Review for WWF SummerSlam 1998, August 30, 1998, Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
It's the Highway to Hell. The conclusion of the WWF's red hot summer of 1998, wrestling had become a mainstream fad and this is right near the peak of the wrestling boom. This SummerSlam did the highest SummerSlam buyrate of all time, and the 2nd highest non-WrestleMania buyrate of all time with 700,000 (Invasion in 2001 comes in first place there). Compare that with SummerSlam 1997 which only did 235,000 buys and you can see the growth. Sadly Highway to Hell is edited off the WWE network, and the amazing Austin/Undertaker promo, first shown on Raw is edited out also (you can still find that on YouTube though if you type in 'Summerslam Highway to Hell', I think it's a great video and worth a look at). Anyway, onto the show.
Hosted by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
WWF EUROPEAN TITLE MATCH: D'Lo Brown vs Val Venis
Val's prematch promo gets him over, his take on New York: "I came, I saw, and I came again". D'Lo is from Helsinki, Finland tonight. The story here is that D'Lo's chest protector is loaded. Even start but D'Lo tries to frustrate Val by using the ropes. D'Lo avalaches him with the chest protector. Val comes back with a Russian leg sweep and dropkicks D'Lo out. He stalls a bit before coming back in, Val hits a big spinebuster and hesitates for 2. Val misses a splash and bumps of a corner whip. D'Lo runs into a exploder but takes Val down with a clotheline. Bodyslam and head shaking legdrop get 2. Back heel kick gets 2. Elbow off the second rope gets 2. Val gets up and tries a suplex but D'Lo locks in a Texas cloverleaf. D'Lo breaks it for no reason and goes for a senton but Val moves. Val fights back and hits kneedrives and sets D'Lo up with a backdrop. He goes up for the money shot but D'Lo gets up. Val tries something anyway and D'Lo counters it into a Sky High for a good near fall. DDT gets 2. Val catches D'Lo off the top for a powerslam for another good near fall. Val tries to go up but D'Lo tries to stop him, he gets necksnapped. Double arm suplex and a slam and Val goes up again. Money shot is blocked by knees and now the crowd is chanting for D'Lo. D'Lo badly botches the first attempt at a powerbomb (oh, that was ugly and dangerous) but gets a running powerbomb on the second try. He goes up for the Lo-Down (which is a frog splash) but Val moves. Then Val removes the chest protector and powerslams him. Val puts the chest protector and goes up top but the referee tries to stop him and ends up crotching him. Val tosses him aside and the ref has had enough of this and DQs him at 15:25. After the match Val is pissed off a money shots the ref.
They didn't want to job Val and they didn't want to take the belt off D'Lo so we got this bad finish. Until then it was a good opener from 2 young guys, they were given time and had a good match. The botched powerbomb was pretty scary to watch knowing Droz would have be paralyzed from it the following year. (***1/4)
The Oddities vs Kaientai
The ICP sing the Oddities down to the ring which is edited off the network (that doesn't hurt my feelings). This is supposed to be a comic relief match. Taka rams Golga into the turnbuckle but that doesn't do any good, Golga rams his own head into the turnbuckle to prove it. Golga takes Yamaguchi's new show and pours water in it. Kurrgan goes on his knees so he's the same height as Funaki and mocks him a bit. He shoves him down and dances a bit. Kaientai try to double team but Kurrgan fights all of them off. Yamaguchi isn't happy and Kurrgan goes after him. Kurrgan teases tagging Giant Silva, please no, and does. Would this just end already? Kaientai go out and do paper, rock, scissors, seems like Taka lost, he goes in and tags out to Togo who comes in and gets thrown. They try to gang up on Silva but that doesn't work. Silva puts all 4 of them in the corner and then they whip them into each other on the other side. Silva throws Taka onto the rest of Kaientai. Now it's Golga's turn. Slow powerslam on Togo. Kaientai double team him and get him down and all 4 hit top rope splashes to ground him. Running dropkick by Tak. Golga hits a clotheline on all 4 of them. Hot tag to Kurrgan (well, cold tag as the crowd don't care). Boot to the face and sidewalk slam to Funaki. Silva comes in to take care of the rest of them. Luna comes in and slams Yamaguchi, Silva and Kurrgan double chokeslam all four heels and Golga pins all of them at 10:10.
Well I didn't need that 10 minutes of my life anyway. Terrible comedy match, Kaientai were pretty much the four best workers in the company and instead of wrestling each other, and having great matches in the light heavyweight division, they get thrown into this shit. They were basically treated like midgets here against the 3 giant freaks. They tried their hardest to make it watchable but there was no overcoming that. (-**)
HAIRCUT MATCH: X-Pac vs Jeff Jarrett
Now onto something I was looking forward to. Jeff Jarrett has some advice for everyone ("don't miss me off"), he also has South Justice (The Godwinns repackaged as bodyguards) with him but they get thrown out. X-Pac has Howard Finkel (wearing a DX shirt with his bowtie still on) with him as hononrary DX member (Jarrett shaved his head on Heat). Jarrett attacks from behind, fast paced start. X-Pac comes back with a spin kick. Clothesline out and springboard. They brawl outside and Jarrett atomic drops him right into the ringpost, that's gotta be one of the most vicious ballshots I've ever seen. He goes for the countout and X-Pac gets back in at 9. Jarrett points away. Corner whip and X-Pac takes a bump. Powerslam gets 2. Corner clothesline is blocked and X-Pac hits a tornado DDT, both guys are down but X-Pac gets a shoulder over for 2. Jarrett comes back with a sleeper. JR says it's not a bad move for a match of this type (what's he talking about? it's a one-fall match). X-Pac fights up and tries his own sleeper but Jarrett puts him on the top turnbuckle. He fights him off with elbows and misses a crossbody. Jarrett covers for 2. Spin kick is missed and Jarrett locks in the figure 4 but X-Pac makes the ropes after a while. X-Pac kicks Jarrett into the turnbuckle and hits a back suplex, both guys are down. Back up, X-Pac then hits a spin kick and bronco buster to follow. Jarrett gets whipped and catches X-Pac with an elbow, goes up top with a crossbody but X-Pac rolls through for 2. Powerbomb gets 2. They do a pinfall reversal spot. X-Pac tries the bronco buster again but Jarrett blocks it with a ball shot. Finkle protests and gets nailed by Jarrett, which draws big heat. X-Factor gets 2. Southern Justice come down and Dennis Knight tries to hit X-Pac with the guitar but it's avoided. X-Pac gets the guitar and nails Jarrett with it (the referee was distracted and apparently deaf) and that'll do it at 11:11. The New Age Outlaws, Headbangers and Droz come out to help X-Pac with the haircutting. The clippers give out, though, so it doesn't really get paid off and Jarrett escapes with half a haircut (he'd debut the look he'd keep ever since soon after).
Really good fast-paced match here from these guys. The near falls at the end were great and they had the crowd into it. The finish was great too. (***1/2)
Michael Cole interviews The Rock, Cole asks him what he's thinking about, Rock is thinking about slapping the yellow off his teeth. He's going to prove he's the people's champ, the people's choice and the best Intercontinental champ there ever was. I miss the days when Cole's only job was to get insulted by The Rock.
Marc Mero and Jacqueline vs Sable and ???
The mystery partner turned out to be Edge, who is making is PPV debut here. He's been brooding in the crowd all night and comes down through the crowd. He's actually pretty over for a guy who no one really knew. Edge and Mero start. Mero pounds away, Edge comes back with a rana and some armdrags. Mero tags out to Jacqueline, no gender mixing and Edge tags out. Jackie runs and tags out. Edge and Mero are back, Edge hits a flapjack but Jackie trips him. Mero hits a kneelift, and TKO gets countered into a DDT. Sable is screaming the whole time and it's really annoying. They both tag out and Sable gets some of Jackie, then nails Mero. Jackie runs and Sable chases but Mero gets in the way. She tries to Sable bomb him but Jackie breaks it up and chokes Sable in the ropes. Sable hits a TKO and Mero breaks it up. Sable yells at Mero outside and Jackie attacks from behind. Back in Mero restrains Sable, Jackie tries to attack but misses and hits Mero. Tag to Edge and he flies out over the top rope onto Mero (that got a big reaction), and throws him into the steps. Jackie tries to attack and Edge puts her on his knee and spanks her. Back in, neckbreaker and Jackie puts Mero's foot on the rope. Edge and Jackie have words and Mero tries to attack but misses Edge and hits Jackie. Mero goes up and gets crotched. Edge tags out and with Mero still crotched, she hits a rana from the second rope, the gets a huge pop. They did the spot where Jackie's head inadvertantly hits Mero's ground, Edge hits a downward spiral and slams Sable onto of Mero for the pin at 8:26.
Well it wasn't very good, and the rules were forgotten about at will (no gender mixing but Sable was in with Mero all the time) but who really cares about that. Edge's leap over the top rope and Sable's rana were good spots but, outside of that it was like an average Raw match when Mero and Edge were in and pretty bad when Sable and Jackie were in. (*3/4)
Michael Cole interviews Mankind. Steve Austin smashed up a hearse on Heat and we learn it was Mankind's hearse. Kane won't be here and even Mankind realizes it'd be stupid to fight the Outlaws in a handicap match. Cole tells him the people want their moneys worth so Mankind volunteers to play in traffic and suggests maybe Cole could be his partner and they could go and get their asses kicked. Vince McMahon shows up however and manipulates him into doing it. He tells him if he can defend the tag titles it will lead him to being in the MSG hall of fame by next week and gives him a silver platter for a weapon. Mankind has 13 words for the Outlaws "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood".
LION'S DEN MATCH: Ken Shamrock vs Owen Hart
The Lion's Den is like the WWF's take on a UFC cage, this is also in the theatre in MSG, not the actual arena. Owen has Dan Severn with him. Shamrock starts with a firemans carry into an armbar and punches. Owen comes back with a takedown and punches but Shamrock takeover. Back suplex and sleeper but Owen fights back with a low blow. He whips Shamrock into the cage but Shamrock clotheslines him. Owen is bleeding from the mouth. Shamrock jumped off the side of the cage and hit a shoulder tackle. Hip lock takeover, he charges Owen but Owen rams him into the cage. He stomps and punches Shamrock as the Shamrock chants get loud. He rams him into the other side of the cage and hits an enzuguiri. He slams Shamrock into the cage again, and pounds away. The crowd chant nugget to piss Owen off. Owen tries a sharpshooter but it's countered. Owen attempts a rana but gets bombed. Shamrock comes off the cage with a back elbow. He tries it again and Owen catches him with a powerslam. Belly to belly by Owen and sharpshooter is locked in. Shamrock crawled up the cage to break it. Owen drives him back into the cage and Shamrock hits a modified tornado DDT. Spin kick by Shamrock. Owen sends Shamrock face first into the cage and locks in a choke but Shamrock kicks off the cage to break free. Shamrock takes him down with an armbar and ankle lock. Severn was going to throw the towel in but he takes a walk, and Owen taps out at 9:16.
It was certainly different. They tried to mix in some MMA stuff with some traditional wrestling. It worked to a point and was pretty good. I really liked Shamrocks creative counters to Owens submissions. (***)
Michael Cole interviews Steve Austin, he respects the Undertaker but he'll do whatever he has to win.
NO DQ MATCH FOR THE WWF TAG TEAM TITLES: Mankind and Kane vs New Age Outlaws
Kane has no showed leaving Mankind in a handicap match, which doesn't even make sense considering Mankind is the heel. Mankind wears the Outlaws out with weapons. He has a chair duel with Billy but Road Dogg distracts him and Billy takeover. The Outlaws take turns hitting Mankind with weapons. The crowd has no idea how to react to this because the Outlaws are babyfaces beating up Mankind in a completely heelish manner. Mankind backdrops Billy and fights back, he rams Road Dogg in the corner and hits neckbreaker on Billy outside for 2. Road Dogg comes back with an elbow, and the Outlaws ram Mankind into the dumpster. Back in Road Dogg sets up a table in the corner. Mankind hiptosses Billy into it. Double neckbreaker by the Outlaws for 2. They set up 2 chairs and powerbomb Mankind through them for 2 (audio fuck up as they start the Outlaws music). Spike piledriver on the tag belt finishes it at 5:16. After the match the Outlaws dump Mankind in the dumpster and Kane pops out and smashes a sledgehammer into Mankind and takes the dumpster out of the arena.
Typical Russo bullshit that made absolutely no sense, the crowd had no idea how to react to this because the beloved babyface Outlaws were beating up Mankind 2 v 1 like total dick heels, and were even more heelish post-match. At least it started Mankind's story as the lovable guy who got manipulated by Vince McMahon. Mankind took a couple of nice bumps but there wasn't much here outside of a bunch of weapon shots. (*1/4)
LADDER MATCH FOR THE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE: The Rock vs Triple H
HHH has Chyna with him, The Rock has Mark Henry with him. Chris Warren and the DX band play HHH to the ring. HHH hits a facebuster and Rock triesthe Rock Bottom but HHH fights him off and the slug it out in the corner. Rock wins but HHH tries for a pedigree but backdrops to the floor. They brawl outside and HHH whips him into the railing. Back in and Rock slugs away. HHH uses the knee and goes for the ladder but Rock clobbers him to prevent that. Rock gets the ladder but HHH sends him into the railing. Rock comes back and whips HHH into the ladder. He takes the ladder into the ring and makes a slow climb. HHH dives off the top and knocks it down to stop him. Now HHH tries a slow climb. Rock knocks him off and injures the knee, Rock goes to work on the knee and drops the ladder on it, then sandwiches his knee in the ladder and stomps it. See, this is a logical way to explain slow climbing - injure HHH's knee so he can't climb fast, Rock on the other hand has no excuse (unless he's just afraid of heights). Rock wraps his knee around the post puts the ladder outside, he drops HHH on it with a knee crusher. Rock brings the ladder in and climbs... very slowly, HHH comes back and makes the save. HHH throws him out and sets the ladder up against the railing, but Rock calapults him into it. HHH fights back and tries a pedigree on the floor but gets backdropped on the ladder. Back in and Mark Henry tosses Rock another ladder and he does another super slow climb. Henry and Chyna brawl a bit a ringside and HHH comes back and shoves the ladder. Rock hits the floor and HHH baseball slides the ladder into Rock's face, drawing blood. HHH does the slow climb but Rock shoves the ladder out from under him and slugs away in the corner. DDT and both are down. Rock recovers first and clibs very slowly but HHH slowly follows him up. They slug it out on the top and Rock tosses HHH into the other ladder. HHH rebounds and falls into Rocks ladder and both are down again. Chyna slides a chair in to HHH and he pounds the Rock under ladder with it. They slug it out again and Rock slams him onto the ladder, and does the people's elbow on it. Rock Bottom and the crowd is chanting for The Rock now. Rock climbs and fights off HHH but he gets yanked down and HHH hits the pedigree. Mark Henry tosses powder to blind HHH, though. On top of the ladder and they slug it out. Rock goes for the win by Chyna gives him an epic ballshot and HHH takes the belt at 26:02.
The super slow climbing bugged me but it's a minor complaint. This was the coming out party for both of these guys as they beat the shit out of each other to get each other over, and boy did they get over. This is a great match and something really special, it's not the crazy spotfest we're accustomed to with ladder matches post-TLC, it's a great psychology heavy war where they used the ladder to beat the shit out of each other (it's actually refreshing to see and makes a lot more sense). The Rock was on here and Triple H was bumping like crazy, it's too bad his knee injury was actually a shoot and he never had the chance to defend the belt. Rock lost the belt but he'd be moving onto to bigger things. (****3/4)
WWF CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Undertaker
After all the hype, it comes down to this. Undertaker comes out first to a moderate reaction. Steve Austin gets his skull shattering entrance which is so cool and gets a monster reaction. Back and forth brawl to start, and they reverse arm drags. Austin rolls Taker up for 2. Drop toe hold and armbar. Back up, Austin ran the ropes, Taker put his head down and got kicked up. Nasty moment as Austin's chin collided with Taker's head. Austin is legitimately knocked out on that one and has no idea where he is. Taker buys him time and stomps away. Taker misses and elbow and wraps his leg around the post. Back in Austin whips him and misses a clotheline, Taker hits a flying clothesline and chokes away. Ropewalk attempt and Austin pulls him down a stomps away at the knee. Kane showed up and Austin stared at him but Taker tells him to leave, because he wanted to try to get done himself. He invites Austin in and they slug it out. Austin wins and goes to work on the leg again. Taker grabs him by the throat and hits him with an impressive running chokeslam. Austin clothelines him outside and Taker lands on his feet (though he can't do much because the knee is injured). They brawl into the crowd. Back towards ringside and Taker hits a back body drop onto the concrete. Back in Austin comes back and attempts a stunner but Taker escapes and bails to the floor. Austin follows but gets caught in a bearhug and driven into the ringpost. Back in, Taker stomps away, Austin fights back but gets thrown outside. Taker rams him into the steps and starts taking apart the announce table. He plants Austin on it and chokes away. He goes up to the top rope and lands a flying leg drop on the announce table (it didn't break and they slid off it). Crazy move there. Back in Taker gets 2. Undertaker whips Austin to the corner but misses a charge, but it didn't stop him as he pounds away at Austin. Austin continues to try to fight back. Double clothesline and both men are down. They beat the count and slug it out. Austin wins this round. Thesz press and elbow and he takes him to the corner. Modified stunner, more of a jawbreaker, gets 2. Taker hits a chokeslam, tombstone attempt (as if that would ever happen) is blocked, but Taker crotches him on the ropes. Russian leg sweep. Taker goes for the ropewalk, he jumps off but Austin catches him with a low blow. Taker staggers and a stunner ends it at 20:50. After the match Undertaker hands the title to Austin and leaves with Kane. Austin celebrates in the ring and we're out.
This was a good match, not great, but better than I remembered. It's just an intense brawl for the most part, typical of Austin era main events. It's unfortunate Austin got legitimately knocked out early on and didn't have his wits about him (he had to ask referee Earl Hebner where he was), it probably would've been better, but he still put on a good enough performance all things considered. (***1/2)
I don't know if it's the best SummerSlam of all time but if it's not it's definitely up there, it's probably the best PPV of 1998. Everything outside the Oddities match is watchable and every match (outside of that one) meant something. All the storylines were settled and everyone went home happy. The Rock and Triple H had a truly great show stealing classic and easily take match of the night (damn near match of the year too if you ask me). You can't ask for more out of a PPV. Big thumbs up.