‘Sup, Lords of Pain? It’s that time of the week once more. Well technically it is a day later but I am sure we can be forgiven after such a crazy week. So The Shield are no more, but on the plus side, we get to experience the fun of the fallout. It is shaping up to be an interesting run towards the summer for a lot of the fresher talent in the WWE. Unfortunately, the news on Daniel Bryan is not so great at this point. I just hope he isn’t rushed back for the sake of it. He is a made guy now. He can afford the time off to recover fully. With Money in the Bank just over three weeks away there is a sense of unpredictability hanging over the company which could lead to a very good event indeed. But as I’m sure you all know by now, this column isn’t about the present or future, but about the past. So sit back and enjoy a look back at a highly anticipted PPV in…
ATTITUDE! Survivor Series 1998 (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
Jun 6, 2014 - 3:36:55 PM
Maverick: When we started this series Maz, there were certain pay-per-views I had marked on my own internal calendar as ones I was really looking forward to or remembered as being particularly significant. Canadian Stampede from July ‘97 for the height of the Border Wars. Survivor Series ‘97 for the Screwjob. Royal Rumble ‘98 for the rise of Austin and the career ending injury to Michaels. Survivor Series ‘98 is another one in that category, with its vacant title tournament gimmick, the first of its kind for the WWF title since Wrestlemania IV way back in 1988. It’s a pay-per-view I remember fondly from a personal point of view too, staying up in the all night TV lounge in the halls of residence I spent my first year of university in. Ah, to be 18 again...
Mazza: Whilst I am known as a Triple H fan, I was also a huge Rock fan come this part of the Attitude Era. My mates and I were at fever pitch for this event with the feeling that anything could happen. The problem for me was that I was leaving the country for six months as part of my gap year the very afternoon of Deadly Game. Awful timing and I was doubly pissed when I found out the result by talking to a friend in a chat room (ah the 90s!). In fact alamak.com (I know a couple of you will remember A/S/Ling there backing the primative days of the ‘net) was pretty much the only way to follow the era through until
WrestleMania XV. I have caught up with watching everything over the years of course, but this is the first time I will be watching the next few PPVs in order. I have to say, I am looking forward to it too.
The Event: Survivor Series
The Date: 15 November 1998
The Place: Kiel Center, St. Louis, Missouri
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
With Judgment Day ending in such fascinatingly screwy fashion, the 10/19 edition of Raw got underway with a carnival feel- balloons, ticker tape, circus music- and the entire roster coming out to the ring to be addressed by Mr McMahon, who not only announced a 16 man single elimination tournament to take place at Survivor Series, but also described the feeling of firing Stone Cold as “better than sex”, going on to parody Austin’s slogan by intoning “McMahon 3:16 says I got the brass to fire your ass!” As opening segments go, it’s a hard one to top.
However, as was usually the case in this era, Vince’s confidence and gloating became hubris very quickly, as Austin made it his mission to get his job back and punish his former employer. Far from keeping the Rattlesnake out of the building, police outside asked for his autograph, even while he was loading a hunting rifle and playing with a .39 sidearm (slight echoes of Brian Pillman there). With a vengeful Stone Cold around, the stooges made it their business to be elsewhere, and Vince was left with Mankind, who promptly installed Mr Socko as head of security and then began playing Twister in the office (a not so subtle shill for Milton Bradley, as Raw was being filmed in the Bradley Center). Unfortunately for Vince, this led him to get rid of Mick, leaving him vulnerable to Austin, who kidnapped the chairman of the board and held him hostage, threatening him with a knife, caressing a hunting bow and getting Vince to squeal like a pig in a homage to ‘Deliverance’. It was pretty near the knuckle television and certainly not something they would dream of doing today. After making Vince bet on the outcome of Undertaker vs. Kane in a casket match, a bet he lost, Austin took him down to the ring and got him on his knees, whereupon Vince visibly began to pray. Stone Cold put a piece of paper in McMahon’s pocket and pulled the trigger, and of course it turned out to be a joke gun with “Bang 3:16” on the flag. When Vince stood up, it was revealed he had wet himself and Austin quipped “McMahon 3:16 says I just pissed my pants!” before giving him the Stunner.
Of course, the war between the pair was far from over, and it turned out that the piece of paper shoved into the pocket of the chairman’s Armani suit the previous week was a new five year contract for Austin which guaranteed him a title shot. McMahon opened up the 10/26 Raw by stating that his battery of lawyers would resolve the problem and in the mean time Austin would have to participate in an I Quit match against Ken Shamrock. It turned out, in the event, that the contract was legally binding and that it was Vince’s son Shane McMahon, in his first big angle, that signed it. Shane came out and cut a promo which described 28 years of being ignored by his father, but now, no longer a boy, he was standing up for himself and his rights as a company stockholder. Vince left the arena that evening distraught and left his stooges to handle matters. They of course bungled things and got Stunners and chair shots for their trouble as Mankind’s interference took Shamrock out of the equation.
As Acting Chairman, Shane opened up the next Raw but his father soon arrived to demote him to referee and use the semantics of the contract to state that Austin’s “guaranteed” title shot would be an entry into the tournament, which was technically a title shot, and that shot in the tourney would be against Vince’s new henchman, the returning Big Bossman, who newer fans may be interested to see rocking The Shield’s gear a good fourteen years before The Shield! Austin had the better of their last confrontation before the pay-per-view when Bossman attempted to lay a beating on Shane but was prevented from doing so by the Rattlesnake, who took the nightstick and used it for his own purposes.
With the Deadly Game tournament announced, Vince, it should go without saying, had a lot more on his plate than just Austin. Since Summerslam, Mankind had developed an obsession with McMahon, seeing him in a paternal light. Indeed, once Vince got over how annoying this was and saw how useful Mick could be, he began to manipulate him. He gave Mankind a brand new championship belt, the Hardcore Title, in return for not interfering in Shamrock vs. The Rock (Mankind and Ken still had plenty of left over issues after Breakdown). On the go home show, Mankind was greeted by a welcoming committee of McMahon, Brisco, Patterson and Slaughter, who took the mentally unstable grappler away for a makeover and later, a Falls Count Anywhere match against Shamrock, which the hardcore legend won after interference from Bossman that he didn’t see. What the purpose of this manipulation was remained to be seen, and a further frisson was added when it became clear that his first round opponent wouldn’t be revealed until the night of Survivor Series itself. In the meantime, Mankind lost Socko when Al Snow stole him and wrapped him around Head. Ah, the Attitude Era.
Inevitably, with The Rock gaining popularity by the second, Vince McMahon also placed himself in the path of the next face on the totem pole. Because McMahon had a problem with the people (who had cheered Stone Cold as he abused him) he had a problem with The Rock, who claimed to be The People’s Champion. Therefore, Rocky was told he had to beat Shamrock by pinfall or submission to get into the tournament even though he was meant to be number one contender after winning the cage match at Breakdown. Shamrock smacked him with chair after a good match and as he won by DQ rather than by pinfall or submission he wouldn’t be going to Survivor Series. McMahon called him the “People’s Chump” and looked very pleased with himself. Rocky then destroyed the backstage area, and got himself arrested. By the next week, McMahon had upped the ante, telling The People’s Champ that he needed to beat Mark Henry to even keep his job. He was attacked by a mystery assailant backstage and it looked doubtful that he would even be able to compete, but he made it out and beat Henry after a ref bump allowed a vengeful Shane McMahon to run down and count the pin to allow the third generation star to enter Deadly Game. With Bossman handcuffed to the top rope, Rocky then gave Vince the Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow to send him into the PPV with huge momentum.
Kane and The Undertaker, as the men who had pinned Austin simultaneously, received byes into round two of the tournament. ‘Taker and Paul Bearer came out to the ring on the 10/19 edition to state that they were forming a Ministry of Darkness, which most would not understand because they have no vision. The Deadman intoned gravely that Paul Bearer understood the power of darkness and would lead him to greater heights than ever, as his head was now cleared and refocused. Ominously, he said that those who did not declare would be declared. Paul Bearer got on the mic then to emphasise that he used Kane “like a pet dog on a leash”, calling him stupid and weak. Kane could never understand the darkness and Bearer had no use for him ever again. ‘Taker then admitted setting the fire that burnt Kane because Kane was weak and only the strong should survive. The aforementioned casket match happened at the end of the show but there was no finish as the casket got smashed to bits in their brawl. Having been so conclusively betrayed, the Big Red Monster went on the rampage for the rest of the month. The Brood finally united as The Brood during a match between Edge and Gangrel when Christian and Edge attacked the masked demon, but this went wrong when he sat up mid-beatdown and the vamps were forced to flee. The next week, Kane destroyed the entire Brood, The Outlaws, The Headbangers, D’Lo and Henry, X Pac, Steve Regal and Goldust in a single episode, and the week after that, he interrupted a match between The Undertaker and X Pac by flinging a fireball (really) at his brother, which instead struck the DX member in the face. Full marks to Waltman for selling it the way he did. The European Champion had another impressive month, one in which he was targeted by the “Real Man’s Man” Steve Regal but also found time to defend his belt against Steve Blackman, challenge The Undertaker and fight Shamrock for DX’s honour...
Indeed, another massive contender for the title was Mr. Ken Shamrock, the Intercontinental Champion, who began his month by “re-injuring” Triple H’s knee on Heat before Judgment Day (in reality Hunter needed more time to rehab the knee than originally thought), had a superb champion vs. champion match with X Pac the night after Judgment Day which Pac won due to Mankind’s interference. Ken went on to have further issues with Mankind (a brawl through the crowd here, a sneak chairshot there, the aforementioned Falls Count Anywhere, which he lost) before refocusing on the tournament, where he was due to face Goldust, who finished off his issues with Val Venis over the course of the build to Survivor Series, but gained the problem of a “pregnant” Terri Runnels/Marlena who would arrive to bother both men, neither of whom really wanted her anymore. The Bizarre One actually took a fancy to Debra McMichael, the manager of Jeff Jarrett (and later wife of Stone Cold) which caused Jeff to break a guitar over his head. Jarrett had further problems with Al Snow, and the mannequin head he carried, getting his manager to “flirt” with Head and give it a kiss, which drove Al crazy.
With most of the focus of the show being on the title tournament, the tag division was treading water but doing so very competently. The Headbangers, the previous PPV challengers, continued to get up in the business of The New Age Outlaws by first parodying their entrance schtick and then actually dressing up as them and parodying their “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…” routine in ludicrous high pitched voices and calling them the “New Age Idiots”. With Kane wiping out the number one contenders match against Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown, a triple threat was booked for the pay-per-view, a sneak preview of which took place on the go-home show, which the ‘Bangers won, in a typical “anything can happen on Sunday!” piece of booking.
The strangest storyline that took place all month was actually the growing Blue Blazer angle. First, the wannabe superhero attacked Val Venis during a match with Jeff Jarrett, at which point Jim Ross claimed to recognise him as Owen Hart due to “the nose”. Then, the next week, to prove that it was not him under the costume, Owen came out with someone else in the outfit to attack Steve Blackman, one of his primary accusers. Later on, the Blazer took out Goldust from behind while he was brawling with Jarrett. What was the connection between Jarrett and the Blazer? Was the Blazer really Owen Hart? On the go home show, Owen came out as himself to emphasise how he was retired and called out Dan Severn (in a neck brace) to apologise to him face to face for the piledriver. When Severn came out, he accused Hart of being The Blue Blazer, so Owen attacked him, before heading backstage, where he himself was assaulted by someone in the Blazer outfit, much to JR’s disgust.
Finally, Sable’s pursuit of the Women’s Title gained some traction as she cost Mero a match with Goldust and got in a catfight with Jackie after. She finally got her title shot confirmed just prior to the PPV, and as she remained hugely over, the match was a decent edition to a pay-per-view dominated by the Deadly Game tourney, which Maz will detail for you now. I’ll be back for the main event, but until then, enjoy...
We begin the night with a video package where the tops stars in the tournament talk about winning the WWF title “by any means necessary” which is actually foreshadowing in more than one way.
Mankind defeated Duane Gill in 0:30 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
Mr McMahon kicks of the festivities by being helped out of his wheelchair and introducing Mankind for his first match. Foley is done up in a tux and hugs Vince as he enters the ring. The crowd chant for “HBK” to be the mystery opponent but McMahon reads a whole spiel building up Mankind’s opponent before announcing Duane Gill (a guy who had a career as a jobber). Mick attacks Gill before he can get in the ring, lands a double arm DDT and picks up the victory. No real substance from a wrestling standpoint but an excellent first scene plot setter.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ½*
A pissed off Sable cuts an interview with Kevin Kelly saying she will become champion. Her acting skills are very similar to Kristen Stewart’s.
Al Snow defeated Jeff Jarrett (With Debra) in 3:31 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
Match two in the tourney has Al stalking Debra to begin with. Double J tries to take advantage of the distraction but fails. The action goes back and forth with neither man able to really sustain control but both try for the win numerous times. With both men knocked down, Debra interferes. Snow grabs the guitar whilst Jarrett grabs Head. It’s Double J who strikes first but as the ref puts the guitar out of the ring, Al manages to get hold of his “buddy” and picks up the victory. It’s not easy to make much out of the time they had here, but they didn’t really manage to do anything.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *
Steve Austin defeated Big Bossman in 3:20 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
Bossman attacks on Stone Cold’s entrance but fails to get any traction until a big low blow. Vince’s head of security slowly works over the Rattlesnake and draws some good heat. He cuts out Austin’s first comeback attempt but on the second one he reaches for the nightstick and levels Stone Cold to draw the disqualification. Bossman continues the attack after the match to leave his opponent at a huge disadvantage for the next round. These guys used their three minutes well. The match ran like a short version of a longer match and there was some great storyline foundations being laid.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
Cole interviews McMahon and asks if he is concerned Austin has made the next round. Vince smiles saying “the night is young”.
Up next is our first round hipster’s choice match. The sight of Regal in a construction hat coming down to “A Real Man’s Man” is something you need to experience if you never did...
X-Pac fought Steven Regal to a double countout in 8:10 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
X-Pac’s speed gives him the better of the opening exchanges but the pace soon slows as Regal takes control. The Real Man’s Man wears Waltman down with submissions allowing Pac to work his usual routine of attempted comebacks. Waltman gets a little more traction each time until they head to the outside. He reverses a suplex attempt but both men get counted out. McMahon, watching on a monitor, tells Slaughter he wants overtime. Sarge goes to ringside to talk to Fink who announces the match will continue with a five minute sudden death period. X-Pac is hurt though and goes to the back. Regal chases him but it is over and Austin gets a bye to the semis. No idea why Regal didn’t advance to be honest. A bit of a plot hole but the intricacies of the booking probably allowed for one here and there. As for the match, it was a little too reliant on rest holds which is a shame.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¼
Ken Shamrock defeated Goldust in 5:56 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
A dropkick from the get-go gives Shamrock the advantage. The opening exchanges are intense and aggressive before the IC champ goes for the rest holds. One thing I have noticed throughout this series is that Goldust was brilliant at breaking up rest hold spots with explosive comebacks and this one is no different. Late in the match The Bizarre One has a comeback and hooks Shamrock up for his kick to the ‘nads on the ropes. The ref stops him saying he will get DQ’d and this allows The World’s Most Dangerous Man to land a hurricanrana. He follows up with a belly-to-belly and ankle lock to get the submission victory. Excellent use of minutes here and match of the first round for me. Shamrock seems suited to these shorter matches.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
Cole is backstage checking on Austin. He has apparently refused medical attention although it is speculated that he will need it to be ready for his semi-final match.
The Rock defeated Big Bossman in 0:03 in a Deadly Game Tournament First Round Match
Rocky gets a huge pop. His scheduled opponent, Triple H’s music hits but out come The Stooges doing crotch chops. Briscoe announces that Hunter isn’t there tonight. He says he has been sent tickets and will be fined heavily on his return (he was out injured). Patterson says there won’t be a forfeit however and Vince has found a last minute replacement. Bossman comes out for his second match of the nigh and is immediately caught in a small package and it is done. It’s hard to give anything to a three second match but once again, from a storyline perspective, it was brilliantly delivered.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ¼*
The Undertaker (With Paul Bearer) defeated Kane in 7:16 in a Deadly Game Tournament Quarter Final Match
Round two gets underway with the big guns who had a bye in round one. The early action consists of lots of stiff punches before it spills to the outside. The Deadman is in charge as they re-enter the ring and slows the pace down big time. Kane manages to stand strong however and turns things around with an Irish whip reversal and clothesline. He hits his big brother with a chokeslam but Paul Bearer gets on the apron to cause the distraction. When he turns his focus back to Taker, he walks into a Tombstone and Bearer holds down his son’s leg to make sure The Deadman picks up the victory. Plodding but hard hitting action. Not their greatest moment together.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
Mankind defeated Al Snow in 3:55 in a Deadly Game Tournament Quarter Final Match
Foley is still dressed in his tuxedo as Snow hits the ring swinging. The action goes to the outside where Snow misses with a chairshot which would have likely led to a DQ. Mankind however manages to drop his opponent head first onto the chair to take control. Backstage Vince and the Stooges laugh about McMahon putting Socko around Head and say Mick will go ballistic when he sees it. Right on cue, Snow goes for Head and Mankind sees Socko and freaks out. He takes control of his puppet but Al takes control of the match, getting a two count with a sitdown powerbomb. Foley soon manages to get back on top a double arm DDT and finishes things off with a Socko assisted Mandible Claw. A four minute match built around a mannequin head and a sock puppet. To get as much as two stars is testament to the exceptional talent of Foley.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock in 8:20 in a Deadly Game Tournament Quarter Final Match
This extended rivalry from earlier in the year is revisited with a flipped heel-face dynamic. Rock comes out of the corner swinging but Shamrock’s kicks are soon acting as an equaliser. We are soon on the outside again where The People’s Champ spits water into the World’s Most Dangerous Man’s face before the IC champ throws his opponent into the ring steps. Shamrock slows things down in the ring as Bossman makes another appearance at ringside. Eventually he hooks in the ankle lock but Rocky makes to the ropes before a double clothesline has both men down. They make it to their feet and a DDT has Bossman hit the apron which allows Rocky to sneak in a low blow. A People’s Elbow leads to a very long two count before Shamrock counters a Rock Bottom into a belly-to-belly. Bossman gets on the apron and throws the nightstick towards the IC champ. The Rock intercepts it however and levels Shamrock with it to book his semi-final spot. Bossman walks off looking pissed. Strong match. Again full of storyline build and the chemistry that the participants had built throughout the year definitely helped.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Paul Bearer is with Cole and says Undertaker will win the WWF title tonight.
Sable defeated Jacqueline (With Marc Mero) in 3:14 to win the Women’s Championship
Mero distracts Sable on entrance which allows Jackie to hit from behind to start the match. The challenger quickly takes control and hits a TKO which The Marvelous One breaks up by dragging his ex out of the ring. Sable hits Mero with a low blow and a Sablebomb. Jacqueline takes advantage of the distraction however and takes it to the challenger. She goes for a tornado DDT but this is countered before a Sablebomb to win the title. Sable wasn’t very good but she hit her spots decently enough. Not great but I’ve seen worse efforts from the ladies.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ¾*
Mankind defeated Steve Austin in 10:27 in a Deadly Game Tournament Semi Final Match
The tux is still intact, albeit a little worse for wear, as the post Mania rivalry for the WWF title is rehashed. Stone Cold walks to the ring gingerly but attacks as he steps through the ropes. He rips off Foley’s jacket and shoes as McMahon is wheeled to ringside by the Stooges. It settles with Mankind on top but Mick tries to walk away when the tide turns in Austin’s favour. He is being talked into going back by the Stooges when Stone Cold comes out to meet him. He hits what I can only refer to as a “triple noggin knocker” with Briscoe and Patterson’s heads into Foley’s which prompts JR to use the line “that’s a real meeting of the halfwits”. Mankind regains control however with a backdrop on the ramp and an Irish whip to the steps. He takes it back to the ring where the good old double clothesline resets things for a moment. The Rattlesnake gets a chance to show off his brawling style for a few moments but Foley gets the upper hand once more and goes for a chair. He lands a double arm DDT to the chair for a very close call before looking for a piledriver. Stone Cold counters into a back drop and then hits a Stunner to the chair. The ref gets to two and a half when Vince grabs his leg, pulls him out of the ring and attacks him. In the ring Austin hits another Stunner which sees Shane McMahon rush to the ring. He counts to two and then stops before giving his old man’s arch nemesis the fingers. Austin is pissed, Briscoe hits him with a chair, Mankind makes the cover and Shane counts the three. The Corporation run to the back and to a limo as Austin gives chase, commandeering a car in the process. Not as good as their matches in the spring, but again the story of the night continued to be built. The Shane reveal was fun, although it probably would have been served better if he was officiating the match a bit longer than he did.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
The Rock defeated The Undertaker (With Paul Bearer) in 8:23 in a Deadly Game Tournament Semi Final Match
Once again, there is no time wasted in getting this underway and it is The Deadman who bosses things. They hit the outside for a bit as Taker begins to turn the screw. The People’s Champ is soon trying to make a comeback as the fight spills into the crowd but it is short lived. In the ring, Bearer interferes by hitting Rocky with a shoe as The Deadman has the ref tied up. The former Nation man once again makes a comeback and with both men down, Bossman once again makes his way to ringside. Rock taunts Bearer before going for a People’s Elbow. Bossman grabs his foot though which allows Taker to sit up. The Phenom hits Bossman and goes to hit Rock with a chokeslam. Kane hits the ring which causes his brother to push The Great One to him. The Big Red Machine lands an awkward looking chokeslam on Rocky which draws the disqualification. The Deadman takes out the ref before brawling with Kane through the crowd. Extremely overbooked here but that made perfect sense in the context.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
Cole is with Mankind who says “he has one more Rock to climb, if you can smell what the sock is cooking”.
The New Age Outlaws defeated The Headbangers and D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry in 10:10 to retain the Tag Team Championship
Billy has some mesh hearts on the back of his trunks and it looks like something he stole from Cher’s wardrobe. The opening moments of the match are horrible as nobody seems to know what the rules are. Eventually it settles as one man from each team in the ring at all times and as such it is pretty disorganised. It becomes a case of move, pin attempt, broken up by third man, repeat. Somehow, The Outlaws still manage to shoehorn in their Roadie face in peril, hot tag to Billy routine and after a bit more confusion Mr Ass lands a piledriver on Mosh for the win. There was some decent action here but the set up of the match really hurt things. In four years time, WWF would nail the format but that wouldn’t help things here.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
THE MAIN EVENT
The Rock defeated Mankind in 17:10 to win the Deadly Game Tournament and the WWF Championship
The way the night long stories of Mankind and Rocky had been constructed was absolutely absolutely brilliant, and a sense of the depth of storytelling is present in the attire of Mick Foley, who had spent the evening shedding his tuxedo and dress shoes; by the time he and Rocky kicked off the match with a collar and elbow tie up, he was back in the brown tights and baggy shirt, his hair all over the place and not the neat ponytail it had been at the beginning of the evening. Rock shows his energy and relative freshness by using right hands and clotheslines to deck the more battle worn Mankind. In an excellent piece of psychology, the psychiatrically challenged Foley throws his younger opponent outside for some brawling in an environment he knows and excels in. The People’s Champ is thrown into the steps and introduced in the ring post, putting the deranged Mankind in control.
Back in the ring, Mankind has Rock under control with a chinlock when Shane McMahon comes out to ringside with his father, to the disgust of JR on commentary who sells the swerve from the semi-final brilliantly. Rocky manages to reverse a suplex on the outside; the referee insists on the bout go back into the ring, but instead the two competitors fight tooth and nail over the barricade and into the crowd; this was 1998, after all, when no main event match was complete without such a passage. Mankind gets backdropped from the barrier back onto the outside, and back in the ring it’s now the Brahma Bull who has the rest hold locked in, keeping his opponent under control. All the while, the McMahons at ringside are an obvious and deliberate reminder of Montreal the year before, where Bret Hart was screwed for real.
A trademark lunatic clothesline takes the tournament finalists over the top and he uses a chair on The Rock before the fan favourite turns things around by burying Mankind under the steps and unleashing a barrage of chair shots onto said furniture. An innovative and brutal looking spot that shows the younger man losing his cool and perhaps foreshadows the eventual turn. This is followed by a full chair shot to the skull but Mankind’s legendary resilience sees him kick out of the resulting cover. Foley manages to come back and choke his opponent, and JR speculates that Hebner must’ve been told not to disqualify anyone. Mankind hits the apron elbow and hits Rock with the announce table top, before hitting a ludicrously entertaining legdrop on top of the table right in front of the commentators. It’s truly fantastic stuff, the kind of fluid outside the ring fighting that Mick Foley did better than anyone in the history of the grappling game.
Back and forth the action flows with brawling and the odd cover, in the ring, out of the ring, the pace is excellent, the selling magnificent. A DDT buys Rock some time, and he starts to lay the Smackdown, but as is typical in a match filled with excellent storytelling, he’s cut off by being tossed out of the ring, before moving away from Mankind’s attempted flying elbow to the announce table to allow the Hardcore Champion to go through the table with sickening velocity. Somehow, he gets to his feet but Rock nails him with a scoop slam and prepares for the People’s Elbow, which Mankind stunningly kicks out of and then nails the double arm DDT. Mr Socko comes out and the mandible claw is applied. The People’s Champ almost passes out but manages to score a desperation Rock Bottom. By the time he crawls to the cover, his madman opponent is able to kick out. However, the young stud locks on a Sharpshooter, and in a deja vu moment Vince runs to tell the timekeeper to ring the bell and Rocky is the champion.
An embrace with the McMahons confirms the heel turn and Vince gets on the mic to say that “the People screwed the People!” before calling them as pathetic and gullible as Mankind. He celebrates screwing Stone Cold and states that the only person who hates the People more than Vince McMahon is The Rock. He also puts over his son for his “academy award winning performance” before passing the mic to The Rock who calls the fans trailer park trash. Mankind, still confused, asks how he could have lost when he didn’t get pinned or submit, but that sets him up for a belt shot from the new WWF Champion who puts the boot in for good measure. Shane McMahon uses the phrase “The Corporate Champion” for the first time. However, Stone Cold Steve Austin appears to deliver stunners to both Rock and Mankind as the pay-per-view goes off air.
The match itself was a brilliant exhibition of the Attitude Era main event style and gains a good half star for its historical importance, giving birth to the Corporate Champ and also Mick Foley’s main event career. The only mistake, in hindsight, was the Austin run in at the end, which took something away from the brilliance of the Foley/Rock/McMahon interaction. Austin sure as hell didn’t need that rub and it wasn’t his storyline anymore. But still- a brilliant end to a pay-per-view with a very satisfying story.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****
Aside from the main event, there’s not a single classic on the card. But it doesn’t matter in the least. Survivor Series: Deadly Game is one of the best pay-per-views of any era simply because the way that the stories all converged across the evening was stunning to see unfold. Yes, the matches are mostly shot, but there’s a sense of urgency, a sense of unpredictability and a kind of sporting legitimacy added by the tournament gimmick that raises the event way above the sum of its parts.
Quite right. Our overall PPV ratings are based on a weighted system incorporating our individual match ratings. We then round up or down a bit based on our overall feelings, but that goes out of the window here. Statistically Deadly Game would come in at about 2.5 stars but that was never going to cut it. That couldn’t take into account the brilliant story construction throughout the night that was executed almost flawlessly. If your wrestling fandom boils down purely to great technical matches, this isn’t the event for you. If you love the drama that WWF do so well on their day, then Deadly Game goes down as one of the greatest PPVs in history.
Survivor Series 1998 Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: ***½
MVP - MANKIND
We have been extremely pro-Rock recently in this series. Survivor Series (marking two years with the company) was a night he wrestled four times, pulled of a turn and won his first WWF Championship. It’s still not enough to snag him another MVP award though. Mick Foley hasn’t been short of praise from us during this series so far either. He has wowed us at numerous events, and will do so again, but Deadly Game has to be his career pièce de résistance. This wasn’t about insane spots. This wasn’t about his trademark put over jobs. This was a night full of the best character work you will see in a ring which was vital in pulling everything else that happened on the night together. Mav mentioned the slow degradation of his appearance from round-to-round and that is a perfect way to sum up what the night meant for the character.
In fact, this is Mick Foley’s fourth MVP award, tying him at the top with Rocky in our standings so far. The thing everyone has to remember about Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy is that the guy could wrestle rings around most people. That somehow gets lost because of how much he’s remembered for character work and taking crazy bumps, but actually, when you look over his resume of matches so far in this series, there aren’t many people with a better cumulative star rating. He was Mr Consistency in the ring at this time, and his semi-final with Austin and final with the soon-to-be Corporate Champ were two brilliant examples of how to build a compelling story within the Attitude main event style. And as Maz already mentioned, his character work was as on point as ever. I’ve always had a healthy respect and admiration for Mick, but this rewatch project has turned him, in my eyes, into a wrestling deity.
THE ONE TO WATCH
As we have mentioned, the beauty of Survivor Series 1998 isn’t in the quality of the matches but in the story that was told throughout the night. It really was gripping stuff and even looking back on it fifteen years later, you can’t help but get sucked into it. We are quick to throw criticism in the direction of the WWE for inconsistencies or moves with weak motives but when they turn it on, it really does make for compelling television. This week on The One To Watch we will be having a look at other examples of great stories that ran through a PPV and just where Deadly Game ranks amongst them.
There was a discussion on Twitter yesterday where Doc was asked about his five favourite wrestlers of all time. It got me thinking about my personal top five and I quickly realised that they all have had great PPV performances where they have been the focus throughout the night. Those that have read my work for a while now will know that top of my list is Randy Savage, and his exploits at WrestleMania IV are probably the closest direct example to Deadly Game. Like The Rock that night, Macho Man won four matches and his first WWF title in the main event. Another similarity is that none of the matches were classics but it was a huge night to put them on their way to the top of the industry. As great as Savage’s storytelling was on the night though, the swerves at Deadly Game give it an edge.
You would be forgiven for assuming that Triple H is my favourite wrestler ever. He actually takes second spot and he has had a couple of these epic nights throughout his career. In fact he has one coming up very soon in this series at WrestleMania XV but I don’t want to spoil that one right now so I will use the example of No Mercy 2007. WWE Champ John Cena had torn a pectoral muscle in the build up and had to vacate the title. At the time he was feuding with Randy Orton (I know right, when wasn’t he?) and The Viper was awarded the championship in the opening segment of the PPV. Triple H came down, talked Vince into giving him a shot at Randy and won the title by roll-up in the curtain jerker. The thing was The Game had been feuding with Umaga at the time and had a match booked for the event. McMahon decided that the match would still go ahead and it would be for the strap. Hunter pulled out the victory but later in the night when he was recovering, Vince turned up to inform him Orton would be claiming his rematch in the night’s main event in a last man standing match. It was an excellent match which ended with The Viper winning back the title but as good as it was, it was not quite Survivor Series for me.
Third on my fave five list is Mr Johnson with fourth being a new entry over the last year or so. I don’t think I have ever been as invested in a wrestler’s story as I was at WrestleMania XXX this year. Daniel Bryan overcame the Authority and Triple H in the curtain jerker before going to the main event to defeat Batista and Orton for the title. Emotionally I don’t think it can be beaten. As far as feel good moments go, I am not sure it will ever be beaten. But the story had been playing out since SummerSlam. The culmination was brilliant but as a one night story, Rocky’s first title win still holds out.
The one event that really lent itself to single night stories was King of the Ring. Every one of these events can boast a candidate and my fifth favourite wrestler of all time has back to back one night stories at the defunct PPV. Kurt Angle won the tournament in 2000 but his 2001 performance was that much more impressive for me. The Olympic Gold Medalist was on a mission to retain his crown but had also found himself smack bang in the middle of a feud with Shane McMahon and had a street fight booked with the WCW owner at the event too. Kurt took on Christian in the curtain jerker and won thanks to Shane trying to make sure that his opponent would have another match before theirs. Edge defeated Rhyno in the semis (interestingly Rhyno, Edge, Christian and Kurt were a sort of informal stable at the time) and in the final, the future Rated R Superstar picked up the win following interference from who else but Shane-O. With two matches already in the bag, Kurt put on a classic in a 26 minute bout with a non-wrestler. Even more impressive though was that he managed to maintain a blood feud, which interweaved with his competitive nature against his mates, which pretty much called time on Team RECK. But still, it doesn’t top Deadly Game and if the other four guys in my top five can’t, nobody will… But I’m sure that won’t stop Mav from looking at some others!
2001 was an interesting year for these self-contained pay-per-view stories. Going into Wrestlemania X7, what has often been described as the biggest night in company history, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s desire to win back the WWF title he had last held in the August of 1999 was very much the selling point of the pay-per-view. “I need to beat you Rock,” he said in a sit down conversation with the champ on Raw just before the event, and with the evening emanating from his home state of Texas, the whole evening was based around his ultimate triumph. However, WWF pulled a massive swerve by having Austin turn heel and join up with Vince McMahon to screw Rocky out of the title. More on that evening in the last column of the series at the end of December! It was a massive shock at the time, and I was literally open mouthed when I saw it go down. Austin would go on to be involved in yet another one night turn at InVasion later that year, when he became “the old Stone Cold” only to screw his employer by winning the inaugural brawl for the Alliance and joining Shane and Steph. The angle would finally be resolved at Survivor Series, where every match had a bearing on the future of the company. Test won an immunity from being fired battle royal that he stole his way into, having lost a midcard title unification bout to Edge earlier that evening. Likewise, the Hardyz lost to their old foes the Dudleyz in a tag title unification. The main event then saw WWF win the kayfabe battle for the wrestling world in yet another swerve, when Kurt Angle was revealed as Vince’s personal mole inside the Alliance, with his interference allowing Rock to get the winning pinfall. This then led to the Undisputed Title unification tournament at Vengeance, where Chris Jericho finally got his definitive push to the big time by beating Stone Cold and Rock in the same night. That might be my favourite one night story of all. Always loved that PPV.
So, 2001 was filled with such treats, but they have also been scattered around fairly freely through the brand extension era. Brock Lesnar had to beat The Big Show to gain entry to the Rumble in 2003, which he then won, setting him up for his babyface title win against Angle at ‘Mania XIX. Maz mentioned Orton’s title journey through No Mercy 2007 (all the more remarkable because it was such a nothing time in pro wrestling), but how about that first Edge cash in at New Year’s Revolution 2005? That was a completely game changing story that WWE then foolishly ran into the ground. Elimination Chamber has been the most frequent host of swerves in modern times, and that man Edge was right at the heart of it again, losing the WWE Title in the first few minutes of the Smackdown chamber match, but ambushing Kofi Kingston to enter the Raw chamber and win the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. A year later, there were two enormous changes of direction, when Batista was brought out to end Cena’s mere seconds long title reign after he’d won a gruelling match inside Satan’s Structure, and later, when Shawn Michaels appeared in the chamber from out of nowhere to take out The Undertaker in order to provoke him into a ‘Mania rematch. Those two years used the unpredictability of the chamber match to great effect, but the Wyatt attack on Cena this year was perhaps a little less well handled, though Bray was of course fresh from defeating The Shield.
Maz mentioned Macho’s Wrestlemania IV title win in his discussion of the one night story trope, and that’s an amazing old school version of the trope, but other giants of the past were also responsible for some fantastic storytelling during pay-per-views. Bret Hart did this several times. His King of the Ring win in 1993 involved three beautifully wrestled matches against three very different opponents, plus a feud beginning ambush on him by Jerry Lawler. The 1995 Rumble, Bob Backlund and Owen Hart cost Bret the chance to beat Diesel for the WWF Title so the Hitman appeared to beat the hell out of each man as they tried to enter the Rumble. Earlier in this series, we saw the New Hart Foundation spend Revenge of the Taker and Cold Day In Hell taking care of their enemies throughout the evening in backstage segments as well as in matches. Greatest of all though was Wrestlemania X back in 1994, when The Pink and Black Attack lost to his brother in the best curtain jerker of all time before winning the WWF Title from the monster Yokozuna. Until D Bry likely upstaged it, that was the best pure wrestling night of all time.
I suppose it would be remiss of us not to mention the infamous Bash At The Beach turn of Hulk Hogan; perhaps the most influential night of its kind there ever was. We probably wouldn’t have got the Rocky turn without it, after all...but this is a WWF focused series by two WWF guys, so I’ll just wrap this up now by saying that when it comes to storytelling, Vince and co always have the aces up their sleeves.
Deadly Game drew a massive 1.3, a stunning result for Survivor Series, which had always been the poor relation of the “Big Four”. The tournament helped the event make huge money for the WWF, particularly with almost 20,000 fans packed into the Kiel Center buying merch and refreshments to augment the PPV buys. With a new Corporation angle set to take the company all the way to Wrestlemania and beyond, the signs looked very positive as the calendar year 1998 came to a close.
I do think that Survivor Series 1998 was the event that really cemented WWF as the leaders in the Monday Night Wars. Big landmark moments are always pointed to but the brilliance of the rise of The Rock to go alongside Stone Cold’s rise pretty much made the next couple of years a foregone conclusion. WCW wouldn’t have an answer to what the WWF were putting on, despite still doing relatively well. World War 3 drew a more than respectable 0.75 but that was no match for Deadly Game. The card wasn’t a great one on paper, with Kevin Nash winning the traditional three ring battle royal and a US title main event between DDP and Bret Hart. But December would mean Starrcade and WCW would be looking to stop WWF’s momentum at their showpiece of the year. Vince, on the other hand, would be looking to run away with things with a new corporate champion in place.
You can hear more from Mazza and Maverick on The Right Side of the Pond, part of LoP Radio. New episodes every are out every Friday at 9pm UK time/4pm EST.
On tonight’s show Mazza is joined by Bobby Cash yo look at the latest happenings as well as WWE recent UK tour. Maverick and Plan are back with another of the 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die and it’s a Toofa as we look at the main events of WrestleMania 9.
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