Lee Maughan: With the switch from Coliseum Home Video to the in-house distribution of WWF Home Video came a revamping of the titling of the In Your House series of VHS releases. No longer would the retail versions carry a confusingly different title to the pay-per-view it actually contained (no more renaming In Your House 2 as Terminators ‘95 etc), and from this point on, all U.S. pay-per-view events are released on home video in chronological order after In Your House: DeGeneration X was bizarrely left unreleased in the States. Unfortunately, that hasn’t made our lives any easier as many of the UK-exclusive pay-per-view events got released out of sequence, and WWF Home Video rolled over Coliseum’s nasty trait of assigning apparently arbitrary catalogue numbers to many of its releases. The upshot of that is since The Complete WWF Video Guide series chose to compile our lists using catalogue numbers, several personality profile-type releases may begin to appear out of sequence. Hopefully this shouldn’t affect your reading pleasure too greatly.
Back in 1996, the WWF adopted a strategy of branding its pay-per-view events with titles relating to the main events it had planned, such as subtitling In Your House 8 “Beware of Dog”, owing to the presence of Davey Boy Smith in the main event. Obviously there was a risk factor involved as promotional material for the events had to be sent out months in advance, which came back to bite the promotion in the ass when Shawn Michaels refused to lose the WWF title to Vader at SummerSlam ‘96, with the knock-on effect that December’s In Your House 12: It’s Time that was to have been built around ‘the Mastodon’ suddenly bore no correlation to him whatsoever. Similarly, Michaels’ again forced the WWF’s hand for February 1997’s In Your House 13: Final Four after he vacated the WWF title three days prior to the event, leaving Vince McMahon and his crew to scramble to put together a way of crowning a new champion. By late 1997, the WWF had begun quietly phasing out the In Your House name, replacing it with a slew of indistinguishably generic titles like Armageddon and Judgment Day, titles that would stick around for years and become synonymous with the term “B-show”. At hand would be this show, the first of the No Way Out events that annually fell during the post-Royal Rumble, pre-WrestleMania season, often marking it out as something of a dead rubber of a show until WWE finally struck upon the concept of running annual Elimination Chamber matches with title shots at stake, thus giving the cards a modicum of meaning.
But this is 1998. The only titles on the line are the near-worthless Light Heavyweight strap and the tinpot NWA North American Heavyweight crown. All the principal WrestleMania matches are set in stone, or in the case of the Undertaker vs. Kane, have been strongly hinted at. And we’ve got an indistinguishably generic title for the show. Oh, and Shawn Michaels is still throwing gigantic wrenches into main event plans. Admittedly, he’s got a pretty valid excuse this time around, having blown out his back during a casket match with the Undertaker at last month’s Royal Rumble. No replacement has yet been announced for him, but rather ominously, Jerry Lawler (hosting tonight’s show alongside Jim Ross) immediately tries to lower fan expectations by calling Michaels irreplaceable. He’s got a point.