Coming up, I would like to revisit and review shows I have attended with reflections on the experience. This will include the great 1998 trifecta of 3 PPVs in 4 1/2 months from 3 companies: Wrestlemania 14, WCW Slamboree 1998, and ECW Heatwave ’98.
NXT made a visit to Albany earlier this month but I didn’t go because it’s about a 3 hour drive from suburban Boston. In my younger days I could have done it and in fact did one time. On Dec. 28, 1998, my friend Bob and I drove out to on his 19th birthday to take in Monday Night RAW from the then-Pepsi Arena. His fake ID from Arkansas got us some beer for an impromptu tailgate in the nearby garage, complete with sandwiches from Subway. This was a live RAW, and I would attend the RAW taping the next night in Worcester, MA (yes, THAT RAW) so we drove back after the show.
I am much more of a fan of the 1997 (or 2000) booking of the WWF than 1998-99 because some of the Russo stuff is just so over the top looking back even in the WWF environment. Of course it got worse in WCW but a lot of stuff does not hold up these days. In 2000, Russa was gone, but in 1997 things ran through a filter that included a traditional guy like Jim Cornette. Oh man, what those meetings must have been like with Corny and Russo. Those details are available elsewhere but suffice to say Corny was driven to wit’s end.
Very long backstage segment to start. Vince McMahon is mad because Shane got beat up last week by X-Pac, and commissioner Shawn Michaels wouldn’t let the Corporation save him. So now Vince wants to fire HBK tonight. Guess who’s on the outs with the Corporation during this: Kane! They should win environmental awards for this commitment to recycling given how muc h of this was brought back in 2015. And it’s a RAW starting off with Vince and Shane so it’s like this past Monday.
Hardcore title match between Road Dogg and Val Venis ends in a DQ which openly confuses Jerry Lawler, who is on commentary with Michael Cole because Jim Ross had a bout with Bell’s palsy earlier in the month. Cole was pretty lousy back then but not because someone was screaming in his ear; he was just very green to the process. Vince comes out and tells Dogg that he will defend against Mankind later on in the show
Crazy Al Snow has blood all over him because he didn’t change in a week after the Brood did this to him. I had high hopes for Edge at this time, but I hated the Brood thing. Cool entrance and music, but Gangrel just annoyed me with his stupid face. This was a quick DQ match, what a shock. I guess there won’t be so much in the wrestling department tonight.
Sable is the women’s champ and she’s defending against Spider Lady? Good job by Lawler to acknowledge the history of that dating to 1985. Back then, women’s champ Wendi Richter was in a contract dispute and they sent Fabulous Moolah out in a mask. Wendy knew something was up, and the match ended with her kicking out at one and the bell ringing. But this Spider Lady is not Moolah, it’s Luna Vachon. Match is stopped as the Oddities come out to calm her down with little success. Luna didn’t much care for Sable in real life so it’s interesting to watch this in retrospect. Of course Sable was crazy over for much of 1998 so it was easy for her to develop an attitude.
Let’s see if we can get an actual wrestling match with a clean finish: XPac beat Big Bossman in Euro title match by DQ due to Corporation run in, and Steve Blackman and Goldust (now that was a pairing) beat Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart because of a Dan Severn distraction of Owen. At least it’s a pinfall, finally. Judging by what happened this must be around the time they were going to do the Debra/Jarrett/Owen love triangle that Owen properly nixed. More guys should stand up for themselves in creative, and if anyone sees Roman Reigns please yell that message at him. Ugh, it pains me to think of the matches we were robbed of had Owen lived: Owen-Benoit, Owen-Malenko, and we never got Owen-Rock after the latter became a big star.
Dennis Knight, who was talking to X Pac on screen earlier is carjacked by the Acolytes. That’s a good lesson, kids: Never talk to Sean Waltman. (Actually, he’s supposedly a nice guy) Also we have to keep Bradshaw strong! Wonder if Farooq buckled up before he started driving, though. I was not a fan of Bradshaw pushes even then.
HHH vs Ken Shamrock (C) for IC title ends with Shamrock not releasing ankle lock with HHH in ropes for DQ. Interesting to note that this crowd HATED Shamrock, huge SHAMROCK SUCKS chants every time he came out, which was far too often. This entire show was DX and the Corporation with light sprinkles of other stuff. And when the Corporation came out, so too did Shamrock. Austin was not there on this night which did not help but that would add big time to the event in Worcester taped the next night. In the back we got a Billy Gunn interview (oh joy) interrupted by Shamrock and they exchange pretty meaningless trash talk. I don’t know what they saw in Billy Gunn and yet he appeared on multiple 2015 PPVs.
D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry come out and Henry wants to apologize to Chyna. This brings out PMS (Pretty Mean Sisters) as Terri clearly has trouble keeping her dress covering her swimsuit bits. Chyna is out and puts a stop to this and tells Mark she’ll see him later. I didn’t remember this storyline at all until I watched this again. Chyna’s voice always took me out of the moment because of how weird it was. This would end up going in a direction that wouldn’t fly today with transgender mocking.
Billy Gunn was supposed to face 2016 WWE Hall of Fame inductee The Godfather…but instead, he gets Kane. See, nothing ever changes! Kane destroys him, DX run in, this seems awfully repetitive. But hey, it’s a two hour show and not three.
Road Dogg vs Mankind for Hardcore title, with The Rock on commentary and he is legitimately awesome as the dickhead corporate champ. He belittles Michael Cole like every 6 seconds, takes shots at Lawler…oh what a magical time it was to see this guy blossom. This is actually a fun brawl and they end up in the crowd. Rock comes down and Rock Bottoms Mankind on the floor to give Dogg the win. When Dogg sees replay, he’s upset about this because he wanted to win fairly…in a hardcore match. Vince Russo was never good at making sure guys had proper motivations in their actions.
Vince is in the ring and calls out HBK and Vince does a great job before firing him, having clips played where he badmouthed Vince from 9 months before. “Vince McMahon doesn’t lay down for anybody,” says Vinny Mac in a nice callback. “You’re one of the great WWF superstars, the icon, the main event….but as a commissioner….you stink!” Funny stuff. He’s fired, and we get an HBK sweet chin music on Vince. Michaels escapes through the crowd. It’s a nice reminder of Vince being THE best “heel” authority figure ever and no one else has ever come close.
Summary: I had fun at this show, but it’s not great watching again. Repetitive and the crowd was really crude (little kids flipping off the camera, signs with the F-word to the point where Cole had to do a Jim Carr-esque “please keep your signs within the boundaries of good taste”). Other RAWS are worth your time from this period, but not this one. I would venture to guess either of the NXT visits to Albany in 2015/2016 were better than this.