Happy Saturday Everyone!
I watched WWF Royal Rumble 1998 last week and mentioned that it led to a big confrontation between Mike Tyson and Stone Cold on Raw, so I thought I might as well watch the follow up show so we can enjoy that segment. I don’t really remember anything else from the show aside from one segment in the mid-card with the NWA guys, so this might be good or it might be horrible.
Let’s find out which!
The show is emanating from Fresno, California on the 19th of January 1998
Calling the action are Michael Cole, Kevin Kelly, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
The show is dedicated to Juanita McMahon
Michael Cole narrates a video package, talking about how we’d thought Kane and Undertaker had managed to put their differences behind them. However, Kane then turned on Undertaker at the Royal Rumble, leading to Kane setting a casket on fire with Undertaker supposedly inside it.
We get the classic Raw opening with shots of the warehouse that always makes me think of WWF War Zone on the PlayStation.
Paul Bearer joins us to the classic early 90’s Undertaker theme to brag about what happened at the Royal Rumble, drawing impressive heat from the crowd. They seem to be going with Ross, Cole and Kelly for the first hour here, with Lawler set to come out later. Bearer is excellent here as the insufferable disgusting Heel manager talking about how he screwed the babyface. He of course takes full credit for the ruse, revealing that he planned it all from the beginning to lure the Undertaker into their trap. This is a strong promo from Bearer, but it goes on for a bit too long and he starts to lose the crowd a little bit as a result. They tease that Undertaker might come down to the ring in the burnt out casket, but its Kane instead of course to more boos.
Later tonight we’ve got a major announcement from Mike Tyson, whilst the Royal Rumble winner Stone Cold Steve Austin will be here.
WWF Champ Shawn Michaels, WWF European Champ Triple H and Chyna have promo time backstage. Triple H brags about costing Owen Hart the Rumble match. Shawn pretends to be upset about what happened to The Undertaker, saying they are going to go out and try to find The Undertaker tonight.
Disciples of Apocalypse (8-Ball, Skull and Chainz) Vs The Nation of Domination (D-Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa and Faarooq)
D.O.A are a biker gang, whilst The Nation are militant angry African-Americans. This is six big blokes clobbering one another, with D-Lo being the smallest guy in the match but still far bigger than your average guy on the street. I think he was something north of 250 by this stage in his career. The crowd is pretty into Chainz and likes his quick fire series of elbow drops.
One of 8-Ball or Skull gets worked over in The Nation’s half of the ring for a bit, with it being okay although he doesn’t really sell that much. He does that really annoying thing of registering the punches and stomps but still mostly shrugs it all over, meaning that The Nation have to constantly keep stomping him over and over just to make sure he stays down, which isn’t especially exciting to watch.
D-Lo eventually misses a moonsault off the top and that leads to hot tag Chainz, which leads to all six guys fighting in the ring for a lame double DQ from the ref. Man, just as the match was starting to threaten like it might get interesting they took it home.
Not much of a match but it looked like the fans might just have started getting into it when it abruptly ended
Mark Henry and The Rock run down to help their Nation stablemates, which leads to Ken Shamrock and Ahmed Johnson making the save. Rock and Shamrock had a very exciting quick little back and forth there until Rock bailed.
We get a Vic Venom advert, which is Vince Russo’s alter ego. I like the idea of Russo demanding they record a special advert just for the Raw Magazine. “We’ve gotta sell the magazine BRO! I need to be in this”
A hearse is here.
Marc Mero w/ Sable Vs Tom Brandi
Mero was a Heel who was jealous of his bird by this stage, whilst Brandi was a generic babyface who had previously been Mafioso character Salvatore Sincere. Mero covers up Sable with a robe to draw cheap heat from the crowd who want to see her. Brandi runs wild on Mero to start, with the commentators trying to get this over as a heated issue. I can’t say I personally remember this being a particularly big feud, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Mero is actually drawing some decent heat here, and the match is fine if a bit basic. Someone brings Sable some flowers whilst the match goes on, which distracts Mero as he goes outside of the ring to yell at her over it. Mero banishes Sable from ringside for that, even though she had nothing to do about it, which leads to Brandi making a comeback. Sable refuses to leave though and stays at ringside, whilst Brandi gets some near falls. Mero ends up hitting Brandi right in his leaning tower of Pisa whilst the ref is distracted though and the TKO follows for three.
WINNER: MARC MERO
This was a decent TV match that the crowd got into
D-X goes up to the hearse that arrived earlier, and open it to reveal a bunch of babes who jump out to hug them, leading to a party in the back whilst Chyna rolls her eyes.
We get the PlayStation Slam of the Week, brought to us by Bushido Blade, which is a pretty darn nails fighting game that features weaponry where you can actually die with one hit just like in real life. This week it’s Vader giving TAFKA Goldust a Pump Splash off the second rope whilst Luna rides on his back.
Mike Tyson shows up in a limo.
Les Québécois (Jacques et Pierre) Vs Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie
Well this could be a strange combination of guys, although the PCO of 2021 wouldn’t be out of place in a crazy hardcore match with either Cactus or Chainsaw I guess. This is a pretty fun wild brawl to start, with all four guys going at it. I think the Heels had only recently just jumped back to the WWF from WCW, whilst Cactus and Chainsaw had been getting a bit of a push.
Things finally settle into a tag match following the opening brawl, with Chainsaw getting worked over in the Heel corner, which he sells very well of course. As mentioned last week, Chainsaw is actually Terry Funk, who came up with this weird gimmick and the WWF allowed him to do it. Cactus eventually comes in to help his partner without a tag, and then puts the Mandible Claw on the ref when he tells him off for it.
WINNERS BY DQ: QUEBECERS
This was okay, if abrupt
The brawl continues following the match, which would seem to suggest a hardcore match to blow things off but I don’t think we ever got that and they instead moved Cactus and Chainsaw onto The New Age Outlaws.
D-X are still looking for The Undertaker and bother the Mexican Mini’s about it.
Mike Tyson is meeting all of the road agents.
NWA North American Title
Champ: Aztec Warrior Jeff Jarrett w/ Jim Cornette, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson Vs Blackjack Bradshaw w/ Blackjack Windham
These two have a dynamic that could work well, with the smaller more cowardly Jarrett trying to outthink the much bigger and stronger Bradshaw. Bradshaw spends most of the match throwing Jarrett around, but the crowd doesn’t really care about him or the NWA “invasion” that’s going on. Morton and Gibson get some cheap shots whenever they can, and that allows Jarrett to work a bit of heat.
Bradshaw sells well in the heat actually, with the story being told that Windham isn’t really doing much to help him out when the NWA guys are cheating. Bradshaw manages to fire off the Lariat at one stage, but I don’t think that was his finish yet as he doesn’t try going for a pin and instead gets a powerbomb, called a “Slam” by Cole I should add. Bradshaw looks to have it won, but Windham “accidentally” gives him a Lariat whilst Cornette distracts the ref and that leads to a Jarrett pin.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: JEFF JARRETT
Went a bit too short for my liking, but the action was mostly good whilst it lasted
Bradshaw brawls with the NWA guys following the match, with Windham joining in to go Heel, which at least makes sense due to him being a former NWA Champion.
D-X (and the boom mic) still can’t find The Undertaker. The room goes dark.
We get a Dr. Martin Luther King tribute, a man who I believe genuinely is Vince McMahon’s hero.
We get the “All Together Now” intro now to signal the second hour, which means Jerry Lawler joins us at the desk. I’m not how much longer the two intros thing lasted for. I kind of like it actually, although it does kind of make the first hour seem like it’s not quite as important as the second hour, which might be why they stopped doing it.
Undertaker’s entrance music plays again, but it’s our second fake out of the night as it’s revealed to be Shawn Michaels, leading to Shawn, Triple H and Chyna making weenie jokes whilst having a barbecue in the ring. Triple H makes sure to target Owen Hart, challenging him to a match next week on Raw is War for his “coveted” European Title. I really don’t get why they buried the European Title so much, especially when the rare times they didn’t make it look like a joke it was pretty effective tool at adding stakes to matches such as D-Lo and X-Pac were feuding over it. He also gets a jab in at Ric Flair, saying Space Mountain is old and broken down. He’d change his tune when Ric Flair finally came to the WWF in 2001 of course. Shawn brags about winning without help at the Royal Rumble, drawing some decent heat in the process. Shawn then targets Stone Cold Steve Austin, saying the WWF Title is the last mountain he needs to climb, but Shawn owns that mountain. This was a mostly unfunny comedy segment until Shawn got serious and cut the money promo on Austin to hype up WrestleMania, at which point it got great.
Mike Tyson meets The Road Warriors and Sunny comes over to flirt with him.
Los Boricuas (Miguel, Jose, Jesus and Savio) Vs Owen Hart, Light-Heavyweight Champ TAKA Michinoku and The Headbangers (Mosh and Thrasher)
Honky Tonk Man is sitting in for commentary for this one, feeling hugely out of place in the Attitude Era. TAKA looks great in this when the Boricuas bump around and sell for him. There’s some good action throughout the match actually, with the babyfaces shining for a bit until Thrasher gets cut off and worked over for a bit.
It’s all building to big Owen hot tag, which he gets and then runs wild on the Heels. The crowd gets into that, as was usually the case when they actually let Owen look good during this period, as Owen eventually finishes off Jesus with The Sharpshooter.
WINNERS: TEAM OWEN
This was way too short, but what action we got was fine and I appreciated the clean finish
Owen accepts Triple H’s challenge for next week.
Mike Tyson is chatting with The Nation of Domination, who are clearly trying to recruit him.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: The Rock Vs Ahmed Johnson
Ahmed looked like kind of a chump in the Royal Rumble the previous night, so maybe they’ll try and rehab him a bit here? Rock works over Ahmed right from the off, even getting The People’s Elbow for two. The move got basically no reaction by the way, but Rock stuck with it until it finally did and it ended up being one of the most popular moves in all of wrestling.
Ahmed eventually decides to make a comeback with a big suplex and some punches, with Rock bumping all over the place in order to make him look good. Mark Henry joins us once the tide starts turning towards Ahmed and hits Ahmed with a chair whilst the ref is distracted, leading to a Rock Bottom for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE ROCK
This was fine but was another match that was way too short
Ken Shamrock comes to Ahmed’s rescue post-match and chases the Heels off.
Mike Tyson meets Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie
Western Union Rewind is Shawn Michaels giving Undertaker the Sweet Chin Music but then getting cocky and it costing him.
Mike Tyson is meeting D-X backstage.
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) Vs The Godwinn’s (Henry O. and Phineas I.)
Both of these teams are ostensibly Heel and had actually been semi-allies for a bit in 1997, but they’ve clearly had a falling out now and will be facing one another. The Outlaws have worn overalls to the ring in order to try and smooth things over, but The Godwinn’s don’t care about it and beat them up, stripping Gunn down to his underpants.
Phineas nearly kills Gunn by dropping him on his face from a gut wrench in a botch where I’m not exactly sure how they even ended up that way. Gunn continues to get worked over, whilst the crowd sits on their hands because they don’t know who they’re supposed to be cheering for here. Outside of the aforementioned botch, the wrestling isn’t too bad for the most part, with them keeping it simple.
Gunn has kind of been the babyface in peril here, which was never going to work due to The Outlaws still being firmly hated at this stage. The Godwinn’s try to put Gunn away a few times but he manages to survive and then hits Phineas with a loaded stuffed pig to retain the belts. Road Dogg didn’t even tag in!
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS
A heatless match that just didn’t work
Henry finds a brick in the stuffed pig following the match and rages about it.
We get the headline plug, with Ross teasing Macho Man coming in. That didn’t end up happening.
It’s finally time for Mike Tyson to come down to the ring, where he mentions how much he loves Bruno Sammartino and Nikolai Volkoff. Vince McMahon is about to announce that Mike Tyson will be the enforcer at WrestleMania, but before he can finish Stone Cold Steve Austin joins us, annoyed that they’re making all this fuss over Tyson. Austin refuses to shake Tyson’s and then says he wants a piece of Tyson tonight. Vince sells his all perfectly, seething with rage that Austin has ruined this big moment. The crowd is way into the idea of Tyson and Austin going at it, and pops big when Austin flips the bird, leading to a pull apart. Jim Ross is fantastic on commentary too, really putting the moment over. Vince screams at Austin that he’s ruined everything, sowing further seeds for their eventual feud.
That whole segment was fantastic, as it got Austin over as the biggest deal in the entire wrestling world and laid the table not just for WrestleMania but for the eventual Austin/McMahon feud that led to the WWF going on to win the Monday Night War. This was basically the moment the WWF overtook WCW as the coolest show, and combined with WCW’s constant mismanagement there was no coming back from it.
The Tyson/Austin angle is enough to make this episode a thumbs up, although the wrestling wasn’t really up to much due to all of the matches being so short. The show itself flowed pretty well for the most part and you could really start to feel like the company was starting to gain some momentum in the lead up to Mania, especially with Rock and Shamrock having a nicely over feud in the mid-card to go along the Kane/Taker and Shawn/Austin stuff in the Main Event scene.