Re-watch: SummerSlam ’98

Being a big fan of old-school wrestling, I sometimes go back in time and old wrestling shows via the WWE Network on Peacock. Over the holiday weekend, nostalgia got the better of me and I decided to go back and re-watch what I remember being a great summer-themed show, WWE’s SummerSlam ’98.

In 1998, the then WWF was in the middle of its Attitude Era, and the storylines and action leaned more towards the controversial than it had in previous years. As an example, it was just two short months prior to this event that The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell cage in a scene that is still held up as a symbol of the Attitude Era.

I have to admit, I was guilty of enjoying trashy, crash-style television at the time including Jerry Springer, the WWF, and other offerings. I watched Monday Night Raw religiously every week and caught every PPV event the WWF offered, so I was pumped heading into this event. SummerSlam is one of the traditional big four events of the year, so extra emphasis was put on this show.

Most of the hype for SummerSlam ’98 was centered on the rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Undertaker, and with the World Heavyweight Championship being on the line in the main event, the hype was off the charts. They even produced a pretty swank video package set to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell to hype it even more:

Just because they put a lot of effort into hyping the main event didn’t mean they ignored the rest of the card. Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, and the rest of the gang put together a solid card from top-to-bottom with plenty of intrigue throughout:

  • WWF World Title: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker
  • WWF Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: The Rock vs. Triple H
  • WWF Tag-Team Title Falls Count Anywhere Match: Mankind & Kane vs. The New Age Outlaws
  • Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart
  • Mixed Tag Team Match: Sable & Edge vs. Marc Mero & Jackie
  • Hair vs. Hair Match: X-Pac vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
  • 4-on-3 Tag Match: Kaientai vs. The Oddities
  • WWF European Title Match: D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis

I don’t intend to run down every match detail by detail, nor do I intend to give you the winner in every match either. If I did all of that, it wouldn’t leave you much incentive to go check it out for yourself. Instead, what I intend to do is kind of review it through a few lists I came up with while watching. So without further ado, here we go.

The Five Best Matches From SummerSlam ’98

In my own personal opinion of course.

  1. The Rock vs. Triple H Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – it featured plenty of drama, high-risk moves with the ladder, and a satisfying ending to not only the match itself, but the storyline that had been running for months involving Degeneration X feuding with the Nation of Domination.
  2. D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis European Title Match – Even though this was the show opening match and it wasn’t designed to take the spotlight from other, higher profile matches on the card, it did. The chemistry was incredible and the two performers put on a clinic in how to get a crowd pumped up for the rest of the action they will be seeing.
  3. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker WWF World Title Match – This was the main event, and it certainly had a big-fight feel to it, but the action felt a little underwhelming in comparison to the first two matches I mentioned.
  4. X-Pac vs. Double J Hair vs. Hair Match – Both of these men have been excellent performers since they first got in the business, and with several years to perfect their craft under their belts, they came out and gave an electrifying performance filled with great back and forth action.
  5. Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart Lion’s Den Match – In what was a brutal mix of pro wrestling and UFC, the Lion’s Den match was pretty great seeing Owen and Shamrock going hold for hold and shot for shot.

My Five Favorite Performances From SummerSlam ’98

  1. Owen Hart – getting to see a true master of his craft lead a less experienced opponent through a cool match concept was a treat.
  2. Mankind – From his interview at the beginning of the show bemoaning his destroyed hearse, to his promo with Vince McMahon later on, the the performance he gave taking a beating from the New Age Outlaws, Mankind turned in a fine night.
  3. Val Venis – Val was still a relative newcomer, but he had his gimmick down to a science, and he and D-Lo pulled out a heck of a match to open the show.
  4. X-Pac – Like I said earlier, X-Pac had been perfecting his craft for years up to this point, and he put his many talents on display in his match on this show. Even watching it twenty-fours years after it happened, it still felt fresher than anything I’ve seen in modern wrestling in a long time.
  5. Mark Henry – in the early stages of his “sexual chocolate” gimmick, watching him try to put the moves on Chyna was just flat out entertaining.

My Five Favorite Spots of the Night

  1. The Undertaker driving Austin through a table on the floor by deliverying a leg drop frm the top rope of the ring.
  2. The Rock giving an early People’s Elbow to Triple H while Triple H was on a ladder.
  3. Triple H attempting a move from the top of the ladder only to be caught with a Rock Bottom.
  4. Edge’s dive over the top rope onto Marc Mero on the floor.
  5. Jeff Jarret using an atomic drop to crotch X-Pac on the post on the floor.

The Ten Most 1998 Things About SummerSlam ’98

  • The Rock’s sideburns.
  • The Insane Clown Posse being involved.
  • Val Venis and his aggressive porn star gimmick.
  • X-Pac using the terms “biotch” and “suck it” during his pre-match promo.
  • The mass of Austin 3:16 and DX shirts in the crowd.
  • The quote, “My name’s not Elmo, but you can tickle me any time”.
  • Both of the New Age Outlaws wearing Southpark shirts in their match.
  • Jim Ross having to apologize for saying “son of a bitch” on the air.
  • The announcers talking about the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. FYI, McGwire led on this date 55-54.
  • Jim Dotson and his hat.

Other Thoughts I Had While Watching SummerSlam ’98

  • D-Lo claiming to be from a different home town in Europe every week while European Champion was a great touch.
  • The referee in the opening bout was one tough son of a gun for taking Val Venis’ moneyshot finisher.
  • I could have done without seeing Kurrgan dancing.
  • The Godwins going from hillbillys to Dixie Mafia-esque tough guys called Southern Justice was one of the better make overs of the year.
  • The fiery gates of hell entrance way was a great setup.
  • The New York City buses being wrapped with ads for this SummerSlam in the week leading up to the show was great.
  • The hair clippers for the hair vs. hair match didn’t work. I don’t believe the clippers have ever worked in any hair vs. hair match ever.
  • Howard Finkle doing the crotch chop was not needed.
  • Seeing Edge make his pay-per-view debut and realizing he is main eventing shows today is surreal.
  • The “Marvelous” Marc Mero gimmick wouldn’t get over in today’s world.
  • Jackie was so far ahead of her time as a female wrestler.
  • The Lion’s Den match concept needs to be brought back. Maybe bill it as “Pit Fighting”.
  • The greatness of Owen Hart was not fully appreciated by the masses until it was too late. We lost him just nine months after this show.
  • Ken Shamrock being billed as a former “UFC Superfight” champion feels so out of place in today’s world.
  • I wonder how they Kane in that dumpster?
  • The ladder match made both The Rock and Triple H bonafied wrestling superstars for good from that point on.
  • Steve Austin and The Undertaker didn’t have great chemistry in their first high-profile match together. That would change.

So that’s it. I re-watched SummerSlam ’98 and thoroughly enjoyed it. You should go check it out on Peacock if you’re a fan of old school wrestling. Now I just have to decide what my next old school wrestling rewatch should be.

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