October 11, 2010
Unforgiven 1998, April 26, 1998, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
Undertaker had beaten Kane in a close fought match last month at Wrestlemania, so for this show they booked something that would seemingly give one man a much more decisive victory: the first ever Inferno Match. The idea is that the ring will be surrounded by a wall of flames, and the winner will be the first one to set his opponent on fire. We’ll see how that goes. Elsewhere, Stone Cold Steve Austin makes his first major WWF Title defense as he takes on Corporate Dude Love, and then we have most of the cast of characters you’d expect for a PPV of this period in action as well.
Opening Match: Ken Shamrock, Faarooq, & Steve Blackman vs. The Rock, D-Lo Brown, & Mark Henry (w/ Kama Mustafa)
The Setup: The Rock had recently gained control of The Nation from Faarooq, who was then kicked out and turned babyface as a result. He now teams with some new friends against his former allies.
The Action: The story is, of course, that Rock wants no part of Faarooq, so he spends the early part of the match directing traffic. D-Lo feigns making peace with Faarooq, but then slaps him and gets killed with a spinebuster and whipped with a belt as a result. Finally Faarooq gets in trouble and now Rock wants in for a few shots. Blackman ends up being the one they get the heat on, including Rock hitting the People’s Elbow, to a chorus of boos. Eventually Blackman makes the hot tag to Faarooq, while Rock gets the tag as well, so Faarooq finally gets him. It quickly breaks down into a six way, but the others brawl to the floor and Faarooq hits Rock with the Dominator for the 3 count at 13:36.
The Verdict: This was a fun little opener that continued the Rock/Faarooq deal and set up a Title match next month. It also reiterated for me how much I miss the Rock, as he was great here, playing up the fans’ hatred of him for all it was worth. Good stuff. *1/2
Steve Austin comes out for a promo and drags timekeeper Mark Yeaton into the ring on his way by. He lets Yeaton know in no uncertain terms that if the bell rings in the main event for anything other than a legit decision, he’s going to kill him. Yeaton seems to get the message.
European Championship Match: Triple H (w/Chyna) vs. Owen Hart
The Setup: Owen lost to HHH at Wrestlemania due to interference from Chyna in spite of the fact that she was handcuffed to Sgt. Slaughter. So he gets a rematch here where they go a step further and hang Chyna above the ring in a cage.
The Action: They start with a whole lot of drama over getting Chyna into the cage, but she finally goes and that lets Owen attack, and he beats HHH down the aisle and even runs him to the cage. They get to the ring where HHH takes over and we see that Chyna has hidden a saw in her boot. She then proceeds to drop it to the floor. Oops. HHH works Owen over with the usual offence as Chyna now tries bending the bars. Owen escapes a suplex and hits a German for 2. He follows with the ensiguiri, the spin kick and a piledriver. Chyna has gotten the bars separated enough that she can squeeze through as Owen hooks the Sharpshooter. Chyna hanging from the cage distracts him though and he stupidly lets it go. The cage lowers so Chyna can get to the floor, but the ref runs out to stop her from getting involved. Owen hits HHH with a Pedigree and covers, but with the ref gone, X-Pac comes in and nails Owen with a fire extinguisher and HHH gets the pin to retain off of that at 12:26.
The Verdict: This wasn’t as good as their Wrestlemania match, as the stuff with Chyna was pretty distracting and hurt it overall. ** Owen gets pissed in his post match promo and declares that enough is enough and it’s time for a change. Of course this meant that he was sick of the numbers advantage that DX had over him, so he turned heel and joined The Nation the next night on Raw to even the score, which also had the effect of turning DX babyface.
NWA Tag Team Championship Match: The New Midnight Express (w/Jim Cornette) vs. The Rock & Roll Express
The Setup: The R&R’s had been brought in as the champs as part of Cornette’s NWA stable a few months earlier, but after they lost the Titles to the Headbangers and failed to regain them, Cornette turfed then in favour of a new version of his most classic act. Bombastic Bob Holly and Bodacious Bart Gunn quickly brought the belts back and now they defend them against the former champs.
The Action: First off, JR spouts off a ton of history here, and does his best to sell to us that this is a new chapter of one of wrestling’s most storied rivalries. But the problem is that no one sees it that way. Even here in Greensboro, which if this was going to work anywhere, this would be the place, no one cares. We have WWF fans here to see a WWF show and as far as they’re concerned this is Sparky Plugg and Billy Gunn’s loser Ex against a couple of goofball relics they perhaps vaguely remember from their childhood. It actually becomes a bit sad as you can see the crowd filing out en masse with seemingly half the arena picking this match for a bathroom or concession break. Those that stay just sit there in silence save for one spot where Cornette gets in the ring and challenges the ref to a fight, but then backs down when the ref puts ‘em up. So anyways, Gibson gets the ice cold tag from Morton and they hit the double dropkick on Gunn, but the ref is distracted and Holly is able to come from behind with a bulldog on Gibson for the 3 count at 7:27.
The Verdict: Like I said, it was pretty sad that they put this match here really for no other reason then that they were in Greensboro, and the crowd wanted nothing to do with it. But then again, it’s not like it was good or anything. ½*, which is pretty much just for the Cornette/Tim White bit which was kind of funny.
Evening Gown Match: Luna Vachon (w/The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust) vs. Sable
The Setup: They’ve been feuding for months now, and after Sable pinned her to win the mixed tag team match at Wrestlemania, Luna challenged her to an evening gown match, which Sable accepted.
The Action: They tear at the clothes for a bit until Marc Mero comes out, which causes Sable to become distracted and allows Luna to rip the rest of her dress off for the win at 2:36. Sable then chases here under the ring and comes back with everything Luna was wearing, forcing Goldust to wrap the robe around her and take her to the back.
The Verdict: They said that this was the first ever Evening Gown Match, which I guess is true for the WWF anyways, so I guess we have a historic moment here as a tradition begins with the first Divas T&A match on PPV. And like all the ones to follow, the action was pretty terrible. DUD By the way, the leash was off Jerry Lawler at this point, and he goes all out in dirty old man mode here.
Vince and The Stooges then come out to respond to Austin. Vince says that he promises that he won’t screw Steve Austin, but he can’t promise that Steve Austin won’t screw Steve Austin.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The New Age Outlaws vs. LOD 2000 (w/Sunny)
The Setup: LOD won the tag team battle royal at Wrestlemania to earn the Title shot here tonight.
The Action: LOD controls early on, but when the setup the Doomsday Device on Dogg, Gunn, clips Animal’s leg and the NAO go to work on that for a bit. Animal comes back and makes the tag so Hawk runs wild for a bit. He hits a top rope splash on Dogg, but Gunn nails him with a belt. He kicks out at 2 though so they try another shot, but Hawk ducks and Gunn wipes out Dogg. Hawk then hits him with a German suplex for the 3 count to (seemingly) win the Titles at 12:22.
The Verdict: But wait, it’s announced that the winners and still Champions are the New Age Outlaws because the ref counted Hawk’s shoulders down and not Road Dogg’s. So let me get this straight. This referee watched Hawk execute a German suplex on Road Dogg, but his assessment of the situation was that it was in fact Road Dogg who was holding Hawk down for the count. He also managed to ignore the fact that Road Dogg’s shoulders were flat on the mat the whole time, and that the one of Hawk’s shoulders that we could see from the live angle was actually up. They then tried to justify this call by showing a replay from an angle where we couldn’t see Hawk’s shoulders at all, but this still clearly showed that Road Dogg’s shoulders were down and he was out. Clean finishes are generally preferable, but if the choice is between something this ridiculous, or say, a cheap DQ, just do the cheap DQ. At least that would just be a bad finish as opposed to being insulting to our intelligence. I give the match up to that point *1/2, but I’m deducting * for the idea of that finish in general, ½* for the failure to execute is as it was apparently drawn up, and another * for the attempt to shill to us that this scenario was somehow plausible. That gives it a net rating of -*.
Jeff Jarrett performs a song now. This leads to Steve Blackman attacking him, but ending up clonked with the guitar and put in the figure four. Meanwhile, the fans chant “We Want Flair”.
Inferno Match: Kane (w/Paul Bearer) vs. The Undertaker
The Setup: It’s a rematch from Wrestlemania where Taker beat him by the skin of his teeth, but this time the ring will be surrounded by fire thanks to a vision from Paul Bearer and to win you must set your opponent ablaze.
The Action: So there’s basically a gas burner surrounding the ring level with the apron. The flames are pretty low, but the guy at the controls can set them off to go up at his command, which is usually when a big move is hit. They go back and forth doing stuff for a bit, with nothing exciting happening, but the crowd still oohs and ahhs at the pyrotechnic show. Kane uses a chair handed to him by Bearer at one point and the only other highlights include the ropewalk and a superplex by Undertaker. Taker then tosses him to the floor over the flames, but the story is now that Taker can’t get to him. Vader, put out of action two months ago at No Way Out by Kane, returns here and attacks him, but that’s just a setup for Taker to do his dive over the flames and onto both of them. Taker then stalks Bearer to the concert stage where he busts a drum over his head, which draws blood. He goes back to Kane and knocks his arm into the fire for the win at 16:05. Kane goes running to the back with his arm (clearly gimmicked for safety thankfully) covered in flames.
The Verdict: It was definitely a spectacle, but beyond that part of it there really was very little substance to it. Nothing was really settled, and they were very limited in what they could do by the stip which is probably why this ended up being a rarely used gimmick. *1/2
Main Event, WWF Championship Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love
The Setup: This of course stemmed from the famous Raw episode where they built up a Steve Austin/Vince McMahon match for the whole show (which ended the Nitro ratings winning streak that dated back to 96) but before they could get physical, Dude Love came out to break things up and ended up laying out Austin. Vince then named Dude Love the number one contender and helped him get a “win” over Steve Blackman with the deadly abdominal stretch to show Austin what may be in store for him here tonight.
The Action: It’s mostly brawling early on in and out of the ring, and up the aisle and into the crowd. Of course the big key is Vince’s involvement so we can’t really get into anything until he comes out, which he finally goes about 1/3rd of the way in. Austin gets rolled up for 2 after giving him the fingers. Dude takes Austin out on the floor with Vince ordering the ref not to count him out. The dreaded abdominal stretch does get brought into play here, but Austin quickly reverses it before Vince can get the bell rung and that’s it after the buildup. The ref ends up getting bumped and Dude gets the Mandible Claw on, but now there’s no ref to call it. They go to the floor where everyone fights over a chair and it ends with Austin nailing Vince in the head. Vince is dead, so Austin gets Dude in the ring and hits the Stunner. The ref is also dead, so Austin counts the pin himself. No one rings the bell, but the music does play so Austin celebrates the win at 18:48. Vince does a stretcher job for the shot he took, and the official decision is announced as Austin being disqualified for hitting Vince with the chair.
The Verdict: Well, it was the best match on the show, but that’s not exactly high praise or anything. I’ll give it *** because it was good and heated, but kinda disappointing given what I was expecting. I actually remembered this as being much better from when I originally watched it, but I guess that means it fit in well for the time, but didn’t age well. It did setup the match the next month where Vince appointed himself the special referee, so at least the finish meant something.
Overall Thoughts: This ended up being a pretty weak show. The main event was fine, although it was a setup match rather then one that settled anything and had a kind of cheap finish as a result. As for the rest of the card, we have nothing over **, and really the only thing there that I would call fine for what it was is the opener. It’s a Thumbs Down for Unforgiven 1998, and a recommendation to forget about it because there’s nothing here you would need to see again, or even for the first time for that matter.