Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: Road Warrior Hawk would rather throw himself off the TitanTron than be a part of that Legion of Doom alcoholism angle any longer.
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 Is War for November 23, 1998.
Best/Worst: This Is How A Heart Breaks, Or, ‘A Balmy Night In Columbus’
This week’s story begins with the news that Stone Cold Steve Austin “fainted” at a house show in San Jose due to complications from a concussion he suffered when, you know, a 7-foot tall man smashed him in his goddamn face with a goddamn shovel. Due to this, Austin is not at the arena but being taken care of at a Local Medical Facility, where he’s extremely unhappy to be kept. The most important aspect of the story is that Austin’s off-site, which becomes important later, because reasons.
Vince McMahon and the Mean Street Boomers open the show with the announcement that Sgt. Slaughter is “graciously stepping away” from his role as WWF commissioner, so that someone new can take over and move the company forward. That person? [intense growl] The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels [/intense growl], who just can’t stay away. It’s worth noting that Michaels has already made the real-life decision to start looking like a weird cowboy 24/7 at this point.
The announce team plays up the fact that McMahon may have finally made a selfless decision for the benefit of World Wrestling Federation fans, as Shawn Michaels is famously anarchic and operates outside the control of the McMahons. At no point is one of them like, “well, Vince McMahon did just specifically give him this job to replace one of his Stooges, and he made sure to announce it on the one night when Stone Cold Steve Austin’s not in the building, so maybe SOMETHING is up?” Michaels announces a title shot for his friend, X-Pac, against The Rock right here tonight. McMahon looks shocked that the guy he brought in to make decisions just made a decision, and reacts to a series of crotch chops in a way to let you know 1995 Vince McMahon’s still in there somewhere, deep down.
So let’s talk about Stone Cold Steve Austin, and how much The Undertaker suddenly wants to commit actual murders on WWF television.
Austin has a couple of inconsequential segments early in the episode to let us know he’s not happy being stuck in the hospital, possibly because there’s a WWF camera man in there with him. Eventually Local Medical Facility security fails to stop an undead wizard and his funeral parlor impresario familiar from sneaking into the building with a bottle of chloroform, so whoops, whoopsie, Stone Cold gets choked out and captured. There’s a pretty funny shot here of Austin being dragged away by the ankle that I’ve politely screenshotted for use on WrestleFeets dot org, or whatever. Stone Cold not wearing shoes is the same kind of weird that Matt Riddle wearing shoes would be. I just figured Austin was born in little black boots.
Anyway, the Undertaker’s initial plan is to bury Austin alive, but he decides that’s too humane a gesture. Instead, he’s going to take Stone Cold to the Local Funerary Facility and embalm him. If you don’t know what that means, embalming is, quote, “the art and science of preserving human or animal remains by treating them to forestall decomposition.” This means your dead body gets formulae pumped into it, your organs get all the air pumped out of them, stab you with a bunch of needles, and basically chemically dermabrase your corpse.
The Undertaker’s idea of embalming, considering that he is THE UNDERTAKER, is to murder you with a big Satan knife.
Boethiah is gonna be stoked! Unfortunately for The Undertaker, and wildly fortunate for Stone Cold Steve Austin and anyone watching at home that didn’t want to see a live autopsy on a living dude because he did better in a wrestling tournament than one of his enemies, the procedure is interrupted by Kane. Austin wakes up and escapes, hopefully to call the fucking police on the malicious occultist who just tried to put his organs in jars on national television.
A Quick Aside: The Job Squad
One thing Mr. McMahon didn’t count on in this episode is the rise of the Job Squad, a group of … well, not “jobbers,” necessarily, but lower-level guys who don’t win many matches.
McMahon still needs to punish Mankind for what happened on Raw last week, and just generally loves being an asshole to him anyway, so who needs an occasion? His idea is to book poor Mick in a triple threat for the Hardcore Championship against Ken Shamrock, who is a Vince crony now, and the Big Boss Man, who is the paterfamilias of Vince cronies. Things look dire for Mankind throughout most of the match, but he gets bailed out by the randomly occurring super team of Al Snow, Room Temperature Scorpio, and Bob Holly. Two guys distract the ref, which allows Snow to sneak in, crack Shamrock in the face with a mannequin head, and give Foley the win.
Foley, proud to have suddenly found some friends, does not forget this favor.
In fact, he shows up later in the night with a gift-wrapped leaf blower (of all things) (in the entire world) and helps the Job Squad defeat the New Age Outlaws in a non-title match. Mankind isn’t specifically angry at D-Generation X for anything at the moment, but he’s a good friend, and also these two jagoffs specifically used to dress up blow-up dolls as him and assault him with dumpsters. So, you know, it makes sense that he’d weigh his options and decide to leaf-blow Mr. Ass about it.
It’s a terrible match, because of course it is, but it presents an interesting situation in which The Corporation decides to try to recruit the chaotic neutral New Age Outlaws. It’s not a bad gambit, especially since they’re on speaking (and clearly more) terms with Shawn Michaels, seen talking to them throughout the show. Intrigue!
The biggest moment of the night for the Jobbers is when they help comedy Survivor Series option Duane Gill win the Light Heavyweight Championship from Christian. This is actually going somewhere, believe it or not. I remember feeling terrible for Christian for getting jobbed out to the jobbiest jobber that ever jobbed, but by this time next year he’d be revolutionizing WWE gimmick matches and setting himself up for a career of second-tier World Title wins. He’s good, don’t worry.
Back To That Main Event
You’re not going to believe me when I tell you this, but Shawn Michaels actually turns heel here, betrays X-Pac, and reveals that he’s a total corporate stooge. Who could’ve seen THAT coming? Rock gets an easy pin following the Corporate Elbow, the World Wrestling Federation has another in a literally endless string of evil and/or corrupt authority figures, and the show goes off the air with that legendary image of Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, The Rock, and Shawn Michaels all crotch-chopping.
And that’s what this episode is about: setting the stage for the next edition of a beloved every-man stepping up to defy authority and tear down the oppressive system that controls him. And by “tear down the oppressive system that controls him,” I mean either (1) having some temporary success, or (2) that Daenerys Targaryen where you spend seven and a half years saying you’re gonna “break the wheel” only to flip out the second you see it and murder 100,000 people. The good news here is that Mankind, with an assist from a rightfully pissed off D-Generation X, chooses option one.
Note: Triple H would choose option two shortly thereafter, but we’ll get to that.
This Week In Sudden But Inevitable Betrayals
If Shawn Michaels turning his back on D-Generation X and The Kliq doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’ll enjoy the Insane Clown Posse begging the Oddities to take their tag team match against The Headbangers because they’re not athletes and are nowhere near as prepared as they need to be, only to show up and spray them in the eyes with hairspray or whatever. The only thing that would make two bald guys seem MORE like “headbangers” is hanging out with rappers!
ICP goes full Wicked Clowns here, too, tying up Giant Silva in the ropes and making him watch through hair-sprayed eyes as they cut off Luna Vachon’s hair. This was back when women who were tough suddenly had to be helpless if a man threatened them, so Luna, who could’ve killed ICP’s entire record label full of average white dudes with her bare hands, has to sit there on her knees sobbing into her hands while they shear her. It’s weird.
For a look at what female empowerment looked like in the World Wrestling Federation of 1998, look no further than this Goldust vs. Marc Mero match. It ends with Jacqueline punching Goldust in the dick, followed immediately by Terri Runnels showing up in an outfit made entirely of furry shoulder pads and nipple tape to hit the Shattered Dreams on Mero. Terri and Jackie are tired of being valets, so now they’re sisters. In fact, if you had to describe them, you could say they were both pretty and mean about it.
Yes, folks, this is the beginning of PMS, the “Pretty Mean Sisters,” the first in a long line of Vince Russo-approved sex and reproduction factions focused on important wrestling storylines such as, “having a male servant who wrestles in tighty-whities and struggles with his 24/7 boner,” as well as, “putting Mark Henry in a cock vice.” I really hope you didn’t think the excellent storytelling of and reception to Survivor Series ’98 was going to do anything but empower a marginally talented New York bro into thinking every terrible idea that wanders through his head while he’s masturbating is worth putting on television!
Elsewhere In The Sex Division
Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown face Edge and Gangrel and actually lose to them via distraction when Chyna shows up and finally, mercifully agrees to “go on a date” with Mark. Mark is so happy he starts literally rolling around in the ring and sliding on his knees like he just scored a goal in the World Cup. This is the definition of “more on this later,” because Jesus Christ, I’m not even sure our website can handle the amount of words necessary to describe the Chyna and Mark Henry angle.
Also of note here is that D’Lo is now regularly using a running powerbomb out of the corner as his finish, despite the fact that he doesn’t know how to do it properly. Here he is attempting it on Edge and almost botching it. The problem is that he doesn’t get the guy all the way up before he starts running, and just goes with it anyway. Spoiler alert, but this is going to end really badly soon.
Finally, the Godfather follows up last week’s furiously homophobic segment with Real Man’s Man Steven Regal by offering Tiger Ali Singh (woof) some of Columbus, Ohio’s finest hoes. That looks about right, honestly. Regal interrupts and tries to talk Singh out of being swindled, noting that Singh too rich to accept these, and I quote, “sloppers.” Brutal. The announce team’s read of, “what’s a slopper,” belongs beside Jason Lee’s read of, “what’s a Nubian?” in the question asking hall of fame.
Godfather goes after Regal for besmirching the whores and gets attacked by Singh, setting up a 2-on-1 attack. The pimp who made an offer only to immediately rescind it and gay slurred a dude last week is the babyface, by the way. He’s saved by the only man who truly understands him: Val Venis. At first you’re like, “oh, it makes sense that the guy who can’t stop having sex would want to be friends with the guy in charge of an endless supply of sex,” but the more you think about it, Val was a sex worker, too. I think he was just in Godfather’s stable.
Stone Cold Steve Austin hunts the men who tried to murder him, Mark Henry goes on a date, Shane McMahon continues to harass Sable, and we pretty much forget that the wrestling show’s supposed to have wrestling matches on it. All this and possibly more, next week on Raw from 20 years ago!