The SmarK Retro Repost – Rock Bottom 1998

– Welcome, as we round out the year that was 1998 with the one of the lowest buyrates of the year and one of the least-anticipated shows, despite the ungodly (nyuk nyuk) amount of hype given to the Undertaker-Austin match and the mega-push given to the Rock. But it was in Vancouver, so at least the crowd was good. I might go back and do Unforgiven to finish off the year completely if I get motivated, but I’d really prefer to finish doing the 95 ECW series, and Summerslam 96, before I get onto that. For those who keep bugging me about them, the rest of the shows between Fully Loaded and this one from 98 are all available in my tape review archives at TheSmarks.com, as they were originally done in my pre-Wrestleline days.

– Live from Vancouver, BC

– Your hosts are Michael Cole the Little Goatee Wearing Bitch (subbing for the sick Jim Ross) and Jerry Lawler.

– Opening match: Supply & Demand v. D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry. The ex-Nation has PMS (Terri & Jackie) with them, for reasons never fully explored. Venis and D-Lo start and do a nice little sequence that leads to a Val spinebuster. We go downhill from there. Laughable Cole line #1 on the night: “Godfather, who of course is an expert at the martial arts…” Well, OF COURSE. He was the Supreme Fighting Machine, you know. I guess Ho Fu is a deadly new fighting form or something. An early Ho Train attempt misses, but Godfather gets one of those lethal martial-artsian sidekicks (“he’s got the ability of a young Eric Bischoff combined with the charisma of Steve Blackman — WE CAN’T MISS!”) and Mark Henry comes in to try his luck. Godfather (they call him Bruce, you know) hits his Ho Train but gets powerslammed. Big fat elbow misses thanks to the cat-like instincts and quickness of the Godfather, but Val quickly gets punked out and plays deviant-in-peril. Sky High gets two for D-Lo. Lo Down misses and it’s hot tags for everyone! Godfather and Venis clean house and suplex Henry. PMS has a tense showdown with the hos outside the ring, and Godfather tries to arbitrate, but that leaves Val Venis alone with Mark Henry, and since a white guy loses to a big fat black guy every time, Henry finishes with a big fat splash at 5:55. Wow, that was a pretty sad start to the show. 1/4*

– The Headbangers v. Kurgan & Golga. Remember, kids: Russo is evil. No matter what good may come out of anything he does in WCW, THE ODDITIES MAY RETURN AT ANY TIME. Always keep that in mind. You know, it’s weird: I had never seen Highlander until I picked up the DVD for $10 a couple of months ago (good movie, horrible transfer, although a special edition is coming) and I only then got the reference that Russo was making with Kurgan’s name. I was mildly curious as to why he hadn’t yet debuted a 600 year old Scotsman with a bad accent as Kurgan’s nemesis, but then it dawned on me: Would we REALLY want to see another Roddy Piper feud? I truly feel sorry for the poor suckers who were watching Shotgun Saturday Night during this period, because there was, like, 1500 of these matches during that period and they all sucked. The Oddities bump the Bangers around for a bit and Golga uses some fat-fu on Thrasher for two. Kurgan misses a splash and the Bangers work him over. Kurgan’s pitiful attempts at “selling” (AHEM, COUGH, SPUTTER) are more entertaining to watch than anything else in this mess, that’s for damn sure. At one point he looks like he’s being given a rectal examination by a prison doctor. Wow, kids, that’s dedication to your craft, despite total lack of talent. Hot tag Golga after Kurgan puts Mosh “at least 10 feet in the air” (man, Cole is in rare form tonight) on a backdrop. Bangers make a blind tag and Mosh comes off the top with whatever for the pin at 6:50. I’ll be generous because Kurgan was trying SO hard to justify his push at this point. DUD

– Owen Hart v. Steve Blackman. This is the culmination of the original phase of the Blue Blazer angle. We know what the culmination of the second phase was, and I’ll leave it at that. Owen is over huge as a babyface here, for obvious reasons. Blackman gets more heat than he ever has in his career here, nearly getting booed out of the building. Owen waves the Canadian flag for good measure. Owen punks him out and hits a suplex and legdrop to start. Then Owen confirms something for me by executing some Canadian Violence on Blackman. I couldn’t remember if Owen threw chops or not, and that answered my question. Blackman comes back with his big kicks and Owen bails. Back in, Blackman suplex and backbreaker set up a bow-and-arrow. Frisky tonight, I guess. Owen escapes and hits the enzuigiri, as Blackman takes Owen’s leg like an idiot. Even Lawler points out how dumb it was for Blackman to go for the leg there. Suplex gets two. More Canadian Violence, but Owen comes off the top and hits boot. Blackman comes back and the crowd cheers him on by chanting “US Sucks”. See, sportsmanship at it’s best. Owen bails again, but takes a baseball slide. Back in, Owen wokrs the leg off a cheapshot for a bit. Atomic drop and leg lariat get two. Standing dropkick and suplex set up a flying elbow for two. Owen’s busting out da skillz tonight! Owen hits the chinlock to use some time. Blackman tries the comeback, but walks into a kneelift. Enzuigiri gets two. Owen pulls off the turnbuckle, but gets rammed into it. Blackman clotheslines him on the top rope and comes on with a series of elbows. Sleeper is reversed into Owen’s new finisher — the Dragon sleeper — but Blackman knees him in the face to break it. Okay, OUCH. Owen DDTs him and goes upstairs, but Blackman catches him and puts him in the Sharpshooter. Owen makes the ropes and bails. And heads to the dressing room at 10:32. Geez, jobbing is one thing, but jobbing in Canada, on a lame countout, and being made to look like a coward? What did that accomplish? Very good match otherwise. ***

– Scorpio, Al Snow & Bob Holly v. The Brood. Main event in ANY ARENA, dudes. Boy, Gangrel sure got hosed on the whole deal here, didn’t he? His former bitches are the WWF tag champs, and he’s jobbing to (last I checked) Mideon on Jakked. It goes to show: Alternate submissive/dominant gothic lifestyle fetishists NEVER get ahead in the end. I think there’s something about that in the Bible. Bob Holly’s familiar “marine gone Hollywood” hairstyle debuts here. Holly handles both Edge & Christian with powerbombs, then Scorpio drops Da Bomb (twisting top rope legdrop from a moonsault position) for two on Christian. Snow headbutts Christian into gooey paste and hits a sort-of release Northern Lights suplex, but gets caught in the gothic corner. Snow gets a Northern Lights suplex on Gangrel for two, but Gangrel comes out of the corner with a lariat. Snow gets a Snowplex for two, but Gangrel DDTs Snow for two. If I’m making this sound any good, sorry, it’s not my intention. The flow is really messed up and aside from the suplexes, there’s not really anything going on or crowd heat for it. Snow plays schizo-in-peril for a bit. Hot tag Scorpio (not that anyone cares) and Katie bar the door, it’s a pier-six brawl. No one’s wearing the crimson mask yet, but I figured that in honor of Gordon Solie I’d work all the cliches in here somewhere anyway. Scorpio misses a pescado as Snow gives Christian a Head-shot, but he comes back with the Tumbleweed for two. Edge plancha onto both Snow & Holly, and Christian Impales Scorpio for the pin at 9:05. The ending didn’t really fit with anything else going on in the match, as it was just a bunch of chaotic spots to finish a heatless match. *

– Striptease match: Goldust v. Jeff Jarrett. To clarify, it’s Goldust who strips if he loses, but Debra strips if Jarrett loses. Goldust is ridiculously over as a babyface here. Cheap, but effective, I’ll give the stips that. Headlock sequence to start. Goldust spinebuster and butt splash gets two. Jarrett tosses Goldust and they brawl. Back in, Jarrett cross-body is reversed for two. Jarrett gets a single-arm DDT and works the neck. Neckbreaker gets two. Goldust gets a suplex (drawing a pop!), but Jarrett’s dropkick gets two. Sleeper reversal (ugh) puts Jarrett in control. Crowd freaks out during the arm test. Someone else pointed out that Russo just loves that spot for some reason, and in fact the WWF has used it very little since his departure. Goldust escapes but takes a lariat. Goldust gets the Curtain Call as the ref is distracted with Debra. Goldust pinning combo gets two. Bulldog gets two. Debra tries to stop Shattered Dreams, unsucessfully. So she resorts to El-Kabonging him, and Jarrett hits the Stroke for the pin at 7:58. Attention, Vancouver PD, riot in progress… HBK saves the day by sending Jarrett to the back and informing Debra that a guitar shot is a DQ, so Goldust is the winner, and the crowd pops huge. “Yay, screwjobs RULE!” So Debra begins her stripping ways, getting down to bra and panties before the Blue Blazer saves the day for decent people everywhere and covers her up. Match was nothing special, but the heat was incredible. **

– WWF tag title match: The New Age Outlaws v. Ken Shamrock & Big Bossman. Sadly, this match is the catalyst for the god-awful Billy Gunn “By God, We’ll Get Him Over If We Have To Try Every Cheap Heat Method And It Kills Everyone Else In The Promotion” singles push, which of course failed. Go fig. Bossman gets worked by the champs to start, as a double backdrop gets two. Dogg gets the funky punches and shaky kneedrop on Shamrock, but he catches him with a quick anklelock. Gunn comes in and gets pounded. He gets a quick fameasser, but Dogg tags in and takes a belly-to-belly. Dogg plays Ricky Morton, as the WWF was already protecting Gunn’s place. Nothing of note happens. I mean, literally. Crowd is deathly bored and this is a LONG match. False tag to Gunn allows more punishment. Dogg rolls out to brawl with Bossman and gets mauled by the Corporation. FINALLY he gets the hot tag to Mr. Ass, who powerbombs Shamrock off a rana for two. Commisioner Shawn (who has now mysteriously turned heel again after acting as a babyface in overturning the striptease match’s decision) distracts the ref while Bossman inflicts some damage with the nightstick, giving Shamrock a two count. Shamrock suplex is reversed by Gunn, but Shawn hooks his leg to put Shamrock on top. Gunn rolls through and ends up on top for the pin at 17:04 (!). God-awful boring match, as you might expect. However, someone up high felt that the crowd heat was SO intense and the work of the Bossman was SO awesome that Bossman & Shamrock were given the tag titles (in addition to the I-C and Hardcore titles they already had) the next night on RAW. I personally side with the Steve Schroeder Theory on the Bossman, which states that somewhere in Bossman’s possession is a compromising photo of Vince McMahon and an animal of some sort, possibly a goat or donkey. 3/4*

– WWF title match: The Rock v. Mankind. Long promo duel between Mick and Vince establishes that no one actually heard Foley say “I quit” at Survivor Series, which not only sets up the lame finish of this match, but also the rematch at Royal Rumble. Not bad, even though I’m not terribly fond of either. Rock attacks to start, but Mick comes back quickly and they brawl. Mick rams Rock’s head into various objects and they head back in. Vince interjects and tells the ref to DQ Mick for whatever he feels appropriate. Rock blindsides him and pounds him in the corner. Back outside, Rock suplexes Foley on the floor. And in we go again, as Mankind gets some kicks and tosses Rocky. He baseball slides him and preps a Cactus Elbow, but Shane trips him up and Rock slams him onto the floor. Mick, Mick, MICK…didn’t you see Beyond the Mat? Rock does some colour commentary and hits the EVIAN SPEW OF DEATH. Mick snaps and hammers on him, then grabs a chair. The ref warns him about the DQ, allowing Rock to blast him and DDT him on the chair, which gets two back in the ring. Corporate Elbow gets two. Mick comes back with a clothesline and neckbreaker for two. Legdrop gets two. He drops a leg on the Corporate Grapefruits, so Vince says that’s it, DQ time. Mick deals with that problem in his own fashion: He piledrives the ref. So Vince bypasses that route and heads right for the timekeeper, as is his specialty. Mick beats HIM up, too. Man, why didn’t BRET think of that tactic? Foley goes after Vince himself, but Rock levels him with a chair and throws him in for Rock Bottom. No ref, of course. Shane takes a swing with the belt, but hits Rock and Mick covers for two, nearly giving the crowd heart failure. Rock hits the Hurricane DDT for two. Mick gets the double-arm DDT for two. Mandible Sock time, and Rocky is fading fast…and gone! The ref calls for the bell at 13:32, and the crowd goes berserk. BUT WAIT! Vince turns Foley’s own logic against him, pointing out that Rocky never said “I quit” either, so Mick isn’t the champion, since titles only change hands on pinfall or submission and neither occured. Well, I guess Bret can rest easier at night knowing he’s still WWF champ, then. Match was marginally better than Survivor Series, but not by much. It took them a few to get into the groove. ** Corporate Beatdown ensues.

– Buried Alive: The Undertaker v. Steve Austin. Michael Cole truly hits his stride as a dumbass in this match, as he comes roaring out of the gate and into the home stretch by declaring that the headstone beside the grave “weighs in excess of 3000 pounds” and thus gives me my running gag for this match. He follows up by wondering how Austin can beat Undertaker at his own match. I dunno, maybe the same way Mankind beat Undertaker at his own match, and everyone else under Vince Russo always beats someone at their own match? Brawl outside to start. They fight into the dirt. Cole helpfully points out all the digging tools lying around, like the shovels and hoes. SAVE THE H…ah, never mind. Into the ring, Austin gets a Thesz Press and elbow. And that’s enough of that wrestling crap, so we head out again. Austin slams UT on the floor and into the 340 pound steel stairs. Taker swats Austin away and into the 765 pound Spansh announce table, which breaks. Austin tries a piledriver, but it’s reversed. Into the ring, UT chokes him. Yeah, way to show that moveset, Mark. We walk leisurely back to the gravesite (nice of Austin to oblige). Punching and rolling in the dirt follow. Austin nails Undertaker with a 1200 pound piece of railing, and they struggle over the grave. Undertaker falls in. He hits Austin with a burial wreath, at 220 pounds, and they have a dramatic showdown in the grave. Wow, how Bergman. Taker grabs a shovel (520 pounds), but Austin beats on him. Austin flees, but gets hit in the knee and crumples. They brawl again, nothing of note. Back to ringside, Undertaker wallops him with a chair (a mere 380 pounds). Cole notes that the crowd “doesn’t know what to make of it”. That, and “sitting in awe” both translate to “Zzzzzz”. You hear both of them a lot during Undertaker matches. Taker rams Austin into the post, which at 1,459 pounds should knock Austin into a coma, and chokeslams him back in the ring. Well, that’s great, dumbass, now you’ve put him out 500 feet away from the place you need to. UT leads Austin back to the grave and finds a 349 pound gas can (empty), then tosses Austin into the grave. Cole helpfully points out that it’s “six feet deep!”, even though both guys were STANDING in it not five minutes before and it barely came up to their waists. Austin fights out and clocks Taker with the GAS CAN OF DOOM, then hits a stunner that knocks him into the grave. End of match, right? No, stupid, Russo is booking. Austin heads to the back as Taker crawls out and hides, then a bad-looking semi-explosion comes out of the grave, followed by Kane. Michael Cole, paranormal philospher, points out that Kane is “rising from the grave” in the same tones he might ask you to buy a PPV. That just really creeps me out for some reason. Kane beats on Undertaker (for those, like me, who have trouble keeping score, this was obviously the “hate” portion of their love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love / hate / love relationship) and tombstones him into the grave. Yeah, that looked REAL convincing, guys. Austin adds that last bit of idiocy by bringing a backhoe out, which very…slowly…dumps a load of dirt (“hundreds of pounds” worth in one scoop, sayeth Michael Cole) on UT, barely covering him, for the win at 21:30. Ye gods, what did we do to deserve this? Note to WWF bookers: Next time you want to try something like this, consult a backhoe driver beforehand. -*

The Bottom Line:

Man, as good as the buildup TO Survivor Series 98 was, the period AFTER that and up to the final breakdown of the Corporate Ministry produced some god-awful stuff, this show included. It was becoming apparent by this time who exactly was calling the shots, booking-wise, and the worst was yet to come (King of the Ring 99, I’m talking to YOU). For instance, Undertaker’s “burial” spawned his “resurrection” with the Ministry of Darkness, while Billy Gunn’s singles push followed the Outlaws’ losing of the tag titles, and Vince turned 6,000 times en route to becoming the Greater Power. C’est la vie. Rock had to start somewhere as a main eventer, and I guess headlining a crappy show by doing the job (without losing the title) and getting a WCW-ish buyrate is as good a start as any. I couldn’t help but notice that despite Rock’s first try bombing out, no one suggested demoting HIM right away, and ditto for HHH (who has now main evented a staggering 12 PPVs in a row, counting Summerslam 2000), which just goes to show…something. I just fear for my sanity if they get it into their heads to try the same thing with Billy Gunn when he returns again.

Strong recommendation to avoid.