Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Over The Edge: In Your House is in the books, and Stone Cold Steve Austin retained in what’s probably the best “sports-entertainment” match of all time. Vader lost his mask (oh no!), Sable is gone forever (OH NO!), and the Undertaker put on his best jammies to try to kill Vince McMahon.
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 8, 1998.
First Things First, Rest In Peace Junkyard Dog
Sorry if you hadn’t heard, but regional wrestling superstar turned national mid-card guy popular enough to show up in a Saturday morning cartoon The Junkyard Dog has died. He was driving home from his daughter’s high school graduation and wrecked his car.
Junkyard Dog was kinda great in that he took what was ostensibly a racist-ass Bill Watts gimmick — a poor black guy who lived in a junkyard, wore a dog collar, and pushed around a cart full of garbage — and was so likable in the role and good at performing it that he became a local wrestling phenomenon. That got him a job in the newly expanded World Wrestling Federation, where he was equally as over despite never doing anything more athletic than crawling on all fours into headbutts. I’m also pretty sure that as “Stagger Lee” he invented the “masked wrestler is obviously a popular guy we know, but ssh don’t tell, you’re in on the joke” bit that Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and a hundred other guys would yank over the next 40 years.
He’s most notable in the WWF for winning The Wrestling Classic in 1985 — a tournament that was the company’s first-ever pay-per-view, since the first WrestleMania had been broadcast on closed circuit — and for contributing ‘Grab Them Cakes’ to The Wrestling Album, which stands as the second greatest song about day-to-day cake maintenance ever recorded, behind Richard Harris’ ‘MacArthur Park.’
Oh No: D-Generation X In New York
WWF sold out Madison Square Garden on the Friday before Raw and are heading back to the arena for SummerSlam, so they left D-Generation X to wander around Time Square with a camera and fuck with people. What we get is a very, very 1998 kind of segment in which Triple H does racist accent to pretend every Asian person he meets is running from Godzilla, affects a stereotypical Middle Eastern voice to ask cab drivers if it’s a “flat rate to Pakistan,” and asks a Sikh guy in a turban if he “keeps a snake in there.” He also asks that guy if it’ll “start his motor” if he pulls on the turban. I’m guessing this is the kind of “everything’s fine if you’re a white guy with a camera” attitude that convinces the company that white guys wearing blackface to make fun of the Nation of Domination is a great idea.
More endearing are the clips of random dudes marking out for Chyna, wrestling fans in the street recognizing D-X and almost getting hit by cars because they’re so starstruck, and Triple H trying to show an old grandmother how to chop crotch:
King Of The Ring Is Still A Thing
They call them “qualifying matches” for some reason, but it’s still technically round one. So here are your round one updates:
- Ken Shamrock continues to secretly be the most over guy with hair in the company by defeating Supreme Fighting Machine, Kama by submission. Kama is now leaning into his “The Godfather” nickname, but he’s still just plain clothes Papa Shango for a while until the complexities of pimping figure themselves out. I’ve heard it’s difficult!
- Dan Severn nearly rips D’Lo Brown in half, Hulk vs. Tigra-style, to win his first round match. The Nation attacked Shamrock after his match until Severn made the save, so when they attack Severn, Shamrock returns the favor. They make a huge deal out of the fact that Severn and Shamrock are blood rivals on opposite sides of a tournament bracket, and how if they meet at all, it’d be in the finals. Spoiler alert: they don’t. Cool?
- Owen Hart defeats Scorpio by submission with the Sharpshooter after Scorp goes for a moonsault WAY too far out and crashes down on his knees. It’s probably a really good little match, made awkward to watch considering it actually has a structure, and the live crowd maxes out at about 90 seconds of paying attention.
- Mark Henry vs. Vader, which honestly kinda rules considering how short it is, how terrible Vader’s been doing lately and how green Mark is in 1998, ends when The Undertaker shows up in his work-out clothes and chokeslams them both.
Actually, let’s talk about that real quick …
Worst: Takering Care Of Business
This is one of those Raws where the overarching story is more important than any of the matches, so a lot of them just end with The Undertaker showing up and chokeslamming everybody. He wants Mr. McMahon, you see, and I guess can’t find him backstage for two hours and has to take it out on his co-workers.
Aside from the mild humor of seeing the SummerSlam ’94 main event secretly reenacted when Real Undertaker ruins a Darren Drozdov match by chokeslamming Chainz, it makes about an hour in the middle of the show pointless. Taker beats up both Droz and Chainz after their match, beats up both Mark Henry and Vader before their match is over, and does the same to both Val Venis and newly Goldust-free Dustin Runnels. You think it’s building to something at the end of the night, but Vince just calls the police and they make a human barrier to keep Undertaker away from the ring.
A very placeholder kind of Raw, which (at least in 1998) we haven’t seen in a while.
Speaking Of Val Venis
Does every Monday night wrestling show in ’98 have to be about Dennis Rodman?
Real quick, Val gets a supplemental Best for at least turning it into something funny. He starts with the boring “they call us both THE WORM” joke that barely works, but saves it with, “the only difference is, he dominates the boards, while I dominate the broads.” That’s gonna get you in trouble very soon, Val.
Worst: Sgt. Slaughter ‘Invents’ The Triple Threat Match, Immediately Regrets It
Triple threat matches are pretty common these days, but if you ever need to answer a trivia question about the World Wrestling Federation’s first official triple threat match, it’s from this episode of Raw.
The Legion of Doom and the biker variant Harris Twins get into a low education shouting match about which one of them deserves to be number one contenders to the New Age Outlaws’ Tag Team Championship. This new version of D-X isn’t going to make any decision beyond a vague wanking motion, so Slaughter shows up and decrees that BOTH teams are number one contender. They’ll have what he calls (Peggy Hill-style) a triple threat match, with all three teams wrestling at the same time.
This is all well and good, but WWF hasn’t quite figured out the rules of a triple threat match yet, so they decide anyone who gets tagged by ANYONE is the legal man. That means, for instance, if Billy Gunn is in the ring and Road Warrior Hawk tags out to the Road Dogg, Road Dogg and Billy have to wrestle. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? Seems like it’d be really easy to just pin your tag team partner and win the match, doesn’t it?
Yes. Yes it does.
To their credit, the Outlaws realize this, win the match easily, and leave the Road Warriors and the Disciples of Apocalypse looking even dumber than before.
Worst: Jeff Jarrett And Marc Mero, The Tag Team You’ve Been Waiting For
Marc Mero is obsessed with his new girlfriend from the neighborhood, Jacqueline, and lets her rampant dick-pointing distract him and cost him a tag team match. His partner for that? Jeff Jarrett, bringing the worst of early-90s WCW and the worst of mid-90s WCW together at last. They lose to a team with Faarooq on it, too, so if they’d just replaced Steve Blackman with Butch Reed we would’ve had a complete WCW Pro revival.
Up next, Todd Champion and Firebreaker Chip take on Arachnaman and PN News!
Best: I THINK I KNOW HIM
One of my favorite things about going back and re-watching episodes of Raw I haven’t seen since they aired live 20+ years ago is being genuinely surprised by moments and things I don’t remember. For example, you know Edge’s entrance theme, with the “you think you know me” bit?
Even when he became the Rated-R Superstar and got Altered Creed to do his theme (which still owns, don’t @ me), he kept the “you think you know me” at the beginning.
Well, it turns out all those speaking bits come from this week’s Sexy Hobo Fighter vignette. I popped when it opened with, “you think you know me.” I was like, “WAIT, I DO, I DO KNOW HIM. ” Here’s how it originally went:
“You think you know me. But you will never know me. You don’t know yourself. You are lost, and scared. You know what I allow you to know. You’re just a puppet who thinks he’s alive. You’re just a puppet (puppet puppet).”
A vampire puppet. See you soon, Edge!
Best, Mostly: Humanitarian Of The Year
At Over The Edge and at last week’s Raw, Vince McMahon was humiliated when he couldn’t overcome the blue collar insanity of Stone Cold Steve Austin. His plan for this week is to “extend the olive branch” to Austin and invite him to the presentation of the Halas-Payton Foundation’s HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR award. It’s a “black tie affair,” so Austin plays ball and shows up in a black tie. But, you know, like Stone Cold Steve Austin would.
Presenting the award are New York Giants great (and A Song Of Ice And Fire author) (not really) George Martin and Chicago Bears running back Darnell Autry. Between the Dennis Rodman references and appearances from former Chicago Bears, this is a very 1996 Nitro kind of Raw. Anyway, it’s pretty entertaining while it lasts, with Autry and Martin making it clear that Vince hasn’t really been as charitable as he pretends, and that he orchestrated this whole thing so they’d have to show up and present him awards in front of Austin. They also both mention that Stone Cold is their favorite, and Vince has to make “well, quite frankly” faces at them.
It’s not as entertaining as it could be, though, for two reasons:
- You can’t really hear anyone speak because Jim Ross will not shut up about conspiracy theories, rambling on and on (and on) about how maybe Vince set this all up as a plan to screw Steve Austin, or maybe Austin set this all up as a plan to screw Vince McMahon, or The Undertaker set this all up as an elaborate plan to screw one or both of them. Hey Mike Tenay, maybe let us listen and come to some conclusions ourselves? If Vince was in the ring, maybe he had Michael Cole in his ear piece telling him to talk over everything.
- It’d be a classic segment if it had an ending that had anything to do with its content, as they skip a Steve Austin moment AND an Undertaker moment in favor of having Mankind and Kane just hit the ring and attack in Undertaker’s blue mood lightning
That’s it, really. Kane and Mankind beat up Austin, and Kane rolls him into a casket. That’s the end of the show, and for the first time in months you’re left thinking, “really? Is that it?” Not a bad episode, necessarily, but definitely the weakest effort in a while.
Things pick back up next week, as we get:
- Sable returning, only a week after they gave her a ‘Tell Me A Lie’ style “goodbye forever” tribute video
- Hell in a Cell making its Raw debut, and Mick Foley doesn’t take that as a terrifying omen
- a tag team Royal Rumble, which is still an awesome idea WWE should bring back
And more! See you then!