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Random Network Reviews: King of the Ring 1998

February 14, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
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Random Network Reviews: King of the Ring 1998  

WWF King of the Ring 1998
June 28th, 1998 | Pittsburgh Civic Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Of all of the King of the Ring Pay-Per-Views, this ranks among the most infamous. Not for the tournament itself, but for the classic Hell in a Cell match between Mankind and the Undertaker. More on that later though. The WWF was fresh off of finally overtaking WCW in the ratings war and in the early stages of the Austin era. This was the sixth annual King of the Ring PPV, though there were some tournaments that came in past years that weren’t on PPV.

The opening video package focuses on the double main event and the brutality that they carry. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handle things in the booth.

Dick Togo, Men’s Teioh and Sho Funaki w/ Mr. Yamaguchi-San vs. The Headbangers and WWF Light Heavyweight TAKA Michinoku
TAKA removes his robe and has a Headbangers shirt. I now wish they would have just kept them as an oddball unit. It’s strange to see Funaki here knowing that he’d be different down the line and teaming with TAKA. Most of the stuff these do moves at a quick pace, with TAKA getting the highlight on a dive to the outside. Togo sells the shit out of a monkey flip. Dolph Ziggler and John Morrison would be seriously jealous. TAKA takes the heat and somehow tags both Headbangers. After some brawling, the Headbangers flapjack TAKA onto Funaki. TAKA then scores with the Michinoku Driver and gets the 1-2-3.

Winners: The Headbangers and TAKA Michinoku in 6:41
Harmless enough match here. Everyone worked hard, the crowd was surprisingly into it somewhat and seeing TAKA head bang was pretty funny. **¼

Sable comes out next. Despite having no talent, she has jugs so she gets a massive pop. She’s just there to introduce Mr. McMahon, who arrives with the Stooges. She goes to leave but Pat Patterson taps her on the butt so she slaps him. Jim Ross gets in a great line, saying that’s territory that Pat is unfamiliar with. This is a pointless segment as Vince just runs down the crowd and says that people rooting for Steve Austin tonight will be disappointed.

King of the Ring Semi-Finals
Jeff Jarrett w/ Tennessee Lee vs. Ken Shamrock

Every time I see Shamrock yell on the steps, I just remember X-Pac’s impersonation of him. Commentary spends a lot of time discussing Shamrock’s tendency to snap. He starts by kicking Jarrett’s ass around the ring. Jarrett turns it around for a bit before Shamrock throws him into the steps outside. Jarrett is all about the old school heel tendencies, pleading for mercy and allowing Lee to trip up his opponent. Lee just keeps getting in his cheap shots as the heels target the ankle. Shamrock decides to forget selling the leg and hits a running kick before a powerslam and the Ankle Lock. Jarrett taps out and Lee runs in to take a belly to belly for good measure.

Winner: Ken Shamrock in 5:29
It was really basic though they had a good plan in Jarrett attacking the leg. Shamrock forgetting to sell it only to start up again after the match hurt though.

King of the Ring Semi-Finals
Dan Severn vs. WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock

Three weeks earlier, Severn injured D-Lo Brown’s pectoral muscles and D-Lo was a Nation member along with the Rock. That injury also set up D-Lo’s chest protector gimmick. This was interesting because it could have gone either way. On the one hand, Rock was on the path to superstardom, but Severn and Shamrock had a history and could make for a different kind of Finals. Lots of punches and kicks from Rock and lots of amateur wrestling by Severn. After some dull stuff, Kama and Mark Henry showed up to distract the referee. D-Lo Brown returned with the chest protector, running in through the crowd, and hit the frog splash on Severn, allowing the Rock to advance.

Winner: The Rock in 4:31
Really lackluster match here. Usually I like the amateur stuff, but Severn never delivered it in the fun manner that the best did. There was also no real flow to this. ½*

Al Snow and Head vs. Too Much
Yup, you read that right. To make things worse, this actually gets a video package. Just before things start, we hear that a special guest referee has been signed and it’s Jerry Lawler. Obviously, Snow starts and he overwhelms Scott Taylor. Brian Christopher enters and Lawler does everything in his power to help his son. He gives Snow one of the slowest counts I’ve ever seen. The fans are completely dead for all of this. As Too Much works the heat, Snow legitimately reaches for the tag. Gotta give him credit for fully playing the gimmick. Snow ends up coming to close victory several times but Lawler keeps screwing him. Just as he has Taylor set for a pin after a Snow Plow, Christopher grabs a goddamn bottle of head and shoulders and attaches it to Head to pin them to the mat.

Winners: Too Much in 8:27
While I found the finish to be creative and funny, it fell flat because the fans couldn’t really tell what happened. They just saw double pins and this entire thing went over like a fart. ¼*

Owen Hart vs. X-Pac w/ Chyna
Both men cost each other their spots in the King of the Ring. Only in the WWE could the Montreal Screwjob happen and, seven months later, Owen Hart be a heel while DX are babyfaces. For those that remember, these two had just about the best sub-five minute match I’ve ever seen at the 1994 King of the Ring. They exchange some stuff early on before the fight spills outside. Owen viciously whips X-Pac into the timekeeper’s area, which X-Pac bumps for masterfully. As Owen front suplexes X-Pac onto the Spanish announce table, JR wonders if they have a target. I mean, it would only be a target for another 18+ years. We get the classic babyface fire from X-Pac, complete with bronco buster. They fight up top and Pac shoves off Owen, who takes a NASTY bump to the mat. Mark Henry struggles to run out and splashes X-Pac who was laid out on the mat. Chyna gets in his face and the crowd eats it up. In a random moment, Vader shows up and collides with Henry. Owen slaps on the Sharpshooter, but with the official distracted, Chyna plants him with the DDT. Pac drapes an arm over him and wins.

Winner: X-Pac in 8:30
Though I’m not a fan of the finish being similar to the Rock/Severn one, these two easily had the match of the night. Both guys went out and worked hard, taking some big bumps. Pretty good selling from both of them as well. While the finish was overbooked, it was a staple of the era and the crowd loved it. ***

Paul Bearer is out for a promo. Is this Raw? He talks about a beating that the Undertaker gave him in his home recently. He just rambles on and I cared about none of it.

WWF Tag Team Champions
The New Age Outlaws (c) w/ Chyna vs. The New Midnight Express w/ Jim Cornette

Jim Ross hypes this as a “bonus match”, but I wish it stayed off the card. Like everything Cornette did with the NWA at this time, the crowd couldn’t care less about it. It does get somewhat made up for by the fact that the Outlaws are crazy over. There is a lot of basic tag team work in the early stages of this match. Wisely, Road Dogg is the one to take the heat. Like when he was part of the Smoking Gunns, Billy is better suited for the hot tag. Speaking of the Smoking Gunns, Bart is one half of the Express. Bob Holly tells Dogg to suck it, which angers Billy enough to run in and bulldog him. Billy gets that hot tag and does his thing but it doesn’t instantly lead to the finish. Cornette attempts to cheat with the racket but Billy stops him in his tracks. Chyna enters and low blows him. Road Dogg joins in on a double HOT SHOT that somehow gets the duke.

Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The New Age Outlaws in 11:42
Pretty standard tag team wrestling. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I wouldn’t really call it good either. It lasted a bit long for my taste and the crowd never bought the Midnight Express as a threat to anything. **½

King of the Ring Finals
Ken Shamrock vs. WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock

The European Champion and reigning King of the Ring, Triple H, joins commentary. He’s with Chyna, who is working more matches than the KOTR participants. At this point, their rivalry had been going on for most of 1998, with matches at the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. As they go work a quick pace, JR again talks about Shamrock needing to avoid snapping and getting into his zone. Chyna actually joins Spanish commentary and Triple H translates her words to “something about Taco Bell”. He says he’s not bilingual, but he’s a lot of other bi-stuff. Rock gets into it with HHH. Ignoring Shamrock was a dumb move though as he kicks Rock’s ass. Shamrock gets tossed over the top and his arm gets trapped in the ropes. It’s ugly. Rock wears down Shamrock as HHH takes shots at WCW. Rock hits the People’s Elbow and a DDT, but only gets near falls. There are actually a lot of near falls down the stretch for both guys and the crowd is very much into this. Rock argues with the referee after one, opening the door for Shamrock to grapevine his leg and slap on the Ankle Lock. Rock taps out and we’ve got a King of the Ring.

Winner: Ken Shamrock in 14:09
Solid match here. It was pretty much their best work together. The only real grating thing about this was HHH on commentary and his immature jokes. The beginning of this match is pretty directionless, but the second half was really good. Shamrock gets his KOTR, but not the IC Title and Rock goes on to become the bigger star. ***

Hell in a Cell
Mankind vs. The Undertaker

Oh yeah, it’s the infamous Hell in a Cell. Mankind climbs the Cell instantly and Undertaker goes right up after him. Shit is about to get real. Mankind delivers some chair shots that wear down the Deadman. Undertaker fights back and you can feel the tension building. He then throws Mankind off of the Cell and through the announce table in one of the most iconic moments in history. WWF personnel and Terry Funk come out to check on Mankind, who might be dead. The replays just add to how insane this was. They start raising the Cell with the Undertaker still on top so they can stretcher Foley out. Undertaker climbs down as Mankind, with all of the balls in the world, gets up and makes his way back to the ring. Not only that but he climbs back up and so does the Undertaker. They trade blows until Undertaker Chokeslams him THROUGH THE ROOF. The thud heard when Mankind hits the mat is sick. Undertaker climbs down into the ring and scares off the officials before chokeslamming Funk. They continue this as we get a shot of a smiling Foley with a tooth stuck up his nostril. Undertaker is vicious as he just beats the hell out of Mankind. The fact that Mankind is not only walking, but still getting in offense, is nuts. He does his pulling piledriver onto a chair for a near fall. Undertaker is now busted open. Mankind goes outside and gets a bag of thumbtacks, because he’s literally a madman. He applies the Mandible Claw but Undertaker survives. He gets Mankind on his back and then drops back onto the tacks! Good lord! To add onto it, Undertaker Chokeslams him onto them and then finally puts him out of his misery with a Tombstone.

Winner: The Undertaker in 17:38
As a pure match, this isn’t really great. However, it is the epitome of a grand spectacle. You’ll never see anything like this again. Mankind deserves everyone’s respect for doing this to his body and it helped launch him to the WWF Title by year’s end. People are understandably split on this match. Its place in history, the memorable moments and the star making performance by Mankind put me on the side of people that consider this great. ****¼

WWF Championship First Blood Match
Steve Austin (c) vs. Kane w/ Paul Bearer

Austin has his elbow bandaged up due to an injury and I always thought it was a cool look. If Kane loses, which would be tough since we can’t see if he bleeds, he promises to set himself on fire. Austin starts red hot and wails away on Kane with right hands and the WWF Title. Lawler makes a good point that normally Kane has only one sleeve, but has both covered tonight, leaving no part of his body but his left hand uncovered. As they brawl outside, the Cell begins to lower for some reason. They do some great stuff with the lowering cage, including Kane trying to hold Austin under so it could crush him. Kane also gets draped over the entrance of the cell as it raises and he goes up with it, only for Austin to knock him down. They fight in the aisle and by the entrance for a while. As they make it back to the ring, the Cell continues to just hover. Mankind, somehow still breathing, hobbles to the ring with a chair. Austin promptly beats him up as the Cell gets lowered. He plants both Kane and Mankind with Stunners. Undertaker, with a shirt over his gear for some reason, is next out with a chair. He swings at Mankind, who ducks, and hits Austin, who also had a chair in hand. Undertaker takes out Mankind and throws the referee in the ring just as Austin is busted wide open. Undertaker pours gasoline on the referee for reasons I don’t understand. Austin absolutely DESTROYS Kane with a chair shot that probably busted him open, but the official sees his bloody face and calls for the bell.

Winner and New WWF Champion: Kane in 14:52
This had the classic Attitude Era main event feel. Austin mastered the art of the brawl and provided a really fun one here. They made good use of the environment, it never got boring and even the interference was fine as it helped set up the Undertaker/Austin program for the summer. ***¼

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Judging by the first few matches, this was on pace to be a horrendous Pay-Per-View. Once we got past the Semi-Finals and dumb Too Cool match, everything else was pretty solid. The King of the Ring Finals were pretty good and the main event was an enjoyable Attitude Era brawl. Obviously, the key to the show was the memorable Hell in a Cell match, which is a must see for any wrestling fan, even if it is just for historical purposes.