#WF200(UK) – Best Of Raw 11

Arnold Furious: This is the highlights of Monday Night Raw from March and April 1998. Incidentally, this is one of the worst degraded tapes I own. I have no idea why stuff that’s a decade older is in better shape, but this one is just falling apart and virtually disintegrating in front of my very eyes, which is why we should be saving this for posterity. Incidentally Raw during 1998 really started to focus away from wrestling and more on storyline. The biggest of which was Austin-McMahon, but the entire company shifted away from a wrestling focus in 1998. Presumably because they didn’t have a lot of great workers (having lost Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in a very short space of time) and with writers who were more interested in doing soap opera type stuff.

 

Promo Time: Shawn Michaels
Mike Tyson is due to appear on Raw this evening, so HBK promises to make him an offer he can’t refuse. Shawn claims he’s tougher than Steve Austin, before promising a superkick in Stone Cold’s future. This baiting draws out the challenger for the WWF title at WrestleMania. Austin doesn’t care if he’s up against two guys, and Chyna, and just wades into the ring only for Kane’s music to break up proceedings. This was at a point where Kane just came out and destroyed whoever was in the ring. Paul Bearer makes a few threats, but Kane doesn’t come down. Steve Austin gets on commentary to rant about everything. He threatens to whup Shawn Michaels, Kane and Mike Tyson. Lots of talking to kick-start the tape, foreshadowing what is to follow.

 

Marc Mero vs. Tom Brandi
This came about as Brandi was “outed” by Mero as a jobber under a gimmick as Salvatore Sincere, so Brandi has dumped the persona and is now just wrestling as himself. He’s quite boring. Luna comes out to help Mero, allowing a low blow and the TKO finishes. Mero is confused by Luna’s assist, so Luna kisses him, which brings in Goldust for a 2-on-1 and Sable makes the save by kicking Luna’s ass. The match was just the finish, the storyline with Sable overrode everything Mero was doing. Like almost every other match on this tape the severe clipping doesn’t leave enough to rate.
Final Rating: Not rated

 

Promo Time: Vince McMahon
He introduces Mike Tyson to Cleveland. They don’t like him. Vince makes the mistake of calling Tyson the “baddest man on the planet”. Iron Mike comes out with his entourage, which is three bodyguards. Before Tyson can speak out comes DX to confront WrestleMania’s enforcer. Michaels calls Tyson out “right now, right here BOOOOOOOY”. They shove each other a bit before Michaels rips Tyson’s WWF Attitude shirt off to reveal a DX shirt. Mike looks to be having a riot hugging it out with DX. Shame he couldn’t figure out how to do a crotch chop. We clip ahead to later where Steve Austin comes out for a match with Kane, only for Shawn Michaels to superkick him on the stage. Paul Bearer rants about Kane having “one Tombstone left”, which brings out the Undertaker (complete with dramatic lightning bolt striking the stage) to accept a match with Kane at WrestleMania. The Tyson stuff was gold and got people switching to the WWF in droves, anticipating the unexpected.

 

Promo Time: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
He’s repping DX with Shawn Michaels hanging out in Texas (which he isn’t, even, it’s just another DX ruse). Shawn reminds us that last week DX signed Mike Tyson, thus practically guaranteeing HBK a win at ‘Mania and secondly he superkicked Steve Austin to prove the move will put Stone Cold down for the three if it connects.

 

We clip ahead to Steve Austin’s retort. He takes more exception to Vince McMahon’s “baddest man on the planet” comment than Michaels’ superkick. He calls Vince’s comment “an insult”. Austin grabs a chair and stages a sit in protest until Vince McMahon comes down to sort it out. Vince sends down a load of stooges but Austin sends them all back until McMahon himself comes out to the ring. Austin refers to himself as the “world’s toughest son of a bitch”. He orders Vince into the ring and says he’s insulted him for the last time. Vince says that it was just a figure of speech. Austin flips him off and Vince’s facial reaction is brilliant. Vince won’t give Austin a straight answer when Steve asks him if Vince wants him to be the WWF Champion. As Vince continues to back down, Austin demands Vince fight him. This is how Austin-McMahon was born. Cracking promo from Austin.

 

Later on Paul Bearer delivers yet another promo. As you can see the best of Raw in 1998 involved a lot of talking. Taker appears in the ring behind him and then disappears again. Presumably that’s mind games.

 

Backstage: Goldust and Luna talk about fighting Mero and Sable. Goldust issues the official challenge for a mixed tag at ‘Mania.

 

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Savio Vega
The ring is surrounded by officials, not to mention Los Boricuas, as Austin has threatened violence. Steve Austin comes down, Stunners a few officials and Savio, only for Shawn Michaels to appear out of the crowd and hit the superkick. Jerry Lawler wins bonus points by directly quoting Spaceballs.
Final Rating: Not rated

 

Promo Time: Sable
Ms. Hooterlicious comes out to talk, which nobody wants to hear. She calls Luna a little bitch and threatens to kick her ass.

 

Backstage: Luna responds by calling Sable an ignorant slut and threatens a makeover. The Best of Raw 11, ladies and gents; two women calling each other names.

 

Promo Time: Vince McMahon
He’s interviewed by Kevin Kelly. Vince calls Steve Austin unprofessional and claims that Shawn outsmarted him. Kelly asks Vince why he didn’t hit Steve Austin. Vince’s deluded answer is superb. He claims if he’d hit Steve Austin, he wouldn’t have made it to WrestleMania due to a broken jaw. The crowd’s “oooooohhhh” response about sums up Vince’s delivery and how stunning it was. Vince had been dabbling in heeldom before this, but the way he behaved here was a clear-cut message of his future intentions. Kelly asks Austin’s question again; did he want Austin to become WWF Champion? Vince calls Austin a PR nightmare and quotes A Few Good Men before making it clearer: “It’s not just a no, it’s an OH, HELL NO”. Vince as a subtle heel before he took it too far was TV gold.

 

Sable vs. Luna
There’s not really a match but the two have a pull-apart brawl while Goldust and Mero try and hold their respective ladies back. I’m not sure why this was billed as the third most important match at WrestleMania (after Austin-Michaels and Taker-Kane), but that shows you how popular Sable was at the time. Sable goes down with a bad knee and out comes Kane! Mero bails to “get help”. Sure. Kane would Tombstone Sable, which would have been all sorts of awesome for his heat, only for Undertaker to show up and misquote Pulp Fiction again. It’s “great vengeance and furious anger”, Mark. He stands atop the Titantron while running his spiel as Kane watches from the ring. Taker torches an effigy of Kane with his “powers”. I pretty much hated everything that happened between the Brothers of Destruction. Just as Undertaker was starting to become an actual honest to God wrestler, they pull all this crap and send him off into the wacky world of “powers” again. I used to watch Nitro when Taker’s segments aired.

 

Promo Time: Steve Austin
Kevin Kelly gets words with the future champ about what Vince McMahon said about him. Austin begins to rant, but that brings Commissioner Slaughter out here to book Austin against the Rock tonight on Raw. Austin’s response is that he might “lay in a headlock for 30-minutes” or “I might turn his lights out like that”. Slaughter says if Austin refuses to compete tonight his title shot at WrestleMania is gone. Austin takes offence and lays Slaughter out with a Stunner before doing a few push-ups.

 

Promo Time: Paul Bearer and Kane
Yet another display of yacking. This is Kane demonstrating his own “powers”. He fires a bit of mental lightning off and the crowd boo. Kane proceeds to blow up the monitors on the announce table. Kane’s third display is taking out a spotlight. The crowd are all “psssh, whatever” so Kane sets one of the TV crew on fire. I thought this was a ridiculous and dangerous stunt to get over the “powers” of two wrestlers. I always thought the Undertaker’s magical properties brought out the worst in him and this was more of the same.

 

Promo Time: Shawn Michaels
The champ is out to address the antics of Steve Austin and remind him that he’s not wrestling McMahon or Slaughter, but him. Shawn points out he’s the same age as Austin but he’s wrestled for five years longer and has multiple world titles. Shawn turns to Mike Tyson and asks him about WrestleMania. Tyson threatens to knock Austin out if he makes trouble. This is the “you will, Heartbreak” promo from Iron Mike that I thought sounded weird at the time.

 

Promo Time: Marc Mero
Vince Russo and Sable are in the ring too, Russo as editor for Raw magazine to present Sable with an award. If there’s one thing Raw needed less of it was Vince Russo. His voice grates at me. Sable thanks the fans and so on until Luna comes out and nails Sable with the award before ripping her dress off. Russo scurrying to cover her up is somewhat out of character, but it’s interesting to note he passed the plaque to Luna. “Why would you help ‘em?” says Mero, perhaps noting the same.

 

Steve Austin vs. The Rock
Rock is IC champion and they had a feud over the belt in late 1997, but Austin rose way above Rock up the card as soon as that feud was put to bed. After an opening feeling out process we clip ahead to the finish with Rock eating the Stunner. D’Lo Brown takes one too and out come DX to do some more talking. Are there any actual matches on this tape?
Final Rating: Not rated

 

Clips of WrestleMania XIV follow with Austin winning the belt and then for some ungodly reason they show the entire of Raw’s opening credits afterwards.

 

Promo Time: Vince McMahon
He has a killer suit on and he has the new WWF title belt over his shoulder. The announcement of Steve Austin coming out is deafening. Vince can’t even hear himself speak and thinks the mic is broken. You don’t get reactions like that every day of your life. Vince does a great sell of Austin throwing the old title down on McMahon’s foot. Vince tries to wheedle out of his previous criticisms of Austin and claims he’s proud of Austin being champion. Austin gets right in Vince’s face, tells him he won’t be changed or moulded and he hates him. “I am incapable of hate” says Vince, in a smug self-righteous move. “I find you to be a swell guy” he continues as the crowd chants “bullshit”. He then accidentally says “I love you” during his buttering up of Steve. Vince does a wonderful job of selling the situation and how uneasy he is. No wonder this feud took off like it did. “Ok hotshot, I love you too”. Vince becomes more confident as the promo goes on and demands we can do this “the easy way or the hard way”. The hard way is Vince forcing Austin to do it his way. Austin takes a moment to think about it and does a truly amazing sell of “thinking about it” as he turns to give Vince McMahon the Stunner. An iconic moment in the history of the WWF during Attitude, as Steve Austin gave authority the finger.

 

Promo Time: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
This is his famous promo about HBK dropping the ball and him picking it up. It was Hunter’s moment to shine as he took over as DX boss. He talks about the DX Army, an army to take care of business and do things right. “When you start an army… you look to your blood, you look to your buddies, you look to your friends, you look to the Kliq”. And here comes Sean Waltman. Sean’s anti-WCW rant is clipped, sadly. We clip ahead to the finish of the New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie cage match for the tag titles. Waltman chair shots Cactus back into the ring and the Outlaws finish with a spike piledriver to regain the straps. And thus a new DX is born.

 

Promo Time: Cactus Jack
This was another great promo, this time where Mick Foley talks about the agony of the cage match. It wasn’t worth the pain. Mick blames everything on Steve Austin with his name being cheered despite Cactus Jack being laid out in the ring. “Why don’t you just be Cactus Jack? Well, I gave you Cactus Jack…and when I was lying in there helpless, you chanted someone else’s name”. He puts over Austin for being his friend, but he calls the fans disrespectful and disgusting. He asks for an apology and none is forthcoming. “It’s not worth it anymore. It’s going to be a long time before you see Cactus Jack in the ring again”. Wonderful promo from Mick Foley.

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Rock (c) vs. Owen Hart
Rock has just assumed control of the Nation of Domination. The Nation interrupt one too many times and the ref sends them to the back. Owen and Rock have decent chemistry, which was the case with Owen and practically anyone with talent. Owen tries to wind up a clothesline, blocked into the Rock Bottom, countered with an elbow into the enzuigiri into the Sharpshooter. Great sequence. Chyna runs out to nail Owen with a baseball bat to save Rock’s title. DX come out on the stage to celebrate. This was too clipped to rate but it looked decent.
Final Rating: Not rated

 

Promo Time: Steve Austin
The Corporate Rattlesnake comes out in a blue suit and magenta tie. Vince McMahon’s massive smile makes this, as it shows he’s won, or at least he thinks he’s won. I’ve seen this promo many times. Vince criticises Austin’s rough edges; the wrestling boots and the Austin cap. You know how it goes; Steve Austin gets a photo with Vince and Austin together, punches Vince in the cock and points out it’s the last time he’ll ever see a Corporate Rattlesnake. I love Austin’s fake smile on the photo.

 

Promo Time: Steve Austin
Again. This time he wants to know who his opponent is at the next PPV and Vince McMahon hasn’t made his mind up yet. Austin accuses Vince of trying to sabotage his title reign because of his drinking, swearing and attitude. Austin thinks that Vince wants to be WWF Champion himself. Austin says he’ll put the title on the line tonight against Vince McMahon. The chairman of the board has a think about it and accepts later on the show.

 

WWF Championship
Steve Austin (c) vs. Vince McMahon
I wish I could say this was Vince’s only WWF title shot but hey, such is wrestling. There isn’t much of a match as Austin is reminded he said could “beat Vince McMahon with one arm tied behind my back” so Austin has one arm tied up. Before we get contact, out comes Dude Love. “Can’t we all just get along”. Dude doesn’t want a fight to happen in case his boss gets hurt and it effects his paycheques. Vince shoves him over so Dude goes after the Mandible Claw. Steve Austin tries to break it up and Dude puts him out with the Mandible Claw instead.

 

Promo Time: Paul Bearer
Bearer is out to talk about the Undertaker again. He reminds us Taker burned up his parents, but he didn’t make the funeral so Bearer and Kane have dug up the Taker’s mom and dad so they can have a funeral tonight. Taker shows up, so Paul torches one casket and Kane chokeslams Taker into the other one. “Sleep with your dead momma”. Eww. One of the most tasteless things the WWF had done to that point. It probably wouldn’t scrape a top twenty nowadays.

 

Dude Love vs. Steve Blackman
Dude has been named number one contender, which has somewhat turned the fans on him. Vince McMahon joins commentary to claim Dude’s interference saved Austin’s title. Blackman’s martial arts don’t mesh at all with Foley’s goofy Dude mannerisms. He can’t really bump Steve’s stuff either. Blackman’s lack of emotion hurt him as a character and they should have just put a mask on him and had done with it. Make him a ninja like Snake Eyes. Dude hooks an abdominal stretch and the bell rings. Timmy White pleads innocence as Blackman confronts him. The WWF got very attached to the screwjob finish after Montreal. Blackman goes to take it out on poor Mark Yeaton and throws him at ringside. Steve Austin runs down to punctuate things and attacks Vince McMahon as he’s checking on Yeaton. It is not a careful assault either. Dude Love takes Austin down but Steve gets out. McMahon sends down Stooges and both Brisco and Patterson eat Stunners. The suggestion with this match is that Vince would screw Austin out of the title at the PPV. He sure did try.
Final Rating: *

 

Promo Time: Paul Bearer
Bearer comes out to yack once again. He must have done more talking during 1998 than in the rest of his career put together. This time he points out Undertaker was supposed to die in a fire as a child and it was all his idea. Bearer wants a truce to stop the carnage. Eventually he gets to the point: Kane is his son.

 

WWF Championship
Steve Austin (c) vs. Goldust
This was another attempt to screw the belt off Austin. The referee is Gerald Brisco and if Austin touches him, he loses the title and is fired. Vince McMahon comes jogging down to ringside to take over the timekeepers job. Brisco’s counts get faster and faster but Austin can’t do anything about it. Despite working the most over person in wrestling, Goldust still can’t make his heel offence even remotely interesting. Austin makes do with his trademarks before kicking Goldust low and hitting the Stunner. Brisco gets something in his eye during the three count. That brings in Dude Love for an assault on Austin, which leads to a backdrop on the floor for Dude. Vince goes to hit Austin but misses and nails Brisco. That leaves Austin alone in the ring celebrating McMahon’s failure to get the belt off him.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Summary: This is not what you’d expect from the series, as compared to previous entries it contains almost no wrestling at all. However that’s rather appropriate for the time frame, as during 1998 most of the best action on Raw took place on the microphone. The storylines are the focus here and most of the WWF’s top guys get themselves over through promos and interviews. It’s not ideal as the talking should lead to matches and the matches were on the PPVs. The switch in Raw‘s style condemned this sort of compilation to the history books. The tape works as a snapshot of early 1998 although many of the better promos have appeared elsewhere and the tape is incredibly samey without any wrestling action to speak of. But if you like your Sportz Entertainment, rather than professional wrestling, then this tape is for you.
Verdict: 61

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