The Best And Worst Of WWF Raw Is War 11/2/98: Hardcore Times

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: A crew showed up in motley to advertise their upcoming greatest hits album, Shane McMahon revealed himself as the man who brought back Stone Cold Steve Austin, and basically none of the matches had finishes. Matches? Where we’re going, we won’t need matches.

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 2, 1998.

Best: It’s A Deadly Game, That We Play As We Live Our Lives

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It’s November, which means we’re in the hard sell for the upcoming Survivor Series: Deadly Game, a 16-man tournament to crown a new WWF Champion after months and months of promises and misfires. Notable aspects of the tournament as announced are first round byes for Kane and The Undertaker, as they pinned the champion at the same time and deserve some kind of +1 for their efforts; Triple H, who has a first round match despite being extremely injured; and, as announced in this week’s opening segment, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon’s personal enforcer and delineator of Hard Times, the Big Boss Man. At least he didn’t dress this one up in yellow polka dots.

Raw opens with Shane McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin trying to explain last week’s plot developments but get completely overshadowed by Vince McMahon, who is in MASTERFUL form. Seriously, if you want to see Vince the character at its zenith, watch the opening segment from this Raw. The entire thing’s a riot, featuring lines like:

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“Austin, you’d like if I retired, wouldn’t you, you’d really like that, you’d like it if I retired. And Shane, Shane, you’d really like it if I stepped down so you could take over, right? And all of you, you would all like it if Vince McMahon sort of faded away, sort of disappeared, some of you would even like it if I died. Well let me say this, that’s the only way that I’m EVER gonna step down as Chairman of this organization is the DAY I DIE. And when I die, I don’t want a damned one of you to come to my funeral — no family, no friends, no WWF Superstars — when I die, I wanna go STRAIGHT TO HELL.”

It’s a shoot, brother. He also buries Shane six feet underground emotionally and professionally by coming right out and saying he doesn’t love him because he’s too much like Linda McMahon, and not enough like Vince.

“You know something, Shane? I couldn’t believe it. You scarred me. You hurt me emotionally last week. And you know how you did it? You hurt me the most when you said, ‘You know what, Dad? I guess I’m a lot like you after all.’ I’ve been thinking about that, and you know what, Shane McMahon, you’re not a lot like me at all, you know? But I’ll tell you this: you are a lot like YOUR MOTHER.”

Yeah, I know they’re all working together here, but damn, tell us how you really feel, Vince. McMahon demotes his son to the lowly rank of referee — Stone Cold Steve Austin is standing right there like, “this is fine,” and not wondering why Vince might be making his son a referee a few weeks before a big tournament for the WWF Championship — and ends the promo with an all-time Vince line.

“I’ve only got one other thing to say, and that’s to this audience. I heard that chant, and I’ve been hearing it a lot. Just for the record, I’m not the one who’s an asshole … it’s all of YOU. I thank you very much.”

“I’d like to make it public record that you’re all a bunch of assholes. Pardon my leave, your grace.”

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Throughout the show, an even saltier than usual Mr. McMahon is wheeled around backstage and yells at random people about random things, including a great moment where he confronts Shaquille O’Neal, of all people, for hanging out backstage without a pass. Shaq tries to argue that he doesn’t need a backstage pass because he’s Shaq, because he was a multi-millionaire at 20 at hasn’t ever had to ask for anything. Dude was once like, “I should also be a rapper,” so he got four studio rap albums. He was like, “I should be a movie star,” so they made him a sassy genie. Brother was all, “what if we make Street Fighter, but about Shaq,” and Electronic Arts put their worst people to work on it. In 1998 Shaq could’ve just said, “I should be the head of a major religion,” and India would suddenly be overtaken with Shakism. IF YOU WANNA HANG AROUND WITH MARK HENRY AND SCOTTY 2 HOTTY GET A BACKSTAGE PASS LIKE THE REST OF US, SHAQUILLE*.

*This paragraph is exaggerated for effect and I do not want to fight Shaquille O’Neal over his right to ask Bob Holly where he got that sweet fannypack. Live your best life, Shaq.

He’s Hardcore, He’ll Take ‘Em Both

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The most important development of Mr. McMahon’s backstage escapades is his desire to humiliate The Rock for suddenly getting popular without his permission, and needing to keep Rock’s friends out of his way.

Earlier in the night, The Rock’s most notable friend, Mankind, prepares to team up with Al Snow for another underwhelming tag team match. Nothing zaps Mick Foley’s strength as a performer faster than his proximity to Al Snow, but we do get a classic, forgotten moment where Mick says they’ll do better this week because, and I quote, “just last night, Al, some of pro wrestling’s greatest secrets were revealed to me … stomp the foot.” They end up losing to The Oddities when Mankind can’t find Mr. Socko, has a panic attack, and disappears to the back. The important thing to note here is that we get an in-crowd appearance from rock legends ZZ Top during the match. That’s them above in 1998, looking like every wrestling faction in 2019. I say it’s important because The off-Network Oddities are using ICP as their entrance theme, and that confirms that at least once, ZZ Top has listened to the Insane Clown Posse.

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Anyway, backstage, Mankind still can’t find Mr. Socko, so he seeks out help from Mr. McMahon. McMahon preys on Foley’s innocent vulnerability at the loss of his … uh, literal sock puppet, and makes a deal; he’ll give Mankind a “present” if Mankind promises not to interfere in the Rock vs. Ken Shamrock match later tonight, under any circumstances. Mankind quickly agrees, and is presented with none other than the WWF Hardcore Championship. Somewhere in rural Alabama, a young Crash Holly gets an extra spring in his step, but doesn’t know why. McMahon says he lost a son earlier tonight but might’ve gained one here, prompting Foley to bust out a hilarious, “THANKS, DAD!”

Between The Rock And A Hard Place

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With all that taken care of, McMahon is wheeled out onto the stage before The Rock and Ken Shamrock’s match to let The Rock know that should he not win the Intercontinental Championship tonight on Raw, he’s out of the Deadly Game tournament. The work they’re doing here to suddenly establish Shane McMahon as a referee and give McMahon some random reason to hate and start bothering The Rock about everything seems super obvious, but at the time, it just felt like Additional Megalomania.

Of course, The Rock wins the match, but only by disqualification. The referee had gotten knocked out, but “came to” in time to see Shamrock pop Rock with a chair. That means that despite being the winner The Rock is not the Intercontinental Champion, which means he’s out of the WWF Championship tournament. He rightfully flips out about it backstage, and McMahon calls the cops on him a la BBQ Becky to get him escorted off the premises. To make the motivations as clear as possible, McMahon wheels out into the parking lot and mocks him non-stop as he’s being taken away.

Monday Night Heat

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Ultimately this all pays off in a segment built around a steel cage hanging above the ring, and McMahon’s promises that in tonight’s main event, somebody who has done him wrong is going to experience hard times. In the interest of transparency, he’s not using the Dusty Rhodes “the economy is bad and we shouldn’t praise the entitled 1%” hard times, he means “getting handcuffed to something by a disgraced prison guard and beaten with a night stick” hard times. Totally different thing. Well … slightly different.

As it turns out, the men he wants to punish are his own subordinates, Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson. Mr. McMahon’s pissed at them for going on a coffee break and not coming back quickly enough, which got him abducted and tortured by Stone Cold Steve Austin. He has the Boss Man beat them down with extreme prejudice. This brings out Stone Cold Steve Austin, presumably not acting in the interest of saving McMahon’s cronies, but in wanting to get a head start on kicking the evil cop ass of his Survivor Series tournament opponent. He’s doing well until Patterson recovers the night stick and goes for Austin’s knees, because there’s truly no bottom for how low a boot-licker like that will go. I’m surprised Bruce Prichard didn’t show up in matching swat gear to help them out. But yeah, this brings out do-gooding authority figure Shane McMahon to break up the fight, and Vince calls off the attack. It’s great storytelling here, an another early sign that Shane is 1000% in cahoots with Pops. Shane has to keep up the appearance of not being happy about all of this, and flips off his dad. Shane has the same weird broken-fingers middle finger delivery as Vince. Who does it like that, honestly?

Before we cover what happens next, let’s talk about what Kane’s been up to for an entire episode.

Kane You Feel The Love Tonight

You know those random 1998 episodes of WWE TV where Kane and/or The Undertaker keep showing up and ruining every match by beating up whoever’s in the ring? Yep, it’s another one of those.

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Kane starts off his Two Hours Of Dominance early and in a logical way by attacking the new, fully formed Brood during their six-man tag team match against the New Age Outlaws and X-Pac. The Brood formed in a 3-on-1 attack on Kane the previous week, so why not?

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As you can see above, he also shows up to attack Mark Henry, D’Lo Brown, and The Headbangers to ruin a number one contender match for the Tag Team Championship. So maybe he doesn’t hate The Brood specifically, he just hates gatherings?

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The most notable match ruined is Goldust vs. Lord Steven Regal, now a man grown. This one features a side story where Terri Runnels has been dumped by Val Venis for announcing she’s pregnant — honestly lady, what did you expect, read the room — and is now figuratively and literally a gold-digger, trying to get back with her ex-husband. The result? Getting held in the air by the throat by a 7-foot tall fire demon who has no way other than violence to show the fear and anxiety of being at odds with his brother, the zombie necromancer. Basic pregnancy stuff.

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So, back to the main event brawl. With Boss Man gone and the McMahon side of things cooled down, The Undertaker stomps down to the ring to attack an already downed Stone Cold Steve Austin. This, of course, brings out TH’ DEMON KANE, who not only joins the fight to make it a triple threat, but literally sets the cage on fire, creating a great but also pretty concerning visual to end the night. Flaming cages are cool and all, but WWE doesn’t have the best track record regarding keeping people from being nearly burned to death at shows. Especially when The Undertaker is around.

Still, that’s a hell of a look, and an exciting (and somehow logical?) conclusion to a night of interweaving plots, characters, and stories. Raw can be logical, if you believe. Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.

Also On This Episode:

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The Legion of Doom (2000) lost a match to the Young Bucks on Sunday Night Heat thanks to the ongoing animosity between Droz and Sober Hawk, which led to Animal walking out on them and Hawk and Droz agreeing to a match against one another on Raw. Hawk didn’t take the confrontation well, though, and shows up once again off the wagon and in no condition to compete. Droz, being a good friend, shows up and kicks the shit out of him anyway, while yelling in his face about how he’s a worthless wino bum. That’s how you beat alcoholism and pain killer addictions, right? Having a football guy with fingerpaint all over his face scream at you for being a dying old man?

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Finally, Val Venis defeats Jeff Jarrett by disqualification due to interference from the Blue Blazer. Later in the episode, Owen Hart shows up to remind us that he is not the Blue Blazer, because he’s retired. Dan Severn shows up in a neck brace and calls him SCUM, DDP-style, and gets shoved down and clotheslined for his trouble. Steve Blackman shows up to make the save, but after Blackman helps Severn get loaded into an ambulance and jogs back across the backstage area to attack Owen, he’s assaulted by both Owen Hart and Blue Blazer. BUT HOW? Where could Owen Hart feasibly find another pissed-off white guy to help him heel on people for no reason?

Next Week:

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when Ronda Rousey dot com wont report the facts

X-Pac gets totally blazed (but not in the good way), Terri Runnels punches Val Venis in the dick for impregnating her, and Mankind gets a “makeover” that makes him look like Kevin Smith at the Oscars.

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All this and more, next week on WWF Raw Is War! That’s Raw Si War spelled backwards, King!