Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Mr. McMahon put Ken Shamrock, The Rock, and Mankind into a triple threat match for a shot at the WWF Championship to keep them from helping Stone Cold Steve Austin avoid a beatdown. Then he sent out Kane and Undertaker to beat them all up anyway, because he’s just the worst.
If you haven’t seen this pay-per-view, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes of classic Raw 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.
Hey, you! If you want us to keep doing retro reports, share them around! And be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of these shows. Head back to a time long forgotten when WWE TV was fun to watch, and things happened!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Breakdown: In Your House, because “in your house” is the worst place your car could break down.
Up First: Sunday Night Heat
The major story of the Sunday Night Heat “pre-show” for Breakdown is that the only thing they’d really booked for Breakdown was the championship match, so they’ve got to scramble to fill out the card and explain why everything’s happening. This is kinda crazy if you think about it, especially if you consider what the social media response would be if WWE went into, say, Clash of Champions with one match announced and didn’t book the rest of the card until the middle of the Kickoff.
Anyway, Shane McMahon’s “Pops” opens the show with a couple of announcements:
- If anyone interferes in the triple threat match for the WWF Championship, the match will be stopped immediately and Stone Cold will be stripped of the WWF Championship — one of those “why don’t you just send someone out there to interfere if you want Austin to not be the champion so badly” bits explained by Austin’s star power bringing in fans, McMahon’s need to put on a show to keep those fans paying, and McMahon’s perverse need to see Austin punished as much as possible en route to the greater goal
- As an apology for what happened at the end of Raw, Rock, Shamrock, and Mankind will get another triple threat match for a shot at the WWF Championship, this time for real, inside a steel cage
As a side hustle, McMahon convinces Mark Henry — now presumably matchless because his proposed opponent, Triple H, was found “injured” backstage under mysterious, definitely not Mark Henry-related circumstances — to take a replacement match against “a champion” inside a cage. Henry’s reluctant to agree to a fight in a cage — a nice way to keep cage matches seeming dangerous and threatening — but agrees when he finds out he’s going to be in there against WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. McMahon explains that it’ll be a non-title match, but beating the champion is a great way to get into the championship scene. This line may have created the past 10 years of WWE booking.
Also, check out evil-ass Vince McMahon having organized a 2-on-1 main event pitting the guy he hates against two 7-foot tall murder demons, organized a triple threat between the top contenders to make sure nobody helps Austin, announced a full-on INTERFERE AND EVERYTHING WILL SUCK FOR THE PERSON YOU TRIED TO HELP stipulation, and still being so intimidated by Austin’s unstoppable energy that he’s trying to get him into a cage match against the strongest person in the world on the pre-show, “just to make sure.”
When it’s time for Henry’s match, he’s unable to go because of the above GIF. He won’t stop saying Chyna is his girlfriend, so she hits him with a pipe and puts his face in her butt. One of culture’s greatest tragedies is that Sigmund Freud didn’t live long enough to start writing wrestling columns.
Meanwhile, in the ring, Mr. McMahon is inspecting the structural integrity of the steel cage. I imagine he’d describe it as, “unforgiving.” What he doesn’t realize is that the production team member in the ring with him has just locked them both inside, with the intent to (1) stomp mudholes, and (2) walk them dry.
If you ever wondered what Stone Cold Steve Austin would look like with Final Fantasy hair, there you go. Austin shit-kicks McMahon until The Undertaker and Kane try to make the save, and then bounces. It was probably a great idea to book a hot, hour-long angle like this to put over your champion if you’re going into a pay-per-view where the only previously announced thing is, “the cool champion you like is definitely getting his ass beat.”
Best: Can’t Hardy Wait
The actual most important moment from this episode of Heat is the Sunday Night Heat debut of The Hardy Boyz, back when they still looked like they were wrestling in their pajamas. Jim Cornette does everything he possibly can to put them over on commentary, which is hard, given that Shane McMahon won’t stop screaming BOOM, OH YEAH, HA HA, BANG, POW over him. It’d be like if Gordon Solie did play-by-play while Lenny from Of Mice And Men phoned in color from a roller coaster.
The Boy(z) end up getting their first WWF win over the two least threatening members of Kai En Tai, and Jeff Hardy lets the WWE Universe know what he’s all about with a running, assisted front flip over the top rope onto nobody:
This is really good. I hope it doesn’t set a dangerous precedent where Jeff continues to do more and more dangerous stunts for decades until he’s dependent on pain killers to exist and his body completely falls apart!
Also On This Episode
Golga figuratively and literally squashes Headbanger Mosh to get revenge for the heinous murder of his best friend, Eric Cartman. Every Oddities match on WWE Network is a reminder that Insane Clown Posse deserve whatever they were promised for making the Oddities a memorable and even briefly popular thing on the strength of one ICP song.
Mr. McMahon punishes Billy Gunn (and us) for helping Stone Cold on Monday by putting him in a handicap match against the Harris Twins. If X-Pac or the Road Dogg interfere, they lose their suddenly announced match on the pay-per-view and a chance to get revenge on Jeff Jarrett. So they just leave Bill Ass out here to take a Racially Charged beatdown. Important note from the announce team: Billy Gunn is, probably, the best pure athlete on the WWF roster. In WWE commentary terms, “best pure athlete” either means (1) a guy who looks great and can move around well, but never really impresses anybody with his wrestling, or (2) a black wrestler they haven’t put any effort into developing.
Finally, we get footage of Steve Austin having a street named after him in Canada. They really should’ve done a followup where Vince McMahon makes them tear down the sign and rename the street, “The Easy Way, Or The Hard Way.”
And now …
Best: At Last, You’re (Not) On Your Own
Breakdown proper opens with a pretty good but ultimately pretty forgettable match between Owen Hart and Edge (because they’re both Canadian, the show is in Canada, and no other reason), featuring one major development: the WWE debut of Christian, seen here looking like Edge came back from a few years in the future to haunt his younger self. Christian just shows up at the end of the match to distract Edge for a roll-up loss and bails, but the stage is set for the expansion of the WWF vampire cinematic universe. Gangrel gets a match on this show against D’Lo Brown that feels three times longer than it is, confirming that Gangrel only works well in small doses, and that he’s gonna need some workhorse Canadian tag guys as his familiars if he wants to keep the gimmick relevant.
This seems like as good a time as any to mention that while he never got constantly showered with praise like Edge, Christian had one of the most underrated wrestling careers ever. In addition to being a 9-time Tag Team Champion and one of the (winning) fathers of the TLC match, Christian was a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, a two-time (WWE) ECW Champion, and a two-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Not to mention he had four runs with the IC title, and held the European, Hardcore, and Light Heavyweight belts. Why have his only WWE Hall of Fame appearances been to induct other people?
Worst: Holy Shit Can We Just Skim This Mid-Card
If you’re planning to watch this show, I recommend watching the opener for the historical significance, fast-forwarding to the triple threat cage match, and then shutting it off. Breakdown 100% has the vibe of a show where they only needed to accomplish a couple of things and didn’t put any effort into making the bulk of it worth watching. Total filler show.
You can see it in the performers, as well. Take Scorpio, for example. Scorp is a veteran who almost always delivers, but he’s getting another in a series of revolving door tag team partners (Al Snow) and ends up the fifth most important guy in a tag team match involving Too Much and a mannequin head. He wrestles the entire match like he just woke up from a nap, or like someone made a Canadian dispensary run and he didn’t find out he was booked to wrestle until he was already smoking. You can see him screw up a Sabu chair spot pretty egregiously up there, but he’s missing even basic transitional stuff. At one point Too Much tries to backdrop him and he takes it by spinning around horizontally and landing on his stomach. It’s weird.
By the end, the match has completely fallen apart and even the referee doesn’t know who’s supposed to be legal, so he just stops ignoring disqualifiable mannequin punches to the face and coutns whatever pin he sees to get them out of there. Brutal.
Speaking of people who look like they’ve stepped into a wrestling ring for the first time, Droz (in full “deer in the headlights” mode) loses to Marc Mero via WCW’s deadliest attack: the women’s shoe. Jacqueline delivers a flying heel to the dome to give her Boyfriend From The Neighborhood the win in a match that could’ve convincingly been won by walking up to Droz, shoving him down, and lying on top of him. You know you aren’t going anywhere as a performer when you hit a couple of moves and visibly, obviously realize you don’t know where to go with it because you don’t know any more moves. At least we know who made the dispensary run.
Slightly better from a “watching guys hit each other for real” perspective is Bradshaw, currently extremely close to looking and sounding like his JBL persona with the short hair and clean shave, in an “anything goes” match against Vader. During a pre-match promo, Bradshaw drops the line, “It’s survival of the fittest, not survival of the fattest,” which sets the tone. Like a lot of Vader’s stuff from 97-98, it’s built around how much fatter and worse he is than he ought to be, complete with fans yelling at him to “use his fat ass” as a weapon and then bursting into audible laughter. Also, that Ken Shamrock tradition of making Vader the opponent so you can punch somebody as hard as you want. The more you think about it, the more you realize Vader was getting bullied like a motherfucker in the World Wrestling Federation.
It’s pretty fun to watch big guys stiff each other — I said what I said — but it also comes at the cost of in-ring communication. For example, Vader gets his bell rung so badly by the Clothesline from Hell that he kicks out, which causes Bradshaw to go into full Randy Orton “STUPID! STUPID!” mode. He hits another one, and then does a weird William Regal-style neckbreaker to win the match, presumably so he could put his mouth to Vader’s ear and say THE MATCH IS OVER NOW before hitting it. Strange.
For another example of how even the good wrestlers on the show don’t really know what they’re supposed to do, Jeff Jarrett and Southern Justice vs. X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws (featuring a pre-beaten-up Billy Gunn) culimates in Jarrett hitting X-Pac with a guitar on the floor. While this is happening, his partners just kind of ignore it, and Gunn pins Dennis Knight with the Fame-asser. Like, were they doing two opposing finishes at the same time? Did they just want Jarrett to look tough while his partners shit the bed like they always do? Like I said, this show is very filler, to the point some matches just drift apart until they end. Weird.
Even the production team doesn’t know what they’re supposed to be doing here. The worst example of that is the opening to Val Venis vs. Dustin Runnels, where Val’s supposed to introduce Terri in her AVN Awards porno gown, and she’s supposed to cut a promo about it. Only the microphone’s not on and they don’t know how to make it work, so they keep pretend-humping each other in the aisle and fondling the mic like a dick while obviously looking for a switch of some kind. The announce team calls attention to it, and eventually they just give up completely. It’s maybe the weirdest thing on the entire show if you know what to look for.
The referees don’t know what they’re doing, either. Dustin hits a bulldog on Val and Val’s supposed to kick out (I guess?) but doesn’t, so the ref just stops counting and calls it two. Val powers up for no reason, hits a powerslam, and finishes with the Money Shot. So … what happened, exactly? This entire show feels like an improv scene the people on the side refuse to edit.
BEST: Rock Star
If there’s one legitimate reason to seek out and watch this show, it’s the triple threat, number one contender cage match between Ken Shamrock, The Rock, and Mankind. It’s MINDBLOWING. Not because of the wrestling, necessarily, which is good … but because of the absolute, star-making crowd response Hamilton gives The Rock. They want The Rock to be the guy so. badly. It’s honestly right behond Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania on the list of times a crowd went batshit electric for a Rock match and elevated it from corny to classic.
Rock had been getting good crowd responses recently, but so had Mankind and Shamrock. Here, the crowd is relatively indifferent toward Mankind, they hate the shit out of Ken Shamrock and want him to die, and treat The Rock like he’s Superman and just saved them from a plane crash. Seriously, everything Rock does gets thunderous approval, and any time Mankind or Shamrock try to get in offense on him they’re treated like the devil. To their credit, the wrestlers pick up on this early and start playing their parts, with Mankind shifting from match hero to a sort of tweener daredevil who doesn’t mind throwing himself into the ground from the top of the cage. You know, what he’d been doing. Shamrock gets madder and madder as the match goes on, and “gets in the zone” when it’s over, walking around the ring smashing the cage and anyone around it with a chair. He even threatens the announce team at one point, because RAGE. Rock handles his sudden rise to Stone Cold Steve Austin-levels of over gracefully, as you’d expect, and gives Canada a religious experience with a double People’s Elbow.
Mankind seems to have the match won with a chair shot on Shamrock, but foolishly tries to climb the cage to escape. The Rock, being an opportunist and a ring general (and not completely stupid) crawls over and pins Shamrock before Mankind can drop to the floor to win the match. WWF listening to the crowd response and putting Rock over here is one of the smartest things they ever did, and they officially pull the trigger on him the next night on Raw to keep it going. This all builds to Survivor Series and the Deadly Game tournament, and if you were a fan in the 90s, you 100% remember what happened there. If you don’t, oh man, I can’t wait until we get there. Imagine a beautiful world where WWE spends an entire year building up multi-pronged stories and pays them off in one glorious, furious night.
And Speaking Of The Champion
The main event is nothing to write home about, especially after the cage match, but Austin does his best to keep a 2-on-1 match against two big, slow, identical guys interesting. He gets caught with a double chokeslam, though, and gets pinned … by both men, at the same time. They seem to think this is a great idea. As it turns out, the referee doesn’t know who won — a play they’re still doing to this day, with referees making rules-based decisions while not having any idea what the rules-based conclusions are — and the show ends with Vince McMahon stealing the title and running away. Vince’s plan to leverage the stupidity of his employees is a wild success!
Vince opens the next night’s Raw in the ring with the championship on his shoulder, and the stage for Deadly Game is set. Plus, within a few weeks he’ll have a gun pointed to his head in the middle of the ring, but we’ll get there soon enough.