The Best And Worst Of WWF Raw Is War 7/6/98: Birth Of A Nation

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brother was baking

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: The Undertaker turned Mankind into a falling star at King of the Ring 1998, and the World Wrestling Federation followed up on that momentum by introducing BRAWL FOR ALL.

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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for July 6, 1998.

Best: The Swerve Of These People

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This week’s episode opens with the Undertaker marching to the ring and demanding a shot at Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWF Championship, and Austin agreeing, because he’s Stone Cold Steve Austin. They’re immediately interrupted by Vince McMahon, who asks them to “wait just a minute” for several minutes, clarifies that the inmates do not run the asylum — sorry, Dean Ambrose — and that he’s the only person who can make matches.

He promises to name a new number one contender tonight, challenges everyone in the locker room to try to impress him, and then turns a salute into a hilariously blurred middle finger to end things. If you played the N64 WWF video games, you know and love this middle-finger blur. It’s also a handy, “GFY, America,” GIF for whenever Linda McMahon does whatever she’s going to spend the next year and a half doing.

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If you’ve ever seen an episode of Raw from 1998 before, you know this challenge leads to everyone in consideration for number one contender randomly showing up to ruin other people’s matches. Undertaker randomly chokeslams D’Lo Brown and attacks Terry Funk (while Jim Ross shits his britches screaming, “WHY, WHY”) and Kane and Mankind interrupt Vader vs. Bradshaw to beat them both down. Pictured above is Kane Tombstone piledriving Vader and missing the ground by about half a foot, because it’s probably hard to judge distance when you’re wearing a thick leather mask and upright 69’ing a 400 pound man in a leotard.

Note: Bradshaw vs. Vader is the ultimate battle of guys who need some forward momentum, but aren’t going to get any. Bradshaw’s a few years away from being a really important character, and Vader’s a few years removed from importance. Bradshaw’s spent the past year hanging out with TAKA Michinoku in “other cultures are bad” comedy angles, and Vader’s only around to lose to new stars and literally shit-talk himself. Them going one-on-one and then getting beaten down by two people completely unrelated to the match is pitch-perfect, unfortunately.

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In response, McMahon brings the three match-invaders to the ring and addresses them individually before deciding — get this — they should compete in a triple threat match to see who should be number one contender. Triple threat matches weren’t as common in 1998, sure, but it’s the only solution, and WWE still puts way too much faith in the belief that its audience can’t see “impromptu” tag or multi-man matches coming.

At the end of the night, Undertaker apparently no-shows the match (because he’s a coward, you see) and Mankind pops a squat on the outside, saying he’ll never fight his best friend Kane. In response to that, Kane smashes Mankind in the face with a chair and rolls him into the ring and pins him, because hey man, you don’t become “the devil’s favorite demon” by shaking hands and abiding by the Code of Honor.

But wait, there’s one more swerve! You know how Kane’s been wearing that suspicious ass double-sleeve version of his gear lately? That’s because it’s not Kane at all It’s KANE THE UNDERTAKER!

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Don’t feel bad, Mankind, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been Kane Dewey.

So there you have it; the Undertaker swerved everybody by pretending to be one of his opponents in a triple threat match he was supposed to be in already anyway. This helps set up the tag team main event for Fully Loaded — Austin and Taker vs. Mankind and Kane — which positions the WWF Champion and the number one contender on the same side and asks the rare question, “can they co-exist?” If you’ve watched an episode of Raw since 1998, you know the answer is, “of course not,” with a side of, “and they’ll probably end up Tag Team Champions.”

In other words,

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Worst: Brawl For All Isn’t Getting Any Better

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Hey, remember when BRAKKUS was supposed to be coming to the World Wrestling Federation to destroy all your favorites, and then nothing happened? Well, he finally makes it to Raw as part of Brawl For All, doesn’t know it’s supposed to be a shoot-fighting tournament, and gets his nose busted up by Savio Vega.

Y’see, this is what happens when WBF Bodystars types actually get into fights. They can barely move, much less throw a punch, so if you ask them to box for three rounds you might as well be asking them to breathe underwater. It’s why successful boxers are generally small, lithe, lean types like Floyd Mayweather, or big fat dudes like Butterbean. It’s also why all the guys you see in strongman competitions look like enormous bears instead of like they’re sculpted out of marble. There are exceptions, sure, but no boxer shows up looking like Mason Ryan and expects to win.

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Road Warrior Hawk vs. Darren Drozdov is a better fight, but the task of having a real fight for three minutes legitimately injures Hawk and he can barely stand up a few seconds in. He keeps tripping over his feet and almost falling down, because, again, these are professional wrestlers and not boxers. It’d be like UFC saying, “instead of fighting tonight, we’re gonna pick teams and play basketball,” and expecting them all to be great at basketball. Hawk leaves the fight with a broken nose (pictured), and is officially never the same again; his return after the injury starts the “suicidal Hawk” angle where he tries to kill himself by jumping off the TitanTron, and the reveal that Droz has been enabling him so he can take his spot in a tag team.

In retrospect, maybe “make everyone look like idiots who can’t fight” isn’t the worst thing they could’ve been doing.

Worst: Attack On Titan

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As for the team the Legion of Doom is supposed to be feuding with now, The Disciples of Apocalypse, they’re led to victory over the Headbangers (which they definitely couldn’t have gotten by just being tall strong guys and beating them up) by new manager Paul Ellering, seen here showing why you shouldn’t wear suspenders if you want people to read your shirt. It’s supposed to say, “WHO’S GONNA BEAT US,” by the way. I wish they’d moved “WHO” over a little to cover the W so I could fantasy book a zombie breakout in the Godfather’s brothel.

Worst: Maybe It’s Mabel Lean

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The Ken Shamrock vs. Jeff Jarrett match that foreshadows the NWA Heavyweight Championship scene in year one of Total Nonstop Action ends with the surprising return of King Mabel, who is upset about being left out of the “king of kings” match between former King of the Ring winners on last week’s show. You didn’t see Harley Race running out here and attacking people because they left him out of the fake king competition for nothing, but I guess Harley’s got better things to do with his time. The highlight here is the announce team thinking the 6-foot-11, 600-pound black man with a mohawk stepping over the top rope to attack a UFC fighter was “a fan.”

This sets up Shamrock vs. Mabel for later in the night, which Shamrock wins fairly easily, because Mabel is basically the World Wrestling Federation’s version of Roadblock. He’s very, very big, but a confident child could probably kick his ass in a fight. Mabel will see better days at the beginning of 1999, when he’s abducted into the Undertaker’s upcoming occult posse at the Royal Rumble and renamed “Guts” because he’s fat. Later he’d start wrestling in pajamas and get a “ladies man” gimmick, because the only thing funnier to Vince McMahon than bad breath is someone who isn’t attractive pretending they are.

Worst: Wow, Women Of Wrestling

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Up next is a promo battle between two of the least natural talkers in WWF history: Sable and Jacqueline. To hear this in your head, imagine if Tommy Wiseau had been asked to write dialogue between two women about to compete in a bikini contest, and then played both parts. I know teens in the ’90s tuned in to see rock hard boobs, but you’d have a better chance masturbating to a UNICEF commercial than this.

“Oh, Jackie. Honey, you got the story, all wrong. You see, I’ve always had MY pedal to the metal. It’s just that Marc’s tire, was flat! You see, back then, they didn’t make Viagra to keep, HIS tank full.”

“Look, girlfriend. The difference between you and me, is I’m 100% woman! I know what a man wants! Now baby, I got the goods! You see, honey, this body is primo real estate!”

“Yeah! But the question is! How many times have you ren-ned it out?”

“Look, skank! I tell you what. Why don’t you prove it? Show it off, in a bikini contest!”

“Jackie, don’t just blow it … show it! ‘Cause my bikini, will be FULLY LOADED .. and ready to drop the BOMB on you!”

Ha ha, what a story, Marc. Anyway, how is you match life?

Best: Emasculatey-Emasculatey Your Pee-Pee

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Later in the show, Valvenis, Fiend of Sex, wrestles Good Christian Hombre Dustin Runnels. The match gets interrupted by Kaientai and Mr. Yamaguchi-san, and the New Generation With The New Japanese Attitudes flog Venis for flirting with Yamaguchi-san’s beautiful wife, whose name is “Mrs.” Please read last week’s column for our (read: my) fawning, everlasting love for her.

Yamaguchi-san, who apparently speaks perfect English and is just doing this broken accent as a racial trolling gag to get on television, accuses Venis of being “half-man … Yamaguchi-san, is!” He also gets Val’s catchphrase wrong, saying there will be no more “hello babies,” and continues to add insult to injury until his wife clearly thinks he’s taking it too far. “Will this end up pushing her into a career of kayfabe porn?” I type, as though introducing a wrestling porn star and having his first feud be against an annoying little guy with a pretty wife happened for literally any other reason.

Worst: Z Nation

Finally we have one of the most infamous “funny” moments in Raw history, and the number one moment on a list of things modern WWE probably wants you to forget: D-Generation X impersonating the Nation of Domination. In blackface. If you were a racist teenager in Virginia in the 1990s, you probably thought it was hilarious. If you are an adult who has grown up and actually met people who aren’t exactly like him, it’s probably a lot less funny than you remember.

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In case you’ve never seen it, Triple H puts on too much tanner and calls himself “The Crock,” turning all of the Rock’s catchphrases into jokes about how he has to go to the bathroom. Billy Gunn opens the promo with a “pimps up, hoes down, Westsiiiiide” thing where he’s supposed to be the Godfather, which is just him pretending to be black, because Godfather doesn’t actually have much of a personality yet, and certainly doesn’t do anything with hoes. Road Dogg smudges his face and waggles his head around to be D’Lo Brown, and X-Pac goes full hardcore blackface in a fat suit with “MIZARK” written across his chest. He also jokes about eating shit. Here he is talking to us about how he regrets the whole thing.

Chyna plays Chyna, because they ran out of characters.

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The only lasting highlight here was impressionist “Jason Sensation” putting on a witch nose and some caution tape to do a really great impersonation of Owen Hart. Of course now we can’t even enjoy that part, as last year Jason joked on Twitter about how he was going to go to Raw and commit suicide on-screen, causing a panic.

Good times.

I’d like to say it was “a different time,” but it wasn’t really that long ago. Everyone involved should’ve known better, but pro wrestling had convinced itself that it was the world’s most counter-culture thing, and that nothing was off-limits, and everything would age well. At least I can count on WCW to be better than this. There’s no way they’d wait like, a year and do their own version of this. That’d be-

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Sigh, nevermind.

Next Week:

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  • a guy who was supposed to be done forever returns, because that’s how wrestling retirements work
  • we have new Tag Team Champions, but can they co-exist? And can the team that will be fighting them ALSO exist cooperatively?
  • the New Midnight Express brawl for it all, and a new boxing champion emerges
  • Plus, everybody fights!

See you then!