Introduction - I've always wanted to review Summerslam 1998. But there was one critical piece missing on The Network, no ACDC! But, I finally got ahold of a live Pay Per View version with Sunday Night Heat included. So, please join me on The Highway to Hell. Will it be a fun ride with good music and good memories, or one of those trips where you're barreling past religious billboards and someone always has to go potty? Let's find out.
**8/30/98 Sunday Night Heat**
Intro - Strange. You get a lot of standard shots of WWF action, but you also get glamour shots for people you would think would be too cool for it, Austin and Triple H most notably, and a weirdly, obviously green screened bit of New Age Outlaws.
Shawn Michaels makes his entrance - We get our first look at the wacky farmer's gate set for the evening as well as a prominently placed "Austin sucks" sign. This dude is in for a REALLY bad time for like, the rest of his life. HBK gets a full entrance, with PYRO. What is he doing tonight? Why, he's commentating with the already-odd duo of Shane McMahon and Jim Ross. Can you imagine of Corey Graves got pyro today, how silly that would look? Anyway, they throw to...
LOD 2000 (Animal and Hawk) vs Too Much - DUD
Originally the LOD 2000 team is supposed to be Animal and Droz (who aren't wearing matching gear). Hawk drunkenly ambles out in a motorcycle helmet and demands to tag with Animal, which Animal accepts for some reason. Animal dominates, then makes his own comeback on Too Much, but Hawk fucks up the Doomsday Device and conks into Animal, allowing Too Much to win. This was sad to watch, and a tasteless angle.
Steve Austin/Vince McMahon segments - I'm going to just summarize all these. Steve skulks around the parking lot with a sledgehammer waiting for Taker and Kane to arrive. the Stooges, and then Vince himself, tries to talk him out of any shenanigans, to no avail. A hearse eventually arrives to end Heat, and Austin destroys it. Comically Kane and Undertaker aren't in any of the seats normal alive bodies would occupy so does Austin just think that Kane and Taker are chilling in the back? This was dumb in terms of build and logic, but seeing Austin destroy a car was pretty cool.
Summerslam 1998 commercial - Taker jumps out of a window like The Crow and lands on his feet. This struck me as so absurd when I watched it that I audibly screamed, "WHAAA" at my TV when I saw it the first time. Taker magically makes fire appear, which makes the entire town into a Mad Max scenario, which Austin just power walks through. The final shot is on a burning ring, which Taker and Austin don't staredown in. THAT is the greatest sin I can imagine in a package like this especially when this whole feud is about magic and fire and shit. Worse still, Taker and Austin don't ever interact, they appear to be on opposite sides of this town. But, "Highway to Hell is playing, so I guess that's pretty cool.
Shawn Michaels interviews Sable - Cringe He asks who her mystery partner is. She says that even though they're dear to her, it isn't one of the Oddities. They then dance to Sexy Boy, which includes HBK dry humping her and then waltzing with her, and then dancing apart and bumping asses.
Dustin Rhodes vs Gangrel - 4.5/10
This is Dustin in his preacher "He's Coming Back" phase. Dustin and Gangrel look painfully indy here. They work their asses off, but it's not fundamentally clear who the heel or face is. They also throw to the WWF.com room, where you could stream the PPV on the website. Streaming in 1998, HA! Despite having no story to work with, the two guys work their asses off, and the match ends in a cool way when Gangrel blocks a shoulder toss and hits the Impaler
DX arrives - Bad, Triple H blows off Michael Cole's question, cutting too long of a promo in the process.
WWF Home Shopping Network post-show advertisement - I would like to see the figures on how much merch was moved in these, because encouraging people to buy merch directly after a show is brilliant
Val Venis and Mario Lopez feud - Venis was hitting on Mario's woman and shoves Mario, causing Mario to jump the guard rail and get into a very realistic looking pull apart. Venis cuts a promo surrounded by busty women, and my rip wigged out here, but I can't imagine he says anything too important.
Jeff Jarrett and Southern Justice jump and shave Howard Finkel - GREAT! They're doing this to hype the Hair vs Hair match between Double J and X-Pac on the pay per view. I also like the added effect of X-Pac being too cool to make the save, but I don't like the idea the absolutely no one came out to help poor Fink.
D.O.A (Skull and 8-Ball) (w/Paul Ellering) vs Bradshaw and Vader - .5/10
Gotta admit that this piqued my attention when it came up. Unfortunately they do generic hoss things for just around 3 minutes, and the match ends because of a miscue between Bradshaw and Vader because tag teams can NEVER get along in Vince Russo land.
Post-match - The losers have a realistic, boring fight, Yippee
Doc Hendrix pumps up the audience - He tells us the people participating in this next bit will get on camera.
Austin vs Undertaker video package - This is a Taker/Austin highlight package set to "Highway to Hell" , with plenty of in ring action for Taker. I audibly said "God, WWF is cool" while watching this. It also cuts to marks singing along to the refrain. It's refreshing to watch these old shows and see people happy to be there and play along.
Rock/Triple H video package: Great because the performers are great, and helpful because it recaps the entire feud so far.
The Nation of Domination come out for a promo, but DX come out to brawl - Another great way to plug the show, Rock nails HHH in the knee with the belt.
Opening video package - AWESOME. Kane and Undertaker are two horror movie monsters working in tandem with Vince backing them, and Austin has to overcome the challenge. We also get the Highway to Hell section we've seen already.
WWF European Championship:
Val Venis vs D'Lo Brown (c) - 5.5/10
This is the beginning of "D'Lo is residing in random city in Europe" gimmick, as well as any early instance of his reinforced chest protector gimmick. They do a lot to get the latter over with a lot of inventive spots. Val and D-Lo's offense looks super impactful when they get to do moves. D'Lo works the back and Val fights back. Catch Sky High Powerbomb is just a move that gets a 2 1/2 count. D'Lo drops Val directly onto his head in a Powerbomb. D'Lo hits another powerbomb . He goes for the Lo Down but misses. Val takes D'Lo's chest protector off and puts it on himself. He tries to go up top but the ref stops him, causing Val to crotch himself, but Val weirdly no sells because that's not the finish. Val gets stopped again, but he biels the ref across the ring, causing the DQ, D'Lo gets his chest protector back in an ineffectual way and just bails.
This was a great match, but the shenanigans that lead up to the finish really knocked it down. The length and ferocity of which these guys worked makes the screwy finish even more offensive.
Post-match - Val bodyslams and Money Shot's the ref. This was dumb, but hey, the fans like it.
Michael Cole interviews Mankind - We find out that Mankind brought the hearse to Summerslam to stuff Kane inside. Yeah that's right, Mankind is an integral part of this tangled web of intrigue but not mentioned once in the build. He cuts a good "Today is not my day" promo though.
Insane Clown Posse play The Oddities to the ring - The positives are that ICP give an animated, intense, performance, and Kurgan can move pretty rhythmically for a big dude. The negatives are the ICP spend the refrain telling the crowd to wave their hands in the air. Silva is too uncoordinated to do this, and we of course have to cut back to Kaientai, their opponents tonight, doing it too because no one cares. They've also cut to a gorgeous blond woman in a Austin 3:16 tube top no less than three times in this show and each time she looks like she's having the time of her life, especially to the performance.
During Kaientai's entrance Jim Ross says that they were making fun of the babyfaces earlier, but that wasn't clear. Luckily Taka makes it clear, by doing the wave and the "up yours" gesture. Taka just gets how this works. Anyway, this leads to...
The Oddities (Giant Silva, Golga and Kurrgan) (with Luna Vachon, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J) vs. Kaientai (Dick Togo, Men's Teioh, Sho Funaki and Taka Michinoku) (with Yamaguchi-san) - No Rating, Fun Segment
Okay so it'll be the three biggest dudes in the ring against a bunch of Junior Heavyweights. This HAS to be a rib. This is a comedy match that's saved by the heels ability to bump and sell for the giants. Eventually the heels get some control with some fun double, triple, and quadruple teams on Golga that only guys from M-Pro could pull off. The faces break up a quadruple team and hit a double-double chokeslam followed by a quadruple man splash for the win.
On paper, this would seem like a dud, but honestly, M-Pros talents for comedy and athleticism save this and makes this fun.
Hair vs Hair
Jeff Jarret vs X-Pac (w/ Howard Finkel) - 7/10
Jarrett is somewhere between his New Generation country singer gimmick and his "Don't Piss me Off" gimmick. Howard uses his announcer voice to tell Double J to suck t which was awesome. X-Pac bumps fast and furious for Jarrett and Jarrett gets the heat. X-Pac fights back and gets big chants during a double down. Jarrett gets a sleeper but X-Pac fights back again. Lots of twists and turns in momentum from here, more behooving of a WCW Crusierweight match. We get tease of rolling over the Figure 4 which I've not seen done before.. Even more swings in momentum. Babyface Finkel gives out to the ref after a low blow, Jarrett decks Fink, and turns around into an X-Factor for a 2 1/2 count This is how you have a babyface manager alter the match in a good way. Southern Justice run down and accidentally cost Jarrett the match. This was a bullshit finish to an otherwise fun match
Post-match - The New Age Outlaws run down to ward off Southern Justiice. A bunch of babyfaces Jarrett has fucked with run down to assist. X-Pac uses scissors because the clippers give out. The heel runs away but he loses 70 percent of his hair so it's okay.
Michael Cole interviews the Rock - They recap the brawl from Heat. The Rock cuts a GREAT promo, throwing back to "the jabronies at ringside".
Marvelous Mark Mero and Jacqueline vs Edge and Sable - 2/10
The heels are absolute doofuses 80 percent of the time, Edge is window dressing for big Sable moves. Despite it being intergender, Sable pins Mero after a wheelbarrow splash.
This was transparently a showing for Sable, but a somewhat entertaining match nonetheless.
Doc Hendrix interviews Undertaker - Undertaker says he stands alone despite the video package.
Mankind and Vince McMahon segment - Apparently Undertaker standing alone somehow means Kane just isn't here, so Mankind is freaking out in an interview with Michael Cole, luckily Vince shows up to pump him up. This was a great segment a cool precursor of things to come between the two.
Lion's Den video package - Bad. Dan Severn is announced as Owen's trainer for the match which basically means Dan is a bodyguard/general auxiliary player in this feud.
Lion's Den match
Owen Hart (w/Dan Severn) vs Ken Shamrock - 5.75/10
They start with a fun little worked MMA fight, and then it devolves into a wrestling match with heat and comebacks. Surprisingly, this isn't as handcuffed as you might think. Both guys sell being whipped into the wall like it hurts pretty well. We do get some flourishes that make the match unique, such as Beautiful Disaster kicks and a catch powerslam to counter a Beautiful Disaster Kick. We get a DDT to counter a takedown by Shamrock which sets up the rest of his comeback. Severn teases throwing in the towel but walks out giving Ken the submission win.
A little bit of a look behind the curtain on how I do reviews. Default every match starts at a 5/10 and can go up or down. Usually, something in the upper 5s means that it had a few flourishes that worked in the matches favor. That's exactly how I would describe this match
Michael Cole interviews Steve Austin - Bad. Austin says he doesn't care of Kane isn't here (then why did you destroy the hearse), respects Undertaker more than anyone (again, why did you destroy the hearse?) and he'll do anything to retain his belt (especially heelish now that the odds are supposedly even)
Falls Count Anywhere Handicap match for the WWF Tag Team Titles
Mankind (c) vs The New Age Outlaws - 1.5/10
This is like Kofi Kingston vs The Bar from Fastlane, except with a lot more disgusting weapon use, it's the same level of sadness, except that Mankind's antagonists are THE TOP BABYFACE TAG TEAM. Like, I get that their want of the belts justifies their actions, but like, people don't want to boo the NAO so why make them. The tag team win convincingly.
Post-match - The crowd happily turn on Mankind so they can chant the NAO's catchphrases, Billy Gunn screams at Mankind and puts him in the dumpster. JR is trying to tell us that the NAO are just doing what they have to do, but don't you think a post match humiliation is a little much if that's the case? Kane then magically appears in the dumpster and it's implied he hits Mankind in the head with a sledgehammer but we don't see Mankind at all. Kane then procures the dumpster and wheels it away. Attitude Era dumbness personified
We get the same Rock/HHH package from before and then we get...
Live DX Band performance for HHH's entrance - Bad. Trips hoists singer Chris Warren on his shoulders despite a bad leg.
Ladder Match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship
Triple H (w/ Chyna) vs The Rock (c) w/ Mark Henry - 6.75/10
One of the reasons I am a critic of the HBK/Razor ladder match at WMX is because it's often touted of the holy grail of "only going after the title and not doing ladder spots" matches, and I find that to be somewhat of a hypocritical notion when two of the video package staples are two big ladder dives.
This match however features Rock working Triple H's leg with the ladder for the first half of the match. Not only is the ladder being used as a weapon to work a body part, as you would in a traditional wrestling match, but it's the most sensible body part to work in a climbing contest. When the match does devolve into spots, it's because Triple H is making a comeback, and fighting desperately, and Rock occasionally countering his offense. It does get a little wacky towards the end, but it makes more sense the deeper you get into a match. Buuut then it devolves into People's Elbows on the ladder. We then get a powder spot and a distracted referee in a LADDER MATCH. Eventually Chyna interferes and help Trips win.
This started out as a great ladder match with two talented guys and devolves into gimmicky Vince Russo cheating.
WWF Breakdown commercial - Bad. It seems this is more effective as a general Attitude Era commercial.
WWF Championship match
Steve Austin (c) vs Undertaker - 7.75/10
We start out with a brawl, but then we get more technical and generic wrestling than I ever expected out of Austin post neck injury. Austin counters Old School with a beautiful armdrag after Taker gets the heat, we then brawl in the crowd. which looks really cool because they look like they're actually brawling in the audience as opposed to a wide walkway. Austin gets backdropped which tells the r est of the story of the match, Taker working Austin's back. . Austin takes a back into the ringpost move and this is sold as a big deal. Austin fights back, and Jim Ross does a GREAT job selling Austin's never say die attitude. Taker gets Austin on the announce table, and Taker does a top rope elbow drop through the table and the table doesn't break. Undertaker and Austin fight some more, and tease finishers, to which Austin wins with a stunner.
I would recommend this match simply because you get to see two wrestling legends perform in ways they normally wouldn't.
Post-match - Undertaker gives Austin the belt, and gives an approving nod before going to the back
The Russo-booked Attitude Era is the Michael Bay Transformers films of wrestling. Lots of smoke and mirrors and fantastical hype, but when wrestling has to happen, the wrestling doesn't live up to the intensity of the hype. I think this was the case for t he majority of the matches here tonight, for the exception of the main event, and even then we were cock teased with things like Kane and Undertaker working together, a nd we just weren't given them. Watch Austin vs Taker and skip the rest of the show.