Happy Saturday Everyone!
We have another Stinker Review this week, as I take a look at a show that has a bad reputation and see if it deserves that reputation or not. This month we have another reader request, with Bones plumping for this WWF event from 1998.
The WWF was doing incredible business in 1998, with the Survivor Series event in November seeing The Rock end up as WWF Champ after swerving the fans on a potential babyface turn and joining up with Vince McMahon’s Corporation stable. As a result of agreeing to become The Corporate Champion, Vince named the December pay per view after Rock and the show would feature Rock defending his newly won WWF Title against Mankind.
The Main Event is actually Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs The Undertaker in a Buried Alive Match, which came about because Undertaker went Heel and bonked Austin in the head with a shovel. Austin has to win in order to qualify for the Royal Rumble.
Let’s see if this show is as bad as I remember it being.
The event is emanating from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on the 13th of December 1998
Calling the action are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler
Yesterday, Rock shows up at Planet Hollywood in order to welcome us to the show. He has more In Your House names planned, such as “Rock Solid” and “Laying The Smackdown”. This show has Rock’s 100% guarantee, so shut up and enjoy the event. Well that’s us told!
We get the usual spooky intro for whenever Undertaker is Main Eventing a show in his one his trademark bouts.
Glover is sponsoring the show, but we don’t know if it’s the good N64 version or the bad PSX version.
The commentary team lets us know that Rock is injured, probably as a result of something that happened on HeAT but there’s zero chance of me suffering through that on top of this pay per view. The entrance way is actually great, with big pictures of a belt adorned Rock on each side.
D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry w/ Terri Runnells and Jacqueline Moore Vs Supply and Demand (Godfather and Val Venis) w/ The Ho’s
Super conservative Qanon believing nut job Val Venis teaming up with the pot loving strip club owner Godfather certainly seems like an odd combo in real life, but their kayfabe characters being buddies makes complete sense. Val had previously had a relationship with Terri in storyline but had brutally dumped her when she revealed that she was pregnant because he’d had a vasectomy and that meant she had to be cheating. The Attitude Era ladies and gentlemen! Jerry Springer with spandex, and sometimes the WWF was even sleazier than Jerry’s show.
This is quite energetic to start, with Brown taking some nice bumps for the babyfaces and actually drawing some catcalls from the crowd as a result. Henry manages to catch Godfather with a power slam, which seemed like the cut off, but Goldfather dodges an elbow drop and tags in Venis, which leads to Venis getting held in the corner by Brown so that he can be squished by Henry, which appears to be the actual cut off, giving us heat on Venis.
Brown remains the most over guy in the match, with the crowd chanting that he sucks on more than one occasion and cheering whenever his attempts at offence are foiled. Brown misses a Frog Splash and that appears to be hot tag Godfather, as the babyfaces send Brown to the floor and then team up for a suplex on Henry. The women get into a dispute outside the ring though, which leads to Jackie coming in to slap Venis whilst the ref is distracted by the shenanigans outside the ring. Henry adds a splash and that’s enough for three.
WINNERS: BROWN & HENRY
This was a decent opener, as they kept the resting to a minimum and Brown was smooth on offence and bumped around well for the babyfaces
Michael Hayes is backstage is Triple H and Chyna. They will both be banned from ringside for The New Age Outlaws match later on, but Triple H still thinks The Outlaws will win.
We see that Mankind jumped Rock earlier in the evening, leading to Rock coming up with a rib injury as a result. Mankind then revealed on HeAT that if Rock can’t wrestle tonight then he will have to forfeit the belt.
Rock says he will not forfeit the Title tonight, and Vince says that he will take care of the situation.
The Head Bangers (Mosh and Thrasher) Vs The Oddities (Golga and Kurrgan) w/ Giant Silva and Luna
The Head Bangers had been babyfaces but then they had beaten up The Oddities to begin a feud between the two teams that gradually led to both sides getting considerably less over with every segment. Luna would soon end up going Heel to feud with Sable anyway and the group didn’t end up lasting that long into 1999. Golga is actually the former Earthquake/John Tenta, with some surmising that this gimmick was a way of the WWF punishing him for leaving in 1994 and no showing some house shows, but knowing Vince McMahon he probably thought this gimmick was money and he was actually doing Tenta a big favour by putting him in a mask and a South Park shirt.
Kurrgan had originally be a serious yelling monster whose gimmick was that he’d beat enhancement talent before dragging them to the back with a face claw, but now he’s dressed like an extra in an Adam Sandler movie and behaving like a comedy goof. His offence looks terrible, but The Bangers are nice enough to sell it. Golga’s stuff actually looks good because Tenta was a very good big man worker and the Bangers sell it all well. Sadly Kurrgan has to get back in at points, at which point the match becomes a chore.
Both Kurrgan and Golga are so big that it’s hard for The Head Bangers to believably get heat on them, with Kurrgan ending up being the babyface in peril. In an example of poor agenting, The Head Bangers give Kurrgan the same double suplex Supply and Demand gave Henry in the opener, but of course the crowd has already seen it in the previous match so they don’t care about it. The crowd has turned on the match ever since Kurrgan got cut off as well.
Golga eventually gets the hot tag and runs wild, looking good and even busting out a dropkick at one stage. The crowd doesn’t care anymore though and barely react to any of it. Golga slams Thrasher and preps for the Aftershock, but Mosh got a blind tag and ends up catching Golga with a Thesz Press off the top for the three count.
WINNERS: THE HEAD BANGERS
I like John Tenta and enjoyed the parts of the match that involved him, but the rest of the bout was utter mince for the most part
Kevin Kelly and Tom Pritchard hype up the Main Event later, and we get to see footage of Stone Cold inspecting the grave site earlier in the day.
Vince McMahon says he will handle Mankind later but does want some coffee from The Stooges.
Owen Hart Vs Steve Blackman
Sadly the storyline that would end up costing Owen his life had already begun at this point, as he’d injured Dan Severn and had supposedly retired from wrestling, which would lead to him bringing back The Blue Blazer character and the WWF writers then deciding to have the character start coming down from the rafters. Owen was out of “retirement” to wrestle Blackman here though. Owen is of course Canadian and gets a monster reaction here, even though he’s supposed to be the Heel in this feud.
Blackman has zero chance of getting any cheers here, and they seem to know that as Owen jumpstarts things and runs wild on Blackman at the beginning of the contest, with the crowd cheering along. It’s a fun match from an in-ring perspective as well, as they have pretty decent chemistry together as opponents and Owen takes some fantastic bumps whenever Blackman is on offence. The match goes back and forth for the most part, with it ebbing and flowing nicely.
The finish is utterly atrocious though and really drags things down, as Owen decides to just take a walk and leaves the ring for a count out, which of course deflates the Canadian crowd as they were really into Owen and were digging the match as a result. I know they wanted to tell a particular story there, but seeing as its Canada and Blackman would hardly be hurt from doing a job; couldn’t they just have had Owen pick up a win? Heck, just have him roll Blackman up or something if you want to protect Blackman in defeat.
WINNER: STEVE BLACKMAN BY COUNT OUT
What a TERRIBLE finish to use when the home nation hero was in action. The match itself was actually good up to that point, as Owen was way over with the crowd and both men wrestled well. The finish left a very sour taste in the mouth though and it really wasn’t necessary either. The storyline doesn’t have to trump common sense. Let Owen pick up a win in Canada and build up to a rematch from it when you’re back in America
Speaking of Stinkers, we get a Royal Rumble 99 hype package.
Vince McMahon is looking for Mankind backstage, and eventually finds Mankind’s “Office”, which looks to be a broom closet.
The Brood (Christian, Gangrel and Edge) Vs The J.O.B Squad (Al Snow, Bob Holly and Scorpio) w/ The Head
The Brood had a whole vampire coven thing going on here, punctuated by Gangrel spitting out a “viscous red liquid” during his entrance. The J.O.B Squad was a group put together by Al Snow, with the idea being that they often had to look at the lights due to being so lowly ranked on the card and this was his way of trying to get them back on track. The Brood were Heels at this stage I believe, although they would tend to get cheered because being gothic blood spitting dudes that beat people up is usually a pretty effective way to make people think you’re cool.
Snow’s entrance actually gets a decent pop, with some people even having their own mannequin heads that they made at home. Sadly the pop for the entrance doesn’t then translate to the match itself. I actually had a Bob Holly J.O.B Squad figure from around this time, which was one of those gifts where a family member must have gone “Mike likes wrestling doesn’t he? Let’s just get him a figure as a gift. I’m sure this Bob Holly fellow is the figure all the cool kids want to have”.
This match has basically no heat at all, with the poor sods pretty much wrestling to silence, which is a real shame because the wrestling itself is good. It gets to the point that it becomes sad, because all six guys are working hard and are having what Scott Keith would call a “Perfectly Cromulent” wrestling match but the jaded Attitude Era crowd doesn’t see any of them as stars and they don’t care enough about good wrestling that a good wrestling match will entertain them, so they just sit on their hands.
The Brood works some heat on Snow for a bit, with Snow selling it well and the offence from Brood looking good. Snow eventually manages to fight off both Edge and Gangrel before making the ice cold tag to Scorpio, who runs wild with some really nice looking stuff. Man, I bet Scorp couldn’t wait to go to All Japan when the chance presented itself. Things breakdown, with Edge diving out onto Snow and Holly, leading to Christian getting Scorp with the Tomikaze for the three count.
WINNERS: THE BROOD
This was a well-worked wrestling match in front of a crowd that didn’t want wrestling
We see that Vince and Mankind are still debating.
Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra Vs Goldust
The storyline here was that Debra was the trashy manager of Jarrett who liked to flirt with wrestlers whilst Goldust was a freaky dude who liked to wear gold and be freaky, so that naturally led to the two characters flashing one another at different points. The stipulation here is that if Jarrett wins then Goldust has to strip, but if Goldust wins then Debra has to strip, with the suggestion being that neither Debra nor Goldust will be especially bothered by having to perform the post-match punishment because they’re both perverted horn dogs who like to make a scene.
Goldust is of course SUPER over with the filthy minded Attitude Era crowd here, as they want to see Debra flash the flesh later on. It’s an incredibly cheap way of getting a crowd invested, but considering how meh the crowd has been at points I’ll take anything that actually gets them to make some noise, especially after that previous match. Jarrett and Dustin Rhodes are both good workers, so they have a solid match that is punctuated by the crowd being into it whenever it looks like Goldust might pick up the win.
Debra eventually tries to introduce Jarrett’s guitar to things, but the ref stops her, which means he misses a Goldust near fall, and the crowd is NETTLED about it. Goldust goes on to get some near falls following that off a pin counter and bulldog respectively, but before he can Shatter Jarrett’s Dreams he gets distracted by Debra. This ends up backfiring though, as the ref tries to get Debra out of the ring and that allows Goldust to kick Jarrett right in his Double J’s whilst the ref is distracted.
The ref checks on Jarrett following that though, and this allows Debra to take an age before hitting Goldust with the guitar (likely not drawing a dime in the process). Goldust is finished following that, which allows Jarrett to come in with The Stroke for the three count. However, Commissioner Michaels joins us and says that’s going to reverse the decision due to the use of the guitar, thus meaning that Debra will have to strip after all.
WINNER BY DQ: GOLDUST
This was a cheap way of getting crowd heat, but it was a decent match for the most part. Michaels was very entertaining as the authority figure reversing the decision as well
Debra does agree to strip after some cajoling, and actually seems to be enjoying it after a certain point, with Michaels gurning like a 12 year old and being very funny. However, before she can display her flowery baps to the horny Canadian crowd, Jarrett and The Blue Blazer join us in order to cover her up. Michaels gets to keep her bra top though.
Vince McMahon has a smile on his face and seems to think he’s done a deal with Mankind. I’d suggest that he head to Tim Hortons for a white hot chocolate seeing as they’re in Canada and all but I think Vince would be utterly horrified at the idea of ingesting all that sugar and fat.
A terrible advert for WWF cologne plays with two fake jazz musicians. Who honestly put that together and thought it was good enough to air?
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) Vs WWF Intercontinental Champ Ken Shamrock and WWF Hardcore Champ The Big Boss Man w/ Commissioner Michaels
The Outlaws had teased going Corporate (complete with bottled sparkling water) but it had all been a ruse and they had decided to remain in DX, thus leading to Michaels putting them in there with two of The Corporations heaviest hitters in the form of Shamrock and Boss Man. The Outlaws had apparently also wrestled The Acolytes on HeAT prior to the pay per view, so they have an even bigger mountain to climb.
This is another match where the crowd doesn’t really care once they get in the ring, although they do pop for The Outlaws’ entrance. The wrestling on display isn’t especially bad or anything, but the match just feels flat due to the crowd being so awful. The Outlaws get a babyface shine and then Roadie gets cut off and worked over in the Heel corner. Gunn actually manages to get the crowd to clap for Road Dogg at one stage when Boss Man has him in a front face lock, but they soon die down once he gets cut off again.
Probably the most interesting part of the match is that two lads carry a big “BREASTS” sign across the hard cam at one stage, which WWE Network has left un-blurred. Outside of that, it’s just Road Dogg getting battered forever in front of a crowd that doesn’t care unless there’s nudity riding on the match result. I actually feel bad for Road Dogg because he’s doing an excellent job selling for the challengers here in the classic southern babyface way, and he’s just getting nothing from the crowd in return.
Michaels gets some cheap shots in at points as well, with Road Dogg stupidly going after Boss Man on the outside at one stage when he has a chance to tag and it leaving him wide open for a Michaels cheap shot. Gunn eventually gets the hot tag and runs wild briefly before Boss Man clobbers him with his nightstick whilst Michaels distracts the ref. The crowd does at least react to Gunn’s kick out following that, so it wasn’t for naught. Gunn ends up managing to catch Shamrock with a quick pin counter straight after and that’s enough for three.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS
The crowd did at least start to care a little bit in the closing stages, but the match really dragged for the most part despite the wrestling being fine as the atmosphere was flatter than a pancake
The Corporation would win the belts the next night, which makes me ponder why they didn’t just win them here especially as The Outlaws had an in-built excuse of being forced to wrestle twice in one night. Like, they’ll change the result of this match to one that doesn’t really make sense only to overwrite it the next night but they can’t let Owen Hart pin Steve Blackman to pop the Canadian crowd?
Hey, send your satellite bill in and you can get a free bandana!!! A FREE BANDANA!!!!!!!! Don’t say the WWF don’t do nothin’ for ya folks!
We get a video package to hype up the next bout.
Vince asks Rock and Shane to play along with what Mankind wants.
Champ: The Rock w/ Shane and Vince McMahon Vs Mankind
Rock had won The Deadly Game (Cause It’s a Deadly Game!) tournament at Survivor Series to win the Title, defeating Mankind in the Final when Vince betrayed Mankind to demand the bell be rung when Rock put Mankind in The Sharpshooter in a direct call back to the Bret Hart Montreal situation. Mankind had rightly claimed that he didn’t actually tap out or submit, so this match was set up. Mankind has the match contract with him here, which has the clause that Rock will have to forfeit the belt if he can’t wrestle tonight.
Mankind says he’ll be happy to rub out the clause provided that Vince admits that Mankind didn’t submit at Survivor Series, and that Vince does so whilst on his knees. That leads to Vince to doing the old McMahon gulp. Vince says he did hear someone say I Quit, so Mankind rips up the contract and that means Rock has to wrestle after all. I’m not sure that show long storyline really worked to be honest, especially as the crowd seemed confused as to what the ripping up of the contract represented.
Mankind gets a shine on Rock to start, but Vince distracts Mankind with a promo (complete with a “PAL” thrown in) and that allows Rock to cut Mankind off. That was a distraction spot that actually worked as Vince was yelling about Mankind being DQ’ed and that’s something that would actually distract you if you were wrestling. Mankind fights back and tries to elbow drop Rock through a commentary table, but Shane grabs his leg to stop that and this allows Rock to give Mankind the Flair Throw off the second rope down to the floor.
That actually got an “EC-Dub” chant from some sections of the crowd, and it leads into Rock putting on a headset and talking some smack whilst beating Mankind up in a great bit of Heel behaviour on his part. It of course leads to Mankind fighting back and then battering Rock with punches whilst he sells on the headset. Rock manages to fight back with a DDT on the floor though, as Mankind continues to struggle to get some consistent momentum going.
Rock has completely forgotten the injury that was so bad that he apparently had to consider forfeiting the match by the way, which makes the past 90 minutes of show long storytelling kind of redundant. Honestly they should have just had it that Rock was faking that he was actually injured and then used it as a chance to get the jump on Mankind. Mankind does eventually make the comeback, dropping a leg for two. Vince wants Mike Chioda to DQ Mankind following another leg drop to the abdomen, but Mankind takes out the ref and then takes out the timekeeper for good measure, which the crowd reacts well to.
This is probably the most consistently into a match the crowd has been tonight outside of the Owen bout, which is at least a good thing to see considering the show was named after Rock and all. Shane tries to belt shot Mankind but ends up catching Rock instead, which gives Mankind a really tight near fall that the crowd totally bit on. Rock and Mankind trade near falls following that, with Mankind eventually introducing Mr. Socko into the equation and locking in the Mandible Claw on Rock to seemingly win the belt.
However, thinking on his feet, Vince says that Rock did not tap out or say I Quit, thus meaning that the Title cannot change hands. This of course makes no sense whatsoever and would totally nullify every Title change that ever happened from something like a sleeper hold. I think the WWF realised how dumb it was as well as they didn’t keep this rule around past this particular pay per view and it was eventually just presented as Vince making a dodgy call in order to keep the belt on Rock when Rock should have really lost t.
WINNER: MANKIND (ROCK RETAINS DUE TO NONSENSE)
Dumb finish aside, this was a good match and the silliness with the finish did at least give a logical reason for the two to have the I Quit match together at Royal Rumble
Mankind gets beaten up by The Corporation following that, but he would soon win the Title from The Rock on an episode of Raw.
We get a video package for our Main Event.
Buried Alive Match
The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin needed a bit of a distraction between Survivor Series and WrestleMania, so he was first programmed in this feud with Undertaker and next up he was due to start having some matches with Vince McMahon. This was the beginning of the “Undertaker is way too into his character” storyline, as he started crucifying people, talking in tongues and even tried to embalm Stone Cold live on TV until Kane made a last minute rescue attempt. Austin and Kane had shoved Bearer down a sewer at one stage as payback for that particular incident.
To win this match you have to drag your opponent to a grave and literally bury them alive, which of course destroys a lot of the drama of the match as it means you can’t really do near falls and the ring is so far away from the gravesite that it takes forever to get your opponent over there once you’ve hit a big move, thus killing any heat or momentum you might have built. It’s just generally a rotten gimmick that is one of those “interesting idea in theory” matches that just doesn’t work in execution. The only good one I can think of is the first one between Mankind and Undertaker, as they just went all out with a wild brawl to make up for the stipulations limitations.
They decide to fight near the grave to start, which is a smart idea, and it’s the usual Taker Vs Austin brawl. Once they get into the ring though the match just has all the momentum completely sapped out of it, even though Austin’s trademark spots do get a reaction. Some of the brawling is actually quite good here, especially when they tumble over the announce tables and destroy sections of ringside. I actually think if they’d just made this a casket match then it probably would have worked a lot better and they likely would have had a decent match, but I guess that wasn’t bombastic or Sports Entertainment-like enough.
Austin does manage to get Taker in the grave at one stage, but Taker hits him with a funeral wreath to cut him off. That looked so hokey. This bout is one of those matches where non-fans must watch it and just think we all have a ludicrous hobby you know? I mean, they already likely think that the very concept of Pro Wrestling is silly, but cheesy stuff like this probably makes them think that we’re all questionable people for even liking it. There’s a lot of cringe going on here, even though both men are working very hard in an effort to have a good match and are pretty much handcuffed by the match concept just not being conducive to that sort of outcome.
The crowd eventually tires of the bout, with someone even throwing a drink at both men when they fight over by the grave again after doing some more in the ring. Austin is able to make it out of the hole before getting buried though, as this match resembles that scene in The Simpsons where Mr. Burns tries to trap Homer in the mausoleum. Austin gives Taker a Stunner into the grave following that, but then gets distracted and chases Bearer to the back.
This is Kane’s cue to join us, as he clobbers Taker (getting one of the bigger pops on the show in the process) and puts him into the grave. Austin then shows up with a digger with the plan being to drop a load of dirt on Taker, but it takes forever and by the time it finally works the moment has more than passed. I’m just happy the match is over to be honest.
WINNER: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
Both men were working hard here, but they were hamstrung by the match stipulations and they lost the crowd. They had a chance to win them back at the end, but then the finish took forever and they lost them again. They should have just done a casket match so they could have stayed at ringside and they wouldn’t need all the nonsense with the digger for the finish
Austin pours beer on the grave to close us out.
Is It Really A Stinker?
There was actually more watchable wrestling on this show than I remembered, but at the same time some of the finishes were awful and the crowd was dead for large parts of it, so I think we’re going to have to go with a Stinker rating, even though Rock/Mankind and Jarrett/Goldust were mostly good and Owen/Blackman was on its way to being a good match before the horrible finish. Outside of those matches though, the show ranged from being dull to straight up bad, and for that reason I think it deserves to be called a Stinker, especially as the Main Event absolutely did not deliver.
Final Rating: Stinker