Lee Maughan: This is another one of those Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive tapes so it stands to reason that it would begin with a commercial for some of the new action figures from Jakks Pacific. And talk about hitting your youthful target demographic, with a “Legends” line that includes ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka, Andre the Giant, ‘Captain’ Lou Albano and ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie. Hosts are D-Generation X…
Tag Team Attitude
The New Age Outlaws cut a promo on Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, and the word “shit” gets bleeped out. How attitudinal.
Steel Cage Match, WWF Tag Team Championship
Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie (c) vs. New Age Outlaws
From the night after WrestleMania XIV, where Cactus and Chainsaw won the titles in a Dumpster Match, with this rematch necessitated by the oft-quoted “illegal dumpster” rule. Thankfully this has pinfalls rather than the infinitely more stupid “escape the cage” rules that plague tag team cage matches. All four begin brawling immediately until the Outlaws tie Chainsaw to the cage with handcuffs around his neck so they can double team Cactus. That leads to Cactus and Billy Gunn fighting up the cage where Sean Waltman (soon to be renamed X-Pac and freshly returned here from WCW after having cut a scathing promo on Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff earlier in the night) blasts Cactus in the head with a steel chair. A spike piledriver onto the chair is enough to give Road Dogg the pin, the Outlaws the titles, and cement the brand new incarnation of DX. The match itself is actually less than five minutes, but for something lacking blood, was actually pretty violent, set up Mick Foley’s impending heel turn, and established the WWF’s answer to the New World Order all in one fell swoop. Chuck in the title change and you’ve got quite a historically significant little moment right there.
Final Rating: ***
LOD 2000 vs. Los Boricuas (Jose & Jesus)
Also from the night after WrestleMania XIV, where the WWF reintroduced the Legion of Doom as LOD 2000, giving them a complete makeover with socially acceptable haircuts, short tights for Animal and Sunny as a bikini-clad cheerleader. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out, largely owing to Hawk’s real-life alcohol and pill problems, but here they just obliterate the Boricuas, finishing with the Doomsday Device in around a minute.
Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs. The Quebecers
I’ve no idea why this is being shown after the cage match since it took place three weeks prior to that, but then this is hardly a great choice to open a tape with so maybe there’s your answer. It’s joined in progress to eliminate about four minutes of uninspired brawling, tedious Quebecers heat and references to Steve Austin hijacking the show, picking up as Cactus gets the, ahem, hot tag and runs mild, clotheslining Jacques out of the ring. He follows that with a running knee to Pierre in the corner, but Chainsaw misses a moonsault, giving Pierre the opportunity to take Cactus down with a top rope huracánrana to almost no reaction. The Quebecers then mess up a double team (in kayfabe terms) and Cactus finishes with a double-arm DDT to put an end to a horrid match, made much worse by the tepid crowd response.
Final Rating: ½*
NWA World Tag Team Championship
The Rock n’ Roll Express (c) vs. The Headbangers
This comes from that bizarre alternate universe known as the first quarter 1998, in which the Rock n’ Roll Express were being managed by Jim Cornette, working as heels in a northern U.S. wrestling promotion, and the WWF was content to allow references to the NWA all over its programming. To be fair, I suspect most of what Cornette says on commentary would probably go over most WWF staffers’ heads, as he makes comedic references to “the NWA law firm of Zacko, Pfeffer and Mondt.” That’s one for the historians out there, so thanks Jim! Like most of the matches on this tape, this is joined in progress to the babyfaces getting their comeback, and that’s too bad because what you don’t see are the Rock n’ Rolls running through a string of trademark Midnight Express spots, while the Headbangers take the role of… well, the Rock n’ Roll Express. It’s oddly fascinating and in some ways, actually holds up better than a lot of Attitude Era action, because as goofy as some of the spots are, they’re timeless. In many ways, that’s why they didn’t get over in 1998, because they looked like they were stuck in some kind of time warp out there, but viewed in isolation without any of the conventions of the day working against the style, it’s perfectly fine. The finish comes when Mosh tosses Robert Gibson over the top rope, but since Earl Hebner is the referee it isn’t a disqualification (the previous match between the two teams saw the NWA appoint Tommy Young as the referee who called the DQ), then in another classic Rock n’ Rolls-Midnights spot, Cornette blasts Thrasher with his tennis racket, inadvertently putting Thrasher on top of a prone Ricky Morton for the pin, giving the ‘Bangers the titles. Can’t really rate this one because so little was shown, but the whole thing, as noted, was perfectly fine. One other thing though; given that Hebner refereed for Jim Crockett Promotions in the late 80s, why wasn’t he familiar with the NWA top rope DQ rule? I guess you can add Ricky and Robert to the “Earl Screwed…” list.
Stone Cold Attitude
– From the last Raw of 1997, Goldust arrives dressed as a new year’s baby as part of his weird ‘The Artist Formerly Known As…’ period. That brings out Steve Austin who throws him into a porta potty labelled “Crapper 3:16”, stuns him, then shoves him back inside and tips it over.
– With Davey Boy Smith posing on the turnbuckles, Austin sneaks into the ring, hits a Stunner, then bails into the crowd with security in hot pursuit.
– Following Austin’s neck injury at SummerSlam ‘97, the WWF was forced to book around his limitations, resulting in a famous series of anti-authority Stone Cold Stunners. One of the first sees Vince McMahon demanding Austin show respect to Commissioner Slaughter. Austin responds by noting that Slaughter says “This is an order, that’s an order… the only thing he’s been ordering is a whole lot of cheeseburgers!” Stunner, middle fingers, big pop, wash, rinse, repeat. It’s just another one of those weird wrestling things where the promotion’s hand was forced by the neck injury to its fastest rising star, and they wound up stumbling into a gimmick that got him even more over than he already was.
– Finally, to Raw‘s first ever visit to Madison Square Garden, and arguably the most famous Stunner of all time. Austin had already dropped Slaughter, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler with them, and the fans were literally begging for him to do the same to Vince McMahon. It’s no coincidence that they not only saved the best for last, but that they saved it for the Garden too. “We can either do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way” croaks McMahon, referencing a plea for Austin to take care of himself after the injury. “I appreciate the fact that you and the World Wrestling Federation cares” retorts Austin. “And I also appreciate the fact that, hell, you can kiss my ass!” You’ll never see a worse bump or sell-job off a Stone Cold Stunner than the one Vince gives here, but for as rotten as that is, the angle was really great and did wonders for the blue collar Austin character. “If you want ‘Stone Cold’ to continue doing things the hard way, give me a “Hell yeah!””
Attitude of Achievement
Aguila vs. Brian Christopher
Águila (the eventual Essa Rios) hits a springboard Mexican armdrag, a dropkick, and a running twisting corkscrew plancha before overshooting an Asai moonsault, but improvising with an inverted DDT on the steel ramp. And that’s your lot for this segment, no finish or anything.
WWF European Championship
Owen Hart (c) vs. Jeff Jarrett
Joined in progress after a very good first few minutes, though with one really odd spot that I was unable to stop fixating on, as Owen started running the ropes and jumping as if Jarrett was dropping down, despite Jarrett already being flat on the canvas. Such an odd thing for a pro like Owen to do. Still, that along with Jarrett’s NWA compadres Barry Windham and the Rock N’ Roll Express getting ejected from ringside and Jarrett’s manager Jim Cornette kicking ex-associate Hart’s head off, are all excised from this tape anyway. It’s a shame too because the action picks up right as Jarrett takes over for the heat, and it’s nowhere near as entertaining as when Owen was flying around the ring. It doesn’t last long however, and soon Owen’s back on offence with an enzuigiri and an inverted atomic drop before locking on the Sharpshooter, which draws Cornette in for the piss-weak disqualification finish to an otherwise rather dandy little TV match. Owen captures Cornette in the Sharpshooter after the match and blocks Jarrett’s racket-shot attempt. How about that? A babyface outsmarting two heels, and the crowd goes nuts for him. It’s really too bad that due to circumstance and/or politics Owen never really had the opportunity to work as a babyface in a top level position for the WWF because he was absolutely superb in the role. One final personal note about this match – I checked out the full bout from an old Sky Sports airing of the show which, due to Raw being pre-empted in the US that week to a Saturday night, had been redubbed by Michael Cole and Kevin Kelly, presumably to remove such references since Raw at the time aired on a Friday night in the UK. I only mention it because Cole notes that Jim Ross (who had been calling the action earlier in the broadcast) had gone backstage to interview Steve Austin, only for the camera to cut to a shot of who else but ‘Good Ol’ JR’ stationed at the commentator’s table! Not that it was the first time for something like that to happen, but the WWF’s editing department really should have caught something as sloppy as that. A *** match that gets **½ here, because a lot of the best stuff was cut.
Final Rating: **½
Steve Blackman vs. Kama
Never in the history of professional wrestling has there been a guy so lacking in charisma yet as simultaneously badass as ‘Lethal Weapon’ Steve Blackman. If the Ultimate Fighting Championship had been around earlier or Blackman had been a few years younger, it’s not entirely inconceivable that his calling in life would have been as a mixed martial artist rather than a sports entertainer. And speaking of MMA, Kama’s a pretty perfect opponent for a guy like Blackman given the shootfighting ring style he’d cultivated at this point based on his devotion to the early days of UFC. It’s kind of a shame that Kane arrived on the scene when he did, because prior to Kama’s re-emergence in the WWF in 1997, he’d been due to reprise his role as Papa Shango, one of my all-time favourite ludicrous gimmicks. That whole plan was scrapped owing to the promotion boasting too many “supernatural” characters, but seeing how much his ring in-ring performance had improved by this point, it’s interesting to think about where he could have taken the gimmick free of his previous limitation as a worker. And just as the two are starting to cobble together a nifty little match, Kama’s Nation of Domination brethren invade the ring for a beatdown, Faarooq blasting Blackman with the Dominator before the Rock follows up with a Rock Bottom. Ken Shamrock runs-in to make the save for Blackman with a belly-to-belly suplex on Kama, but the damage has already done – that’s two rotten DQ finishes back-to-back on this tape. Lame.
Final Rating: **¼
– WWF merchandise man Wink Collins is in the ring to hype WrestleMania XIV, but here comes Kane to threaten him with a chokeslam. That brings out Vader who squirts a fire extinguisher in Kane’s face and tells him that at “No Way Out, your *** is mine!”
– DX call out Kane, but the Undertaker comes out instead, asking DX not to involve Kane in his and Shawn Michaels’ upcoming Royal Rumble casket match. He does however suggest he might punch a six-inch hole in Michaels’ forehead, then goes to chokeslam Chyna before Triple H smashes him across the back with a walking crutch. Shawn then blasts him with Sweet Chin Music, and the double-team is on.
– Shawn Michaels tells Michael Cole that he hasn’t been given the right welcome yet from the Kliq, so Chyna and Triple H hold him while Michaels gives him a huge wedgie. Vince McMahon notes: “I don’t know if I should say anything, but that my friends is gonna leave a mark!”
– More sophomoric humour next as DX are in the ring with Sgt. Slaughter but can’t stand the smell, so they put gas masks on and clip clothes pegs to their noses.
– For some reason, the tape skips the famous Mike Tyson-Steve Austin nose-to-nose angle and instead jumps to the follow-up the next week with Tyson and Michaels getting in each other’s faces, only for Shawn to rip Tyson’s t-shirt off revealing a D-Generation-X shirt underneath.
– The Undertaker goes for a Tombstone on Michaels but gets attacked from behind by HHH and Chyna. Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco try to make the save, but Michaels levels them both with superkicks as the Undertaker Tombstones Triple H.
– In the locker room, Cole attempts to interview Michaels but gets pushed around by Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude. Shawn comes out of the shower wrapped only in a towel, then drags Cole in with him and lathers him in soap, leaving one longing for the halcyon seconds of those earlier atomic wedgie clips.
Summary: Well they certainly packed a lot of clips into half an hour, that’s for sure. Why something like that Quebecers match or Steve Blackman vs. Kama would make the cut but the famous Steve Austin/Mike Tyson segment wouldn’t is beyond me, but then this tape only 30-minutes long anyway so it’s really more of an early ‘98 sampler than a definitive compendium of anything, and on that level it works well enough. I wouldn’t really recommend seeking it out owing to its brevity and lack of complete matches, but for a waste of 1800 seconds it never has the chance to be dull. Still, one must take umbrage with a tape brash enough to declare itself Raw Attitude whilst bleeping out the word “ass.”