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Ranking Every WWF Pay Per View of 1998

Alex loves writing about WWE and critiquing their major shows.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

1998 was the height of the Attitude Era. That period is a little polarizing to wrestling fans. But it’s hard to deny that an era featuring the Rock, Austin, Mankind, Kane, Undertaker, and other legends was a good time for the company. But how do the Pay Per Views stack up? Eric Bischoff once said that during the Monday Night Wars, WCW focused more on weekly television than PPVs. Did the Federation make the same mistake? This ranking is from worst to best, and it will not include UK exclusives.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Rock Bottom

Already, we have two things to make fun of. The show was called Rock Bottom – basically a tribute to the Rock – and he didn’t headline the show. As much as fans love to roast this fact, it’s easy to forget that that was normal during the In Your House era before ’98. But the other thing that’s easy to roast: Calling this show Rock Bottom ended up being truth in advertising. The lion’s share of matches are skippable.

The Rock does in fact have one of the only good matches on the card against Mankind. Of course, it had a lousy Dusty finish. Then again, it did beget one of the most iconic moments in Raw History – and a turning point in the Monday Night Wars. Austin vs. Taker was one of their weaker matches. Maybe it was because both men were hurt, maybe it was because buried alive matches almost always stink. Surprisingly, the most memorable part of this show was its video packages (“The Rock’s a millionaire, he’s the WWF Champ.”)

I'm sure horn dogs from 98 held this one in higher regard.

I'm sure horn dogs from 98 held this one in higher regard.

Fully Loaded

Here we have another show that was kind of bad because it was sandwiched between two better shows. Once again, the best match of the night was marred by a screwy finish – as the Rock and HHH battled to a time limit draw in a 2 out of 3 falls match. The main event where Austin and the Undertaker won the tag titles from Kane and Mankind was okay, but not nearly as good as one would expect from those four. It was clearly just a stepping stone to the Summerslam main event.

This event is probably better remembered for some male-gazey fan service when Sable and Jaqueline had a bikini contest. Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock was a decent brawl and interesting for taking place in the Hart dungeon. The undercard was lacking. Legends like Vader and the Legion of Doom looked way past their prime in losing efforts. Future Acolytes teamed with Terry Funk and Scorpio – both of whom deserved better. There were three Fully Loaded shows, and this is the one I recommend least.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Judgement Day

If you watched Raw from this era, this show was heavily advertised for the numerous title matches on the line. In hindsight, that feels like a warning because this had one of the worst main events of the Attitude Era. Kane and the Undertaker had some exciting matches, but this was not one of them. It’s bad enough that this was boring and rest-hold heavy, but it didn’t even have a proper ending. Fans were justifiably irate years later at Battleground '13 when a vacant title match ended with no winner. But this feels just as bad. Granted, this served a much better story as Austin was fired for his antics. But this really should have been done on Raw.

The undercard has a lot of forgettable rubbish, but there are some highlights. Christian vs. Taka is pretty solid. We also saw a few matches with creative finishes. D’Lo Brown vs. X-Pac is worth checking out just for how X-Pac counters the Low Down into an X-factor. Mankind lost an intercontinental title match to Ken Shamrock by submitting to his own mandible claw. Even if most of the show was forgettable, that’s something you don’t forget.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Breakdown

The main event of this was another screwy finish, but at least this time, it was AN ending. In a triple threat with Undertaker and Kane, Austin could pin his opponents. But Kane and Taker could only pin Austin. I loved Jerry Lawler’s claim that the rule gave Austin an advantage. Kane and Taker decided to get along and pin Austin together. It was a little creative in a finish that begot the vacant title storyline.

The real highlight of this show was a hidden gem, another triple threat. But this was a cage match between the Rock, Mankind, and Ken Shamrock. The Rock actually performed a double People’s Elbow. The triple threat matches were the best parts, but once again, there was a lot to forget about this show. Christian debuted in a match between Owen Hart and Edge. As expected from two, that was one of the better matches. Vader had his last PPV matches in a loss to the not-yet-over Bradshaw. I legit had to look up a lot of the matches from this show. And there’s a reason for that.

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No Way Out (of Texas)

It’s pretty funny thinking that WWF came up with that name (and added Out of Texas) because the initials spelled NWO. (This fact would be beneficial 4 years later.) Full frontal: I owned the VHS of this show, so I have some affection for it. This is a weird show because of the emphasis on tag matches. It feels like the company knew months ahead of time that Survivor Series would be a one-night tournament. Honestly, most of these matches aren’t much to write home about. Stuff like the NWA Invasion would be footnotes in the company’s history. And teams like the Godwins were on their last legs of relevance.

Still, there’s worthwhile stuff on the show. Vader was used as cannon fodder for Kane as Kane was on the rise up and Vader was on the way down. WWF’s Light Heavyweight division may have been a pretty obvious attempt to crib WCW’s cruiserweight division, but the showing this evening was pretty good. The main event is definitely worth checking out. Even with Savio Vega replacing the injured Shawn Michaels, there was enough talent in the ring. Austin throwing a trash can at Billy Gunn and Owen accidentally dropping an f-bomb (albeit edited out of some versions) make this the match to check out.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Unforgiven

If fans remember anything about this show, it’s likely the Inferno match. I can understand how setting an opponent on fire might be a bridge too far for a lot of fans. But the match is entertaining. Undertaker’s dive over the flames is downright breathtaking. After Wrestlemania, we saw Austin’s first major defense and the beginning of his feud with Vince McMahon. While Foley and Austin would up the ante in a major way a month later, they still had a pretty good no-frills match.

Though it may be best to just skip to those last two matches. Triple H vs. Owen Hart is the best of the undercard matches. The Legion of Doom looked like chumps, losing clean as a sheet to the New Age Outlaws. A Nation of Domination and another NWA Invasion match were forgettable. While an evening gown match between Sable and Luna is best forgotten. Oh, and there was a Jeff Jarrett mini-concert. Honestly, that deserves some credit for weirdness.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Over the Edge

So, how did Austin and Foley up the ante from the previous show? This is a reminder: This match is falls count anywhere! I love everything about the Austin/Dude Love main event. Besides being a wild brawl from two of the best, it’s great storytelling. McMahon and his cronies stack the deck and change the rules mid-match. But the Undertaker is on-hand to even the playing field. And Austin still overcomes the odds. Not to mention, Foley and Austin made creative use of the props/scenery.

This show is a little segment-heavy with a hall of fame ceremony. The hall of famers got revenge on Jerry Lawler for roasting them, which made the crowd happy. Mero vs. Sable was also a glorified segment. The DX-Nation 6-man tag and the Kai en Tai matches were decent. Rock vs. Faarooq wasn't bad, but hardly what we’d expect from a feud that boiled for months. Vader battled Kane in a mask vs. mask match that was pretty predictable. This match has been roasted for several reasons. And while a lot of fans need to understand that not every loss is a burial, when Vader cut that post-match promo, his character was done.

Royal Rumble

No matter how many times I watch it, even knowing that Shawn Michaels came back years later (with a much better attitude), watching HBK land on that casket always makes me wince. Though it’s worth wincing because Michaels and Taker had a banger of a match. Yeah, they’d have better matches, but this was still a great match with Michaels playing the sneaky heel and the Undertaker getting double-crossed by Kane. It was wise to end the show on this because after a casket has been set on fire.

The Rumble match itself was solid – even if it was built way too much on Steve Austin burying everyone. But hey, some kudos for telling A story. With all due respect to Austin, the real MVP of the match was Mick Foley who played all 3 of his trademark characters during the match. Surprisingly the best of the undercard matches was a borderline comedy match between little people. Like Bret Hart said in his book, these guys deserve credit for their work. Two title matches ended in DQ, but they were still short enough to be alright. Vader vs. Goldust was okay – though I may be generous because it was Vader’s last big win on a PPV.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Survivor Series

Survivor Series 1998 is a weird case where the majority of matches are kind of bad. But as an overall show, it's superb. The weak links of the evening are the few non-tournament matches: The women’s title and tag matches. Despite so many of the Deadly games matches being mediocre and even bad, they do tell a story. Mankind vs. Duane Gil (whose original theme slapped) is hardly a dream match… and it’s hardly a match. But it sells the way Vince McMahon was seemingly letting his chosen one slide through the tournament. Meanwhile, the eventual winner the Rock coasted through a combination of skill and luck.

There were some highs and lows in the tournament – Austin and Mankind had one of the better matches. But that was marred by Bossman missing his cue. Though it did have an entertaining heel turn from Shane McMahon. The last match was fittingly the best of the bunch with a rare double turn as babyface Rock joined McMahon at the expense of the seemingly heir apparent. The Montreal Screwjob was only a year old at this point and hadn’t become an annoying cliché. So, the ending was still a little surprising.

ranking-every-wwf-pay-per-view-of-1998

Wrestlemania XIV

This is a weird show in the sense that nearly every match is decent (or at least watchable), but very few are exceptional. The show opens with one of the weaker matches – a tag team battle royale with so many people in the ring, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. But at least the LOD reuniting was a feel-good moment. Shamrock-Rock was decent but a little short and marred by a shaggy dog finish. But there was a good light heavyweight title match and one of Sable’s only good matches.

Triple H vs. Owen Hart was an entertaining mix of good wrestling and Attitude Era shenanigans. The New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Terry Funk (who was barely pretending to be the absurd Chainsaw Charlie gimmick) was a fun hardcore match. Undertaker and Kane had their big blowoff match where Kane looked like a killer even in defeat (Though he almost got killed by a tombstone). Plus that match birthed the running feud between Kane and Pete Rose. Injuries probably prevented Austin-HBK from being a 5-star classic. But knowing what we know now, I’m a little impressed it was that good. But Tyson turning on DX to help Austin still created an iconic moment. As JR said, “The Austin Era has begun.”

King of the Ring

There’s one thing I need to say: “My God! He killed him! As God as my witness, he’s broken in half!” The Hell in a Cell match was not only one of the best matches of the year, but one of the most iconic matches in WWF/E history. Proof that not all losses are burials, Mick Foley sure looked like a champ after the iconic dive off the cell (which was planned), getting thrown through the cell (which was not planned). It’s easy to forget Mankind actually scored offense in this match. With Mick Foley admitting that he legit blacked out and doesn’t even remember parts of this match, it’s almost hard to watch. But in the best ways.

That match so drastically overshadows everything else that happened this evening. Ken Shamrock was the King of the Ring winner. Even though he felt right, his win was so unremarkable an official WWE publication erroneously listed the Rock as the winner. But the tournament final was entertaining. As was Owen Hart vs. X-pac (which had some funny commentary from Triple H). The Al Snow handicap match was a comedy goof, but I can’t help but find it fun. Austin and Kane had a tough act to follow, but they still had an exciting match, made even more impressive considering Austin was wrestling with a staph infection. Also, Mankind STILL interferes. Dude (Love), you didn’t have to go that hard. The Hell in a Cell played a part in the main event for unexplained reasons, but it was still a good one. Despite how iconic this show is, some filler holds it back from the top spot. Though it’s still a classic show.

Also probably poster of the year

Also probably poster of the year

Summerslam

I did not plan this at all, but it’s funny to think that the best and worst shows were headlined by Austin vs. Undertaker. As the top show of 98, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Even though D’Lo Brown and Val Venis were entertaining mid-carders during this era, their opening bout just didn’t click. Especially with a DQ finish. That was followed by an Oddities match. Like them or not, these guys were over and I’d understand if someone told me their bit was a guilty pleasure. But it’s all uphill after that.

Mankind defending the titles by himself made him look sympathetic – especially after a hilarious take on DX’s slogan. The mixed tag match – with Edge making his PPV debut – was passable. High praise for a Sable match. X-Pac and Jeff Jarrett had a decent hair vs. hair match – even if the clippers wouldn’t cooperate. The lion’s den match between Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart was exciting. Though considering it required a separate area of the arena, it’s pretty easy to see why there were so few of these matches.

Fittingly, the two main events were the matches of the night. Austin and Undertaker had one of their better matches together – even if it was marred by Austin forgetting where he was after a noggin knocker. Though Austin needing to cheat to win is odd. But the highlight was a spectacular ladder match between the Rock and Triple H. Ladder matches were still a rarity back then. But Triple H wove a story that combined hardcore action with great psychology.

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