Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Are The Undertaker and Kane in cahoots? More importantly, will we find out the answer if we say “in cahoots” over and over for two hours? Also, Shawn Michaels is back for a paycheck as a corporate shill on commentary, Brawl For All keeps hurting people, and Val Venis hooked up with Mr. Yamaguchi-san’s wife.
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for July 20, 1998.
Best: Fully Pre-Loaded
Last week’s episode was built around the mystery of are the Undertaker and his brother Kane in cahoots, peppered with Mr. McMahon playing gumshoe detective and “trying to get to the bottom” of the cahootery. The show ended with Austin and Undertaker nearly coming to blows over who they wanted to win the Tag Team Championship match and pivoting to beating up everyone ELSE, side-by-side, and this week’s episode opens with Vince being like, “okay, enough, tell me what’s going on.”
That’s particularly funny, too, because assuming we aren’t revisiting this episode 20 years into the future and know how everything turns out, we aren’t sure if Vince is overtly giving away the game by playing Undertaker against Kane to get Austin’s eyes off the prize, or if he’s honestly just an insane old man who thinks ownership of a sports-entertainment conglomerate means he can puff up his chest to a 7-foot tall undead wizard who shoots lightning and can throw people to death by their neck. McMahon wants answers, pal, dammit, and drops a hilarious line about how Undertaker can’t just go into Sears and ask for a “Kane suit,” so he must’ve had access to it because Kane allowed it. Undertaker won’t fess up, so Vince puts him in a handicap match against Kane and Mankind. Undertaker’s still like, “whatever,” and Vince makes the fatal mistake of telling him to, “go to Hell.”
That response is shown through AMAZING dramatic chipmunk camera work, which is basically the opposite of nowadays where they bounce up and down and fall all over the place like they’re on the Universal Studios Earthquake ride because somebody’s throwing punches.
McMahon takes a chokeslam — so do Gerald Brisco and Sgt. Slaughter when they foolishly try to make the save — and Undertaker will now have hell to pay in the main event. You know, assuming he actually agrees to participate and doesn’t just, like, leave the building.
Anyway, Undertaker leaves the building immediately and refuses to participate in the match.
In the next segment, Steve Austin is rightfully like, “???,” and says that he has no problem with Taker bailing on the main event because McMahon “deserves to be screwed.” McMahon and his corporate stooge posse show up, drop the word “screw” into their dialogue more than previously thought possible, and re-book the main event; because he’s an asshole, it’ll now be STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN taking on Mankind and Kane. When Austin addresses the plot hole — why can’t he just refuse and leave like the Undertaker — Vince says he’ll strip him of the championship if he refuses to fight. Austin begrudgingly agrees, but notes that as soon as he’s able, he’s going to find Vince in the back and “beat the living shit” out of him.
Again, it’s wonderful that not only is the story progressing every week, but it’s attempting to address its own plot points (how did Undertaker get a Kane suit, why couldn’t Austin just leave and refuse to wrestle like the Undertaker, etc.) along the way. These questions don’t need concrete answers as soon as they’re asked, but by adding believable details (or at least making a few up to explain what’s going on) you flesh out a believable world around your characters, and the wrestling show maintains its integrity and structure. That’s deeply important when you’re trying to get people interested in a fight between an blue-collar redneck and a pair of magical brothers who can make spontaneous weather events attack you indoors.
Austin’s able to use the power of righteous indignity to fire up and fight Kane and Mankind by himself, but eventually it becomes too much for him to handle. That’s when, interestingly, The Undertaker shows back up with a steel chair. He supposedly left the arena and bailed on a booking, directly leading Austin to be subbed in in his place, but he’s still here? I don’t know what cahoots smell like, but the scent is generally cahootish.
Undertaker gets up on the apron to be Austin’s “partner” in the 2-on-1 handicap match, and Kane (for some reason) goes out to the apron himself and everyone just kinda vaguely decides it’s now a tag team match. This is how you Teddy Long’d matches before Teddy Long as General Manager was a thing.
If you’ve ever watched wrestling before, you know how this goes … Austin and Kane get too close to the Undertaker’s corner, Undertaker swings the chair, Austin ducks at the last second, and Kane gets chaired in the face. Undertaker makes full on shifty-eyed dog from The Simpsons eyes, making it pretty clear that he wanted to hit Austin, and not his brother. Austin, ever the diplomat, picks up the chair and murders Mankind with it, since he hasn’t been able to give that poor dude brain damage in a couple of weeks. He also hits the Undertaker, because he’s not stupid.
And that’s your main event. Your top babyface is fighting off a rising tide of corruption from both a corporate and a supernatural angle, which maintaining his integrity as a performer and doing everything he can to not fall for stupid easy wrestling traps. This is 1000% what Sting could’ve and should’ve been for WCW, instead of what he became: the world’s stupidest man who has no friends but thinks everyone’s his best friend.
Best: D’Lo Brown, Champion Of Europe
One of the best things to happen in this episode is the crowning of D’Lo Brown as European Champion. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but he feels like the first European Champion who ever liked being European Champion and tried to get it over. What’s even better is that he wins it from Triple H, a couple of weeks after H and his goon squad did a big raucous blackface parody of The Nation. Instant karma’s gonna get you.
Rock is set to face Triple H in a 2-out-of-3 falls match at Fully Loaded, which was being advertised at the beginning of the match as, “title for title.” Brown’s a good choice here, oddly, as you’d think they’d put Owen Hart in this spot, but Owen’s spent the past six months being Triple H’s punching bag. Plus, Mark Henry and The Godfather are in contrasting stages of, “not ready for a title run.” So workhorse D’Lo and his Roman Reigns chest protector gimmick get the call up to the mid-card, go over the racist aristocrat for a title he wasn’t planning to add anything to anyway, and pop the D’Lo mark in me 20 years later.
Elsewhere In The Nation
Funnily enough, the only person to really get any heat from the D-X blackface parody is the white guy in The Nation, as Owen Hart has full-on rookie Kurt Angle heat with the “nugget” stuff. He goes over Faarooq clean — too clean, even, more on that in a second — and has to stop and get on the mic in the middle to tell the audience to shut up and stop calling him a nugget. Because wrestling is wonderful, that of course makes the crowd get madder.
Quick note on Faarooq: Poor Ron Simmons is at a brutal time in his career right now, and the Acolytes and the Acolyte Protection Agency can’t come soon enough. In roughly a year, dude went from feuding for the Intercontinental Championship and running his own faction of future stars to tapping out to the Sharpshooter when he’s so close to the ropes he could touch them with his tongue. He’s also a face, but is still in there doing corny heel spots for some reason, like his Jumping Dick To The Back bit where his opponent turns over on the last one and knees him in the balls. No idea what he’s doing.
There’s also a Rock vs. X-Pac Intercontinental Championship match that in a better world would’ve been a barn-burner. Instead, it’s happening as like the second or third most important moment in a show-long feud between two warring factions at the height of crash TV wrestling coming into vogue, so there are multiple distractions, Rock kicking out of his opponent’s finisher after getting hit in the face with a championship belt, and DUELING REFEREES.
Yes, one referee doesn’t see Triple H sneak into the ring and hit The Rock with a Pedigree as revenge for costing him the European Championship earlier in the night, so a second referee charges in and pulls the first by the leg a la Austin and Undertaker to break it up. Apparently if a referee anywhere in the building sees you interfere, the decision of the original ref is moot, despite that not ever coming up anywhere else ever on these shows. It’s Raw in 1998. Every match should have 2-3 referees throwing lariats at each other to correct the other guy’s call.
After the match, a clearly broken-up about losing his championship and not being able to help his friend win his championship match Triple H lingers around the ring trying to get girls in the crowd to take off their tops. You’ve certainly seen the uncensored version of this if you were watching back in the day and bought the D-X VHS tape.
Best: Yamaguchi Sans
Mr. Yamaguchi-san is pretty pissed off about the whole “wrestling porn star films himself having sex with my wife and then shows it on a big screen at an arena full of people and on national television” thing, and promises punishment, spelled out in “Yamaguchi way.” His plan: make his wife get on all fours and crawl through his legs so he can swat her in the ass-bone with a big paddle.
Fun note: We find out in this segment (and this segment only) that Mrs. Yamaguchi-san actually has a first name. It’s “Kyoko.” I certainly didn’t remember that, which is probably due to her only being around for two months and them spending 99% of it calling her “Yamaguchi-san’s wife.”
Thankfully Val Venis is a pornstar with a heart of gold and makes the save for Kyoko, knocking out Kaientai with their manager’s paddle and carrying her up the ramp and to the back like a princess. The princess of a bootleg Asian porn kingdom, but a princess nonetheless.
I won’t spoil what comes next, but I encourage you to swing a samurai sword at a kielbasa and see what happens.
Worst: WWF Pay-Per-View Lives In A Glass House
I know you’re still trying to convince everyone watching that Bash at the Beach ’98 was the most disappointing pay-per-view ever, but guys, is a Jeff Jarrett vs. Steve Blackman match really the best time to bring that up? Especially one where you’re promoting Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock in a DUNGEON MATCH, which is literally two dudes pretending to fight in one of their dads’ basements with a “screwjob” finish. What, are the apartment wrestling ads in old issues of Pro Wrestling Illustrated gonna start bragging about how nobody does underpants hair-pulling like the Apartment Wrestling Federation?
Worst: Ho Improvement
Jacqueline and Sable are still hyping their upcoming catch-as-catch-can bikini contest at Fully Loaded with dialogue that would make actual pornos feel ashamed.
“I’m gonna let you come out here and raise my hand and, like a lady, I accept the victory.”
“Lady? Honey you ain’t nothin’ BUT a tramp!” [cat music intensifies]
“Hey Marc, look at that big fat cow! That tent probably could sleep a family of four!”
“Sleep? Honey, this body keeps ’em up all, night, long!”
“Then show me, ho!”
… your body keeps a family of four up all night long?
This exchange causes Jacqueline to rip off Sable’s suspiciously shapeless dress to reveal her bra and panties (woo hoo!), which Sable doesn’t care about because her whole thing is showing everyone what she looks like in a bra and some panties.
Lawler’s got to be the worst part of this, from adding “you go, girl” and “ooh, I know THAT’s right!” after Jackie’s bad insults to this, which might be the most TNA Mike Tenay Lawler’s ever been.
Jacqueline: “Let’s face it, sow … how many pounds can you lose in six days?”
Lawler: “Sow? That’s a woman pig!”
We know who that is, Taz. What’s A Woman Pig doing in the Impact Zone?
Worst: Bad Gimmicks Dot Edu
Skull of The Biking Experience is supposed to face Animal of the Legion of Doom 2000-and-late, but it never happens. The bad guys jump animal on his way to the ring, hold him down, and try to drive a motorcycle into his crotch. It’s … weird.
But what’s weirder is the gimmick Paul Ellering’s trying to get over. As far as I can tell, this is the debut of “Mr. Dot Com,” a very 1998 idea where Ellering, who has spent his career reading the Wall Street Journal and being business savvy or whatever, has gotten in on the Dot-com bubble to help him … manage the career of some pro wrestling bikers? I’m not sure, but he’s got “Mr. Dot Com” airbrushed on the back of his jacket, and is wearing an also air-brushed Eye of Providence sleeveless tee declaring him THE WIZARD OF THE WEB.
Hopefully next week he shows up wearing a pair of chaps with Baphomet on the ass and the phrase “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” airbrushed down his leg.
We’re Still Brawling For It All
To show you how well Brawl For All is performing as an entertainment concept, we aren’t out of the first round yet and one of this week’s two fights doesn’t even make the show. It happens before Raw even starts, and we only see highlights of it. Which, you know, might be a good idea since it was a shoot-fighting exhibition set up between a black guy and a big skinhead with an SS tattoo.
The good news is that Scorpio whoops him, or at least they get enough good footage of Scorpio looking like he whooped him to ease the shoot white supremacist out of the “fight people for real” tournament off-screen.
The fight we do see is a deeply unfair fight featuring tournament ringer Dr. Death Steve Williams, who looks like Scott Norton and Bob Seger did the Fusion Dance. Dr. Death is a legitimate wrestling legend who’d been killing it in the NWA and WCW for years and was a former All Japan Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion (in addition to holding the AJPW World Tag Team Championship eight times), but WWF crowds don’t know him from Adam (Bomb). So it’s just this weirdly aggro old man with a barrel for a body getting pre-taped pep talks from Barry Switzer while Jim Ross loses his gourd on commentary.
Williams’ opponent for round one is Quebecer Pierre. Now, don’t get me wrong, Pierre is a tough mother who’d eventually be making entrances at Madison Square Garden via the electric chair, but the dude has to shoot-fight Boomer Sooner-ass Dr. Death without the use of his right eye.
He’s got a damn patch over it, even, and the announcers spend the whole fight commenting on how he “can’t see that left hook coming.” MAYBE HE SHOULD NOT BE IN AN UNSCRIPTED BOXING MATCH WHERE HE COULD GET SERIOUSLY INJURED, AM I RIGHT, FOLKS.
PCO holds his own and Williams only manages to win via TKO, which makes the big dangerous star of the tournament look a little less dangerous, and sets the tone for the world’s most hilarious upset in round two. If you’re familiar with the Brawl for All tournament, you know that all roads lead to Butterbean turning a man’s entire brain to jelly on the Grandest Stage Of Them All. Brawl on, you crazy diamonds.
It’s time for Fully Loaded 1998, featuring:
- the next stop on the Highway To Hell
- Triple H and The Rock become major singles stars, finally
- Sable wins a bikini contest by not wearing a bikini
- a couple of weirdos fight in the basement like a couple’a marks
And more! We hope you’ll be in cahoots with our website and read about it next week!