PPV REVIEW: WWF Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 EVENT REVIEW
April 26, 1998
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina.

We've talked multiple times on Retro Pro Wrestling about the true beginnings of the Attitude Era. 

Whether it was the World Wrestling Federation's gradual shift towards an edgier product back in 1996 (a shift that was so subtle you'd be forgiven for missing it altogether), or more prominent events like Montreal, there were a number of occasions between '96 and '98 that you could look to as a true turning point for the company.

Yet regardless as to when it started, by the time April 1998 rolled around, there was no mistaking it:

The Attitude Era was well and truly upon us.

Featuring an Inferno Match, Evil Mr. McMahon, Stone Cold causing mayhem and Sable giving most of the teenage boys in the audience plenty of reason to stay up at night, Unforgiven 1998 looked set to perfectly encapsulate everything this oft-mised era was truly all about.

But was it any good?

Let's see what happened when the WWF ventured into what was typically enemy territory to find out.

Now I Dub Thee Unforgiven

Stone Cold Steve Austin was now the biggest wrestling superstar on the planet and riding a wave of momentum as WWF Champion, so naturally, our introduction ignored him completely to focus on the first ever WWF Inferno match that we'd see tonight between The Undertaker and Kane.

To be fair, this intro was really good, mixing the company's usual penchant for the dramatic with quotes from Dante's Inferno and a compelling narrative.

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Jim ross & Jerry Lawler called the action
Immediately ruining the effect, we got some good ol' southern country music as the camera panned the North Carolina crowd and Jim Ross welcomed us to the show.

His colleague, Jerry 'The King' Lawler insisted that just because Vince McMahon (now doing his evil Mr. McMahon gimmick) had spent weeks implying that he'd do a Montreal on Austin in the Rattlesnake's upcoming title defence against Corporate Dude Love, that didn't necessarily mean that's what he was planning to do.

From there, it was onto our opening match

Six-Man Tag
The Nation (WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock, D'Lo Brown, and Mark Henry w/ Kama Mustafa) vs. Farooq, Ken Shamrock, and Steve Blackman

Since Wrestlemania 14, The Rock had seized control of The Nation and implored his men to basically let loose and be themselves.

Apparently, only Kama Mustafa had taken him up on that, as he came to the ring in a black leather waistcoat, top hat, and earrings, looking more like The Godfather we'd get to love him as, and less like the Supreme Fighting Machine that nobody had given a crud about.

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Farooq, Steve Blackman & Ken Shamrock took on The NationRock's leadership did mean that instead of the usual Nation Salute, the four men just did whatever they wanted when they hit the ring, though not before Howard Finkle referred to the Intercontinental Champion as 'The Rock, Ricky Maivia.'

Proving that he was done with them once and for all, Farooq came to the ring wearing his Nation attire and led Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman in doing the Nation Salute.

All of that is far more interesting than anything which happened in the match.

OK, so it wasn't bad, but it wasn't very interesting either, and basically saw The Nation control the bout until Farooq hit the Dominator to give the match, and the feud, the ending it deserved.
Your Winners: Farooq, Ken Shamrock, and Steve Blackman

Ok, so maybe it wasn't the ending, because afterwards, Michael Cole interviewed Farooq at ringside and Farooq said that this was only the beginning.

Stone Cold Threatens the Time Keeper

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Steve Austin threatens timekeeper Mark Yeaton
In what we were told was an unscheduled appearance, Stone Cold Steve Austin came out and yanked timekeeper Mark Yeaton into the ring.

There, Austin gave Yeaton a fair warning that if Mr. McMahon did go all Montreal and screw him out of the title, then he'd kick Yeaton's ass, but if Yeaton rang the bell only when he was supposed to, he'd be fine.

At one point, Austin told the timekeeper that he had to 'call it down the middle,' apparently mistaking his job for that of a referee.

World Wrestling Federation European Championship
WWF European Champion Triple H (w/ Chyna) vs. Owen Hart
(Chyna must be locked in a shark cage)

Long before Enzo Amore did it, Chyna was suspended above the ring in a shark cage to stop her interfering.

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Owen Hart looks on as Chyna gets put in a cage
Obviously, that meant she and Triple H were still technically heels, though they were getting enough cheers that a full-on babyface turn couldn't be too far away.

Sadly, Chyna's attempts to break out of the cage were so distracting that it was hard to focus on her man defending the European Championship against Owen Hart.

That was a shame, because the actual match was pretty solid, but nobody was watching because they were all focussed on Chyna.

To her credit, the moment she did escape the cage and spent time hanging from the outside of it was pretty impressive and proved to be the highlight of the whole thing.

The cage lowered (we were told it hd been done by Road Dogg) and whilst Chyna was distracting all the referees, Owen hit Hunter with then Pedigree and made the cover.

With no ref in place, X-Pac, in his first WWF PPV appearance since In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage, hit Owen with a fire extinguisher the drapsed Hunter's arm over the challenger.

Mike Chioda made the three count, and this one was over.
Your Winner and Still WWF European Champion: Triple H

Post-match, Michael Cole interviewed Owen Hart.

The defeated wrestler told Cole that enough was enough and it was time for a change.

He also said that 'this bullshit has gotta stop.' making the second time in less than a year that word had been used on a WWF PPV (the first by Vader at In Your House 18: Badd Blood)

New Midnight Express (Bombastic Bob & Bodacious Bart w/ Jim Cornette) vs. The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - The New Midnight Express set to battle the Rock 'n' Roll Express
Prior to the match, Jim Cornette got us all nicely riled up by calling the fans 'ugly' and insisting that his team of Bombastic Bob and Bodacious Bart were going to 'ruin' the NWA favourites, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson.

When The Rock 'n' Roll Express did come out -for what was their second ever WWF PPV match (the first being Survivor Series 1994)- they entered into what proved to be the most entertaining match on the show so far.

An enjoyable highlight was Jim Cornette, fed up of Tim White catching his team cheating, challenging the referee to a fight.

White untucked his shirt and put up the dukes, so the cowardly Cornette backed off and we got the rest of this fun, old-school match with a decidedly old-school finish: The New Midnight Express won with a bulldog.
Your Winners: The New Midnight Express

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Luna Vachon threatens to destroy Sable in their evening gown match
Out in the back, Doc Hendrix spoke to Luna Vachon (flanked by The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust) who cut a wonderfully weird promo in which she promised to leave Sable looking 'like a new born baby' in their upcoming evening gown match.

Evening Gown Match
Luna Vachon (w/ TAFKA Goldust) vs. Sable

As the participants made their way to the ring, Ross and Lawler were quick to stress on multiple occasions that this was no different than a 'tuxedo match,' that male wrestlers would normally compete in, as if so desperate to tell us that they weren't being sexist or exploitative in any way.

It's funny how the company would start off the Attitude Era with this kind of disclaimer and dress up a 'strip you naky' match as a classy 'evening gown' affair and finish it by just calling it a 'bra and panties' match and fitting it in somewhere between Hot Lesbian Action and Trish Stratus barking like a dog.

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Sable celebrates stripping Luna Vachon in an evening gown matchThe 'match' -and I'm being generous calling it that- was garbage, though thankfully very short garbage.

After a minute or so of teasing, Luna inevitably stripped Sable down to her bra and knickers.

Yes, I get it, Sable was the hottest thing on the planet, but I'm sorry, seeing a woman having her clothes ripped off and being angry about it just does nothing for me.
Your Winner: Luna Vachon

Afterwards, Sable hit the Sable Bomb on Luna then chased her under the ring and emerged a minute later holding Luna's bra and panties aloft, as if to suggest she'd literally raped her nekkid under the ring.

As the company's second biggest star (behind Austin) celebrated, Luna was wrapped up in Goldust's robe (which he hadn't worn for months but conveniently did tonight) and was carried backstage over the shoulder of her man.

Mr McMahon Resolves Himself of All Responsibility

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Mr. McMahon looking perplexed
Ah, semi-naked Sable followed by a Mr McMahon promo; it doesn't get more Attitude Era than that, does it?

With The Stooges, Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe by his side, McMahon addressed the earlier comments made by Steve Austin in which he said that whilst he wouldn't dream of screwing Steve Austin because it was 'beneath [his] dignity,' he wouldn't be held responsible if Stone Cole screwed Stone Cold, ala 'Bret screwed Bret' back at the 1997 Survivor Series.

Vince hadn't quite perfected the mannerisms of his heel character yet, but you could tell he was working on it, and this was good stuff from The Chairman.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws (Road Dog Jesse James & Bad Ass Billy Gunn) vs. L.O.D 2000 (Hawk & Animal w/ Sunny)

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Billy Gunn and a sex doll
Like the rest of their DX brethren, The New Age Outlaws were still playing heels here, and came to the ring with a blowup doll that was supposed to represent a famous North Carolinian sports coach.

Then Hawk & Animal came to the ring to claim the title shot they'd earned last month in Wrestlemania 14's big, 15 team battle royal, and not once did the announcers mention that their manager, Sunny, used to manage Billy Gunn.

The match was a painful snoozefest that ended in the same way as Shawn Michaels/British Bulldog from In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, when Hawk drilled Road Dog with a bridging German suplex and held him for the pin, but the referee counted Hawk's shoulders down instead.

I know the New Age Outlaws were entertaining as hell, and I know that Sunny never looked hotter than she did with Hawk and Animal, but that was seriously a horrible match.
Your Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The New Age Outlaws

Afterwards, the rest of DX came out to celebrate with the Outlaws whilst the Road Warriors took out their frustrations by taking out Mike Chioda with a Doomsday Device.

Jeff Jarrett Live in Concert

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown
Looking to redeem himself after his 'live' performance at In Your House 2 turned out to be a sham, Double J Jeff Jarrett teamed up with Sawyer Brown to sing 'Some Girls Do.'

The resulting performance was even worse than 'With My Baby Tonight,' with Jarrett making it even more obvious than last time that he was lip-synching, whilst the audio mix was so god awful that the whole thing made me cringe from start to finish.

After the performance was over, Jarrett was attacked by his arch-nemesis, Steve Blackman.

Tennessee Lee came to the rescue and drilled Blackman with a guitar, allowing Double J to slap on a figure four.

The whole thing was so bad that the crowd began chanting 'We Want Flair!'

Hell, Fire, and Hot Dogs

Prior to a Michael Cole narrated video package highlighting the build-up to our first ever Inferno Match, Jerry Lawler brought out some marshmallows and hot dogs, you know, to put over how serious this match was.

Inferno Match
Kane (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. The Undertaker

First person to set their opponent on fire wins.

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - The Undertaker prepares for battle in the first ever WWF inferno match
Early on, Jim Ross claimed that Kane had cost The Undertaker the WWF title against Shawn Michaels in the Hell in a Cell at In Your House 18: Badd Blood, which was impressive because Bret 'The Hitman' Hart was Champion at the time.

Later, Ross then called Kane a 'one-eyed monster.' I wonder who explained that one to him after the show.

Though aesthetically impressive, the early parts of this match were pretty dull, as Kane and Undertaker spent most of their time in the corners trying to set one another on fire.

Every now and again, the pyro guy would send the flames shooting high above the ring ropes, and that looked way cooler than anything the wrestlers were doing.

That was until 'Taker clotheslined his brother to the outside.

There, Kane tried to bail, only for Vader, with whom he'd also been feuding, to come down and batter the Big Red Machine back to the ring.

There, Undertaker soared high above the flames and took out both men with an awesome looking tope.

Paul Bearer tried getting involved by hitting 'Taker with a chair, but The Dead a Man merely beat his former manager all the way to Jeff Jarrett's stage and smashed a bass drum over his head.

This of course, was all a distraction so that Kane could fit an obvious fire-proof sleeve over his arm.

When Undertaker returned, he hit Kane and Kane simply shoved this sleeve into the fire then ran off with his arm ablaze.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Prior to our main event, we were reminded about Vince trying -and failing- to mound Steve Austin into a corporate champion, and how Dude Love had turned his back on his former tag team partner.

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love

WWF -  Unforgiven 1998: In Your House 21 - Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love - WWF Championship
After a lacklustre show, we finally got a top quality match here in our main event.

If you were going to send anyone out to make your new Champion look like a star, Mick Foley was the man for the job, and here he certainly didn't disappoint.

Both the Dude and The Rattlesnake played their roles to perfection, making this a very exciting match with a dumb finish.

After the ref got bumped, Austin hit Vince McMahon with a chair then nailed Love with the stunner and then simply counted his own three count.

That was enough for Mark Yeaton to ring the bell and for Austin's music to play, though it turned out he actually lost via DQ:
Your Winner via Disqualification: Dude Love (Steve Austin retains the title)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that.

I'm convinced that fans often look back to the Attitude Era with rose-tinted glasses, and this show is the perfect example of that.

Yes, it contained a lot of what fans like about that era, but as a show, it ranged from boring to cringe-worthy from beginning up to the main event, with the one notable exception being the surprisingly good New Midnight Express / Rock 'n' Roll Express bout.

Watch for the main event and the chance to see some Sable booty, but otherwise, this is one to avoid.

1998 events reviewed so far
  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1998 
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1998
  3. WWF - In Your House 20: No Way Out of Texas 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl 1998
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1998 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 14 
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1998
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  1. I was wondering if there were any "WE WANT FLAIR" chants.