The Write Off: King of the Ring 1998

Event Details:
Location: Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Hosts: Jim Ross & Jerry “the King” Lawler
Reported Attendance: 16,505

-“Bonus” Six-Man Tag Team Match: The Headbangers & Taka Michinoku vs. Kaientai (w/Yamaguchi San):

Hmm, this wouldn’t have been my pick for an opener but I’m not booking this show. Thrasher and Mens Teoh start the match and Thrasher gets an early two-count from a powerslam. Mosh gets tagged in and gives a second rope dropkick to Teoh so Teoh tags in Funaki but he gets powerbombed for his efforts and then splashed on off the ropes with Michinoku following suit after he gets tagged in. Missile dropkick by Michinoku sends Funaki outside and when Funaki bails Michinoku nails him with a springboard plancha. However, when Michinoku gets back in Dick Togo nails him and then gets tagged in by Funaki to have a jumpy sequence with Michinoku that includes a helluva backdrop over the top rope and a cool baseball slide turned into a spinning headscissors on the floor. Kaientai do their best to isolate Michinoku as the crowd sits on their hands Tide turns when Funaki gets hit by a Teoh spinning heel kick when he holds Michinoku and the Headbangers both get tagged in and they dish out some double-team punishment to the smaller Kaientai team. Funaki tries to hit a top rope elbowdrop on Thraser but misses so the Headbangers tag in Michinoku, throw him on top of Funaki and a Michinoku driver finishes at 6:41. The action was very rushed and the crowd was very apathetic to it which hurt the rating plus the finish was too much of a forgone conclusion. Just standard Sunday Night Heat fare here. **

-Sable comes down just to introduce Vince McMahon who comes down with his cronies and slaps Pat Patterson when he tries to hit her on the ass. McMahon says the crowd is setting itself up for a disappointment if they think “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is going to retain the WWF Championship against Kane later in the evening thereby forcing Kane to set himself on fire. Now I’m a big fan of McMahon promos but is having a promo this long on a pay-per-view necessary? Seemed like a time suck to me

-King of the Ring Semi-Final: “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Tennessee Lee) vs. “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock:

Jarrett had beaten Marc Mero and Shamrock had defeated Mark Henry in the quarter-finals of the tournament to get to this point. Shamrock laces into Jarrett from the beginning and nails him with an elbow off the ropes and a running kneelift. Clothesline out of the corner by Shamrock is followed up with a snap suplex and that gets two. Jarrett rallies with a swinging neckbreaker, a short-arm clothesline, and a dropkick but Shamrock catches him running off the ropes with a karate kick and clotheslines him to the floor. Outside, Shamrock rams Jarrett into the apron and hot shots Jarrett on the guardrail as JR rolls off Shamrock’s troubled family history versus Jarrett’s “affluent” background. Wow that’s a very compelling storyline for this match. Shamrock whips Jarrett into the ring steps but when they come back in Tennessee Lee distracts Shamrock which allows Jarrett to get in a chopblock and work over Shamrocks right leg with Lee’s help outside. Shamrock fights out of the corner and gets an elbow and two modified dropkicks followed by a powerslam for two. Hurricarana by Shamrock and the anklelock forces Jarrett to tap out at 5:31. Can’t complain about a lack of action in this match but the psychology didn’t go anywhere and the finish seemed to come out of nowhere. **

-King of the Ring Semi-Final: The Rock vs. Dan “The Beast” Severn:

The officials at the begging of the contest force Kama and Mark Henry to leave the ringside area to make the match “fair.” JR recaps how Severn has been brutal in his federation debut and shows clips of Severn ripping apart D-Lo Brown’s pectoral muscles in a submission move. By the way, the Rock beat Triple H and Severn defeated Owen Hart in the quarter-finals to reach this point. Match starts with Severn trying to tie the Rock up into various submission holds targeting the legs but the Rock keeps getting to the ropes. The Rock fires away on Severn with punches and a take to the buckle but Severn avoids a blind charge and applies an armbar. This is why Severn didn’t get over in the WWF: amateur wrestling simply doesn’t sell unless you make it exciting like a younger Scott Steiner or Kurt Angle that devastate their opponents with various forms of suplexes and bring a “high impact” aspect to the ring. Anyway, back to the action where the Rock gets a two-count on a suplex. Random collision leads to a knockdown for a double KO and as Kama & Mark Henry return to ringside and confront the referee, D-Lo Brown comes out of the crowd wearing his new “chest protector” and hits Severn with the Lo Down allowing the Rock to roll over and get the three-count to advance at 4:31. Match was about as exciting as this review makes it sound. *

-Too Much-Al Snow Video Package

-Too Much vs. Al Snow & Head:

Yes, you read the initial match pairing correctly. In this match, Al Snow teamed up with his mannequin head against Too Much with the stipulation being that if Snow won then he would get a meeting with Vince McMahon for a WWF contract. Also, Jerry “the King” Lawler is announced as the special guest referee before this match starts and Snow blames Head for not reading the fine print of the contract. This has all the markings of a train wreck. Snow and “Too Hot” Scott Taylor start the match with Snow getting a backbreaker and some clotheslines so “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher comes in and after stalling locks up with him and gets in a cheap shot when Lawler restrains Snow from punching. Crowd doesn’t care for Too Much or Lawler for that matter and don’t care to react when Snow slams Christopher off the top rope and gets a sunset flip powerbomb off the top rope for a slow two-count. Snow clotheslines Christopher over the top rope and backdrops Taylor onto Christopher on the floor. Outside, Snow slams Christopher on the floor and clotheslines Christopher after running all the way down the aisle but gets caught with a Taylor plancha. Back in, Christopher gets a missile dropkick and Too Much double-teams Snow and gets a quick two-count from it. Snow changes the tide by countering a double-backdrop with a double-DDT and decides to give the momentum swinging tag to the Head (?!?!) which he uses to pummel Too Much. JR: “The Head is the legal man…what the hell am I saying?” Snow gives a Snow Plow to Christopher but he’s not the legal man so Lawler doesn’t count. Lawler goes to ringside and grabs a bottle of Head & Shoulders which Christopher attaches to the Head and pins it at 8:27 as Snow thinks the pinfall is for him after he hits Taylor with a Snow Plow. JR: “Well that is a first ladies and gentleman and likely will be our last one for that piece of business.” Crowd just collectively shares in a silent “what the hell is this” kind of moment. Why did they have to do this match on a pay-per-view? We’re already four matches down in this card and I’m wondering why they didn’t take the fourteen minutes from the opener and this match combined and give the time to the KOTR Semi-finals. Nevertheless, although this match was a bunch of crap, the wrestling was okay and the funny comments by JR save it from a DUD. ½*

-Owen Hart-X-Pac Video Package

-X-Pac (w/Chyna) vs. Owen Hart:

A little storyline set up this match as Owen Hart caused X-Pac to be counted out in his first round KOTR tournament match against Triple H and X-Pac in turn caused Owen to lose his quarter-final tournament match to Dan Severn. X-Pac goes right after Owen with a baseball slide to start off and delivers some martial arts kicks in the corner but X-Pac misses a dive into the buckles and Owen pounds him down. Interestingly enough, JR doesn’t mention that this was a semi-final match in the 1994 KOTR, the tournament where Owen won it all. Owen whips X-Pac into the buckles WITH AUTHORITY and gives him a backbreaker. Slugfest won by Owen, headbutt, and a modified dropkick get two. X-Pac whips Owen chest-first into the buckles and delivers some knife-edge chops but Owen uses his fists to make a comeback. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Gutwrench suplex gets two. The crowd’s apathy is starting to get on my nerves. I mean they aren’t cheering for ANYTHING tonight! Inside cradle by Owen gets two but X-Pac clotheslines him to the floor where X-Pac gets a clothesline off the steps to the back of Owen’s head but Owen reverses an Irish whip into the timekeeper’s table and X-Pac takes the blow. Owen gives X-Pac a front suplex on the Spanish announce table as JR wonders if the announce team has a bulls-eye on them. Hmm…ya think considering that their table gets busted EVERY PAY-PER-VIEW? Back in, Owen gets a cradle for two but a sleeper unfortunately slows down the action but with an apathetic crowd why expend yourself? X-Pac fights up and gets a sleeper of his own which Owen pushes out of but gets nailed with the X-Factor (not yet named and not yet X-Pac’s finisher). X-Pac gets his kicks in the corner but Owen messes up the Bronco buster part by slumping too far in the corner so X-Pac just rides air for several seconds and looks stupid. Both men fight on the top rope but end up the worse for wear as X-Pac gets crotched on the ropes and falls outside and Owen falls to the canvas. Then the shenanigans start as Mark Henry runs down and squashes X-Pac, rolling him into the ring for Owen, and then Henry gets confronted for his actions by Chyna. However, before that goes anywhere Vader comes out from the back and throws himself into Henry which leads to them brawling down the aisle towards the back. Meanwhile, Owen traps X-Pac in the Sharpshooter but Chyna runs into the ring and DDT’s Owen and when the referee finally gets his bearings back together X-Pac crawls over and covers Owen for three at 8:30. Finish was mucho overbooked but it woke the crowd up and made for a memorable ending. Also, both guys tried to give the crowd a good show and I can’t fault that. ***

-Paul Bearer marches down to the ring for promo #2 in tonight’s show and he curses the Undertaker to hell for attacking him on the last Monday Night Raw and says that he will be the proud father and manager of the WWF Champion by the end of the evening. Why are we getting all of these unnecessary promos tonight? ALL OF THIS TIME could’ve been put towards some of the better matches on the card!

-“Special Attraction” WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The New Age Outlaws (Champions w/Chyna) vs. The New Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette):

Well unlike the other special bonus match we were treated to at the beginning of this show this match looks promising. “Bombastic” Bob and the Road Dogg start off this match and they put together a good sequence with the Road Dogg gaining the advantage with a clothesline and catching Bob on a blind charge with a foot to the face. The former Smoking Gunns get tagged into the match and they have a staredown and engage in a pretty cool sequence as well with “Bodacious” Bart getting the better of it but a Rocker Dropper by Bad Ass Billy Gunn gets a two-count. Tag Road Dogg and he gets a kneedrop to the back of Bart’s head after a Gunn drop-toe-hold holds him in place but an elbow by Bob from the apron turns the tide. The Express get a two-count after Bob gets an elbowdrop to the back of Road Dogg’s head after Bart holds him down in a drop-toe-hold. Bob gets a two-count after a top rope elbowdrop and the Express get another near-fall after Bart drops Bob on top of the Road Dogg. The crowd is again apathetic and I’m not surprised. Bob tries to give Road Dogg a “suck it” and Gunn being offended at having his copyrighted phrase infringed gives Bob a bulldog and Dogg covers for two. Bob gets a chinlock and Cornette tries to insult fans at ringside and just looks way out of place in this new Attitude period. Top rope splash by Bob hits the Road Dogg’s lifted leg, a spot that actually looked good, not the “let me jump down on my opponent’s leg” spot you normally see, and Road Dogg gets the momentum swinging tag to Gunn. Gunn tries to deliver a piledriver to Bob but the referee gets distracted as Road Dogg brawls with Bart and when the referee tries to separate them it allows Cornette a chance to nail Gunn in the back with one of the NWA tag team belts the Express have. However, Bob only gets two out of it. The Express try a double-clothesline but the Road Dogg trips Bart and pulls him to the floor after Gunn ducks the move and Gunn nails Bob for two. Cornette tries to interfere again as the referee is distracted by Road Dogg and Bart brawling on the floor and Gunn has Bob rolled up but this time Gunn corners him and Chyna gives Cornette a low blow from behind. With Cornette out of the equation Bob is left to his own devices and after Gunn whips him into the ropes Road Dogg joins him in giving Bob a hot shot across the top rope and that gets the three at 11:42. Solid tag team match here but once again the crowd hurts the rating because they didn’t see the Express as significant challengers and also the ending came out of nowhere (which seems to be a prevalent theme tonight among the matches). I don’t know why they didn’t try to build this match for the pay-per-view because with an added push this match could’ve been something special. ***½

-King of the Ring Finals: The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock:

The European Champion at the time, Triple H, is at ringside doing color commentary with JR and the Rock and Chyna does commentary with the Spanish announce team. Triple H makes sure to remind the audience that the WWF is the place where the athletes go and not a place where old men are stumbling around the ring. Hey, the WWF had to get in their cheap shot at WCW at some point on this show. The Rock and Shamrock go through their feeling out period that sees them avoid each other’s moves until Shamrock catches the Rock with a martial arts kick off the ropes and the Rock bails. Back in, Shamrock bowls over the Rock with clotheslines and tosses the Rock over the top rope when the Rock runs the ropes. The Rock jaws with Triple H and Chyna at ringside which sees Triple H spew water in the Rock’s face so Shamrock comes out and slams the Rock’s head into the announce tables. However, the Rock hits Shamrock with a low blow to regain the advantage and they go back inside where the Rock tries a suplex but Shamrock reverses to a floatover for two. The Rock tosses Shamrock to the floor where Shamrock throws the Rock into the guardrail but the Rock catapults back at Shamrock and connects with a clothesline. Can’t say I’ve seen someone do that move before. The Rock hot shots Shamrock across the guardrail and rolls him back inside where he hits a swinging neckbreaker for two. Rock gets a DDT for two. Rock applies a chinlock and I start to wonder if they had enough time to prepare for this match because they are doing a lot of stalling in the match. Triple H provides an interesting piece of commentary by saying that what matters in the WWF in terms of getting ahead is by being good in the ring and not kissing someone’s ass or brown nosing. Rock gets another near-fall off of a clothesline and after a slam delivers the People’s Elbow (minus the elbowpad) for two. Chinlock again applied by the Rock and Shamrock fights up but the Rock hits the Laying the Smackdown DDT for two. Shamrock goes under a Rock clothesline and gets a side suplex to give us a double KO spot. JR wonders what happens if we have a draw and if we’ll have overtime. Hmm, that’s a damn good question. Shamrock starts to snap after he hits a modified dropkick and a powerslam off the ropes on the Rock for two. Shamrock gets a fisherman’s suplex for two but the Rock gets a powerslam when Shamrock charges at him after the Rock misses a blind charge in the corner for two. The Rock goes for a second Laying the Smackdown DDT but Shamrock counters this time with a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Nice piece of psychology say I. The Rock gets a short-arm clothesline for two. Shamrock gets his own version for two. Shamrock goes for the hurricarana but the Rock evidently watched the semi-final with Jeff Jarrett and falls backward to hot shot Shamrock. However, the Rock crabs at the referee and that allows Shamrock to recover enough to catch the Rock by surprise when he comes back over with the anklelock and after a few agonizing seconds the Rock has to tape out at 14:19. The match started to get into a really cool flow by the end but the first seven minutes lacked direction. A lot of people criticize the Rock not going over here but this match in a way put an end to the Shamrock-Rock feud that occupied the first six months of 1998 and I understand why they put the face over because they wanted the Rock to keep the IC belt for a bigger feud with Triple H that would have two good matches at Fully Loaded and SummerSlam that year. Thus, the King of the Ring gave Shamrock a “consolation prize” while not taking away the Rock’s heat as an arrogant Intercontinental Champion. ***½

-Hell in a Cell: Mankind vs. The Undertaker:

Yes, this is THE match. Mankind comes down to the ring, throws a chair on top of the cell, and climbs to the top and the Undertaker follows after he makes his entrance. Both men fight on the top of the cage with Mankind getting in some chair shots The top of the cell almost caves in as Mankind and the Undertaker progress to the end of the cell and after some fists the Undertaker throws Mankind off the top of the cell which FINALLY WAKES THE CROWD UP. WWF personnel come out to wheel Mankind to the back but Mankind gets back up and fights his way back up the cell (with a separated shoulder no less) where the Undertaker joins him for a second time. Both men clash again and this time we get the accidental chokeslam that occurs from the top of the cage and the Undertaker comes back into the ring from the hole that now exists in the top of the cage and chokeslams Terry Funk. According to Foley in his book he was knocked silly by the chair crashing into his skull and Funk was trying to buy him some time. Foley tries to gain his balance and put together a coherent offense against the Undertaker but is so damaged he can’t lift the steps so the Undertaker hits him with the steps three times. Damn, I guess that’s what friends are for. The Undertaker unleashes his boxing punches on the Mankind against the cell but misses his plancha and hits the mesh to bust open the Undertaker. Mankind takes the Undertaker into the cell and rakes his face across it. Back in, Mankind gets a stump piledriver on a chair on the Undertaker for two. Legdrop onto a chair placed on the Undertaker’s face gets two. Sloppy double-arm DDT (albeit excused) gets two. Mankind brings thumbtacks into the ring but the Undertaker resists a fall into them and tries to the Tombstone but Mankind falls behind the Undertaker and applies the Mandible Claw but it only gets two drops of the arm, not three. The Undertaker gets back to his feet with Mankind on his back and in a sick moment falls backward making Mankind “a human pin cushion” in JR’s terms. Then, just for good measure, the Undertaker chokeslams Mankind on the thumbtacks and a Tombstone mercifully finishes it off at 7:46. While this match is remembered for Mankind being hurled off the top of the cage and causes people to mark out everywhere it really was a train wreck. I applaud the fact that Foley was able to withstand such physical punishment and actually put together a match but in between the falls and the action resuming there simply wasn’t a lot that happened. This isn’t a terrible match to watch and I think it’s worth a viewing by everyone but it’s not the Match of the Year for 1998 by any means (in fact I think Foley’s efforts vs. Austin at Over the Edge that year was MOTY in ’98). I’m not even going to rate this match because I don’t feel comfortable doing so on a ***** scale, it’s sorta in its own unique class not necessarily of greatness but of being one big “holy shit” moment in WWF history.

-Austin-Kane Video Package

-WWF Championship First Blood Match: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Champion) vs. Kane (w/Paul Bearer):

Well the stipulations did everything they could to give away the ending to this match first because Kane COULDN’T bleed and second because Kane promised to set himself on fire if he lost which was outrageous because everyone knew that the arena of public opinion wouldn’t let the WWF have a human BBQ on live television and see someone burned to death. Austin charges the ring to start and lays out Kane to start with the WWF title belt and undoes the turnbuckle but when he tries to take Kane to it that gets stopped with a knee to the gut. Both men continue to brawl as Austin tosses Kane over the top rope after escaping a Tombstone and they go to the floor where Kane gets taken to the ring steps and as they fight outside the Hell in the Cell gets lowered down (some good it will do since Mankind and the Undertaker destroyed it). Kane throws Austin into the cell while it’s being lowered and then into the cell when its in place several times in an attempt to bust him open. Austin gets thrown into the ring steps but Austin rebounds to take Kane into the cell door and suddenly the Hell in the Cell begins to rise up again. Austin takes Kane into the guardrail up the aisle and tries a piledriver on the concrete but Kane, of course, backdrops out and gives Austin a suplex. Kane picks up a piece of the metal guardrail throws it at Austin and they finally start making their way back to the ring where Austin rolls Kane inside. Austin chokes Kane on the ropes inside the ring and Kane bails so Austin takes Kane into the guardrail some more and into about every type of appliance at ringside (including the ring fan). However, when Kane sends Austin into the guardrail (man I’ve typed that word a LOT for this match…I think that’s a record) Austin collides with Earl Hebner and Hebner is knocked out. Back in, Kane gets the beautiful flying clothesline but when he tries it again a minute later Austin moves and unloads. Austin throws the back of Kane’s head into the exposed turnbuckle as Mankind runs down to help out his partner in crime with a chair but Austin intercepts him and gives Mankind a Stone Cold Stunner. Same treatment is given to Kane and the Undertaker comes out to ringside with a chair. However, when the Undertaker tries to blast Mankind with the chair, Mankind moves out of the way, and the Undertaker accidentally blasts Austin whose holding a chair of his own to try to hit Mankind which busts Austin open. Austin gives a flying clothesline to Kane and hits Kane with a chair but Hebner recovers, sees Austin is bleeding, and calls for the bell giving Kane the victory at 14:09. Match wouldn’t settle much, though, as Austin would defeat Kane to regain the belt the next night on Raw and Kane hasn’t worn the WWF title since as he was relegated to the tag team ranks and the mid-card shortly after this. A decent brawl happened here but a lot of the match didn’t feel like it was going anywhere until the last several minutes following Hebner’s “knockout.” *½

OVERALL TAPE RATING (BUST-****): **½. This is a very hit-or-miss card as the first four matches aren’t worth your time at all but everything after that tends to be decent except for the ridiculous first blood title match at the end. Owen-X-Pac set the card in the right direction midway through and the King of the Ring final and WWF Tag Team Championship match display some solid, technical wrestling as well. However, there is nothing historically significant except for the Hell in a Cell contest that many people have chimed in on over the years. Usually a tape like this would get a ** rating but the Hell in the Cell match if you haven’t seen it is definitely worth a look and that bumps up ½* a star for intrigue.

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