Previously on the Best and Worst of WWF Raw Is War: The Undertaker “crucified” Steve Austin by hanging him up on a big Undertaker symbol and then not doing anything to him. Plus, Goldust and Debra McMichael are feuding over nonconsensual nudity, and a guy named Bob got to spend the night with two of the Godfather’s finest hoes.
If you haven’t seen this pay-per-view, 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 In Your House: Buried Alive Rock Bottom 1998.
Nearly A Ton Of Dirt And A Tombstone That Weighs 3,000 Pounds
Sunday Night Heat opens with Mr. McMahon declaring that Canadians being able to speak more than one language means they’re indecisive, because that’s how that works, and unfurling gigantic Rock banners to christen the artist formerly known as Buried Alive “Rock Bottom.” “A rather bombastic display, some would say!” says Kevin Kelly, who makes Michael Cole sound like George Carlin.
Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker are main-eventing the show in a “buried alive” match, which, in case you’ve never seen it, is what it sounds like. Later in the night, Cole is like, “you can’t explain this match in words, you have to see it to believe it,” which is funny. Have you tried, “one guy has to bury the other guy alive?” That would work. I want 1998 Michael Cole to call a ladder match and be like, “it’s two long sticks combined by a bunch of shorter sticks and people are walking on them, it is literally impossible to describe what’s going on here tonight.”
“I would like to once again like to state that there is no chance in hell that Stone Cold Steve Austin will ever again be the World Wrestling Federation Champion. I know, many of you are saying, well now, ‘Mr. McMahon, you said that Austin could qualify tonight for the Royal Rumble should he win this match.’ That’s true! I won’t go back on my word. However I would suggest to you, that Austin himself, as well as his hopes to qualify for the Royal Rumble, will be literally buried alive in this tomb by the Undertaker AT ROCK BOTTOM PAY-PER-VIEW TONIGHT!“
One of the big talking points on the night is that the custom Austin vs. Undertaker tombstone “weighs in excess of 3,000 pounds,” which only makes sense if they’re weighing it on the same scale they use to measure those 275-pound ring steps. A quick google for “tombstone weight” — can’t wait to see my targeted ads for that — reveals that common tombstones weigh about 86 pounds, while larger models can weigh, “in excess of 1,000 lbs.” If you’re lying to me about the heaviness of your props for the Buried Alive match featuring a zombie necromancer who can teleport and shoot lightning, what else are you lying about??
Best: The Rock’s First Trip To Hollywood
This isn’t really important to the pay-per-view’s narrative or anything, but I wanted to point out how weird it is that the highest paid Hollywood movie star in the world once had to go to a Planet Hollywood restaurant in a baggy, leopard-print shirt to film a thing for his fake fighting show. Look at where you are; look at where you started.
Best: One Giant Sneak For Mankind
The secondary main event for Rock Bottom is The Rock (and his bottom) defending the WWF Championship against Mankind. When Sunday Night Heat starts up, though, Mr. McMahon’s already talking about how The Rock is suddenly injured and might not be able to compete. Why? Because Mankind sneak-attacked him during a weird empty arena but still-using-a-live-microphone interview with Michael Cole before anyone was let into the building. He makes sure to put Socko on his hand and peek him around the corner to scout things beforehand.
Mick Foley is hilarious here, beating Rock around a sky box and calling everything he uses “corporate.” “Here’s a corporate elbow, Rock! And a corporate table too! And a corporate, uh, whatever the hell this thing is!” That thing Mick Foley can’t identify is an overhead projector, which confirms he didn’t go to elementary or middle school in the 1980s. Maybe an overhead projector can’t be corporate because there’s too much transparency.
The best of these attacks is a, “corporate rhododendron, for the champ!” The joy with which Foley says the word, “rhododendron,” is contagious. Unfortunately he figures out too late that it’s not a rhododendron at all. What an emotional roller coaster.
There’s also a weird/great moment where Mankind walks Rock over toward a photo of Vancouver Grizzlies star Big Country Bryant Reeves — wow, that’s an extremely 1990s sentence — and shrieks, “There’s a white guy, Rock! He must be a corporate guy! [throws Rock into it] SMELL WHAT HE’S COOKING, HUH? YOU SMELL WHAT HE’S COOKING? DO YOU SMELL IT?” I like to think the legendary Halftime Heat match was a result of everyone watching this, listening to Foley trash talk, and laughing their asses off about it.
We catch up with a doctor taping up The Rock’s ribs, and everyone agreeing that there’s no way he can compete tonight. Rock says that jabroni cost himself a championship match, but but the jabroni has become the jabroner: Mankind learned to read the fine print from his “dad” Vince McMahon, and the fine print on his match contract says that if Rock doesn’t make it to the match, he forfeits the WWF Championship. More on this a little later.
Worst: Meet Kevin Quinn, The Only Wrestler In 1998 To Get Booed For Being Bad At Wrestling
Scott Taylor had his knee injured during a match with The Legion of Doom, so Brian Christopher has to go it alone against newcomer Kevin Quinn. Quinn looks like a 1998 Matt Hardy create-a-wrestler, and I apparently can’t overstate how terrible this match is. I tried to share some clips of it with Maffew of Botchamania fame and his immediate response was, “ooooh, the legendary Quinn match!” You know you’re bad when the guy who made noticing bad wrestling his trade thinks of you as folklore.
The problems start when Quinn bodyslams himself into the ground trying to do a forward roll, visibly calls his spot, throws a CM Punk-style roundhouse kick, and stumbles all over himself trying to throw a jump kick. Here’s that sequence in GIF form. The crowd hates this so much and starts openly booing, and things get worse when he barely makes it through a cartwheel trying to be the Great Muta. The worst part of all? He WINS THE MATCH. How, you ask? Why, by falling on his face trying to do a powerbomb reversal and then crawling around making Brian Christopher schoolboy himself, of course! Holy shit, Kevin Quinn.
Quinn would stick around through the weekend’s tapings, popping up as Christopher’s replacement tag team partner in another Sunday Night Heat match and on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night. He’d get one more appearance on Shotgun at the end of the month, and then he was gone forever. In a fun note, this match is brought to you by three extremely 1998 things: M&Ms, currently advertising themselves as the “candy of the new millennium;” a handheld fishing game from Tiger Games; and WWF The Music Volume 2, now available at all Coconuts and Record Town locations.
Worst: The Bop-It Game Center
If you’ve ever wanted to see Michael Cole in his true environment, watch him host the Bop-It Game Center in the middle of Sunday Night Heat. If you’ve never seen one, two guys who make Sam Roberts and Pat McAfee look like the Road Warriors play with a children’s toy in five-second segments designed to make you appreciate the art direction of the Karate Fighters Tournament. For the uninitiated, “Bop-It” was a toy that combined the coordination gaming of Simon with the aerodynamics of a dildo.
Here’s a GIF of Kaientai joining the Bop-It Game Center and not having a goddamn clue what they’re supposed to be doing.
Also On Sunday Night Heat, The Grandfather Of The “Kickoff Show”
Light Heavyweight Champion Duane Gill pins Young Boy Matt Hardy in a whopping 49 seconds after a run-in from the Blue Meanie. This is so short, it almost ends before the “LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP” graphic can fade. Things will get better for the Hardys soon.
Jeff Jarrett promises to strip Goldust, and I quote, “buck-ass nekkid” when he defeats him at Rock Bottom tonight. SHAME! [rings bell] SHAME! SHAME! [rings bell] SHAME!
Finally, we get a pair of D-Generation X matches:
- Triple H defeats Droz in only slightly more time than it took Duane Gill to pin Matt Hardy. In response, Road Warrior Animal walks out on Droz in disgust — losing to Triple H on Sunday Night Heat was the final straw, not driving his alcoholic tag team partner and hetero life mate to the brink of suicide and then shoving him off a scaffold to his death — and Commissioner Shawn Michaels bars D-X from ringside during the Tag Team Championship match at Rock Bottom
- For Extra Attitude, Michaels sends out The Acolytes to attack the Outlaws. This turns into a match, more or less, and then ends as quickly as it began when Ken Shamrock and the Big Boss Man show up to ALSO attack them. The odds are against D-X now, and as you know if you’ve watched WWE at any point over the past 40 years, it’s almost impossible to overcome odds.
Worst: You Really Don’t Have To Watch The First Two Hours Of This Pay-Per-View
Remember how good Survivor Series ’98 was, and how the story was so good that it excused a bunch of short, bad matches with dumb finishes? Rock Bottom is Survivor Series ’98, except the stories are terrible, too.
We start off strong with a Supply and Demand* vs. Nation of Domination match that ends with the Pretty Mean Sisters showing up to accost the Godfather’s hoes, causing a distraction that allows Jacqueline to sneak into the ring, pants Val Venis, and punch him in the face to cost him the match. You can just hear Vince Russo licking a toad’s ass and squawking, “YOU KNOW WHAT’S FUNNY, BRO? WHEN A LADY PULLS DOWN A MAN’S PANTS.”
Not only is this bad on its own, but it causes Mark Henry’s character to take a hard left turn and barrel head-on into “Sexual Chocolate.” Get ready for miscarriage angles, forced slavery, and Mark Henry in a ball gag! This definitely won’t turn the World’s Strongest Man into a total joke for 10 years and waste what should’ve been the prime of his career, who told you that?
After that, we get the long awaited Headbangers vs. Oddities tag team showdown. It’s supposed to be an 8-man tag team match with The Oddities and Luna going 4-on-4 against the Headbangers and the Insane Clown Posse, but whoops, ICP quit the company. They’d been working without a contract on the promise that the World Wrestling Federation would air Insane Clown Posse commercials, a promise that kept getting pushed back and pushed back until they’d been there for three months. Eventually enough was enough, and they bailed. Tiger Ali Singh and Babu were supposed to take their place, which is why they randomly got involved with Luna on Raw the week before, but then Babu got detained by immigration for committing crimes in Ecuador and couldn’t compete. So … here’s this tag match.
For an indication of how good it was, the highlight was a fan in the front row shoving Mosh in the shoulder for some reason, and Mosh spitting in his face.
Up next is Owen Hart vs. Steve Blackman, which would’ve been a good match if (1) they’d given it a finish that made sense and didn’t make Owen look like a complete tool again, (2) they’d moved the “who is the Blue Blazer” story forward at all, and (3) they’d remembered that Vancouver is technically still “Canada,” which means Owen Hart’s going to be treated like a hero instead of a villain. Raise your hand if you think Steve Blackman’s a good enough wrestler to change gears on the fly, work a match heel without any prep, and handle a raucous Canadian crowd. Anybody?
The finish here is truly depressing. Owen gets put into the Sharpshooter, of all things, because WWF hates Canada and wants them to know it every time they’re there. He escapes, and decides he’d rather take a count-out than tap to his own submission hold in his home country. Blackman gives chase in one of those “GET BACK HERE” babyface moments, but either somebody calls an audible or he forgets his alignment mid-attack and just abandons it to get back into the ring. Owen gets counted out, and that’s the end. They couldn’t even confidently do the “bad guy takes a count-out” bit without overbooking it.
Speaking over overbooking and the Blue Blazer …
… Jeff Jarrett makes good on his promise to win his match with Goldust, hitting him in the head with a guitar and planting him with The Stroke, Slapnuts® for the victory. The crowd is intensely unhappy at not being able to see hardcore nudity from Debra McMichael, a promise you know the World Wrestling Federation would’ve fulfilled had the match gone the other way, and at the realization they’re about to see Dustin Rhodes hang dong on pay-per-view.
Commissioner Michaels shows up, though, and decides that since Jarrett used a guitar during the match, he actually lost it, meaning Goldust won and Debra must strip. Like the protagonist in any Brazzers video, Debra outright refuses at first but comes around to full exhibitionism when somene’s like, “aw, c’mon.” She ends up doing a full burlesque routine with her pantsuit, allows Michaels to stuff a dollar into her cleavage, and gets down to her bra and panties (“woo hoo!” — Jerry Lawler) but gets covered up by the Blue Blazer before she can remove her bra. Jeff Jarrett and a super hero usher her away with a sparkly cape over her chest while Shawn Michaels rubs a bra against his cheek. Can, uh, somebody hit somebody else with a Halliburton or something?
Things you need to know about The Brood vs. The JOB Squad:
- it’s the debut of Bob Holly’s buzzcut. Jerry Lawler says it’s “not a hairdo, it’s a hair DON’T,” but Hardcore Holly classic looks a hell of a lot better than the blonde 1800s President hair he had in the New Midnight Express, or that voluminous mess he had when he was Good Value Nick Cave.
- It’s the final WWF pay-per-view appearance of 2 Cold Scorpio, as he pops up on the next two Raws and then slums it on the weekend shows before heading back to ECW (and then All Japan Pro Wrestling) at the end of January
- Michael Cole is at his very worst here, as he can’t understand why these young men in the Brood would follow a GOTHIC LIFESTYLE and spew some kind of VISCOUS, RED LIQUID. WWF’s refusal to ever say “vampires” is still weird as hell. “Brian Christopher was bitten by a wolf, and now every time there’s a full moon he transforms into some kind of … HIRSUTE CREATURE! He’s living the HAUNTED FOREST LIFESTYLE!” etc.
It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong, but I need to tell you that the New Age Outlaws were actually able to overcome the odds and retain the Tag Team Championship. A truly rare occurrence in World Wrestling Federation history. I’m stunned.
Commissioner Michaels continues to show his undying allegiance to the Corporate Authority by trying to trip up Billy Gunn during a suplex and cost him the match, but Billy pulls a Barry Windham float-over and steals the pin out of nowhere. Between the bell ringing and that thing I just described is like, 75 minutes of the Road Dogg in a front facelock. It’s like that static living room shot from Funny Games found its way into the middle of a wrestling match. Amazingly, this isn’t the worst match of the night. Not even close!
Close To Best: Mankind Vs. The Rock
The payoff to all that Mankind vs. Rock build-up on Sunday Night Heat thinks it’s a lot more clever than it is.
Before the match begins, Mankind confronts Mr. McMahon about what happened at Survivor Series. Rock put him into the Sharpshooter and McMahon called for the bell, but Foley never said “I quit.” He never gave up, which means he didn’t lose. You can only lose by pinfall or submission. He’s willing to draw a line through the fine print of his contract for the night and let Rocky have the night off if McMahon will just admit to the crowd and everyone watching that he never heard Mankind say I quit, and screwed him over. Michael Cole jumps in with one of the worst calls of the decade: “The biggest double-cross in WWF history!” Crazy he could even call the show with his tongue that deep in Vince’s boot.
McMahon keeps dancing around it, saying that okay maybe what he heard that he’s pretty sure was I quit might have come from somewhere else but quite frankly he’s still fairly certain etc., so Mankind attacks The Rock, and the match is on. What follows is good, but so overburdened with wacky booking that it’s almost impossible to enjoy. McMahon keeps trying to change the rules and make announcements and interfere, Shane McMahon gets into the ring and tries to hit Mankind with the belt but accidentally hits the Rock, and so on. The charisma and chemistry of the performers is still there to carry it, at least, most notably during a funny bit where Rock puts on headset to trash talk Mankind to the home audience, starts the tables turned on him figuratively and literally, and has to vocally sell while he’s being attacked.
But here comes the Dusty Finish, which is something we were still doing in 1998.
Mankind overcomes the odds (somehow!) and jams Mr. Socko down The Rock’s throat. Rock passes out in the hold, and the referee calls for the bell. Mankind is your new WWF Champion. Except he’s not, per Vince McMahon, because Rock passed out. He didn’t say the words “I quit,” which by Mankind’s definition constitute a championship victory. Womp womp. Rock’s rib injury never factored into the match despite like three hours of segments and builds, and he was totally fine the next night on Raw, so [shrug].
Worst: The Undertaker’s Not The Only Thing Getting Buried
Finally we come to the BURIED ALIVE MATCH, a match that as we’ve discussed is impossible to explain. If you watched this when you were eight years old, you probably thought it was cool seeing a hero fight a villain on a wacky playset with props and vehicles and special effects. If you watch it with any sense of autonomy, perspective, or basic human cognizance, however, it is THE DIRT WORST.
They end up fighting over to the Buried Alive set, of course, which makes them look like they’re brawling on the Brady Bunch’s AstroTurf lawn. They play it like a casket match, with each guy falling into the “grave” a couple of times and having to fight their way out. Cole is brutal again here, declaring with feigned, deadpan urgency that they’re battling in a, “six foot deep pit.” As you can see by that picture, it comes up to Austin’s waist. There’s also the problem that you’re supposed to drop a “ton” of dirt on your opponent to win the match, which is a pretty hard thing to do without devoting several hours of time backbreaking labor. Austin’s kind of hurt so he wanders around slowly, Undertaker’s kind of hurt so everything he does is slow and baby soft, and they keep crawling in and out of a dumbass hole. It’s a nightmare.
After like 18 minutes of a match even the live crowd can’t stand — the biggest pop comes when someone in the audience pelts the Undertaker with a lobbed soda — Austin finally Stone Cold Stunners Undertaker into he grave and dumps a wheelbarrow of dirt onto him. The crowd brightens up a little thinking that’s the finish, but nope, you have to actually fill the grave with dirt to win. Austin disappears into the back to look for a solution.
Meanwhile, Undertaker climbs out of the grave and suspiciously positions himself against the mound of dirt like a grenade’s about to go off. Surprise! Kane and his pillar of fire are in the grave, too!
If you were wondering if an also very slow Kane vs. Undertaker brawl on some loose dirt where like 80% of the audience has a terrible view would help the improve the match, it did not. They kinda fart around with Tombstone Piledriver teases until Austin returns driving a backhoe. This would be exciting, except for the fact that driving a backhoe is complicated, and it’s not really something construction workers do quickly and dynamically. It’s a lot of lining up, backing up, lining up, backing up, edging forward, backing up, and so on. Kane rolls Taker into the grave, and Austin has to stand on the mound directing traffic to a bewildered backhoe intern for several minutes while nothing happens.
Austin gets visibly upset, abandons his post, shovels a little dirt onto Undertaker himself, and the referee finally, mercifully calls for the bell. Here’s how Austin ends the match, if you’d like a quick illustration of how well it went.
Tomorrow Night On Raw:
D-Generation X parodies The Corporation in a segment you don’t remember, Mankind and Vince McMahon have a no holds barred parking lot brawl because they’re still not sure what to do with Mick, and Stone Cold Steve Austin finds out his entrant number for the Royal Rumble. GUESS! All this, plus a GUITAR ON A POLE MATCH, when Raw rolls on.