WWF: King of the Ring 1998

WWF: King of the Ring
June 28, 1998
Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Civic Arena

The current WWF champs are as follows:
WWF Champion: Steve Austin (3/29/1998)
Intercontinental Champion: The Rock (12/8/1997)
World Tag Team Champions: The New Age Outlaws (3/30/1998)
European Champion: Triple H (3/17/1998)
Light Heavyweight Champion: TAKA Michinoku (12/7/1997)

Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

  • The Headbangers & TAKA Michinoku vs. Kaientai (w/Yamaguchi-san)

Two matches have been added to the card today – this is one of them. I figured Bradshaw would be involved in this somehow, but nope. Yamaguchi-san is like Mr. Fuji on drugs here. Kaientai prove to be no match for the Headbangers. Mosh tags in TAKA who quickly gets Funaki on the floor for his springboard plancha. Back inside, Kaientai take control and get some heat on TAKA. Nice double-team wheelbarrow bulldog move. Some Kaientai miscommunication allows for the hot tag. The match breaks down and the Headbangers slam dunk Michinoku onto Funaki to set up the MICHINOKU DRIVER for the win. (6:41) Definitely a match just thrown onto the card with nothing real interesting happening. **

Sable comes out to a loud ovation until she introduces Mr. McMahon. We see the return of his stooges Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson who have been licking their wounds since Over the Edge. Patterson pats Sable on the fanny on her way out and gets slapped. Ross makes a joke about Patterson going where he’s never been before. It was uncharted territory, if you will. Anyways, McMahon talks down to the Pittsburgh crowd saying they will be disappointed tonight when Kane defeats Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF title and that they should be used to disappointments by now since all they do is make excuses for their pathetic lives instead of taking responsibility for themselves. Like JR said, I don’t know why that needed to get so personal.

  • KOTR Semifinals: Ken Shamrock vs. Jeff Jarrett (w/Tennessee Lee)

Shamrock destroys Jarrett to start. Jarrett goes after the leg to take over. Tennessee Lee gets in on the act with a cheapshot on Shamrock’s ankle. Lawler makes a funny joke about Shamrock not being able to call his father if he becomes King of the Ring because he doesn’t know who his dad is. Shamrock comes back with a Hurracanrana and finishes Jarrett real quick with the ANKLELOCK. (5:29) That was a quick tapout by Jarrett. Not much to say about this. *½

  • KOTR Semifinals: The Rock vs. Dan Severn

I don’t expect this to go long. As we’ve seen on RAW for the past month or so, the Nation isn’t allowed to be at ringside. Severn does a lot of takedowns to start and the Rock looks like he has no idea what to do here. Severn had stretched D’Lo Brown and injured his pectoral muscles giving D’Lo a reason to bring back the old “slow-healing injury” gimmick. Not much going on until Kama runs down and distracts ref Mike Chioda. D’Lo hits the Lo Down with the DREADED CHEST PROTECTOR. That allows the Rock to pick up the win and move onto the KOTR finals. (4:24) Yeah, this was not good. ¼*

For those who don’t know who Al Snow is, they air a vignette of what he’s been up to.

  • Special Referee: Jerry Lawler – Al Snow & Head vs. Too Much

If Al Snow wins, he finally gets his meeting with Mr. McMahon. Too Much, by the way, was the original incarnation of the tag team Too Cool and it represents another one of those Russo standards – throw two jobbers together and hope they get over as a tag team. This is basically a handicap match obvs, which bores the crowd. He gets the hot tag to Head. Al hits the SNOW PLOW on Taylor, but Head is legal. Now, how do you pin a head that has no shoulders? Simple. You attach a bottle of Head & Shoulders to it. No, I didn’t make that up. Christopher gets the pin on Head. (8:24) Well, this got WAY too much time. CRAP

  • Owen Hart vs. X-Pac (w/Chyna)

This is X-Pac’s first PPV match since returning to the WWF the night after WrestleMania 14. While there are problems brewing between the Nation and DX, these two screwed each other out of the King of the Ring and now they will settle the score. These two met in a King of the Ring semifinal match four years earlier and both matches start the same way except the roles are reversed. While in 1994, Owen shot through the ropes before the bell and caught the 1-2-3 Kid with a dropkick, this year X-Pac shoots through the ropes and catches Owen with a dropkick. Nice little callback moment that only us nerds would catch. They exchange hard corner whips to start. They head to the floor where Owen whips X-Pac into the timekeeper. Back in, Owen kills time with a sleeperhold. X-Pac reverses out and hits the X-Factor, but it wasn’t exactly his finisher yet. Owen botches the sell on the Broncobuster. They go up for a superplex leading to X-Pac getting crotched and falling out to the floor. Mark Henry arrives on the scene to splash X-Pac on the floor. Chyna goes nose-to-nose with Henry until Vader comes out of nowhere to drill Henry with a body attack. All this has the ref distracted from seeing Owen put X-Pac in the SHARPSHOOTER. Chyna uses the distraction to hit Owen with a DDT to get X-Pac the win. (8:31) Easily the best match of the night so far. **½

Paul Bearer comes out to yell at the Undertaker. Apparently, Kane lived with him for the last twenty years and watched wrestling every Saturday, becoming obsessed with becoming a wrestler himself. Wait, so was Kane in an asylum or was Kane living with Paul Bearer? OR DOES PAUL BEARER ALSO LIVE IN AN ASYLUM? This is where the Kane storyline starts to fall apart, but whatevs.

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

Here is our final unannounced match of the evening. The New Midnights are still recognized as the NWA world tag team champs despite the NWA gimmick thing being dead. Not to mention Bart and Bob might be close to the bottom of the totem pole in the WWF right now. I guess LOD 2000 didn’t want to job – AGAIN on PPV. And I mean, who really wants to see the Outlaws and the Harris twins battle it out for ten minutes? Even if Mark Henry and Kama together against the Outlaws would have made sense even though it would have sucked. Anyways, here we are. Road Dogg tries an O’Connor Roll, but gets blindsided by Holly to assume the face-in-peril role. Holly tells Road Dogg to “suck it” and then tells him to go f-ck himself. This whole suck and f-ck thing between these dudes is really getting out of control. Billy gets the hot tag and goes for a PILEDRIVER on Holly, but Cornette breaks it up with the racket shot. That gets two. Billy reverses a rollup and Cornette tries to interfere again. Billy catches him coming though and Chyna low blows Corny. Good grief the people loved that one. The Outlaws hit a double hotshot on Holly for the win. (9:45) Decent formula tag. It occurs to me that the Outlaws never really had a finisher despite being on top of the tag ranks for nearly a year. The Spike Piledriver, maybe? **¼

  • KOTR Finals: The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock

Triple H joins the commentary team for some inside talk and a few jabs at the Rock. This is what amounts to a blowoff between these two as Shamrock had chased the IC title and been screwed out of it for months on end. In fact, the Rock spent about nine months as champion and didn’t get his first pin until nearly seven months into his reign. Slow start thanks to Rock’s tendency to head to the floor when things get heated. He’s real Memphis-y these days. He turns and jaws with Hunter and gets a face full of Evian mist. Rock finally takes over and gets two off a neckbreaker. The People’s Elbow gets two. Rock grabs a chinlock and wears down Shamrock. Hurricane DDT gets two. Shamrock recovers and makes a comeback before charging right into a powerslam. Rock looks for another Hurricane DDT, but Shamrock counters to a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Shamrock goes for a Hurracanrana, but Rock counters to a hotshot for two. Rock thinks it’s three and tells the ref about it, allowing Shamrock to recover and trip Rock down into the Anklelock for the tapout! (14:10) Ken Shamrock is now *your* 1998 King of the Ring! Shamrock finally gets a measure of revenge after months of getting bamboozled by the Rock. Solid match! ***

  • Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Mankind

As cliché as it is to say, what can I say about this match that hasn’t already been said? It’s the most famous match from the most watched period in wrestling history. They first meet each other on top of the cell and Taker then throws Mankind off the edge down to the ground through the Spanish announce table. It’s the most brutal moment that I’ve ever seen in the WWF and should never be attempted to be topped. As if that wasn’t enough, Mankind gets off the gurney against the wishes of everyone with a heart or a brain, and climbs back onto the top of the cell to meet the Undertaker. With a dislocated shoulder, there’s not much Mankind can do here, but he’s determined beyond all comprehension. Undertaker wants to just chokeslam Mankind on a chair onto the cell, but Mankind misses the chair and goes through the cell and down onto the mat that is not exactly geared for a bump like that while also taking the chair with him that hits him in the mouth busting open his bottom lip. Now while going off the cage was pre-planned, the chokeslam through the cage was not. It’s been well-documented that both the Undertaker and Terry Funk thought that Foley had died after this bump. Trainers and refs swarmed the ring to check on Mankind. After the Undertaker came down off the cell onto the ring, Terry Funk tries to talk him out of finishing this match. Instead of listening, Taker punches Funk and chokeslams the former NWA world champ out of his sneakers. As everyone clears out but Foley and Taker, the match somehow continues. Mankind stops Taker from delivering Old School. With a tooth in his nose and his tongue sticking through the hole in his bottom lip, Foley continues on. Mankind tries to pick up half of the steps, but can’t due to his SHOULDER BEING DISLOCATED.

Taker uses the steps instead and nails Mankind in the shoulder a few times. Mankind avoids a suicide dive, causing Taker to ram his head into the cage wall to bust him open. Back inside, Mankind delivers a Pull-Up Piledriver on a chair for 1-2-NO! Mankind stuns Taker with a Double-Arm DDT long enough to pull out a bag of thumbtacks. He spreads the tacks in one spot on the canvas as they tease somebody taking a fall on them. Mankind slips out of a TOMBSTONE and locks in the MANDIBLE CLAW. His arm drops once, twice, but not thrice! Taker hoists Mankind on his back and falls backwards onto the thumbtacks. Poor Mick. Chokeslam to Foley onto the tacks! Now the TOMBSTONE. Taker covers for the 1-2-3. (17:00) I know what I like about wrestling and this just isn’t it. First of all, I’m not saying wrestling needs to go back fifty years and everybody should be Verne Gagne, but I don’t think wrestling ever needed to go to this extreme. I mean, a guy fell off the top of a very tall cage, and now you’re going to wrestle? I don’t understand this philosophy if the point of wrestling is to have a great match and build towards your finish. Secondly, Mick is doing all of this so that you will NOTICE him. I’m all for guys working hard and trying to get noticed, but there’s a line that every wrestler must realize and never pass in order to get fans to respect you. The reason being that this match went too far and you start to feel more sorry for Foley than you do respect how tough he is. What’s even sadder is that this match isn’t even what catapulted him to being a real main event guy beside Stone Cold and the Rock, but was something that he had inside him all along: his sense of humor.

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

Austin has his elbow HEAVILY taped due to suffering a staph infection. There’s no way he’s 100% for this match. Austin fights off Kane to start and unties the turnbuckle pad. Kane blocks and they brawl on the outside. The cell starts to lower and nearly comes down on Austin. Kane whips Austin into the mesh. Kane starts to crawl after Austin and gets halfway out of the cell door when it starts to rise! Austin eventually yanks him off, and they brawl all the way up to the entrance. Austin tries a piledriver, but takes a backdrop. They brawl back to the ring where Kane shoves Austin into Earl Hebner. The brawl continues unabated until Mankind runs down with a chair. Austin fights him of as the cell lowers again with all three guys inside it. Austin delivers Stunners to Kane and Mankind. The Undertaker hobbles down and swings at Mankind, but he winds up hitting Austin triggering conspiracy theories about whether or not it was intentional. Austin continues to fight back, but he’s bleeding from the chairshot. Taker tosses Hebner in the ring and pours gasoline all over him. Kane whacks Taker out of the ring with a chairshot. Austin kicks Kane back and clotheslines him down. He gets the chair away and cleans Kane’s clock. However, Hebner looks up and sees Austin bleeding and awards Kane the match and the WWF title! (14:52) Under the circumstances, this was as best as you could expect from Austin. And like many WWF main events from 1998-1999, this just served to launch another storyline for Raw rather than serving as a real main event. **½

Final Thoughts: The real draw to watch this King of the Ring of course is the Hell in a Cell match. Wrestling-wise, everything else is average or close to it. Some stuff was *real* dumb like the match with Head. I mean, the Head and Shoulders joke didn’t make me laugh. Maybe it will for you! Anyways, the King of the Ring ceases to be a stepping stone starting with this year and more of a mid-card trophy than anything else. The only exception would be for Kurt Angle in 2000, but he would have become a star no matter what with his incredible charisma and in-ring abilities. If you are watching this randomly without much context just to see good matches, you may want to skip this one as there’s not a lot here besides the Hell in a Cell spectacle. It’s a tough call for how historically important it is, but I’m going with thumbs in the middle for the King of the Ring 1998.

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