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WWF In Your House: Unforgiven (April 1998)

by Scrooge McSuck

Steve Austin

- The train has ran through WrestleMania XIV, and to quote Jim Ross, “The Austin Era has begun.” WWE would later change that to “The Attitude Era”, since revising history is their specialty. On the other hand, they’ve also lost one of their top stars to a potential career-ending injury, and have a huge void at the top of the card to fill.

I was actually planning on doing a recap of the UK Exclusive “Mayhem in Manchester”, which took place about a week after WrestleMania. There was two problems though. One: The only known version of the show that exists on tape is heavily clipped and only leaves a good portion of about 3 of the 8 matches that took place, and Two: I can’t easily find the entire thing online, and am not going to go out of my mind hoping to find the 90-second clip of Brakus in action. - Originally presented on Pay-Per-View on April 26th, 1998 from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. I have to give credit to the opening video, which uses Fred Blassie reading from what I believe is Dante’s Inferno, and yes, they’re using it to hype the first-ever Inferno Match. It was a tempting gimmick, but financial reasons meant we just couldn’t order every PPV, so I missed out until watching it online during the early years of YouTube.

Ken Shamrock, Steve Blackman, Faarooq vs. Rocky Miavia, D’Lo Brown, Mark Henry (w/ Kama Mustafa):

It wasn’t long after WrestleMania where Faarooq was turfed from the Nation. Kama is slowly starting to morph into his Godfather look, and thus showing off charisma for the first time in his career. Blackman and D’Lo start. They trade blows until D’Lo takes him over with a snap suplex. Blackman rolls away from an elbow and takes D’Lo over with an arm drag. Shamrock with a single leg roll up, but D’Lo winds up in the ropes. Faarooq tags in and gets bitch slapped. Whip to the ropes and Faarooq counters a leap frog with a spine-buster. He whips D’Lo with his belt to the crowd’s approval. Henry tags in, pounding away on Blackman. He connects with a pair of sloppy back breakers and an elbow drop. D’Lo with the Sky High (before it had a name) for two. Rock tags in for the first time, while Faarooq is in a compromised position, of course. Henry with a slam and elbow drops for two. Blackman tags in and gets planted with a power-slam. Brown with a slam and second rope elbow for two. Rock tags back in, gets some shots in, and tags back out. Blackman with a surprise small package for two. Rock hits the People’s Elbow, which is getting a bigger reaction each show. Brown with a back breaker, but a moonsault misses. Faarooq gets the hot tag and unloads on all three Nation members. Rock with a DDT on Faarooq for two. Kama is illegally pounding on Shamrock on the floor, but nobody cares. Faarooq with the Dominator on Rock, and that’s enough for three at 13:37. I’m surprised by the clean finish, so we’ll probably get Faarooq vs. Rock for the IC Title the next month. *1/2 Standard 6-Man action. Nothing to really stand out, but it wasn’t awful. Shamrock was almost a non-factor.

WWF European Championship Match:
Triple H © (w/ Chyna) vs. Owen Hart:

Special stipulation of the match: Chyna is to be locked inside a cage, so expect someone else from DX to run in, possibly the recently debuted X-Pac (Sean Waltman, formerly the 1-2-3 Kid). Owen attacks Helmsley during the long process of getting Chyna in the cage. Did he smash him on the nose with a water bottle? So that’s where he got the idea for his entrance… Owen with a suplex on the concrete, and the bell finally rings. Owen sends Hunter back to the floor with a clothesline. Back inside, Owen pounds away until getting dropped face-first across the turnbuckle. Whip to the ropes and Hunter with his signature high knee. Hunter with a suplex and knee drop for two. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline for another two count. Whip to the corner, with Owen taking the chest-first bump, but it only gets two. Owen with a handful of tights to take Hunter over with a sunset flip. Hunter with a swinging neck breaker for two. Owen teases a comeback until ramming his own shoulder into the post. Hunter with the face-buster for two. Owen counters a suplex with a German suplex for a near fall. We see Chyna actually bending one of the bars (to a collection of groans) as Owen takes Hunter over with an over-head belly-to-belly suplex. Enziguri of Doom gets two. Owen with an inverted atomic drop and spinning heel kick for two. Owen with a piledriver and top rope elbow drop. He loses his focus watching Chyna and gets knocked to the floor. Owen recovers, knocking Hunter off the apron with a headbutt and trapping him in the ropes. Chyna very unwisely teases climbing down, but that’s a LONG drop onto exposed concrete. Back in the ring, Owen hits the DDT and turns Hunter over with the Sharpshooter. The cage starts lowering (Courtesy of the NAO), so Owen lets go. The referee gets distracted as Owen hits Hunter with the Pedigree! Here comes X-Pac, bashing Owen with a fire extinguisher, and Hunter retains at 12:25. *** Good match, but the crowd seemed to be over this angle, which has been stretched out for almost four months, and Owen jobbed every time I can recall them meeting. Post-match, Owen declares “enough is enough” and says he’s going to put an end to the “bull shit.” I never understood the necessity of using profane language.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. The New Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette):

(Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson vs. Bombastic Bob & Bodacious Bart)
This is advertised as a “bonus” match. I consider it a waste of time. I guess the RnR Express has turned face to accommodate the Greensboro history. Holly and Gunn get such a non-reaction you’d think the entire crowd left for the toilets and concessions. I guess Vince (take your pick which) thought the words bodacious and bombastic were still in vogue. The RnR Express actually come out to the Rockers theme music. Holly and Gibson start. Boring criss-cross ends with Holly being knocked to the floor with a shoulder tackle. Back inside, Morton and Gibson double-team Holly. Lawler’s genius commentary for this match: “what color panties do you think Sable is wearing?” Why do I have the feeling this might be the match highlight? The Midnights continue to have miscommunications, but nobody cares. Bart casually hooks an abdominal stretch to no reaction. Cornette throws a tantrum and challenges referee Tim White to a fight… and THIS wakes up the crowd. Morton ends up playing face-in-peril (otherwise known as “playing Ricky Morton” to the older members of the IWC). Gunn with a powerslam for two. A (very) small section of the crowd musters a weak “Rock ‘n’ Roll” chant for about 2-seconds. Gibson with the hot tag and it doesn’t take long for all four men to cause chaos. Holly with a bulldog from out of nowhere, allowing Bart to cover for three at 7:21. DUD This had no purpose, especially when the “highlights” are Lawler’s perverted commentary and a comedy sequence with Cornette and the referee.

Evening Gown Match: Sable vs. Luna (w/ TAFKA Goldust):

No Mero with Sable, but you can sense he’ll run in at some point. Yeah, this is the first-ever in a long history of having the female workers sacrifice their dignity for the sake of perverts. As a heterosexual man, it takes a LOT for me to openly complain about attractive women running around in as little clothing as possible. They claw at each other and quickly start ripping off their sleeves. Luna rips off and chokes Sable with her own skirt, and the match might as well be over. Sable with a takedown for weak “cat-fighting”, and as expected, here’s Mero to create a distraction. Luna sneaks up and removes the rest of Sable’s outfit for the win at 2:35. Sable, sore-loser she is, gives Luna a Sable-Bomb and removes her evening gown, as well. They end up under the ring and give us the illusion that Luna has been stripped of her under-garments. NR It was short, but I still feel ashamed of watching this kind of crap.

- Vince McMahon comes out for an extended talking segment. They’ve been teasing a possible “Screw-job” of Steve Austin all night. Yeah, they were still beating that into the ground.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The New Age Outlaws © vs. LOD 2000 (w/ Sunny):

(Road Dogg & Billy Gunn vs. Hawk & Animal)
Yet another of the failed attempts at pushing the LOD, except now they have new hair-styles and Sunny in their corner, finally finding something to do after a year of just showing up. The NAO taunt the crowd by mocking the (at the time) recently retired head coach of the North Carolina NCAA basketball team, Dean Smith. Gunn has “Mr. Ass” on his tights, so we can assume that character change has just started setting in. Animal with a shoulder tackle and clothesline for the first near fall. Road Dogg tags in and gets his arm worked on. Hawk with a power-slam and jumping fist drop. He slingshots Gunn back in and hits a diving shoulder tackle. Hawk with a shoulder tackle (after originally blowing the spot) for a two count. Double elbow from the LOD gets two. Animal with a power-slam for two. They go for the Doomsday Device (called “Devastation Device” by JR) but Gunn clips the knee and Animal gets to play face-in-peril. The Outlaws take turns working the leg, doing little of note. Gunn with the Fame-Asser, still called a “Rocker Dropper”, for two. Animal counters a piledriver with a back drop, sweeps the leg, and makes the hot tag to Hawk. He plants Road Dogg with a slam and comes off the top with a splash, but Gunn runs in and KO’s him with a tag title belt. To my surprise, it only gets two. The Outlaws have a miscommunication and Hawk bridge suplexes Road Dogg for the three count and titles at 12:22!?! Nope, wait a minute… the referee has decided after the match that the Outlaws won, even though neither of Hawk’s shoulders were down, and the LOD didn’t use a weapon to draw a DQ. The LOD respond by giving referee Jack Doan the DOOMSDAY Device. DUD The LOD clearly had nothing left in the tank, and the Outlaws aren’t nearly good enough to drag a good match out of them. On the plus side, you can see Road Dogg and Billy Gunn developing their personalities each passing month.

- We waste even MORE PPV time with a live performance from Sawyer Brown, which is just an excuse to bring back that wonderful “Double J” gimmick for Jeff Jarrett, now managed by “Tennessee Lee”, formerly Col. Robert Parker in WCW, and Robert Fuller to older southern fans.

Inferno Match: The Undertaker vs. Kane (w/ Paul Bearer):

This is another first. Instead of two women stripping each other down to their bra and panties, its two over-sized zombie brothers trying to set each other on fire. For those unfamiliar with the gimmick, there’s a device set-up around the ring that quite literally creates a ring of fire. I can’t imagine the difficulty of trying to work in such an environment, along with being surrounded by intense heat. Slugfest to start. ‘Taker with an avalanche, followed by old school, giving the special effects guys a chance to shoot the flames high. Kane takes control, dropping ‘Taker onto the turnbuckle, followed by a clothesline. ‘Taker claws at the good eye to slow Kane down. Kane reverses a whip and connects with a power-slam. Bearer tosses a chair in the ring, and it’s not long for ‘Taker to take an unprotected shot to the head. ‘Taker gets a boot up on a charge and takes Kane down with a Russian leg sweep. Kane no-sells a leg drop and plants ‘Taker with a Choke-Slam. ‘Taker escapes Snake Eyes and responds with his own Choke-Slam. Kane sits up from that, and a double big boot puts them both down. Whip to the ropes and ‘Taker misses his flying lariat. Kane heads to the top rope and gets crotched for his efforts. ‘Taker climbs up and brings him down with a super-plex. ‘Taker tosses him over the top rope, but Kane avoids the flames. He tries taking a walk, so Vader returns from medical leave to renew that rivalry. Suddenly, ‘Taker goes flying over the top rope with a suicide dive! ‘Taker KO’s Kane with a pair of chair shots (who conveniently hides his arms under the ring), busts Paul Bearer up with one of the drums from the previous segment, and returns to ringside to boot Kane’s arm (clearly covered in some kind of thick gel) into the fire for the victory at 16:01. *1/2 It’s almost unfair to rate this on the traditional scale, but this was as good as the gimmick would allow, and the outcome was incredibly obvious (who’s going to burn? Undertaker or the guy completely covered for a properly gimmicked “fire” and quickly be extinguished?).

WWF Championship Match:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin © vs. Dude Love:

You read that right, Mick Foley has ditched the Cactus Jack persona in favor of a corporate suck-up version of the Dude-ster. In the weeks leading into this show, the famous episode of Raw headlined by the tease of Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon finally ended the streak of Nitro beating Raw in the ratings. Dude attacks before the bell, but Austin quickly takes control and sends him to the floor. Chase into the ring ends with a Thesz Press. Austin with a modified spine-buster and F-U elbow. Dude tries taking a walk, but Austin runs up from behind with a clothesline. He pulls him up onto the band stand and hip throws him off onto the exposed concrete! Dude counters a whip into the apron, but Austin bounces right back with a clothesline. Austin continues to control until crotching himself along the ropes going for a sit-down splash. Dude with a whip to the corner, followed by a bulldog. Dude with his own brand of mud-hole stomping. Austin teases a comeback, but goes down with a knee to the midsection. Dude with a snapmare into a body scissors as J.R. takes a not-so-subtle shot at WCW for having little belief in Austin and Mick Foley’s abilities.

While we take this rest-hold break, Mr. McMahon comes to ringside to watch the match and tease a potential screw-job. Austin escapes with elbows and stomps Dude low. He’s too distracted yelling at McMahon, allowing Dude to roll him up for two. Austin takes Dude down with a clothesline and wraps both legs around the post. You thought Mick had a limp before? He goes for a piledriver on the concrete, but Dude counters with a back drop. Foley sends Austin into the security rail, and now McMahon is getting in Austin’s face. Dude from behind, taking advantage of another distraction. Out of nowhere, J.R. makes a Steinbrenner and Bernie Williams reference. I vaguely remember something about it. Dude with an abdominal stretch, and McMahon wants the bell rung, but Austin quickly counters. Back to the floor, and Austin takes Dude over with a suplex onto the steps! Dude tries leaving through the crowd, but Austin follows and pounds away. He tosses Dude back over the rail, onto the time-keeper table. Back in the ring, Dude surprises Austin with a swinging neck breaker. He signals for Sweet Shin Music, but Austin counters and the referee gets wiped out. Dude counters the Stunner with the Mandible Claw. Austin punches himself free until Dude goes low on him. Dude goes for the Claw again, but gets back dropped out. Austin wrestles the chair from McMahon and gets it knocked back into his own face. Dude with the chair, and now Austin knocks it back at him. Austin with the chair, and he KO’s MCMAHON WITH IT! Back in the ring, Austin hits the Stunner, but there’s no referee, so Austin counts it himself at 18:58… and his music plays? After Austin’s celebration, it’s announced that the winner, by Disqualification, is Dude Love. ***1/2 Wild brawl, something that would become the standard for WWF main events. I don’t think anyone bought Dude Love as a legit contender, so the tease of a screw-job and the constant distractions from McMahon helped in creating drama. I’m OK with the finish, but imagine if this happened today. A non-finish where the big fan favorite technically loses his first title defense?

Final Thoughts: Not the greatest show to kick off a new era. The main event was exciting and delivered an unexpected finish, but at the same time, served as a cliffhanger just to sell the next PPV. The undercard had a few bright spots, but how many times can you see Shamrock and Friends vs. The Nation or Triple H needlessly going over Owen Hart? Throw in a hard-to-sit-through Inferno Match and a degrading match like Luna vs. Sable, and you’ve got a lot of negatives. On the plus side, you can see the evolution of a lot of the personalities, with guys like the New Age Outlaws, D’Lo Brown, and Kama/Godfather showing more and more personality as the year goes on. Still, Main Event and character development aside, this one gets a Mild Recommendation to Avoid.

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