Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Vince McMahon got Wrestling Arrested for admitting to assaulting Stone Cold Steve Austin, which means he was made to sit in the back of a police car for a few minutes before apologizing. Also, The Rock shared his thoughts on Viagra, and Triple H used a fighter jet to launch missiles into an arena and kill everyone at Nitro.
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here. You can also check out Over The Edge ’98 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.
Hey, you! If you want us to keep doing retro reports, share them around! And be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of these shows. Head back to a time long forgotten when Raw was fun to watch, and things happened!
Up first, let’s see what happened at –
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about Over the Edge: In Your House ’98, the first WWF pay-per-view event to have a TV Parental Guidelines rating of TV-14. It’s one of two “Over The Edge” shows ever, because of very, very bad reasons I’m going to wait as long as possible to talk about.
Sable Sets Female Empowerment Back A Few Years
A couple of weeks ago on Raw, Marc Mero produced a definitely real document declaring that he had complete legal ownership of Sable, because I guess that’s how marriage works. They decided to work it out via Trial By Combat: Mero would face a champion of Sable’s choosing at Over The Edge, and if they won, Sable would earn her freedom. If they lost, Sable would be gone from the World Wrestling Federation … forever.
At the pay-per-view we find out that Sable’s champion is SABLE, and here’s her explanation:
“You know, Marc, I got myself into this, and I’m gonna get myself out of it. I don’t need any man fighting my battles for me. And if anybody’s gonna win my freedom, it’s gonna be me.”
Mero responds by asking Sable what happened to them, bringing up the fact that when he won the Intercontinental Championship he dedicated it to her, because he cares about her. He realizes that the wrestling business ruins relationships, notes that it ruined theirs, and decides to lie down and let Sable win the match and her freedom. Sable, who has apparently never watched pro wrestling before, takes him on his word and covers him …. only to immediately be rolled up and pinned.
You can’t hold it against her, though; she was outsmarted by pro wrestling’s greatest mind, Johnny B. Badd. By the way, if you’re wondering how long “forever” is in WWE terms, it’s “a few weeks.” When Sable returns, they don’t mention any of this and it’s completely forgotten.
Jim Ross’ call of, “I don’t know if we’re ready for this intergender stuff here,” is still pretty prescient, though.
Surprise! Kane Defeated Vader In A Mask Vs. Mask Match
Here’s the exposed face of The Man They Call Vader, in case you’d never watched a non-WWF Vader match. It’s a real shocker that the guy who wrestled about 70% of his career without the mask staying on lost to a character who can’t speak and has never taken off his mask. There are only two good things about the match, though:
- when Vader loses, Paul Bearer puts on the mask and pretends to be him, which is hilarious
- Michael Cole tries to interview Vader on his way out, finally giving us that landmark moment where the best big man in the history of professional wrestling declares himself “nothing but a big piece of shit … a big FAT piece of shit!”
That second one’s not necessarily “good,” but I’ve been quoting it for 20 years, so it’s something.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Redefines ‘Sports-Entertainment’
The only other thing of note on the show is one of the most important matches of the era, and while it’s not anywhere close to the best “wrestling match” you’ll see, it’s maybe the peak of the “sports-entertainment” concept in U.S. wrestling. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend you go watch it in full right now before reading the rest of the column.
It’s the culmination of the past month of Raw stories, which should be the norm for WWE pay-per-views, but never has been. The core story, as you probably know or remember, is that Stone Cold Steve Austin is the World Wrestling Federation Champion and doesn’t want to play by WWF owner Vince McMahon’s corporately mandated rules. Austin wants to be the beer-spilling, belligerent redneck murderer he’s always been. Vince wants him to be … well, John Cena. Kissing babies and hugging fat girls. He keeps trying to cheat Austin out of the championship (like he did to Bret Hart), but Austin’s not gullible and depressed like Bret, so it’s not working. Vince starts building this cabinet of cronies to help him out, which now includes Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and noted immoral turncoat Sgt. Slaughter. He’s also emotionally abused Mick Foley into following his orders, turning him into an evil version of his Dude Love character with false hopes that he’ll become WWF Champion and be the Shawn Michaels he’s always wanted to be.
Foley couldn’t get the job done at Unforgiven, so Vince decided to be a little more transparently evil, setting up a match between Austin and Goldust with himself as the timekeeper (cutting out the middleman in any “ring the damn bell” scenario). As an important side note, Vince got smashed in the head with a chair at Unforgiven, which might’ve knocked a few screws loose and made him more of a cartoonish villain. More on that in a bit. But Austin was able to retain, and now heading into Over The Edge we’ve got Vince unloading every weapon he has, all at once, to finally dethrone this jean shorts motherfucker he hates.
- Dude Love has been psychologically broken, made to “rip out of the heart” of his best friend to earn another title shot, and turned into a “corporate champion” wearing a suit and fake front teeth
- Vince McMahon now as special guest referee, so he can try to directly manipulate the match
- In a pre-match interview, he reminds us that BY HIS HAND ONLY can the match end. This is important.
- Patterson as the special guest ring announcer and Gerald Brisco as special guest timekeeper
Just before Vince rings the bell to start the match, the lights go out and Undertaker’s Dong interrupts them. You see, Vince tried to use stalwart company man The Undertaker in his machinations against Austin, but showed off too much during Undertaker’s entrance and got popped in the mouth. More on this later, as well. But all you need to know for Over The Edge is that Undertaker’s tired of being Vince’s pawn, and stands at ringside to make sure Vince doesn’t fast-count Austin the second his shoulders are down, or call for the bell on an abdominal stretch or whatever. When I complain about modern WWE not covering their bases and explaining character motivations (or why things happen at all), this is a great example of how it can be done right. You’ve got like 300 characters on the roster, you can find somebody to do something to make a ridiculous situation make sense. At least in the short-term.
With Taker at ringside, Vince is forced to go with Plan B, because there’s always a Plan B. When Dude gets the advantage by throwing Austin over the announce table, Pat Patterson suddenly gets on the mic and “reminds us” that the match is no disqualification. Jim Ross sells the shit out of it by yelling SINCE WHEN, THAT’S NOT RIGHT! Austin fights back. When Dude scores with a big neckbreaker in the entrance aisle, Patterson once again “reminds us” that the match is Falls Count Anywhere. Austin fights back.
Note: By making it a “reminder,” Vince is skirting around the reality that he’s manipulating this shit on the fly, no matter how obvious it is, which keeps Undertaker from just stepping into the ring and shit-kicking him. You’ve seen an evil general manager change the rules on the fly a hundred times on WWE TV by now, but in 1998 it was a fresh concept, and it’s never been done better or with better talent than it was here. Ross and Lawler are on fire making the calls.
As the match winds down, Austin blisters Dude Love with a chair to the face, but Vince refuses to count the pin. Dude tries to hit Austin with the chair while Austin’s arguing with Vince and accidentally smashes Vince directly in the nose, knocking him the hell out. This gives McMahon additional brain damage that will affect how “Mr. McMahon” reacts to things going forward. It’s a wonderful, forgotten aspect of the transformation between Vince McMahon and Mr. McMahon. He just kept sticking his nose in too deep, took a couple of brutal shots to the head, and it just compounded from there.
This is where the match goes from great to legendary. Austin hits a Stunner and has the match won, but there’s no one to count the three. The match has to end by Vince’s hand only, you’ll recall. Another referee runs down to count the three, but Patterson yanks him out of the ring at 2.9 and punches him in the face. Dude Love recovers enough to get the Mandible Claw (or the “Love Handle,” if we’re being accurate) and has Austin’s shoulders down, so Patterson, empowered by his red right hand, makes the count. Undertaker pulls him out of the ring and chokeslams him all the way through the goddamn announce table. Jerry Brisco nuts up and tries to make the count, so Undertaker pulls HIM out of the ring and chokeslams HIM through the SPANISH announce table. The crowd is popping like Jesus just descended from Heaven on a white horse.
In the confusion, Austin’s able to recover and hit another Stone Cold Stunner on Dude. With Vince McMahon still knocked out and the match only being able to end “by his hand,” Austin drags Vince’s corpse over toward Dude, grabs him by the wrist, and makes him count an unconscious three. Austin is still the WWF Champion, a new template for WWE main events is born, and, at least in my opinion, the single best example of sports-entertainment ever performed.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for June 1, 1998.
Best: Mr. McMahon Is Now Completely Insane (And Honest!)
Raw opens with Mick Foley in a chair in the ring, calling out Vince McMahon so he can apologize for “letting him down” at Over The Edge. Foley hopes that he can still be number one contender because of how great the match was, and McMahon, who is now straight-up brain damaged and on the edge of professional sanity, tells Foley that if he wants to truly apologize he’ll have to get down on his knees. I’m not sure if Vince was gonna take this in a Kiss My Ass Club direction or make Foley bark like a dog, but we don’t find out, as Foley’s still got a little bit of self-respect left. He says that hitting Vince in the face with the chair felt good, so Vince — again, who is out of his goddamn mind — tells Foley to fold the chair up and hit him again. When Foley picks up the chair, Vince reminds him about his family watching at home, his kids’ college funds, and his new 20-year mortgage. Foley, still emotionally broken from the past two months of being manipulated, relents.
With Foley once again browbeaten, Vince can effectively dance on his grave, seen above. While this is going on, he drops an important line of dialogue: the only reason he hasn’t fired Stone Cold Steve Austin so far is because Austin makes him rich. This is SO important to the idea of a boss getting into these beefs with his employees, because if he wants to keep making money, he has to manipulate and control them, not just fire and replace them. The concept worked a lot better when WCW was around and picking up any talent WWF let go, and vice versa. Nowadays with no competition and character “spots” in the story being more important than the uniqueness of character, evil bosses should just fire folks and replace them with their less downtrodden NXT equivalents.
Anyway, Vince can’t fire Steve Austin because Austin’s a cash cow, but Foley isn’t … so he fires him outright, robbing him not only of his job, but of the satisfaction of going out on a high note by taking out Vince. It’s brilliant, honest, and evil. 1998 Mr. McMahon is a tour de force of heel performance, and pretty much everyone in the company’s been coasting on his schtick and good will for the past 20 years.
Worst: Puking In The Parking Lot
At Over The Edge, the L.O.D. 2000 defeated the Disciples of Apocalypse thanks to the crackerjack combination of their new faction-mate TJ Miller and the Harris Twins’ complete inability to wrestle. Look at this elbow drop. I made sure to show you how far away from the ropes Hawk was to start, so you can wonder how this dipshit skinhead hit them with his arm and ass.
The Raw rematch is a 3-on-3 parking lot brawl, prefaced by Puke once again failing to puke on command, which is his entire gimmick. He dry heaves onto Kevin Kelly and everyone pretends he’s covered in vomit. It’s fucking sad. They do some aimless hardcore brawling while Sunny screams in the background, building up to the finish: The Undertaker showing up in his pajamas and single-handedly kicking everyone’s ass on his way into to the arena. Great job, rough-and-ready tag teams!
Best: A Massive Undertaking
In the ring, a very comfortable-looking Undertaker explains why he did what he did at Over The Edge. To put it as succinctly as possible, he’s spent his entire career being the guy who “protected” Vince’s champions from the wrestling world’s biggest challenges, so while everyone else got long runs with the WWF Championship, he got stuck fighting King Kong Bundy and Giant Gonzalez and every other giant freak. He thought he was next in line for an opportunity because of his loyalty to the company — especially given that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash got a bunch of opportunities and jumped ship to WCW — but Vince gave an open forum to Paul Bearer and Kane to expose all of Taker’s family secrets and basically blackmailed him into a match. Undertaker’s sick of this shit, and calls out Vince for the REAPING OF COMFORTABLE SOULS, or whatever.
Vince, still cocksure from pissing in Mick Foley’s face earlier, puffs up his chest to the goddamn Undertaker and book him in a number one contender match … against Kane. What a dick.
Best: Mick Foley Signs His Death Warrant
Undertaker does indeed face Kane in the main event, using his ridge hand to get the best of his brother. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon both sit in on commentary. When it looks like Taker’s about to win, the previously fired MICK FOLEY returns in his Mankind mask and attacks the Undertaker, causing Vince to launch into some very realistic “surprised” mannerisms. Maybe Vince just fired Dude Love and not Mankind? Foley gets swatted away but returns to cost Undertaker the match, leaving Kane as the number one contender and starting a trend of bad Kane-centric pay-per-view main events that somehow continued deep into 2018.
More importantly, it begins a new Undertaker vs. Mankind feud … heading into King of the Ring ’98. I’m gonna guess that if you’re interested enough in ’90s wrestling to read these columns, you know what happens there. If not … well, let’s just say it’s the moment Mick Foley transforms himself from a smark favorite into a true icon. A true, rapidly plummeting icon.
Speaking Of The King Of The Ring
Here’s the bracket for the 1998 edition of the tournament. Definitely picking D’Lo Brown to go the distance.
This week’s Raw features three first round matches: Jeff Jarrett vs. Faarooq, Mark Henry vs. Terry Funk, and Marc Mero vs. Steve Blackman. Henry vs. Funk is the only straight-forward match out of the bunch — Henry wins with a big splash — and the only match of the three to not introduce new or repackaged characters.
Jarrett’s match features the debut of Southern Justice, aka “The Godwinns, but in suits.” WWF’s only booking idea for Jarrett seems to be “have three people or more people with him at all times, so he needs 2-5 distractions to cheat like a normal wrestler,” and since the NWA angle with the Rock n’ Roll Express didn’t light anybody’s fire, we’re going with Well Dressed Pig Farmers United.
Jarrett needs two very big men to stand on the apron and distract the referee, which allows Tennessee Lee an opportunity to toss Jarret a regular men’s belt. Jarrett uses the buckle to smash Faarooq in the face, and wins. I’d make a “the crowd goes mild” joke, but for Jeff Jarrett x Godwinns we’re gonna need something less spicy. This shit is liquefied Wonderbread.
With Sable gone forever, Marc Mero gets some help from his new girlfriend from the neighborhood, Jacqueline. Jackie has I guess broken up with Satanic George Costanza and distanced herself from his pack of cartoon bad guys and sexy mummies in favor of helping a boxer who can’t box win wrestling matches without wrestling.
The highlight of the match is Michael Cole yelling “TKO!” when Mero hits a Samoan Drop, and Jim Ross having to correct him. Vintage Michael Cole. Mero wins by bringing his forever-underrated shooting star press out of the mothballs, which I’m surprised Cole doesn’t call The Kiss That Don’t Miss.
As For Sable
Since Sable is gone from the World Wrestling Federation forever, she shows up in a new Super Soaker commercial and gets promotionally bukkake’d by D-Generation X. She’s also the only person on the King of the Ring ’98 poster. You’ll never see her again!
Best/Worst: Intertwining Stories
At Over The Edge, D-X lost a six-man tag team match to the Nation of Domination. On Raw, they get a chance at revenge in another six-man tag, this time with elimination rules. And since it’s a TV match with elimination rules, you know what happens: people start getting pinned in 30 seconds off transitional moves that would never pin anyone otherwise. Billy Gunn breaks out a piledriver for a fall, if that tells you anything. It’s a good-ass piledriver, at least.
What I like here is how pre-Crisis Vince Russo ties together multiple stories and maximizes TV time in an attempt to get everyone on the roster over. Or, at least, explain why they’re around and what they’re doing. This one ends before the final fall with a returning Ken Shamrock hopping the rail and looking for revenge against Owen Hart. You may remember Owen trying to bite Shamrock to death and injuring him a few weeks back.
Shamrock gets quickly overwhelmed by the Nation until Dan Severrin’ makes the save, once again teasing the WWF partnership or confrontation between the two biggest MMA stars of the 1990s that only ever really plays out in truncated form to get over the Shamrock/Owen feud on a couple of August Raws. When it’s announced that The Nation won by disqualification, Triple H attacks Shamrock. They’re tying together a ton of stories here, and in doing so advance them all. It’s great plotting, and another example of that rare, precious time in WWE when character motivations made sense and were at least generally consistent, whether the matches were good or not. Nitro’s certainly abandoned ship on that concept, in case you haven’t seen “Wolfpac Sting.”
Also On This Episode
This week on the Sexy Hobo Fighter Chronicles:
“Light, dark, I am both. I am everything. I am nothing. I am everywhere. I am invisible. I’m in your head and won’t let go. You yearn for my approval. My forgiveness. My glance. I look away. I light, but you will never see me.”
Cool. Hey, how did y’all have a pay-per-view called “Over The Edge” and not use it to debut a guy named Edge?
Can you imagine being stuck behind these people for an entire episode?
Val Venis gets another squash win to keep him strong, defeating Papi Chulo with the Money Shot. If you don’t remember Papi, he gets rebranded as Essa Rios not too long from now, and gets paired with a redhead from ECW who likes doing hurricanranas. You’ve probably heard of her. Val needs to look as good as possible, as he’s only a few weeks away from getting into the most ridiculous first feud in wrestling history. You can’t get here soon enough. Mrs. Yamaguchi.
Oh, and speaking of Kai En Tai, the TAKA Michinoku vs. Sho Funaki match is a backdrop for Al Snow and Head appearing at ringside dressed as every Asian stereotype known to man, all at once. Snow’s out here making Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s look like Parry Shen in Better Luck Tomorrow. The ’90s are an exciting and important time!
Raw continues to be War, featuring:
- more first round matches in the King of the Ring tournament
- Vince McMahon being presented with the Humanitarian of the Year Award, which goes about as well as you’re imagining
- a triple threat match for the Tag Team Championship, which still exists
- a video tribute to Sable, who is gone forever
- more of me recapping Disciples of Apocalypse matches while desperately waiting for Choppy Choppy Your Pee-Pee to begin
And more! See you then!