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WWF Royal Rumble 1998

by Scrooge McSuck

- Originally broadcasted live, on Pay-Per-View, on January 18th, 1998, from the San Jose Arena in San Jose, CA. Here's a show where my original review was so all over the place (and bad, and lazy looking) that I'm not even going to bother borrowing from it and going with a completely fresh recap. If there was ever a show when every important match had an obvious finish, this would be it.

- Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are calling all the action for us American viewers, while a tap of the SAP button on your remote control allowed you to listen to Tito Santana and Carlos Cabrera. Ray Rougeau and Jean Brassard are at the less popular French Broadcast Position, so you know it's a big deal... oh, and some boxer is there, too. Mark Tyler or something.

Opening Match: Vader vs. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (w/ Luna):

Two years earlier, Vader was making one of the most anticipated Royal Rumble debuts in WWF history. Here, he's opening the show with a barely motivated Goldust, working a gimmick I still can't figure out. Was he some sort of tortured artist as well as playing off the name of Prince, or what? He's looking extra bloated here, too. Goldust pounds away before the bell. Whip to the ropes and Vader plows through Goldust like nothing. He winds up for a clothesline, scaring Goldust out of the ring. Vader follows, and lays out both Goldust and Luna in one shot. Vader sends Goldust into the steps. Kinda. I don't know how you blow that spot, but they did. Vader grabs the steps, but the referee talks him out of it. Luna creates a distraction, allowing Goldust to connect with a clothesline. Goldust with an elbow across the midsection, and we take it to the floor, again. This time Vader is able to make contact with the steps. Luna with the high-heel shoe of doom behind the referee's back. Goldust with mounted punches, and the crowd counts along, out of habit. Goldust with a well placed kiss, and Vader responds with a turn-you-inside-out clothesline. Goldust attempts a slam, with no luck. Vader with a suplex and splash for two. Vader with a short-arm clothesline, then takes forever to follow up. Goldust with a low blow to interrupt the Vader-Bomb, and both men are down. Vader crushes Goldust to counter a sunset flip. He pulls him to the corner for Vader Bomb attempt #2. Luna runs in and hops on Vader's back, but he continues climbing the ropes, and comes crashing down on Goldust for the three count at 7:52. Nice to see a clean victory for a babyface, and a cool spot to end it, but the match as a whole, otherwise, sucked.

Midget Madness: Max Mini, Nova, Mosaic vs. Batallion, Tarantula, El Torito:

Special Referee: Sunny
Why? There's a time and a place for a match like this, and that's called bathroom breaks or after-intermission house shows, right down to having a random special referee. Typical PPV formula for Sunny: Finding a place on the show where you don't belong, just for the hell of it. I hate to do this, but I'm not going to bother sitting through the 10-minutes this match takes to get through. If you've seen one midget luchadore match, you've seen them all: countless arm drags and a few head scissors, with an end sequence where everyone hits a high spot, even at the expense of their partners. Max Mini ends up pinning El Dorito with a crucifix. The only real notable moments of the match were the endless midget jokes from Jerry Lawler, mostly regarding Max Mini. If you like tasteless jokes about short people, this is the match for you!

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Rock © vs. Ken Shamrock:

It was very recently on an episode of WWF Raw where Mark Henry joined the Nation of Domination and helped lay a beatdown on Ken Shamrock. The Rock/Shamrock program went on for a good six months (on and off), over the Intercontinental Title, and ended at King of the Ring, in a Non-Title Match, but as the Finals of the Tournament. Talk about lack of blowoff. I don't count that finale as a real blowoff to a feud. Rock with some stalling to start. Lockup into the corner and Shamrock avoids a cheap shot. Lockup, repeat, this time Shamrock blocking the right and landing one of his own. Criss-cross sequence ends with Shamrock landing a kick across the chest, then knocking Rock to the floor. J.R. still has a problem with not caling him Rocky Miavia. Back in the ring, Rock unloads with rights, then follows into the corner with a clothesline. Shamrock with a pair of his own clotheslines, but a hurricanrana is countered with a stun gun. Rock wtih stomping. He stomps him, and stomps him, then stomps him some more. Whip to the ropes, and Shamrock comes back with a body press. Shamrock with a Fisherman Suplex for two. Rock with a clothesline to slow things back down. Shamrock offers a comeback until Rock comes off the ropes with a DDT. He slaps on a chinlock, because the lord knows Rocky has been working his ass off all match. In twitter talk, that's #sarcastichumor. Shamrock with an overhead belly-to-belly, and now both men are down. J.R. with a subtle jab at WCW, saying this (the WWF) isn't the Senior's Tour. Shamrock catches Rock off the ropes with a powerslam for two. He "snaps" (kinda), but Rock thumbs the eyes. Shamrock comes back with a hurricanrana, and all of a sudden Kama Mustafa and D'Lo Brown show up. Rock with brass knuckles to KO Shamrock, then tucks them into Shamrock's tights. It's only good for two, obviously, and we'll see why. Shamrock with a belly-to-belly suplex for three at 10:55... BUT! The referee finds the knuckles, and reverse the decision. See, why would Rock do that unless it was to build toward's a bullshit finish? There's a reason why that Rock is best known for his promo's than a long list of great matches... he kind of sucked until 2000. This match is no exception to that.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The New Age Outlaws © vs. The Legion of Doom:

(Road Dogg & Billy Gunn vs. Hawk & Animal)
I don't like our chances of getting a good match here. The Outlaws have been running down the LOD for being too old (O-L-D!), beat them for the Tag Titles, and then along with D-X (back when it was just HBK, Hunter, and Chyna), beat them down and shaved part of Hawk's double-mohawk. The crowd, in my opinion, wasn't too into the LOD anymore, either, so I don't know why they kept trotting them out there as something meaningful. Road Dogg is swearing a Brett Favre jersey, so I'm guessing it's cheap heat of some sorts (Editor's Note: Favre's Packers had recently beaten the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC title and San Jose's considered part of the "Bay Area").

Outlaws with a sneak attack, with little luck. Animal plants Road Dogg with a powerbomb, but Gunn breaks the count. Outlaws try taking a walk, but the LOD bring them back. Hawk with a diving shoulder tackle, clothesline, and jumping fist drop. Jim Ross actually acknowledged Road Dogg being one of Bob Armstrong's sons. Animal with a chinlock, as we see the Road Dogg has a busted mouth. Hawk with a neck breaker. Gunn comes in, gets taken over with a hip toss, and Hawk pounds away. Animal with a back suplex, but an elbow drop misses. He has enough in him to take both Outlaws over with powerslams, then slaps a chinlock on Gunn. Hawk with a snapmare, and locks on an STF?! It's not quite as bad as John Cena's. Animal tags in, gets tripped up, and clotheslined to the floor. Road Dogg sends him into the steps, as J.R. keeps reminding us that Animal almost wasn't medically cleared to compete.Back in the ring, Hawk lays out the Outlaws with clotheslines. I guess Animal is having a hard time getting back in the ring, I don't know. Hawk posts himself on a charge, and finally Animal, the legal man, gets back in the ring, and should've been counted out 10 times over by now. Road Dogg has handcuffs with him, and 'cuffs Hawk to the ringpost, away from his corner. Animal slugs it out with both men and comes off the ropes with a double clothesline. He hits Gunn with a diving shoulder tackle and covers for two. Gunn with a slam, but a trip to the top rope is countered with a fucked up powerslam. Way to drop Billy on his head. Road Dogg runs in and blasts Animal with a chair for the Disqualification at 7:55. Hawk with his super-human strength to rip the handcuffs off the post, and clears the ring. Wow, TWO lame finishes to two Championship matches on a $30 PPV. Really getting our money's worth. Match sucked. I'm saying that a lot, today.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match:

We all know how this works... winner gets to face the WWF Champion at WrestleMania XIV. The entire focus of the show is on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin being a marked man, right down to him drawing a target on his own chest. I wonder who's going to win it, Steve Austin, or nobody else because the entire video package was dedicated to him. #1 is Cactus Jack, and #2 is Chainsaw Charlie, alter ego of Terry Funk. This should be fun. Cactus comes in with garbage cans and steel chairs, Charlie has his chainsaw. They exchange chair shots and have a sort of sword fight, but with chairs. "Charlie" willingly takes a shot to the head. Cactus offers a chair to him (how sweet), and takes his own blast. Then another. #3 is Tom Brandi, formerly Salvatore Sincere, but he's a Jobber (quoting Marc Mero), and gets tossed out in short order at 2:06. Cactus counters a piledriver on a chair, sets two chairs up, and drops Funk across both of them with a suplex. OUCH. #4 is the Rock, pulling double duty. He gets a garbage can put on his head and bashed with chairs, but falls through the ropes to stay alive. #5 is Headbanger Mosh. Funk tosses a chair at him, just for the fact he's a headbanger. Rock and Cactus pair up in the corner, before that meant anything. Funk to the top with one ugly, sucky looking moonsault "on" Mosh. #6 is Phineas Godwinn. He goes after often-rivaled Mosh, a rivalry absolutely no one cared about in 1997, or since. #7 is 8-Ball (we know because of the graphic on screen). Cactus misses a charge on Funk and is eliminated at 9:23, leaving a lot of uninteresting people in there. #8 is Blackjack Bradshaw, and more nothing happens. Mike Tyson will be on WWF Raw, "tomorrow" night, by the way. #9 is Owen Hart, and he gets jumped by Jef Jarrett, reigning NWA Champion. Don't ask. Owen doesn't make it to the ring... yet. He sure got treated like ass during that babyface run between December '97 and April '98. #10 is Steve Blackman. I don't think he's going to win, either. Funk teases a bunch of eliminations, while everyone else just hugs ropes and punches. There's the summary of the last 5-6 minutes.

#11 is D'Lo Brown, Nation member #2 of the night. Other than the Rock, there's a lack of star power in there. Just tag team wrestlers and Blackman. Rock and D'Lo work together briefly, then start slugging it out with each other. #12 is Kurrgan, and hopefully he cleans house. Mosh mounts him in the corner and gets dumped at 18:39. #13 is "Marvelous" Marc Mero, with Sable. He goes after Blackman with rights and lefts as we get a loud Sable chant. Kurrgan tosses Blackman at 20:18, then has a staredown with Bradshaw. Rock gives it to D'Lo, because the Rock using his Nation buddies to help him last throughout the match ISN'T a good idea? Whatever. #14 is Ken Shamrock, also pulling double duty. He goes after Kurrgan and knocks him down with a heel kick. Everyone gangs up to toss him out at 21:48. Surprisingly, Shamrock DOESN'T go for the Rock. Rock with the People's Elbow on Funk, without any hype or reaction. #15 is Headbanger Thrasher. Too bad Mosh is already gone, meaning he's more filler without something interesting to do. Predictably, he goes after Phineas. What was the hard on for Godwinns/Headbangers?! #16 is... MANKIND!? Well, I guess it's not against the rules to enter twice, as long as it's as two different personas. He goes right after Funk and throws him out at 25:24. He goes after Rock, again before it meant anything. There's 9 bodies in the ring, which is becoming to be too much to make for anything interesting. #17 is TAFKA Goldust, complete with no attire and new hair color (formerly green, now blue). He tosses Mankind with little effort at 27:50. That was a short stay. #18 is NWA North American Champion Jeff Jarrett, with zero reaction. Owen makes his return and pounds away on Jarrett while Mero stands there watching. I guess he's pulling a '93 Tenryu. Owen skins the cat and tosses Jarrett at 30:09 to the best pop of the night. #19 is the Honkytonk Man, for no good god damn fucking reason. The Rock tosses Shamrock at 30:38. Triple H and Chyna come out too, and help eliminate Owen at 31:12 with a well placed crutch shot across the back.

#20 is Ahmed Johnson. He's long past stopped caring at this point, and Jim Ross and Lawler makes fun of him the whole time for wearing ear rings. I just thought of a good idea for a tag team... Honkytonk Man and Brian Christopher. Lawler could pretend there's no relation to either of them the whole time. #21 is Mark Henry, Nation Member #3. "Mark Henry is handling the big Johnson with those tree like arms" is your dirty, out of context line of the night. #22 is No One. Henry and D'Lo toss Ahmed at 36:05. Phineas goes next, at 36:16. #23 is Kama Mustafa, Nation Member #4. All four in the ring, and STILL not working together to clear the ring. How are Bradshaw and 8-Ball still in this?! #24 is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and might as well call the match now. He sneaks in to toss out Mero at 39:33. 8-Ball goes next at 39:46. Seems like everyone gave up on ganging on Austin pretty damn fast. Even Lawler points it out. #25 is Henry Godwinn. He goes right after Austin... thank goodness he didn't target Thrasher. Sadly, THRASHER makes the save. #26 is Savio Vega, joined by the entire Los Boricuas. Austin fights all of them off, leaving just Savio. There's 11 in there, making it hard to pay attention to anything, if there was anything worth watching that is. #27 is Faarooq, the final Nation member, and pointless because the Nation did nothing all match. Rock tosses Austin through the ropes for a brief little ringside brawl. #28 is Dude Love, and why not, we've already seen Cactus Jack and Mankind. He tosses Bradshaw at 46:41, and no one cares. Rock with another People's Elbow, and it's amazing how that suddenly got over. #29 is Chainz, and no one cares. Faarooq dumps someone out at 48:39. I think it was D'Lo. #30 is the Man They Call Vader, rounding out the field.

Time to clean house! Honkytonk Man is tossed by Vader at 50:31. Austin back drops Thrasher out at 51:32, then dumps out Kama at 51:39. Savio goes for a piledriver on Austin, but it's countered, and Austin throws him out at 52:22. Goldust clotheslines Vader out at 52:30. Probably redemption for the loss earlier in the night. Henry Godwinn misses a clothesline and is gone at 52:41. Chainz tosses Goldust at 52:52. Austin backs Chainz over the turnbuckle and out at 53:14. Mark Henry is tossed to the apron and knocked out at 52:24. Way to blow your own elimination spot, Mark. Final Four: Austin, Dude Love, Rock, and Faarooq. Austin/Rock and Dude/Faarooq pair up. Dude with sweet Shin Music and a double-arm DDT on the Rock. Austin turns on Dude, goes low on him, and Faarooq clotheslines Dude out at 54:29. Rock lays back, letting Faarooq do all the work on Austin, then tosses him out at 54:55. Rock and Austin trade rights. Whip to the ropes, Austin tosses Rock over, but he lands on the apron. Austin with the Stunner, and Rock is gone at 55:25, giving it to Austin for the second year in a row. One of the worst Rumble's, just for the boredom. There wasn't a technical problem with it like in 1999, with terrible booking. This was just lazy booking: Nothing of excitement other than the start, Foley making three appearances, and Austin's entrance. The very definition of paint by numbers formula when it comes to the Rumble match.

WWF Championship, Casket Match:
Shawn Michaels © (w/ Triple H & Chyna) vs. The Undertaker:

This program just wouldn't die, would it? They blew it off at Badd Blood with the first ever Hell in a Cell Match, and are using it again as filler, just to transition Undertaker into officially challenging Kane at WrestleMania XIV. Oh, yeah, I forgot: Kane saved Undertaker from a DX beating on Raw, so you know they're on good terms again. Undertaker no-sells Shawn's offense, but has a hard time getting his hands on the little rat. Whip to the corner is reversed, and Undertaker counters a body press with a double choke lift. Undertaker tries to press slam Michaels into the casket, can't, and then we get the infamous back drop onto the casket. The bump that is credited to ending Michaels in-ring career until a miracle comeback in the Summer of 2002. Undertaker slams him on the floor and dumps him into the casket, but he hops right out. Back in the ring, they exchange counters until Undertaker lays him out with a roundhouse right. 'Taker with a slam, but he misses an elbow. He goes old school for Vintage Undertakerô. Whip to the corner, and Michaels takes the Harley Race bump to the floor. Shawn to the top, and Undertaker counters with a powerslam. Shawn gets thrown in the casket, but blinds 'Taker with a handful of "powder" before the lid can be completely closed.

Back in the ring, Michaels with a series of rights and lefts. Undertaker decides to no-sell and goes for a chokeslam, but Michaels rakes the eyes and comes off the top with a standing moonsault. Michaels with a clothesline, sending Undertaker to the floor. He pulls Shawn right out and rams him into the security rail. Jim Ross references Undertaker's only previous loss in a casket match (I guess we'll ignore the multiple others) at a previous Royal Rumble. Michaels sends him into the steps, then slams them across the back. Michaels with a piledriver across the steps to really add insult to injury. Helmsley gets a few shots in with his crutch, in plain view of the referee. No Disqualifications! Shawn with a chair across the back. Back in the ring, Michaels with a diving elbow as Jim Ross mentions names like Diesel and Sid as previous big men that Michaels defeated. He rolls Undertaker in to the casket, but that just wakes him up. Michaels with a swinging neck breaker, then slaps on a sleeper hold. 'Taker counters with a back suplex to break the hold. Shawn comes off the ropes with a diving forearm, nips up, and comes off the top rope with his signature elbow. Sweet Chin Music connects, and it's time to roll him into the casket. To the surprise of no one, 'Taker mounts the comeback. Whip to the corner, and Undertaker connects with a clothesline. He misses a lariat, rolls into the casket, and Michaels follows in with an elbow. They close the lid, but it can't end this way. Suddenly Shawn tries to claw his way out, but Undertaker drags him back by the ankle. Back in, the ring, Undertaker with the chokeslam. He Tombstones Shawn into the casket, and it's run in time: The New Age Outlaws and Boricuas go after 'Taker, but Kane shows up to clean house. Then the pyro fails to go off, he turns on his brother, and chokeslams him into the casket, giving the victory to Michaels at the 20-minute mark. Excluding the finish, It's really hard to make a casket match something worth watching. This wasn't a classic, but it was probably the best casket match ever, and while that sounds like a backhanded compliment, it's not. I hate the gimmick, and anything above watchable deserves some recognition.

Post-match, Paul Bearer comes out, puts a padlock on the casket, and Kane sets it on fire to end the PPV. Don't worry, the next night we found out that once the fires were extinguished, the lid was opened and the Undertaker was no longer in there. What does he do, turn himself into gas, or something? We all know the trap-door trick, but logically explaining it within the context of the match as a mark, what does he do? Why doesn't he use these magic powers when it would benefit him at other times, like winning matches? I don't know why I'm complaining, I really liked this feud, up until WrestleMania, when it should've come to an end.

Final Thoughts: I don't know what WCW was doing at the time, but it couldn't have been much worse than this. We get a Royal Rumble Match that had absolutely zero mystery to who was going to win, that was also lacking in any creative ideas and booking spots other than making Mick Foley dress up as all three of his personas. The three championship matches all had bullshit and/or overbooked nonsense, and two of them were poor matches, quality wise, when taking the finishes out of the discussion. The opener stunk, and we had 10-minutes of filler, on a Royal Rumble PPV, with luchadore midgets. Honestly, if not for a pretty good match between the Undertaker and Shawn, this might've went down as one of the worst PPV's ever.

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