Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Are Vince McMahon and a newly evil Dude Love in cahoots? Vince says no. Everyone else in the world says, “yes, duh.” Also Triple H’s penis is a Super Soaker, and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler can’t stop flipping out about how they might see a naked woman over the weekend.
If you haven’t seen this event, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes you may have missed at the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War and Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw tag pages. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Unforgiven: In Your House, originally aired on April 26, 1998.
Worst: The Rock Is Terrified To Take A Dominator
Unforgiven: In Your House: The Unforgivening opens with the six-man grudge match pitting the now Rocky Maivia-led Nation of Domination against the Pure Sports Build dream team of Faaarooq, Steve Blackman, and the World’s Most Dangerous Man (but arguably the second most dangerous man on his own team) Ken Shamrock. If you’re wondering, it takes almost ten minutes for Jim Ross to start salivating about how some of these guys used to play college football.
The highlight is definitely the finish, in which Faarooq tries to hit a Dominator on The Rock and Rocky is scared to shit to take it. I tried to express it in a still image, but if you can’t tell what’s going on, that’s Rock almost completely extending his arms downward and doing a handstand so his face and chest don’t come anywhere close to the mat for a move where your face and chest are supposed to hit the mat. It’s a full-on Kane Pedigree bump on the elbows. It’s weak as hell, but hey, maybe he was on to something. He could’ve taken it like Jeff Hardy and ended up in a morgue.
It’s not much of an opener, but it gives Faarooq maybe his biggest win in his WWF career*, pinning The Rock clean to set himself up as the next challenger to Rock’s Intercontinental Championship. He gets that shot at next month’s Over the Edge, and since you don’t remember a glorious IC title run for Ron Simmons, you can probably guess how it ends.
*Faarooq is a three-time Tag Team Champion, sure, but those three reigns only add up to 79 days. To put that into historical perspective, that’s five days less than the one reign from Carlito and Primo.
Crowd Sign Foreshadowing
Maybe they’re onto something. Chyna’s issue of Playboy out-sold Sable’s by 200,000 copies and out-sold Sunny’s be even more, because that one doesn’t exist for some reason, and Wrestle Vixxxens’ issues aren’t something you can buy.
Worst: “What’re You Doing?” “Oh, Just Hanging Around”
The European Championship match between Owen Hart and Triple H involves Chyna suspended above the ring in a shark cage to keep her from interfering. As you probably know if you’ve watched WWE in the past 20 years, “suspended above the ring in a shark cage” is shorthand for, “this is going to be terrible.” See also Enzo Amore getting naked to sneak out of a shark cage, James Ellsworth hanging from a shark cage with visible padding under his jacket, and the like.
Here, it’s an excuse to have Chyna escape the cage and hang upside down from it high above the aisle to draw Owen out and constantly distract him. When that doesn’t work, the Road Dogg appears at the control booth to lower the cage. When that doesn’t work, X-Pac shows up and blasts Owen in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher, which has nothing to do with the cage. All you really need to know is that Triple H has a lifetime 60,000-4 record against Owen Hart and three of those four losses didn’t count.
After the match, Owen pulls a Sheriff Bret and angrily announces that enough is enough and it’s time for a change, dropping in the word “bullshit” to let you know he’s super cereal. This is the beginning of Owen’s much (much) needed heel turn that would lead to him joining the black militant separatist group for some reason, and to give Triple H a whole new way to make fun of him.
Worst: Jim Cornette’s Fighting Style Is Unmatched
This is Jim Cornette getting in the ring to have a big showdown with referee Tim White, because they’re running the old-ass Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. the New-ass Midnight Express for another promotion’s tag titles on a WWF pay-per-view in 1998 and you’ve got to give the crowd something. Cornette looks like he’s two gestures away from summoning the Megazord.
You know a match is important and going well when you start noticing what color the seats in the arena are, because there are so many empty ones in the shot. The finish, because NWA, sees multiple referee distractions giving the heels the win, because your hot new tag team should definitely need a multi-pronged illegal attack to defeat two fifty-year olds with bandanas tied around their legs who look like your trailer park aunt and her dirtbag boyfriend. In this analogy, Ricky is the aunt. I think.
Worst: You’re Definitely (Not) Going To See A Naked Person
Up next we have the First Ever® Evening Gown Match between Sable and Luna Vachon. You know how those two kinda-sorta stole the show at WrestleMania XIV? You … really don’t have to worry about that here. This is what happens when you remove Goldust and Marc Mero from the equation, and replace the wrestling with “aimlessly grabbing at baggy clothes.”
If you’ve seen an evening gown match before, you’ve seen this one. It’s not great. My favorite part is the production team’s melodramatic kung-fu zooms whenever someone loses a piece of clothing.
I guess Sable didn’t get the memo about wearing an evening gown to the evening gown match and thought she was competing in a Shirt and Pants match. But yeah, Sable loses when Mero shows up to distract her in the third of three straight distraction finishes and is “stripped of her dignity.” I’m not sure how Sable being in a bra and underwear is her losing her dignity when they just finished a long story about how Marc Mero was holding her back by not letting her show everyone her bra and underwear, but whatever.
To pay off the whole “you’re 100% going to see a naked woman on our pay-per-view” promise, Sable chases Luna under the ring and comes back out swinging Luna’s bra and panties over her head. So there’s technically a naked person on screen, you just can’t see her because the ring’s on top of her. I guess the Little People’s Court doesn’t have a dress code. Sable gets in the ring and poses, because the Big Book of Bra and Panties Match Psychology was written with one hand.
Worst: The Worst Finish Of The Night, Somehow
The New Age Outlaws are still trying to get decorative blow-up dolls over as part of their gimmick, putting a UNC shirt on one and announcing that coaching legend Dean Smith has come out of retirement to manage them in Greensboro. The WWF was almost as good as WCW at understanding regional college sports fandom.
This match is the worst of the night for three reasons:
- it’s a match involving Billy Gunn, the Road Dogg, and the 1998 post-apocalyptic hockey dad version of the Legion of Doom, who look like they’re about to get a push again, because WWF’s tag division right now is two terrible mid-90s mid-carders dominating everyone who tagged in the south 15 years ago
- it’s one of Sunny’s final WWE pay-per-view appearances ever
- the finish is Road Warrior Hawk German suplexing Road Dogg, not bridging, and having his shoulders counted down for three.
The reason that final one is bad is because … okay, when you do this spot, the idea is that you’ve suplexed someone but your shoulders are down. Before the referee counts three, the guy you’re suplexing gets his shoulder up, but you don’t, meaning he “pinned” you. Except Road Dogg doesn’t get his shoulder up either, and the referee still says the Outlaws are the winners because he was “looking at Road Warrior Hawk.” Terrible. It was a terrible way to have the Road Warriors “lose” without actually losing to begin with, but is now even worse because it’s the one instance in wrestling history of a guy doing a suplex and the referee mentally saying, “I should count down the guy on offense and not pay any attention to the person he just suplexed.”
The L.O.D. beat up the ref and hit him with a Doomsday Device after the match to “get their heat back,” which is a Sisyphean task when you just lost to the guys with the blow-up doll.
Worst Best: Jeff Jarrett’s Pre-Taped Vocals Duet With Sawyer Brown
Aside from the main event, the only thing I’d recommend watching from this entire show is the musical interlude featuring Jeff Jarrett “singing” with country music stars and former Star Search winners (not a joke) Sawyer Brown. It’s maybe the most retroactively funny thing I’ve ever seen. The bald guy in the picture who looks like he should be fronting Finger Eleven is lead singer Mark Miller — not named “Sawyer Brown,” because the band’s got a real Hootie and the Blowfish thing going — and he’s notable for being the only person I’ve ever seen other than Carlton Banks doing the Carlton Banks dance.
Here he is doing it in a bucket hat and a basketball jersey at Farm Aid, which might be the most 1990s thing in history. Miller’s dancing is the gift that keeps on giving, from his attempts at the Fargo Strut to my personal favorite, High Shelf High Shelf Low Shelf Low Shelf. Brother was a second away from busting out the Cabbage Patch with zero irony.
They duet on the band’s biggest hit, ‘Some Girls Do,’ with Jarrett’s vocals sounding like a Tommy Wiseau overdub. It’s amazing, and ends when Steve Blackman randomly shows up to pump kick Jarrett in the chest. More country music videos should end with Steve Blackman barging in and attacking everyone. Imagine the Lethal Weapon kicking the kid from ‘Standing Outside The Fire’, then sprinting away to attack Huey Lewis and Reba McEntire with glow sticks.
Tennesee Lee shows up looking like a member of Dutch’s Boys to hit Blackman with a guitar, and Jarrett puts Blackman in the figure four in the shadow of Sawyer Brown. All Jarrett can say for Lee is, “thank God for you.” [does the Robocop]
Worst: The Cowering Inferno
The signature match of this show is the debuting Inferno Match, which is probably a really cool idea in your head if you have no idea how pro wrestling or human bodies work. It’s the blowoff to a Kane and Undertaker angle that has already involved a man being chokeslammed onto the casket and dead bones of his mother, so how the hell do you top that?
Of course Kane has to lose, because he’s the one who wrestles in long sleeves. Plus, Undertaker proved before WrestleMania that he’s got the blood of the dragon or whatever and is fireproof, walking through Kane’s wall of fire to damn him to the “depths of hail” or whatever. It’s admittedly a cool visual to see the ring surrounded by a rectangle of fire that flares up whenever someone bumps, but that’s about as nice as I can be about it. It’s a Kane vs. Undertaker match where they have to be even slower and more careful and more deliberate to not accidentally immolate themselves.
Oh, and since fire isn’t enough, the fight goes to the outside and Paul Bearer ends up getting Sawyer Brown’s drums smashed on his head. Once again, Sawyer Brown proves they are the deadliest force in the World Wrestling Federation.
Best: Undertaker’s All-Time Best Highlight Reel Moment
I do need to show some love for this moment from the Undertaker, which might be the most visually stunning dive in WWE history and one of his defining action moments as a character. He dumps Kane to the outside and Kane doesn’t get burned, so suddenly everyone’s like, “whoops, Kane is leaving and Undertaker can’t escape the ring because he’s dumb and didn’t think to throw his murderous brother INTO fire instead of over it.” Vader show sup to a shockingly big pop considering he’s WWF Vader ’98, and ear-punches Kane back to ringside. That’s when a nearly 7-foot tall man gets a running start and dives all the way the hell over the top rope and a burnin’ ring of fire onto everyone.
Snark aside, that dive fucking ruled. And as an added bonus, they actually catch him. Take notes, WrestleMania 25.
Best: Stone Cold Steve Austin Proactively Avoids A Screwjob
Finally we have the night’s main event: Stone Cold Steve Austin defending the WWF Championship against the obviously corporately controlled Dude Love. Knowing that McMahon and The Dude are in cahoots (because he’s not a complete moron), Austin wanders out early in the show and drags poor little Mark the Timekeeper into the ring to inform him that yeah, he knows McMahon’s going to show up and tell him to ring the bell and screw him a la Bret Hart, and if Mark goes along with it, Austin’s going to literally punch and kick him until he’s dead.
So of course later in the night when Dude has Austin in an abdominal stretch, Vince starts violently pointing at Mark to ring the damn bell. Mark acts like he doesn’t see him. It’s such a good idea for top babyfaces to watch how their heel rivals routinely cheat and manipulate things, and get proactive about making sure it doesn’t happen. With screwjob plan A negated, Vince goes into panic mode and starts interjecting himself, trying to help Dude win any way he can. Dude gets the Mandible Claw but the referee is down, so Vince slides in and tries to revive the ref with angry corpse-poking. Later when Dude’s down on the outside, Vince physically tries to lift him and get him back in the ring. Austin, once again being proactive, smashes Vince in the goddamn dome with a chair.
With the ref still down, Austin hits the Stunner on The Dude, counts his own pin, and declares himself the winner. This is a hell of a match, and it’s actually kind of a shame that the booking overshadows most of Mick Foley’s performances, because he’s out there taking some of the under-the-radar craziest bumps of his career. Austin tosses him off the Sawyer Brown stage back-first to the concrete, then suplexes him into the corner of the ring steps. That’s INSANE. My entire insides would fall out if someone did that to me and I’d be dead.
McMahon does a stretcher job to sell the chair shot, and between that and the fact that Austin basically pretended he won and bailed, Dude Love’s declared the winner by disqualification. This sets the stage for an even better rematch at Over The Edge, in which a now openly in-cahoots McMahon and Dude Love up the animosity tenfold and do everything they possibly can to get the belt off Austin. You’ve got to wonder why Vince would think someone like Austin was a bad PR representative for the company and thought having the belt on a violent hippie with Dissociative Identity Disorder was better, but I’m not the insane billionaire in charge.
Tomorrow Night On Raw: Road Dogg destroys World Championship Wrestling by hanging out on in a jeep in the parking lot of one of their shows, and less important things.