Monday, 9 March 2015

From the loft: WWF Raw Magazine - 1998

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Magazine cover ft. Kane
Three months on from the 1998 Royal Rumble, the World Wrestling Federation's publication schedule had them still ranting about Kane setting fire to the Undertaker, the short-lived NWA revival, and the violent history of Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie.

Yes, I'm back to doing this again. Every now and again, as part of a long, drawn-out clear out, I head up into the loft, pull out an old wrestling magazine, slap it down here on Retro Pro Wrestling, then promptly throw the whole thing in the garbage.

This time out, we're going through my battered, crumpled copy of WWF Raw Magazine from April 1998.

Ready? Let's do this.

Vic Venom: Vince Russo rages about some sports writer 

Just this once, let's skip over the contents page and several ads trying to get us to subscribe to both this and the more PG-friendly WWF Magazine, and head straight to the content. 

First up, Vince Russo's scathing alter-ego Vic Venom launches a full-blown attack on The New York Post for daring to criticise Mike Tyson and his involvement in Wrestlemania 15. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Vic Venom
This isn't just any rant, of course. It's Vince Russo in the FREAKIN' !@#$% ATTITUDE ERA, so it's full of his trademark attempts at trying to be edgy by WRITING IN CAPS A LOT and occasioanlly typing stuff like @#!%$ to indicate that he's swearing.

Get through all that, and what we've got here is Russo giving us the low-down on ethics in journalism and why New York scribes lack the stuff. Fair enough, but I'm still kind of wondering whose job it was to stuff a newspaper down the toilet and take a picture of it. 

The Informer 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Shawn Michaels bare ass
Because if there was one thing pro wrestling fans needed more of back in the late 90s, it was Shawn Michaels' bare ass. 

This time out, the Heartbreak Kid's naked booty was the lead picture for a two-pager by The Informer, another Russo character we were supposed to believe was dishing out real insider dirt on all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the World Wrestling Federation. 

Rather than the random tidbits usually found in WWF Magazine, we instead got a more biting OMG-YOU'RE-NOT-GONNA-!@$%#-BELIEVE THIS piece suggesting that the 'old guard' were not too happier about the company's move to the Attitude Era. 

No !$#%, Sherlock.  Beyond stating the obvious though, Russo The Informer does at least erm, inform us, that both sides were trying to work together for the common good. After all, they were all in it for the love of wrestling, right?

Letters to the Editor 

Having worked as a magazine journalist in a previous life, I'm well aware that staffers are sometimes tasked with making up these supposed Reader's Letters, but reading through the pages of Raw Magazine, Iwish to God some of them are genuine. 

Like the one from a Ms. Patricia Doherty of Providence, Rhode Island, who strongly suggests that Vince McMahon should to more to 'evaluate the superstars he lets into his organization' lest some of them, you know, put the Undertaker in a casket or set fire to it or something. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Letters to the Editor


Wherever you are Ms. Doherty, please tell me you genuinely wrote this letter. 

Elsewhere, Leanne Winter of Denver, Colorado was thrilled that the mag had previously acknowledged Kama Mustafa and Papa Shango as being one and the same. Keith Morgan was disappointed that the heel Jim Cornette had done heelish things, and Connecticut's own Gary Cooper was full of praise for a recent American Online Chat by Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself. 

Speaking of America Online, it's interesting to note that the company's email address back then ended in @AOL.COM. Wonder if they still check that account?

Ragin' Ross: Everybody's got potential, apparently 

Up next, Good Ol' JR brings us his regular column, intended to be a snapshot of the random thoughts that fluttered through his brain, but really just Ross telling us how half the roster could be the next big thing. 

According to Jim, Vader and Ken Shamrock were both ready to take it to the next level, Flash Funk was underated and deserved more, The Jackyl had the potential to be huge, as did Kurgan, Brawshaw, Pierre of the Quebeccers and D'Lo Brown. 

Well, at least he got one of those right. 

Jim Cornette on the NWA title 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Jim Cornette charts the history of the NWA title

Flipping over the page, we find James E. Cornette on fine, old-school form as he continues to chart the history of the NWA title. 

In this second installment of his two-part feature, Cornette chronicles the belt's linage from 1984 up to the present day, noting, with some glee, that the WCW's title was not the same one that began life way back in 1905, a result, of course, of Nature Boy Ric Flair's jump to the World Wrestling Federation in the early 1990s. 

It Didn't Start With Tyson: How athletes from other sports have fared in the squared circle 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Austin and Tyson

You remember the story, don't you? Back in the early days of the Attitude Era, boxing star Mike Tyson had a brief run with the WWF in which he was pitted as the special enforcer for a Wrestlemania 14 match between Shawn Micahels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. In the build up to the big event, Tyson aligned himself with Michaels and his DX camp, only to turn face at the big event and reveal himself to be an Austin guy. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Muhammad Ali
Yet Iron Mike wasn't the only sporting star to grace the WWF ring, and in this multi-page article, Keith Elliot Greenberg analyses the success -or lack thereof- of other stars who made their way into pro wrestling from another sport entirely. 

Ken Shamrock, Mark Henry, Dan Severn, and Farooq are all accounted for here, as are the likes of Wrestlemania 11 headliner, Lawrence Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Wrestlemania 1 attraction Mr. T, William 'The Refrigerator' Perry, Butterbean and Ken Patera.

Need more names who made the transition? How about Bronko Nagurski, the former NWA champion who defeated Lou Thesz for the title back in 1939, Ernie 'The Big Cat' Ladd, and a whole host of others, including Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, all of whom were stars of the football field at one time or another. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Butterbean and Marc Mero
Switching to boxing, Greenberg goes into some detail about any number of Boxing vs. Wrestling matches, including the now infamous bout between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki. 

Keeping the same thing going, we learn that, whilst Ali and Inoki were boring everybody to tears with a match in which the latter spent most of the time on the matt, kicking at the boxing legend's legs, across the ocean at New York's Shea Stadium, a bout between the late, great Andre the Giant and 'Bayonne Bleeder' Chuck Wepner, provided much more excitement, especially when Andre got fed up of Wepner jabbing at him, and simply deposited him over the ropes and on to the arena floor. 

Before that, we get lots of praise for a man who was then regarded as something akin to the best non-wrestler ever to step foot inside a professional wrestling ring, LT. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -   Lawrence Taylor battles Bam Bam Bigelow
Make no mistake about it, Taylor's performance at Wrestlemania 11 was far better than it should have been.

OK, so we're not talking Daniel Bryan or Shawn Michaels here, but Taylor did at least manage to hold his own and not look completely out of his element, something those pro footballers who would later go on to compete in WCW rings couldn't exactly say themselves. 

Here, Greenberg notes that "Wrestlers later said that Taylor was a gifted and determined as any athlete to ever step into wrestling from another sport." 

Whilst I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to call him 'gifted,' I'll agree that it was praise well due for a man I'm sure holds the distinction of making his professional wrestling debut (and I suppose retirement match) in the main event of Wrestlemania. 


It's an NWA Revival: And Vince McMahon is the Target

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Jim Cornette leads an NWA revival

Over the next several pages, the one and only Kevin Kelly reminds us of the short-lived National Wrestling Alliance in which Jim Cornette, Jeff Jarrett, Blackjack Winham and The Rock 'n' Roll Express attempted to do something. Not necessarily take-over the World Wrestling Federation like a poor, old man's version of the New World Order, but well, to this day your writer still isn't entirely sure what was going on there, nor does Mr. Kelly make it all that clear. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Feature on the 98 NWA revival in WWF
Sure, he gives us a motive. Reminding us of those admittedly entertaining shoot promos Cornette was doing on Raw for a while, Kelly informs us that "Cornette called for the return to pure wrestling like the NWA used to provide, and said talent like Jeff Jarrett had gone unappreciated for too long.

"Claiming the Raw is War program was long on emotion but short on substance, Cornette put the Federation in a bad spot. It appeared as if no one took him seriously when he threatened to take action the following week, but what Cornette did was unprecedented."

What he did, was essentially have Jarrett win an NWA title nobody cared about, and turn Windham against his former New Blackacks partner, JBL.

As far as I recall, the angle bombed and was never really spoken about again.

Split personality: Is it basic instinct for Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie to brutalize each other?

If there's one thing this fan remembers fondly from the early part of 1998, it's Terry Funk sticking a pair of stockings over his head, inexplicably changing his name to Chainsaw Charlie, and teaming up with Mick Foley in his Cactus Jack guise to generally raise all kind of slapstick-hardcore chaos. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie

When they weren't feuding with the newly-formed New Age Outlaws, Cactus and Chainsaw, far from dumping each into barbed wire as they did back in the 1995 King of Deathmatch tournament, largely beat each other up with chairshots for no good reason. 

 Over the course of the next few pages, Bill Banks gives us the history of the two hardcore icons, and suggests that they're storied rivalry was far from over. 

Blazing Soul: An Undertaker/Kane pictorial

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Undertaker vs. Kane picture essay



























They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and in this pictorial essay of the feud between The Undertaker, Paul Bearer and Kane, that was especially true. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane vs. The Undertaker


The two had been at loggerheads since the Bad Blood pay per view of October 1997, recounted in detail in the January 1998 edition of WWF Magazine. As The Undertaker continued to refuse to fight is long-lost brother, Kane and Bearer continued to torment and torture The Phenom, right up to locking him a casket at the end of his WWF Championship match with Shawn Michaels at the 1998 Royal Rumble, and promptly setting fire to it. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane tombstones The Undertaker
Finally, The Undertaker would relent, and agree to face his brother at Wrestlemania 14, taking no less than three Tombstone piledrivers to put the Big Red Machine away for the three count. 

Not entirely unlike Cactus and Funk, the two would then spend the best part of a decade, if not more, occasionally fighting each other, occasionally joining forces as The Brothers of Destruction, and occasionally charting entirely different courses throughout the WWE without ever really acknowledging one another. 

But before all that, it started here, with nine simple lines of copy that were perhaps the best thing Russo ever committed to publication. 

Not that they were outstanding or anything, but had Vinny Ru been in his usual frame of mind at the time, the accompanying text to this article would have likley read something like. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane strikes The Undertaker
"Undertaker was once a FREAKIN' UNSTOPPABLE !@#!% MONSTER. He kicked ass and he did it on his own damn terms whether the Titan "suits" liked it or not. Then came Kane, and he was an ever bigger !$&%# MONSTER. I mean the guy was a FREAK. And he set Undertaker on fire."

Instead, he gave us these nine simple, yet very effective lines:

"It began with a secret. For years locked away in a vault. Until the crypt keeper set Pandora free. The fire in the eyes of the young child was insatiable. The pain. Intense. The innocent child had but one thing on his mind. Revenge. So in anger he stalked.

"The inferno had raged beyond his control. Fueled by the crypt keeper. The unthinkable. The revenge. The end. The beginning."

Simple, but solid. Congrats, Mr. Russo, that's pretty good for a guy who -in this time period anyway- tended to write like an angry teenager with ADHD.

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 -  Kane chokeslams The Undertaker
 I seem to recall there being a huge centerfold picturing Kane standing amist a blaze of flames as his brother supposedly burned to a crisp in the background, but alas, I appear to have lost that/

Oh well, moving on then.

Why Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight: Why we should take The Godwins seriously

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Feature on The Godwins

Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight, begins this Vic Venom-penned rant, 'Two names that mean absolutely nothing to fans of the World Wrestling Federation. However...two names that should. Let me try again. Henry O. Godwin and Phineas I. Godwin. HOG & PIG. "Titan Suits" ride again!!

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Henry Godwin blasts Vince McMahon
Russo loved raging against his employers, always referring to them as the 'Titan Suits,' and in this piece, he was on usual form, lambasting the very creative department he was part of for saddling two burly ass-kickers like Canterbury and Knight with the ridiculous gimmick of happy-go-lucky pig farmers. 

Just let them get down to kicking ass and taking names, argued 'Venom' and the World Wrestling Federation would've been a brighter place for it. 

If memory serves me correctly (and in this instance, I'm not sure it does), isn't that exactly what happened? Didn't the two get serious in keeping with the shift towards reality-based gimmicks at the time? Didn't they eventually become Southern Justice and fade from obscurity until Phineas started running around wearing nothing but a fanny-pack and calling himself Naked Mideon?


World Wrestling Federation Superstar line 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - WWF Superstar Line ad featuring Jim Ross
Look, I know the WWF was moving towards a more adult-orientated product at the time, but am I the only one disturbed by the fact that, in 1998, they advertised a premium rate phone line with the phrase 'Do somethin' with yourself!'?

Still, if you wanted to, erm, do somethin' with yourself whilst listening to Jim Ross bringing you 'all the news and behind-the-scenes info on Federation happenings, or to post-match interviews at the next big pay per view, you were in luck. 

For only $1.49 US, $1.99 in Canada, and a bargain 50p in the United Kingdom, you could do just that, as well as paying for the chance to play 'Trivia, Challenge and Adventures games...and try to win a prize! or to listen to 'The gospel according to the walking blue special..' in what I can only imagine was some kind of pre-taped rant courtesy of James E. Cornette. 

I've said this before when reviewing WWF magazines, but Cornette was !@#$ EVERYWHERE back in the late 1990s, at least he was if the magazines are to be believed. Sure, I remember him being on TV, but I don't remember him being quite the prominent figure he is in print. I mean, every other page, there's at least one mention of ol' James E.

Comparing The Rock to Muhammad Ali 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Comparing The Rock to Muhammad Ali
























Both were wildly-charismatic trash-talkers with a seemingly God-given knack for kicking ass and rising to the top of their chosen fields. Both were, at one time or another, universally-rivaled, and yes, both were of a darker skin tone than some of their peers, so it was only a matter of time before somebody drew parallels between boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, and future movie star, The Rock. 

In one of Raw Magazine's more entertaining pieces, that's exactly what Kevin Kelly does, not just comparing the two, but suggesting that both men were hated out of jealousy and racism rather than any shared love of talking smack. 

Get banged on a Saturday night 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Shotgun Saturday Night ad featuring The Headbangers
You remember Shotgun Saturday Night, right? Befor it became just another B-level show, this was WWF's attempt to replicate the intimate, adult-orientated atmosphere by holding raunchy shows in a number of nightclubs. 

One of the more memorable moments from those early shows, outside Marlena flashing her breasticles to a surprised Bob Backlund, was Glen Ruth and Charles Warrington dressed up as a tag team called The Flying Nuns. 

So it's probably fitting then that the two should appear here under their most famous guise as The Headbangers in an ad for that very same show. 

I've got to be honest though, I'm not sure I understand the connotations of "Television with 'REAL' meaning," especially when it comes as the tag line for a scripted pro wrestling show. Oh well. 

Remembering The Samoans 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Remembering The Samoans


























Hey, do you remember The Samoans? Of course you do. Before we had The HEadshrinkers, before we had The Usos, we had Afa & Sika, led by the one and only Captain Lou Albano. 

Here, Lou Gianfriddo introduces new fans to the duo and their greatest in-ring accomplishments. 

The Night the Belt Changed Hands: Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - The Night the Belt Changed Hands - Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty























I've mentioned many times in the past that my first introduction to the world of professional wrestling was witnessing Shawn Michaels hurling Marty Jannetty through the barbershop window whilst flicking through the TV channels one Sunday afternoon. 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Marty Jannetty dominates Shawn Michaels
What I never really mentioned, was that a year later, and at the ripe young age of nine, Jannetty was absolutely my favourite WWF wrestler in the world, with Tatanka not far behind. 

So you can probably imagine how happy I was back then to discover that my favourite Superstar had finally got the better of that no-good Shawn Michaels and taken his Intercontinental Championship, even if it wasn't to last. 

The event itself took place on June 6th, 1993 from Albany, New York. 

Michaels had just unveiled his new bodyguard in the form of shell-suit wearing, crop-topped giant, Kevin 'Diesel' Nash, but it wasn't enough on that fateful night to stop Jannetty capturing the gold, and holding on to it for just a number of days.

Here, Lucas Swineford gives us the full history of the former Rockers team mates, and recounts that famous night in New York in all its glory. 

Fantasy warfare: Bob Backlund vs. Owen Hart 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Owen Hart vs. Bob Backlund fantasy warfare























There was a time in the mid nineties when Owen Hart and Bob Backlund were, if not exactly bossom-buddies, then at least solid allies in their battle to overthrow a common enemy in the form of Owen's older brother, Bret. 

Here though, Bill Banks casts the two not as evil heels working on the same page, but as two opponents doing battle in what could have been a great match. 

As with all of these Raw Magazine fantasy warfare efforts, we never got Banks' opinion on who would have prevailed in such a clash, but instead get a simple analysis of their key wins, losses, strengths and weaknesses. 

Undertaker Chokeslams Chyna 

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - April 1998 - Undertaker Chokeslams Chyna
And finally, we end with this 'Raw Exclusive Photo' of The Undertaker lifting up Chyna by the throat and preparing to drive her down into the canvas. 

Another magazine done then, I'm off to go throw in this in the recycle pile and move on to something else. 

To keep updated on the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews, to ask me any questions, or to simply say Hi, come follow me on Twitter at @Retropwrestling.

When you've done that, why not head to my new Youtube channel to check out the first episode of the Retro Pro Wrestling Show, in which I look back at the year that was 1992, and all the various World Wrestling Federation shenanigans that went on at the time. 

Until next time, thanks for reading. 

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.