Friday, August 21, 2015

WWF King Of The Ring 1998

King Of The Ring 1998 is known for exactly one thing; Hell In A Cell.

The other notable thing on King Of The Ring 1998 that occasionally gets mentioned; the First Blood match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kane for the WWF Championship.

The focus of the opening video package; the two aforementioned matches.

The King Of The Ring tournament that just so happens to be the reason for this PPV's existence; treated as an afterthought... and for good reason.

Headbangers/Taka Michinoku defeated Kaientai (comprising Sho Funaki, Men's Teioh, and xxx).

So, despite losing a match against Marc Mero last month that forced her out of the WWF forever, Sable is back and introduces Mr. MacMahon and the stooges. She slaps Pat Patterson on the way out and Jim Ross makes a gay joke. Way to be sensitive, JR.

KOTR Semi-Final Match: Ken Shamrock defeated Jeff Jarrett to advance to the finals. The match was short, yet hit all the points needed; Shamrock dominated until timely interference from Tenessee Lee (Col. Robert Parker to you older folks), Jarrett focusing on Shamrock's injured ankle until the comeback and eventually the ankle lock finish. It went by quickly, but it got the job done just fine.

On the flip side of the coin, you've got...

KOTR Semi-Final Match: The Rock defeated Dan Severn to advance to the finals thanks to timely interference from a chestpad-wearing D'Lo Brown. The Rock was then-Intercontinental Champion, while Severn was your NWA World Champion for three years running but you wouldn't know without looking into an issue of PWI or something. I'm sure this would mean something if you look too deeply into it... yeah, so this was a thing.

Too Much defeated Al Snow and Head when Christopher pinned Head... yes, Al Snow's mannequin head was an active participant in this match. This allowed for a "clever gag" where special referee Jerry "The King" Lawler tossed in an empty bottle of Head & Shoulders to Christopher so he could stick it under Head and pin the Head and... yeah, actually, that was pretty clever. Look, the match was just stupid for the sake of being stupid, but I can't say I wasn't cracking something resembling a grin here. Color me mildly amused.

X-Pac beat Owen with a Chyna DDT assist. This was a good little match that went overboard with the run-ins towards the end of it, but this was a fun thing that was there. No complaints. I thought it was fine.

WWF World Tag-Team champions NOA defeated the "New Midnight Express" to retain the titles. The "New Midnight Express" comprises "Bombastic" Bob Holly and "Bodacious" Bart Gunn and are your NWA World Tag-Team Champions, whose titles are not defended here. How Jim Cornette was ever convinced to go along with this obvious Russo brainfart is probably explained on one of his many podcasts and shoot interviews, but whatever. Anyway, the match... was a thing that happened.

Ken Shamrock defeated The Rock in the finals to become King Of The Ring, which strangely did not involve any semblance of coronations or crowns or any of those silly gimmicks... they wouldn't bring that back until Kurt Angle won it two years later. By this point, Shamrock and Rock have faced each other so many times that it's become old hat, but it's still a pretty good showing that's almost elevated by some entertaining HHH guest commentary. See, there used to be a time where HHH was actually funny on the mic and then somewhere along the way, this energy was sucked into the void called Stephanie McMahon and we're stuck with the McSon-In-Law who cuts twenty-minute insomnia-curing promos.

Undertaker defeated Mankind in a Hell In A Cell match. By now, so many people have said their piece on this match that there is almost literally nothing I can say that's new. You know the tale; they start on top of the cage, Foley falls through the table, they go back to the cage, Foley falls through the ceiling, and despite two falls that could've ended him, the match kept going until the "scripted" end came. It's not a pretty match, it's not technically inclined, it's far from any semblance of tradition in any sense of the word... but it was exactly what it needed to be.

When you have a match called Hell In A Cell, it's not supposed to be clean-cut or a wrestling clinic. It's supposed to be chaotic, it's supposed to be brutal, it's supposed to be a violent, bloody affair that is supposed to be life-altering. It is the amped up equivalent to what an old-school NWA steel cage match would've been. And while the first Cell match between Taker and Shawm might've told a better story, this Cell match defined its reputation as a match made in hell. And hell is what you expect out of Hell In A Cell. And that's generally why they didn't do a whole lot of them until recently when it became just another annual gimmick match.

Nowadays, Hell In A Cell is a joke, reduced to a gimmick that happens on a yearly basis. It's just a wider steel cage that feels about as insane, brutal, and chaotic as staring at a picture of kittens. When I get the usual hype job about all the familiar taglines and quotes regarding Hell In A Cell to promote a Cell match in modern-day WWE, I just scoff, roll my eyes, and say, "Yeah, sure, pal." Because nothing they do now is going to live up to that hype and the kind of matches that Hell In A Cell should produce is a product of a bygone era.

Kane defeated WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood match to win the title; a win that came about when Undertaker hit Austin with a chair and that busted him wide open. Austin would get a rematch and win back the title the next night, thus rendering this entire affair useless. That having been said, this is a match that you can enjoy or not and I found myself enjoying this far more than I expected to. The one thing I'll say is that it isn't boring, what with the cage lowering and the last minute run-ins. It's the usual brawlfest that is identified as "WWF Main Event style", but it's pretty decent stuff, otherwise.

So that was King Of the Ring '98. And while it's mainly known for one (maybe two) big matches, the rest of the show is actually fairly decent stuff. In recent years, I find that a lot of the Attitude Era doesn't hold up that well, but sometimes, you'll find something that not only holds up well, but can make for a good show on its own. And this is one of them.

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