The countdown of the greatest WWE Survivor Series pay-per-views continues with #3: Survivor Series 1998. What an incredible tournament this was. Once again I’m adding 2020 thoughts in blue font. This was written in 2016, I believe. Let’s get to it.
The 1998 edition of Survivor Series saw WWE change things up by holding a one night WWE World Heavyweight Title tournament. The title was vacated due to a dispute involving Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane and evil boss Vince McMahon, so we went into this show knowing there would be a new WWE Champion by the end of the night.
There were 14 matches that took place over the nearly three-hour event. It’s very rare to have that many matches on a three-hour show, but to WWE’s credit they made it work. As a result of the tournament, this was the first Survivor Series in the 12-year history of the event where there were no elimination matches.
The show did 478,000 buys, which is the number of homes in the US and Canada that purchased the event. It was the most buys for any Survivor Series in WWE history. It nearly doubled the previous year (250,000) and nearly tripled 1995’s putrid 128,000 buys.
If you were watching at the time then you know that 1998 was one of the best years in WWE history. That’s when the “Attitude Era” took off and they started to pass WCW in the Monday Night Wars after consistently losing to them for two years. It was not necessarily about having long matches that were memorable. The best thing about 1998/99 WWE was that they had more interesting characters than ever before.
All of the top names in the company were a part of this show except for Triple H, who was out for a few months after knee surgery. He returned about one month after this event.
There was even an official theme song for this Deadly Game edition of Survivor Series.
WWE Survivor Series
St. Louis, Missouri
November 15, 1998
A video package aired showing us images of the guys in the tournament to determine the next WWE Champion.
There was a unique “Deadly Game” theme song for this. We heard that as the pyro went off in the arena and the show began. There were so many signs in the crowd for this show. Bringing signs really became a huge thing by 1998 and it showed as the cameras scanned the crowd.
The announce team of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler were shown at ringside to welcome us to the show while showing the tournament brackets.
It sounds like this version of the show has “WWF” bleeped out because there was a time when WWE had to do that. Whoever uploaded it to WWE Network, put that version up instead of the original, so it’s awkward when the announcers say WWE Title. All you here is WW…pause…Title. (Note after posting review: It’s not like that the whole way, but in some parts it is.)
The WWE owner Vince McMahon was shown at ringside on a wheelchair along with Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Sgt. Slaughter and Big Boss Man. Vince was selling a leg injury. He said this will be a Survivor Series we will never forget. He introduced Mankind.
Mankind (Mick Foley) walked out with the Hardcore Title while wearing a suit.
Analysis: The story at the time teased the idea that Vince was favoring Mankind and Mankind was doing what he could to suck up to him by wearing a suit, which was not characteristic for him.
Vince read the introduction for the mystery opponent, which is great so I’m going to write it out for you.
Vince: “This legend in the ranks of sports entertainment made his WWF debut in 1990. Over the course of the next six years, this charismatic boasted a won-loss record that set new standards here in the WWF. Unfortunately, seeking more opposition of his own caliber, this natural jumped ship to the WCW (crowd boos) and after suffering a massive shoulder injury, this cornerstone of the World Wrestling Federation has been sidelined for the past two years. With his career on the line, he fought back with resilience, dreaming of his triumphant return to the ring here tonight. Therefore, without further adieu, allow me to introduce to you, currently the coach of the Pasadena Chargers…the man…the myth…Dwayne Gill.”
Analysis: Great introduction full of sarcasm.
(The introduction of Dwayne Gill was hilarious. It would lead to Gillberg.)
Gill made his entrance. People were laughing as his hokey song played and “highlights” of his career losing matches aired. Gill was a long-time jobber in the company that was a short, bald man that didn’t look impressive. Vince and company left as Gill entered the ring.
First Round Tournament Match: Mankind vs. Dwayne Gill
Mankind brought Gill into the ring by flipping him over the top rope. Some kicks to the head by Mankind. Mankind with a double arm DDT. He did a cradle cover to win the match at the 30 second mark.
Winner by pinfall: Mankind
Analysis: 1/2* A quick win for Mankind to push the idea that Vince was favoring him with an easy victory against a loser opponent.
Backstage, Sable talked about how she was determined to beat Jacqueline after she was attacked on Heat prior to the show.
First Round Tournament: Jeff Jarrett (w/Debra) vs. Al Snow (w/Head)
Pre-match notes: They brought in Debra to make Jarrett more interesting because he was boring. She started managing him about a month before this. She’s a gorgeous woman that wasn’t shy about showing off her body. Al Snow is the face that had a mannequin head with him.
Snow with a running attack on the floor. They went back in the ring with Snow hitting a leg drop. Stun gun by Jarrett. The crowd was chanting “Head” for Snow. Jarrett tossed Snow into the corner and then Snow came back with a clothesline followed by a neckbreaker against the ropes. Snow missed a top rope leg drop, so Jarrett nailed a dropkick for two. Snow came back with a rollup for two. Snow nailed a DDT to counter a spinebuster attempt for two. Atomic drop by Snow and then the guys collided. Debra was on the apron with the Head in her hand. JR: “What does she know about head anyway?” What a line. The ref told her to get off the apron. Snow missed an attack with the guitar, so Jarrett hit him in the back with Head. Snow kicked the Head away and then hit Jarrett in the head with Head to win at the 3:31 mark.
Winner by pinfall: Al Snow
Analysis: *1/4 A quick match to put over Snow with him outsmarting Jarrett by using his weapon of choice. Snow no sold the Head shot, yet when he hit Jarrett with it that was enough to give Snow the win. I would have liked to see more of Debra.
The next match featured Steve Austin. The crowd went wild for his entrance as usual.
(On a normal PPV at this point in his career, Austin wouldn’t be on this early. The tournament format changed things up a bit.)
First Round Tournament: Big Boss Man vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Pre-match notes: Austin was the most popular wrestler in the company that was cheered by everybody. Boss Man was a heel that worked as a bodyguard of Vince McMahon at times.
They brawled outside the ring with Austin whipping him into the steel steps. Vince and friends were shown watching backstage. Austin was aggressive early. Boss Man hit a low blow punch that the ref completely ignored while JR noted it should have been a disqualification. Boss Man stomped away on Austin and nailed some punches as well. Chinlock by Boss Man. Austin came back with a clothesline, but Boss Man came back with a kick, splash to the back and uppercut punch for two. Austin pounded away in the corner. Austin threw Boss Man outside of the ring, so Boss Man grabbed the nightstick and hit Austin repeatedly with it. That’s a DQ ending at 3:20.
Winner by disqualification: Steve Austin
Post match, Boss Man continued to attack Austin with the nightstick while JR was freaking out on commentary and Vince was laughing as he watched backstage. Boss Man nailed a hard nightstick shot to the chest of Austin. It left Austin down in a heap by ringside. Boss Man looked like he was leaving, but then he came back for more shots with the stick. He finally left while Austin was down in pain.
Analysis: 3/4* It was an angle more than a match. It was done that way because Boss Man was just there to weaken Austin and that’s what he did with that attack.
Vince McMahon was interviewed by Michael Cole backstage. Vince said there’s more where that came from and Austin’s in for it.
Austin was shown slowly walking to the back selling the rib injury.
“He’s a man, just a maaaaaaaaaaaaan, a real man’s man!” Hello Steven Regal doing the short-lived “Real Man’s Man” gimmick that was so bad it was good.
First Round Tournament: X-Pac vs. Steven Regal
Analysis: X-Pac was the face European Champion that was part of the DX group. Regal was new to the company with the cheesiest theme song. He was a heel.
X-Pac with a spinning heel kick early on. Leg drops by X-Pac and he missed a corner charge. Regal slowed him down with a stretch. X-Pac came back with a sunset flip attempt, which Regal got out of and then Regal did a slingshot to send X-Pac across the ring. Gutwrench suplex gets two for Regal as Vince and friends were shown watching the match. X-Pac applied a brief submission hold on the legs, but then he started he threw a lot of punches. X-Pac missed a corner charge and Regal took advantage with a double underhook suplex off the top rope. Submission by Regal on the arm/neck area of X-Pac. After getting back to his feet, X-Pac nailed a spin kick, a dropkick and the Bronco Buster in the corner. Suplex by X-Pac. Regal tripped up X-Pac while he was on the top rope, which sent X-Pac crashing to the floor. They battled on the floor with X-Pac hitting a suplex and punches. They were counted out by the ref Tim White at the 8:10 mark.
Match Result: Double countout
Analysis: ** It was a competitive match with a disappointing finish, but I can see why they did it too. Neither guy was a massive enough star that they needed to be in the next round of this tournament. It was done to make things easier on Austin, which upset McMahon in the story. If they were going to double countout they could have cut some time out and added more time to other matches.
Vince was shown watching backstage while telling Slaughter to set up overtime for the match. Slaughter ran to the ring to tell Howard Finkel, who announced it. X-Pac was selling injuries and just walked to the back.
Analysis: That was awkward looking.
The double countout result means that Steve Austin moves onto the semifinals. Vince complained about it while noting Austin gets a bye.
First Round Tournament: Ken Shamrock vs. Goldust
Pre-match notes: Shamrock was the Intercontinental Champion that was in more of a heelish role at this point. Goldust was the face in this match.
Shamrock with a slam early on. The announcers kept pushing that the 10 minute time limit suggests more faster paced matches. Running clothesline, body slam and knee drop from Goldust. Shamrock came back with a clothesline of his own for two. There’s a fan in Goldust paint in row one that doesn’t seem to care about this match. Shamrock with a chinlock. Russian legsweep by Shamrock as the crowd wasn’t reacting to anything here. Goldust had a brief comeback that ended when he missed a corner charge after Shamrock moved. Suplex by Goldust. Shamrock fought out of a Powerbomb attempt with punches. Goldust hit a sloppy looking bulldog. He teased the Shattered Dreams kick, but ref Jimmy Korderas tried to stop it and Shamrock pulled the ref in front of him. Crowd booed. Shamrock jumped off the middle ropes with a hurricanrana. Belly to belly suplex by Shamrock into the Ankle Lock led to Goldust tapping at the 5:56 mark.
Winner by submission: Ken Shamrock
With the win, Shamrock faces either Rock or Triple H in the next round. At least that’s what was announced.
Analysis: *1/4 A boring match with little crowd reaction. Shamrock going over was the right move.
There was a backstage report by Michael Cole noting that Steve Austin is hurting, but he’ll find a way to be out there for his second round match.
The Rock made his entrance to a really loud ovation.
Analysis: His story going into the show is that he was a heel for a couple of years, but following a great SummerSlam performance in which he lost the IC Title to Triple H, he started to earn a lot of cheers. A lot of us thought of him as the potential next top face other than Steve Austin. The ovations kept growing for him. It was clear he was a future main eventer, which is incredible considering the crowd hated him soon after his debut two years earlier.
(The Rock’s popularity was growing every week at this point. That’s what made the end of the night so special too.)
During the Triple H entrance, Vince’s stooges Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson walked out doing awkward looking crotch chops.
Brisco said that Triple H is not there and that Triple H will not “wrassle” as Brisco said in his southern draw. Brisco said he can fine Triple H once he returns with JR noting Triple H had knee surgery. Pat Patterson said there would be no forfeit and that Vince found a replacement for Triple H. It’s Big Boss Man.
First Round Tournament: The Rock vs. Big Boss Man
Second match for Boss Man. He runs into the ring, Rock turned him over with an inside cradle and pinned him in four seconds.
Winner by pinfall: The Rock
(Match of the year!)
The crowd went wild for Rock with a big ovation after the win. The Rock moves on to the next round to face Ken Shamrock.
Analysis: No rating for something so short. With so many matches on the show, they had to do some quick pins. Also, that ending makes a lot of sense when you think about how the end of the night played out.
Quarterfinal Tournament: The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Kane
Pre-match notes: Undertaker was in full heel turn mode by this point in his run. His match with Austin at SummerSlam 1998 was a face vs. face match, but then he became more of a heel after that. Kane was an ally of Undertaker at times (they worked together to beat up Vince) although he received some cheers from the fans as well. Both of them were given byes into the quarterfinals.
There were a lot of punches by both guys leading to Kane hitting a big boot to the face. JR noted a 15 minute time limit for quarterfinal matches. They brawled outside the ring with Undertaker sending him into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Kane with a powerslam, but he missed an elbow drop. Undertaker applied a leg submission to keep Kane grounded. Undertaker did some choking. Kane came back with a corner clothesline followed by a top rope clothesline for two. Kane overpowered Undertaker to hit a Chokeslam. Crowd loved that. Bearer jumped on the apron to distract Kane, which worked, so Undertaker hit a Tombstone and hooked the leg to win while Bearer also held the foot of Kane. It went 7:16 in length.
Winner by pinfall: The Undertaker
Analysis: 3/4* Boring match. Their matches were never that great, but this was one of the worst ones they had. I didn’t like the finish that much because the distraction was so basic. Kane shouldn’t lose so easily after a distraction. At least do a move before the Tombstone. The cheating for the pin is fine because it gives Kane sympathy from the fans.
(This wasn’t one of their more memorable matches. There aren’t that many amazing Undertaker/Kane matches anyway. It’s more about the storyline with them. They hated eachother at times and even during this period, they worked together at times too.)
With the win, Undertaker faces Rock or Shamrock in the semifinals.
Quarterfinal Tournament: Mankind vs. Al Snow
Pre-match notes: There is a bit of a backstory because Mankind’s “Mr. Socko” was on the head of Head although Foley didn’t know it was there. What a plot development, huh?
Mankind is still wearing a suit. Snow was aggressive early on with a dropkick that sent Mankind out of the ring. Mankind grabbed a chair. Snow got it from him, hit him in the ribs twice with the ref looking and the match continued. Mankind gave Show a flapjack-like move onto the chair on the floor. Enziguri kick by Snow. He grabbed the Head and attacked with it, but Mankind moved and hit a back suplex. Mankind finally found Socko around Head and grabbed it. He punched Head a few times, Snow went after him and Mankind nailed a clothesline. Snow with a spinebuster into a pin for two. Mankind came back with a kick to the gut and the double arm DDT. Mankind put Mr. Socko on his hand and applied the Mr. Socko Mandible Claw. Snow gave up at the 3:55 mark.
Winner by submission: Mankind
With the win, Mankind faces Steve Austin in the semifinals.
Analysis: *1/2 It was a decent match with some comedy thrown in due to the appearance of Mr. Socko. No surprise that Mankind got the win since Snow was a lower midcard guy while Mankind was a near main eventer by this point.
Quarterfinal Tournament: Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock
Pre-match notes: They had a long feud in the early part of 1998 with Rock as a heel and Shamrock as the face. Their roles were reversed for this match.
Rock with a clothesline early. Shamrock came back with a suplex. Shamrock with a clothesline and then sent him into the turnbuckle. Rock came back with a clothesline. They took it to the floor with Rock in control for a bit, but Shamrock ended up whipping him into the steps. Shamrock was in control in the ring with a Russian legsweep. Running knee lift by Shamrock followed by a chinlock. Fans chanted “Rocky” in support of Rock. Big Boss Man walked down to ringside as Shamrock slapped on another chinlock. Fans chanted “Boss Man sucks” as Boss Man walked around the ring. Rock fought back to his feet, but Shamrock took him down with a hurricanrana and slapped on the Ankle Lock. Rock fought it off and grabbed the bottom rope. They ran the ropes and did a double clothesline spot. Rock got a delayed two count out of it. Rock nailed his jump over DDT followed by a punch the groin after Boss Man distracted the referee. Slam by Rock. People’s Elbow connects for Rock to a huge ovation. That gets two. Shamrock fought out of Rock Bottom and hit a belly to belly suplex. Boss Man was on the apron, ref went towards him, Boss Man threw the nightstick, Rock intercepted the toss to Shamrock and Rock hit Shamrock in the head with it. Ref saw none of that. Ref turned around and Rock covered for the win at the 8:20 mark.
Winner by pinfall: The Rock
Analysis: **1/2 A pretty good match from two guys that built up good chemistry between them. It was one of the longer matches so far at nearly ten minutes. Good drama with some believable submission and nearfall spots towards the end. The perception is that Boss Man accidentally helped Rock win the match. When you know the ending result of the show, you think back to a moment like that and know that this match finish was brilliant because of how they told the story. That’s so important in the art of storytelling regarding this show.
(Clever booking here as I noted above. Give them a lot of credit for coming up with a smart way to book this finish.)
With the win, the semifinals are set as Stone Cols vs. Mankind and Rock vs. Undertaker. Good choices for a final four.
Paul Bearer did a backstage interview saying The Undertaker will walk out as the WWE Champion.
Sable made her entrance for the Women’s Championship match. Huge ovation for her. Highlights aired showing Jacqueline winning the Women’s Title two months earlier.
Women’s Championship: Jacqueline (w/Marc Mero) vs. Sable
Pre-match notes: Sable was one of the biggest stars in the company at the time. They didn’t have a women’s division for about three years, but they brought it back and built it around Sable. Marc Mero was married to Sable at the time. Jacqueline was a solid heel champion although there weren’t a lot of women on the roster to form an actual division.
The referee of the match is Shane McMahon. Jacqueline attacked able from behind. Sable nailed a stiff kick to knock her down. Sable hit a TKO slam for a two count as Mero pulled Sable out of the ring. Sable kicked Mero in the nuts and then gave him a Sablebomb (Powerbomb) on the floor. Jacqueline nailed Sable from behind. They went back in the ring with Jacqueline in control. Sable hit a back body drop to counter a move. Sable countered a Tornado DDT attempt and Sable hit the Sablebomb Powerbomb to win the match and the title at the 3:14 mark.
Winner and New WWE Women’s Champion: Sable
Analysis: * A quick match to put over Sable for the title. She got revenge on the heels after they made life difficult for her for several months. Like I said before, the company had a really thin women’s division and things didn’t change for the better until two years after this.
(The fans loved Sable, so it was a big deal to see her as the Women’s Champion. It just wasn’t a very good match. There also wasn’t much of a division at this point. It would take a few more years to really get going.)
Semifinal Tournament: Mankind vs. Steve Austin
Pre-match notes: Austin is selling injuries from the match against Boss Man earlier. He had a rivalry with Mankind when he was Dude Love from earlier in 1998.
Austin pounded away on Mankind and ripped off his jacket as well as taking off his shoes. That meant Mankind wrestled in socks for this match. Vince McMahon was rolled out to ringside on his wheelchair with Brisco, Patterson and Commissioner Slaughter were with him. Mankind took control with a running knee into the corner. Mankind hit Austin with one of his shoes. Austin came back with a Thesz Press followed by the elbow drop. Mankind slipped out of a Stone Cold Stunner attempt. He left the ring, so Patterson and Brisco told him to go back in. Austin went after Mankind, which led to a Mankind back body drop on Austin on the floor. Mankind whipped Austin into the steel steps to knock him down. Mankind sent Austin over the barricade, but then Austin hit a clothesline that sent him back towards ringside. Mankind sent Austin face first into the steps. Back in the ring, Mankind got a two count. Chinlock by Mankind that looked very weak. Double clothesline spot knocked both guys down. Austin came back with a clothesline out of the corner. Mankind sent Austin face first into the ring post. Vince instructed Mick to get him. Mankind brought a chair into the ring, he charged ahead and Austin kicked it into his face. Austin missed a running splash and bounced against the ropes. Mankind hit a DDT onto the chair for a two count. Really good nearfall. Austin back body drop on the chair. Could it have been a DQ there? Sure, but they went lax on the rules here. Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner. He covered, the ref counted one…two…and Vince popped up the wheelchair to grab Chioda. Vince punched the referee and kicked him with JR freaking out saying Vince wasn’t really hurt. Mankind went for a Mandible Claw, but Austin fought out of it and hit another Stone Cold Stunner. Here’s Shane McMahon as the referee with the one…two…and…DOUBLE MIDDLE FINGER! It is digitized out on the Network feed, but that’s what he did. Austin had this crazed look on his face while JR was yelling about it. Mankind with a clothesline. Brisco and Slaughter went into the ring with Brisco hitting Austin in the head with a chairshot (Austin did get his hand up). Mankind covered for the win and Shane counted the pinfall win for Mankind at 10:27.
Winner by pinfall: Mankind
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a very good brawl with a lot of intensity. They always had exciting matches together. The ending of this match is what people remember the most because of Shane’s actions, but everything that happened before it was well done. The turn of Shane was a big thing because he was still a relatively new character to television with Vince humiliating him a few weeks before this. That was important in the story because not only did they just screw Austin, but they also furthered the belief that Vince wanted Mankind to win the tournament. Job well done in terms of storyline advancement.
(I think it’s one of the best heel turns ever. Shane wasn’t on TV for that long prior to this, but the way it was done and the way it had such an impact in the tournament was absolutely masterful storytelling. I can still remember watching this with friends, we all wanted Austin to win and one of my friends was so pissed off at Shane for what he did. Classic heel turn.)
With the win, Mankind is in the finals against Undertaker or Rock.
Vince and friends ran to the back. JR: “Oh there they go skipping away!” Austin walked towards the back with anger in his eyes. Vince’s crew left in a limo while Austin was shown running backstage. Austin opened a truck door, tossed the guy out of it and drove the truck so he was following the McMahons in the truck.
The announcers went over what happened. Some fan behind the announcers was giving his middle finger to the camera. Replays aired of what happened.
Semifinal Tournament: The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. The Rock
Undertaker was aggressive early on with punches and forearm shots to the chest. It went outside briefly, but then they went back in the ring with Undertaker still in control. Rock with a boot to the face followed by a clothesline. Elbow by Undertaker knocked him down. Taker with more punches while Rock was tied up in the ropes. Rock hit a back body drop that sent Taker over the top to the floor. A Rock punch sent Undertaker over the barricade. JR ripped on Shane for what he did to Austin earlier. Undertaker was back in control with more punches. Rock avoided an attack in the corner, but Taker once again nailed punches to slow him down. Samoan Drop connects for Rock. Both guys were down as Boss Man walked back to the ring. Rock nailed a DDT. Body slam connects for Rock. He went for the People’s Elbow, but Boss Man grabbed his foot. Undertaker back up with a clothesline and elbow drop. Undertaker punched Boss Man and rock with a clothesline of his own for Undertaker. Kane walked down to ringside, Undertaker shoved Rock into him and Kane hit a sloppy looking Chokeslam on Rock. It was announced that The Rock wins by disqualification at the 8:23 mark.
Winner by disqualification: The Rock
Undertaker punched the ref. Undertaker and Kane punched eachother. Undertaker and Kane started brawling. Then they left through the crowd.
Analysis: *1/2 It was a slow-paced match probably because they were both tired from wrestling earlier in the night. They barely did any wrestling holds. It was just a lot of punches and kicks from Undertaker, which isn’t that exciting to watch. Rock won in a fluke way because Kane’s attack on him actually gave him the victory. Undertaker was always booked so strong, so they didn’t want him doing a clean job.
(A finish that protected Undertaker by losing without being pinned. It was also a cheap win for Rock, which fit into what was happening later in the night.)
The finals of the tournament will see The Rock battle Mankind with the winner earning the WWE World Championship.
Mankind was interviewed by Cole backstage. Mankind said lady luck is on his side if you smell what “The Sock” is cooking.
The New Age Outlaws did their usual pre-match promo while wearing their DX gear.
WWE Tag Team Championships: New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) vs. The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry
Pre-match notes: The Outlaws are the faces, Brown & Henry are heels and the Headbangers aren’t over as heels.
Three guys are in the ring while the other three are on the apron waiting for tags. Mosh with a running splash on Brown in the corner followed by a springboard cross body for two as Road Dogg made the save. Brown nailed a running powerbomb on Road Dogg. The referee was distracted, so Mosh hit a low blow on Dogg while Brown held him. Henry bearhug on Dogg. Mosh clipped the leg of Henry to take him down. Road Dogg was sent to the floor. Brown nailed a hurricanrana off the top rope on Mosh. Dogg was on the apron, Brown knocked him down after he was tossed into the rope and Mosh got a nearfall on Brown. Henry nailed Road Dogg with a clothesline that led to a two count. Mosh countered a Powerbomb by Brown and got a rollup for two. Thrasher brought in Mosh, who nailed a running splash on Dogg. Mosh taunted Gunn to “suck that, buddy” followed by a groin thrust and Gunn went after him. Low blow by Mosh on Brown in front of the ref gets a two count. Brown and Mosh collided, so Dogg was able to crawl over to tag in Gunn finally. Gunn punched all four heels and Brown nailed him with a Powerbomb for two as a Headbanger made the save. Gunn nailed a Fameasser on Mosh for a two count. JR called it a Rocker Dropper (Marty Jannetty popularized the move), so they hadn’t established it as a finishing move. Henry splashed Mosh for a two count. Gunn hit a piledriver on Mosh and pinned him to win the match at 10:10.
Winners by pinfall: New Age Outlaws
Analysis: 1/2* Boring tag match. Wish it was five minutes shorter. The most popular team was definitely the champs, so it made sense for them to retain. A match was needed to give the other guys a rest before the finals. Too bad it wasn’t a better match.
(It was just a break between the tournament matches. The tag team division wasn’t great yet. That would happen in another year or so when Edge & Christan, The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz were there to really carry it.)
A replay aired of Austin getting screwed out of a win by Shane McMahon earlier.
The announcers talked about how either Mankind or The Rock will win their first WWE Title.
Mankind made his entrance with JR noting that in the last three years at Survivor Series, the WWE Title changed hands. This year there’s no champion, but there will be a new champion. Mankind is wearing wrestling boots for the first time in this show. The Rock made his entrance.
Vince and Shane McMahon were backstage. They told Boss Man they can handle this, so Boss Man left.
WWE World Championship Tournament Finals: Mankind vs. The Rock
Pre-match notes: This was the fourth match of the night for both guys although Mankind’s first match was a joke.
There was a feeling out process early on. It went to the floor a bit with Mankind nailing some punches. They went back to the ring with Mankind applying a chinlock. The crowd was standing up as the camera focused on Vince and Shane McMahon (still in ref gear) walked down to ringside. The story idea was that Vince didn’t want Rock to win. A Rock punch knocked Mankind out of the ring. Rock nailed a suplex on Mankind on the floor. The match went into the crowd with Rock as the aggressor. Mankind charged at him, so Rock hit a back body drop over the barricade that sent Mankind crashing on the floor. Rock with a chinlock. Mankind came back with a Cactus clothesline that sent both of them out of the ring. Mankind with a chair shot to the back with JR ranting about how the ref was likely told no countouts or disqualifications. Mankind had the steps in his hands, so Rock hit the steps with the chair. Mankind got back up and Rock crushed him with a hard chair shot to the head. Ouch. No more chair shots to the head these days, which is for the best. That earned a two count back in the ring.
They brawled in the corner of the ring with Mankind hitting a low blow. JR said that Hebner likely saw it, but he thinks he was told no disqualifications or countouts. Mankind nailed the elbow smash off the apron onto Rock on the floor. JR was ranting about how the ref should get them out of there. Mankind nailed a leg drop on Rock on the announce table, which didn’t break. Back in the ring, Mankind grabbed another chinlock. The Rock fought back with punches, but his momentum was stopped as Mankind hit a back body drop over the top to the floor. They went back into the ring with Rock hitting a DDT. Mankind tossed Rock over the top to the floor again. Mankind went for an elbow drop off the middle rope, but Rock moved and Mankind went crashing through the Spanish announce table. Nasty looking bump. He’s crazy, but we already knew that. Back in the ring, Rock with a body slam. Rock hit the People’s Elbow for a two count. Mankind came back with a double arm DDT. Mankind grabbed Mr. Socko and applied the Mandible Claw. Fans chanted “Rocky” to rally behind Rock. It led to Rock breaking free and he hit a Rock Bottom. Both guys were down. Rock covered with one arm for a two count. Awesome nearfall there. Rock got back up, did the People’s Eyebrow at Vince and Rock applied the Sharpshooter. Vince went to the timekeeper and told him to ring the bell even though Mankind never gave up. The match went 17:10.
Winner by submission and New WWE World Champion: The Rock
Shane went into the ring to raise Rock’s hand. Vince had the WWE Title in his hand. Vince, Shane and Rock hugged in the ring.
Analysis: ***1/4 What a swerve! It was a copy of the Survivor Series 1997 finish from one year earlier, but the difference is this was part of a storyline to turn Rock into a massive heel and it worked perfectly. I’m glad they were given nearly 20 minutes to have a match because the title match should be the longest on the show. If it was short like some of the other matches then it would have been disappointing. There were some great nearfalls towards the end of the match. I liked Mankind’s big table bump because it showed what he was willing to do in order to win the title.
(I love it. One of my favorite match finishes ever. Yes, it ripped off Survivor Series one year earlier, but this time they did it to enhance the story of The Rock selling out with the McMahons to become the WWE Champion. Mankind had no idea it was coming. The fans didn’t know. It worked perfectly.)
After the match, Vince said that seeing is believing. Vince said he didn’t screw the people, he said “the people screwed the people.” That’s playing off his line a year earlier saying “Bret screwed Bret.” Vince told the fans that they are gullible like Mankind. He said he’d elaborate more on Raw. Vince said they are so proud for a number of reasons, one of those reasons was that Stone Cold was screwed in this very ring. He said a man that loathes and detests every one of you is The Rock. He congratulated Rock. Vince said Shane had an Academy Award winning performance. Shane said he’s just like his dad after all. Rock said it’s time for every piece of trailer park trash to kiss The Rock’s ass if you smell what The Rock is cooking.
Analysis: They didn’t need to do a promo there, but I think it was smart to do it in order to explain what happened.
Mankind spoke up and told “dad” Vince he didn’t understand what was going on. Rock attacked Mankind from behind with a belt shot to the back of the head. Rock Bottom connects for Rock on Mankind.
Vince put the WWE Title around Rock’s waist and Shane announced Rock as the Corporate Champion. Then Rock put the title on his shoulder.
Steve Austin was shown back in the arena. The crowd went wild as Austin stared at what was going on in the ring. Austin ran into the ring with Rock stomping away on him. Vince and Shane ran out of the ringside area. Austin hit a Stone Cold Stunner on Rock. He tossed Rock out of the ring. The crowd was going crazy for all of this. They loved it. Austin held the WWE Title in his hands. He tossed it at Rock outside the ring. Austin picked up Mankind and hit a Stone Cold Stunner on him.
Austin’s music played as he stared at Rock outside the ring. Rock got back to his feet, so Austin continued the attack with punches and kicks.
Analysis: That was a high energy, fast-paced ass-kicking from Austin. There’s nobody better in wrestling history than Austin at doing something like that.
(There’s your WrestleMania 15 main event. We didn’t know it officially at that point, but it was pretty obvious that was coming.)
Austin walked to the back while a final image was shown of The Rock with the McMahons.
The show had a run time of 2 hours and 44 minutes.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– That was one of the best heel turns in wrestling history. Maybe the best. It ripped off what happened in 1997, but they sure did it perfectly here with all of the little things done all night long to set it up. People didn’t see it coming because we thought that Rock was being groomed as a top face. Turning heel like that worked so well because of how much Vince was hated by the fans for being an evil owner.
– I liked having Austin come back out to end the night to set the stage for what would be the WrestleMania main event five months later. That’s what was so cool about it. It was more than just some quick angle. This was part of a long term story that would play out at the biggest show of the year.
– Great performances by The Rock and Mankind all night long. Both guys were upper midcarders heading into the show. By the end of the night, they were legit main eventers that were elevated because of their awesome feud for the WWE Title over the next few months. They had several matches together and most of them were very good.
– The creative team led by Vince McMahon, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara were clicking on all cylinders. I know that Russo & Ferrara take a lot of heat for a lot of things they did in their careers, but they were doing their best work at around this time. They should be proud of this show because it was a huge success.
– The non-tournament matches were largely forgettable. It’s fine because the show was about the tournament more than anything else.
Best Match: Mankind vs. Steve Austin
Worst Match: The Rock vs. Big Boss Man
Most Memorable Moment: Shane with the middle fingers to Austin; Rock wins WWE Title after Vince tells timekeeper to ring the bell. I couldn’t pick just one. Both were huge.
1. The Rock
3. Steve Austin
4. Shane McMahon
5. Vince McMahon
Show rating (out of 10): 8
This is an example of great booking making a show awesome rather than amazing matches from top to bottom. The huge swerve at the end of the night made you want to see what would happen next. That’s what we want. From top to bottom, this was an excellent pay-per-view.
(I don’t have much more to add. I love watching this show. I can watch it from start to finish at any time and not get bored by it. Survivor Series 1998 will always be fun to me.)
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.