October 1, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Unforgiven 1998
April 26, 1998
Greensboro Coliseum
Greensboro, North Carolina
Attendance: 21,427 (Greensboro wrestling record at the time)
Buy Rate: .85
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

1) Faarooq (Ron Simmons), Ken Shamrock & Steve Blackman defeat D-Lo Brown (AC Connor), Mark Henry & the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) when Faarooq pins Rock with the Dominator at 13:07

Fun Fact: Rumors had been flying throughout the start of the year that Rocky and Faarooq were having some serious problems inside the Nation. To help solve the problem, Rock bought some nice gifts for his fellow members. He gave Henry, Kama and D-Lo brand new Rolex watches and gave Faarooq an autographed picture of himself. Well, you can imagine how that went over. The rift in the Nation reared its ugly head again at Wrestlemania, when Faarooq came down to help Rocky while he was in Shamrock’s ankle lock, but then stopped, shook his head and left Rocky to the wolves. Then the next night on Raw, Rocky and Faarooq had another skirmish in the ring that ended with Rock storming out and then stopping at the top of the ramp. He then glanced to the ring and raised (the future People’s) his eyebrow. As he did, Henry, Kama and D-Lo jumped Faarooq. Rocky then joined them and polished off the mutiny by beating down his former leader. Rocky named himself the “ruler” of the Nation and officially usurped control of the group. Faarooq got some bad rap music and a minor push, but would be mired in the mid-card until the end of the year. This ended up being the major catalyst for the Rock’s superstardom.

Fun Fact II: Rock debuted his new Intercontinental Title belt at this show, which replaced the very popular IC belt that had been in use for 12 and a half years. Urban legend is that the belt’s maker, Reggie Parks, had the rights to the shape of that belt, and the WWF didn’t want to pay for it. In any event, one of the most popular belts in wrestling history was officially retired. The belt Rock has in this match is the IC belt that’s still in use today.

Scott: The opener is the continuation of the Rock’s feuds with both Ken Shamrock and Faarooq. Faarooq was just kicked to the curb by the rest of the Nation, and Shamrock is still gunning for the Intercontinental Title. This match is average for a few reasons. D-Lo Brown is still getting his feet wet, Shamrock was barely in the match, and Mark Henry is just downright bad. On the flip side, Rock is getting crazy heel heat from all directions, and Vince is eating it up. By the end of the year, Rock would reach a level no one thought he would when he debuted two years earlier. For now, he jobs to his former Nation leader. Shamrock is still high on everyone’s list and in a couple of months would add a line to his resume. As for the others, D-Lo in particular, you can see that there is some talent there and with more seasoning would be solid mid-carders for the next year and a half. Grade: 2

Justin: A decent six-man to kick off the first show of the Austin/McMahon era. The energy level was there, but like most mid-card bouts over the next year or so, the actual action was a little shaky. 1998 would be a weird year for the Federation, as they were so focused on rebuilding the roster and giving all of the wrestlers solid introductions and stories, that a lot of the in-ring work suffered. There was nothing they could do about it, it was just a fact of life for a rebuilding period, and they definitely did their best to cover for the lack of in-ring smoothness with great energy and enthusiasm, awesome storylines and detailed characters. This match was a prime example of that philosophy. As Scott said, Shamrock barely gets into this match, which doesn’t help things, as he was the best in-ring performer in the match. Faarooq was badly out of shape, Rocky, D-Lo and Blackman were still learning the ropes and Mark Henry is, well, Mark Henry, thus, keeping Shamrock out of the match was probably not the way to go. The ending is definitely a shocker with the stale Faarooq getting a clean pin on the up and coming Rock, but, in retrospect, I guess it was done to set up the I-C title match the next month. Grade: 2

*** Steve Austin comes out to remind the timekeeper there will be no screwjobs in his title match later in the night, or he better call an ambulance. ***

2) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) defeats Owen Hart to retain WWF European Title after an X-Pac (Sean Waltman) fire extinguisher shot at 12:38

Fun Fact: The night after Wrestlemania, Hunter Hearst-Helmsley came out to the ring with Chyna, and pretty much stated that Shawn Michaels “dropped the ball” in losing the WWF World Title to Steve Austin. So Triple H (as his regularly called from this point on) made himself leader of D-Generation X and looked to reload the group. His first new member was X-Pac, otherwise known as the former 1-2-3 Kid. Kid’s last PPV appearance was at IYH #6 in February 1996, when he lost a match to Razor Ramon and had to wear a diaper and a baby bonnet. After that he left for WCW, where he joined the New World Order and called himself Syxx. He would win the Cruiserweight title and be a pretty solid mid-carder until he was fired by Eric Bischoff. Waltman claims that Bischoff fired him because he was injured, while Bischoff contends that Waltman balked at a contract offer and tried to angle into a better deal after agreeing to a lesser one. So he returned to the WWF and on his return that March 30 on Raw cut a scathing promo on Hogan, Bischoff and WCW in general. He also stated that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall wanted back in the WWF if they could get out of their contracts. Later in the night, Triple H and X-Pac helped the New Age Outlaws defeat Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie to regain the WWF Tag Team Titles and the new DX was officially born: Triple H, Chyna, X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Bad Ass Billy Gun.

Scott: This ridiculous feud needed to end. Owen was embarrassed enough at Wrestlemania, now he had to job to Triple H again, this time with Chyna suspended above the ramp in a cage. DX was just about to make the big face turn, but not yet. This match was very entertaining and well-wrestled. Triple H was just about there in terms of workrate, as he kept up with the King of Harts. He even let Owen drop him with his own Pedigree, but after a shitload of interference, X-Pac smacks Owen with a fire extinguisher, and Trips retains the title. JR continues to call the Champ “Helmsley”, but over time that fades, and the familiar moniker “Triple H” would be more common. Another job for Owen, as his face run is starting to fizzle. He gets a change of “heart” soon. This will be the last PPV DX would be collective heels until late 1999, as the crowd is digging the neon green, crotch chops and attitude. I was one of those fans too. I bought my second DX shirt shortly after this show, and it wouldn’t be the last. Grade: 2.5

Justin: A really fun match, as these two were in quite the groove by this point. They had wrestled a lot of matches since Owen returned as the “Black Hart,” and this is the best of the bunch, thus far. The cool visual in this match is seeing Chyna bend the steel bars of the shark cage and then try and jump down, but she just ends up hanging from the cage until Road Dogg is able to lower it down to the floor. This match also had a weird effect that you don’t think about until you look back with some retrospect. Owen had fought D-X, and fought valiantly over the course of the past 5 months, but could never overcome the odds of the numbers game. After being screwed badly by outside interference in this match as well, he finally snapped the next night and attacked tag team partner Ken Shamrock, and ended up joining the Nation. He claimed that he was tired of being outnumbered and joined the Nation so he could be part of a “family” again and have some back up. It was actually a well written storyline, and ended up working out even better when D-X turned face a few weeks after this show and feuded viciously with the Nation throughout 1998. This was a good match that effectively ends Owen’s final face run. Grade: 3

3) The New Midnight Express defeats the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express to retain NWA Tag Team Titles when Bombastic Bob (Robert Howard) pins Robert Gibson (Ruben Kane) with a bulldog at 7:20

Scott: This sucks on so many levels I don’t even know where to go with it. Vince Russo hates Jim Cornette, and because Russo was Vince’s flavor of the month at that time, he got to do what he wanted. So, the continuing embarrassment of the NWA brand continued, but like I said in the No Way Out of Texas review, it will never work. The NWA will always be a legendary name in professional wrestling, whether Vince Russo likes it or not. As for this match, it sucked, mostly because Bart Gunn and Bob Holly have no continuity, and Gibson and Ricky Morton are just, old. Flat out old. Plus how sad was it that they came out to the Rockers’ old entrance theme? Oh man that was piss poor. There’s nothing more to say. It’s just not 1986 anymore, so why re-live it? Let’s move on. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A really bland and boring match, mainly because the R&R’s are so old and slow and the New Midnights are still getting adjusted to teaming up. Holly and Gunn would actually gel into a pretty good team come the summertime, but thanks to the invention of a new concept, their careers go in two totally different directions by 1999. Morton and Gibson would hang around for another month or so, but the writing was in the sand for them, and they were turfed as swiftly as they were signed. Vince was really about 10 years too late in signing them up to a deal, but what can you do? Grade: 1

4) Luna Vachon (Gertrude Angelle Vachon) defeats Sable (Rena Mero) in an Evening Gown match when Sable’s gown is ripped off at 2:35

Scott: This was the first recorded Evening Gown match in WWF history. That’s about all you can say here. It was bad, Marc Mero interfered, and Sable lost. One point to note: Sable’s boobs in 1998 were absolutely enormous. If you see her now, they’re just big, as she’s gotten older. Back then they were gigantic; just wanted to make that point. On another note, I actually liked Goldust’s creepy weird version of his theme music. Otherwise there’s not much more to say here, except this was the prime example of the new Attitude era. You wouldn’t have seen this match in 1994 that’s for sure. We also see the beginning of the annoying Jerry Lawler pervert phase, saying things like “Cantaloupes”, “Jugs”, and “The Dairy Farm”. It only gets worse from here. Nice eye candy, and that’s about it. Grade: 0

Justin: Really not too much here, as it was just a chance to advance the Mero family storyline that would reach its first climax in exactly one month. This pretty much ends the whole Goldust/Luna-Mero/Sable feud that had been chugging along since February. Luna would disappear for a few months, before reappearing alongside a bunch of freaks. This was the first match of its kind on WWF PPV and would set the tone for what was to come. Grade: 1

5) New Age Outlaws defeat Legion of Doom to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Road Dogg (Brian Armstrong) pins Animal (Joe Laurinatis) with a back suplex at 12:13; both shoulders were down, but referee Jack Doan counted Animal’s shoulders and not Road Dogg’s

Fun Fact: LOD 2000 earned the title shot by winning the Tag Team Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XIV. The LOD are also celebrating the one year anniversary of their first PPV title shot of this current run, as they battled British Bulldog and Owen Hart at Revenge of the Taker in April 1997.

Scott: This was another attempt to get both teams over, and it half worked. The Outlaws were slowly getting the swagger, and the catchphrases were actually working. Billy Gunn debuts his “Mr. Ass” tights, and that would roll for a couple of years. As for Legion of Doom, well see R&R Express above. These guys just don’t have it anymore, and now it’s very visible. JR at one point calls their finisher “The Devastation Device”. Did I miss something? DOOMSDAY, JR. I know they’re old and washed up, but at least get the finisher right. Did we really need another screwjob finish? This feud was getting stale, as was LOD and Sunny. I never thought I’d say that, but she needs to go. She’s just not high on the diva scale anymore, and Sable has completely usurped her as the resident hottie of the WWF. As for the champs, it’s the Outlaws last heel match for over a year. The following month the fans recite the catch-phrases with them. Grade: 2

Justin: A really bad match that signified the end of the LOD’s relevance as tag team title threats. They would stick around through the end of the year, but it is mainly in meaningless tag matches and bizarre mid-card storylines. What is even more amazing is that Vince was still protecting these guys with cheap finishes. Like it would really kill their legacy to job clean to the current Tag Team Champs, who by the way were in desperate need of a solid, credible win over a team like the LOD. It was just amazing. The finish does nothing for no one, as LOD were so useless that not even a screwy ending could salvage any credibility they had left, and the Outlaws are still being booked as pussy champions. That would thankfully change over the next month or so, so this loss doesn’t hurt them as bad as the ones at D-X and the Rumble, but it didn’t do them any favors. Man, I think this may the worst tag team title feud and series of matches in PPV history. The LOD received three PPV title matches in 5 months, and they all sucked and had cheap endings. What a mess. Grade: 1.5

*** Jeff Jarrett and Sawyer Brown do a mini-concert, and it’s evident that Jarrett’s lip-synching. Then Steve Blackman jumps him on stage after one song. Tennessee Lee then whacks Blackman with a guitar and Jarrett slaps the Figure Four on. ***

6) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) in an Inferno match when Undertaker lights Kane on fire at 15:57

Fun Fact: The two brothers continued their feud from Wrestlemania with a brand new gimmick match. Obviously, the whole basis for the match was predicated on Kane being burnt in the fire that killed Taker’s parents so many years ago.

Scott: This is the re-match from Wrestlemania, and it really was no better. Taker is the king of the gimmick match, and unfortunately many of them hinder the already slow pace of his matches (except Hell in a Cell). Here, the point is to set your opponent on fire. Well, Taker wears no sleeves, and Kane, who normally wears one long and one short sleeve, wore two long sleeves for this one, so it was obvious where this one was going. Kane in fact prepared his “covered arm” while Taker beat the shit out of Paul Bearer up the ramp to the stage. The pace of this match is dreadfully slow, and the complex combination of kicks, punches, stomps, chokes, and no-sells is mind numbing. Unfortunately, through the years the matches between these two just get worse from here. The visual of the fire around the ring was pretty swank, but the stipulation about the loser being set on fire takes away from any suspense as to who will win. It sucks how bad these matches are because the builds were always good. The storylines are OK, but the blow-offs are dreadful. Grade: 1.5

Justin: It really pains me to have to give this match a low rating, because I really wanted to like it. I was into this storyline big time back in the day, and I was always a fan of the unique specialty matches that came about in Taker feuds. This was no exception, as I think the visual of the fire around ringside was pretty fucking sweet. I think if they would have just had a regular match (no “light on fire” stipulation) inside the fire-covered ring, the match and ending would have been much better. The visual of fire surrounding the ring is strong and different enough, that you really don’t need the hokey gimmicked “fire arm” to get across the danger of the situation. Also, if they were so hell-bent on having Kane lit up, they could have had Taker just shove him in after the match, which would have been a bigger shocker. Instead, since you knew one of them had to be set on fire, as soon as you see Kane’s full sleeves, you just knew the outcome. Another option would be too have Commissioner Slaughter announce that both men need to wear sleeves to protect themselves. That way, you have a real reason and it doesn’t give away your ending. As usual with Vince Russo, the idea was there, but he just went one step too far. The one lasting image, however, that makes this match so memorable is Undertaker’s no hands tope over the flames. It was quite a sight and brought the crowd to their feet. Grade: 2

7) Dude Love (Mick Foley) defeats Steve Austin (Williams) by disqualification at 18:52; Austin retains WWF World Title

Fun Fact: Well, where do we start? The night after Wrestlemania, it was determined that Cactus Jack and Terry Funk didn’t really win the Tag Titles because they placed the Outlaws in the wrong dumpster. Thus, a steel cage rematch was set for that night with the vacant titles up for grabs. That night was also memorable, as X-Pac made his triumphant return to the WWF after being fired by Eric Bischoff via Fed-Ex. During an in ring interview, Triple H claimed that Shawn Michaels had “dropped the ball” by losing his title and decreed himself the new leader of D-X. He also claimed that when in need, you turn to your friends, you turn to the “Clique,” and out came X-Pac. He cut a scathing promo on Bischoff and Hogan and claimed that he was back to lead D-X to the top. At the end of the night, during the cage match, D-X 2.0 made their intentions fully known, as they stormed the ring and assisted the Outlaws in winning the titles from Cactus/Funk via a wicked chair shot from X-Pac on Jack. The new D-X (Triple H, X-Pac, Outlaws and Chyna) was officially formed, and they celebrated with a vicious attack in the cage after the match. They cuffed Jack to the cage and beat him mercilessly, while Funk was hung from the cage and also beaten very severely. A subtle, but important, moment in the beatdown occurred as the show was fading out and the crowd was chanting “Austin…Austin.” The next week opened with a dejected Mick Foley sitting in the ring. He went on to cut a wicked promo on the live crowd, who he said symbolized all the fans, scolding them for chanting for Austin while he lied there getting his ass kicked. He said that everyone used to beg him to bring Cactus Jack back, and he finally does and they proceed to ignore him and cheer for Stone Cold. He closed the promo by saying the fans weren’t worth it and that it would be a long time before anyone saw Cactus Jack again. Now, it was also around this time that Vince McMahon started getting physically involved in actual storylines. The night after WM, he gave new champ Steve Austin an ultimatum: to change his ways and become a typical Vince McMahon “corporate champion.” He gave Austin two options: 1) the easy way or 2) the hard way. Of course, Austin chose the hard way and stunned Vince McMahon upon his decision. The following week, Vince came out and said Austin had a change of heart and that he had decided to go corporate. So, out came Stone Cold in a suit and tie. He even went as far as taking a lovely photo with Vince before ripping the suit off and whacking Vinny Mac in the nuts, claiming he would never be a corporate champion. On the 4/13 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon took Austin up on an inadvertent offer that he had made. Austin had made an off the cuff remark that he would face Vince with his hands behind his back and Vince accepted. All during the show, hilarious vignettes aired of Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, now known as the “Stooges”, teaching Vince various maneuvers to help him defeat Austin such countering the Stunner with a leg takedown, and what not. Finally, the crowd was at a fever pitch and it was match time. Austin was tied up and right before Vince attacked, Mick Foley ran out and took a chair shot from Austin to save Vince and then eventually beat Austin down to end Raw. This episode was the Raw that finally beat Nitro for the first time in 83 weeks. The next week on Raw, Vince proclaimed he found the perfect man to be his hand picked corporate champ. A man who hated violence and foul language, this was a peaceful, calm, “lover of man”: Dude Love. Out came Foley dressed in a suit, carrying a Wall St. Journal and wearing false teeth. Dude claimed he changed his ways and was going to take the title for Vince.

Scott: The first title defense for the new thoroughbred of professional wrestling is against Vince McMahon’s first stooge: Dude Love. Austin’s pops are officially off the charts. No one, not Hogan, not Warrior, not Shawn Michaels, will ever get ear-splitting face pops like Steve Austin does. The match is great, with a good combination of brawling, storyline, and psychology. Vince sits next to the timekeeper, a la Montreal. That joke would get old quick in my opinion. In the climax, Austin is outside, and plasters Vince with a chair. The match ends after a Stunner, but the ref is out cold, and Steve counts himself. Even though Austin is a god right now, that certainly doesn’t count. So, the DQ finish is a little lame, but it leads to the re-match next month. This was a title match that was misdirected by the storyline. Next month, Vince would put out the storyline points, and let the match be dictated by that. That decision makes next month memorable. Austin main events will always carry an entire PPV, that’s how powerful a character and great a wrestler that he is. Grade: 3.5

Justin: Well, it was a very busy month in the WWF, no? This match was an excellent brawl, and the crowd was off the hook for their new hero: Steve Austin. I agree with Scott that this match was a little weird due to the storyline being forced into it, but I also think it purposely done that way, in order to set up the elaborate story points for Over the Edge next month. This match is the one that finally began to establish Mick Foley as a serious Main Eventer and title threat. Vince’s character is just starting to hit its stride, as well, and the crowd just eats it up with a spoon. This was an excellent match with a red hot angle behind it, but it was one that would be topped just 30 days later. Grade: 4

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: The first PPV focused around Steve Austin as champion is pretty good, with a decent undercard and an exciting main event. There were a couple of dogs, but thank god that stupid NWA storyline would end soon. DX would be faces, the Rock would continue growing, and soon all would be right in the WWF universe. WCW’s grip is slipping with every shitty NWO match, and Vince is the shark around the blood. Undertaker and Kane once again put on a sub-standard match, but at least the gimmick had a nice visual. This is also the first PPV in many years that had no mention whatsoever of Shawn Michaels. For some reason, that makes this show very fresh and new. Overall this was an all right show, and next month would be a little better. Final Grade: B-

Justin: A very weird dichotomy of a show, as the undercard is very, very shaky and the Main Event is well worth the $30 alone. Vince went about his rebuilding in an interesting way. He solidified his main event players, which were made up of Austin, Dude Love, Undertaker, Kane and himself, and let them carry each and every show while he rebuilt his undercard. It causes some shaky outings early on, but the hard work would pay off come 1999 and 2000. As for this show, there isn’t much here besides Triple H/Owen, Austin/Dude Love and the visual of Undertaker diving over the fire and on to Kane. This wasn’t the best show around, but it had a great main event and was a huge step forward in the march to the top. Final Grade: B-

MVP: Steve Austin/Dude Love
Runner Up: Rock/Undertaker’s Tope
Non MVP: LOD/R&R Express
Runner Up: Owen Hart

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