This is the last of our SummerSlam throwback reviews. Check out our SummerSlam 1998 review.
Before we get to our throwback review, I wanted to shoutout the ones we did earlier in the week.
John LaRocca and I reviewed SummerSlam 1989.
Alex Goff and I reviewed SummerSlam 1996.
Duan (@DuanDub) wanted to tackle SummerSlam 1998, which was held at Madison Square Garden.
August 30, 1998
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Main Event: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Undertaker
It was right in the middle of the Attitude Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin was running wild (not unlike Hulkamania) and on fire. Triple H and Rock were on his heels. Mick Foley was catching fire and would soon become the champ. And the Undertaker was still the gatekeeper.
Vince McMahon was still conspiring against Austin, but this time with Kane and the Undertaker.
Duan will be DG and I will be GG.
GG: We’re not messing around here. Let’s get right into the show.
Val Venis Vs D’Lo Brown
DG: It’s interesting. This is sort of the era we look to as the prime example of devalued belts, too frequent title changes and everything that goes with it, but at that time, even European championship matches were presented as something important. Little things like JR just mentioning that it’s Val’s first title shot in the WWF make such a difference in legitimizing the belt.
GG: Looking back, you’re right about that, though, I think it wouldn’t be too long where that would change.
DG: These are two guys whose potential far outweighed their pushes in WWE.
GG: JR is constantly mentioned their ages being 26 and 27 at the beginning of this match too. I used to love it when he’d try and put over the young lions.
DG: D’Lo was fantastically entertaining from day one in the company but never stepped out of the midcard.
GG: I think they had an issue with his conditioning. There are two instances during this match where JR essentially “fat shames” D’Lo saying that Venis is the better conditioned athlete (and he was jacked to the gills) and also later in the match, saying that D’Lo didn’t have as good of cardio.
DG: Val had a gimmick that was successful for him short-term but also forever typecast him at a lower level.
GG: It was entirely lowbrow. Lowbrow doesn’t become classic.
DG: Anyway, this match was every bit as solid as you would expect. They got loads of time for their position on the show, and because of that, they were able to win over what was initially a largely dead crowd.
GG: The finish was a bit clunky to me and the storytelling was a bit off, but otherwise, I’d agree. The story of the match was that D’Lo, the slow healer, wore an enhanced chest protector. Venis injured his back so D’Lo worked on it throughout. But as we near the finish, Venis is so frustrated that D’Lo gets to wear the chest protector that he takes it from D’Lo and puts it on himself. However, now that it’s on Venis, the referee won’t let him go to the top for his finisher. He gets frustrated and tosses the referee for a DQ. And after the match, he beats up the ref and hits the big splash off the top on him. What a babyface.
DG: Awful finish though to an otherwise good opener. That’s what you get for it being 1998.
The Oddities Vs Kaientai
GG: Speaking of 1998…
DG: What a time to be alive. This kind of reminds me of some of the cartoony squash matches Andre had in his younger years. Those were outstanding and so too was this. It’s on you to recap this one though. I got nothing.
GG: This could be lucha match if you added some transvestites.
Okay, let me see if I can figure this one out. Before the match starts, either Kurrgan or Giant Silva gets a hold of Yamaguchi’s shoe and supposedly, the stench is so bad, he decides to share it with everyone else on his team.
The match is built around two main halves. In the first half, the Oddities are playing with Kaientai because they are so much bigger. They pretend to fight them on their knees. Stuff like that. In the second half, Kaientai, uses their extra man advantage to beat up on Golga (Earthquake under a mask), which sets up the worst hot tag in the history of tag team wrestling. There was a two-man quadruple chokeslam spot and then Golga hit a big splash on all four men to win.
Jeff Jarrett Vs X-Pac
GG: A hair match, and we’re only on the third match.
DG: I’d completely forgotten about this feud. I remember Jeff losing a hair match but couldn’t for the life of me think who it was against.
GG: One thing to remember about Jarrett: don’t piss him off.
DG: It was an excellent match. No surprises there given the two participants. When X-Pac was on, he was fantastic, and Jarrett to me, is one of the most underappreciated workers of his time.
GG: Ain’t he great? This was a fun one. For some reason, Howard Finkel was involved and got his head shaved on Heat. So the crowd was going to get two haircuts for the price of one! The psychology was a little whacky as rather than beating him with his finisher, X-Pac wins with a guitar shot. The shot wasn’t in front of the ref, but the guitar was splintered all over the mat.
DG: Hey look it’s Method Man. Look at him.
GG: They couldn’t get better seats for Meth? By the way, they barely cut Jarrett’s hair at all. I wasn’t satisfied.
Marc Mero and Jacqueline Vs Edge and Sable
GG: Edge was the mystery partner for Sable. All that we knew before Edge came down was that the mystery partner wasn’t one of the Oddities. But it’s still possible it could’ve been Shaggy 2 Dope.
DG: I think this is Edge’s PPV debut. That feels kinda odd.
GG: He was shown in the crowd earlier, but even though we now know how Edge’s career turned out, it felt like just an okay surprise, not a big one.
DG: That being said, it was a billion times better than you would expect from a mixed tag in that era. I love heel Marc Mero; sadly he got his comeuppance in this one. The crowd went crazy for everything Sable did.
GG: Sable wasn’t bad at all. And Mero let his wife pin him. You could’ve titled this match, “How To Get Your Wife Over” or “Happy Wife Happy Life Is Bullshit.”
Owen Hart Vs Ken Shamrock
GG: It’s in a micro-cage!
DG: Now, this is guaranteed good. There is nothing better than Ken Shamrock in tough guy brawls. Trust me, there isn’t.
GG: But what about Owen Hart doing dragon sleepers?
DG: The arena has a wild look to it with the lion’s den set up. The way it’s presented is totally different to normal WWE. It’s almost like you’ve changed channels to some underground fight league.
GG: I believe this cage is set up in the Madison Square Garden theater, which is where they put the overflow crowd to watch the show on the big screen.
DG: Shamrock comes across as literally the scariest human being who ever lived. And Owen, to his credit, doesn’t look out of his element in there with him.
GG: I agree, though I wish there were more “shoot spots” in the match. There was still a lot of pro wrestling in it.
DG: This was more intense that the majority of legit fights you’ll see. There’s nothing even close to it it in the business right now. If Brock and Taker can bring that sort of fire later on today, they will have done well.
GG: Shamrock wins with the ankle lock. Dan Severn was in Owen’s corner and Owen wanted him to throw in the towel, but he didn’t. He just walked away.
DG: Oh look, there’s the moment where Ken Shamrock invented Anthony Pettis’s off the cage kick.
Mankind and Kane Vs The New Age Outlaws
GG: Earlier in the show, it was stated that Kane would not be with Mankind and it was going to be turned into a handicap match. Vince McMahon had to console and upset Mankind who would rather go play in traffic than face the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn by himself. McMahon told him that it was his kind of match; falls count anywhere and weapons were allowed. Mankind seemed to be okay after McMahon’s persuading.
GG: I never thought about it that way until now and you’re probably right.
DG: The match itself was what it was. Not much to remark about other than Mick taking some ungodly bumps and Jim Ross putting him over like a million bucks.
GG: And also, Foley making the Outlaws looking like a bad-ass tag team and a million bucks.
The Rock Vs Triple H
GG: This is their famous ladder match.
DG: The thing I have always liked about this one is that they first concentrated on having a good match and telling a good story before trying to have a good ladder match.
DG: The ladder was used to add an extra layer rather than being the be all and end all of the match. That made for probably one of WWE’s least spectacular ladder matches ever, but because it wasn’t defined by the daredevil stuff, it holds up much better over time than most of the others.
GG: I very much agree with this. JR says at the beginning of the match that Shawn Michaels’ was the benchmark and while the previous Michaels’ ladder matches were more spectacular, this was a different animal. You had the two guys who everyone knew were going to be next. And the IC strap was like what Vince McMahon would call the brass ring. It was like whoever got that strap was next in line, though it didn’t actually happen that way.
DG: I felt this was Triple H’s night. It’s not often you can say he was the A-side against The Rock, but I think he was that here.
GG: That’s interesting that you say that because when I remember watching this one with friends, it felt like Rock was made more so from this match. Dave Meltzer has a story where he says after the match he was talking to people and they all felt that even though Triple H won, the match was Rock’s coming out party.
The Undertaker Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
GG: It takes the crowd a few seconds to get going after the ladder match, but by the time Austin gets to his second turnbuckle, they’re ready.
DG: Something I loved about this match is that they didn’t do a million near falls and they didn’t each kick out of ten finishers. We’ve got to the point now where that’s the only way guys know how to create tension in PPV main events. By not doing that here, it made it so much more tense when they were teasing the big moves. You knew once somebody finally landed with the big kabosh it would be all over.
GG: There’s a spot early in the match where Undertaker drops his head and Austin kicks him. Taker’s head pops up and he and Austin conk heads. Austin has stated in the past that he legit was knocked out at that point and didn’t remember much of the rest of the match.
DG: What a fight! Austin was fantastic as always. He has always been able to create that wild, out of control feel to his matches that only Lesnar can do today. It just feels like mayhem. It’s not your normal predictable pro wrestling.
GG: Austin’s trying to chop down a tree, taking out Taker’s legs.
DG: Taker was right there with him the whole way too. Some incredible athletic displays from the big man: first when he pushed out of the stunner, rolled the ropes and landed on his feet and then afterward with the big leg drop off the top through the announce table.
GG: That was a big crash and probably a bigger stunt than anything in the ladder match. The match isn’t smooth and is clunky in spots, probably because of Austin being knocked out, but like Duan said, it more so resembles a fight between two guys than a scripted pro wrestling match.
DG: Great storytelling as well with the challenger wanting to win on his own terms but then being willing to acknowledge that he lost to the better man when he wasn’t able to get the job done. You get a subtle show of respect post-match without turning it into the hamfisted, overbearing stuff you get today with Rock and Cena or Sting and HHH. Austin and Taker have had some good ones over the years and this is right up there with the best of them.