15th November 1998, St Louis, Missouri.
After the last show’s ending shenanigans of neither Kane or Undertaker claiming the WWF Title and Stone Cold being fired (then returned to the roster by Shane McMahon) the belt is still very much vacant. Vince has decided a tournament must take place to crown a new champion. We’re one year removed from the Montreal incident so this will obviously be the complete reverse and finish without any issues at all.
Heavy sarcasm there, just in case you can’t tell over the internet.
The sixteen man tournament has already been drawn before the show kicks off. Undertaker and Kane both get byes so will meet each other later in the quarter finals. A wheelchair bound Vince is out first flanked by his staff. He tells the crowd that “He guarantees a new champion and a Survivor Series to remember”. The whole night seems geared towards making sure Austin doesn’t regain the title.
Mankind is up first for his opening match of the night wearing a suit as he’s been seemingly told by Vince that he’s his favourite going into all this and will be getting the title at the end. He’s unaware of who he’s facing in the first round as it’s been unannounced. The crowd are chanting ‘HBK’ as Dwayne Gill comes out. Mankind hammers him within twenty seconds, pinning him with a Fisherman’s Suplex. Thanks for coming Dwayne, it was probably a nice payday after all.
Sable and Jacqueline, a feud which still seems long in the tooth despite me only watching the PPV shows around this time, have had an altercation on Sunday Night Heat resulting in Sable vowing she’ll smash her opponent tonight.
On a side note it’s really refreshing to see that the pre show on these older events was actually used to lead into the main show. It’s opposed to now where, as I’m writing this, the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble winner will start the 2019 show by wrestling Rusev on the kick off show. Rather than be a dumping ground for matches they feel they can’t fit on the PPV Sunday Night Heat feels like a lead in show that would, y’know, lead into the main show.
Next up we have Jeff Jarrett versus Al Snow for a place in the last eight. The fight starts outside before making it back into the ring as the bell sounds. J.J hangs Snow up on the ropes before delivering a back elbow. Al Snow then gets the advantage with a neck breaker but misses the following top rope leg drop. Al Snow’s DDT gets him a two count.
Debra, who has accompanied Jeff down to the ring, grabs Head, Al Snow retaliates by picking up Jeff’s guitar. With Debra distracting the ref Jeff manages to smash Head into Al Snow. The ref then tries to get the guitar out of the ring giving Snow a chance to recover and whack Jeff with Head resulting in a winning pinfall just as the ref turns back around. It’s strange to see J.J lose to heelish tactics on the part of Al Snow the the winner of the match will be facing Mankind later on.
The Big Boss Man is out next for his first round match with Stone Cold. Well, I’m typing the word ‘match’ but to be honest it really should just be ‘full on assault’. There might be a wrestling match under this somewhere but it results mainly in Boss Man smashing Austin with his nightstick across the shoulders in an effort to get him injured and unable to carry on. As Vince McMahon’s head of security there have obviously been some orders from high whispered into Boss Man’s ear. Stone Cold wins the DQ but he looks completely out of it on the floor of the arena afterwards.
Austin faces the winner of the next match as X-Pac, the current European Champion, takes on Steven Regal who is under his ‘Real Man’s Man’ gimmick. This gimmick took up what feels like about a month of Regal’s career but people still remember it. Probably because seeing a guy who has kayfabe royal blood wearing a hard hat and holding power tools was something to behold.
The speed of X-Pac clashes with the technical ability of Regal and it makes for a very interesting encounter. It’s the first match of the night that seems allowed a bit of time and isn’t victim to one wrestler needing to go along with an overall storyline that makes the match itself semi redundant. X-Pac gets the heel kick and a legdrop in the early going. Regal catapults X-Pac over his shoulder looking like he’s aiming for the corner but he’s nowhere near resulting in X-Pac face planting on the canvas. Regal gets a double arm suplex off the top turnbuckle for a two count and just after this both men are down from a double shoulder charge. X-Pac manages a Bronco Buster and then they suplex each other over the ropes and to the outside. The brawl carries on until both men are counted out. It’s a damp squib ending to a match that was building nicely but the strangest part is yet to come.
With neither man winning this match Austin will have no opponent in the quarters. The camera goes to the back to see an enraged Vince tell Commissioner Slaughter to get down to ringside and tell them to restart the match. Fink is then told to announce that this match will continue into sudden death overtime (is this a sly dig at Bret Hart by referencing Wrestlemania 12?). The match never truly restarts though as both Regal and X-Pac leave the arena. It’s almost like neither of them get the memo. They’re both counted out for the second time of the night and it ends there.
If Vince wasn’t storyline wheelchair bound then he’d probably have marched down there like the 2005 Royal Rumble and told then what for. I suppose that didn’t work well at that show either.
Goldust versus Shamrock is up next. It’s yet another functional match in which it’s fairly obvious one participant is going onwards whilst the other is just filling up time. Shamrock stomps the life out of The Bizarre One fairly quickly before following with a stiff clothesline. Goldust gets a Drop Toe Hold and a Bulldog in but falls victim to a Belly to Belly Suplex and an Ankle Lock before submitting.
Michael Cole gives us an update on Stone Cold. Apparently he’s rejected medical help as he prepares for his next match in the Deadly Games tournament.
Also, at this point, I’d like to give a small shout out to the guy sitting in the front row in full chef’s gear with the sign saying ‘Smelling what The Rock is cooking’. More power to you my friend.
The Rock get a fantastic response as he walks to the ring for his first round match against Triple H. Triple H may even have got a bigger pop but he doesn’t seem to be in the building. Patterson and Briscoe instead walk to the ring and announce that The Rock will instead face The Big Boss Man who is Vince McMahon’s head of security. The bell rings, The Rock rolls Boss Man up and the ref counts three. In all this match lasts four seconds.
There’s absolutely to messing around as we head straight into the quarter final match between Undertaker and Kane. This version of Undertaker is probably the best in his entire near 30 year WWF/E career. Forget the original wrestling zombie, forget The American Badass and the MMA Biker he’s turned into now. The Satanic cult leader Undertaker was the absolute top tier from the music to how he dressed.
Undertaker jumps Kane from the start until The Big Red Machine clotheslines his older brother over the ropes. The brawl continues outside as Kane is flung into the guardrail. and then the steps. Back in the ring Kane blocks and Irish Whip attempt not long before both men go for Chokeslams. Kane manages to get his in first yet whilst Undertaker is on the ground Paul Bearer leaps up on the apron. Kane still has a bone to pick with his father type figure for leaving him to once again manage The Undertaker. As the two argue Undertaker recovers to give Kane a Tombstone Piledriver for the winning three count. Paul Bearer holds Kane’s leg’s down just to make sure.
The besuited Mankind is back for his next match against Al Snow. Mankind apparently has no idea that it’s Vince who stole Mr Socko. The match may start normally but it soon boils down to Mr Socko versus Head as Mankind realises that Al Snow has the sock about his person. Mankind applies Socko and chokes out Snow with the Mandible.
During this PPV project it feels like I’ve seen The Rock versus Ken Shamrock more times than anybody should ever need to yet here I am again. The last quarter final kicks off between these two and they go straight to some old fashioned brawling as the bell rings. “Avoid the Ankle Lock” is Jerry Lawler’s sound advice to The Rock which is something that has obviously never occurred to him. Shamrock ends up levelling The Rock in the corner of the ring only to have (the past and future) Dwayne Johnston snap back with a strong clothesline. They fight to the outside, right next to the announce tables and The Rock is flung into the ring steps. Back in the ring Shamrock applies a chin lock.
At this point you really hope that for his own sake The Big Boss Man is getting a fee per appearance tonight as he walks back down the aisle. He hangs around outside the ring as Shamrock and The Rock both hit each other with simultaneous clotheslines. The Rock recovers first to hit the People’s Elbow for a count of two. Not long after Boss Man is up on the apron in an argument with the referee. He throws his nightstick past the ref towards Shamrock but it’s The Rock who catches it first. In a matter of seconds Ken Shamrock is smashed in the head and pinned for three.
Michael Cole appears standing next to Paul Bearer. With reference to his upcoming semi final with The Rock, Bearer suggests that the only rock The Undertaker likes is some cold, hard granite.
There was always going to be some matches tonight that acted as buffers between the Deadly Game tournament itself. They will mostly be a complete waste of time. Sable versus Jacqueline certainly falls well into that category. Even with Shane McMahon as ref, this match is a dull as dishwater.
“Sable doesn’t have the ring savvy of Jacqueline” is quite possible the truest statement Jim Ross has ever said. Jacqueline gets minimal offense in, the entire match seems built on Marc Mero sinking his career again by letting Sable powerbomb him before she repeats the only move she can just about do again to pin Jacqueline for the title. The entire encounter is ugly as sin.
Semi final time now and the dapper looking Mankind goes up against Steve Austin who is visibly limping down to the ring. Within the first few seconds Stone Cold is using Mankind’s own shoes as a weapon. Vince is then wheeled down the ringside in his chair. Mankind runs off down the aisle, Austin follows and a few moments later Stone Cold is backdropped onto the concrete.
Back in the ring as Vince screams “C’mon Mick!”. Mankind then carries a chair into the ring and DDTs Austin onto it which only gets him a two count. Mankind is then backdropped onto the chair and falls victim to a Stunner. In something of a medical miracle Vince rises from his chair to haul the ref out of the ring before he can count to three. Said ref is then punched square in the face. Shane, still in his ref’s gear, runs down to replace him. After Mankind eats another Stunner (strangely after his trousers have fallen down) Austin goes for the cover yet Shane refuses to count to three. A furious Austin gives chase but is whalloped by a chair shot from Briscoe. Mankind just about crawls over to Austin and Shane engages in the quickest three count. Mankind is through to the final as Vince and his gang scurry off down the aisle, run towards the limo and drive off out of the arena. Stone Cold gives chase in a car he seems to have stolen.
Jim Ross explains the tournament so far to camera all whilst somebody in the crowd behind him holds up a sign saying ‘Tits’.
The Undertaker and The Rock, much like a lot of people tonight, start out by just battering each other outside the ring. Once they do manages to get between the ropes The Rock finds himself tied up in them. He recovers just in time to backdrop Undertaker over them. Falling victim to Paul Bearer cheapshotting him with his own shoes doesn’t stop The Rock from levelling Undertaker with a Samoan Drop.
Like clockwork The Big Boss Man is out again. The Rock goes for the People’s Elbow but Boss Man clips his feet on the way past. As The Undertaker has The Rock by the neck ready to chokeslam him Kane appears from nowhere to break it up and chokeslam The Rock himself. The match ends with The Undertaker being disqualified and the brothers start hitting each other in frustration.
Buffer match time again as The New Age Outlaws, The Headbangers and D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry engage in a Triple Threat Tag match for the titles. Apparently the ‘outlaw’ rule is active meaning that you can’t just pin your own partner. Obviously they needed to come up with something to explain this loophole from previous three team matches.
Billy Gunn and D’Lo start out but it’s not long before both members of the Headbangers get involved only to be flung to the outside. Billy Gunn and Road Dogg start punching D’Lo and Henry in opposite corners but D’Lo breaks out to powerbomb Road Dogg.The Headbangers Double flapjack Road Dogg who doesn’t seem to be having a good night of it. Lawler spends a lot of time seeking clarity on the rules of the match. Mark Henry just face palms Road Dogg before grabbing him in a bear hug.
D’Lo nearly falls to Mosh rolling him up. Henry then Leg Drops Road Dogg. Billy Gunn seems to be having a bad evening as they have to bleep out his swearing at the ref. Road Dogg finally gets a tag to Billy Gunn as he goes crazy. D’Lo gets a Sky High to Billy Gunn and the ref pauses for ages allowing Thrasher to break it up. It looks awful yet J.R, always the trooper, tries to cover it with “Tim White maybe checking Billy Gunn was breathing before counting there”.
Among all this nonsense Billy Gunn gets a piledriver on Thrasher for the pinfall. The New Age Outlaws keep the tag titles. Billy Gunn celebrates by taking down his trunks and mooning at the hard cam.
Deadly Game final time as Mankind walks down to the ring who seems to be morphing into his usual persona more as the night goes on. He’s back in brown trousers and wrestling boots. The camera cuts to backstage where Vince and Shane are congratulating Boss Man and telling him to leave the arena for the night.
“I thought we weren’t getting Montreal revisited” says J.R who apparently always insisted on being kept out of the loop with storylines when commentating. The Rock backs Mankind into the corner and flings a punch at him which Mankind ducks.
“There’s no time limit to this match so we’ll stick with it until there is a winner” says J.R.
“Yeah, you’ll get to see all this PPV” cracks Lawler.
This was one month after WCW Halloween Havoc 1998 in which they ran out of screen time to finish the main event between Goldberg and DDP. It was screened the next night for free on Monday Nitro. It marks possibly the first time in this project when the WWF are taking active pot shots at a weakened WCW.
Not long into this match they’re off down the aisle. The Rock gets his face smashed into the ring steps. Back in the ring Mankind snaps on a chin lock which seems to be the signal for somebody to come out from the back tonight. My only thought as Vince and Shane appear is that at least it’s not Boss Man again.
The Rock counters the chin lock with a side suplex. Mankind is then suplexed on the outside. The Rock stalks Vince and Shane and then both he and Mankind are over the rails and into the crowd. Mankind is then backdropped back over the rail and onto the arena floor. They make it back to the ring for a short while but then both clothesline each other over the top rope. Mankind uses a chair but doesn’t get disqualified for it. Soon Mankind is buried under the ringsteps and The Rock goes to town with a chair. Mankind is rolled back into the ring but only for a two count.
Mankind manages a low blow which Earl Hebner still doesn’t disqualify him for. He then gets the traditional Foley elbow drop off the ring apron in. Mankind then uses one of the announce table covers as a weapon. Both men are then up on the announce table as Mankind leg drops The Rock down to the floor. “They’re going to kill each other” screams J.R. Rolling back in the ring The Rock is only covered for two.
We’re back into chin lock city before The Rock is backdropped over the top rope. The Rock gets a DDT in once they’re both back in the ring. The Rock is flung back over the top rope and leans against the announce table. Mankind gets up on the turnbuckle, leaps through the air in an elbow drop but The Rock moves leaving him to crash and burn through the table. It hasn’t had the cover taken off, the monitors are still in the desk because this is Mick Foley.
The Rock goes for the People’s Elbow but gets a two. Mankind plants the Double Arm DDT and grabs Socko. The Mandible is snapped on as The Rock fades. The Rock breaks out with a Rock Bottom leaving both men on the floor. The Rock recovers to put in the sharpshooter as Vince instantly tells the ref to call for the bell. Vince, Shane and The Rock embrace in the ring as they the belt is handed over.
Vince says that the entire crowd is ‘as gullible as Mankind’. Shane is awarded an ‘academy award’. Mankind then mentions that he was never pinned nor did he submit and The Rock attacks him. This entire end promo seems to go on for ages as if they’ve had to spend this time getting the point across. The Rock has turned heel again ladies and gents, please boo this man now.
Then Austin turns up again. Vince and Shane run like hell as Austin delivers a Stunner to the new Corporate Champion.Austin then Stunners Mankind too just for fun.
So for anybody keeping count The Rock made his debut two years ago as a face but got booed completely. He then joined a heel faction and disposed of the leader before being cheered. He then eventually became a face going into this event after getting popular and now he’s a heel again. Whilst WWE history books will say rightly that The Rock was one of the best it’s clear they took ages getting him up to speed.
Survivor Series 98 is one of those shows in which one single storyline dominates the entire evening’s proceedings. If it’s not the Deadly Game tournament then it’s really not worth bothering with and the opening round is something of a joke anyway. Yes, it’s the PPV that starts the journey for Stone Cold and The Rock to meet in the first section of their Wrestlemania trilogy but the show itself has little else going for it other than that.
Onwards to next month then and an entire show built on The Rock’s title reign. Hell, it’s even called ‘Rock Bottom’.