Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: We dubbed thee Unforgiven as the Undertaker defeated Kane in the first-ever™ Inferno Match, Luna Vachon defeated Sable Mero-Lesnar in the first-ever™ Evening Gown Match, and Jeff Jarrett sang with Sawyer Brawn in the first-ever™ ’90s country music wrestling segment to also involve The Carlton. Get in here and sue Sawyer Brown, Alfonso!
If you haven’t seen this episode, 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 Raw Is War for April 27, 1998.
Worst: In The Army Now
Let’s put this week’s episode into perspective.
On the 27th of April, 1998, Raw was up against a one-hour episode of Nitro that’d been pre-empted by the NBA Playoffs on TNT, because TNT was an actual television network with programming for adults and not just Calliope and dog shows. Keep in mind this is long before USA’s “character welcome” initiative, when they discovered a goose that lays 52 new episodes of Suits per year.
Over the past few months, WCW had really been shooting itself in the foot. They’d ruined the Sting angle at a disaster of a Starrcade and completely squandered the acquisition of Bret Hart, while Raw had seen their ratings surge thanks to great, creative work Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. With WCW stumbling and Raw finally moving ahead of them socially and creatively, the World Wrestling Federation did what it has always done best: do some meaningless bullshit, say it’s “making history,” then insist that it’s true for 20 years until everyone believes them.
Yes, folks, welcome to the “turning point in the Monday Night Wars,” the D-Generation X invasion of WCW Monday Nitro(‘s parking lot) (before the show started).
If you’ve never seen these bits before, they’re one part dick jokes, two parts getting wrestling fans to say what you want them to say because there’s a camera pointed at them, and three parts me noticing how D-X had to have a random guy drive the jeep for them. It loses a bit of that anarchic “rule-breaker” feel when you’ve got a production assistant in a helmet with a decal on the front escorting you around on a glorified golf cart.
I think my favorite thing about D-X getting WCW fans to say “WCW sucks” and celebrating it is that WCW themselves had been working for YEARS to get fans to say WCW sucks. That’s something people always forget to mention about the D-X invasion. WCW was in the middle of dividing all of their top stars into nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac, and the most popular guys on the show had been doing a live-mic survey making sure everyone was there to see the nWo but not WCW. So OF COURSE at least 60% of the randos who’d show up to Nitro early enough to get caught in this bit are gonna yell WOO WCW SUCKS.
I’ve written this before, and I’m certainly not the first person to express this opinion, but the greatest missed opportunity of the entire thing is that the security guys at The Scope in Norfolk, Virginia (who are not WCW, or “Eric Bischoff”) closed the loading bay doors on D-X (because a random car was trying to drive into the back of their arena) and didn’t let them in. If Nitro had started with footage of Meng, Scott Norton, Ernest Miller, and whoever else just beating the ever-loving shit out of the New Age Outlaws for real, it would’ve won the entire Monday Night Wars in a night. Imagine the first image of Nitro being a bloodied Triple H tied to a chair in the middle of the ring while the entire nWo stands around throwing garbage at him and making fun of him for his camo pants.
Instead, the WWF sent some guys to the parking lot before anyone important was there, had them leave before anyone important noticed, and then aired footage that made driving around outside of a wrestling show yelling “wrestling sucks” seem like a cool threat. WCW would respond with the equally geeky idea of having Bischoff challenge Vince McMahon to show up to Slamboree to fight him, so don’t think I suddenly think they’re master strategists, either.
Best: The Black Heart, Get It
Actual Raw opens with Owen Hart teaming with The World’s Most Internal Bleeding Ken Shamrock against The Nation of Domination. Shamrock desperately wants to get back into the ring with The Rock, who only retained the Intercontinental Championship via technicality at WrestleMania, so Owen tags him in, high fives him … then immediately kicks him in the dickhole.
That leads to a SEVERE beatdown of Shamrock (and eventually Steve Blackman, who tries to make the save) by the Nation and Owen. Owen Pillmanizes Shamrock’s ankle twice and even tries to “bite off his ear,” Mike Tyson-style. Mmm, cauliflower! This is corny, especially since Tyson was just there, but is saved by Jim Ross’ amazing melodramatic call, “OWEN HART IS RIPPING AT THE FLESH OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING!” Later he calls it “so vile” and “so heinous,” and Michael Cole makes a mental note to say that about anything that happens over the next two decades.
Owen joining the Nation is explained through his new nickname, the “Black Heart,” because get it. 20 years later I still think it’s weird that they wanted to do a joke about a white guy joining the Nation of Domination and didn’t turn Steve Blackman.
Best: The Rock Comes Up With Another Catchphrase, Though
Before any of this goes down, The Rock grabs the microphone and drops the first of a million finalies: “Finally, the People’s Champ has come to Hampton.” The announce team brushes it off — “well, thanks a lot for that stirring remark” “great, Rock” — and I love that he has come there instead of come back, because it’s the first time he’s saying it. Rock’s out there trying new shit every week to see what works, which is great, because eventually he finds out that ALL OF IT works, and he does it all at once.
Best/Worst: “Middle Aged And Crazy!”
Here’s something out of a modern Raw: two teams who haven’t been in contention for the Tag Team Championship or even on any kind of a winning streak have a #1 contender match for the Tag Team Championship, which goes to a no contest because both teams just brawl on the outside and get counted out. Cool, cool.
One quick note, though: It’s fun to go back and watch these Raws from 1998 where they celebrated 53-year old Terry Funk as “middle-aged and crazy,” when he was the same age as two of the guys in last month’s Crown Jewel main event.
Worst: The Yamaguchi-San Era Has Begun
The latest attack from Club Kamikaze saves us from a Jeff Jarrett vs. Bradshaw match — thanks, guys, seriously — but there’s a new fourth member in a ninja mask that nobody can identify! Even when he gets knocked down and his hood accidentally falls off!
If you know your Kai En Tai history, you know that this is Yusuke Yamaguchi, aka “Wally Yamaguchi,” aka YAMAGUCHI-SAN, the focal point of one of the most hilarious and awful penis-centric angles in WWE history. I’m not sure why the WWF looked at WCW’s roster and thought they needed their own Sonny Onoo, but here you go. All you really need to know right now is that he’s married to a really beautiful young woman who loves BIG AMERICAN PENIS, so hopefully nobody meeting that description is coming soon.
Nothing to see here.
Worst: I Prefer The Two Ns In Sunny
I’m also a fan of that particular Philippine romance drama and you’re right, Margarette De Dios-Sandoval was a real B.
Also on this episode, Marc Mero tells his hot wife that everyone loves that she embarrassed him by being hot and having everyone love her at Unforgiven. She challenges him to a match in two weeks on Raw, and he accepts. They’re already making the mistake of letting Sable have too much promo time (since she delivers all her lines like she’s Sindel in Mortal Kombat Annihilation) and removing Goldust and Luna from the equation, because in 1998 those two could get heat out of a block of ice. WCW stopped being able to do that in 1995.
Worst: Bury Windham
The Undertaker squashes Barry Windham in less than a minute, and I finally get to make that joke.
Best: Rigor Maury-tis
There is one major storyline development for our favorite zombie mortician wizard this week: Paul Bearer shows up with Kane and asks for a truce, because he saw Kane in so much pain after the Inferno Match and doesn’t want to see it again. Because Kane is, get ready for it, folks: his son. Jerry Lawler’s first response is to cackle about the Undertaker’s mom having sex with Paw Bear, giving the angle the emotional gravitas it needs.
I take a jokey tone with a lot of what happens on Raw, because come on, but I don’t want to get through this without giving love to Paul Bearer. Nobody in the history of professional wrestling was as full-on dedicated to the impassioned delivery of the most bullshit 8th grade D&D dialogue, and nobody could’ve done a better job. His career was basically a 30-year version of Raul Julia as M. Bison in Street Fighter.
Worst: D-X’s Otherwise Non-Historic™ Night
Somewhere in the middle of the show, the New Age Outlaws drive mopeds to the ring and then lose a match to the Disciples of Apocalypse via Twin Magic, as developed by Nazi scientists.
Later in the night, an irate Triple H, his script run dry of opportunities to compare things to his dick, issues an open challenge, promising that nobody “ruins his buzz.” The answer: Dan the Goddamn Beast Severn, in a moment that could’ve made him a huge star if he’d just kept on his suit and tossed Triple H to death. Instead, Severn’s own manager, Jim Cornette, is so against Severn wrestling a wrestling match on the wrestling show that he slaps him. That turns the segment into “Severn turns face and chokes Cornette out,” instead of “Severn turns face by beating up someone important on an important episode in that person’s career.” It’s a shame that Mayor Mike Haggar never got to be a top star in the WWF, but it is what it is. At least Cody is doing okay.
Best: The Saga Of Mr. Mac Man, Or, “The Dude Just Wants To Be Held”
Following the events of Unforgiven, we get a forlorn Dude Love on an episode of The Love Shack telling the sad story of how he couldn’t even have sex with two beautiful Laugh-In extras after the pay-per-view because he was so depressed and disappointed. It’s a great plot progression promo from Foley as usual, but the highlight is the production team catching one of the camera men staring at one of the Dudettes’ asses and making him do his job.
Secondary highlight is the Dudettes’ dead-eyed stares and smiles at the camera because they have no idea what this show is or when it’s going to end.
The Dude’s suggestions for resolving the controversy at Unforgiven:
- stripping Austin of the title and running a tournament to crown a new champion
- stripping Austin of the title and doing Dude Love vs. Shawn Michaels
- stripping Austin of the title and just giving it to The Dude for his troubles
Unfortunately for The Dude, Vince is going with none of those; he’s signed Stone Cold Steve Austin to defend the WWF Championship in this very ring against Goldust, of all people, with Gerald Brisco as the guest referee. Brisco, seen here in a suit not suitable for broadcast television, says he is going to be impartial, and “Mr. Mac Man” (Brisco’s words) will strip Austin of the title and fire him from WWF outright if he touches him. McMahon notes that literally ANYBODY would be a better representative of the company as champion, even (apparently) a guy who was rolling around with aluminum tits in a ball gag and leash a few weeks ago.
This pisses off Foley, who finds Vince backstage and outs him on-camera as the brains behind all the screwjobbery at Unforgivin, saying this “wasn’t the plan” and openly wondering if he’s going to “get screwed too.” Yes, yes you are! Vince goes full-blown Mr. McMahon here, yelling about how he “owns those cameras” and how you’d better stop filming this backstage wrestling segment RIGHT NOW. Super good, and a great confirmation for anyone too slow to realize the obvious that Vince McMahon is full of shit and trying to run Austin out of town like he did Bret Hart.
The match itself (which is a hell of a lot of fun, by the way, especially back in the day when they didn’t do matches like this three times every week) sets a glorious stage for Over The Edge’s main event and establishes a great “face overcoming the odds” thing that WWE unfortunately ran all the way the hell into the ground: the completely unfair scenario that everyone knows is bullshit.
Brisco’s the referee, and if Austin touches him at all for any reason, he’s stripped of the championship and fired. So of course Brisco is doing big slow counts for Austin, and quick counts (eventually, when he remembers what he’s doing) for Goldust. Vince himself shows up and replaces Mark the Timekeeper, who’d previously been bullied into compliance by Austin at Unforgiven. When Austin hits the Stunner and finally has the match won, Brisco can’t count three because there’s “something in his eye.” This reads as par for the course these days, but I can’t stress enough how badly this made the crowd want Austin to kick the shit out of everything that moved.
The best part is that Austin can’t overcome the odds here. The only reason he lives to fight another day is because Vince has done Bad Business with Dude Love, so Dude shows up and starts attacking Austin to prove a point. Brisco doesn’t know what to do, so he tries to put himself between them and get hit. Vince ALSO doesn’t know what to do, so he tries to hit Austin in the back of the head with the championship, but accidentally bloodies his own stooge ref. The match ends via referee death, and an increasingly (openly) irate Mr. McMahon will have to come up with a better plan than entrusting his match to a schizophrenic hippie, a sexually threatening Oscar statue, and a hillbilly mechanic.
Classic stuff here, and it’d be even better if they’d just let it be classic instead of trying to do it with increasingly worse talent for several decades.
Vince McMahon, realizing that Azor Ahai can only forge the legendary sword Lightbringer by plunging it deep into the heart of his beloved Nissa Nissa, makes Mick Foley beat up Terry Funk in a number one contender match. Also on the show, Jerry Lawler has a heart-to-heart with Paw Bear about having sex with the Undertaker’s mom, and Sunny’s here for like a few seconds!