Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: It’s a Deadly Game that we play as we live our lives; when we say what is on our minds. Play it now before the game is over, and we spend 20 years desperately trying to remember how we played it in the first place.
If you haven’t seen this episode, 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.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for November 16, 1998.
It’s The Lights In The BOX And DRAWN TO FEET, Taking CHALK In My ARMS Is The SOUL OF BEEF!
Before we begin, I want to mention that this episode is the debut of classic intro that ran from late 1998 until the fall of 2001. They updated the graphics, limited the “burning-down warehouse” motif to the opening seconds, and added some incomprehensible lyrics before the Slam Jam ‘Thorn In Your Eye’ chorus. Please refrain from telling me what the “correct” lyrics you googled are, nobody knows. Nobody will EVER KNOW. The ones you’re gonnafind on lyrics sites aren’t any more coherent than “the soul of beef.”
Best: Deadly Post-Game
The season finale of 1998 and arguably the greatest single night of WWE storytelling ever performed is in the books, so where do we go from here? If you’re Vincent Kennedy McMahon, it’s directly into an elaborate speech about how you are a Machiavellian genius who swerved all the “damned fools” in the middle class by successfully booking a championship tournament for his own benefit. Which is honestly a really funny character for Vince to have, since he’s literally the guy who in real life books everything in the World Wrestling Federation for his own benefit. It’d be like Stone Cold Steve Austin bragging to everyone about how he tricked them, and he actually likes drinking lobbed beers and driving around all crazy on ATVs.
He brings out the new Corporate Champion, The Rock. The crowd — and especially the POV character for the crowd, Jim Ross — is extremely upset about what happened at Survivor Series, going so far as to bring back the full death wish via posterboard treatment. After a brief explanation of how they orchestrated the various attacks on The Rock and the animosity between Rock and McMahon to ensure the Deadly Game gambit would play out as planned, Rock explains his (latest) heel turn in glorious and totally reasonable fashion:
“You know, Mr. McMahon, all day long The Rock’s phone has been ringing off the hook and the message is clear: Why, Rock? Why did you sell out? Well, actually, The Rock never sold out. The Rock just got ahead. Now, will some of you call The Rock a kiss-ass? Well, I’m sure you will, because quite frankly, you’re all unintelligent pieces of Trailer Park trash! Can you smell it?
“Now, you pieces of trash. You work your candy asses off day after day after day, 9 to 5 for minimum wage. Well, The Rock did what The Rock had to do to get to the top of the world, and that is him standing, smack-dab in the middle of the Corporate Ring, your WWF World Champion! Now, you pieces of trash. You work hard. You do what you have to do, day after day. And quite frankly, you’re all no different from that big piece — the biggest piece of trailer park trash, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well, I tell you what, you and Austin, you can have your morality, you can have your honesty … you can have your blood, sweat, and your tears. I’ll tell you what; all that hard work. 50 cents couldn’t get you a cup of redneck coffee.
“Now, ‘Die. Rocky. Die?’ ‘Rocky Sucks?’ You see, The Rock never, ever forgot that, and he’s going to damn sure make sure you never forget it as well. You see what The Rock plans on doing: he plans on raising the Peoples – I’m sorry. He plans on raising the Corporate Eyebrow. He plans on planting you with the Rock Bottom. And he damn sure plans on laying the Smackdown on your candy ass with the most electrifying move in sports entertainment today — The Corporate Elbow. Now, The Rock said he’d rather be the people’s ass than ever kiss his. But now, The Rock says he would much rather kiss Vince McMahon’s ass than to ever kiss yours.”
This proves to be the genesis of McGillicutty Mr. McMahon’s Kiss My Ass Club, as Vince notes, “I was just wondering, what’s it like to kiss Mr. McMahon’s ass? I’ve often wondered what it’s like.” Shane: “If I may, I kinda like it!” Not super gross at all, guys!
McMahon tries to triumphantly throw it to another video package breaking down 10 Hidden Details You Missed In The Survivor Series 1998 Conspiracy, presented by Watch Mojo, and is upset when it’s actually Stone Cold Steve Austin arriving to the arena and marching directly to the ring to kick the shit out of him about it. Well, professionally, at least.
Per the contract Austin signed with Shane McMahon to rejoin the company (and get put into the Deadly Game tournament just to be injured and humiliated, which turned out to be the entire point), Austin can’t touch Vince McMahon unless provoked … but he’s also guaranteed a title shot the night after Survivor Series. Shane announced that when he brought Austin back in the first place, so he’d like like a Good Dude in the eyes of the fans and not wisen them up to his schemes. Vince tries to explain that that was actually all performative bullshit, but whoops, to make it believable to Austin, Shane had to draw up a fake contract that’s actually admissible in a court of law. How does Austin know? He’s run it through local law offices, as well as getting approval from the best judge he knows: the referee he knows from Celebrity Deathmatch, who is now also a TV judge.
Is that the Arrested Development font?
With the thumbs up from a CELEBRITY JUDGE, Mr. McMahon has no choice but to honor the contract. Nobody has more control over Vince McMahon and WWE than someone who’s mildly famous for something other than wrestling. It’ll be The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship in Raw’s main event, right here tonight. Less giddit awn!
Mankind isn’t taking the whole “being betrayed and humiliated by his surrogate father and a guy he kinda thought was his friend” thing as well as Austin. He arrives to the arena and immediately marches to the boiler room, scream-talking to himself and making those angry Mick Foley noises (you know the ones). Mr. McMahon catches wind of this, decides Mankind’s a serious liability for the night’s championship match, and wisely (?) decides to put his three worst men on it.
Early in the show, McMahon sends Pat Patterson to retrieve Mankind and calm him down. Patterson returns only to tell McMahon he “couldn’t find the boiler room.” McMahon screams, “YOU COULDN’T FIND YOUR ASS!” Gerald Brisco chimes in with, “I know where it is, Mr. McMahon,” and Vince responds, “Of course you do, he’s sitting on it!”
Brisco heads off to attend to the Foley problem himself, but returns to say he found the boiler room, but didn’t go in because there were “weird noises.” Who’d have though the guy who constantly walks around making weird noises would go into the boiler room and make weird noises? Sgt. Slaughter decides to handle the business himself, but also returns empty handed. Vince sends all three of them in to get Foley together, so they find whatever protective gear they can scrounge up at the arena and go for it as a team. As you might expect, Mankind flips out and figuratively murders all three of them.
Note: We’re already knees-deep in that era of Raw where attempted and successfully executed murders are pretty common on Raw, so I’ve got to clarify.
In other “guys who were screwed in the Deadly Game tournament,” Ken Shamrock shows up looking like fucking Batista in his prime and demands a piece of the Boss Man’s ass for screwing up that night stick toss and costing him the tourney. To sweeten the deal and make sure BBM shows up, he’s putting up the Intercontinental Championship.
Later in the show they actually have the match, but it ends quickly when Shamrock and Boss Man simultaneously punch a referee in the face. This turns into a pull-apart brawl, as it does. Vince McMahon interrupts and offers Shamrock a spot in the newly expanding Corporation, presumably so he can actually use him as the World’s Most Dangerous Pawn with purpose instead of simply manipulating his stupidity and naïveté. He baits Shamrock into joining the team with a full on WE’RE NOT SO DIFFERENT, YOU AND I evil villain speech, and says that Kenny’s “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Shamrock quickly joins up in spite of everything, because honestly he’s even duller than most of that drawer’s spoons.
There’s also Kane, who is so confused and betrayed that he just wanders around outside the arena attacking people. He chokeslams a random production guy (pictured) for existing in his general area, and chokes a fan against a wall for asking him for his autograph. No idea why wrestling fans were hanging out in the parking lot looking for autographs in the middle of the show. Maybe they were hoping the nWo Wolfpac were gonna drive up to the building in a Jeep Hummer with a big cannon on the front?
So the stage is set for the main event, with Austin challenging The Rock for the WWF Championship, Mankind and Kane as wild cards who may or may not interfere, and Mr. McMahon at ringside with Shane, the Three Stooges (not those), the Big Boss Man, and Ken Shamrock to protect him. It’s the perfect followup to Deadly Game, honestly, with most of the key players in place, and the two top performers in the tournament (and the company) (and the United States) going head-to-head for the title. It’s really good, too, to the point that even if Austin vs. Rock wasn’t the plan for WrestleMania, everyone left the building that night knowing it was.
There was one player unaccounted for, though: The Undertaker. With Austin trying to take down the Rock and manage the McMahons while Mankind battles with Shamrock and Boss Man at ringside, Undertaker shows up with a blunt object an Undertaker might use — “shovel,” number one answer on the board — and spades Austin in the face. He proceeds to attempt to murder him in the middle of the ring by continuing to smash in Austin’s head, but Paul Bearer oddly stops him from finishing the job. Spoiler alert: he needs the corpse intact for next week.
Worst: Watch For Falling Hawks
Despite everything I just typed, you wanna know what people actually remember this episode for? It’s the one where Road Warrior Hawk climbs up the TitanTron during a Legion of Doom vs. The Brood match and threatens to leap off to his death. Yes, folks, we’ve reached the dramatic suicides portion of our program, brought to you by the JVC Kaboom Box.
As you know if you’ve been following along, Hawk has been dealing with real life drug addiction and alcoholism, so they decided to make his character also deal with drug addiction and alcoholism. The story is that he’s upset about getting old and not being good enough to keep his spot in the Legion of Doom, which is being usurped by Darren ‘Puke’ Drozdov. It’s gotten so bad that he’d rather die in front of everyone than be considered worse than Droz, and here we are. The match completely stops, and Animal and Paul Ellering spend a few minutes trying to “talk him down.” It gets very uncomfortable, including a bit about Hawk being sad about the death of his mother, and builds to Good Dude Droz trying to climb up the Tron and pull Hawk down.
Only, you know, Droz has been secretly trying to keep Hawk off the wagon so he could take his spot in an aging tag team that rarely ever wins anymore, so he ends up “helping” by shoving Hawk off the railing to his death. Raw makes this as horrifying as possible by airing a fake “blank” TitanTron with the shadow of a man killing himself you can follow along with. No, seriously. Remember what I was saying about all those murders?
Yeah, so it turns out everyone really hated this. Fans, the wrestlers actually involved with it, everybody. It’s one of the most rightfully panned and universally disliked things WWE’s ever done on their shows, with good reason. Who knew that watching a guy who’d been struggling with his demons in real life and on TV for several months threaten to commit suicide on live TV and then get shoved to his death about it so a guy could be in a tag team would go over badly?
This is thankfully not the final time the Legion of Doom shows up on WWF TV. They make a “please forget all of that shit” return for a couple of months in 1999 to feud with Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, of all people, and would even pop up in 2003 only five months before Hawk’s actual death to wrestle Rob Van Dam and Kane. But this is ostensibly the “end” of the Road Warriors as a legendary tag team, with 15 years of glorious pro wrestling bad-assery reduced to a petty, public shaming. Total bullshit forever.
And Now, Sable
One of the funniest slash worst things about the entire segment is that they perform a man being pushed to his death, go to commercial, and come back to his unconscious and presumably lifeless body being loaded into an ambulance. We cut back to a quiet, shaken-up arena, and then LOUD CAT NOISE! HERE COMES THE SULTRY SABLE, EVERYBODY! She’s happy to be the Women’s Champion, but Shane McMahon shows up and tells her she got it by sleeping around. If you ever wonder about WWE’s seeming inability to run two great shows in a row, remember they followed up Survivor Series ’98 with Hawk falling off the TitanTron and Sable getting wanked at for being a woman and doing well.
By the way, here is the line that actually divides the segments, which I will present without comment and wish did not become relevant again as soon as it did.
Jerry Lawler: “Well … one can’t grieve forever, JR! The show must go on!”
Please Adjust Your Streaming Video To “Low Quality” For The Remainder Of The Episode
In an … unrelated story, The Blue Blazer teams up with Jeff Jarrett to take on the color coordinated team of Goldust and Steve Blackman. Goldust, Blackman, and Jarrett should form a trio and call themselves “Goldman Sucks.” The highlight, if we’re being honest, is how unbelievably smoking hot Debra McMichael suddenly is. I guess there’s a reason why “puppies” was the most ubiquitously annoying buzzword in WWE history before Stone Cold Steve Austin got “what” over.
Anyway, no, that’s not Owen Hart in the Blue Blazer costume. It’s Tom Prichard under the hood here, wrestling with the cape on so nobody notices the extremely physical differences between Dr. Tom Prichard and genetic pro wrestling machine Owen Hart. Like everything Blazer related right now, it ends with the heels ganging up on Steve Blackman and beating him down. It’s not great, but the tag team division can only be so good with the New Age Outlaws on top.
As for them, they team up with X-Pac to win a six-man tag team match against The Oddities when Shaggy 2 Dope of the Insane Clown Posse “accidentally” drops a top rope elbow drop onto Golga, thinking he’s Billy Gunn. Yes, you read that correctly. I think the idea’s supposed to be that ICP is, you know, insane, and would rather hang out with the cool dick-pointers than the jobber freak show. JR: “Well that made no sense. ICP better stick to singing, or rapping, or performing, and not in any athletic environment.”
After the match, the Headbangers attack the Road Dogg and let everyone know the terrible wrestling will continue until morale improves.
Val Venis vs. Mark Henry in a battle of the sexual juggernauts opens with your mom happily dancing about letting Val hit it “bareback” — like the Kentucky Derby, because they’re in Kentucky … like horse racing, get it, do you get the joke — and ends with the return of Chyna, officially back from suspension and cosmetic jaw surgery. Henry is happy to drop his lawsuit against her if she’ll just go on a date with him, because sometimes even Sexual Chocolate approaches a situation like a total incel, and reads her a poem so bad it’ll have you wishing for more jokes about the Canadian porn star’s horse dick.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of the most unnecessarily homophobic segments in Raw history. It’s supposed to be the Godfather vs. Real Man’s Man Steven Regal, but Godfather shows up and offers Regal a night with three of his finest hoes. According to him, Lexington, KY, has, “some of the best hoes ever born.” When I saw this I was like, “William Regal getting offered a bunch of comedy prostitutes and walking back up the ramp with them doing that funny wacky-face shuffle dance he does? I’M SO READY.” If they’d just done that and let it be, it would’ve been great. Instead … well … uhhh ….
It starts off oddly enough, as Regal gets offered the hoes and responds with, “I may be from England but the last time I checked, my name is Steven Regal, not Elton John, so I’ll take the broads.” You’re like, “eesh, an Elton John joke? Okay, it’s 1998, let’s move on.” But then as Regal’s leaving, Godfather gets on the microphone and rescinds the offer with, “You know what, man, I really didn’t think you were gonna take the hoes, so to quote what a good friend of mine Archie Bunker says, England ain’t nothin’ but a place full of fags!” Ass, hell, and bitch are all turned into “–” by WWE Network, but this is left totally intact.
Here’s the All in the Family scene The Godfather’s quoting, by the way. I’m gonna go ahead and say the creators and performers on All in the Family had a different context and intent with this material in 1971 than Vince McMahon’s dick-pointing and cat-fights wrestling show from 1998, and suggest you never under any circumstances read the comments from modern America on Archie Bunker clips from 40 years ago. You’re gonna have a bad time.
It’s a balmy night for Raw as Shawn Michaels makes another in an endless string of surprise returns, a shocking new WWF Light Heavyweight Champion is crowned, and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s slowed down aging is explained via the art and science of preserving human or animal remains by treating them to forestall decomposition! All this and more, next week, my Undertaker!