PPV REVIEW: WWF Fully Loaded - In Your House 23

July 26, 1998 
Selland Arena in Fresno, California

It was the summer of 1998 and D-Generation-X were one of the most popular acts in professional wrestling. 

Popular enough, it turned out, to be the focal point of all the advertising for the 23rd In Your House event, Fully Loaded.

Popular enough, also, to see their leader Triple H feature in one of the marquee matches against another rapidly rising star.

Indeed, despite featuring on only a small handful of PPVs throughout the year, 1998 really was looking to be a breakout year for the man known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

It was in this year that he went from solid mid-card act and Shawn Michaels' lackey to showing signs that he too could be a top-level performer.

Tonight, Hunter would have his biggest opportunity to date to prove that he was worthy of a main event spot, a one-on-one encounter with The Rock.

Here's what happened when two of the WWE's most successful stars looked to put on a career-changing performance on a hot summer's night in California.

The King Gets a Peek at Sable’s Peaks

In a rare move, we began tonight with a cold open featuring Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler entering Sable’s dressing room.

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 Review - Jerry Lawler interviews Sable
With his flush-red face and giddy demeanour, Lawler looked like your typical horny schoolboy as he asked Sable if she could give us a description of the outfit she’d be wearing in her bikini contest later on in the show.

Rather than describe it, however, Sable offered to show the King and promptly disappeared behind a screen. There, she took her top off and invited The King for a look.

Unable to contain himself, The King went off grinning from ear to ear.

Clearly, whatever Sable was wearing was worth watching the PPV for.

More Questions Than Answers

After the typical WWF signature, we finally got our video package, this one telling us that tonight’s main event threw up more questions than it answered:

  1. Were The Undertaker and Kane really in cahoots?
  2. Could WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin trust The Undertaker?
  3. Was Mankind just a pawn in some wicked game?
Tonight, we’d find out live as the World Wrestling Federation went Fully Loaded!

Pyro and crowd shots followed, along with an introduced from The Voices of The Attitude Era, Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, and with that, it was into it first match.

Val Venis vs. Double J (w/ Tennessee Lee)

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 Review - Val venis makes his PPV debut against Jeff Jarrett
Hellloooo Ladies....

Yes, here we had the pay per view debut of wrestling porn star, Val Venis.

Doing his usual spiel before the match, Val claimed that he was about to do something he’d always wanted to do, and insinuated that he might pull his trunks down, but was interrupted by Tennessee Lee.

Warning Venis that he was about to make a fool of himself, Lee led Double J to the ring along with the newly repackaged Southern Justice, who was, of course, the former Godwins, now using their real names and wearing Suits.

Tim White sent Dennis Knight and Mark Canterbury backstage before the match even started, after which Kaientai made a surprise appearance.

Whilst the referee sent most of the group to the back, Yamaguchi-San was allowed to join JR and Lawler on commentary to talk about Val apparently appearing in a porn movie with Mrs Yamaguchi-San.

Not to worry though, because the following evening, the Kaientai leader promised that his men would do something to Val that would ensure he was never the same again.

As we all know, that was the time they tried to choppy-choppy Val’s Pee Pee.

As guest commentary spots often did, this distracted from what was otherwise a reasonable effort from the two men in the ring.

Though fairly nondescript, it did look to have the crowd’s attention until Val rolled up his opponent for the win.
Your Winner: Val Venis

Afterwards, Venis took to the mic to make fun of how short Yamaguchi-San was.

Non-title match
WWF European Champion D’Lo Brown (w/ The Godfather) vs. X-Pac (w/ Chyna)

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 Review - D'Lo Brown pins X-Pac
D’Lo Brown had only just become European Champion after being Triple H on that week’s Raw thanks to an assist from The Rock, but he was not putting the title on the line here because he was a heel and therefore obviously a coward.

Title or no title, this was a decent match with lots of fast-paced action and some great spots from both men.

After a fun encounter, X-Pac stopped The Godfather from getting involved by punching him off the apron, but walked right into a Sky High and lost the match.
Your Winner: D’Lo Brown

Out in the crowd, Edge looked on, brooding.

The Undertaker is not Here

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Kevin Kelly & Tom Pritchard man the WWF.com booth
Out in the back, WWF.com reporters Kevin Kelly and Tom Pritchard told us that The Undertaker had not arrived yet.

Kelly was worried -very worried- but Pritchard reminded us what a great reputation The Undertaker had backstage, so there was no way he’d let everybody down.

Terry Funk Announces Retirement #1275

Out in the back, makeshift tag team Terry Funk and Bradshaw were standing by to give comments on their upcoming match against Farooq and Scorpio.

Instead, Funk used the opportunity to announce that this would be his last match in the WWF for about six months because fighting and teaming with Mick Foley had taken it out of him.

The news came as a surprise to Bradshaw, who stormed off, angry.

Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen in this match?

Farooq and Scorpio vs. Terry Funk and Bradshaw

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Terry Funk upset Bradshaw by announcing he was taking six months off
And so, future Acolytes Bradshaw and Farooq found themselves in opposite corners, going against each other months before they finally paired up to become a legendary team.

This is like that time Road Dogg and Billy Gunn has a match against each other at In Your House: 14 - Revenge of The Taker.

Anyway, the match was about as meh as you might imagine and culminated in a loss for the Texans following a pretty sweet 450 splash from Scorpio.
Your Winners: Scorpio & Farooq m

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bradshaw turned on Funk after the match.

Scorpio tried to help, but Bradshaw turned him inside out with a Clothesline From Hell and then attacked Farooq with a chair for good measure.

Vader vs. Mark Henry

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Mark Henry faced Vader
I feel bad for Vader - once a certified main eventer and a legit badass now a directionless mid-card act.

He and Mark Henry had cost each other a shot at the 1998 King of The Ring tournament and had engaged in a brawl on that show.

This led to a series of angles on Shotgun Saturday Night, and now to tonight’s match, which was bland and void of all excitement.

After a couple of minutes of nothingness, Henry splashed Vader and got the win.

Nobody cared.
Your Winner: Mark Henry

After a shot of The Hart Home in Calgary (site of tonights Dungeon Match) and an update of sorts from Kelly and Pritchard (still no sign of The Undertaker), we got the arrival of WWF Tag Team Champions Kane and Mankind, with their manager, Paul Bearer.

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - WWF Tag Team Champions Mankind & Kane
The duo (referred to by JR as ‘The Poster Boys for Pestilence’) stood by as Bearer cut a compelling promo, boasting about The Undertaker’s absence and warning Stone Cold that he would meet his demise tonight.

As good as Bearer was here, he wouldn’t get a chance to say much more as he was interrupted by the men Kane and Mankind had beaten for the tag team titles, The New Age Outlaws.

Getting the biggest pop of the night so far, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn issued a challenge for a title match the following night on Raw.

When the champs didn’t reply, the Outlaws attacked, and we got a full-scale brawl that was eventually broken up by a gaggle of officials and Commissioner Slaughter, who was still around at this point.

The Disciples of Apocalypse (Skull & 8-Ball w/ Paul Ellering) vs. L.O.D 2000 (Hawk & Animal)

So, let’s catch up.

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Paul Ellering watches The DOA take on LOD 2000
Chainz was gone, and Skull and 8-Ball had now teamed up with Paul Ellering, the former manager of Hawk and Animal, who were now without Sunny, who had left the company and would never be the same woman again.

Meanwhile, the WWF were moving towards making Hawk’s real-life substance abuse problems a storyline, having him fail to have his partner’s back and other such shenanigans.

This would, of course, lead to that time Droz pushes Hawk off the top of the Titantron, both would leave the company, and Animal would show up in WCW a year or so later, overweight and underwhelming.

Until all that, we got your bog standard big man tag team match.

Despite its slow pace, this one did have some decent spots, though not enough to make it an entertaining match.

After what seemed like an eternity, the Road Warriors hit a Doomsday Device (and unless I misheard, JR called it a ‘Devastation Device’) but identical twins Skull and 8-Ball did the ol’ switch-a-roo and a plain simple DDT gave the win to the bikers.
Your Winners: The Disciples of the Apocalypse

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Vince McMahon w/ Sgt. Slaughter & Gerald Briscoe
Still, at the point where he didn’t have his own theme music, Vince McMahon sauntered out after the match with Gerald Briscoe, Pat Patterson and Commissioner Slaughter in tow.

McMahon told us that if Undertaker didn’t show tonight, it was Stone Cold’s fault and not his, because Stone Cold had done all kinds of heinous things to ‘Taker on Raw.

From there, McMahon reminded us of the caveat that came with all pro wrestling shows that says ‘card subject to change.’

With that in mind, McMahon announced that he had a replacement in mind if Undertaker didn’t show, and introduced us to none other than The Brooklyn Brawler!

Brawler was -as he always was- so entertaining here, so much so I would have liked to have seen him in the match!

Dungeon Match (Submission rules)
Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock

Special Guest Referee: Dan Severn
WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Owen Hart punishes Ken Shamrock in The Dungeon
Supposedly ‘live’ from the Dungeon, though obviously pre-taped, this stiff, MMA/pro-wrestling was hugely compelling - the sort of fight that demands your attention from the word go and is so intense that you just can’t take your eyes off it.

After a seriously hard-hitting match, Shamrock went to kick Owen in the face but ended up pasting special referee Dan Severn instead.

This gave Owen the chance to grab an obviously fake dumbbell and knock Shamrock out with it.

Owen then slapped on a cross face and moved :
Shamrock’s hand up and for him.

A groggy Severn recovered from the kick just enough to see Shamrock ‘tapping’ and gave the match to The Black Heart.
Your Winner: Owen Hart

Damn, that was fun.

Two out of Three Falls for the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock vs. Triple H

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - The Rock is ready for his match with Triple H
I don’t know if they were running short of time or if it was just cut from the version I’m watching (an original copy and not a Network version) but we didn’t get the usual pre-match ‘let’s get ready to suck it’ stuff from Hunter.

What we did get, was the referee sending The Nation and DX to the back but letting Chyna stay because she had a manager’s license.

Speaking of Chyna, she actually made her debut the last time HHH and Rocky Maivia met for the Intercontinental Championship, back at In Your House 13: Final Four back in February 1997.

Funnily enough, The Rock was the champion then too.

Understandably, this match was a lot better than that one. In fact, it was a lot better than anything on the card so far,

Featuring several cameos from both DX and Nation members (yes, after they’d been banished from ringside), plenty of brawling and good old-fashioned wrestling, this was the best match either man had wrestled up to this point in their careers.

It was hugely entertaining and got more and more dramatic as it went on, and would have been even better had the ending not been so predictable.

Right from the early going, JR made sure to give us regular reminders that this match has a 30-minute time limit.

You always know when that gets mentioned that we’re heading for a time limit draw, and that’s exactly what happened here.

After one fall a piece, this terrific match ended when the time expired.
Draw (The Rock retains the title)

The good news is that this led to a ladder match at Summerslam, which to this day remains among my favourite matches if all time.

The Undertaker is Here

Prior to the main event, Kelly and Pritchard revealed that yes, The Undertaker had arrived.

Exclusive Rock Promo

As I say, this is an original copy of the PPV (or at least of the VHS version) so I’m not sure if this exists on the WWE Network, but it’s basically The Rock leaving the arena with D’Lo Brown and bragging about his big win over Triple H.

Dustin Runnels Prays For Our Souls

Having ditched The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust gimmick, Dustin Runnels took to the ring to deliver a solemn prayer, hoping that God could save us from the filth and smut we were about to endure.

Bikini Contest
Jacqueline (w/ Marc Mero) vs. Sable

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Tale of the Tape for Jacqueline vs. Sable Bikini contest
Fresh from a brief run as Harlem Heat’s manager in WCW, future Hall of Famer Jacqueline had now partnered with Marc Mero to help him in his battle with estranged wifi, Sable, even going so far as to challenge her to a bikini contest.

In her defence, Jacqueline looked smoking hot, and at one point accidentally (yeah, right) flashed us a nipple, but this was clearly the Sable show.

The blonde bombshell first teased us by taking off her T-shirt to reveal a ‘conservative’ crop-top, telling us that Vince McMahon had ordered to do so.

However, said Sable, Vince couldn’t stop her as it was live TV, so she took that off to reveal the topless, handprint pasties look that we all remember so fondly.

Naturally, the crowd roared Sable to a win before Vince came, made her cover-up, and escorted her backstage.

At the time, I remember this being total shock value and genuinely excited, but I was a horny 14-year-old back then, and now I’m not sure this has aged all that well.
Your Winner: Sable

After a reminder that Undertaker had cost Austin the WWF title in a match with Kane at King of the Ring 1998, we were told how this ultimately led us to a tag team title match against Kane and Mankind here tonight.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Kane & Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Undertaker

WWE / WWF - Fully Loaded 1998 - Steve Austin tells The Undertaker he's number one!
This is the first PPV that Undertaker had that badass Attitude Era theme, so that’s cool.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews of this match, but I actually think it was good for what it was - filler match to advance storylines en route to Summerslam in much the same way that the In Your House before Wrestlemania was used to build to that event.

Whilst that doesn’t mean it was a five-star classic, it was an entertaining contest that followed the typical chaotic brawling style of Attitude Era main events.

After a good back-and-forth effort, Undertaker tombstones Kane to win the match, and the tag team titles.
Your Winners and New WWF Tag Team Champions: The Undertaker and Steve Austin

Not that the win put the new champions on the same page. After the bell, Undertaker grabbed both tag belts and stormed off backstage to end the show.

As a pay per view, Fully Loaded was typical of WWF events at the time - garbage undercard with a hot main event that made up for it.

The tag team title match was fun in its own way, but it was the Rock/HHH match that really stole the show, proving that WWF had its next generation of main event stars all ready and waiting for their chance to shine.

Overall, this wasn’t a PPV that is must-see, though that Rock/HHH, X-Pac/D'Lo and the Owen/Shamrock Dungeon Match are worth a watch.

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
  8. WWF - In Your House 21: Unforgiven
  9. WCW Slamboree 1998
  10. WWF - In Your House 22: Over The Edge
  11. WCW Great American Bash 1998 
  12. WWF - King of the Ring 1998
  13. WCW - Bash at the Beach 1998 
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    1. Having a 30 minute time limit on a 2 out of 3 falls match is so damn dumb.