Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Vince McMahon brought back Sable to read a prepared statement about how he’s great and definitely not in cahoots with The Undertaker to ruin Stone Cold Steve Austin’s life. Meanwhile, Austin and the Undertaker used the TV-fresh Hell in a Cell cage to nearly murder Mankind and Paul Bearer.
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network 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!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War for June 22, 1998.
Best: Kane, First Blood, Part One
What you need to know:
- three weeks ago at Over The Edge, Vince McMahon got hit in the face with a steel chair so hard that it formally scrambled his (character’s) brains and helped transform him from “shifty, uptight businessman” to “openly controlling maniac”
- on last week’s Raw, The Undertaker trapped Paul Bearer inside Hell in a Cell and beat him to a bloody pulp, causing him to miss Raw and only chime in via satellite from his home, which is straight-up hilarious
- without Paul Bearer there to control them, Mankind is a randomly occurring lunatic dealing with several months (and a lifetime) of emotional abuse, and Kane is basically Billy Baldwin’s giant confused son
- The Undertaker still wants to kill all these people
So with Paw Bear at home and The Undertaker presumably off to find him, Mr. McMahon is free to take possession of an impressionable Kane, use him as a pawn in his ongoing war with Stone Cold Steve Austin, and force him to speak for himself through the use of an electrolarynx. This week’s show opens with Vince announcing that the main event of King of the Ring will, quite frankly now be a FIRST BLOOD match. Jim Ross spends the next two hours loudly complaining about how Kane wears a leather mask and is basically bleed-proof, in case that point was delivered too subtly by the angry billionaire’s threat-speech on behalf of a 7-foot tall Satanic burn victim.
This sets up Kane’s first spoken words on WWE television — no, not “SACKEET,” that comes later — and the declaration that if he does not become WWF Champion at King of the Ring, he will set himself on fire and “breathe his last breath.”
For the record, this would’ve been way more effective if we hadn’t just seen Kane get set on fire like two months ago and be fine, but at least they hadn’t gotten to the point where he’s no-selling being kicked into a flaming dumpster.
Paw is understandably upset that his special needs murder son is being put into an “if you bleed before this redneck you have to kill yourself” stipulation, and angrily yells about it into the camera like he’s not the guy who recently helped exhume his ex and throw her son onto her dead bones before bragging about how he impregnated her with demon seed on the kitchen floor of a funeral home.
This sets up another hilarious moment where a full glam Undertaker with deeply conditioned hair and a leather vest shows up from out of nowhere for a home invasion, screams, “YOU THOUGHT I FORGOT WHERE YOU LIVE,” and tries to crush Paul’s head with an accent chair. This bit is great because Taker can’t stop flipping his hair, even when he’s trying to bust up a chifforobe:
Kane reacts to the footage (and/or his chances of making the Sweet Sixteen) by flipping out backstage and crying. For some reason he holds his electrolarynx to his throat the entire time, so it sounds less like crying and more like someone left a vibrator on in the locker room.
Wanting to do right by his friend, Mankind prefaces his main event match with Billy Gunn by [Final Fantasy fanfare] challenging the Undertaker to a Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring. If you’ve taken a breath anywhere near pro wrestling over the past 20 years, you know how this goes. I think I personally own about 17 DVDs with the match on it. WWE would release “the best of the Von Eric family” and still put Mankind vs. Undertaker from King of the Ring ’98 on there.
If for some reason you’re a total pro wrestling n00b and don’t know what I’m talking about, please join us next week for King of the Ring ’98, and an appeal to a good God on behalf of a man who has been broken.
As for this Raw, it ends with Sable in a catsuit and high heels delivering a message to Stone Cold Steve Austin in jeans and a tucked-in baseball jersey, illustrating Vince Russo’s ideal male and female. If Austin had tiny feet and pouches all over his pants they’d be a Rob Liefeld comic. Anyway, Austin shows Sable how to give someone the finger and sends her to the back to answer Vince.
That brings out Kane for one final face-to-face confrontation with Austin, and we learn another one of Kane’s super powers: spontaneous blood baths, a skill he presumably teaches Gangrel and the Brood when they join the Ministry of Darkness.
Fun note: “First blood” matches are always interesting because they’re no disqualification and anything goes, but nobody like, shows up with something that cuts their opponent. It’s always steel chair shots or something that bust people open. Why not show up with razor blades taped to your fingers like Bruiser Brody? At least grow out your fingernails or something.
Another fun note: Kane also wrestles on this episode, defeating the Road Dogg. I say this is fun because Kane no-sells a low blow, causing Jerry Lawler to remark that Kane has, “titanium testicles.”
That gives Kane:
- super strength
- enhanced endurance
- fire manipulation
- lightning manipulation
- healing factor
- blood manipulation
- balls of steel
Maybe this entire show is a Rob Liefeld comic. When do we get a wrestler whose finisher is shooting you with a gun that’s bigger than your entire body?
A Night Of Outside Interference
Welcome to the new era of Crash TV, where every single match ends with outside interference and/or multiple conflicting run-ins. The Mankind/Billy Gunn and Kane/Road Dogg matches are the only two on an two-hour show that end without interference, probably because they’re Building Momentum™ for the King of the Ring main events. Here’s how literally everything else on the show shakes out.
They still want us to believe that the first round of the King of the Ring tournament was just “qualifying matches” (despite them being part of the bracket on the tournament graphic), so this week begins the second first round. Ken Shamrock defeats Mark Henry to advance to the third first round when Vader randomly shows up and plows through Henry with a body attack. If I can give Mark a big compliment, I’m always shocked when I go back and watch old shows and see him job out despite being the “world’s strongest man” and a legitimate physical threat. That’s a compliment because if you ignore like two years in the late 2000s, that was Mark’s entire career. Crazy.
First of all, I can’t tell what my favorite part of this sign is; the fact that the fan assumes Dan Severn would drink forties, or the big diagonal DAN in the corner. If Severn had come up in the 2010s they would’ve absolutely shortened his name to just “Dan” when we made fun of how the announcers pronounce “Severn.”
Second of all, Severn defeats Owen Hart thanks to an assist from X-Pac, who gets revenge for being crotched on the rail last week by burying the edge of a steel chair into the back of Owen’s skull. I’m not even kidding, I was afraid dude’s brains were gonna fall out for a second.
Third of all, they’re still hyping up a Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn King of the Ring finals even though they’ve got no intention of delivering.
D-Generation X’s attack on Owen causes the Nation to show up, and for The Rock to announce that if, “you and the rest of your D-X jabronies got any testicular fortitude, you’ll come out here, smell what The Rock is cookin’, get it on with the Nation right here in Austin, Texas.” Nothing in the history of time motivates Triple H like The Rock calling him out, so he shows up and they have a match.
It ends with Chyna trying to cause a distraction but accidentally clearing Rock to punch her boyfriend in the junk and finish him off with … a fisherman suplex? Sure!
When it’s over, say it with me, everybody fights. At least they finally seem to have focused these faction vs. faction brawls on future superstars and stopped having the Disciples of Apocalypse show up for them.
X-Pac also scores a win over Dustin Runnels thanks to Chyna tripping Dustin, and the World Wrestling Federation’s weird decision to have Dustin drop the Goldust character cold turkey to be a good-natured Christian who gets written like a total dipshit. I’m not an especially religious guy, but whether it’s 1998 or 2019, pro wrestling should not be trying to get you to boo a guy because he prays. To add insult to constant insult, Dustin tries to shake X-Pac’s hand after the match and Pac crotch-chops at him while Triple H and Chyna smirk him to the back. When did Bill Maher join creative?
Thankfully this doesn’t last long, but at least we get a few weeks of screenshots of Goldust Tebowing.
The strangely well-built Marc Mero vs. Jeff Jarrett King of the Ring match ends with … well, shit, guess. I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two are wrong.
Jacqueline causes a distraction, allowing Mero to hit a low blow and a TKO to pin Jarrett. So then Tennessee Lee causes a distraction to prevent the count from happening, which draws Mero’s attention. Then SABLE shows up and walks down the ramp, causing the third distraction of this one match finish, and Jarrett hits a DDT for the win. I’m surprised they didn’t have the Roadie run out to interrupt THAT pin, and then have Sawyer Brown jump the security railing as a group and clubber Jarrett to death. And then, I don’t know, Diamond Rio runs in to brawl with Sawyer Brown. AND THEN LITTLE TEXAS RUNS IN LIKE A HOUSE AFIRE.
The highlight of the match is definitely this move, which I’m calling the Jarrett Bomb ’98.
Worst: Snow Job
So many wordy signs tonight. Brevity, guys.
Al Snow has been showing up to Raw in different costumes for weeks now, from his old Avatar get-up to Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He’s been trying to convince Jerry Lawler to get him a “meeting with Vince McMahon,” even though he’s referenced working with Vince in the past, and Jerry’s been giving him the runaround. So Snow stole Lawler’s crown, and now the Velveteen King has to make a concession to get it back.
Lawler tells Snow he’ll give him what he wants if he gets his crown back, and Snow (being an insane person who speaks to a Severed Woman’s Head in super cool 1998 ECW insider jargon) agrees. Instead of a meeting with Vince, Lawler presents Snow with a contract: if he can defeat Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor in a handicap match, he’ll get the meeting he wants. But if he “does the J-O-B on P-P-V,” he’s “his-to-ree!” Snow offers to let them pin him now, but when they show up to do what he asks, he fights them off.
This takes forever, and relies on you really liking a character who has had about 15 minutes of screen time total. And also is Al Snow.
Worst: You Think You (Oh No) Him
Finally we have this week’s most important historical footnote, leading directly into this week’s worst and most awkward moment: the in-ring debut of The Edge.
Things end up being pretty okay for Edge in his career. He ends up a WWE Hall of Famer who held a World Championship 11 times, the Intercontinental Championship five times, and the Tag Team Championship an incredible 14 times. He main-evented WrestleMania, won a Royal Rumble, won the King of the Ring, won a Money in the Bank briefcase and cashed in two, and on and on. And, in his very first match in the company, he almost ends a guy’s career by accident.
It’s probably the most disastrous and least lucky debut ever. A few seconds into the match, he knocks Los Boricuas member Jose Estrada to the outside and somersaults over the ropes onto him. Normally, this would be fine … but here, Edge’s leg happens to come down directly on the top of Estrada’s head. Watch:
Estrada ends up with pinched nerves in his neck and has to be taken out on a stretcher, and Edge (who had been hanging around the arena on camera for like an hour waiting for his debut match) has to awkwardly wander away. He’s so visibly distraught by what’s happened he doesn’t even high-five this poor good-natured guy. Thirteen years later he’d have to retire prematurely due to a neck injury, meaning his WWE career began and ended with neck injuries. Massively depressing at its beginning and end, with a really wonderful decade in between.
As mentioned, it’s finally time for King of the Ring 1998, featuring:
- the crowning of a new King of the Ring
- Stone Cold Steve Austin trying to make a guy bleed through a leather mask
- Mankind going from smark favorite to beloved cult hero in two easy steps
- not much else, but Mankind’s the only thing anybody’s going to talk about from this show for two decades