October 9, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

King of the Ring 1998
June 28, 1998
Pittsburgh Civic Arena (Igloo)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Attendance: 17,087
Buy Rate: .85
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

1) The Headbangers & Taka Michinoku (Takao Yoshida) defeat Kai En Tai when Taka pins (Shoichi) Funaki with a Michinoku Driver at 6:42

Scott: Vince was getting the right idea putting the young Japanese cruiserweights in the openers of almost all the 1998 PPVs. Taka was still a successful light-heavyweight champion, and the Headbangers were still a very popular tag team. Kai En Tai were those pesky annoying heels on RAW, but would get theirs handed to them at the PPV. This match is much better than the handicap match at Over the Edge. Maybe it was the freshness that Mosh and Thrasher hadn’t been on PPV for a few months and the crowd was quite amped for them. Taka is still a treat to watch in the ring, but the light-heavyweight title hasn’t been defended on PPV in 3 months, mostly because there aren’t many great Cruisers out there right now. The storyline wasn’t overwhelming, but enough to grab the audience in the first match. Taka would soon have a change of heart, but more on that in future reviews. Grade: 2.5

Justin: The Taka vs. Kai En Tai feud continues in this unannounced bonus match to kick off the 6th Annual KOTR. This is also the first PPV match in Pittsburgh since Diesel booted Mabel into the mid-card at Summerslam 1995. I think Steeler fans were in for a better treat this time around. Taka was getting solid reactions and putting in very good outings, and the Headbangers always brought it in the big matches, so there are some solid crowd reactions for this match. Kai En Tai as a whole was a good signing, as they had good workrate, drew good crowd heat and made for some fun stories and matches. All in all this was a good opener to what would become a very memorable night. Grade: 2

*** Vince comes out to confirm Austin would lose the title to Kane tonight. Sable, who was reinstated if she’d ride Vince’s “genetic jackhammer”, introduced him. This was simply a time killer to help hype the Main Event. ***

SEMIFINALS:

2) Ken Shamrock defeats Jeff Jarrett with the Anklelock at 4:47

Qualifying Round: Ken Shamrock defeated Kama Mustafa (Charles Wright); Jeff Jarrett defeated Faarooq (Ron Simmons)

First Round: Ken Shamrock defeated Mark Henry (d. Terry Funk); Jarrett defeated Marc Mero (d. Steve Blackman)

Scott: This PPV would be sprinkled with sub-10 minute matches, mostly because the last 3 matches dominated the show. That’s fine, because at the time, that’s what everybody wanted to see. Shamrock was continuing his feud with the Rock, and seeing him in the other semifinal; it was almost a foregone conclusion they would meet in the final. Shamrock was all over the Over the Edge ads, but then wasn’t at the show. He’s back this month and takes out the country western star. Since being back in the WWF, Jeff Jarrett has been on a most unusual journey. He bad-mouths his country-music character from 1994-96, then becomes an Aztec Warrior with a pretend title belt, and now he’s back as the country-music star, horribly out of touch with the rest of the Attitude product. In WCW, he was the US Heavyweight champion in decent feuds. How bad could it have been? He didn’t get jobbed out to Jim Duggan like Steve Austin did. On another note, once again the tournament is chopped to 3 matches, but that was again due to the focus of the last 3 matches. Shamrock moves on, and now we await his opponent. Is it a battle of former warriors from the Octagon, or a rematch with the People’s Champion? Wait and see. Grade: 2

Justin: An energetic opener to the PPV portion of the KOTR tournament. Shamrock was on fire at this point and rips right through Double J on his way to the next round. Jarrett would really suffer in mid-card until changing his identity one more time in August, and that would be the look that would finally help him take off. Tennessee Lee is good at ringside, and I am surprised he never caught on with another wrestler in the WWF, as he made for some entertaining ringside antics. Not much else going on here, other than Shamrock continuing to roll on and pick up some serious steam. Grade: 2

3) The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Dan Severn after a frog splash from D-Lo Brown (AC Connor) at 4:24

Qualifying Round: Dan Severn defeated D-Lo Brown; Rock beat Vader (Leon White)

First Round: Dan Severn defeated Owen Hart (d. 2 Cold Scorpio (Charles Skaggs)); Rock beat Triple H (Paul Levesque) (d. X-Pac (Sean Waltman)).

Fun Fact: Dan Severn made several appearances on Raw as a color analyst before finally stepping in the ring. At the time, he was NWA Heavyweight champion, so he first began appearing with Jim Cornette. Also at first, he started helping out fellow UFC fighter Ken Shamrock, but on one Raw he finally attacked him and beat him down. I know Scott mentioned that it seemed like a lock that Rock and Shamrock would battle, but at the time it really assumed Severn would win, and the big UFC showdown would finally happen in a tournament-style setting.

Fun Fact II: Severn legitimately tore D-Lo’s pectoral muscle in their Qualifying match on Raw with an armbar submission hold. It was actually a blessing in disguise, as D-Lo would go the Bob Orton/Owen Hart “wear a cast for many months after the injury heals” shtick, and it was that chest protector that helped him rise through the ranks into an upper-mid card star.

Scott: They are really moving this show along, and this match is the biggest example, not even reaching 5 minutes. But, wait until we get to Survivor Series to talk about the express line of PPVs. This match was just a stepping stone for the finals, and it’s disappointing because Severn was beginning to come into his own. Right now we’re not sure if he’s a face or a heel, but that’s the first example of the Attitude Era. Severn’s a character in shades of gray, attacking both sides and you decide whether you like him or not. Severn came in as the NWA Champion, which is kind of a joke since the NWA lost their affiliation from WCW they became a wrestling afterthought (at least until 2002). Rock continues his ascent to superstardom, and now gets a re-match with the World’s Most Dangerous Man in the finals. Grade: 2.5

Justin: A decent, yet brief match to set up the finals of this year’s tournament. Rock’s heel heat continues to grow, and the crowd is actually behind him, as Severn was hardly a strong enough face to elicit a reaction. D-Lo makes his first appearance since Severn tore his chest apart and costs the “Beast” the match. D-Lo would get an excellent push starting here, and would really make his mark in the next few weeks. Severn comes in with some fanfare and a lot of intrigue, but they never really pull the trigger on the most obvious and ready-made feud they had with Shamrock and the Beast. You can hardly fault them here, as Rock was super over and had an already established feud with Ken, but this could have been a major win for Severn. Anyway, Rock grabs the win with an assist from his Nation companion and moves onto the finals. Grade: 2.5

4) Too Much defeat Al Snow (Sarven) & Head when Brian Christopher (Lawler) pins Head with a bottle of Head & Shoulders at 8:29

Fun Fact: Al Snow had been popping up week after week trying to get an interview with Vince McMahon about getting a job. He would pop up as a Japanese photographer, a Spanish commentator and various other incarnations, but would always end up getting dragged off by security. On one particular Raw, Jerry Lawler managed to piss off the Undertaker and ended up with a Tombstone for his troubles. So, the next week, he decided to have a special enforcer to stand by the commentary table to protect him. For the first hour of the show, Lawler used to only commentate the second half, Lawler was shown with a man under a blanket waiting to make their appearance. When they arrived ringside, Lawler took off the blanket, and revealed his muscle to be Al Snow. Lawler claimed that promised Snow a meeting with Mr. McMahon in exchange for his services. Of course, Lawler lied and each week after that, Snow would sneak from the crowd and beg with Lawler about the meeting. Finally, Lawler said he was able to get Snow a match at KOTR. Snow would team up with Head and face off with Too Much, the newly formed team of Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor. If Snow won, he got a job, if he lost; it was back to ECW for him. He actually wasn’t allowed to stay; he did leave for 2 months, but popped back up in September again and was signed to a contract by Vince.

Scott: Yeah, read that result. It’s dead on. The crux of the story was Al Snow had to leave the WWF if he lost. He did, but for some codicil I can’t remember, Al would be allowed back in a few months. The match sucked on all levels, all the way to Lawler refereeing, cheating for his kid’s team, although they were still hiding the relationship on screen). JR makes a poignant comment afterwards, saying “This match set the business back 20 years”. He was exactly right. To think this match was longer that either KOTR semifinal also boggles the mind. Grade: .5

Justin: A really bad match with a very stupid ending. Snow had gained quite the cult following in ECW due to his “head” gimmick, and Vince and crew decided to bring him back up to the show for a quick test run. He got over pretty quickly, but was sent back to ECW to finish up some work there before being brought up for good. Too Much was also just settling into the flamboyant heel role, so their tag work is a little shaky. Add Lawler’s antics and the fact that one member of this match was an inanimate object, and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. Not one of the brightest moments of the night, but thankfully it was quickly forgotten due to what was ahead. Grade: .5

5) X-Pac (Sean Waltman) defeats Owen Hart after a Chyna DDT at 8:29

Fun Fact: This is a rematch from 4 years ago, when Owen Hart defeated the 1-2-3 Kid en route to winning the 1994 KOTR.

Scott: Poor Owen Hart. His brother is screwed; he gets stiffed out of a world title feud, loses two straight PPVs to Triple H, and now is knocked down another notch, facing X-Pac, who is in his first WWF PPV match since losing to Razor Ramon in the “Cry Baby” match at IYH#6 in February 1996. The match is quite entertaining, as we see Sean Waltman’s transformation from full aerial wizard to mat/aerial technician. Waltman was always very talented, but leaned too much on his Kliq buddies the past few years, and with him and Eric Bischoff at odds for most of his time in WCW, it was inevitable he would return to the WWF. The night after Wrestlemania, Triple H says “You look to family, you look…to the KLIQ!!! It was a very cool moment and one that would be the first wound in WCW’s body. Owen is a heel now, so the crowd is off the hook for the swerve. With Shawn Michaels out of the picture for the moment, the screwjob seems like ages ago. This was a solid match between two great wrestlers, and a match that continues to grow the Nation/DX feud. Grade: 3

Justin: A fun little match that brought back fond memories of Owen’s breakout night four years earlier. X-Pac was gaining some momentum inside the ring, as he had just started actively wrestling again for the first time in months. Owen had settled nicely back in to the heel role he has always been suited for. He just always seemed uncomfortable and awkward as a face, and as a heel is able to utilize his great facial expressions, whiny persona and awesome moveset to his advantage. X-Pac would reach his greatest level of popularity during this run, and would become one of the most reliable, exciting and beloved in-ring competitors until late-2000 when it all fell apart on him again. Grade: 3

6) New Age Outlaws defeat the New Midnight Express to retain WWF Tag Team Titles after a double-team Stun Gun on Bombastic Bob (Robert Howard) at 9:53

Scott: The first documented time that the WWF and NWA Tag Team champions meet in the same PPV. Not as impressive as if it would have happened in 1986, but you take what you can get. Ironic that a couple of years after being the mid-90’s most successful team in the Smokin’ Gunns, Bart and Billy go head-to-head. At the end of 1996 Billy was the heel and Bart was the face, now it’s in reverse. This match was OK, not as impressive as I remember it being. NAO is still working the final kinks out of the DX swagger, but definitely more fluid than when they were heels at the beginning of the year. The continuing explanation of “attitude” continues, as Jerry Lawler explains how DX has become such fan favorites. Shades of gray everyone, shades of grey. The NME would break up soon after this, and the Outlaws would get better attitude-wise, but drop a bit workrate-wise. Grade: 2

Justin: A pretty fun match, as Holly and Gunn were really gelling as a team, but of course, would be broken up just a month later due to the Brawl for All fiasco. The Outlaws were on fire with the crowd, as was all of D-X, so the crowd is actually quite hot for this tag title affair. There is nothing too phenomenal here, but just a well worked, solid tag team match. The Outlaws would have a brief detour in their tag title run, but would be back on top of the mountain by August. The NME would have a much worse fate, which ends up eventually being good for one member and bad for the other. Grade: 2.5

FINAL:

7) Ken Shamrock defeats the Rock to win 1998 King of the Ring with the Anklelock at 14:09

Fun Fact: Just a brief refresher course on whom the previous KOTR winners are: 1993: Bret Hart (d. Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow); 1994: Owen Hart (d. Doink, Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, Razor Ramon); 1995: Mabel (d. Adam Bomb, Undertaker, Savio Vega); 1996: Steve Austin (d. Bob Holly, Savio Vega, Marc Mero, Jake Roberts); 1997: Triple H (d. Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Mankind)

Scott: Shamrock wins the 6th KOTR, in an exciting final against a fellow young superstar who is gaining heat on both sides. Hunter is doing commentary, and is absolutely hysterical. “Testes…Testes…1…2...3?” is a PPV moment never forgotten. The match has great brawling, good psychology, and a nice, clean ending. Rock taps to the Anklelock for what seems like the 5th time this year, and Shamrock wins the tournament. With the new attitude era, the throne/scepter bit is past its time. Austin kind of kicked that gay concept out the window 2 years earlier. Shamrock’s career hits the fast track, but within the next couple of months he would get a change of character. This loss doesn’t hurt Rock, and in fact the transition from this feud to the feud that would define his early career begins during this match and is immediately on the front-burner next month. This is a solid match that gets the crowd going, and they need to be ready because the last two matches make history. Grade: 3

Justin: A fun final, and is arguably in the top 3 best finals in KOTR, as these two knew each other extremely well and it showed. Triple H is out on commentary since he was last year’s winner, but there is also the subtle reason of jump starting a singles feud between him and Rocky. Shamrock seemed like a logical winner, as they were always pushing him as “tournament tested” due to his UFC days. As good as his first year was, Shamrock now embarks on his most successful year in the WWF, as he gets a push and is allowed to start kicking some serious ass and break some ankles in the ring. This tournament is also one of the few times that both men benefited from being in the finals, as Rock’s career also skyrocketed from this point. A very successful KOTR, and probably the last really good one, as the next 4 years are pretty wishy-washy. Grade: 3

8) Undertaker defeats Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match after a Tombstone on thumbtacks at 17:14

Fun Fact: The night after Over the Edge, Mr. McMahon dressed down Mick Foley for blowing 2 chances at the title and eventually fired him. Foley walked off dejected and Vince said he was looking for a new challenger to take the title from Austin, so he made Kane vs. the Undertaker for the Number 1 Contender’s slot that night on Raw. Austin and McMahon joined Lawler and Ross at ringside and made for some fun commentary during this very important match. As the match wore on, Taker was about to win, but out ran Mankind to assist Kane in the win. Vince was shocked but claimed that he liked what he saw, and eventually made Mankind vs. Undertaker as Taker wanted revenge on Foley.

Fun Fact II: Behind the scenes, there was actually talk of doing a third Dude Love/Steve Austin match at this show and that it was going to be Hell in a Cell. Vince and crew decided, however, that the feud probably didn’t have legs to draw a third month and decided to switch things up. In his book, Foley says he was devastated to be taken out of the World Title match, but rejuvenated to find out he was still in the Cell at least. He also says that he sat with Terry Funk and watch the Michaels/Taker HITC to get ideas for this match, and that it was Funk’s idea to start on top of the cage.

Scott: This is the much heralded spotfest match by which all spotfest matches are measured. The big moment that everyone talks about is exactly 1:09 in, where Taker chucks Mick Foley off the top of the cage, and onto the Spanish announce table. Now, at first viewing, it is definitely a Holy Shit moment, but when it’s re-done in vignettes over and over again, it kind of kills the moment. The wrestling is incredibly sloppy, with only a few moves executed, and the one chokeslam by Taker that drops Mick through the cell roof is quite awful. This match, compared with HBK/Taker in October, is actually incomparable. That match was constant, with great psychology and good solid wrestling. This match had no psychology, as this feud had died the previous year. The crowd is ridiculously off the hook for this match, particularly during the big Tombstone on fucking thumbtacks. Mick Foley will always be measured by that 25-foot bump. Taker deserves a boatload of credit, wrestling and walking on an unstable cell with a broken ankle. This is really an extension of the Austin/McMahon storyline, as McMahon was punishing Taker for helping Austin at Over the Edge. That main event was match of the year for 1998, but not this match, as this match has some legendary moments, but as a complete match its average. Grade: 2

Justin: Wow. What else do you say? Just an amazing display of recklessness from a man more concerned with entertaining fans than his own well being. The two falls definitely lose some impact when you’ve seen them as many times as we have, but there is still that little part of you that sits in awe when you see them. Just as impressive in Taker dropping from the cage into the ring on his broken foot. This match is the one that finally etched the legend of Mick Foley into wrestling history, and eventually led to Foley changing his whole view on wrestling. He took the next night off, but when he returned the week after, he cut an intense hate-filled promo about the incident, but no one seemed to care. He realized that wrestling and wrestling fans had passed him by. He decided then and there not to waste his time on huge, hate laden promos and intense psychology and instead focused himself on utilizing his humor and ability to pop a quick response with cheap heat tactics. It ended up being a shrewd move that led to much success for ol’ Mick; however it would come at the expense of solid in ring action. Grade: 2

9) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Steve Austin (Williams) in a “First Blood” match to win WWF World Title when the referee saw Stone Cold bleeding after an Undertaker chair shot at 15:04

Fun Fact: In one of our favorite Raw moments of all time, Vince McMahon claimed that if Kane “didn’t win the world title, he would set himself on fire and breathe his last breath!” It was one of the outrageous stipulations that should have tipped off that Kane was winning, but it was so outrageous that you could see Vince Russo finding a way to have Kane burn himself and kill himself, so it was actually an interesting little situation.

Scott: The main event was a foregone conclusion, because how was Kane going to bleed with a mask on his face? Unless they came up with some weird Russo-esque stipulation they definitely tipped the ending. Kane even has his one exposed arm covered. Anyway it was a pretty good brawl, with typical Austin spots. The cage lowers and raises a couple of times, causing some speculation but Vince never comes out so you keep guessing. After some intense brawling, Mankind (I can’t believe Foley is still in the building) comes out with a chair to help his tag team partner, and Austin drops a Stunner on him. Taker then comes out to go after Mankind, and wields a wild chair shot. He misses Kane, and plows the chair into the chair Austin’s holding, and that chair goes into Austin’s head. Austin blades (on-camera, although not as obvious as Taker in the last match), and Kane is your new WWF Champion. Talk about a quick rise to the top. He debuts in October, and 8 months later is the top dog in the business. Austin fought valiantly with a severely infected elbow, as the huge bandage on his arm indicated. This is an important match that forwards the big storyline, and starts up the storyline of the summer. Grade: 2.5

Justin: A pretty solid brawl here and interesting match in general, because it was a fresh one. As much as Dude/Steve in the cell would have rocked, I think it was a smart move to freshen things up a bit and throw a new challenger into the mix. Kane winning the title was a huge shock, even with the finish being telegraphed. It seemed so obvious that he would win, but when you really thought about it, it seemed impossible that Kane would be World Champion. Foley’s run-in is amazing considering what he had been through, but it added some fun into the ending. The finish also began the seeds of mistrust between Austin and Taker that would lead to Taker’s attitude change in August. All in all, a good match to cap off a memorable evening, but nothing spectacular. Grade: 2.5

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: A pretty good PPV, with a solid, but short tournament, and a good, not-too-overbooked main event. The cell match is legend, if only for the one spot. The twist of Austin losing actually makes it better, and less predictable. Sure, Austin fans were relieved when he won the strap back the next night, but it still caused a holy shit moment. When was the last time there were two Holy Shit moments in one PPV? The WWF continues to make things interesting on television, and WCW is slowly losing steam. Austin is still the top dog in the company, but the title is lost, if only for a moment. Ken Shamrock wins the tournament and is headed for bigger things. Rock loses in the final, but he’s past that and on to a big feud with the top “degenerate”. The DX/Nation war is continuing to warm up, so for the most part the upper card continues to dominate programming. Some changes are slowly being made to the lower mid-card to freshen things up, and some other entities that aren’t so fresh need to leave (LOD). This is a solid show with a shocking main event finale. Final Grade: B+

Justin: This is a weird show, as it is filled with memorable moments, but void of a lot of solid in-ring action. X-Pac/Owen, NAO/NME and Rock/Shamrock were all very good, but the show lacks that one awesome match. It does, however, feature one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history, so I guess it is a wash on that end. Overall it is a good show that is a must see for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but isn’t the blow away show that most people talk it up as. There isn’t much more to talk about, as everything that can be said about it has pretty much already been discussed, but make sure you check the show out if you have never seen it before. Final Grade: B

MVP: Vince McMahon (For booking a shocking finish)
Runner Up: Undertaker & Mick Foley
Non MVP: Too Much
Runner Up: Jeff Jarrett

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