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WWF King of the Ring
June 28, 1998
by Scrooge McSuck
- From the personal Scrooge Files: As a youngster (well, 13 is young, I guess), this marked the one and only time where we did not order the PPV days or weeks in advance. I don't know what had me convinced (maybe it was the promise of a dead body in only the second Hell in a Cell Match in WWF History, and a potential human barbeque in the Main Event), but I somehow convinced the parents to put the order in 15 minutes before the PPV was about to start. We almost always bought The Rumble, Mania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series, but for some reason, the King of the Ring was always a "let's skip this one" PPV.
- COURTESY O THE WWE NETWORK! Originally presented live on Pay-Per-View on June 28th, 1998, from the Civic Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and officially sponsored by Super Soaker (and yet we didn't get a single wet t-shirt contest!). Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted.
Taka Michinoku & The Head Bangers vs. Kaientai (w/ Yamaguchi-San):
Weird match to open the PPV, one of two "bonus" matches added at the last minute, according to Jim Ross. Taka is the reigning Light-Heavyweight Champion, and Kaientai is represented by Dick Togo, Mens Teioh, and Sho Funaki. Yamaguchi is wearing Giants gear for cheap heat... not those Giants. Never thought I'd work in a Major League II reference, but there you go. Lawler incorrectly identifies the Yomiuri Giants (of the NPB) as the "Tokyo Giants." Thrasher and Teioh start. Thrasher catches him off the ropes with a side slam, then takes him over with a Powerslam for two. Mosh with a missile dropkick. Funaki tags in, and after a hot criss-cross sequence, gets planted with a Powerbomb. Taka with chops, followed by a missile dropkick, sending Funaki to the floor. Taka follows with a no-hands springboard plancha! Togo back drops Taka to the floor and takes him down with a flying head scissors. Kaientai with quick tags, working over the Light-Heavyweight Champion. Taka fights out of a double team attempt, only to get planted with a face buster. We get heel miscommunication, allowing Taka to make the hot tag to both Headbangers (Thrasher is declared the legal man). Thrasher plants Funaki with a slam, and the 'Bangers launch Taka high in the air for a splash. Taka finishes moments later with the Michinoku Driver at 6:44. **1/2 Solid tag team action to kick off the PPV, with a hot crowd.
- Sable shows up to waste time, no doubt filling in the role formerly held by Sunny, who was paid just to look good on camera. Always nice to see Pat Patterson trying to pass for straight by slapping a woman on the butt.
Ken Shamrock vs. "Double J" Jeff Jarrett (w/ Tennessee Lee):
Semi-Finals Match #1. Shamrock defeated Nation members the Godfather (formerly Kama) and Mark Henry, while Double J defeated Faarooq and Marc Mero, the latter in a rare case of heel vs. heel. Funny how Jarrett came back in December, denouncing the Double J gimmick, then goes back to using it. Tennessee Lee is Robert Fuller, a.k.a Col. Parker in WCW. Crowd doesn't bother reacting to Jarrett, but pops for Shamrock. They start before the bell, with Shamrock taking control. Shamrock with a boot to the chest, followed by a running knee lift. Whip to the corner and Shamrock comes exploding out with a clothesline. Snap suplex gets two. Jarrett ducks a roundhouse kick and brings Shamrock down with a swinging neck breaker. Jarrett with a short-arm clothesline and a dropkick. Shamrock regains control, taking it to the floor. Lee hooks the ankle, allowing Jarrett to clip the knee from behind. Jarrett works the previously injured ankle, but Shamrock's selling is questionable. He makes the comeback with jumping elbows and heel kicks. Whip and a Powerslam gets two. Shamrock ducks a clothesline and plants Double J with a hurricanrana. Shamrock slaps on the Ankle Lock, and Jarrett taps at 5:30, sending Shamrock into the Finals. ** Decent match, but too short to really go anywhere. Shamrock's selling was pretty bad, too.
Dan "The Beast" Severn vs. The Rock:
Semi-Finals Match #2. The Rock is the reigning Intercontinental Champion, and Severn vs. Shamrock is heavily teased, although the likely Finals would be Shamrock FINALLY getting one over on the Rock. Rock beat Vader and Triple H, while Severn went over D'Lo Brown and Owen Hart, the former selling a legit injury by wearing a chest protector for almost a year in a cute rehash of Bob Orton's never-healing wrist. Severn picks the ankle, but Rock hooks the ropes. Severn with a waistlock takedown, and again Rock makes it to the ropes. Rock lands an elbow to the side of the head and sends Severn to the buckle. Rock misses a charge, and Severn takes him over with a fireman's carry into an armbar. Severn with the Dragon Sleeper, but Rock is in the ropes. Rock with a clothesline and starts putting the boots to Severn. Snap suplex gets two. Whip to the ropes, and a collision puts both men down. Henry and the Godfather come out to distract the referee, allowing D'Lo to run in and hit the Chest-Protector Frog Splash. Rock covers for three at 4:26, sending him into the Finals against Shamrock. *1/4 They definitely were on different pages, but it was short enough to not be a bad match. Crowd with a surprising babyface pop for the Rock.
Al Snow & Head vs. Too Much:
Another match added at the last minute. Yes, HEAD is a legal participant of the match. Too Much is Brian "Don't Call Me Jerry's Kid" Christopher and Scott Taylor. Oh, and we have a SPECIAL REFEREE for this match... Jerry "The King" Lawler. Short reason for the match: Snow wants a contract, Lawler offered to help him get a meeting with Mr. McMahon, but he lied. There you go. This match seems like something straight out of Memphis. Snow starts with Taylor. We know it's a comedy match because Taylor actually backs away from HEAD. Jim Ross notes a strong family resemblance between Lawler and Christopher. It's amazing that it wasn't until 2012 that they actually confessed to being father and son. That's kayfabe, folks. Lawler is obviously the bias referee, and actually reprimands Head because... I don't know. Too Much dominate, but this match was DOA, and I don't mean the Harris Twins. Snow mounts the big comeback, but Brian Christopher grabs Head, attaches a bottle of "Head & Shoulders" to its neck, and covers for three at 8:29. Yes, Brian Christopher pinned Head because it had "HEAD & SHOULDERS." DUD Awful comedy aside (and yes, I did laugh at that finish), just a weird match that really had no place being presented on PPV. The crowd doesn't even bother reacting to the finish. You know it's stupid comedy because Brian Christopher has to tell us the joke.
X-Pac (w/ Chyna) vs. Owen Hart:
There's a lot of bad blood between these two, none of it being that they competed against each other in the Semi-Finals of the 1994 Tournament. Owen cost X-Pac his Qualifying Match, and X-Pac responded by busting Owen up hard-way across the back of the head. In what had to be a nod to their '94 match, X-Pac greets Owen with a baseball slide while still being introduced. Owen avoids a monkey flip in the corner and pounds away. Hard whip to the corner, followed by a back breaker. Owen with the spinning heel kick for two. Owen takes a chest-first bump to the buckle. Owen wins a slugfest and takes X-Pac over with a fisherman suplex for two. Gutwrench suplex gets two. Owen appears to go low and cradles X-Pac for another two count. X-Pac sends Owen to the floor and comes off the apron with a clothesline. Whip is reversed, with X-Pac taking a Giant-Sized bump into the timekeeper's table. Back inside, Owen comes off the top with a missile dropkick for two. Owen grabs a sleeper as Jim Ross notes X-Pac's history of neck problems. X-Pac reverses the hold and comes out of nowhere with what looked like the X-Factor, but it's barely a transition move. Owen catches a heel kick, but X-Pac follows up with an enziguri. He lays into Owen with kicks in the corner and they do a sorry-ass Bronco Buster. I hate that spot in general, but this looked bad. They fight on the top rope, with X-Pac crotched along the top rope and Owen knocked to the canvas. Mark Henry shows up and splashes X-Pac on the floor. The referee gets between Henry and Chyna, and suddenly Vader shows up to KO Henry. Owen with the Sharpshooter, but Chyna runs in with a DDT! X-Pac rolls on top or the three count at 8:32. **3/4 Too much pointless interference, especially the random appearance of Vader, but a good match, regardless.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
(Road Dogg & Billy Gunn vs. Bombastic Bob and Bodacious Bart)
The New Age Outlaws © (w/ Chyna) vs. The Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette):
Oh God, Jim Cornette must be spinning in his grave. Reviving the Midnight Express name for Jobbers Bart Gunn and Bob Holly, just to dig at Cornette, is one of those Russo moves that's just stupid and pointless to the product presented to paying customers. The Express are the reigning NWA Tag Team Champions, but nobody cares. Holly and Road Dogg start. They do a long criss-cross sequence, with Dogg taking him over with a hip toss. Gunn tags in, as does Bart, and yes, Jim Ross actually refers to them as "Brothers." Billy throws the first sucker punch. Criss-cross, Bart counters a hip toss and connects with a clothesline for two. They do a bridge into a sunset flip spot, and Billy connects with the Fame-Asser, before it became a finishing move. Billy with a hard clothesline, over-sold by Bart. Road Dogg winds up as our dooby-smokin'-face-in-peril. You know a team is doomed when J.R. and Lawler don't know which nickname belongs to whom. Holly manages to work in his signature dropkick and I think dropped an F-Bomb. Holly with a snapmare and a heat-killing chinlock.. and by heat killing, I mean the crowd goes from silent to groaning. Billy gets the hot tag and unloads on everything walking. Cornette sneaks in with a racket shot, but Billy kicks out. Sorry, it wasn't the racket, but a tag belt. Billy scares off a second attempt and Chyna goes low on him. The Outlaws with a double Hot Shot on Bob, and that's enough for the three count at 9:56. *1/2 Completely heatless thanks to featuring a JTTS team that was so unover they might as well have been six feet under ground. The sequence with Billy and Bart was pretty good, but everything else was just there.
KOTR Finals: Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock:
After Rock weaseled his way into retaining the Intercontinental Title at the Rumble and WrestleMania XIV, do you think three times is a charm for Shamrock to finally walk away victorious? For reasons unknown (cheap comedy), Triple H joins the commentary team. Rock slugs away with rights. They do a criss-cross and series of counters until Shamrok sends Rocky to the floor with a heel kick. Back inside, Shamrock with clotheslines, but more interesting is Chyna joining commentary... at the Spanish table. Rock gets sent to the floor again for more stalling. He gets into an altercation with Triple H, allowing Shamrock to attack from behind. Shamrock with a snap suplex for two. Rock reverses a whip and sends Shamrock to the floor. Shamrock sends Rock into the rail, but Rock comes right back with a clothesline. STRONG STYLE! Rock with a fist to the midsection and swinging neckbreaker for two. Rock with a DDT for another two count, then slows it down with a chinlock. Rock with a slam and the People's Elbow, but it only gets two. Shamrock fights out of another headlock, but the Layin' the Smackdown DDT gets two. Shamrock with a back suplex, knocking both of them silly. Shamrock with an elbow and jumping heel kick. Whip and a Powerslam gets two. Rock whiffs on a clothesline and Shamrock with a fisherman suplex for two. Rock with his own Powerslam for two. Shamrock blocks the DDT and takes Rock over with the Northern Lights Suplex for two! Rock with a short-clothesline for two. Shamrock with his own clothesline for two. Rock counters a hurricanrana with a Hot Shot for two. Shamrock hooks the leg and slaps on the Ankle Lock, and Rocky taps out at 14:12, making Shamrock the 1998 King Of The Ring. **1/2 You can see they were trying to stretch out and have a Main Event caliber match, but you can tell it wasn't going to work well. Lots of stalling and restholds in between some hot spots, capped off with a pretty good finishing sequence. It's a shame that the commentary from Triple H over-shadowed the match, making countless sexual innuendos and subtle shots at WCW.
Hell In A Cell Match: The Undertaker vs. Mankind:
After failing twice with the Dude Love persona to unseat Steve Austin as the WWF Champion, our old friend Mick Foley went back to being Mankind to get back in Mr. McMahon's good graces, and has targeted the Undertaker to get the point across. This is only the second Hell in a Cell Match, so it has to live up to the expectations brought by Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels from Badd Blood. Mankind refuses to start the match in the ring, choosing to climb onto the roof. Taker agrees and gets whacked across the back with a chair for his troubles. Undertaker starts fighting back, and then it happens: He grabs Mankind and THROWS HIM OFF THE CELL, THROUGH THE ANNOUNCERS TABLE. "Good God, almighty, that killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!" There's probably the second most well known Jim Ross quote of all time. they try and stretcher him out, but he climbs up again! This time Undertaker goes for a half-hearted chokeslam, and Mankind CRASHES THROUGH THE CELL, landing with a chair that was on the roof with him. Somehow, some way, Foley gets up and the match officially begins. It's a weak brawl, but understandably. Foley somehow takes control and whips out a giant bag of thumbtacks. He fails knocking 'Taker onto them, instead being slammed down across them twice, and Undertaker finishes with the Tombstone Piledriver at 17:38 (more than half that time was spent with Foley nearly unconcious).
The story behind the scenes and throughout the match is just about as interesting as the physical action: Foley wanting the match to start on the roof because he knew it would be impossible to top the first Cell match, Undertaker working with what has been reported as a badly injured ankle (with a possible break, depending on who you ask), the roof giving out and Foley crashing through it, forcing Terry Funk of all people to get chokeslammed to buy time, and Foley questioning why there were sneakers randomly scattered around the ring. The image of Foley in the corner "smiling" with a tooth hanging out of his nose... it's just one of those matches that has so much happening and so much to talk about. The wrestling is poor, but my GOD is this a hell of a match and one of the most memorable of all time. For an actual wrestling match, it's maybe *, because there's so little of it to speak of, but for the story and the stunts and the effort in trying to put the match together after what should've put a man in the hospital, it's a **** performance.
WWF Championship; 1st Blood Match:
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin © vs. Kane (w/ Paul Bearer):
This match is in a hard position to follow that Cell Match, but Austin's the hottest act since the Hulkamania Boom, and the stipulation is interesting enough: It's first blood, and Kane obviously wears a mask and full body suit, but Austin's run was basically "how can Austin overcome the odds this time", thus making it believable Austin could win... of course the "if Kane loses, he sets himself on fire" stipulation swung the pendulum a bit too much, but it should make for an interesting match. In an interview from the Countdown Show, Earl Hebner made sure to point out the match can only end when he feels it's the right call, so a simple scratch won't end it. In short, accidental blood will not be tolerated.
Trying to do a play-by-play of the match would be working against getting the match over: it follows a simple formula: Austin doing everything he can, mostly out of desperation, to try and bust Kane open, while Kane controls with his usual clubberin' offense and a lot of choking, as if he has nothing to worry about and can win the match whenever he feels like. Midway through, things get a bit out of control, as the Cell starts to lower, obviously at the whim of Mr. McMahon. Austin keeps fighting through the stacked odds, and uses the Cage to his own benefit. Late in the match, Mankind finds himself involved due to a newfound relationship with Kane and "Uncle Paul", as the Cage lowers again, this time for good. Austin fights both off until the Undertaker shows up, chair in hand. We get face miscommunication, with Undertaker using the chair to knock another chair into the face of Austin, busting him open. Austin continues to work over Kane and attacking the top of the head in hopes of drawing blood, but referee Earl Hebner is finally revived, sees Austin covered in blood, and declares Kane the winner and NEW WWF Champion at 14:52. Don't worry Austin fans, he would regain the Title the following night, suckering Kane into a defense by calling him out for being a wussy (except less PG). *** Not as good or as memorable as the Hell in the Cell Match that preceeded it, but a pretty good brawl that set the table for the top program of the Summer between Austin and The Undertaker, with Kane and Mankind as background players.
Final Thoughts: You won't find any wrestling masterpieces, but you will see is a Double Main Event that more than delivered the goods. Mankind and the Undertaker easily stole the show with one of the most memorable matches of all time, all due to Foley's willingness to sacrifice his body for the enjoyment of the paying customers. Austin and Kane was a good brawl with a shocking finish, and the Undertaker's involvement paved the way for the Road to SummerSlam (and Beyond). The undercard is fairly uneventful, but other than the goofy match between Al Snow and Too Much, nothing is bad, either, and almost everything is kept under 10-minutes. Rock vs. Shamrock disappointed considering the style of match they were trying to go for, but it's far from the worst Tournament Finale in KOTR History. The Double Main Event is Strongly Recommended viewing (if you're an Attitude Era fan), but the rest you can skip.
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