Rajah.com WWE PPV Flashbacks: King of the Ring 1998 - June 28, 1998

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

The Attitude era rolls on heading into the summer of 1998. Hot off his rivalry with Dude Love, the reigning WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin takes on a new contender tonight, with the odds once again stacked against the man who has drawn the ire of the evil company owner. Tonight, Austin puts his title on the line against the demented and sadistic Kane in a first blood match. Also tonight, we see the return to PPV of the Hell in a Cell structure as old rivals Undertaker and Mankind step inside the unforgiving playground. Oh yeah, we also have the King of the Ring tournament, which is a bit of an afterthought here, but with two huge matches like those just mentioned scheduled you can't fault that too much. Lets get this show going, but first, follow me on Twitter at @Mpmcc91.

The opening video package is all about the Austin/Kane and Taker/Mankind matches and its the usual goodness we have come to expect from this timeframe. We head into the arena where we are welcomed by our commentary team of Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler. We're starting the night off with a bonus match, so lets get right to it.

Taka Michinoku & The Headbangers vs Kai En Tai w/Yamaguchi-San
Taka is still the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion here, and after falling to Kai En Tai last month when teaming with Bradshaw, he now teams up with the always popular Headbangers to get a bit of payback. Taka actually comes out wearing a skirt here to fit in with his team mates which is cool. Kai En Tai is of course comprised of Funaki, Teioh & Togo. Anyway, there isn't too much to talk about here. Its a decent enough fast paced match, but not quite as good as the handicap match we saw last month. Lawler is all over Taka as usual here. The crowd are into this so it works as an opener in that regard. After some fast paced back and forth, the faces come out of this one victorious when Taka hits Funaki with the Michinoku Driver to score the pinfall at 6:44. Taka gets some revenge on his rival faction, but he'll have a change of heart soon enough.
Grade: **

Sable now makes her way out to ringside looking wonderful as usual. So much for being gone from the WWF after her loss to Mero last month. Not that I'll ever complain about Sable being around. Anyway the deal is she was brought back as Vince McMahon's assistant. She's still a face though as its more a just doing it for the job thing. She brings Vince and the stooges out. Patterson gets in Sable's face so she slaps him to a huge pop before leaving. Anyway, Vince now takes over, ripping on the crowd being the evil boss that he is, before saying that he looks forward to a new champion being crowned tonight. Simple and effective segment that continues our trend of an in-ring segment after the opener on our past few shows.

Our semifinals for the King of the Ring tournament are up next so we get a quick look at the brackets.

KOTR Semifinal Match:
Ken Shamrock vs Jeff Jarrett w/Tennessee Lee

Our first tournament match of the night pits the floundering country music star Jarrett against the submission specialist Shamrock who is returning to PPV after spending last month on the sidelines. Shamrock got to this round by defeating Kama Mustafa in the qualifiers and then Mark Henry in the quarterfinals on Raw is War, whilst Jarrett defeated Faarooq and then Marc Mero. Shamrock gets a nice reaction as he makes his entrance here. Meanwhile the crowd is pretty dead for Jarrett. The match itself is once again nothing special, but it wasn't really meant to be as the tournament isn't a huge focus tonight. Its decent enough for what it was though. Shamrock picks up the relatively easy win here when he locks in the ankle lock, causing Jarrett to tap out at 5:29. The World's Most Dangerous Man is headed to the finals!
Grade: **

Shamrock says he's going to win later on in the finals as well in a post-match interview. We see the brackets again before our next match.

KOTR Semifinal Match:
Dan Severn vs The Rock

Rock is still the reigning I.C Champion here and defeated Vader in the qualifying round before picking up a victory over DX leader Triple H in the semifinals. His opponent is former UFC fighter Dan 'the Beast' Severn, who recently made his debut getting into an altercation with fellow UFC fighter Ken Shamrock on Raw is War heading into this show. He picked up wins over D'Lo Brown in the qualifying round then Owen Hart in the quarterfinals, and he looks to continue his streak against the Nation members here. Severn was also being touted as a favourite to win this due to his tournament experience in the UFC world. The match here puts an end to those hopes though, and its not a very exciting one. Rock actually seems to be getting the crowd support here despite being the heel. Its pretty short, with D'Lo (wearing his chest protector), Kama and Henry making their way down to ringside during the match. The reigning I.C Champion picking up the win when the interfering D'Lo hits a frog splash on Severn, allowing the Nation leader to pick up the win at 4:25. In addition to simply assisting his leader here, D'Lo was also getting a measure of revenge on Severn for tearing his pectoral muscle in the aforementioned qualifying match. Anyway Rock advances to meet Shamrock later on in the finals.
Grade: *

After the match, Michael Cole gets a word with the Rock who tells him to shut his mouth. He's ready to do battle with his old rival later on.

Up next we get a video package highlighting Al Snow's recent quest to earn a WWF contract. Speaking of Snow, we see him arguing with Head backstage. King rips on Snow.

Al Snow & Head vs Too Much
Special Guest Referee: Jerry Lawler

Alright so we saw Al Snow briefly at our last PPV, the former Leif Cassidy returning to the promotion after a stint in ECW. He has recently been attempting to get a job, and so Jerry Lawler has been making promises to grant him a meeting with Vince McMahon after hiring Snow as his bodyguard one week on Raw is War. Being the heel that he is, Lawler never followed up on these promises and it was quite obvious that Lawler had only been taking advantage of the desperate man. In the end, Lawler said that Al Snow had been granted a match at this show against Too Much (Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor), with his tag partner being his mannikin head dummy, Head. The idea was that if Snow was victorious he would finally get his meeting with Vince, but if he lost, he would be gone from the WWF for good. Snow gets a pretty decent pop here. On commentary JR notices that there is no referee to start this one, but then Lawler gets up and reveals that he has been appointed the guest official. Snow is pissed knowing Lawler intends to screw him. Anyway, the storyline was pretty interesting here, but the match is an absolute joke, and JR knows it based on his commentary as well. Lawler is very biased in this one as Too Much work over Al, but the crowd are into it nonetheless. The ending is one of the most ridiculous endings that I can remember as Snow hits his Snow Plow finisher on Taylor, but meanwhile Lawler hands Christopher a bottle of Head and Shoulders Shampoo. Christopher sticks it to head and makes a cover, which Lawler counts to give Too Much the win at 8:26. Get it? Head's 'shoulders' were down for the three. Oh the hilarity. Too Much celebrate as Lawler taunts Snow. Meanwhile JR makes the comment that the match just set back the business twenty years. Snow argues with Head and he is gone. He'll be back in a few months though. In reality this was pretty much a test spot for him and he would finish up his work with ECW before making his return later in the year. Still an absolutely ridiculous match to write him off camera.
Grade: DUD

Lawler rejoins JR on commentary as we get set for our next match. We get a recap of the DX vs Nation feud that has been raging on heading into this one.

X-Pac w/Chyna vs Owen Hart
This match pits the new co-captain of the Nation against the man who returned to the WWF the night after Wrestlemania and has finally been cleared to compete on PPV once again. This is of course an extension of the DX/Nation feud that started last month and has pretty much taken over the company's upper midcard at this point, with members of each faction interfering in one another's matches. X-Pac gets the expected big pop as DX were over big time here. The match is pretty good as we know these two have chemistry going back all the way to their brief encounter at the 1994 King of the Ring (back when X-Pac was the 1-2-3 Kid). Both men have their working boots on tonight as we get some solid action going back and forth. X-Pac starts to build some momentum, but the tables are turned when Owen tosses the DX member to the outside. At this point, fellow Nation member Mark Henry runs down to ringside and splashes X-Pac on the floor behind the referee's back. Chyna gets in Henry's face as he rolls X-Pac back into the ring, and out comes fellow big man Vader who brawls with Henry to the back setting up a future rivalry. Meanwhile Owen locks the sharpshooter in on X-Pac in the ring, but as the referee is dealing with the brawling big men outside, Chyna comes in and hits the DDT on Owen. This allows X-Pac to score the cover at 8:30. Another short but solid match between these two men, giving DX a win in the ongoing war against the Nation.
Grade: ***

At this point in the show, Paul Bearer makes his way out to ringside to kill some time and hype the main matches later on. He had been beaten up by the Undertaker in his own home leading into this show and also was destroyed by the Phenom inside the Hell in a Cell on Raw is War. Anyway, Bearer gets on the mic and curses the Undertaker, saying that he looks forward to watching him get destroyed later on. He then talks about the WWF Championship match, saying that he will be proud to become the father of the new WWF Champion when Kane destroys Stone Cold. Simple effective segment here.

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

This is our second bonus match of the night. I had no idea the New Midnight Express lasted this long. They are still the NWA Tag Team Champions here, but the belts are not on the line, but in reality they matter even less then when this whole angle started months ago. JR says this is a rematch from an encounter on Shotgun Saturday Night so I suppose that's your storyline here. The whole NWA thing was dead in the water at this point. At least the Outlaws get the crowd into things doing their usual shtick on the way to the ring. Of course there is no acknowledgment of the past storyline relation between Billy Gunn and Bombastic Bart here. To be fair, this is actually a fairly decent match, but at the same time the crowd doesn't have much reason to care about it. It was a given that the Outlaws were going to retain here. This match actually highlights the problem with the tag division at this point. The Outlaws are ridiculously over, but they don't have any real teams posing a threat to compete with. That would get better over time thankfully. Anyway, Cornette attempts to get involved in this one, but Chyna ends up taking him out with a low blow as he pleads with Billy Gunn not to attack him. Bodacious Bob tries to take advantage of the distraction and nails Billy, but Road Dogg comes in and the Outlaws take Bob down with a top rope gorilla press double team. This allows Billy to score the pinfall and the Outlaws retain their titles. Not a terrible match, but surely we could have had the Outlaws defend against a duo of Nation members instead to at least give this match some heat.
Grade: **1/4

Our tournament finals are up next. Before we get started though, last years King of the Ring, DX leader and reigning European Champion, Triple H comes out to join the commentary team for the match. Meanwhile Chyna joins the Spanish announcers. Alright lets crown our King.

KOTR Finals:
Ken Shamrock vs The Rock

Our finals have arrived and once again we see these two locking up. I remember thinking Rock was definitely going to win this tournament. He just looked born to be a star at this point. He's continue to get some cheers from the crowd despite still being the heel leader of the Nation. Of course those Rocky sucks chants are still going as well. Shamrock gets a decent pop on his entrance as well. The story between these two is well documented to this point through their battles over the I.C title, so we have a highly personal encounter to cap off the tournament here. Of their PPV encounters so far this is definitely the best. Its a pretty solid match, and they get a decent amount of time to do their thing. Triple H is pretty good on commentary as well here, taking verbal shots at the Rock and the rest of the Nation setting up their eventual showdown down the line. They get into a confrontation at ringside which sees Rock knock off Hunter's headset. As Rock gets back in the ring, Triple H does a soundcheck: "testes...one, two, three". Anyway the match continues with Rock working over Shamrock, hitting the People's Elbow on his downed foe, but the World's Most Dangerous Man kicks out. Rock continues to work over Shamrock, but Shamrock ends up fighting back and locking in the ankle lock. This causes Rock to tap out 14:09. Once again Shamrock bests Rock in a non-title match, although this time it means something as Ken Shamrock is our 1998 King of the Ring. This was a fun match to end the tournament, but now we focus on the matches that everyone really came to see tonight. This would probably be the highlight of Shamrock's run as he would never really capitalise on this win to move up the card. He'll be a solid midcard player for a while though.
Grade: ***

The third Hell in a Cell match in WWF history is coming up next (the first was back at Badd Blood between Michaels and Taker, whilst the second occurred on Raw is War prior to this show pitting Austin & Taker against Kane & Mankind). The cell lowers as the announcers tell us we are about to see total carnage. Boy are we ever.

Hell in a Cell Match:
Undertaker vs Mankind

Ah yes, one of the most famous matches in the history of the WWF. The last time we saw Mick Foley on PPV, he was the number one contender to Austin's WWF title in his Dude Love persona. After failing to win the title last month at Over the Edge, Dude Love was fired by Mr McMahon, effectively ending the character's run. That same night, McMahon announced that Kane would face the Undertaker one more time to determine who would be next in line for a shot at the championship, and in that match Mankind made his return, attacking his long time rival the Undertaker, costing him the match to cause Vince to set up this encounter. Hell in a Cell was a fitting stipulation given the brutal battles these two men had in the past. Anyway, Mankind makes his way out first here with a steel chair in hand and now dressed in his white shirt attire. Instead of getting in the ring though, he climbs up the cell. Taker comes out, huge pop as always, and follows him up on top of the structure and it looks like that's where the match is going to start. The two men trade blows but the big spot that is forever remembers comes early in the match when Taker throws Mankind off the roof of the cell through the commentary table below. I could watch that spot a million times at it will never lose its impact. JR is going crazy on commentary as we get the classic "good god almighty...he killed him. With god as my witness he is broken in half!" Of course the crowd is going nuts as medical personnel and a concerned looking Mr McMahon come out to tend to Mankind, who is not moving. They put him on a stretcher as Taker looks on from the cell roof, with the crowd chanting his name. He's wheeled up the aisle when suddenly he gets up off the stretcher and heads back to climb up the cell once more. The crowd has absolutely lost it at this point as the two men end up going at it once more on the roof. This culminates in Taker chokeslamming Mankind through the roof of the cell, which unexpectedly gives way and sends Foley crashing down, along with the chair (which knocks him unconscious on the way down). They spend some time checking on Foley as the roof was not supposed to give way like that. Terry Funk even heads in there. Foley ends up regaining his bearings enough to continue as Taker climbs down into the ring. The insane brutality is not over, as Mankind gets a bag of thumbtacks and spills them over the ring only for Taker to chokeslam him on top of them. He follows up and puts Mankind away with a Tombstone Piledriver to emerge victorious at 17:00. Both men get the well deserved standing ovation, and this match would effectively kickstart the face turn for Foley over the next few months. Quite frankly, this can't be graded like a regular match. This is an absolute spotfest, and the bumps Foley took in this one will forever be remembered. The match put Taker over as a sadistic monster who would stop at nothing, whilst Foley was established as a crazy man who just would not stay down. This was incredible yet career shortening. I think the fact that we still look back at this match today speaks for itself. Its definitely one of those unforgettable moments in wrestling history.
Grade: ****

The announcers talk about the brutality that we have just seen before we send it to a video package highlighting the Austin/Kane rivalry. Our main event is up next.

WWF Championship - First Blood Match:
Steve Austin (c) vs Kane w/Paul Bearer

As I already mentioned, Kane earned the opportunity to face Austin here by defeating the Undertaker on Raw is War thanks to the interference of Mankind, which led to a unique alliance between the two demented individuals. Keen to stack the odds against Austin, Mr McMahon made this a first blood match, well aware that Kane showed very little skin at this point in his career. Furthermore, he added the stipulation that if Kane lost this match he would set himself on fire. Anyway, Austin got a piece of Kane on Raw two weeks before this show, when he teamed with the Undertaker to battle Kane and Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match. Austin would seemingly go at it alone, brawling with Kane and Mankind on the outside of the cell as Paul Bearer looked on locked inside. Of course, Taker appeared inside the cell and beat the hell out of Bearer as I talked about earlier. Anyway, Kane comes out here with an extra sleeve on his usually exposed arm to put Austin at even more of a disadvantage for this one. Austin comes out to a huge pop of course. His elbow is heavily wrapped up here as he actually was suffering from a staph infection here. Anyway, this is a decent enough brawl to wrap up the show. During the match we see McMahon in his skybox with Sable looking on. The two competitors brawl a little when suddenly the cell lowers down over the ring. The announcers wonder what is going on as Kane pummels Austin, putting him in the path of the lowering cell, but Austin lifts it for long enough to slip out from underneath and goes back at it with his adversary. At one point Kane is laying in the doorway of the cell when it starts raising again and he is taken up a few feet into the air in a cool looking spot. The action spills up the ramp and back to the ring again with both men laying into each other. Suddenly the crowd goes nuts as Mankind somehow manages to make his way back down to the ring after the punishment he suffered just earlier tonight. Austin takes him down with a stunner and then connects with one on Kane as well. Undertaker now makes his way down to the ring, presumably looking to get some more of Mankind. And then we get the moment that sets up the storyline for the summer. Taker grabs a chair and goes to hit Mankind with it, but Foley drops and the chair instead connects with Austin's skull. Taker turns his attention back to Mankind and we see that the chair shot busted Austin open. The ref doesn't see it at first, so Kane and Austin go back at it. Austin lays into Kane with the chair, but another ref comes down to the ring and stops the match at 15:58. Austin is bleeding heavily and just like that, Kane is the new WWF Champion. The crowd is pissed and we go off the air with a shot of Vince gloating over the title change. Decent match, there was a whole ton of interference, but it made sense here with these guys all being intertwined in their storylines at this point which would continue over the summer.
Grade: **1/2

From a pure wrestling standpoint this isn't a great show, but this is the Attitude era and thats not what we are looking for. We got one match that will never be forgotten in the Hell in a Cell match which alone makes this PPV worth watching. The Austin/Kane match was a decent end to the show as well, with the shocking crown of a new champion and the intrigue surrounding Taker costing Austin the title here. There were a few other solid matches on the card as well in Rock/Shamrock (whose encounter here was much better than their previous battles) and X-Pac/Owen. The other matches were nothing special though...and lets never speak of that Head mess again. A good storyline driven show putting the pieces in place for the next few months of programming for the WWF.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Mankind - there was no way anyone else even comes close. The two falls he took were insane and will forever be associated with his career. The things this man did to his body to entertain us were insane.
2. Ken Shamrock - solid performance in the finals of the forgotten tournament here. Its a shame he wouldn't really capitalise on this victory but it was difficult with the depth of the roster at the top of the card.
3. X-Pac - good to see the former 1-2-3 Kid back in action on PPV, picking up a victory in a solid match to continue the heated war between DX and the Nation.

I think this was the first show in quite some time that I didn't have Austin in the top 3 performers when he was active. He still had an enjoyable match, but it wasn't as great compared to his previous title defences.

FINAL GRADE: 6.5 out of 10

What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1. The list is put together from all the shows I have reviewed thus far. Mankind continues to make his way up, tying with Hulk Hogan for now.

Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 64
Steve Austin = 56
Randy Savage = 28
Undertaker = 22
Hulk Hogan = 18
Mick Foley = 18
Owen Hart = 17
Diesel = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
Triple H = 12
British Bulldog = 11
Razor Ramon = 10
Ted DiBiase = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
X-Pac = 6
Bob Backlund = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
The Rock = 4
Savio Vega = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Hakushi = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Tanaka = 3
Kato = 3
Vince McMahon = 3
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Crush = 2
Ken Shamrock = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Hawk = 1
Animal = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1

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