James Dixon: This was a special release that came with a free shirt and a mini Steve Austin figure, available from Wal-Mart. It is a strange one, because it doesn’t have any catalogue number, and there seems to be no real need for it with the amount of Austin tapes already on the market. I guess with a 30-minute run time, it serves as something of a taster in the same way as the “800 Series” did with its blink-and-you-will-miss-it highlights of WrestleMania and RAW shows from 1998 and 1999.
There is no narrator, no talking heads, nothing. Just a brief video set to Austin’s music before we just go right into the build up for his ‘First Blood’ match with Kane at King of the Ring ’98. We see the same hype video that was used to promote the match on television, which was very good and made Kane seem intimidating like the Michael Myers type character he was originally intended to be. We go to the match, which is shown in random snippets of action set to music that sounds like a car alarm going off. Editing trickery (repeating the exciting spots from different angles) makes the match seem better than it actually was. Kane wins the bout and the title after interference from the Undertaker goes awry and Austin ends up bleeding. Putting the belt on the Big Red Machine, even if it was just for a single day, was one of the most surprising booking decisions of the year. I commend the WWF for it because no one saw it coming. The WWF Title was still very protected and people figured Austin would have a long reign, so for a gimmick character who had been around for less than a year to walk away with the gold was pretty incredible.
To RAW the next night and the rematch, where we curiously skip Austin’s entrance but get Kane’s in its entirety, before going back to the smoke and mirrors highlights. What a strange decision, especially considering how short the tape is. To put it another way; his entrance takes up approximately 10% of the entire run time! The match itself is no great shakes, though the crowd are electric when Austin hits the Stunner and regains his title belt while the Undertaker looks on. He gets too close, so the champ drills him with a Stunner too to set up a program throughout the summer between the two that dragged on forever.
Suddenly, some unbearable dance music infests the tape with its rhythmless, soulless drone, though it does rather fit with this tape, which is lacking entirely in soul. It is just chronological footage from a seemingly random point in 1998 onwards, spliced together and edited out of context. The match featured is the decent SummerSlam ’98 bout between Austin and the Undertaker, which suffers significantly from Austin knocking himself silly early on and working the rest of the match in a daze. As the match gets exciting in the home straight, the music changes to a chugging heavy metal riff, which works much better.
If SummerSlam had been the end of the Austin-Taker program it would have been looked back on fairly fondly, but instead the booking took over and the WWF bereft of main event talent, continued to rerun and re-jig various combinations of Steve Austin, the Undertaker and Kane. Breakdown saw a shitty triple threat between the three, with a terrible double pin ending in favour of the title challengers. Who was the champion? It didn’t matter to Vince McMahon, as long as Steve Austin wasn’t.
We skip ahead many, many months to the immense St. Valentine’s Day Massacre opening video. The song that accompanies it rather than the standard highlight footage is what makes this so memorable. I have researched this extensively but cannot find anything about it, so I assume it has to be a Jim Johnston piece made especially for the event. It is inspired. Instead of the usual angry metal or imposing choir, we have a 50’s throwback that sounds like Marilyn Monroe, singing the lyrics:
“Crazy, you’re driving me crazy / with your sweet little smile, heartbreak eyes / see right through and hypnotise me / take me, hold me close but don’t break me / I’m a valentine made just for you / And I’ll make mine and your dream come true / Oh baby, you’re driving me crazy / Crazy, my sweet valentine / Late night when the moon is low / And the demons come out to play / I’ll hide beneath my covers / Where I will chase my fears away / Oh Baby, oh my baby / Make my only dream come true / Late night and alone with you / Oh baby you’re driving me crazy / Crazy, my sweet valentine / Oh crazy, my sweet valentine”
It’s brilliant, the song is catchy and stays in your head and is completely different to anything else in wrestling at the time. But… it has absolutely no place at all on this tape! If it was just a video for Austin-McMahon then it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not; it covers everything on the show and is literally just grabbed from the start of the PPV and plonked in here. If it led to highlights of the cage match between the long time rivals that might be something, but instead we go straight to another music video, this the one used to hype Rock-Austin at WrestleMania XV. What on earth is the point of this tape!? We do at least get highlights from Rock-Austin, though randomly enough set to what would later become the entrance music of the Hardy Boyz. This tape is baffling in every respect. We actually get a good 7-minutes from that match, before going to the final segment: the same video that was used at the start of the tape as an introduction.
Summary: An utterly perplexing release. This tape has no soul, no heart and is of almost no worth. The majority of the stuff on here is hype videos for matches that are then chopped up, shuffled around and set to mostly horrid music. The one positive is that the footage at least gets aired chronologically, which as readers know is a rarity with most of these tapes. Well, that and the brilliant but completely unnecessary St. Valentine’s Day Massacre video, which you should check out on the internet or the PPV itself rather than on here. I remain utterly dumbfounded by this entire effort, and must strongly recommend staying away from it because of how random and thoroughly pointless it all is.