WWF Raw Is War (June 29, 1998)

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We kick things off with some photos from the First Blood match between Steve Austin and Kane from last night’s King of the Ring with JR’s commentary left in place. We see a bunch of Attitude Era run-ins that lead to Undertaker coming down and waffling Austin with a chair while the ref is down allowing Kane to pick up the win.

We get the classic guys fighting in a warehouse as shit explodes and generic hardcore plays opening and then Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcome us to Raw as fireworks explode and the cameras pan around the hyped as fuck crowd of 20,000 plus.

Opening Talky Segment…

Vince McMahon, Sgt. Slaughter and Gerald Brisco come out and make their way down to the ring. Vince doesn’t have “No Chance in Hell,” as entrance music yet or if he does he elected not to use it on this night since they just walk to the ring to a chorus of boos.

The ring was covered with a red carpet and the championship belt was under glass on a pedestal in the middle of the ring. Is this the first appearance of the Attitude Era belt?

McMahon gets on the mic and says that today is a great day for the WWF. “It’s as if a giant breath of fresh air has cleansed the WWF of the foul mouth and unseemly hand gesture,” of Steve Austin now that the championship belt is around the waits of someone who has never tasted a drop of alcohol or uttered an obscenity and “whose only hand gesture is to salute the flag of the United States of America.”

He then growls, “That man is KAAAAAAAANE!” A man he says is the champion of the new millennium and a role model. Kane and Paul Bearer then come out and Paul talks about how when Kane was young he used to watch Undertaker on WWF Superstars on Saturday mornings and say, “Dad, I want to be like him,” but now he’s not only like the Undertaker, but he’s surpassed him.

*Breaking Glass Sound Effect*

*Massive Audience Pop*

Steve Austin comes down to the ring and threatens to beat the fuck out of Vince McMahon for wearing stupid shoes and demands a rematch since everyone knows that Kane couldn’t beat him without an Attitude Era schmoz.

Vince passes the buck to Paul Bearer. Austin calls him a fatass and asks him if he’s going to give him a rematch tonight or not. Paul Bearer says that it’s fine with him if it’s fine with Kane.

Austin says that Kane wanted to be better than the Undertaker, but he still needed the Undertaker to win the belt for him. He asks Kane if he wants to be a champion who had to wonder if he could have actually beaten Austin fair and square or if he’d give Austin his rematch there that very night. Kane nods that he’ll fight Austin and we got ourselves a rematch for the championship tonight!

Match 1: Droz vs. Steven Regal

Droz comes out and then out next is Sable, who apparently recently returned under mysterious circumstances. Lawler wonders if Sable is going to be taking on Droz in a wrestling match. Since this is WWF ’98 that would not be out of the realm of possibility.

She does not compete though. She gets on a mic and says that on behalf of Vince McMahon she is pleased to announce that Steven Regal has been signed to the WWF. She then joins Ross and Lawler on commentary as Steven Regal heads down to the ring.

“Stand up and be a gentleman!” says Good Ol’ JR as Sable approaches.

“I can’t stand up right now…” says Jerry Lawler.

Regal grapples the shit out of Droz as JR and Lawler ignore the in ring action. Ross asks Sable to tell them how she ended up returning to the WWF but she says she can’t disclose the details. He then asks her about the nature of her relationship with Vince McMahon and why she was in the owner’s box at King of the Ring, but Sable is not at liberty to say.

On occasion JR will attempt to call the action, but Lawler always cuts him off with lame dad boner jokes.

Towards the end of the match Droz makes a comeback and gets a backslider and then hits a clothesline and a suplex. Droz goes up top but Regal cuts him off and hits a double arm suplex off the top rope. Regal gets him in a version of the guillotine and causes Droz to tap.

Winner: Steven Regal

Ah the Monday Night Wars era when commentary was supposed to talk about anything other than what was happening in the ring. Regal and Droz had a fine little TV match here, but you would have never known if you’d just listened to the commentary.

Regal gets a decisive win in his debut match, which is how one should debut a new guy, but it was short and the main focus of this segment wasn’t “Hey, we got Steven Regal from WCW,” but rather, “Sable has tits!” [*]

Meanwhile Backstage…

Marc Mero is warming up for his upcoming Brawl for All match as we go to commercial break.

Meanwhile in the Ring…

Michael Cole is standing by with the new King of the Ring, Ken Shamrock. He talks about how hard it was to win last night and gives props to Rocky Maivia for showing him something last night. The King keeps interjecting, “He’s The Rock now you idiot!”

Owen Hart comes out and walks about halfway down the ramp and says that he’s a better King than Shamrock will ever be and then challenges Shamrock to a match. Shamrock’s like, “Owen Hart, you broke my ankle and now you’re getting in my zone, so it’s on Owen Hart.”

DX’s music hits and Triple H and Chyna come out and Hunter calls them girls and says that if they’re having a match to determine the true king of kings then he has to be in it. “Are you girls up for a three way dance?”

Shamrock agrees and says Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s name a million times and Owen Hart’s name a million times and we have ourselves a triple threat King of Kings match for later that night.

This went on too long and Shamrock wasn’t very good on the mic, but the match between these three good be decent so I’ll let it slide. Shamrock does that weird thing where he says everyone’s full name any time he’s talking to or about them. I wonder if this is just a thing he did here or it was something he did all the time. If I watch more ’98 Raw is War I’ll have to pay attention to his promos.

Meanwhile Backstage…

Steve Blackman is in the locker room area punching the air to get ready for his big Brawl For All match which is coming up next!

Match 2: Marc Mero vs. Steve Blackman

All right, it’s the Brawl For All, one of the all time stupidest things the WWE has ever done. JR gives us a rundown of the rules. There are three one minute rounds and a point system. You get 5 points for the most punches per round, 5 points for a takedown and 10 points for a knockdown. A knockout ends the fight. Sounds simple enough right? Right!

Now let’s get stupid! None of these matches were predetermined. The match that we were about to see was going to be 100% real. Awesome!

Mero and Blackman both come out to the Brawl For All Theme song, which is literally the only good thing that came out of this dumpster fire of a concept. It was such a good piece of music that the man who would become Big Ryck, Ezekiel Jackson, would later steal it and add some rapping to it to use as his entrance music.

WWF went all out here in trying to make this fiasco seem legit. They dimmed the arena lights and had boxing style turnbuckle pads and had tied the ropes together boxing style and even gotten Danny Hodge to referee. None of this would help once the action began.

As the audience booed and chanted, “WE WANT WRESTLING!” Steve Blackman spammed takedowns and racked up such an impressive point difference that it was utterly impossible for Mero to mount any sort of comeback. Three minutes or so later, it was all done and Steve Blackman was declared the winner.

Winner: Steve Blackman

This was bad. Like really bad. It was ugly looking, guys got hurt for real, no one cared about it, and it didn’t really succeed in getting anyone over. I like Steve Blackman and seeing him spam takedowns was kind of funny so I’ll give this match like half a star, which is probably a half a star more than it deserves. [½*]

Meanwhile Backstage…

Kevin Kelly is in Kane’s locker room with Paul Bearer, Mankind, and of course Kane. He asks Kane why he is giving Austin a title shot tonight. Kane get’s his cancer kazoo and says that he knows that he can win because he’s better than the Undertaker. Kane then fucks off and Paul Bearer yells at Kevin Kelly and leaves.

Meanwhile in the Parking Lot…

Someone is arriving at the arena but it’s too dark for away to be able to tell who it is.

Match 3: Val Venis vs. Dick Togo (w/ Yamaguchi-san)

Dick Togo’s already in the ring. Val comes out and chases Yamaguchi off with a chair and then gawks at the woman in the front row who Lawler tells us is Yamaguchi’s wife. Val gets in the ring and talks about the Cleveland Indians and then makes baseball as sex jokes before the match officially gets underway.

Val pounds on Togo in the corner and we get our second random person joining the commentary team of the night when Dustin Rhodes comes out and talks to Ross and Lawler about how they should be using this opportunity to be spreading the word of God. It’s super uncomfortable.

Back in the ring Togo hits some crazy looking flip dives off the top rope as Dustin Rhodes quotes scripture. He eventually leaves and Lawler says, “A match between Venis and Dick! I had so many jokes and now because of Dustin Rhodes I didn’t get to use any of them!”

Togo hits a DDT for two and then goes up top for a top rope maneuver but ends up jumping into a power slam. Venis slams him again and then goes up top and hits the Money Shot to pick up the win.

After the match Venus hits on Mrs. Yamaguchi-san which causes Yamaguchi-san to slap Val Venus. The Kai En Tai dudes show up so Venus blasts them all with a chair and stands tall.

Winner: Val Venis

This was a fine squash match ruined by the awkwardness of Dustin Rhodes talking about religion on commentary. It was also further ruined by the fact that I know where this Val Venis angle with Kai En Tai goes. It’s not long until “Choppy choppy the pee pee,” my friends. [*]

Meanwhile in the Crowd…

Edge is sitting in the upper deck watching the show. JR doesn’t know much about that young man.

Meanwhile Backstage…

Michael Cole is in the locker room with Steve Austin. Austin says that he didn’t actually lose the title to Kane last night so he’ll have no problem getting it back tonight. He then threatens to do grievous bodily harm to Michael Cole.

Match 4: Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock vs. Triple H (w/ Chyna)

Triple H comes out first, and then Owen Hart. As Owen comes down to the ring, Ken Shamrock jumps him from behind and slams him into the guardrail. Triple H chills in the ring while Hart and Shamrock pound on each other down on the floor.

Owen heads into the ring and Triple H springs into action and pounds on him and then hits a jumping knee for two. All three men are back up and in the ring. The fans really hate Owen Hart. Shamrock and Hart double team Triple H and Shamrock scores a near fall.

Owen gets chucked out to the floor and Triple H hits a flying knee for two. Owen is back in and hits a piledriver on Triple H and goes for the pin, but Shamrock makes the save. Owen gets snap suplexed but recovers to ruin Shamrock’s shit with a German suplex for two as we go to commercial break. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!

We return from break and are shown a triple sleeper hold and double jawbreaker spot that we missed during the break before going back to live action. Triple H and Owen Hart are working over Shamrock’s ankle which is not at 100% still after being broken by Owen.

Triple H gets put down with a missile dropkick by Owen Hart and the bell inadvertently rings causing Lawler to inquire whether or not Vince McMahon had come out. Owen then gets Shamrock in a Sharpshooter but Shamrock doesn’t tap.

Triple H then gets Shamrock set up for the Pedigree but Owen takes out Hunter with a spinning heel kick that prevents the Pedigree from happening. Triple H gets taken out with a DDT before Shamrock returns to attack Owen.

He gets Owen in an ankle lock and it looks like Owen is about to tap but Triple H makes the save. Shamrock goes for a hurracanrana but Triple H counters it into a powerbomb, but before he can capitalize he gets enziguried out to the floor. Hart tries to go off the ropes to hit some sort of move on the prone Shamrock, but gets low bridged by Chyna and tumbles out of the ring.

As Owen Hart is distracted by Chyna, Shamrock comes out and sneaks up behind him and starts to put a beating on him. Meanwhile The Rock appears from out of nowhere and blasts Triple H in the face with the Intercontinental Championship, laying him out in the middle of the ring. Shamrock drops Owen on the outside and then heads back into the ring and covers the unconscious Triple H for the easy win.

After the match DX attacks The Rock up on the stage which brings out the other Nation of Domination members to brawl. In the ring Owen Hart tries to put Shamrock in a figure four leg lock around the ring post.

Winner: Ken Shamrock

This was a pretty solid triple threat match that happened early enough in the history of that gimmick that it wasn’t formulaic in the same way a lot of triple threat matches are today. There weren’t really any long stretches where one dude is taken out so the other two can have a one on one fight. Yes, the ending was very Attitude Era-esque, but up to that point it was a fun, energetic match between three guys who can go in the ring. [**⅔]

Meanwhile in the Ring…

Michael Cole brings out The Undertaker to explain why he helped Kane win the title last night. Taker says that he doesn’t owe anyone anything, but he’ll tell everyone why he helped Kane. He says that he and Kane might not get along with one another, but he couldn’t let Kane set himself on fire so he came down to the ring.

Cole’s like, “You may have cost Austin the title,” to which Taker replies, “I did what I had to do.”

This brings out Vince McMahon who says that he thinks Taker helped Kane wins because he thinks he can beat his brother but doesn’t think he can beat Austin. Vince calls him an evil bastard and tells him that he better no interfere in the match tonight.

Match 5: Bradshaw vs. Mark Canterbury

Mark Canterbury is Henry Godwinn using his legal name according to Jim Ross. Ross proceeds to call him Henry Godwinn a dozen times during the match.

This is another goddamn Brawl For All match. Unlike the first one, this time around the two competitors just throw ugly looking punches. They’re gassed after the first round. Round two and three are more of the same with the audience audibly shitting all over it. Bradshaw wins via punching the most during the course of the match.

Winner: Bradshaw

This is really bad. It’s just a bunch of ugly punching between two guys no one gives a fuck about and then Bradshaw wins. [-**]

Countdown to SummerSlam!

SummerSlam is nine weeks away!

Meanwhile in the Ring…

The Road Warriors in their Legion of Doom 2000 garb come out sans Sunny. Animal gets on the mic and says that they’ve decided to reunite with the man that brought them together originally: Paul Ellering.

Paul Ellering, newspaper in hand, comes down to the ring and is handed the mic, but before he can saying anything the biker gang, DOA, comes out on their bikes and get in the ring. Ellering’s like, “This is my new tag team!” and then DOA and Ellering beat down the Road Warriors.

Meanwhile Backstage…

Kevin Kelly asks The Undertaker what he thinks about Vince McMahon’s warning. Taker says that no one tells him what to do and walks off.

Match 6: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane (w/ Paul Bearer)

It’s time for the main event as Austin goes up against the man who beat him for the championship the night before. Austin goes after Kane right away, laying in a bunch of rights as Kane’s in the corner. Kane reverses it though and pounds Austin down with rights of his own in the corner.

Austin hits a forearm that floors Kane. The crowd is going absolutely bananas with every move. He goes for a Stunner but gets countered and Kane heads out to the floor. Austin hits a diving clothesline off the apron that sends Kane into the steps.

They head back in and Kane gets back in control, hammering Austin down, but Austin retakes control when Kane strolls into a Thesz Press. He then pulls Kane over to the ring post and slams Kane’s knee into the post a few times before Kane kicks him off. Paul Bearer hits Austin in the head with a shoe as he gets back to his feet.

Austin heads back into the ring as the Undertaker comes out. Austin tries to make a comeback but eats a big boot. Kane goes up top and hits a diving clothesline that takes Austin down. A chokeslam follows.

Kane goes for a Tombstone, but Austin escapes and kicks Kane in the gut to set up for the Stunner, but is unable to hit it. He whips Kane off the ropes and kicks him in the gut again and this time nails him with the Stunner. ONE! TWO! THREE! New Champion!

After the match Taker comes into the ring and after a very brief staredown with Austin, Austin stuns him and takes his belt and walks up the ramp. Kane and Undertaker both sit up simultaneously as the show ends.

Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin

This was a weird match. After a hard fought match at the PPV the night before Austin won the belt back in like 8 minutes totally clean. The in ring stuff was pretty decent and the crowd was hot, but having him win the belt back so easily kind of made the previous match between these two seem pointless and cheap.

Up to this point, Kane had pretty much been an unstoppable monster so to have him lose here so easily without shenanigans was kind of weird. [**]

Final Thought

For all our fond memories of the Attitude Era, a lot of it was pretty rotten. The Austin stuff is pretty solid and the guys at the Intercontinental Championship level are decent enough wrestlers, but other than that there’s a lot of garbage. Even without the Brawl For All bullshit, the bulk of the matches here were short and not even the main thrust of what was happening in that segment.

The Regal match was less about Regal’s debut than it was about Sable being bad at talking and having giant tits in a tight top. Similarly the bulk of the Val Venis match was dominated by Dustin Rhodes talking about God for some fucking reason. And then there’s the Brawl For All…

After the response the Brawl For All matches got in this episode I’m honestly surprised that they went through with it all the way to the end. I would have expected them to kind of quietly put an end to it or maybe move it to whatever B or C shows they had in 1998 and never again talk about it on Raw, but that was not the case. It would continue weekly for another two months. With the fans hating each and every moment of it.

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