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April Assorted PPV Countdown: 1998

The SK Retro Rant for Unforgiven 98

- For god-knows-what reason, this is #1 with a bullet on my request list from the readership. Hey, I live to serve.

- Live from Greensboro, NC

- Your hosts are JR & The King. Have to get used to not typing THAT anymore.  (I guess this was written during the brief period when King had quit over the Miss Kitty stuff.) 


- Opening match: The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry v. Ken Shamrock, Faarooq & Steve Blackman.

Quite the hodge-podge of different fates three years later here. Godfather is hanging around ringside, being a pest. Faarooq was of course freshly dumped as leader of the Nation of Domination, leading to the Rock’s hostile takeover of the group and slingshot move into the wrestling stratosphere. D-Lo & Blackman start, with the Lethal Weapon getting some kicks before taking a DDT. Blackman works an armbar, then Shammy continues. Faarooq comes in and whips D-Lo with his belt, with Rocky’s comical protests only serving to distract the referee further. (The early stages of Rocky v. Faarooq were really amusing, with Rock really developing his cartoonish heel persona.)  Irony can be so ironic. Mark Henry comes in and treats Blackman like a child with a pair of backbreakers and a mistimed clothesline. D-Lo comes back in and hits the Sky High for two. Faarooq comes in but makes the cardinal mistake of putting his head down and gets pounded. Rock makes his first appearance, drawing enough heat to scorch his sideburns off, and lays in the boots. Man, Vince must have made a downpayment on a new gold limo once he started hearing that sort of reaction to Rock. (Sadly the gold plated limo was blown up as a wacky prank by D-X in 2006, taking out 3 members of the Spirit Squad in the process.)  Henry gets an elbowdrop for two. Blackman tries his luck and gets powerslammed. Blackman is YOUR face-in-peril, thus making Rock’s heat look that much better by way of comparison. Rock fires off the People’s Elbow, irritating the HELL out of the fans, and goes into chinRock mode. (I remember the first time that Rock actually pinned someone with that move.  It was a house show against Mark Henry and you would think that the collapse of Western society was imminent judging by the massive amounts of hatred online fans showed.)  D-Lo misses the moonsault (no, no, don’t act so shocked), hot tag Faarooq. Faarooq, Faarooq, Faarooq is on fire! We don’t need no water! Okay, dumb reference, I’m allowed one per rant. (Well that quota sure gets exceeded a lot.)  Rock and Faarooq are left alone, which leads to a Dominator for the pin at 13:32. And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. (Wait, what?  He challenged for the World title at KOTR 98, didn’t he?)  Boring mess, due to the lack of Shamrock involvement. *

- Steve Austin stops by to harass the timekeeper. He lets him know that if ANY screwing goes on tonight, he’d better be calling for an ambulance. The timekeeper seems to get the message loud and clear.  (Oh, for the days when Montreal references were fresh and new.) 

- European title match: HHH v. Owen Hart.

This was pre-face turn for DX, but they were getting there. Sign in crowd: “Playboy Needs Chyna”. Well, THERE’S who we can blame. (That and her plastic surgeon.)  Speaking of Miss Congeniality herself, she’ll be locked in a steel cage and suspended above the ring here, ostensibly to prevent her from interfering, but in reality to allow Vince Russo to kill yet another time-honored booking tool. (Come to think of it, you really don’t see that one done anymore.)  Owen and HHH brawl down the aisle while they raise Chyna. Owen makes sure to ram HHH into the cage before she leaves. They head in and Owen clotheslines him right out again. Back in, Owen hits a backbreaker and dishes some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. HHH hotshots him to break the momentum, then USES THE KNEE. Ah, the old days when Hunter sucked. Suplex and kneedrop get two. Atomic drop and lariat get two. HHH does sort of a dragon sleeper as Chyna attempts to bend the bars. Owen’s sunset flip gets two, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to the sleeper, as Chyna keeps working on the bars. Owen comes back, but takes a facebuster for two. Back to the sleeper. Owen reverses out with a german suplex for two. Belly to belly hits as Chyna bends the bars. The ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH gets two. Leg lariat gets two. Piledriver and flying elbow, but Chyna escapes the cage to distract everyone. Owen dumps Hunter as Chyna hangs from the cage. The announcers talking about how she’s hanging for her life from the ceiling is really, REALLY disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to. It shouldn’t be, given that this took place a year before, but just having Owen there with this angle going on is pretty creepy. (That’s probably why they got away from doing the gimmick, come to think of it.)  Owen gets a DDT and hooks the Sharpshooter as the cage lowers (via Road Dogg, in an angle stolen from Ole Anderson), and Owen gets distracted. HHH nails him, but Owen reverses a Pedigree…and hits one of his own! X-Pac sneaks in, nails him with a fire extinguisher (not Raven’s FIRE EXTINGUISHER OF DOOM, though), and HHH gets the pin to retain at 13:38. Solid match, but Vince Russo had this weird hard-on for sixteen guys running in at once for every finish and it nearly ruined the match. ***1/4  (What was WITH HHH going over Owen all the time?  The original idea was for Owen to feud with Shawn, and yet he ended up winning the Euro title from Goldust (dressed as Hunter) and then doing two straight jobs to Hunter after that.  Good thing HHH has matured past that sort of selfish political manipulations.) 

- NWA World tag title: The New Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express.

Yet another step in Vince Russo’s master plan to humiliate Jim Cornette at every turn, poor Corney was stuck with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn in a pale knockoff of his one great accomplishment in the sport. (Well SMW was pretty good too.)  Today, Cornette has his dream job while Vince Russo sits at home, disgraced, with multiple concussions and no job.  (Well, Russo ended up with a long-term job with TNA and Cornette kind of blackballed himself from everyone but ROH, so I think Russo won the war in the long-term) Instant karma’s gonna get you. Bombastic Bob and Robert Gibson start, and Bob bails quickly. You know, I think the reason that Hardcore Holly got over so well has more to do with it being the total opposite of THIS gimmick than anything else. Back in, Robert works the arm and the RnR double-team. The entire crowd leaves for nachos. I mean, you can LITERALLY see the side of the arena facing the camera EMPTY in a two-minute span. The Midnights squabble, then Bart gets an abdominal stretch on Ricky as Cornette does a 1985 comedy routine with the ref in a desperate, sad attempt to make the fans care. Morton gets nailed by Cornette and plays himself. Bob misses an Alabama Jam (this gimmick is sacrilege on so many levels) and it’s a hot tag for Robert. DOUBLE DROPKICK OF DOOM, no ref. It’s so painful to have to mock their finisher like that, but that team did NOT age well. I’m almost glad the Midnight Express self-destructed before they became a sad parody of themselves, too. (And they’re still doing the reunion show circuit 11 years after I wrote this.)  It wasn’t so noticeable with the Rock n Roll in SMW, because that whole territory existed in a bizarre redneck timewarp stasis type thing, but back in the big leagues it was pretty glaring. Anyway, Robert rolls up Bart Gunn, but Bob bulldogs him for the pin at 7:20. The New Midnight Express actually got somewhat watchable for a short time, while the Rock N Roll Express was cut loose VERY soon after this. -*

- Evening gown match: Lunda Vachon v. Sable.

This was the first one, ever, believe it or not. Clothes get ripped, Marc Mero distracts Sable, and Luna rips her dress off for the win. DUD

- Vince and Stooges come out to waste some TV time. That whole Russo-era habit of putting 20-minute interviews on PPV always bugged me.  (Good thing they don’t do THAT anymore!) 

- WWF tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. LOD 2000.

The catchphrase is there for the NAO, but not over yet. This was the WWF’s absolute last-ditch attempt to get the LOD over as something meaningful, but even with Sunny the Crack Whore and new outfits, it was still the same LOD. WCW would do well to remember that lesson. Jesse Jammes, never one to hold his tongue, even makes fun of the LOD in his pre-match banter, complaining about having to face the same dinosaurs yet again. (I bet the boys in the back were all upset about the LOD taking the spot of someone else on PPV.)  Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life. Maybe Vince Russo should try peddling drugs – he certainly couldn’t get much lower on the food chain of life anyway. Plus at least he’d have a steady job. (TNA booker, drug dealer, either way.)  Speaking of Russo’s stupid ideas, Billy Gunn debuts the “Mr. Ass” tights here. Gunn misses a bodypress on Animal, and gets clotheslined for two. Gunn bails and Animal works on Dogg’s arm. Hawk runs through the usual as the Outlaws beg off. Gunn comes in and Hawk actually messes up a bodyslam. Just a plain old bodyslam. Of course, you could probably blame Gunn for that, too, given his habits as of late, but he was pretty decent back in 1998. (Let’s not get crazy here.)  Animal hits the chinlock. This is like watching UT & Kane shuffle through the tag ranks and desperately try to keep up with all the young and over teams today. Pier-six erupts, but the Doomsday Device is stopped with a well-timed clip, and Animal is painted-face-in-peril. NAO work the knee for a long time. Thank god for heavily caffeinated and sweetened soft drinks. Jerry & JR get so bored that they start riffing on Wild Kingdom to pass the time, despite it having nothing to do with the match. Gunn hits a fameasser for two. Hot tag Hawk, and katie bar the door, yada yada. Billy nails Hawk with the belt (the NAO’s finisher for the longest time) for two, but Animal suplexes Dogg for the pin. However, since both guys’ shoulders were down, the ref gave the champs the benefit of the doubt and counted ANIMAL out, so the titles stayed with the Outlaws. That wasn’t really explained by the announcers, but I’m using the Flair-Steamboat precedent which established that “tie goes to the champion” in 1994. Match was about as excruciatingly bad as one might expect. ½*  (I still don’t know why they were so obsessed with endlessly pushing and re-pushing the LOD in their degenerated state.  Vince is usually a smart enough guy to know when to let it go, but maybe he just really liked them?) 

- Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown. I fast forward.

- Inferno Match: Kane v. Undertaker.

Hey, a Kane v. Undertaker match, that should pick the pace of this show up! The ring is of course surrounded by “fire” here, in reality a pipe spewing butane-powered flames under the control of a pyro expert at ringside. To win, you have to set your opponent on fire. (Also, the most annoying game mode in the RAW v. Smackdown series.  Took me FOREVER to figure out how to win that fucking thing, as I would just keep beating down my opponent and get nowhere with it.)  They hammer on each other and UT hits an avalanche. Ropewalk and flames puff up, as they do with all the highspots in this match. Blind charge and Kane backdrops him over the top, but Taker seems to land awkwardly on the ropes and falls back into the ring. Kane stomps away to take over. UT goes to the eyes to counter. Thrilling stuff! Kane keeps stomping. Chairshot puts Taker down. He comes back with more kicks, as does Kane. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of complex moves here. Oh, and choking, sorry, almost forgot that. Taker gets a russian legsweep and elbow, which is no-sold by Kane. Chokeslam follows, but UT blocks the tombstone and chokeslams Kane back. Kane no-sells. Double boot and both guys are knocked unconscious by the effort required to stick their leg in the air. Kane ducks a lariat and sideslams him, then goes up. UT crotches and superplexes him, which Kane of course no-sells. UT tosses him, but Vader appears and pushes him back to ringside, where Taker comes barrelling out with his hands-free tope over the top rope, taking out both guys. He then knocks Kane “unconscious” by the ring apron, thus allowing Kane to prepare his gimmicked arm while UT chases Paul Bearer to the stage and beats him up for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Back to the ring, Kane sort of falls into the fire and UT wins at 15:53. Give it ½* for the tope. The arm coating looked incredibly fake.  (What is with WWF guys always losing their own specialty matches?  Is it like an offshoot of people jobbing in their hometown?  How do you humiliate someone from Parts Unknown, though?) 

- WWF title match: Steve Austin v. Dude Love.

This is round one, as Vince withheld the identity of Austin’s opponent until a week before the show and then turned Mick Foley into his corporate zombie. (That was some incredibly ineffective marketing there, as we literally had no clue who was challenging for the title leading up to the show, and the resulting buyrate was pretty sad.  I’m still not sure if they just didn’t know who to run with as challenger or what.)  Dude jumps Austin, but gets his ass kicked, and bails. Back in, Thesz Press and elbow as Ross takes a shot at Bischoff for declaring that a guy in black boots and tights could never get over. Spinebuster and elbow, and Dude bails again. They brawl as Dude tries to run, only to get viciously clotheslined from behind by Austin. They head to the stage (a popular spot tonight), and Austin casually tosses him off, onto the bare concrete 6 feet below. Back to ringside, they slaughter continues. Austin drops an elbow off the apron, and back in we go. Austin misses the rope straddle and Dude bulldogs him. Elbowdrop and Dude punishes him in the corner. Dude works the neck with a body scissors as Vinnie Mac joins us at ringside. Austin breaks the move and yells at Vince, but Dude rolls him up for two. Austin posts Dude as Vince “observes” from ringside, near the timekeeper, wink wink. (Montreal!  That’s a thing that happened!)  Dude bails and Austin tries a piledriver, but as usual he gets backdropped. He hurts his knee and Dude leaves for the ring as Vince taunts Austin. Austin stalks him, but Dude returns the favor on that clothesline from behind. Dude tries a suplex in, but Austin blocks, so Dude necksnaps him to the floor. The ref counts, but Vince tells Austin to “be a man and get back in”, and that the ref is fired if he reaches 10, so Austin beats the count. (That’s tremendous.  I miss that Vince.)  Dude hooks the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM (with which he got past the awesome challenge of Steve Blackman, even under dubious circumstances) and Vince goes crazy, telling the timekeeper to ring the bell. Austin reverses the move, and Vince goes equally crazy, telling him to ignore everything he just said. Funny stuff. Brawl outside, and Austin suplexes Dude onto the stairs. They fight into the crowd and Austin dumps him back in, and into the ring. Dude comes back with a neckbreaker. Sweet Shin Music is blocked, and the ref gets bumped. Stunner is blocked with the Mandible Claw, and Vince revives the ref…unsuccessfully. This would actually become a storyline point, as Vince declared the refs unfit and took the job himself at the next PPV. Austin dumps Foley, but scuffles with Vince. Foley charges with a chair, but gets it back in his face. Austin chairshots Vince out cold, and heads back in for a little KICK WHAM STUNNER action, and counts the pin himself at 18:48. It was later decided to be a DQ win for Dude Love, justifying the rematch at Over the Edge 98. Great brawl that got a little overwhelmed by the storyline at times. The next month, they would solve that problem by making the storyline the focal point of the match and building on it. ****  (A very underappreciated brawl, even by myself.  I think it’s just because the next month’s rematch was just so awesome, but Austin counting his own pin was great, echoed by the finish at Over the Edge.) 

The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly exciting. The HHH-Owen match, while solid, has been done before and better, and the same with Austin-Dude. The rest of the card is the usual shitty 1998 WWF undercard, as the main events were totally carrying these shows back then.

Mildly recommended.  (I’d have to go recommendation to avoid now.  Just so much crap and Russo nonsense to sit through.) 


  1. Helps that you can get the main on the Austin Legend DVD. Really makes the show redundant.

  2. Russo was using the "heel partner/manager suspended from a hanging cage" gimmick occasionally in TNA before he got fired.  As recently as last fall if I recall correctly, with Madison Rayne.

  3. "And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. (Wait, what?  He challenged for the World title at KOTR 98, didn’t he?)"

    1997, but otherwise yep. He lost and the next night unveiled the NOD 2.0, kicking off the Gang Warz. Aaaaaaargh...

  4. "Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life."

    Was Jake Roberts in this match? I've never heard of anyone from the NAO or LOD smoking crack. BTW, the inferno match gets my vote for stupidest gimmick match of all time. That or the shark cage match.

  5. Personally I thought the "we don't know who the challenger is going to be" as the PPV got closer was pretty cool, but then again PPV's were only 30 then and not 60 or whatever the fuck they charge today.

  6. This was the first PPV I ever saw in person.  Good times. 

  7. This was an interesting time for the company, as they were visibly struggling for legit top guys once Shawn was gone, and Austin was now the champion. I think that's part of why Mick was shoved into a heel role and turned into a challenger, even though he had nowhere near the legitimacy yet (this was pre-Rock & Title runs, obviously).

    This show was weird because of some of the booking going on- new star Kane was still losing to The Undertaker, showcasing his inability to maintain a real forward momentum (this would hurt him, as he'd get stuck being Just Another Big Guy eventually). Plus Owen Hart loses to Triple-H AGAIN, just in case we thought "the pissed-off brother of the exiled Bret Hart, looking for revenge" was ever going to be a big-time angle or something. In retrospect, Owen should've left the company- he couldn't fight Austin, and DX just owned the shit out of him on a regular basis.

  8. Dirty_Dave_DelaneyApril 11, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    Watching back through this era made me realise how awesome the early Mr McMahon character was, before he became an over-the-top caricature of himself. The character back then at least wanted to present himself as wanting to do the right thing for the business in what he believed had to be done, which was Stone Cold wasn't an appropriate standard bearer for the company. He tried to come across as professional but in the heat of the moment his true feelings came out. I hated it when the character got more cartoony and his motives were just all over the place. I think it was his feud with Ric Flair that the character really started to get on my nerves. First there was the unnecessary interference during the title unification at Vengeance 2001 but in my opinion what really made the Mr McMahaon character a warped joke of himself was the whole 'if I have to share my company with Ric Flair then I'm going to destroy it by bringing in the NWO' promos after his loss to Flair at the Royal Rumble 2002. I hated this because why would bringing in the NWO necessarily destroy the company especially since most fans weren't aware that Hogan and Nash were big backstage politicians and even then why would that mean they would destroy the company, and also wouldn't been a lot easier and made a lot more sense if Vince had bought them in to oust Flair from the company due to all their history from WCW. Have been reading Scott's book 'Wrestling's Made Men' and the Mr McMahon character during 2003 being involved in so many angles this has to have been one of the worse times to be a fan, at least in my eyes. I thought the match pitting him against one-legged wrestler Zack Gowen was bad but it got even worse with the I Quit match against his own daughter Stephanie which was marketed as an actual main event match for NO Mercy 2003. Cringe-worthy stuff all around! 

  9. Dirty_Dave_DelaneyApril 11, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    Oh and I just had to post this image of Vince looking like he's about to curl one out just because it cracks me up every time!

  10.  Yup, if they had kept Owen strong, he would have been the perfect first obstacle for Austin.

  11. I dunno, I think the whole "guy in cage at ringside" gimmick was ruined when Robocop ripped open the bars to free Sting. I mean, that moment just goes to show if you have a cyborg waiting in the wings, the cage is rendered useless.

    Yeah, inferno matches are one of those aspects of pro-wrestling that piss me off. We know that no one is going to set their skin on fire for the sake of wrestling. Unless they're some idiot in CZW or something. So there's no freaking point. 

  12. I was wondering what you were talking about with Farrooq getting a title shot at KOTR 98. You must have meant 97. So anyway, you were right, he never made it that far up the card again.

  13. Christopher HirschApril 11, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Table Match on WWE 12 is pretty damn annoying

  14. 1. Set up table.
    2. Store finisher.
    3. Whip opponent into table.
    4. Use stored finisher.

    I swear, I'm going to find the guy that started the "hardcore gamers don't read the manuals" bullshit and punch him in the dick.

  15. I don't even know how to store a finisher. I glance at the manual and play normally.

  16. Did some perusing though and it seems easy enough, just wasn't something I knew how to do without looking into it.


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