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What the World Was Watching: Monday Night Raw - January 5, 1998

by Logan Scisco

We kick off our next round of reviews by covering the 1998 season of Monday Night Raw.  1998 is when the WWF finally turned the Monday Night Wars in its favor and began the process of grinding WCW to dust (assisted by poor WCW booking patterns and the AOL-Time Warner merger).  The year saw the creation of new stars, the continuation of a more mature product, and Steve Austin solidify himself as one of the greatest WWF stars of all-time. 

I’ve also decided to modify my rating style for this set of reviews.  I don’t like doing star ratings for TV events because of the length of the matches, so when I review the pay-per-views I’ll revert to the star rating, but for the TV shows I’m going to do an average point system.  If a match or lengthy interview segment is worthwhile, it will receive a point.  Otherwise, it won’t.  I hope that this can better clarify the good and bad elements of a show.  If everyone hates it I can revert to stars, but that’s my logic.

-The show begins with Steve Austin in the parking lot talking about how everyone in the locker room wants to get him and he sent them a “3:16” message on their pagers.  He encourages the audience to watch tonight’s show where he will strike first at everyone that is out to get him.

-Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and Kevin Kelly are in the booth and they are live from New Haven, Connecticut.

-Opening Contest:  Ken Shamrock beats Faarooq (w/Kama Mustafa & D-Lo Brown) via submission to the ankle lock at 5:02 shown:

This match has some back story because Faarooq injured Shamrock in the first round of the Intercontinental title tournament back in September.  The Rock also volunteered Faarooq to take on Shamrock in his contest on last week’s show.  During the match, Ross keeps hyping Shamrock as a future WWF champion.  Faarooq works the ribs and the Rock comes down to ringside shortly before the commercial break.  The Rock tries to direct interference whereby Kama will hold a chair in the corner so that Shamrock can be whipped into it, but heel miscommunication results and Shamrock wins to go three-for-three against the Nation.  Shamrock had some good selling in this match, but the match never worked up a consistent pace.  0 of 1

-After the match, Faarooq argues with Kama on the floor as the Rock and Shamrock stare each other down in the ring.  Before they can do anything, though, Steve Austin runs out and gives each of them a Stone Cold Stunner before exiting through the crowd.

-Jim Cornette comes out with Howard Brody and Dennis Coralluzzo of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).  Cornette announces that both men will award the NWA North American championship to the winner of our next match.

-NWA North American Championship Match:  Jeff Jarrett defeats Barry Windham to win the title at 3:34:

The North American championship was a real NWA title and it was the second most prominent title in the promotion.  Reckless Youth (remember him?) was the previous champion, but the NWA vacated the title in December 1997 for use in this angle.  Cornette educates the audience about the NWA on commentary, but Cole has to ask him if it is a bogus promotion to show off his stupidity.  Windham uses his size and power to dominate much of the match, but Jarrett puts his foot on the bottom rope to avoid being pinned after a lariat.  After that, Coralluzzo distracts the referee and as Windham prepares to give Jarrett a superplex, Cornette runs into the ring and hits him in the back with his tennis racket.  Windham manages to complete the move, but is knocked out and Jarrett pins him to win the title.  1 of 2

-After the match, Jarrett struts around with his new title, but Steve Austin runs out and gives him a Stone Cold Stunner.

-The announce team proceeds to break down the house show circuit.

-Ken Shamrock tells the announce team that he would love for the Royal Rumble to come down between him and Austin.

-Sunny comes out in a schoolgirl outfit to do guest ring announcing duties for our next match.

- Skull & 8-Ball defeat Sniper & Recon (w/The Jackyl) when Skull pins Recon with a DDT at 3:39:

If you were expecting a wrestling classic, you can forget it here, but since the time on it is short it’s a tolerable matchup.  The Jackyl keeps laughing when Recon misses big moves, justifying his behavior by saying that Recon is just trying to be a star.  The Disciples of Apocalypse end this out of nowhere after all hell breaks loose after the hot tag.  Speaking of nowhere, this feud is headed there, but that’s because the booking team has no idea what they want to get out of either team.  1 of 3

-After the match, Kurrgan comes out and a three-on-two beatdown commences, which allows Kurrgan to show off his size and strength.

-The Twix Rewind segment is the Undertaker helping Kane clear the ring of the superstars that tried to attack him on last week’s Raw.

-D-Generation X comes out.  Chyna is pushing Triple H in a wheelchair because he has suffered a dislocated knee cap that might require surgery.  Triple H brags about costing Owen Hart the WWF title last week and he dares Owen to come out and face him.  Owen appears on the Titantron and lets Triple H know that when his right knee heals he is going to destroy his left one.  Owen tries to sell the “blackheart” element of his character, claiming that he has no conscience and feels no pain, but the result is a corny promo that Triple H mocks before ending the segment.  1 of 4

-The 1-800-COLLECT Slam of the Week is Vader hitting a moonsault on a jobber on Shotgun Saturday Night.

-We get another recap of Steve Austin’s rampage on tonight’s show.

-Since we are in hour two, Jim Ross and Jerry “the King” Lawler take over announcing duties.

-Owen Hart beats Savio Vega (w/Los Boricuas) with a rollup at 4:05:

Owen starts this like a Steve Austin match, aggressively going after Savio and incorporating a Lou Thesz press in the early going.  It doesn’t take long for D-Generation X to appear by the entrance and that gives Savio an opportunity to turn the tide.  The Boricuas also assist Savio in maintaining the advantage, but this leads to another referee coming out and ejecting them.  However, this doesn’t happen quickly enough and Savio is able to get out of a Sharpshooter when Jose tries to get into the ring.  Owen still wins with a rollup shortly thereafter.  Lackluster matchup and Owen’s in-ring style does not really fit this hard edged character that they want him to play.  1 of 5  

-After the match, Owen tries to go after Triple H, but the Boricuas attack him and then bring him to Triple H to slap around.  They make sure to collect their payment before leaving.

-Paul Bearer comes out looking disheveled and he tells the Undertaker that he hopes he loses to Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble.  The storyline here is that Kane has left Bearer after last week’s events, so Bearer is freaking out.  He begs Kane to come home before leaving in despair.  Really nice promo to continue the slow burn for this angle.  2 of 6

-Backstage, Austin is shown leaving a locker room and Mark Henry is shown in pain on the floor.  So Austin has attacked another victim.

-A video package recaps Marc Mero’s treatment of Sable and Tom Brandi’s intervention on her behalf.

-“Marvelous” Marc Mero (w/Sable) beats Tom Brandi by disqualification when Steve Austin interferes at 3:47:

Why is this match not happening at the Royal Rumble?  Seems like easy midcard fodder for that show instead of throwing it on Raw.  The crowd works up a loud “Sable” chant when Mero hides behind his valet when Brandi charges after him at the beginning of the contest.  Mero gets knocked out of the ring and falls on top of Sable, but when Brandi goes to help her he gets a double axe handle.  Mero hits a TKO, but when he goes for another Steve Austin runs in and gives Mero a Stunner.  The crowd comes unglued for that and that was because of Mero’s display of carelessness for Sable that occurred throughout the match.  3 of 7

-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to find out what old NWA stars Jim Cornette is recruiting and hear who is attending the WWF’s training camp!

-We get ANOTHER recap of Steve Austin’s rampage.  Do we need to hit back to this every time come back from commercial?

-Flash Funk defeats The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (w/Luna Vachon) by disqualification when Luna interferes at 2:32:

Goldust comes out in blackface and an afro, showcasing a 70s persona in his latest display of weirdness.  I’m surprised that the WWF signed off on this in 1998, but you can bet that they would never do it today after going public.  Flash nearly wins after a spinning heel kick, but Luna pushes him off the top rope when he tries to the Tumbleweed in plain view of the referee and costs her man the match.  The short length of the contest prevented some of Goldust’s traditional stalling and that helped it significantly.  4 of 8

-After the bell, Goldust hits the Curtain Call but Vader runs out and Goldust flees.

-A video package hypes Steve Blackman.

-Call 1-900-RUMBLE-98 to register yourself in the Steve Austin pickup truck contest!  It’ll cost you $1.99 or you can send a postcard to Devon, Pennsylvania.

-Last week’s reveal of Chainsaw Charlie is shown.

-The Headbangers appearance on Regis and Kathie Lee is shown.  These guys got sent out on a lot of the WWF’s public relations work at this time despite doing squat in the ring.

-Non-Title Match:  The New Age Outlaws (WWF Tag Team Champions) beat The Headbangers when Billy Gunn pins Mosh after a face miscommunication at 4:58:

This match proceeds nicely, with both teams exchanging double team maneuvers.  The Godwinns appear by the entrance, apparently scouting the Outlaws for a tag team title shot that they are owed.  Thrasher and the Road Dogg give each other simultaneous low blows when they dropkick each other at the same time.  This cues the hot tag and all hell breaking loose, but the Headbangers blow a Stage Dive attempt when Thrasher jumps too early for the flying leg drop and Gunn rolls up Mosh for a clean win.  This had a creative finish that solidified the credibility of the Outlaws.  The loss cements the Headbangers status as one of the lower ranked teams in the division.  5 of 9

-After the match, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie run out and the Outlaws walk back to the locker room.

-Don King hypes WrestleMania XIV, but says that his contract negotiation with Vince McMahon to make Mike Tyson a part of it has not been finished.  It’s close, though!

-Footage of the Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker is shown in order to hype the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker title match at the Royal Rumble.

-WWF Champion Shawn Michaels comes out and says that he will show the Undertaker is a loser at the Royal Rumble.  He calls out the Undertaker and druids wheel out a casket.  The casket is covered in graffiti like last week and Michaels calls for Triple H and Chyna to get out of it.  No response happens so Michaels continues his juvenile antics.  Triple H and Chyna then come out on the ramp and warn Michaels that they are not in it and before Michaels can put two and two together, the Undertaker bursts out of the casket and pulls Michaels inside as we go off the air.  AWESOME closing segment, even if it was predictable.  6 of 10

The Final Report Card:  The first show of 1998 started pretty rough, but the second hour was full of fun segments and matches so that barely saves the show with a 6/10 rating.  Austin’s victory at the Rumble was very obvious, but at least the WWF booked it in an entertaining way that placed him on the perfect trajectory to challenge for the title at WrestleMania.

Monday Night War Rating:  3.3 (vs. 4.3 for Nitro)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up


  1. I remember some folks on rspw were upset that the new NWA Champion was made to look like a jobber to Austin. But screw Jeff Jarrett STUNNER STUNNER STUNNER.

  2. Russo gets a lot of well-deserved flack, but there's no denying that the WWE product started feeling a whole lot more edgey, spontaneous, and creative when he was added to the creative team.

    Furthermore, as much as they disliked each other, I actually think Russo and Cornette (and to a lesser extent, Ross) were good for each other creatively. The common wisdom is that Russo was kept in check by Mcmahon, and that's why he went completely off the rails in WCW. I don't really buy that because Mcmahon always had the final approval in WWE, and 1999 was every bit as ADD and random as Russo's WCW stuff. Meanwhile, we've seen how great the storytelling (ie not) the storytelling has been under Vince's final approval in the years since.

    Sometimes you need somebody to challenge you on your ideas, and fight you on things. When you had Russo and Cornette (and Ross) basically killing each other pushing for their personal philosophies in the booking room, the war of attrition essentially led to a product that was a median between the two extremes. Cornette with his staunch traditionalist views and wrestling bubble logic, and Russo with his 'no sacred cows, nothing off limits, no rules go unbroken' outsiders perspective. At the end of the day both guys had to either be able to live with the booking sheet and compromise by the time tv taping started.

    So what you got in 1997 (in particular) and most of 1998 was long-term feuds that felt as though they were built like classic, old-school wrestling feuds... but the moment to moment interactions, escalations and altercations - the promos, the back-stage segments, the run-ins and the beatdowns - were where the fresh, edgey, kafabe-winking, ECW-inspired in-your-face, over-the-top Russo factor came in. DX vs Taker is set up just like any classic feud with the cocky, loud-mouth champion out-smarting and cheating his way to victory over the larger, good guy challenger. It was DX's wonderful disregard for everything in the wrestling status quo, the anarchic flavor of their actions and the smart-ass, kafabe-winking nature of their promos that made everybody around them feel oh so out of touch, and made them look so dangerous, edgey and fresh.

    I still say 1997 and 1998 are the two best years of pro-wrestling and particularly WWE, despite the ratings being significantly higher in 1999 and 2000. 1999 felt random and out of sorts as Russo had nobody challenging him on anything, while 2000 felt less.... 'dangerous' if that makes any sense. It fell further back into predictable wrestling patterns (but at least had coherent storytelling).

  3. The Ghost of Faffner HallOctober 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    "...the result is a corny promo that Triple H mocks before ending the segment."

    This was the problem I had with DX in these early years-- I get that they had to be juvenile and all, but rule number one in doing promos is that you have to make your opponent look like a credible threat, otherwise why should the audience care? I remember them mocking and acting scared of just about everyone-- Owen, the Hart Foundation, Slaughter, Ahmed Johnson... I think it was only Undertaker and Mankind who got the proper reactions from them. It still bugs me to think about it today.

  4. It would have been an issue had they mocked and been unimpressed with everybody, and then just buried them in the ring.

    But generally speaking, the pattern with DX was 'talk a big game, act like smart asses, then get bounced around the ring for 10 minutes before cheating to win'. The other guys usually came out of the match looking credible, it just made DX lovabley insufferable as the smart-ass egotists who always managed to get away with it.

  5. Brandi was one of those guys getting a lot of press pre-1996 as Johnny Gunn on the independent circuit. He laid an egg when he came to the big time, but it wasn't like that Salvatore Sincere gimmick he was sporting was going to put butts in the seats.

  6. The best part is my sister actually worked for him at the tanning salon he used to run.

    I blew her mind when I showed her videos of him as Sal Sincere.

  7. I couldn't agree more with you. Nice

  8. I love your recaps but I'm not digging this new rating system. Sorry

  9. I think your new rating system is OK, but definitely needs tweaking. I like the idea of treating segments and matches as equals, but the system itself doesn't really tell me how good that segment was (of course your words usually do). You could rate each match on a traditional scale and use your new system in conjunction with it to determine the overall score, but, now I think about it, the overall impression of a show is probably something that can't be determined mechanically.

  10. It's funny reading these reports of how they have pushed Austin and contrast that with how they are pushing Daniel Bryan.

    On a separate note, this NWA stuff is everything that is wrong with Russo. They are wasting valuable tv time just to rib Cornette.

  11. Here is that final segment, it is worth watching. Shawn's acting was just incredible here (As in even he knew it was dumb and obvious, but he just had fun with it. )

  12. I still don't understand this fixation with everyone comparing Daniel Bryan's push to Austin's. Other than both being male, and between 200 and 300 lbs, they could not be more different!

  13. One major similarity is that they are supposed to be the #1 babyface. In Austin's case it's obvious but not much so in Bryan's case.

  14. I, also, really like the idea of giving the segments a thumbs up or down. But I miss the star ratings for the matches. Maybe, as a compromise, do the yes/no thing unless the match hits 3+ stars. In that case give it the star rating so we can all discuss. Discussing 4.5 vs. 3.5 stars happens all the time, but nobody discusses dud vs. .75 stars so I don't think much will be lost by eliminating the bottom half of the ratings for TV matches.

  15. Austin's neck was broken, so they had to use smoke and mirrors to get around that. Daniel Bryan has simply been booked to win pretty much every match he's had in the past 4-5 months. WHAT A LOSER, EH??

  16. There is a difference between being booked to win and being booked to look like a star.

  17. lol, and Daniel isn't? If you really don't think he is, then you'll never be happy I guess.

  18. Makes sense. In retrospect, I'll make that part of the review for next week since it gives the best of both worlds. Thanks for reading and the feedback.

  19. Always found the NWA angle to be incredibly bizarre, and it seemed like it was intentionally stupid. Mick Foley said in a recent book that Vince sometimes books angles directly to fail, and I think this is a case of it right here- basically going to out make the NWA and "old school rasslin" look ridiculous.

  20. No, I don't think he is being booked like the star. HHH is the focal point of the main story and Big Show is setup as the main protagonist. Bryan and Orton are playing supporting parts.

  21. That's part of why Lance Storm mentioned on his site that "Cool Heels SUCK". They basically gobble up the heat from everybody because they're so cool that they make the babyfaces look like ineffectual idiots.

  22. Owen was a GREAT snivelling Heel (check his acting- With REAL TEARS- at the Survivor Series where Bret is in Bob Backlund's Crossface Chickenwing and Owen's begging with his parents to throw in the towel), but lacked intensity as a vindictive face.

  23. The Ghost of Faffner HallOctober 16, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    I beg to differ that it didn't bury anyone. The Hart Foundation never really got their comeuppance on DX. Hunter absolutely dominated Owen Hart in their feud over the European title, and the one time Owen won the belt it was from Goldust dressed as Triple H. I also remember an episode of Raw in which Slaughter forced Hunter to face Ahmed Johnson, and they both acted afraid of him and mocked him during his entrance. But then Ahmed was attacked--I think by Faarooq--and afterward HHH covered him and Shawn made the count, and they celebrated like a couple of idiots. I don't see how crap like that ever helped anyone.

  24. The Ghost of Faffner HallOctober 16, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    According to Cornette's "Timeline" release, the NWA thing was his idea and was supposed to give a rub to lots of old-school wrestlers and revive the NWA somewhat--of course that just didn't happen.

  25. It helped get DX over, which in turn helped push the new attitude and edge to the forefront of WWE programming. Obviously the Austin/Mcmahon feud is what turned the tide of the Monday Night Wars, but I would argue the entire edgey milieu of the attitude era was just as important.

  26. It was Cornette's idea, but sadly Cornette was hopelessly out of touch with where professional wrestling was and where it was going at the time.

    All of Cornette's beliefs and values were viewed as a corny, silly relics of the past by the audience that was eating up the likes of DX, Austin, Rocky, etc.

    Which isn't to say that Cornette had nothing positive to offer... I think he had a big impact on what made WWE so great through 1997 and 1998. He just needed Russo to push him by unapologetically burning every single one of his sacred cows. When you combined his traditional views on building wrestling feuds with Russo's fresh, edgey, creative flourishes, you struck gold.

    Him trying to get people over without those flourishes always died relatively quickly and unceremoniously, because they couldn't hope to take attention away from the kind of things Russo was adding to the promos, run-ins and beat-downs in the DX, Austin, Nation stuff.

  27. I think Storm is suffering from sour grapes.

    Rocky could laugh off Stone Cold's promos all he wanted in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the fact was that Stone Cold himself was so cool, that fans would still support him.

    At some point you have blame the character for failing to get over. If the cool heels are so much cooler than you that they're getting over on you when you're trying to make your big moment, then it's a failing of the character and the performer as much as it is a 'selfish' act on the part of the cool heels.

    If you don't want the cool heels to vacuum your heat, make yourself cooler.

  28. Well yeah, Storm was uncharismatic, but he was actually referring to stuff he saw in past WrestleManias (in particular how Nash would blow off anyone's comments against him and do the "oooooooooooh" hand-wave). Even Rock would at least act scared if his opponents came after him (look at the fear in his eyes whenever Austin would get close), unless they were a straight-up jobber act.
    Granted, there's that time he just ate Billy Gunn alive in promos AND in the ring, and it helped drop Gunn down a peg, but it's BILLY GUNN, so nobody cared.

  29. Part of the problem was that Jarrett couldn't have drawn flies with the proverbial "mouthful of shit", too. But Austin Stunnering him right out of the gate of his Title win was probably not going to help.


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