Some Notes from the Nosebleeds on 1998.
A roster of the best talent in the world means nothing if you can?t back it up with creativity. Look back at 1998 in American mainstream wrestling and you will see why. WCW had a large roster, so large that you couldn?t fit all the main event talent on one show. Meanwhile over in the World Wrestling Federation there was the weekly saga of Steve Austin staying one step ahead of Vince McMahon to keep his championship. Quality combined with quantity is no match for creativity.
The feud between the Rock and Triple H was a perfect mid-card feud that escalated both men to the main event. They wouldn?t have accomplished what they did had it not been for their run with each other. While they had some pretty good matches, one certainly doesn?t think of Steamboat-Flair when watching these two, yet it was still such a good feud.
Do you believe for one second that a team consisting of Jesse James and Billy Gunn could hold a candle to the Roadworriers? It seemed highly implausible, yet we were made to believe in them. When you think of the great tag teams of the 90s, they are on that list, despite being wiped off the map by the time the Hardyz, Edge & Christian, and the Dudleys came aboard to WWF. There success along with the Triple H-Rock feud show that the WWF was able to make you believe in their talent and hold them as legitimate competitors despite not having the depth and quality of WCW’s roster.
ECW’s Heat Wave event in 1998 was the best pay per view I have ever seen. There were only six matches on the card, all of them could be considered match of the year candidates. The battle between Bam Bam Bigelow and Taz was violent and intense. I may be alone on this but I actually preferred this to their match at Living Dangerously earlier in the year. Sabu and Rob Van Dam defended the Tag Team Championship against Jinsei Shinzki and Hayabusa. Having Sabu and Hayabusa in the ring together was a dream match back then. The match gave American fans a look at two great Japanese wrestlers and continued to give credibility to the ECW tag team division.
Val Venis made his WWF debut in 1998 as did Edge. It obvious from the start that Edge would be a future world champion. He had the ?it? factor and he had talent. Venis was always a good talent and was involved in one of the strangest angles done that year. He had been fooling around with the wife of Kai En Tai’s manager Yamaguchi-san. Well, Yamaguchi-san told Venis that he was going to choppee Val’s pee pee. One night at the end of Raw, fans were treated to Venis hanging bare ass in the locker room as Yamaguchi-san brought down his sword, only for the lights to go off. I always remember this angle because my brother Dave still jokes about it to this day. Last summer we were at a wedding. When leaving the parking lot Dave yelled out the window at our brother Mike ?I choppee choppee yo pee pee? The problem was that his three year old son, John, was sitting in the back seat. As we were driving to the reception John was yelling out the window ?Choppee your pee pee!?
Many say WCW wasted a golden opportunity when they gave away the Hulk Hogan-Goldberg match on free TV, but I disagree. I thought it was a great idea. Goldberg’s star had been building for months. Eventually, they couldn?t contain it. That night the match happened was one of the most exciting nights to be a wrestling fan and we all to bask in that moment together. Moments like that are rare in the wrestling world.
Steve Austin’s interruption on Mike Tyson’s initial Raw appearance was insane. Now a-days it would be expected if a celebrity showed up on TV and was confronted by a wrestler, but Austin made that moment special and memorable. Who would have thought a few years earlier that the former Hollywood Blonde would be barging in on Mike Tyson and giving him the finger?
My favorite match of 1998 was the night after Fall Brawl. Saturn had defeated Raven at the pay per view forcing Raven to free the members of his flock. That night on Monday Nitro the now free flock member Billy Kidman defeated Juventud Guerrera for the cruiserweight championship. Now that was a barn burner. These two would go on to have a series of great matches that electrified Nitro when not much else could.
So much has been said the Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Mankind that I really can?t offer much new. I do have to say that as much as I respect what Foley and Taker went through in that match, after the two big bumps, there was really not a whole lot else to the match. It was just Foley stumbling around and later he fell in a pile of thumbtacks. I may piss off a lot of people with that comment, but I honestly see it that way. I don?t mean I didn?t enjoy the match. I still find myself going back and watching it today. I just think that when it comes to quality, there have been better Cell matches, but this one will always be the most memorable because of what Foley put himself through.
Perhaps the most devastating blow to WCW in 1998 was not their loss of pull in the ratings war with the WWF, but their self-inflicted wound of Kevin Nash’s World Championship win over Goldberg at Starrcade. In building Goldberg’s undefeated streak for so long, there weren?t a lot of options for WCW to have him beat and still come out strong. WCW never recovered from that blow. Any legitimacy Goldberg had given to the title in his six months as champions were instantly erased. From here on out, the WCW title would be a piece of tin.
Everything about 1998 felt big. It was a huge year for the sport and one of best to be a fan. I can?t imagine being a fan without being a part of that year. For those of you who may not have been fans at the time I strongly encourage you to watch what you can from 1998, for it is imperative in understanding why wrestling is the way it is today.
Thanks for reading.