Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We Are At War: WWF Unforgiven 1998

So Spring Stampede last week was, for the most part, pretty good. The undercard matches were competitive, and the nWo matches were overall tolerable. So many of the things we're led to believe about WCW remain true today. But how will the WWF product hold up?

Unforgiven, April 26th, 1998

We're coming off one of the most significant Wrestlemanias of all time, with Steve Austin firmly at the helm, Rock and HHH building up slowly with their factions on the undercard. We're in for what looks like a loaded card, including the infamous first ever Inferno match between Undertaker and Kane.

The commentary team is the now iconic pair of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This may come as a shock, but they're just as good as people remember them being. They had their flow down, and very seldom did they talk over each other, a problem that plagued the WCW commentary team last week.

Farooq, Ken Shamrock, and Steve Blackman vs The Nation (The Rock, D'Lo Brown, and Mark Henry) w/Kama Mustafa
Shamrock was unusually hot this night. It's amazing how of all six of these men, only two would go on to hold world titles in this company. The story that the Nation had betrayed Farooq translates well nineteen years later, and even if Ross wasn't driving the point home the psychology in the ring would tell you. The match started off really hot, but once we got to the heat that lasted 20 minutes in this 10 minute match, the crowd died a death. It seriously got worse until I was begging for the match to be over. Which came about 30 seconds after the hot tag, where Farooq pinned Rock.

Meltzer Rating: 1/2*
The match started very good, but then died a death as I said. Shame.

Triple H vs Owen Hart for the European Championship, Chyna in a Shark Cage
A week ago I said that AJ Styles was my favorite all-time wrestler. But for a long time, Owen Hart easily held that spot. He's still easily in my top 10, and is probably never leaving. But Race almighty, was he acting like a dork in this match, He seemed to be channeling every hokey 80s southern babyface. Maybe he was just trying to make himself laugh. The match was building up to being a good performance, before the bullshit happened.

So try and follow me, and remember I'm making none of this up.
Chyna, suspended in a cage 20 feet in the air, bends the cage bars and escapes. She proceeds to dangle from the cage, which gets lowered by Road Dogg. She then distracts about 6 people, so that X-Pac could clonk Owen in the head with a fire extinguisher, so Hunter could get the pin.

Got that? Don't care, moving on

Meltzer Rating: **3/4
It would have been good, bu then the shenanigans made it pointless.

The New Midnight Express w/Jim Cornette vs The Rock and Roll Express for the NWA Tag Team Championships
It was a traditional 80s tag team match, in the middle of the Monday Night Wars. t some point you could feel the crowd trying to care, but they really couldn't. I wanted to get myself excited for this match, but couldn't because of the dead crowd. Mechanically the match was fine, and there was some fun double team spots from the Midnight. But God bless all five men involved, but they were out here to die a death. Midnight won.

Meltzer Rating: *
Jim Cornette was out there and making it somewhat entertaining.

Sable vs. Luna Vachon, Evening Gown Match
What a fucking relic this match was. The fact that this got the second biggest reaction on the show is ridiculous. Sable's dress did a good job of not showing how big Sable's chest was. Seriously, you could kill a mini with those things. I don't know what else to say, there was tits abound.

Meltzer Rating: 1/2*

New Age Outlaws vs LOD 2000 w/Sunny for the WWF Tag Team Championships
Sunny is ridiculously hot. Hawk and Animal are getting on in age,but at this point they still look alright. Road Dogg did his singalongcoming out, and part of the crowd was going along with it. This was the Road Warriors trying to do a WWF tag match with heat and comebacks, and it's never worked in the past and didn't work here. Hawk got beat up forever, and only Jerry Lawler's commentary could save me. The match ended in a German Dusty finsih, completely wasting everyone's time.

Meltzer Rating: 3/4*
Tag team wrestling in the late 90s was dead as a door nail. It'll be another year and change before we get the E&C/Hardys revival.

I'm not sitting through a Jeff Jarrett Concert. Y'all can go fuck yourselves.

 Kane vs The Undertaker, Inferno Match
A match that turned out to be very good on camera, this was the first really entertaining match on the show. The second official match in the Goddamn Feud That'll Never End, it was a well paced Kaiju fight surrounded in fire for aesthetic.Eventually, the match spilled outside, and The Undertaker managed a spectacular dive over the top rope and the fire. The ending fell flat, seemingly almost an accident in story, which is a shame for a very good monster fight. It took forever for Tim White to call for the bell, as Kane ran with his arm on fire to the back.

Meltzer Rating: **3/4
This match has been on at least two DVD sets before, so it's real easy to find this match on accident. Would I go out of my way to see this match on the Network? Maybe not, but if you're here for the main event, maybe consider watching this one.

Steve Austin vs. Dude Love for the WWF Championship
Dude Love was always my sleeper favorite persona of Mick Foley. This is Austin's first big show title defense, and already he's fully into the McMahon feud that arguably helped win the War. Despite the silence for about half the roster, the crowd went wild for Austin. While not a technical spectacle, the fight was a very good story between these two men. They brawled in the ring, outside the ring, up the ramp, back down the ramp, and eventually back in the ring. Then, in 1998, we had our first instance of a Montreal Screwjob tease, as McMahon came out after promising catastrophe earlier. We didn't get a Screwjob, however, as Austin murdered Vince dead with a chair, Stunned Love, and counted his own three count.


Meltzer Rating: ****
A good main event. The Austin character is fun to watch, despite the style of match not being my preference. But I can see the appeal, and in the end this was just the continuation of the story for next month.

They say you can forgive a bad undercard if there's a good main event. Well, despite a very good main event, and a fun Inferno match, the rest of this card just absolutely dragged the whole show down. This is the side that won the Monday Night War? This is the boom period that had millions of fans and thousands of PPV buys? It has to get better.


(All Meltzer Ratings taken form The May 4th, 1998 issue of the Wrestling Observer.)

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