PPV REVIEW: WWF King of the Ring 1998

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998 Review: Event Poster
June 28, 1998
Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16, Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!" 

It had been two years -almost to the day- that Stone Cold Steve Austin had delivered one of the most famous speeches in pro wrestling history, a speech that would set him on a journey to becoming one of the biggest money-making pro wrestlers of all time. 

In that time, the landscape of the World Wrestling Federation had changed dramatically.

With Austin as the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling anti-hero at the head of the pack, the company had embraced a new Attitude.

It was an Attitude that had not only seen the company turn the tables in the legendary Monday Night Wars, but had also seen a man promise to set himself on fire on live television if he didn't dethrone Austin for the WWF title.

Would we really see pro wrestling's first case of self-immolation? Or would Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had begun his journey to the title two years ago at this very event, see everything he'd worked so hard for finally taken away from him?

Let's head to Pittsburgh for the first King of the Ring of the Attitude Era to find out:

God, Have Mercy On Their Souls

Tonight’s show began with your typical dramatic video package, this one setting a foreboding tone for the rest of our main events.

First up, Vince McMahon had vowed to put an end to arch-rival Stone Cold Steve Austin once and for all by pitting him in a First Blood match against Kane.

The video then told us about Undertaker and Mankind reliving their classic rivalry inside the second Hell in a Cell.

From there, we got the usual shots of a rabid, hot crowd followed by a welcome from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

The two were surrounded by gasoline cans just in case, you know, Kane lost and had to torch himself.

Six Man Tag
WWF Light Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku and The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. Kaientai (Mens Teoh, Dick Togo, and Sho Funaki w/ Mr Yamaguchi)

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998 Review: Taka Michinoku & The Headbangers faced Kaientai
You know, not every wrestling match has to be a dramatic, emotional rollercoaster packed with high spots and more high spots.

Sometimes, a match can just be fun, and that’s exactly what this one was.

With the combination of The Headbangers’ wacky, fan-friendly characters and the Japanese men busting out some entertaining exchanges, this turned into a very enjoyable -if short- opening match.

After absorbing the brunt of the punishment, Taka Michinoku was finally rescued by Mosh and Thrasher and hit the Michinoku driver for the big win.
Your Winners: Taka Michinoku and The Headbangers

Up next, we had the return to WWF PPV of the one and only Sable.

If you recall, Sable had been banished from the WWF after losing a ‘match’ against estranged husband Marc Mero just the previous month at Over The Edge: In Your House 22.

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998: Vince McMahon with Pat Patterson
Not long after, she was reinstated by Vince McMahon and now here she was, just weeks after being banished, already back and introducing Vince to the crowd.

Still, without the ‘No Chance in Hell’ music he’d later be so synonymous with, McMahon strutted out to ringside with The Stooges, Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe.

After Briscoe instructed Sable to leave and held the ropes open for her, renowned heterosexual and lady’s man Pat Patterson gave Sable a cheeky slap on the ass, prompting the blonde beauty to turn around and slap him so hard she appeared to cut his face.

Vince then cut a long promo in which he asked the crowd whether they’d come to see Stone Cold retain or Kane win the WWF title. It was like one of Scott Hall’s famous surveys, albeit with only half the crowd reaction.

From there, McMahon spent the rest of the time insulting the crowd. It was entertaining, sure, but added nothing to the show.

King of the Ring Semi Final
Double J (w/ Tennessee Lee) vs. Ken Shamrock

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998: Michael cole interviews Ken Shamrock
So, for the first year ever, the King of the Ring PPV only featured the annual tournament’s semi-finals and final.

First up we had Ken Shamrock making quick work of 2018 Hall of Famer Double J in a short and explosive contest.

I still haven’t figured out why it was necessary to only refer to Jeff Jarrett by the name Double J, especially when we also had Triple H on the roster, but hey, I made that same complaint last time, so I won’t go into it again here.

This was a perfectly decent though immediately forgettable match that ended when Shamrock slapped Jarrett -sorry, Double J- in the ankle lock to advance to the final for a date with either The Rock or Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn.
Your Winner: Ken Shamrock

Afterwards, Tennessee Lee ran in and got belly-to-bellied into oblivion.

Shamrock then told ringside interviewer Michael Cole that he hadn’t come to the show to be second best, and wasn’t prepared to leave as such

King of the Ring Semi Final
WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock vs. Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998: Dan Severn puts The Rock in an arm bar
Here’s a big difference between WWF and WCW during the Attitude Era.

We’re only half an hour into this and yet already on our third match with a promo in between.

If this was WCW, we’d likely have just finished talking about the opening match

Anyway, here we had Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn making his WWF PPV in yet another match that was decent by far too short to actually matter.

As a kid, I used to think Severn was the most boring human being (not just wrestler, but actual human being) on the planet. This match only made me change my mind by a smidgen.

In the end, The Godfather (who was definitely The Godfather now and no longer Kama Mustafa) and Mark Henry came out to distract the referee whilst D-Lo Brown ran out through the crowd wearing a chest protector and hit the frog splash on Severn.

Rock made the cover, and this one was over.

I should also mention that the chest protector was originally to sell a pectoral injury that had apparently been caused by Severn in a King of the Ring qualifying match on Raw, but which would, of course, later become his gimmick.
Your Winner: The Rock

Afterwards, The Rock told Michael Cole that there was no way long-time rival Ken Shamrock would beat him in the final.

Too Much (Too Hot Scott Taylor & Too Sexy Brian Christopher) vs. Al Snow & Head

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998: Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor beat Al Snow & Head
So, here’s the story as best I understand it.

Al Snow had ‘returned’ to the WWF but without a contract, and tried all kinds of shenanigans to get in and get a meeting with Vince McMahon, including having Jerry Lawler sneak him into the building.

When all those attempts failed, Snow simply stole Lawler’s crown, setting up a rivalry with Lawler, his son Brian Christopher, and Christopher’s new partner, Too Hot Scott Taylor.

Tonight, the duo would make their first appearance on a PPV as a tag team by taking on Al Snow, with Al’s mannequin head as his tag team partner.

If Snow and Head could beat Too Much, Al would get his meeting with Mr McMahon.

The match itself was fine and had a couple of fun spots, but mostly it just sucked the air out of the venue.

After Al looked to have the win, Lawler (who had been appointed Special Guest referee) tossed Christopher a bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo.

Christopher then attached the bottle to Head, and pinned Head to get the win.
It was dumb, but funny, though sadly not funny enough to make up for another the large amounts of tedium.
Your Winners: Too Much

UPDATE: Due to a combination of watching and reviewing multiple shows at once and yet only posting a new review once a week, many of these reviews are written many months before they actually get published on here. 

This one, for example, was first written around March 2018. It was then uploaded to the blog in early August, just days after Brian Christopher Lawler tragically passed away

Though you guys won't read it until at least October, Lawler's death is still very fresh in my mind and I just wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a man who had some mightily large shoes to fill and yet was still very entertaining in his own right. 

Sure, the early days of his run in WWF weren't exactly perfect, and the whole "Head and Shoulders" thing is proof of that, but he was more often than not a joy to watch. 

Anyway, on with the show.  

X-Pac (w/ Chyna) vs. Owen Hart

WWF King of the Ring 1998 Review: Owen Hart puts a sleeper on X-Pac
Four years prior, X-Pac and Owen Hart had put on a storming five-minute masterpiece en route to Owen’s big win at King of the Ring 1994.

Tonight they were given a little bit longer to really let rip and deliver the best PPV match Owen Hart had been a part of in a long time.

It’s worth mentioning that this was X-Pac’s first WWF PPV match since In Your House 6, and his first PPV match overall since Fall Brawl 1997.

Here, both men delivered the goods right up to a messy finish.

With X-Pac laying out on the arena floor after absorbing some serious punishment, Mark Henry came down and splashed him one.

Chyna then got all up in Henry’s face until Vader randomly ran down and started brawling with the future Sexual Chocolate.

In the ensuing confusion, Chyna drilled Owen with a DDT, allowing X-Pac to get the win.
Your Winner: X-Pac

WWF King of the Ring: Paul Bearer
Up next, Paul Bearer (who really was not in good shape at this stage of his career) came out to remind us that The Undertaker had beaten him up, and to tell us a weird story about Kane watching The Undertaker on WWF Superstars every Saturday morning and wanting to be like his brother.

Now that Kane was just like his brother, Bearer vowed that Kane would become the new champion.

Despite looking like crap, this was an engaging promo from Bearer that worked well in getting you even more invested in the upcoming title match.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws (w/ Chyna) vs. NWA Tag Team Champions The New Midnight Express (Bombastic Bob & Bodacious Bart w/ Jim Cornette)

WWF King of the Ring 1998: Former Smoking Gunns Billy & Bart Gunn square off
The main highlight of this ‘added bonus match’ was an intense interaction between former Smoking Gunns partners Bad Ass Billy Gunn and Bodacious Bart Gunn.

Two things made this particularly enjoyable.

  1. JR and King actually acknowledged that the two were -in kayfabe terms- actually brothers despite not being involved in storylines with each other for a long while.
  2. After an intense staredown, the two actually put on the best pure wrestling segment on the card, and that includes the earlier X-Pac/Owen Hart thing.

The rest of the match was a reasonably enjoyable textbook tag, with Road Dogg playing the face-in-peril and Billy finally getting the hit tag.

After an exciting finish that also saw Jim Cornette get low-blowed by Chyna, the outlaws hit a double hot shot on Bombastic Bob for the win.
Your Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The New Age Outlaws

Moving on...

King of the Ring Final
WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock

WWE / WWF King of the Ring 1998 Review: Ken Shamrock celebrates winning the tournament
The Rock and Ken Shamrock had spent most of 1998 at war, first meeting at the 1998 Royal Rumble and then again at Wrestlemania 14.

Taking nothing away from either of those two matches, this was definitely the best of the three - a solid outing that became more and more intense as it went on.

The only thing detracting from this was the guest commentary from Triple H.

I was a big fan of Hunter at the time, and still enjoy his work, but his juvenile jokes and double entendres added nothing to the presentation here.

After a good outing, Shamrock slapped on the ankle lock to become your 1998 King of the Ring.
Your Winner and 1998 King of the Ring: Ken Shamrock

As this was the Attitude Era as everything was supposed to be edgy and grown-up, we didn’t get the usual coronation ceremony or even a winner’s speech.

Instead, Shamrock just paced about a bit.

Hell in a Cell
Mankind vs. The Undertaker

From their first pay per view outing two years ago at King of the Ring 1996 to their Boiler Room Brawl later that year at Summerslam 1996 and their Buried Alive match at In Your House 11: Buried Alive, Mankind and The Undertaker had battled in more than their fair share of memorable matches before, but this, this was something else.

This was what would become one of the most famous matches of all time, a match that put Mick Foley on another level, and guaranteed that Hell in a Cell II was the only thing anybody remembers when they think about King of the Ring 1998.

You don’t need me to tell you anything about this one, but I will anyway.

We’ve seen people come off the top of the cage since this match (Shane McMahon against The Undertaker two years ago springs to mind) but it always looks like a planned high spot, too safe, too sterile.

Even 20 years later, the initial shock of seeing Undertaker just hurl Mankind off the top of the cell in the opening minute of the bout gives me goosebumps, likewise when Foley crashed through the top of the cage and the chair landed on top of him.

What I had forgotten about, was that after the initial high spots and after Undertaker had chokeslammed Terry Funk literally out of his shoes, there was a good few minutes of brutal action that followed.

And it was captivating.

I’ve never been a fan of excessive violence for the sake of excessive violence in pro wrestling, but this wasn’t the case here.

Everything was done with purpose, everything added to the drama of the match. Everything combined to create a story that is as compelling today as it was 20 years ago.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

After a video package recapping the rivalry between Steve Austin and Kane, it was fine for the two to meet in our main event.

World Wrestling Federation Championship First Blood Match
WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane

If ever there was a match that screamed ‘Attitude Era,’ this one was it.

Wild, chaotic and thoroughly entertaining, this was everything you could ask for from a 1998 WWF main event.

Both champ and challenger battled forth in a hugely enjoyable offering which game to a head when referee Earl Hebner got squished on the outside.

That was the cue for Mankind to hobble to the ring and attempt an attack on Austin, only for the Rattlesnake to blast his former tag team partner with a Stone Cold Stunner.

Mankind got back up, but The Undertaker came to the ring to even the score. Both ‘Taker and Austin swung at Foley with a chair, but the middleman ducked and Austin took the brunt of the blow, busting him wide open.

For reasons that made no sense, ‘Taker dragged Hebner into the ring and doused him with gasoline.

Apparently, this worked to wake Hebner up, because he took one look at a blood-soaked Austin and called for the bell.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Kane

24 hours later, Austin would win the title back on Raw

And so we got yet another WWF Attitude Era PPV with a lacklustre undercard followed by a scorching main event.

Though there was some fun stuff to be found (the opening six man, Pac/Hart and Outlaws/Express), the bottom half of the card was mostly a cluttered, crowded mess.

Only when it came to the King of The Ring Final did the show really find its groove, though of course, nobody remembers that.

The only thing they remember is Hell in a Cell... and there's a very good reason for that. 

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 
Other King of the Ring reviews
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    1. I'm so glad I watched this live when it happened. Totally unexpected that Foley vs Taker match.