The SK Retro Rant for Unforgiven 98
– For god-knows-what reason, this is #1 with a bullet on my request list from the readership. Hey, I live to serve.
– Live from Greensboro, NC
– Your hosts are JR & The King. Have to get used to not typing THAT anymore.
– Opening match: The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry v. Ken Shamrock, Faarooq & Steve Blackman. Quite the hodge-podge of different fates three years later here. Godfather is hanging around ringside, being a pest. Faarooq was of course freshly dumped as leader of the Nation of Domination, leading to the Rock’s hostile takeover of the group and slingshot move into the wrestling stratosphere. D-Lo & Blackman start, with the Lethal Weapon getting some kicks before taking a DDT. Blackman works an armbar, then Shammy continues. Faarooq comes in and whips D-Lo with his belt, with Rocky’s comical protests only serving to distract the referee further. Irony can be so ironic. Mark Henry comes in and treats Blackman like a child with a pair of backbreakers and a mistimed clothesline. D-Lo comes back in and hits the Sky High for two. Faarooq comes in but makes the cardinal mistake of putting his head down and gets pounded. Rock makes his first appearance, drawing enough heat to scorch his sideburns off, and lays in the boots. Man, Vince must have made a downpayment on a new gold limo once he started hearing that sort of reaction to Rock. Henry gets an elbowdrop for two. Blackman tries his luck and gets powerslammed. Blackman is YOUR face-in-peril, thus making Rock’s heat look that much better by way of comparison. Rock fires off the People’s Elbow, irritating the HELL out of the fans, and goes into chinRock mode. D-Lo misses the moonsault (no, no, don’t act so shocked), hot tag Faarooq. Faarooq, Faarooq, Faarooq is on fire! We don’t need no water! Okay, dumb reference, I’m allowed one per rant. Rock and Faarooq are left alone, which leads to a Dominator for the pin at 13:32. And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. Boring mess, due to the lack of Shamrock involvement. *
– Steve Austin stops by to harass the timekeeper. He lets him know that if ANY screwing goes on tonight, he’d better be calling for an ambulance. The timekeeper seems to get the message loud and clear.
– European title match: HHH v. Owen Hart. This was pre-face turn for DX, but they were getting there. Sign in crowd: “Playboy Needs ChynaÃ¢â‚¬Â. Well, THERE’S who we can blame. Speaking of Miss Congeniality herself, she’ll be locked in a steel cage and suspended above the ring here, ostensibly to prevent her from interfering, but in reality to allow Vince Russo to kill yet another time-honored booking tool. Owen and HHH brawl down the aisle while they raise Chyna. Owen makes sure to ram HHH into the cage before she leaves. They head in and Owen clotheslines him right out again. Back in, Owen hits a backbreaker and dishes some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. HHH hotshots him to break the momentum, then USES THE KNEE. Ah, the old days when Hunter sucked. Suplex and kneedrop get two. Atomic drop and lariat get two. HHH does sort of a dragon sleeper as Chyna attempts to bend the bars. Owen’s sunset flip gets two, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to the sleeper, as Chyna keeps working on the bars. Owen comes back, but takes a facebuster for two. Back to the sleeper. Owen reverses out with a german suplex for two. Belly to belly hits as Chyna bends the bars. The ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH gets two. Leg lariat gets two. Piledriver and flying elbow, but Chyna escapes the cage to distract everyone. Owen dumps Hunter as Chyna hangs from the cage. The announcers talking about how she’s hanging for her life from the ceiling is really, REALLY disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to. It shouldn’t be, given that this took place a year before, but just having Owen there with this angle going on is pretty creepy. Owen gets a DDT and hooks the Sharpshooter as the cage lowers (via Road Dogg, in an angle stolen from Ole Anderson), and Owen gets distracted. HHH nails him, but Owen reverses a Pedigree and hits one of his own! X-Pac sneaks in, nails him with a fire extinguisher (not Raven’s FIRE EXTINGUISHER OF DOOM, though), and HHH gets the pin to retain at 13:38. Solid match, but Vince Russo had this weird hard-on for sixteen guys running in at once for every finish and it nearly ruined the match. ***1/4
– NWA World tag title: The New Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express. Yet another step in Vince Russo’s master plan to humiliate Jim Cornette at every turn, poor Corney was stuck with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn in a pale knockoff of his one great accomplishment in the sport. Today, Cornette has his dream job while Vince Russo sits at home, disgraced, with multiple concussions and no job. Instant karma’s gonna get you. Bombastic Bob and Robert Gibson start, and Bob bails quickly. You know, I think the reason that Hardcore Holly got over so well has more to do with it being the total opposite of THIS gimmick than anything else. Back in, Robert works the arm and the RnR double-team. The entire crowd leaves for nachos. I mean, you can LITERALLY see the side of the arena facing the camera EMPTY in a two-minute span. The Midnights squabble, then Bart gets an abdominal stretch on Ricky as Cornette does a 1985 comedy routine with the ref in a desperate, sad attempt to make the fans care. Morton gets nailed by Cornette and plays himself. Bob misses an Alabama Jam (this gimmick is sacrilage on so many levels) and it’s a hot tag for Robert. DOUBLE DROPKICK OF DOOM, no ref. It’s so painful to have to mock their finisher like that, but that team did NOT age well. I’m almost glad the Midnight Express self-destructed before they became a sad parody of themselves, too. It wasn’t so noticeable with the Rock n Roll in SMW, because that whole territory existed in a bizarre redneck timewarp stasis type thing, but back in the big leagues it was pretty glaring. Anyway, Robert rolls up Bart Gunn, but Bob bulldogs him for the pin at 7:20. The New Midnight Express actually got somewhat watchable for a short time, while the Rock N Roll Express was cut loose VERY soon after this. -*
– Evening gown match: Lunda Vachon v. Sable. This was the first one, ever, believe it or not. Clothes get ripped, Marc Mero distracts Sable, and Luna rips her dress off for the win. DUD
– Vince and Stooges come out to waste some TV time. That whole Russo-era habit of putting 20-minute interviews on PPV always bugged me.
– WWF tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. LOD 2000. The catchphrase is there for the NAO, but not over yet. This was the WWF’s absolute last-ditch attempt to get the LOD over as something meaningful, but even with Sunny the Crack Whore and new outfits, it was still the same LOD. WCW would do well to remember that lesson. Jesse Jammes, never one to hold his tongue, even makes fun of the LOD in his pre-match banter, complaining about having to face the same dinosaurs yet again. Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life. Maybe Vince Russo should try peddling drugs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he certainly couldn’t get much lower on the food chain of life anyway. Plus at least he’d have a steady job. Speaking of Russo’s stupid ideas, Billy Gunn debuts the “Mr. AssÃ¢â‚¬Â tights here. Gunn misses a bodypress on Animal, and gets clotheslined for two. Gunn bails and Animal works on Dogg’s arm. Hawk runs through the usual as the Outlaws beg off. Gunn comes in and Hawk actually messes up a bodyslam. Just a plain old bodyslam. Of course, you could probably blame Gunn for that, too, given his habits as of late, but he was pretty decent back in 1998. Animal hits the chinlock. This is like watching UT & Kane shuffle through the tag ranks and desperately try to keep up with all the young and over teams today. Pier-six erupts, but the Doomsday Device is stopped with a well-timed clip, and Animal is painted-face-in-peril. NAO work the knee for a long time. Thank god for heavily caffeinated and sweetened soft drinks. Jerry & JR get so bored that they start riffing on Wild Kingdom to pass the time, despite it having nothing to do with the match. Gunn hits a fameasser for two. Hot tag Hawk, and katie bar the door, yada yada. Billy nails Hawk with the belt (the NAO’s finisher for the longest time) for two, but Animal suplexes Dogg for the pin. However, since both guys’ shoulders were down, the ref gave the champs the benefit of the doubt and counted ANIMAL out, so the titles stayed with the Outlaws. That wasn’t really explained by the announcers, but I’m using the Flair-Steamboat precedent which established that “tie goes to the championÃ¢â‚¬Â in 1994. Match was about as excrutiatingly bad as one might expect. Ã‚Â½*
– Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown. I fast forward.
– Inferno Match: Kane v. Undertaker. Hey, a Kane v. Undertaker match, that should pick the pace of this show up! The ring is of course surrounded by “fireÃ¢â‚¬Â here, in reality a pipe spewing butane-powered flames under the control of a pyro expert at ringside. To win, you have to set your opponent on fire. They hammer on each other and UT hits an avalanche. Ropewalk and flames puff up, as they do with all the highspots in this match. Blind charge and Kane backdrops him over the top, but Taker seems to land awkwardly on the ropes and falls back into the ring. Kane stomps away to take over. UT goes to the eyes to counter. Thrilling stuff! Kane keeps stomping. Chairshot puts Taker down. He comes back with more kicks, as does Kane. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of complex moves here. Oh, and choking, sorry, almost forgot that. Taker gets a russian legsweep and elbow, which is no-sold by Kane. Chokeslam follows, but UT blocks the tombstone and chokeslams Kane back. Kane no-sells. Double boot and both guys are knocked unconscious by the effort required to stick their leg in the air. Kane ducks a lariat and sideslams him, then goes up. UT crotches and superplexes him, which Kane of course no-sells. UT tosses him, but Vader appears and pushes him back to ringside, where Taker comes barrelling out with his hands-free tope over the top rope, taking out both guys. He then knocks Kane “unconsciousÃ¢â‚¬Â by the ring apron, thus allowing Kane to prepare his gimmicked arm while UT chases Paul Bearer to the stage and beats him up for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Back to the ring, Kane sort of falls into the fire and UT wins at 15:53. Give it Ã‚Â½* for the tope. The arm coating looked incredibly fake.
– WWF title match: Steve Austin v. Dude Love. This is round one, as Vince withheld the identity of Austin’s opponent until a week before the show and then turned Mick Foley into his corporate zombie. Dude jumps Austin, but gets his ass kicked, and bails. Back in, Thesz Press and elbow as Ross takes a shot at Bischoff for declaring that a guy in black boots and tights could never get over. Spinebuster and elbow, and Dude bails again. They brawl as Dude tries to run, only to get viciously clotheslined from behind by Austin. They head to the stage (a popular spot tonight), and Austin casually tosses him off, onto the bare concrete 6 feet below. Back to ringside, they slaughter continues. Austin drops an elbow off the apron, and back in we go. Austin misses the rope straddle and Dude bulldogs him. Elbowdrop and Dude punishes him in the corner. Dude works the neck with a body scissors as Vinnie Mac joins us at ringside. Austin breaks the move and yells at Vince, but Dude rolls him up for two. Austin posts Dude as Vince “observesÃ¢â‚¬Â from ringside, near the timekeeper, wink wink. Dude bails and Austin tries a piledriver, but as usual he gets backdropped. He hurts his knee and Dude leaves for the ring as Vince taunts Austin. Austin stalks him, but Dude returns the favor on that clothesline from behind. Dude tries a suplex in, but Austin blocks, so Dude necksnaps him to the floor. The ref counts, but Vince tells Austin to “be a man and get back inÃ¢â‚¬Â, and that the ref is fired if he reaches 10, so Austin beats the count. Dude hooks the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM (with which he got past the awesome challenge of Steve Blackman, even under dubious circumstances) and Vince goes crazy, telling the timekeeper to ring the bell. Austin reverses the move, and Vince goes equally crazy, telling him to ignore everything he just said. Funny stuff. Brawl outside, and Austin suplexes Dude onto the stairs. They fight into the crowd and Austin dumps him back in, and into the ring. Dude comes back with a neckbreaker. Sweet Shin Music is blocked, and the ref gets bumped. Stunner is blocked with the Mandible Claw, and Vince revives the ref unsuccessfully. This would actually become a storyline point, as Vince declared the refs unfit and took the job himself at the next PPV. Austin dumps Foley, but scuffles with Vince. Foley charges with a chair, but gets it back in his face. Austin chairshots Vince out cold, and heads back in for a little KICK WHAM STUNNER action, and counts the pin himself at 18:48. It was later decided to be a DQ win for Dude Love, justifying the rematch at Over the Edge 98. Great brawl that got a little overwhelmed by the storyline at times. The next month, they would solve that problem by making the storyline the focal point of the match and building on it. ****
The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly exciting. The HHH-Owen match, while solid, has been done before and better, and the same with Austin-Dude. The rest of the card is the usual shitty 1998 WWF undercard, as the main events were totally carrying these shows back then.