring The Legion of Doom alongside Droz up against the two surviving members of DOA namely Skull and 8-Ball. The two bikers are accompanied by Paul Ellering of all people. I always had Ellering down as a manager only and to be honest he doesn’t really have a lot to do in this match so maybe I’m right. Hawk is welcomed back by the commentary team after his recent battles with drug addiction. Not only is it really strange to hear them reference what was a real life trouble for Michael Hegstrand but it also feels like the WWF were preparing for Droz to replace him in LOD if needs be.
It’s not long before Jerry Lawler runs down Hawk completely. The main comment being that Hawk thought Alcoholics Anonymous was ‘still drinking but under an assumed name’. It’s really uncomfortable viewing.
This match is pretty much nothing. Nobody can tell the difference between Skull and 8-Ball as they’re both two big bald dudes with beards who are dressed the same. Droz does most the selling as he gets beat up until Hawk goes up for the Doomsday Device. He connect with the clothesline but doesn’t get the pin as Droz nips in behind him. Whilst his team still wins Hawk isn’t happy about having his thunder stolen.
Taka Michinoku has spent the last ten months as WWF Lightheavyweight Champion. After an initial buzz around him winning it there now seems to be little for him to do whilst being the holder. Tonight he faces Christian who makes his WWF PPV debut. The fact that Christian can just walk into this as his first match up pretty much tells you what you what the WWF thought of their own Lightheavyweight title in the late 90’s. These days Neville seems to have walked out over such a thing with the Cruiserweight title. Christian makes his entrance alongside Gangrel. It’s to Gangrel’s music as well so it’s fair to say they might not be sure where they’re going to go with Christian’s character yet.
There’s a display of how much athleticism we’re going to get here when Christian goes for a German Suplex and Taka just flips out the other side of it before landing on his feet. Taka follows up with a Spinning Heel Kick and a dive to the outside as Christian tries to escape.
Edge is shown to be in the crowd. They’re still playing it as if Edge and Christian have a past unknown to the audience.
Taka ends up splatting on the mat after going to the top turnbuckle because Christian shakes the ropes. Christian follows with a Powerbomb but misses the Diving Headbutt as a follow up. Taka gets in the Asai Moonsault to the outside, a top rope Cross Body and then a Tornado DDT. He’s undone by going for the Michinoku Driver which Christian reverses into a Small Package for the winning three count. Christian ends up being the Lightheavyweight Champion in his first match for the WWF.
Yet more happenings between Val Venis and Dustin Runnells. For weeks before this match Dustin has been going around saying that ‘He shall return’. Everybody presumed that he meant Jesus but tonight, for this match, the original form of Goldust arrives right after Val walks down the aisle with Dustin’s wife Terri.
A vengeful Goldust jumps Val Venis just as he starts his ‘Hello ladies’ speech. He piles Val outside and throws him into the barricade. The Bizarre One lamps Val with an Inverted Atomic Drop as well, a potent weapon against Val’s tools of his job. Goldust then makes the mistake of whacking his shoulder off the turnbuckle though and the tide changes.
Val gets in the Elbow Drop directly onto Goldust’s hurt shoulder. Val then stretches the arms across the top rope to add further injury. Val goes for The Money Shot but is brought back down to Earth quickly by Goldust joining him on the top rope and going for the Superplex. Both men exchange Sleeperholds and Terri jumps up on the apron. Val is spun towards Terri and nearly decks her one. Thinking he’s got away with it Val turns around only to be kicked squarely in his tackle by Goldust and pinned for three.
Ken Shamrock, every the calming influence, has slammed Triple H’s knee into a car door in the parking area. Triple H’s fellow DX guy X-Pac cuts an awful promo with Michael Cole about it as he prepares to face D’Lo Brown for the European Title. The best part about D’Lo having the Euro belt is the fact he can be announced from various places again. Tonight he’s apparently from Milan. X-Pac comes down to the ring with Chyna, D’Lo seems to have put The Nation behind him yet the chest protector is still very much in front.
This is one of those functional matches that the WWF seemed to put on in the middle of the PPV shows of the time. It’s decent enough and is between two people who are obviously skilled in what they do but you won’t be remembering this one for years to come. D’Lo dominates the opening exchanges but misses a Corner Splash. X-Pac then finds that D’Lo just boots him one when he tries to initiate the Bronco Buster on his seemingly prone opponent. The match then enters Chinlock city for what feels like ten minutes. D’Lo misses a Top Rope Cannonball and X-Pac follows with a Dropkick.
After a ref bump Mark Henry walks down to ringside purely to get in Chyna’s face. This gives D’Lo a chance to try and belt shot but X-Pac still kicks out. X-Pac then manages to connect with a Face Buster for the winning three.
Sometimes there are a few moments in 90’s wrestling that seem one million miles away from what we have now. There’s a backstage section where Michael Cole announces that Paul Bearer has just gone into Kane’s locker room. He’s interrupted by The Headbangers who casually throw out a homophobic slur before wandering off. It’s the kind of thing that if it were tweeted today would lead to instant dismissal.
The Headbangers and The New Age Outlaws seem to be in a feud that started with a destroyed boom box. As a kick off point it’s probably up there with Kane and Chris Jericho’s infamous cup of coffee. The tag team division in the WWF in late 1998 does seem to be The Outlaws and whoever they can find to put together. The Headbangers seem to have been brought in as faces with ‘alternative’ lifestyles, given a title run to a muted reaction and then repurposed as heels for no reason. It could be worse, I could be forced to watch DOA again.
Road Dogg doesn’t get his mic bit in because The Headbangers jump them both before the bell. Billy Gunn and Mosh start the match but Road Dogg is soon in with a really good looking dropkick. It goes really wrong for him from that moment on however because both Headbangers begin to take control. Gunn is brought in with a hot tag, runs at Thrasher who holds the top rope down dumping Gunn on the floor.
Billy Gunn is then worn down with Sleeper Holds. There’s an impressive moment when Billy Gunn catches Mosh in mid air and Powerslams him. Eventually Road Dogg comes in only to meet Thrasher’s fist. He’s also the victim of a Double Flapjack. Eventually Road Dogg seem to get sick of the whole thing and uses the boom box placed outside the ring to hit Thrasher with. The Headbangers win by DQ but I have a feeling we’ll be back here next month.
Returning backstage we’re told that Kane is indeed with Paul Bearer and the concern is that some plan will be hatched against Stone Cold. Mankind pops up with Socko on one hand, holding it aloft and asking what colour of underwear it has on.
If you want a classic example of commentary from the late 90’s that would never be on WWE made TV today then it’s coming up right before the next match. Ken Shamrock has been given the I.C title in a ceremony which featured Pat Patterson. Patterson was the very first Intercontinental Champion and the story was that he’d won it in a knockout tournament. Whilst it wasn’t mentioned on any show at the time Pat Patterson is gay. This essentially gives Jerry Lawler a chance to get the innuendo book out.
Lawler- “Fifteen other guys in there with Patterson and he still manages to come out on top”.
J.R- “I find that hard to swallow”.
Lawler “Careful there”.
Anyway, onwards to Mankind versus Ken Shamrock for the IC Title. The early going involves Shamrock kicking at Mankind’s legs in an effort to soften them up for the Ankle Lock later on. The oly sticking point in this plan is that, traditionally, Mankind really likes pain.
J.R cuts in by noting that Lawler is ‘a little bit frisky tonight’ The big question would be is he ever not?
Mankind very nearly gets the Mandible Claw onto Shamrock in the early going but he escapes quickly. Mankind then reverts to picking up a steel chair. As the ref is trying to get it foo him Shamrock kicks it back into Mankind’s face. This attack with a foreign object occurs right in front of the ref yet no action is taken. J.R scrambles to cover this on commentary by suggesting the ref is playing loose with the rules because he knows how important the I.C title is to both of them. It really doesn’t wash.
Shamrock gets a Wrist Lock but Mankind bites his way out of it. Mankind then follows up with a Double Arm DDT, running knees to the corner and then a Baseball Slide as Shamrock is caught up in a Tree of Woe. The match spills out to the floor and Shamrock gets a crisp Powerslam in as Mankind is running towards him. In the process Mankind whacks his leg off the ring steps.
Back inside the ring Mankind is caught in the Ankle Lock. He tries to punch himself in the head to deal with the pain obviously thinking that a bigger pain self inflicted will take his mind off the ankle. When this doesn’t work he actually snaps a Mandible Claw onto himself and knocks himself unconscious. Ken Shamrock wins but when it’s announced as ‘Your winner by Mandible Claw’ the former UFC man goes completely mental kicking any referee that he can find. He’s only put back down by a recovered Mankind who uses Mr Socko to snap on another Mandible this time to Shamrock.
Michael Cole is trying to get a word with Vince McMahon about the main event tonight but is quickly sent away by the Big Boss Man who has now been installed as Vince’s head of security.
The war between former members of The Nation rumbles on as Mark Henry takes on The Rock. Before all of this we get Henry reading out a poem declaring his love for Chyna. It’s rather unsettling. The pop The Rock gets for his entrance here is wonderful. He’s a million miles away from the boos that he was getting around Survivor Series 1996.
The match itself is a fairly short one. They begin with punches before going to the outside and smashing each other’s head into the announce tables. An Elbow Drop by Henry gets him a two count. The Rock’s following DDT gets him a two count also. The Rock then gets in a Bodyslam followed by a People’s Elbow. D’Lo Brown appears and whilst the ref is dealing with him it gives Mark Henry a chance to attack. Henry goes for a Splash and D’Lo hangs around on the apron holding The Rock’s legs down so he can’t kick out.
In this WWE Network version of the show the hype video for the Undertaker versus Kane main event contains so much blurring out of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s middle finger you’ll begin to doubt he actually has hands.
Usually when covering the main events on this project I’ll try and run through the match beat by beat or as close as I can but there isn’t really much point in this match. One of my big annoyances in wrestling is when a match is in progress but the audience attention is so obviously pointed elsewhere. With Steve Austin being the guest referee and the demand of declaring some kind of winner being over him you’re constantly watching him rather than either Kane or Undertaker. The Brothers of Destruction have a fairly decent match but it’s completely overshadowed by what The Texas Rattlesnake will do.
Towards the end of the match Paul Bearer makes an appearance and looks like he’s about to encourage Kane to slam Undertaker with a steel chair. This is until Bearer himself smacks Kane with it. Kane completely brushes this off and is about to go after Bearer until Undertaker uses the chair against him. Undertaker goes for the pin attempt on Kane but Austin refuses to count. Austin uses the Stunner on Undertaker and then flaps both of his arms down three times before declaring himself the winner and new WWF Champion.
Austin then demands that Vince comes down to the ring. The chairman remains hidden forcing Austin to go to the back in order to find him. The camera follows him as he wanders around near the loading bay. When this turns up nothing Austin walks back to the ring and Vince’s voice booms out over the in house PA. The Titantron screen is lifted and Vince reveals himself to be sat on a balcony over the entrance ramp. There’s a large plastic screen in front of him and you quickly understand why as cups are hurled towards him from the crowd. Vince then fires Austin for no obeying his orders and the PPV ends with Austin seemingly being fine with this news. He has a few beers thrown his way and celebrates as if he’s won anyway. A big noise is made on commentary about this being the last time you’ll see Stone Cold in a WWF ring. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way.
So Judgement Day 1998 ends up being a stop gap PPV show. Even after all that goes down the basics remain the same. Vince hates Austin, Austin will do anything to get under Vince’s skin and the WWF Title is still vacant. It’s a show you can probably skip to be honest. Next time around we’re off to Survivor Series 1998 and considering what happened the year before they surely won’t want to mention all those happenings again surely?