Previously on WWF Raw Is War: The Rock, Ken Shamrock, and Mankind formed a loose coalition of babyfaces to help Stone Cold Steve Austin battle the evil forces of Mr. McMahon and the Brothers of Destruction. Also, Val Venis is sleeping with Dustin Runnels’ wife and Lord Steven Regal is sleeping in the forest.
Previously on Sunday Night Heat: Those stories continued, plus Sgt. Slaughter trying to put a Cobra Clutch on a guy with his arms handcuffed behind his back. It looked great!
If you haven’t seen this episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Check out all the episodes of classic Raw 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.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Saturday Night from September 21, 1998.
Best: Triple The Threats
Like a lot of great episodes of Raw from this era, this week’s Raw is primarily built around a single concept: Breakdown is in six days and Vince McMahon has guaran-damn-teed a new WWF Champion, so he wants to “soften up” Stone Cold Steve Austin. To do this, he’s set up a tag team match: Stone Cold Steve Austin and a partner of his choosing against Kane and The Undertaker. You know how modern Raws barely think through a single segment? Raw ’98 at its peak not only thinks about the segment, it thinks about how the OTHER segments on the show might affect it, and logically writes them to branch off of the main story and avoid tons of, “why didn’t they just do this? Why didn’t they just do THIS?”
The recent shows have focused on The Rock, Ken Shamrock, and Mankind teaming up due to having mutual enemies in the Brothers of Destruction (currently being called “the Brothers Grim,” a MUCH better, but definitely already copyrighted, name). They also have all expressed interest in being the WWF Champion, so Vince decides to leverage those two things against one another. He’s signed a triple threat match for tonight’s main event: Mankind vs. The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock, with the winner facing the new WWF Champion next week on Raw. The only stipulation is that if they want to be in the match, they can’t agree to be Stone Cold Steve Austin’s partner against Kane and The Undertaker. It’s brilliant, honestly, because it gives the secondary characters an actual, tangible reason to not compromise career opportunities and help out a guy they barely like. Nowadays it only gets as far as, “the bad guys in charge WON’T LIKE IT,” or, at worst, “you’ve been BARRED FROM THE BUILDING, unless you decide to wander back in later when everyone’s forgotten about it, and nothing will happen to you.”
It’s such a well-written idea, in fact, that when Michael Cole goes backstage to get comments from Vince about how impossible it’ll be for Stone Cold to find a partner, we see the writers of the show still writing it. Better than finishing at 5 PM on Monday and having Vince tear it up to rewrite the entire thing, I guess.
In case you aren’t familiar, that’s future WWF Champion Vince McMahon alongside WCW Cruiserweight Champion Ed “Oklahoma” Ferrara and future WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vince Russo. It’s easy to win championships when you’re the guy who decides who wins championships!
Early in the show, Billy Gunn gets revenge on Jeff Jarrett for jabbing a guitar handle into the Road Dogg’s throat and giving him Ricky Steamboat-itis. Road Dogg helps Gunn get through the New Age Outlaws’ opening spiel with the use of cue cards, including one with Billy’s own name on it, in a cute bit.
The victory is easy enough, in fact, that Gunn ends up volunteering to be Austin’s tag team partner against the Brothers Grunt. D-X have been positioned as the company’s secondary, quirky mini-boss squadron of babyfaces, so it makes perfect sense. Also, you can call the tag team STUN GUNN.
Here’s Vince McMahon’s live, realistic reaction to realizing he has to watch two Billy Gunn matches on the same Raw:
Of course, it’s Billy Gunn in there against Kane and the Undertaker, so Kane tosses Austin around on the outside while Gunn takes a chokeslam and loses. Looking back, it’s pretty crazy how often they seemed like they wanted to push Billy Gunn to the moon, only to abort the launch. Here, it seems like they’re giving him the rub as a helpful hero in the ring with three main-eventers, but he’s really only there to get squashed and take the pinfall. Then they start building him up as a contender for the Intercontinental Championship, only for Ken Shamrock to kick his ass and beat him clean at the ’99 Rumble. Then they have him win the King of the ring, only to get embarrassed by The Rock. Then he wins the Intercontinental Championship in 2000, holds it for like a month, and gets skunked by Chris Benoit. And that’s not even counting the Smoking Gunns and Rockabilly. This would probably be more of a point if it wasn’t how they book everybody in 2019.
Anyway, with Austin defeated it’s time for the triple threat match. I’ll give you three guesses how it turns out, and the first two are “Kane” and “The Undertaker.”
Yep, it’s all a vintage Vincent Kennedy McMahon Screwjob® as now that he’s successfully kept the three most dangerous mid-card babyfaces from teaming up with Stone Cold Steve Austin, he can send out his soulless monsters to destroy them all. I bet they all feel stupid for trusting Vince, especially The Rock, who will definitely never make that mistake again. Loudest possible coughing noises. McMahon watches from the stage and makes a crucial mistake: forgetting that he’s up there by himself, and Kane and Undertaker are in the ring. Austin shows up and gets in a few shots as the show goes off the air.
The bait-and-switch on the main event is a bummer, but it’s a great go-home angle for Breakdown. Austin’s chances look truly hopeless in the face of an actually competent evil general manager in Vince McMahon, who manipulates the show to his best interest instead of just booking one guy as evilly as possible because lulz. It feels like a guy who actually has to run a proper wrestling show in addition to his personal bullshit. PLEASE REMEMBER HOW TO DO THIS, WWE.
Best: The Real Higher Power
One quick, additional note before we move on from Kane and Undertaker. As they’re arriving to the arena, we get a shot of the locker room showing them fear and respect by getting out of their way. This is notable for two reasons:
- “Casual Kane” returning, with the same warm-up suit and black ski mask as that time he had to get DNA tested
- a cameo appearance from none other than The Fallen Angle Christopher Daniels, star of pretty much everywhere on earth except WWE, back when he still had hair. I’m assuming this was the root of the, “CHRISTOPHER DANIELS IS THE HIGHER POWER,” rumors back in the day, as he has a long and storied history of being rumored for Evil Master positions that never come to fruition
He doesn’t get time to mention it, but we can assume that Sacramento, California, is the worst town he’s ever been to.
Worst/Best: A Night Of Title Changes
Remember the WWF Women’s Championship? You know, the one Madusa threw into the garbage on Nitro back in ’96? Well, someone decided that Jacqueline challenging to Sable to a “wrestling match” on Raw from Sunday Night Heat should decide the first new Women’s Champion in three years. You know, Sable, the woman who less than 24 hours earlier they’d been saying is, “not an athlete,” and, “not a wrestler.”
Marc Mero ruins Sable’s almost day-long dream of being WWF Women’s Champion by doing the old “trip ’em up during a suplex into the ring and hold down their foot, which somehow also prevents them from lifting their shoulder off the mat” bit. Jacqueline becomes the first Women’s Champion of the Attitude Era, an era that would see other legendary champions such as The Kat, a 76-year old Fabulous Moolah, and “Hervina,” a man in drag who won a “lumberjill snowbunny match.” A proud tradition!
In other much better but still abbreviated news, X-Pac wins his first singles championship in WWE with a European Championship win over D’Lo Brown. The only downside is that it’s only five minutes long, as these were basically the #1 and #2 most underrated in-ring guys on the roster at the time, and that it ends with the Alberto Del Rio Memorial Jumping Nothing™ from Brown.
Seriously, what was he going for here? A frog splash headbutt to the groin? If you ever need Randy Orton to salivate on command, let him watch D’Lo Brown jump off the top rope like that.
X-Pac would have a healthy reign as champion, holding the belt for 120 days — basically six years in Attitude Era time — before losing it to … [checks notes] oh, no.
Worst: Your Next European Champion, Spoiler Alert
HO YEAH! HO YEAH! BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! YEAH, MY POPS! BOOYAH!
If you haven’t been keeping up with the Sunday Night Heat column, Vince McMahon’s pissant, enthusiastic son Shane has been doing some of the worst color commentary in human history. He calls the entire show like he’s on a roller coaster called The Trust Fund. While modern Shane McMahon has too much chill, 1998 Shane McMahon had none, and made Mauro Ranallo sound like he’s on horse tranquilizers. Imagine Mauro going full AAAAAH MAAA MAAA MIAAAAAAAHHHHHH every time he opened his mouth.
So yeah, Shane McMahon and Jim Cornette are your Raw announce team, giving the show a real “televangelist talking to someone who believes in faith healing” kind of vibe. If you’re wondering, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler aren’t here because they’re off working on Man on the Moon and, presumably, dealing with Jim Carrey being a complete asshole to everyone because “method acting.” Jim Carrey pretending to be Andy Kaufman, or Shane McMahon pretending to be a frat boy on ecstasy, who ya got?
Anyway, with Jim Cornette in the booth, let’s talk sports.
Worst: Oh My God, They Killed Cartman
The Headbangers are supposed to have a match with The Oddities, but instead of wrestling, they decide to have a silly string dance party and get down to The Oddities’ terrible WWE Network replacement music. But like everything happening on Raw in 1998, it’s a trap! The Bangers spray VISCOUS LIQUIDS into the Oddities’ eyes and break Golga’s heart by tearing up his precious Eric Cartman doll. It’s a shame, too, because in 1998 you could only find 30-50 of those at every Spencer’s Gifts in the world.
Mosh and Golga will face each other on Sunday Night Heat to settle the score, and if you’re ever compiling a list of the worst and most ’90s reasons why people had wrestling matches, please consider, “because they tore up my South Park plush.”
Best: Snow, Job
The best match of the night, surprisingly, is Al Snow winning a WWF job by defeating the old man stooge version of Sgt. Slaughter in a Boot Camp match. If you’re wondering what a “boot camp” match is, it’s like a normal hardcore or “extreme rules” match except one of the wrestlers was in the military.
Sarge was never really a great “worker,” but he worked that northeast, “less is more” late 70s WWWF territory style to perfection. He’s mostly here to put over Snow, who was always a little better in the ring than literally any of his gimmicks allowed, via weapon shots and kicks to the balls. The match comes down to Snow being able to escape the Cobra Clutch by hitting Sarge in the nuts with a sentient mannequin head, kicking him in the balls with a non-sentient human foot, and then mannequin heading him in the chest for the win. Snow honestly get a spectacular amount of mileage out of taking sexual slang literally and using it as a weapon. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have Perry Saturn or whoever attack and pin him with a leaf blower just so he could say he did a “blowjob.”
Also On This Episode
Lord Steven Regal is shaving in the woods with a straight razor because he’s too much of a REAL MAN to use razors you can buy at the store. Wait until he finds out that he took a job as a guy who wears nothing but underwear and boots and pretends to fight!
Southern Justice are in action against the Disciple of Apocalypse, which might as well have been advertised as a Klan Rally Match. Everyone’s so uninterested in what happens that Jeff Jarrett hits Paul Ellering with a guitar, and despite neither Jarrett nor Ellering being in the match, everyone agrees to call it a no contest and stop wrestling. You know your career is going great when the show has to desperately make a bunch of excuses why you should please keep watching every time you’re in the ring.
Val Venis gets a disqualification win over Owen Hart when Dustin Runnels interferes. Owen is completely directionless after that Ken Shamrock feud, and needs something to get him back on the right track. Unfortunately their best idea is, “what if you do the Blue Blazer gimmick again,” which … I guess we’ll talk about when we get there.
The bigger point of this (get it) is that Val Venis has been hooking up with Dustin’s wife in a sepia-toned hotel room and keeps releasing porn videos that are just 30-60 seconds of them in bed with the covers up to their necks, not having sex. He’s not the best porn star. Here, a babyface (?) Val ties up Dustin in the ropes, screams at him for “sticking his nose in his business,” and shows him a video clip (titled, There’s Something About Terri) that’s just Terri telling Dustin he’s got a tiny dick. REALLY BAD AT PORNO. Although I’d love it if they brought Val Venis back in 2019 as a guy with a Manyvids page who charges $39.99 for six minutes of negging and JOI.
That’s … uh, probably where we should end this week’s column.
It’s time for WWF BREAKDOWN, the second best pay-per-view named after a Tom Petty song behind In Your House: Don’t Do Me Like That. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWF Championship run comes to a guaran-damn-teed end, a new number one contender is made, and a bunch of unannounced matches happen for no reason! See you then!