Review for King of the Ring 1998, June 28, 1998, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The most imfamous of all the King of the Ring PPVs. In the semi-main event The Undertaker would do battle with his old rival, Mankind (who didn't know who he was anymore, he'd gone from Cactus Jack, to corporate zombie Dude Love, back to Mankind). In the main event Stone Cold Steve Austin was to be challenged by Kane in a First Blood match, with the added stipulation that if Kane didn't win the title, he'd set himself on fire.
Hosted by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
Taka Michinoku & The Headbangers vs Kaientai
Another oddball pairing for Taka. He takes off his robe and is wearing Headbanger attire, skirt and all. The faces control early, and the crowd is firmly behind Taka. He works in his springboard plancha, but Togo cheapshots him from behind to give Kaientai the advantage. He gets out of trouble and tags in Mosh. The Bangers clean house and press Taka onto Funaki. Taka finishes with the Michinoku Driver at 6:44.
Just a quick match to get this rolling, they didn't really have time to build anything but it was solid and fun. (**)
Sable introduces Vince McMahon, who comes out with the Stooges. Pat Patterson gives her a pat on the ass as she leaves and gets slapped. He yells at her and Vince gives an interview. He says everyone is in for a disappointment but that should be something they aren't familiar with. Just a time waster and a pretty pointless one.
KING OF THE RING SEMI FINAL: Ken Shamrock vs Jeff Jarrett
No heat for Jarrett but Shamrock gets a decent pop. They start before the bell, with Shamrock taking control. Jarrett takes over but gets sent out outside and Shamrock kicks his ass out there as well. Back in Jarrett goes for the leg and Tennessee Lee gets in on the act as well. Shamrock doesn't bother to see any of it and makes his comeback. Whip and a Powerslam gets two. Shamrock ducks a clothesline and plants Jarrett with a rana. Shamrock slaps on the Ankle Lock, and Jarrett taps at 5:30
This was fine, Shamrocks selling was bad though. (**)
KING OF THE RING SEMI FINAL: Dan Severn vs The Rock
Rock has the Nation with him but they get booted out. Severn tries some amateur wrestling stuff, which the crowd could care less about. Rock looks a bit lost here, and mostly just punches and kicks. The dullness goes on until The Godfather and Mark Henry come back out to distract the referee. D'Lo Brown comes from the crowd and frog splashes Severn allowing Rock to advance at 4:31.
Finish killed Severn as any kind of pro wrestling attraction, not that it mattered, no WWF fan was ever going to care about him. Awful match with no heat. (DUD)
Al Snow & Head vs Too Much
Jerry Lawler is the special guest heel referee. They do some terrible Memphis comedy stuff that no one cares about. Snow eventually gets a hot tag to Head. Snow Plow to Taylor but Head is legal. So how do you pin a Head with no shoulders? Well, you attach a bottle of head and shoulders to it of course, and Christopher pins Head at 8:24.
It was boring, the comedy wasn't funny and while the finish was cute, it came after way too much crap and the crowd didn't know what happened and didn't care anyway. (-*)
X-Pac vs Owen Hart
These two had just about the best sub-five minute match I’ve ever seen at the 1994 King of the Ring. They exchange some stuff early on before the fight spills outside. Owen viciously whips X-Pac into the timekeepers area. Back in, Owen comes off the top with a missile dropkick for two. Owen grabs a sleeper. X-Pac hits the X-Factor, but it wasn’t a true finisher yet. He goes for the Bronco Buster. They go up for a superplex, leading to X-Pac getting crotched and falling out to the floor. Mark Henry arrives on the scene to splash X-Pac on the floor. Chyna goes nose-to-nose with Henry until Vader comes out of nowhere to avalanche Henry. The ref is distracted as Owen gets the Sharpshooter. Chyna runs in and DDTs him and gives X-Pac the win at 8:32.
Could've done without all the pointless interference, but this was good. (***)
Paul Bearer comes out to waste some more time. He rambles on for a while and leaves.
WWF TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: New Age Outlaws vs New Midnight Express
Outlaws are super over, the NWA stuff, not so much. Holly and Road Dogg start Nice sequence between the former Smoking Gunns follows. Dogg gets tagged in and gets cheap shotted and he plays face in peril. The heels work him over, plenty of double teaming. Holly tells Road Dogg to suck it and to go fuck himself. Billy takes exception and runs in with a bulldog but Holly regains control. Billy gets the hot tag and cleans house. Ref gets distracted and Cornette blasts Billy with the racket on a Piledriver attempt. Cornette tries it again but Billy is ready for him this time. Cornette begs off and Chyna low blows him. Outlaws do a double team hotshot to get the pin at 9:54.
No heat, but this was good, solid tag team wrestling. Actually one of the better New Age Outlaws matches. (***)
KING OF THE RING FINAL: The Rock vs Ken Shamrock
Triple H joins us for commentary. Quick start with a series of counters until Rock is sent out to the floor. Back in, Shamrock hits a clothesline. Rock is sent out again and stalls. He gets distracted by HHH and spits water at him and Shamrock attacks. Back in, Shamrock with a snap suplex for 2. Rock reverses a whip and sends Shamrock to the floor. Shamrock sends Rock into the rail, but Rock comes right back with a clothesline. Back in, a swinging neckbreaker for two. Rock with a DDT for another 2, then slows it down with a chinlock. Peoples Elbow only gets 2. Shamrock fights out a headlock but Rock hits his DDT for 2. Back suplex by Shamrock and both go down. Shamrock recovers and makes a comeback before charging right into a powerslam. Rock looks for another People’s DDT, but Shamrock counters to a Northern Lights Suplex for 2. Shamrock goes for a rana, but Rock counters to a hotshot for 2. Rock thinks it’s 3 and argues with the ref allowing Shamrock to recover and trip Rock down into the Anklelock at 14:10.
Good match, it took a while to get going with Rocks tendency to stall and rest a lot, but once we got past that it was excellent. Shamrock finally gets a clean win over The Rock after all those Dusty finishes. (***1/4)
HELL IN A CELL MATCH: The Undertaker vs Mankind
They start on top of the cell, Mankind delivers some chair shots. Something feels like it going to happen and it does. Taker throws him off the cell and through the announce table in one of most iconic moments ever, with JRs imfamous soundtrack "Good God, almighty, that killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!" They next 5 minutes or so are spent getting Mankind out of here on a stretcher. He isn't having it end that way though and he gets off the stretcher and wants to go back up. Taker happily obliges him and they go at it on top of the cell again. This time Taker gets him with a weak chokeslam but it gives us another iconic moment as Mankind goes flying through the cell and lands in the ring, with a chair landing on his face to boot. Terry Funk comes in to buy time and gets chokeslammed out of his boots, giving Mankind time to recover. Somehow he gets up and the match officially begins. It's a weak brawl, but understandably. Taker does just about everything himself. Mankind somehow takes control and whips out a giant bag of thumbtacks. He fails knocking Taker onto them, and gets slammed down across them. Mick is ready to go home and Undertaker obliges and finishes with a chokeslam on the tacks and the Tombstone at 17:38. Mankind walks out and gets a standing ovation, and he sure as hell deserved one.
If Bret v Shawn at Montreal is the most infamous match of all time, this is an easy second and might've even overtaken it. As a spectacle, it's on a level of its own. The match itself isn't much outside of those two bumps and the finish on the tacks, but that's irrelevant. This is a hell of a match and one of the most memorable ever (hell Mick is still living off it to this day). (****1/2)
FIRST BLOOD MATCH FOR THE WWF TITLE: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Kane
Austins elbow is heavily bandaged here. He starts red hot and wails away on Kane with right hands and the title belt. Lawler makes a good point that normally Kane has only one sleeve, but has both covered tonight, leaving no part of his body but his left hand uncovered. They brawl and the cell begins to lower. Good spot with Kane holding Austin under the cell so it could crush him. The cell raises with Kane draped over it and gets knocked down. They fight in the aisle and by the entrance for a while. Eventually they make it into the ring. Mankind hobbles down with a chair and gets his ass kicked by Austin. The cell gets lowered again as Austin delivers stunners to both Kane and Mankind. Undertaker comes out wiht a chair and takes a swing at Mankind, but he ducks and Austin gets nailed. Taker nails Mankind with it and Austin is busted open. Taker pours gasoline on the referee to wake him up. Austin lays out Kane with a chair shot but the ref sees him bleeding and calls for the bell at 14:53. Austin is pissed.
This just served as a purpose to set up a big Raw match, and kick off the Undertaker/Kane conspiracy storyline that would take us to SummerSlam, but it was a good brawl in it's own right. (***1/2)
This show is generally remembered as a one match show but it deserves more credit than that. Yeah, the Hell in a Cell match is the draw and certainly match of the night, but everything after the first hour or so is good stuff. Thumbs up.