Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: The Rock sent Ken Shamrock’s brain into the Upside Down with a steel chair, Owen Hart lost the European Championship by accidentally breaking his own ankle, and Kane tried to prove his dominance over the Undertaker by killing the Phoenix Suns Gorilla.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for March 23, 1998.
Best: Let’s Start The Recap With Kane Setting People On Fire With Lightning
Last week’s episode ended with The Undertaker using some badly-timed lightning to burn an effigy of his brother Kane, which looked a lot more like a soaking wet Michael Jackson. Kane spent all week being bothered about it, so on this week’s show, he stands in the ring and sets everybody he sees on fire with lightning. That sentence probably sounds like a joke, but remember, this is the guy who proved his Satanic dominance over a pro wrestling promotion by trying to kill a basketball-loving gorilla.
It starts off simple, with Kane striking one of the set cameras with lightning and scaring a cameraman. He escalates that to scaring Michael Cole — God, I wish this episode had featured Michael Cole being struck by lightning and disappearing into the sky like Powder — before his big set piece: setting a camera man on fire with multiple lightning strikes.
It’s good to see the guy from the Wax video getting work in the World Wrestling Federation. Dude ends up running up the ramp on fire and collapses on the stage, where he’s put out by a bunch of crew members with hardcore match-ready fire extinguishers, but it’s too late … the crew member DIES from supernatural lightning strike. He’s dead. Look, here’s a shot from the followup segment where they carry him out of the arena with a sheet over his dead body.
I’d make more of a deal out of that if Kane hadn’t ended up committing several other murders in his WWE career, from losing his wrestling school sweetheart in a 1950s teenage tragedy song because he couldn’t drive stick to throwing his own father to his death in response to a comedic kidnapping goof. Kane was Lucha Underground before Lucha Underground.
What’s Undertaker’s response, you might ask?
Why, visiting his parents in the cemetery and telling them he hopes they can all Rest in Peace, of course. Because the Undertaker only has three speeds — unstoppable occult wizard, American patriot (for some reason), and FULL BLOWN EMO — and is the kind of character whose girlfriend could say, “we’re so perfect for each other, we finish each other’s …” and he’d interrupt with, “rest in peace.”
Worst: The New Age Outlaws And The Most Try-Hard Run-In Ever
Over the past month we’ve seen the New Age Outlaws try to murder Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie with improper trash pick-up, and Jack and Charlie retaliate with cartoon booby traps. Last week they strung up the Road Dogg by his feet, so you figure this week the Outlaws are going to do something absolutely INSANE to send us into the most hardcore match of WrestleMania 14.
Their plan is to … uh …
You know, instead of trying to write jokes about this, I’m just going to tell you what happened. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie are wrestling Jacques Rougeau and his partner, Pierre Carl Oullet, better known to modern fans as Pissed-Off Future Glacier. During the match, the Outlaws are supposed to cause a distraction … but instead of them like, causing a distraction, they spend several minutes setting up a fake dining room, with a card table and tuxedos and blow-up doll dates. Here’s Billy Gunn feeding wine to one of them. We have to watch them actually set it up, and it feels a lot like when you’re at a bad local comedy show and you’ve gotta watch improv students set up stools in the dark. The people in the ring kind of half react to it, but nobody’s sure what to do, so it’s just for guys kinda wandering around waiting for a cue and lightly punching.
When it’s all set up, nothing happens. So the Outlaws wait until Cactus Jack’s back is turned or something, run all the way down to the ring, and start attacking them with weapons. So … so why did we have a blow-up doll dinner? So they could get the visual of a card table being broken over Terry Funk’s head? Couldn’t they have just run to the ring with weapons and saved us five minutes of awkward, live-TV set and bit construction? It’s UNBELIEVABLY terrible, and I feel like maybe they did a bunch of sex toy fine dining angles on Livewire or something and I just missed them.
Worst: The Other Tag Teams Aren’t Doing Any Better
A tag team battle royal has been announced, so the WWF’s entire roster of tag teams are drawn into the ring like moths to a flame to have a pre-battle royal battle royal. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, battle royal participants gotta have battle royals that don’t count before the battle royal that does. This one includes two pairs of Los Boricuas members wearing different sets of matching clothing to make it look like there’s an extra team!
For a silver lining, this one started as a Disciples of Apocalypse vs. New Midnight Express, which is a nightmare even to type. Also, I realized you can remember which one was “Bodacious” and which one was “Bombastic” because Bob has two Bs, and so does “Bombastic.” They should’ve just repackaged him as “Bob Bastic.”
Speaking of Butthole Bob and Barfoid Bart, they show up again during what feels like the fifteenth match between the former New Blackjacks, Bradshaw and Barry Windham, to try to cheat the NWA to another win. It backfires, however, when the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express show in the crowd and provide a COUNTER distraction, allowing Bradshaw to roll up Barry and oh my God I can’t even recap this without wanting to pass out. This NWA angle continues to light the wrestling world on fire.
Oh, and speaking of that, we get another Jeff Jarrett match (against Steve Blackman) that he wins when Tennesee Lee cheats for him, reminding us that Jeff Jarrett’s path to singles glory was to abandon the team where the old WCW manager from the ’80s ran in and cheated for him all the time against even the most helpless opponents and replace him with the old WCW manager from the ’90s who keeps running and cheating for him all the time against everybody. He’ll soon smarten up and replace both of them with the WCW manager from the late ’90s who keeps getting up on the apron and trying to show people her boobs so he can cheat all the time. Then he just cuts out the middleman and goes back to WCW. And then he leaves to form TNA, where the roster of 40 dudes includes about 38 doing this exact gimmick.
Best: The Rock Is Still Doing Ridiculous Things With Steel Chairs
Last week, The Rock turned Ken Shamrock’s brain into a child’s-size Frosty from Wendy’s with a steel chair and figured out an incredible short-cut to defeating his enemies: hit them in the head with objects until they die, and they can’t bother you anymore.
This week, he attempts to help Faarooq defeat the dreaded Disciple of Apocalypse CHAINZ by running in and bashing him with a chair. When Faarooq tries to explain that he doesn’t need the help, Rock just stares at him blankly, lets his dark passenger take over, and hits Faarooq. He immediately regrets it (pictured), but not really. The Rock was so, so good before he figured out how to make everybody in the world like him.
Worst: A Very ’90s Commercial
Alleged Presidential Mistress turned pro wrestling pay-per-view guest for some reason Gennifer Flowers wants you to know it’s okay to come out of the closet … as a wrestling fan! Not that there’s anything wrong with that!!! In a few years when everyone else has decided to be tolerant we’re gonna pretend like we like you to sell you t-shirts, but until then, your entire life is a joke! Buy WrestleMania!
Worst: OH NO GET HIM OFF MY TELEVISION IMMEDIATELY
Here’s Raw Magazine editor and future WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vince Russo dressed like a priest from a Luc Besson sci-fi film to present a plaque to Sable (“and Sunny”) for making January’s edition of Raw the highest selling issue of all time. Sunny is not here because she’s “under the weather,” and also other reasons.
The whole bit is one of those terrible WWE segments where a precious award or possession is introduced just for someone to immediately destroy it for “heat,” despite no time or effort being put into establishing said award or thing as important. Sable gets the plaque, and within moments Luna Vachon shows up to hit her in the face with the plaque. That’s it. She also randomly tears off part of Sable’s dress, revealing SEXY UNDERTHINGS, to confirm that Vince Russo wrote himself into his own segment. A pretty rare misfire in the otherwise hot Sable/Luna feud, because they mailed in the go-home show it tore their mailboxes in half.
Best: Austin And Michaels Are THE MOST IMPORTANT AND BEST THINGS EVER
A quick supplementary Worst for Jim Ross on this episode. We give Tony Schiavone a lot of well-deserved shit for thinking everything that ever happened on Nitro is the Biggest Whatever In The History Of Our Sport, but Ross goes Full Tony Schiavone here, calling Stone Cold Steve Austin the most popular WWF Superstar ever (before that was an actual argument you could make), and calling Shawn Michaels the undisputed greatest WWF Champion of all time, which is shootest of horse-shits.
But anyway, the episode opens with Stone Cold Steve Austin surprisingly not being okay with the authority breathing down his neck, and Sgt. Slaughter showing up to inform him that (1) Vince McMahon is not in the building, but (2) Vince has ordered Austin to compete against The Rock in the night’s main event. Austin is like, “okay, I will wrestle the Rock,” and Slaughter interrupts with, “WELL, IF YOU DON’T, YOUR WWF CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH AT WRESTLEMANIA IS A NON-TITLE MATCH.” Austin is rightfully like, “motherfucker, I just said I was going to do it,” and Stone Coldly Stunners him for being a bad listener.
Big ups to Sarge’s underrated Stunner sell, which looks like Ralph Wiggum getting thrown through a window.
D-X x Mike Tyson shows up at the top of The War Zone to say DICKS! PENISES! VAGINAS AND DICKS! and to randomly call a woman in the front row a skank, but also compliment her for “writing D-X on her BREASTS.” You’ll never be more uncomfortable than hearing Shawn Michaels say the word “breasts.” He says it like it’s the most hateful slur in the world, probably because somebody stopped him before he went out and told him he couldn’t stay titties or hooters or whatever. Even Al Bundy had to spend the ’90s calling them “big’uns.”
This all builds to the night’s main event, which despite being THE ROCK vs. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN is mostly just guys standing still and slowly punching each other until TV time runs out to make sure nobody gets hurt before WrestleMania. Rock also hasn’t developed his beautiful exaggerated Stunner sell yet, so he just kinda throws his arms out and his head back and falls over. It’s good, but like watching Shawn Michaels throw Sweet Chin Music before figuring out he should “tune up the band” first. The highlight is Business Aggressive Michaels throwing up a middle finger, which is the visual equivalent of him saying “breasts.”
It’s ’98, it’s time for Wrestle-MAINya! ♫ doo doo doo DOO, doo dooooo ♫
- The Austin Era beginning
- a tag team battle royal where 15 tag teams are overshadowed by one bra
- Sable stealing the show, somehow
- The Undertaker battling Kane in a match that will never happen again, except for the 700 other times they do it
- illegal dumpster use in a dumpster match
- The Rock putting the final piece of the puzzle together and becoming THE ROCK
- Mike Tyson definitely not turning on D-Generation X