What the World Was Watching: Survivor Series 1998

Deadly Game

Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler are doing commentary and they are live from St. Louis, Missouri.  As a side note, this is the first Survivor Series pay-per-view not to feature an elimination match.

Vince McMahon is at ringside with the WWF title and does introductions for the first match.

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  Mankind beats Duane Gill with a double arm DDT in 30 seconds:

Mankind was booked to face a mystery opponent here, who some thought could be Randy Savage or Shawn Michaels.  Instead, it is just lowly jobber Duane Gill, who Mankind – wearing a tuxedo – dispatches.  At least Gill, the “man, the myth, and the legend,” gets a specialized introduction, saying he had one loss in his prior WWF tenure and then jumped to WCW.  Ross cracks me up by saying that Gill “has spent more time on the canvas than Rembrandt.”  Gill also freaks out when pyro goes off around him, which is a nice touch.  Crowd hated this mystery opponent, but it fits the storyline.

Footage of Jacqueline attacking Sable on Sunday Night Heat is shown.  Kevin Kelly interviews Sable, who says she is pissed off and more determined than ever to become WWF Women’s champion.

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  Al Snow (w/Head) defeats “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra McMichael) when he nails Jarrett with Head at 3:31:

The small feud between these two has been built as Head vs. Jarrett’s guitar and we get a small showdown between the two with Head coming out on top.  Nothing more than a rushed match to squeeze everything in on tonight’s card.  Rating:  *¾

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  “Stone Cold” Steve Austin beats The Big Bossman via disqualification when the Bossman hits Austin with his night stick at 3:17:

This is actually Bossman’s first match since he debuted more than a month ago in the company as Vince McMahon’s bodyguard.  The match is a bout of wills between Austin’s trademark offense and the Bossman’s rest holds.  The Bossman blasts Austin with the night stick outside of the ring, thereby blowing Tony Schiavone’s theory of how you cannot get disqualified out there.  The Bossman completes a thorough beating of Austin with the night stick before heading to the locker room.  These tournament matches have been pretty bad so far.  Rating:  ¼*

Michael Cole interviews Vince McMahon, who is not concerned about Austin winning.  He reminds the audience that the night is still young.

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  X-Pac wrestles Stephen Regal to a double count out at 8:09:

X-Pac has flawlessly recovered from getting a fireball to the eyes on RAW.  In talking about the latest WWF time limit draw on the Blog a few weeks ago, I completely forgot about this match.  WWF tournaments usually have a draw of some sort – the 1990 Intercontinental title tournament featured two of them – and it is fitting that one of them takes place in a Regal bout.  Both men initially fight to a double count out, before McMahon orders a five minute overtime period, but that does not happen as X-Pac seemingly has a serious injury so Austin gets a bye to the semi-finals.  That was all sorts of confusing.  This was Regal’s only WWF pay-per-view appearance under this gimmick, as he would head to rehab in early 1999 and be released.  Rating:  **¼

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  Ken Shamrock beats Goldust via submission to the ankle lock at 5:55:

Ross calls Shamrock’s Intercontinental title run thus far dominant, but it is hard to see that when he has lost the majority of his bouts since becoming champion.  The crowd is clearly becoming restless by all these matches that have featured tons of restholds thus far.  Shamrock came into this as the clear favorite and he does prevail in a RAW-type match after the referee blocks Shattered Dreams.  We even get Lucha Shamrock out of that as he pulls out a flying hurricanrana off the second rope.  Rating:  **

Cole tells us that Steve Austin is refusing medical attention.  He says he knows Austin will keep competing!

The next tournament bout is scheduled to be the Rock against Triple H, who has not been seen since September.  Well, Triple H is not here as he is still nursing a knee injury.  Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco do make a funny introduction to the D-Generation X theme music and do the crotch chops.  Ross takes another jab at Patterson’s sexual orientation by saying that he is “still circulating Uranus.”  They announce that the Rock has a new opponent:  The Big Bossman.  This leads to…

WWF Championship Tournament First Round:  The Rock pins The Big Bossman with a small package in four seconds:

The description of the match above says it all.  The Rock navigates himself into the quarter-finals.  Initially, this came off as stupid, but it made more sense by the end of the show.

Ross and Lawler discuss the bracket, but Lawler still cannot figure it out.

WWF Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals:  The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) defeats Kane with a Tombstone at 7:16:

This is the sixth time that the Undertaker and Kane are squaring off in some capacity on pay-per-view in 1998 and if you do not think that’s enough, well they had a lot more bouts in subsequent years!  The Undertaker wears Kane down with some dull offense and a Paul Bearer distraction cuts off a Kane comeback, enabling the Dead Man to advance to the semi-finals.  Rating:  ½*

WWF Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals:  Mankind beats Al Snow (w/Head) with the Mandible Claw at 3:57:

Seeing Snow this deep in the tournament is just weird.  However, we had to have this match in the quarter-finals because Socko has been missing and is around Head.  McMahon and the stooges joke during the match that they stole Socko from Mankind and put it on Head.  Mankind eventually finds Socko and in a part of the match that is humorous and sad, he beats up the Head.  Another quick tournament match, nothing more or less.  Rating:  **

WWF Championship Tournament Quarter-Finals:  The Rock pins Ken Shamrock after hitting him with the Big Bossman’s night stick at 8:22:

There is some nice symmetry with this match as Shamrock forced the Rock to tap out at last year’s Survivor Series in Montreal.  This is also the final major battle between the two, at least on pay-per-view, as they have squared off at four of the five big pay-per-views of 1998:  the Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, and here.  Shamrock got the King of the Ring nod, but now is just the Rock’s time.  Shamrock’s look of despair when the Rock reaches the ropes to break the ankle lock is a nice touch, communicating that he has given the Rock his best shot and cannot finish him.  This is the match of the night thus far and it ends when the Bossman’s night stick toss to Shamrock is intercepted.  Rating:  ***

Cole interviews Paul Bearer, who promises that the Undertaker will win the WWF title.

WWF Women’s Championship Match:  Sable beats Jacqueline (Champion w/Marc Mero) with a Sablebomb to win the title at 3:15:

Jacqueline won the title two months prior to this, but had never defended it because these two women were the only two competitors in the division.  They continue booking Sable as the female version of Hulk Hogan, as she hits Jacqueline with a TKO less than a minute in and then low blows Mero and powerbombs him on the floor.  Jacqueline never really lands any offense of significance as Sable wins the title, but now she needs a new rival, so who will that be?  Rating:  *½

WWF Championship Tournament Semi-Finals:  Mankind pins “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after Gerald Brisco hits Austin with a chair at 10:27:

So this semi-final gives us McMahon’s choice versus his biggest foe and he makes sure to come down to ringside to see it.  These two put on a sloppy brawl for much of the match, likely due to the tournament conditions, but things pick up when a chair is introduced into the match for spots.  Somehow doing a Stone Cold Stunner on a chair hurts your opponent more than you, though.  The conspiracy really unfolds after the stooges pull the referee out of the ring and McMahon rises out of his wheelchair perfectly fine and decks him.  Shane McMahon then runs in and does his famous two count turned into flipping Austin off and Brisco gives Austin a weak chair shot to send Mankind into the finals.  Evidently the Big Bossman was supposed to do that, but pulled a Papa Shango.  The crowd is just SHOCKED at the finish.  In kayfabe terms, this was probably Mankind’s biggest win since defeating the Undertaker at the 1996 King of the Ring.  Rating:  **½

After the match, McMahon and the stooges run to a waiting limo and it speeds away before Austin can catch up to them.  Austin carjacks a poor soul to pursue them, though.

WWF Championship Tournament Semi-Finals:  The Rock defeats The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) via disqualification when Kane interferes at 8:24:

With Austin out, the Rock now becomes the crowd favorite to go all the way.  You can tell, though, that a good chunk of the crowd is incredibly disappointed that Austin is out.  These two do not have good chemistry and the Rock plays the Randy Savage role in an Undertaker beatdown.  The Big Bossman comes out for another Rock match, but proves ineffective.  The bigger interference is run by Kane, who storms in and chokeslams the Rock, thereby sending the Rock to the finals via disqualification.  The Undertaker and Kane brawl into the crowd after the match because this feud MUST go on!  Rating:  DUD

Cole interviews Mankind, who is clearly exhausted.  He says he only has one more hill to climb to be the WWF champion.

Triple Threat Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship:  The New Age Outlaws (Champions) defeat The Headbangers & D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry when Billy Gunn pins Mosh at 10:10:

To the WWF’s credit, they did a lot of work the last two months to give the Headbangers a push, but they just never caught on as evidenced by the fact that they have no heat in this match.  The rules for this bout allow for three men to be in the ring at one time, an innovation that I prefer over a standard triangle match where only two teams have men in the ring and a third team is completely left out.  Of course, what is good in theory does not always work in practice as this match devolves into a big mess of miscommunication spots and Tim White spots.  You can tell on Billy Gunn’s face that he was not happy with the quality of this match.  Rating:  *½

Before the title match, the McMahons wish the Bossman a goodnight and say that they will take care of the finals personally.  This means that the limo that sped away just had the stooges and was meant as a distraction to get Austin out of the building.  That is a pretty brilliant piece of writing.

WWF Championship Tournament Finals:  The Rock defeats Mankind via submission to the Sharpshooter to win the title at 17:18:

If you had told someone at the beginning of 1998 that Survivor Series would be headlined by Mankind and the Rock they probably would have laughed at you.  Maybe not on the Rock, but definitely on Mankind, who was in between three gimmicks and wrestling with Chainsaw Charlie.  The crowd really does not know what to make of these guys in the finals, both of whom are noticeably exhausted, and they only come alive when the McMahons walk out.  It takes a while for this to get going, but Mankind sacrifices his body to finally draw the crowd in, diving through the Spanish announce table and taking some vicious chair shots.  I remember many months prior to this that “The Informer” section of WWF Magazine randomly predicted another Survivor Series screwjob and guess what?  That is exactly what we get as the Rock cannot finish Mankind off, so he locks in a Sharpshooter and Vince gets the bell to ring, making the Rock the new champion.  I probably overrated this a bit, but Jim Ross did a great job keeping you engaged in the match.  Without him, this thing is probably less than two stars.  Rating:  ***¼

Initially, the crowd pops for the Rock’s win, but as they realize he is the true “chosen one” by the McMahons, their positive reactions fizzle.  Vince gets on the mic and gloats about screwing Austin and the fans, who were as gullible as Mankind.  Poor Mankind does not quite understand what is happening and Ross does a great job getting him some sympathy.  The Rock runs down the fans and then smashes Mankind in the back of the head with the title belt, thereby solidifying the double turn.  At the end of the show, Steve Austin walks out and runs to the ring, brawling with the new champion as the McMahons flee.  Austin gives the Rock a Stunner and tosses him out of the ring, something that I think was best saved for when the show went off the air.  He also gives Mankind a Stunner for good measure.

The Final Report Card:  This has been deemed as Vince Russo’s best work, but honestly, this show has not aged well at all.  If you lived through 1998, you can still feel some excitement from this show because you remember all of the storylines that led up to it.  However, if you are a relatively new fan and just randomly plug this show in, you miss a great deal of the context.  It is like if you missed all of the episodes of a certain television series but then watched the series finale.  The bright spot of this show is obviously the Rock’s first WWF title win, making him the first wrestler of African American descent to win the championship (albeit half black), but even that is not enough for me to give this show a thumbs up.

Attendance:  21,779

Buyrate:  1.3 (+0.41 from previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down