WrestleWatch Vault: WWF Over The Edge 1998
Back again with another Attitude Era review! Spent my holidays working through a great chunk of the Attitude Era- in between trying to make better lifestyle choices and mostly succeeding. Starting eating better and walking more, and even though my body is still giving out on me a little more than I would like, I generally have a lot more energy than I had a few months ago. So everything's coming up Milhouse.
Back to the wrestling! At the time of writing, I'm up to August 1998. We're on the road to Summerslam, and Sunday Night Heat just had its premiere episode, with Shane McMahon joining Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. But we'll get to that a little bit later, in future Vault reviews. Today's PPV event happened on May 31, 1998, and the main event is one of my all-time favourite matches, one of the earliest WWF matches I can recall watching. It's Stone Cold Steve Austin- coming off a massive win at Wrestlemania XIV, defeating Shawn Michaels to capture the WWF Championship. His challenger- Dude Love, one of the 3 Faces of the Hardcore Legend, Mick Foley. At this time, the Dude was playing the role of a corporate stooge for the evil boss, Mr. McMahon. Old Vinny Mac wanted "anyone but Austin" representing the WWF as its champion, and to help ensure that, he was naming himself the special guest referee. And if that wasn't stacking the deck enough, he recruited THE Stooges, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, to serve as the special guest ring announcer and timekeeper, respectively. It was looking like a bad night to be the Texas Rattlesnake.
Talk about a stacked deck!
The opening video is very cool, using old footage interspersed with a monotonous voice repeating "You must conform. You must comply." Serious 1984 vibes- the George Orwell book, not the year that Hulkamania ran wild. The teen in me that topped my Advanced English class loves this shit. Current day Mick also thinks it's pretty cool. Onto the matches.
Match 1: LOD 2000 (w/ Droz & Sunny) def. DOA (at 9:57)
Thoughts: A decent opener. Sunny was there to give some Attitude Era appeal to the legendary team of Animal and Hawk, and Droz had recently joined the WWF- you might remember him as the guy from the Beyond The Mat documentary that could vomit on command, which he did as Vince yelled "HE'S GONNA PUKE!" The DOA team of Skull and 8-Ball had been pulling off the ol' Twin Magic switch-a-roo in recent weeks, but Droz was able to thwart them, allowing LOD to get the W. Nice big boy tag team work. (**)
We are graced with the presence of The Rock! He's the Intercontinental Champion, and although he's a good year or so off becoming "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment", he's coming into his own here as the new leader of the Nation of Domination. He makes fun of Milwaukee- the host city of Over The Edge- particularly taking aim at the ugly women. The previous Nation head honcho, Faarooq takes exception to this and comes out to attack Rocky. He delivers a piledriver onto a chair (well, it misses the chair, but, just...okay?) Commissioner Slaughter basically says "tough shit". The IC title match is still on for later in the show.
Backstage, Michael Cole interviews Stone Cold. He asks Austin if this is the last night he walks to the ring as champion- what a dumb question. Austin gives the appropriate response, "Hell no, you silly bastard" and guaran-damn-tees he's still gonna be the champ. Oh hell yeah!
Match 2: Jeff Jarrett (w/ Tennessee Lee) def. Steve Blackman (at 10:15)
Thoughts: The Lethal Weapon was still pretty green at this point- this was his first PPV singles match- and he wasn't really up to task. Jarrett tried to carry him along, but it's a pretty tedious ten minutes in all honesty. Double J's manager hit Blackman with one of his twirly stick things to give his man the victory. Eh. (*1/2)
Match 3: Marc Mero def. Sable (at 0:20)
Thoughts: Really an angle more than a match, but it was a good one. Friction had been building for months between Mero and his manager/partner Sable, and this was a match where the blonde bombshell could win her contractual freedom from the bastard Mero, but if she lost, she would have to leave the WWF. It was thought that Sable would pick a representative to face the Marvellous One on her behalf, but instead she came out dressed in wrestling attire, stating that she "didn't need a man to fight her battles for her". At this, Marc seems contrite, realising what Sable was willing to do to get her freedom. He lays down, allowing Sable to pin him... but then cradles her up for the quick 3 count! He celebrates like he just won the world championship. What an asshole. (N/A)
Next up, we have a special bonus match! It involves Light Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku, which gives a pretty good indication of what a low priority the light heavyweight division was in the WWF, despite some quality matches during the division's inception.
Match 4: Kaientai (w/ Yamaguchi-san) def. Justin Bradshaw & Taka Michinoku (at 9:52)
Thoughts: Good fast-paced, high flying action between Taka and the Kaientai members Dick Togo, Men's Teioh and Sho Funaki, and Bradshaw played his "big brother" role well, using his power and size to negate the 3 on 2 numbers advantage. I know Taka eventually joins Funaki in Kaientai, so it'll be interesting to see how that happens- and where the hell Togo and Teioh go. The finish comes after Togo nails an awesome looking top rope senton. Definitely the best wrestling action on the show so far. (**3/4)
They show footage of Sable leaving the arena. For some reason, Sable was still in her wrestling gear, which Lawler has a justified chuckle at. Somewhere, Randy Orton is watching, going, "I don't get it, why is that funny?"
Match 5: WWF Intercontinental Championship- The Rock def. Faarooq (at 5:07)
Thoughts: Not much of a match. Rock plays the chickenshit heel and doesn't come out initially when his music is played. Commish Slaughter says that if he doesn't get his (roody-poo candy) ass out here, he will be stripped of the title. Rock begrudgingly gets out there and battles his old boss. People's Elbow gets a near fall, Faarooq gets a 3 count off a spinebuster, but it turns out Rock's foot was on the ropes. Quick roll-up gives the win to the People's Champ. (*1/2)
Post-match, Faarooq piledrives The Rock again. The Nation come out to save him, and DX come out to chase them off. They've got faction warfare coming up in a little while.
Match 6: Mask vs. Mask Match- Kane def. Vader (at 7:20)
Thoughts: Vader's past his best here, but it's still compelling to see this battle of the monsters. They brawl a bit before Kane knocks down Big Van with a top rope flying clothesline. Damn, Kane was such an agile dude for a 300+ pounder in his prime. Vader tries to use a wrench- a callback to several months ago when Kane struck him with the same tool- but to no avail. Vader misses a massive (and I do mean massive) moonsault. Still crazy to see a man that size fly. Tombstone by the Big Red Machine ends it. (**)
Post-match, Michael Cole interviews a distraught Vader. He calls himself a "fat piece of shit". Vader, not Michael Cole. This is the main thing I remembered about this show before re-watching it (besides the main event).
Match 7: The Nation (Owen Hart, D'Lo Brown & Kama Mustafa) def. D-Generation X (Triple H, Road Dog and Billy Gunn) (w/ Chyna & X-Pac) (at 18:33)
Thoughts: A marathon match compared to everything else on the show to this point. Pretty good though, given the talent involved, and DX in particular were super-over. Everyone had their moments, and in the end, Owen got the shine by hitting Hunter with his own Pedigree on the European title. Triple H was starting to progress nicely as a top-level star as the leader of DX- they were technically heels, but were starting to get significantly cheered for their rebellious nature and over the top segments. (***)
Match 8: WWF Championship- Stone Cold def. Dude Love (at 22:27)
Thoughts: This was wild. Stone Cold vs. Dude Love encapsulates everything that was great about the Attitude Era. Vince played the evil boss perfectly, Austin was an underdog due to the circumstances, but still a heroic bad-ass. Foley was willing to throw himself around the place, and they brawled around the arena in what would become an Attitude Era staple. Patterson kept announcing rules that he "forgot" to announce earlier- no DQ, Falls Count Anywhere- and it all served to ramp up the intensity. Undertaker eventually got involved, chokeslamming both Patterson and Brisco through the announce tables at ringside. A wild chair shot swing from Dude Love accidentally struck Vince, knocking him cold. Austin hits the Stunner on Foley and uses Vince's lifeless hand to count the 3. This was chaotic awesomeness, and still one of my favourite matches. (****1/2)
The undercard wasn't much to write home about, but the main event made this whole thing worthwhile. Stone Cold and Mick Foley put together a masterpiece- with supporting roles by McMahon, Patterson and Brisco- that showed everything that was great about the Attitude Era. Incredible storytelling, awesome action, enhanced by a crowd that was hot for every move. We were on the cusp of the true explosion of popularity in the Attitude Era, with The Rock and Triple H showing that they were just about ready to take that next step into the upper echelon of superstardom in the WWF. Stone Cold vs. Dude Love, though, is a match that every wrestling fan NEEDS to watch.
Overall Score: 7/10
Until next time, take care,