December 5, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

No Way Out of Texas
February 15, 1998
Compaq Center
Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,110 (Attendance record for the building at the time)
Buy Rate: .52
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

1) The Headbangers defeat Marc Mero & the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (Dustin Runnels) when Mosh (Chaz Warrington) pins Mero with a Small Package at 13:50

Fun Fact: The Sable/Mero feud was reaching its climax here, as Sable was finally starting to fight back against her abusive husband. Goldust and Luna had their own little odd couple vibe going on, making this foursome quite the sight.

Scott: We debut a new PPV title this month, one that, with the exception of the next year, will stick permanently. Our opener pits a fading face team, against two quite annoying, and very strange heels. This match sets up the mixed tag match at Wrestlemania; otherwise there isn’t much to it. The match as a whole was OK, nothing much to write home about, but the ending was fairly cool. Sable, who Mero banished to the back in the beginning of the match, comes out to distract Luna, and cause interference. The Headbangers switch partners without the referee looking, and small packages Mero for the win. Sable was getting Austin-esque pops from the crowd at this point, as her battling Mero is keeping that storyline going. This was a fairly pedestrian opener to start the show. Grade: 2

Justin: This was a decent opener with a surprising finish. The Headbangers hadn’t done much of anything since October, so to see them pop up on PPV and get a big win was a little shocking, but made perfect sense, as there had to be teased tension between Goldust and Mero to set up Wrestlemania. Mero was starting to get interesting again, thanks to Sable, as he was finally starting to nail down his heel role. TAFKA Goldust, on the other hand, was in a really weird phase here. He was getting pretty funny with some of his ring outfits like Dusty-Dust, Marilyn-Dust and Baby New Year, but was just floating aimlessly with no direction. That would change in a few months, but for now he is just a sideshow comedy act. Sable will continue to challenge Marvelous Marc and no longer lies down and takes his abuse, which will be an attitude that makes her a big time star. Grade: 2

2) Taka Michinoku (Takao Yoshida) defeats Pantera (Javier Posas) to retain WWF Light Heavyweight Title with a Michinoku Driver at 10:10

Scott: I’ll tell you something, Taka has really impressed me since winning the title in December. His matches are entertaining, quick and innovative. The crowd was a little sluggish on this night, but the pace of this match was so electric, you had to be entertained. Brian Christopher comes out for commentary with Jerry, who’s still not acknowledging that Too Sexy was his kid, and JR. After Taka wins the match with his patented Driver, he nails the Lawlers with a Plancha. That feud continues, and it’s good. Vince was lucky here as he was battling with Eric Bischoff’s Cruiserweights with a rock solid Light Heavyweight Champion. Grade: 3

Justin: A fun and energetic match that showed the light-heavyweights could steal the show when given the chance. It kind of sucks that Taka wasn’t given a more solid run with some decent cruisers who could run with him and help his compete with the WCW division. He could have really carried this division, but soon after this show he was stuck with heavyweights and taken out of putting on random PPV matches with athletes his caliber, and that pretty much killed his momentum. For now, though, enjoy the show he puts on the early days of the division. Grade: 3

3) The Godwinns defeat the Quebecers when Phineas (Dennis Knight) pins Pierre Oulette after a Henry (Mark Canterbury) clothesline at 11:11

Fun Fact: This is a sad match to write about. The Quebecers were A-List, top of the line Justin Favorites in their initial run. After they broke Justin’s heart and left in 1994, Pierre stuck around as a pirate for a bit, but then they reunited as the Amazing French Canadians in WCW. After a solid run there, Vince snatched them back up for a big return to help shore up the tag division. Well, without their Mountie outfits and awesome theme music, the magic was just not there. They would stick around for a few weeks and then disappear as a team for good. C’est la vie.

Scott: What the hell was this? This match was two teams who totally didn’t belong on PPV. The Quebecers are not the swank Johnny Polo-managed Quebecers of 1993-94. They look roided up with bad mullets. As for the Godwinns? Well nobody really cares about them anymore anyway. They were the heel foil for the Legion of Doom’s big title win on Raw back in October, but after that they were pretty useless. Both of them were due for a big time makeover, and fortunately later in the year they get it. The crowd, who was 50/50 in the excited department so far, really didn’t give a shit about this one, and even JR and King have stopped paying attention. This was a dud which killed the momentum of the show, but it would come back. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A pretty boring match here, as the Quebecer magic was long gone and the Godwinns were running on fumes by this point. There was a brief story here, as the two teams had a big brawl on Raw leading up to the show, but that added no drama to this mess. There really isn’t much more to say besides weeping over the lost greatness of the Quebecers and pining for their salad days with Johnny Polo. Grade: 1.5

4) Bradshaw (John Layfield) defeats Jeff Jarrett by disqualification at 8:57; Jarrett retains NWA North American Title

Fun Fact: We’ve documented how Jeff Jarrett returned in October and was given a hero’s welcome and what seemed to be a pretty big push. Well by February, he was inserted into the insipid NWA invasion angle alongside Jim Cornette, Barry Windham and the Rock n’ Old Express. Windham had a really good match with Jarrett for the vacant North American Title, but came up short, and then a couple of weeks later, he turned on his Blackjack partner and joined forces with team NWA. Thus, this is a title and revenge match for the former Hawk.

Fun Fact II: This is the first time an NWA title of any sort was defended on a WWF PPV, but it wasn’t uncommon back in the pre-PPV days for some cross promotion. In the late 70s and early 80s, Vince McMahon Sr. would get Harley Race to come to Madison Square Garden for some NWA World Title defenses from time to time. This also isn’t the first time another promotion’s title was up for grabs on a WWF PPV, as the Smoky Mountain Tag Team Titles were defended at the 1993 Survivor Series.

Scott: It’s at this point in the show that the Houston fans, who saw Rick Rude attack Ultimate Warrior in a posedown at the 1989 Royal Rumble, realize this is a holdover show for Wrestlemania with no redeeming qualities. This match is during the NWA storyline, which truly sucked. It seemed as it Vince was trying to bury and embarrass the NWA name. I guess for the future it is, but Vince McMahon will never tarnish or ruin the legacy of the National Wrestling Alliance. This is forgotten in WWF and wrestling annals, and it’s just another pedestrian match. Jeff Jarrett is still finding his identity, whatever it is. Cornette was floating around the second half of 1997, and finally had something to work with. The match itself is pretty bad, as Bradshaw was still unfamiliar with the singles style as a face, and Jarrett can only do so much. The only real pop of the match was the return of the Legion of Doom to save Bradshaw from a 4-1 beatdown. For the second straight match the crowd is in the dumpster. Grade: 1.5

Justin: Another decent, yet unspectacular match in a series of them here tonight. Jarrett was brought in to be a Main Event player, but his out-dated look and seeming lack of charisma kept him solidly in the mid-card. Bradshaw was in now in phase-3 of his WWF career. He started as the “Hawk,” who was just an ornery heel Texan, then he became a Blackjack and now he is just an ornery face Texan. The NWA angle would last just a few more weeks, and by Wrestlemania Jarrett was back to being the country music superstar that he claimed he despised just 6 months prior. Cornette would forge ahead with the NWA stable for a couple of months, but it never went anywhere significant and would fade away very quickly. The crowd is waiting for a reason to wake up and it was coming in the form of the Main Event. Grade: 2

5) Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris), Ken Shamrock and the Disciples of Apocalypse defeat Nation of Domination in a War of Attrition Match when Shamrock makes Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) tap out to the Ankle Lock at 13:45

Fun Fact: This is Ahmed Johnson’s final WWF PPV appearance. Since his kidney injury in late 1996, he became very sloppy in the ring and also very injury prone, as he was always in and out of the ring with various injuries. The final straw occurred on an episode of Raw after this show, where Ahmed reportedly refused to job to Kane, because he was too big of a “star” to lie down for him. Unbelievable. His final PPV record was 2-0 at Royal Rumbles (2-2 counting the Rumble matches), 1-1 at Wrestlemania, 1-1 at KOTR, 1-1 at Survivor Series and 4-3 at other monthly events, for a total record of 9-6 (9-8 with Rumbles). Not bad for an injury prone slug like Johnson.

Fun Fact II: The next sign that the Rock was ready to take it out on his own was during the promo before the match, where Faarooq is running down the faces. Rock isn’t paying attention; instead he’s posing to the camera, flexing his pecks and talking trash, which was classic early Rock.

Scott: How much more do i have to take? I can’t take another ridiculous 546-man tag match involving these guys. I know it’s to advance the Rock/Shamrock feud, but they could have done something else. Shamrock could have been in a #1 contenders match, and Rock could have taken the show off. Anything but watching Skull, 8-ball, D-Lo, and every other misfit involved. This feud has dragged since the summer of 1997. Mark Henry hasn’t earned one dollar of his unbelievable contract in 2 years, and the DOA slackers are nothing without Crush. Fortunately, I’m pleasantly surprised by the energy of this match, but I had to vent anyway. This whole thing takes a different dynamic as Rock and Faarooq start their little feud, at least hint it with a skirmish at the end of the match. They make up, but the seed is planted. Grade: 2.5

Justin: This “War of Attrition” match was originally scheduled to be an elimination match, but was changed at the last minute (probably so Ahmed wouldn’t have to job). As Scott said, it is still an offshoot of the Gang Warz, but at least there are no Boricuas or South Africans, but we do get Mark Henry, so I guess it all evens out. The Nation is actually pretty strong here, with a solid group of five. The cracks begin to show, however, as Faarooq and Rocky start to fight at the end of the match, something that would occur over the next month or so until the shot was finally fired, and Rocky usurped leadership for good in a move that would lead to his stardom. It is now time to say farewell to Mr. Johnson. Ahmed came in like a house of fire in late 1995 with a strong debut at the Survivor Series. His fanbase got bigger each week and he rode the momentum into King of the Ring in 1996 and won the biggest match of his career. Once Faarooq kicked him in the kidney and put him on the shelf, it all went downhill as the next year and a half were filled with injuries and poorly wrestled matches. Then, the attitude kicks in as in 1997 he bitched about selling for Chyna and now he refuses to job to one of the biggest heel monster on the roster. That was not the smartest move on Ahmed’s part as Vince didn’t really have much use for him anymore. Anyway, once again Rocky taps to the ankle lock, but keeps his belt to continue his hot feud with Kenny. They will face again at Wrestlemania to see if Shamrock can finally win the big one. Grade: 2.5

6) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Vader (Leon White) with a Tombstone at 10:59

Scott: I really, really feel bad for Vader. His babyface run could have been much better than it became. Here, Kane no-sells almost everything. I think he no-sold more in this match that Undertaker has in the past year. Vader is 400 pounds for Christ’s sake, it’s not like he’s facing Taka or Max Mini. Kane was trying very hard to be like the Undertaker, which included some big-time no-selling. Over time Kane would shake that off and become a solid power wrestler. Vader has been getting great babyface pops since late September, but unfortunately there was no room for him on the babyface food chain. Not much room on the heel side either really. As for Kane, he’s preparing for the eventual face-to-face battle with Big Brother. In this match, Kane’s invincibility needs to be emphasized, but after a while the point that he needs to be Undertaker’s equal is way over the top. Vader disappears for a few months, selling the unnecessary wrench shot Kane gives him after the match. This match was OK, but a little overbooked. Grade: 2

Justin: A pretty decent power match that, as Scott mentioned, features very little selling from Kane. It is really amazing to watch Kane in his early years develop as a wrestler. In those early years and for a bit later on, he had very few exciting matches, sold very little and had no crisp execution with his moves. If you look at those periods, it usually occurred when he was hanging out, either fighting or teaming with, Undertaker. He would get a lot better as the years roll on, but early on I understand the need to no-sell, as they were trying to portray him as being on Taker’s in-ring level. But, when you have him in there with someone like Vader, he needs to play along a little bit more. Anyway, an average power match and a big win for Kane as he was heading full speed into the biggest match of his young career at Wrestlemania. Grade: 2.5

7) Steve Austin (Steve Williams), Owen Hart, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) & Terry Funk defeat Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque), Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) & the New Age Outlaws when Austin pins Road Dogg (Brian Armstrong) with a Stone Cold Stunner at 17:39

Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels was really a friggen mess at this point. He stayed on TV pretty consistently, but from Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania, he did not participate in a single match. That is quite a stretch for the World Champ. They covered it well, however, by having Austin go balls out during this period, so no one even really noticed. Triple H and the Outlaws picked up some slack too, as they included Cactus, Funk and Owen into the mess to try and cover for Shawn’s lack of in-ring action. There were huge rumors at the time that Sid would be the mystery man here, but it ended up being Savio, which would have been OK if they just announced it early on instead of playing up a “mystery partner” angle for 3 hours and deliver with that. Shawn did his share in the build up of this show, however, as he and HHH did some classic skits on the Road to Wrestlemania, such as the Undertaker cook-out, the Tyson/Austin “Let Them Fight” protest and the “State of the Union” address, all available on the original D-X Coliseum Home Video release.

Fun Fact II: This was the first PPV in WWF history that the World Champion did not appear on camera. Champion Shawn Michaels did commentary at Buried Alive in 10/96, but did not wrestle on the actual PPV show, as he battled Goldust in a dark match.

Scott: This big 8-man tag match eventually sets up 3 big matches for Wrestlemania, well 2 actually, since Austin/Michaels was already set. The real focus of this match is to give Austin, already ultra over at this point, one more rub in his home state. Shawn Michaels actually had to take this PPV off for a real injury. His back is in very bad shape after hitting the hinge of the casket at the Royal Rumble. The man who replaced him was Savio, no shock, although most surprises like that turn out to be shit anyway. The match was very good, an entertaining brawl to set up Chapter 14 of the legacy that is Wrestlemania. It seemed to almost be booked on the fly, as all 8 men are just picking weapons up and smacking the shit out of each other with them. Austin is clicking on all cylinders and in 6 weeks, 9 years of ass-busting pays off. For the others, next month would open many doors, but for Shawn Michaels, absent from this show, the door is closing, but more on that in our next review. The best visual in this match is Cactus wrapped up in barbed wire, particularly his mouth. This was a fun and crazed main event. Grade: 3.5

Justin: A really fun, “lost and forgotten” match. This was just a great 18 minute exciting brawl featuring the hottest star Vince had seen in 7 years. The WWF could have midgets fighting women in the entire undercard, but with Stone Cold on the top, they could sell out anywhere. Throw a red hot Cactus/Funk-Outlaws feud and a solid HHH/Owen battle into the mix and you yourselves a top notch filler-show Main Event that sent the crowd home very happy. One great moment of this match is when Austin throws a garbage can football-style and it drills Billy in the face. The match was also a great chance to also see some different guys main eventing (HHH, Funk, and the Outlaws were all Main Eventing for the first time, and Cactus and Owen had only been in a handful combined) which added to the fresh feel of the show and match. The match was also capped off with a fun “holy shit” moment (at the time) when Austin stuns Chyna to end the show. This was just a fun brawl and a great 8-man tag, reminiscent of the same sort of filler main event from International Incident. Grade: 3.5

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: This is your typical holdover PPV. Nothing earth-shattering happens, but it is entertaining, and a nice 3-hour killer. There are a couple of dogs in the middle, and the crowd is pretty quiet, but the last couple of matches bring them back. Wrestlemania XIV is around the corner and with it the official kick-start of the “Attitude” era. The logo changes, we’ve already seen it with the “Attitude” vignettes that started in October, the mood changes, and yes, the wave of popularity changes. WCW is starting to sag a little, as the N.W.O storyline now reaches a year and a half, and is still dominated by Hogan, Nash, etc. That’s OK with Vince, because next month he officially tells WCW that he has the ultimate weapon to take Easy E out, and his name is Steve Austin. Mike Tyson’s participation at Wrestlemania also is gaining big headlines, and challenging WCW’s standing at the top. This PPV is ok, but next month the WWF officially wins its first battle in the Sports-Entertainment war. Final Grade: C+

Justin: A pretty solid show that was just a quick stop on the Road to Wrestlemania. This is really the final show of the bridge period from the “New Generation Era” to the “Attitude Era” that began at D-Generation X. The winds of change were blowing and WWF fans had reason to be excited about their favorite Federation, and soon the wrestling world would take notice. Focusing on Austin, Tyson, D-X, Taker and Kane, Vince was proving he was still a force to reckon with, and just a few weeks after this, he planted the seeds in the final step so the Austin/McMahon conflicts could become a full blown war when he admits in an interview that he doesn’t want Austin to win the title at Wrestlemania. It was subtle at the time, but would spawn a history making angle. This was a fun little show and worth watching if you have 3 hours to kill and want to see the final part of the road to Wrestlemania and the Attitude era. Final Grade: C+

MVP: All participants in the main event
Runner Up: Taka Michinoku & Pantera
Non MVP: Godwinns & Quebecers
Runner Up: NWA Storyline

wordpress stats plugin