Reviewing The Rumbles: 1998
1998: The Attitude
1998, and WWF still hadn’t gotten a ratings win over WCW in well over a calendar year. You hear “84 weeks” a lot, but when you put it in this context, it seems crazy that they couldn’t pull at least one week out, especially with how great the product had long been by this point. If only there was a guy they could make world champion that would swing the pendulum.
1. Cactus Jack
2. Chainsaw Charlie (This was… a weird gimmick. They openly acknowledged it was Terry Funk, and OBVIOUSLY he never got to chainsaw anyone… so what was the point? And why did he just wear pantyhose over his head like a mask like he was about to rob a grocery store?)
3. Tom Brandi
4. The Rock (in just a crazy early draw for him against a ton of midcarders early on)
6. Phineas Godwinn
8. Blackjack Bradshaw (were the Blackjacks still a team by this time? This is a LOT of tag guys early on)
9. Owen Hart
10. Steve Blackman
11. D. Lo Brown
13. Marc Mero
14. Ken Shamrock
16. Mankind (Heh… say what you will, I thought the Three Faces Of Foley in this Rumble was brilliant)
17. The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust (Oh shoot… I forgot all about Goldust’s weird S&M gimmick thing with Luna. He’s in bondage-y gear here)
18. Jeff Jarrett
19. The Honkey Tonk Man
20. Ahmed Johnson
21. Mark Henry
22. no show (it took me some digging here since I only watched the Rumble, not the whole show, but this was supposed to be Skull, 8-Ball’s partner in DOA. The Boricquas apparently incapacitated him because they mistook him for Austin)
23. Kama Mustafa (I had no idea the Kama gimmick lasted this long. He made his first Kama appearance in 1996, and is still at it in 1998? He had to have been Kama longer than he was The Godfather)
24. Stone Cold Steve Austin
25. Henry Godwinn
26. Savio Vega
28. Dude Love
29. Chainz (No Crush, and that made me sad)
The Final Four
4th – Dude Love (eliminated by Farooq)
3rd – Farooq (eliminated by The Rock)
2nd – The Rock (eliminated by Austin)
Otto Von Ruthless Stone Cold Steve Austin
-Back to two minute intervals! Don’t worry, I’m sure it will change in a year.
-We are fully fledged into Ripping Off ECW era here, as Jack and Charlie start the Rumble off by filling the ring with chairs and just go straight into trying to murder each other. Since they were a tag team at the time, it was a nice homage to Demolition in the early years of the Rumble, but no fan ever thought the sight of Funk and Jack wrestling was exactly new.
-Nothing is more evident of how fast time moves than seeing Rocky Maivia in 1997 as a vanilla babyface with no reaction at all and then seeing The Rock in 1998 was a SUPER over cocky heel IC champ. He did nothing in 1997, but here, he gets a great iron man run from #5 to the final two.
-Jim Ross schools me with some wrestling history early on with “The rivalry between the Headbangers and the Godwinns is well-documented!” …Is it, Jim? Is it, really, though?
-Owen is assailed by Jeff Jarret en route to the ring, and I openly yelled at my TV, “What would The Blue Blazer think?!” Owen would fail to make his entrance due to the attack.
-Kurrgan gets a huge monster rub here, as the announcers are just in awe of him and act like he’s been invulnerable to this point. As a matter of fact, when Shamrock enters, he takes Kurrgan down to a big pop, and afterwards, it takes a crowd to eliminate the big guy. I don’t really remember Kurrgan getting a noteworthy Monster Push, so I’m guessing this is early in his career here before he was watered down to blah.
-Jeff Jarrett’s turn comes up, and I’m reminded he was with Cornette and was some level of an NWA champion. I am suddenly full of hope that I’ll see THE NEW MIDNIGHT EXPRESS in this match! I irrationally dug those guys, to the point where my buddy and I changed the name of our roller hockey team to “The New Midnight Express” since we were the captains. I’m going to segue here to reminisce about how there was a local college radio station that played a program dedicated to pro wrestling at, like, midnight on Friday. We would call in and dedicate songs to our team that we would tape off the radio and play as we practiced or before a game. The DJ always said we should play against the Calgary Hitmen. I am the only one who cares about this, but hey… it’s my article.
-ANYWAY, Owen returns to attack Jarrett once JJ is in the ring, and Owen is then allowed to remain in the match. Nice touch. It’s short-lived (and DAMN did Owen always have shitty Rumble appearances) as HHH and Chyna would come down to eliminate him.
-After Kama enters, D. Lo goes straight to attacking him, and he has, at that point, attacked every other member of the Nation of Domination. This is not a robust victory strategy.
-Can I mention that I was a mark for the Gang War era? I know I’m not SUPPOSED to have been, and that it was shitty and just led to a bunch of overbooked brawls, but… I don’t know. I kind of liked it. The Boricquas were negligible, but the Nation and DOA and DX were all cool, and I liked all the groups of guys just going to town on each other.
-Stone Cold’s music hits at #24, and the ENTIRE RING stops fighting to gather together and wait for him. Austin, of course, already has this scouted (though there’s precisely zero reason why he should have), and comes in the back door behind everyone and tosses out Marc Mero (still with Sable, but already in his heel run, which I really ate up. I definitely cheered Mero over Sable, actually. Whiny Crybaby Heel is one of the two gimmicks that will almost always get over with me).
-Lawler’s random anti-Stone Cold venom is funny here, because it leads to willful heel ignorance, which I always get a kick out of. The camera blatantly follows Austin falling BETWEEN the ropes to the floor, and Lawler points out “He’s out! See, both feet hit!” Sigh. I miss old Lawler.
-The Rock hits the Peoples’ Elbow to NO ovation. It was still a work-in-progress here.
-The Rock’s superman push here is even more impressive when you factor in that he had a decent match with Ken Shamrock earlier in the night. Rock was really out to earn that paycheck. Or grab that brass ring, if you will.
-The Nation of Domination is disgustingly bad at teamwork. They eventually get ALL FIVE MEMBERS legal in the match at one time after Farooq enters, but they do NOTHING with it. Actually, they go one better, and pretty much all fight each other as much as anyone else. Farooq venting some steam on Rocky made sense, but… why would D. Lo attack Mark Henry at all?
-Austin and The Rock end up as the Final Two, which was basically WWE’s version of telling us “Welcome to the next several years, fans!” Austin pulls off the third repeat victory in the Rumble’s short history, though it also remains the last repeat to this day, 17 years later. Huh.
Rankings Thus Far
1. 1992 (Flair) – 9/10
2. 1998 (Austin II) – 8/10
3. 1997 (Austin I) – 8/10
4. 1989 (Studd) – 5/10
5. 1996 (Michaels II) – 5/10
6. 1993 (Yokozuna) – 4/10
7. 1990 (Hogan I) – 4/10
8. 1994 (Hart/Luger) – 4/10
9. 1991 (Hogan II) – 3/10
10. 1995 (Michaels I) – 2/10
11. 1988 (Duggan) – 2/10