1998 proved to be one of the biggest years in wrestling ever as the year began with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin winning the 1998 edition of the “Royal Rumble” match, earning the rite to face the WWF Heavyweight champion in Shawn Michaels at “Wrestlemania XIV”. But before that night, Austin had the chance to team up with former enemies and allies alike to take on forces representing “HBK” during the company’s return to “Stone Cold’s” home state. Is the show a classic? Lets find out.
No Way Out of Texas
February 15, 1998
Bang Your Head: Heading into the event, Marc Mero found his star shining a lot less bright than his valet, Sable. Mero, looking to mock his second, teamed with The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust to dress as Sable. But Goldust took things to another level by inadvertently insulting the metal head, cross-dressing Headbangers – Mosh & Thrasher – by dressing as Marilyn Manson. While not the most interesting way to set up a match, The Headbangers and their opposition had the crowd going wild as the opening minutes resulted in Mero sending Sable to the backstage area to avoid a fight with Goldust’s second, Luna; and the domination of Mero and Goldust at the hands of both Mosh and Thrasher.
Things were going incredibly well for The Headbangers as they singled out the Marilyn Manson’ed ‘Dust when something terrible happened to Thrasher. Thanks to Goldust pulling the top rope down as Thrasher hit the ropes, Thrasher went careening to the floor. To top that, Thrasher was slammed head first against the steel ring steps; getting the top of his head split open. Thrasher was in a bad way, being beaten on by both opponents as his partner tried his best to keep the match going thanks to constant intervening during attacks and pin fall attempts by the other side. Eventually Mosh became the legal man, going wild until he scaled the ropes for his guillotine leg drop. Luna shook Mosh off of his perch, bringing out a furious Sable (who seemingly had seen enough). A catfight between Sable and Luna would ensue, leaving Mero stunned long enough to be pulled into Thrasher’s inside cradle for the three count.
Not an excellent, must-see type of affair, but a very good opener that the crowd really was into every step of the way (even during Thrasher’s beat down). The post-match antics featuring Sable shoving the belligerent Mero got a bigger response than anything, setting the stage for two monumental, character-defining moments in the near future.
Call Air Traffic Control: Following his losing the opportunity to become the first WWF Light Heavyweight champion in history, Brian Christopher forged an alliance with masked luchador Pantera to help Pantera beat the man who defeated Christopher for the gold, Taka Michinoku, in non-title matches. One of those aforementioned matches featured Pantera using a diving head-butt to knock out Taka via his foreign-object loaded mask.
Rather than come in brawling, both wrestlers tried to use their respective abilities to pick up incredible amounts of speed in short distances to arm drag, dropkick and head scissors their opponent. Taka was the first to take flight, using a beautiful plancha to bring the rather lifeless crowd to its feet for several moments. As Brian Christopher and Jerry Lawler rambled at ringside while throwing out racial slurs, Pantera turned things around by using a head scissors to pull Michinoku off the apron before slamming him against the thinly padded concrete floor. The attack rattled the champ’s spine, giving Pantera a perfect target. Pantera not only used backbreakers and camel clutches to work over Michinoku’s back, the challenger also showed his high flying skills by utilizing a dangerous slingshot senton on the floored Taka so he landed with all of his weight across the champion’s back. Knowing the moonsault worked so well in their previous outing, Pantera went to the well one too many times without going for a pin; resulting in him hitting nothing but canvas. Throwing every piece of energy he had left into his offense, Taka was able to finally hit the Michinoku Driver to successfully pin Pantera and defend his title. Taka would have to run for the hills to avoid further injury at the hands of Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher.
The two light heavyweights worked incredibly hard in front of a crowd that couldn’t care less unless the two men were flying through the air. This match would’ve come across a lot better in front of an appreciative crowd, but it was still highly enjoyable.
Rocky Doesn’t Suck (at Tapping Out): The Faarooq led Nation of Domination faction had been having problems heading into this event. Rocky “The Rock” Maivia had become the WWF Intercontinental champion, beginning a feud with former UFC/MMA fighter Ken Shamrock. “The Rock’s” growing ego was only matched by his ability to retain the title when facing Shamrock by hook and/or by crook. But Shamrock wasn’t the only man who had problems with “The Rock” and The Nation. Ahmed Johnson lost a ton of momentum while feuding with Faarooq thanks to injuries. And the Disciples of Apocalypse fought to a no-contest with The Nation that ended with both factions waging war in the arena’s parking lot.
NoD flunky and frog splash specialist D-Lo Brown found himself being picked apart by his opponents in a match dubbed “The Battle of Attrition” during the bout’s early minutes. Scurrying for safety, Brown set of a chain of events that would see Ahmed Johnson slam Olympian Mark Henry, D-Lo lose a tooth, Faarooq take a spine buster, Kama Mustafa be double teamed by the DOA representatives of Chainz & 8-Ball, and “The Rock” do his best to stay out of the ring until he could attack Ken Shamrock from behind. Barely ten minutes into the bout (featuring no eliminations, mind you), all hell broke loose and the referee was struggling to keep control (and the crowd was going crazy the entire time). The anarchy that was ensuing gave Shamrock the chance to arm bar his main enemy from the team into his dangerous Ankle Lock submission to make the only champion in this match tap out to a huge ovation.
Faarooq had to rally the troops and settle tempers after the match when “The Rock” blamed him for not being there to stop the submission. A fun, little brawl that featured the dying days of 1997’s “Gang Warfare” storyline creating a pair of stars that would shine bright in 1998 – Maivia and Shamrock.
The Mastodon vs. The Monster: After making his WWF debut during the first Hell in a Cell match several months prior, the masked monster known as Kane had dominated every opponent placed in front of him; including the tough as nails Mankind prior to burning his brother, The Undertaker, alive inside a casket. Tired of seeing Kane’s destruction, “The Rocky Mountain Mastodon” and former Heavyweight World champion Vader stepped up in hopes of doing what no man had up to that point. And that’s exactly what Vader tried to do, going toe-to-toe with Kane unlike any other had since his debut. But maneuvers that would’ve rocked a lesser man barely halted Kane’s uppercut-based assault. The fans were rallying behind Vader, but Paul Bearer’s barbaric spawn went from punching and stomping to actually flying when he clotheslined Vader off of his feet in an impressive sight.
Vader would survive the onslaught, firing back with forearms minutes later until he actually put Kane on his back. The 450-pound Colorado native actually landed his patented moonsault … only to find Kane quickly sitting up and rising before coming after the resilient Vader. But the damage had been done enough for Kane to choke slam and Tombstone Piledrive Vader for the three count. To top his thrashing of Vader, Kane retrieved a large wrench to bash Vader in the skull.
A solid big man battle. This was the first time in months that Vader actually looked like a force. Sadly for the former WCW competitor, the point was only to reinforce that Kane had become the new unstoppable force in the company that The Undertaker once was.
Anarchy in the Lone Star State: With WWF Heavyweight champion Shawn Michaels injured and unable to compete, the world was given a glimpse of the future as Triple H teamed with the WWF Tag Team champions of Billy Gunn and Road Dogg (The New Age Outlaws) and Steve Austin’s old rival Savio Vega to take on Michaels’ “Wrestlemania 14” opponent in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The New Age Outlaws’ biggest threats of Chainsaw Charlie (the legendary Terry Funk) & Cactus Jack, and the man looking to avenge his brother’s untimely exiting of the WWF, the WWF European champion Owen Hart in a non-sanctioned eight man tag team match. To show just how much the rules didn’t apply, Savio brought a roll of barbed wire with him to the ring in hopes of shredding some flesh.
Though their opponents seemed prepared, Steve Austin and his band of merry fighters hit the ring to a thunderous ovation and was lighting up anyone that wasn’t wearing a referee’s shirt. The crowd loved the brawling aspect of this wild affair as all eight men fought in and around the ring. After several minutes of insanity, an early attempt at the Stone Cold Stunner on Billy Gunn, Triple H bashing Charlie in the head with a trashcan at least a dozen times and a Road Dogg hip toss through a table, the match slowly morphed into an regular tag team match featuring some actual order, tags, and the wrestlers isolating the oldest man in this match, Chainsaw. Cactus would help his friend and mentor, only to find himself stuck in a bad way when he took a DDT on the floor and was eventually wrapped in the barbed wire.
Cactus Jack would need a savior to make it through this match as Owen and Chainsaw had taken too much abuse during the early minutes. The crowd would go crazy when a mistiming between The Outlaws resulted in Gunn bashing his own partner in the head with a steel chair. Cactus got the tag to Austin seconds later, shaking the rafters with cheers from the crowd. Austin would go on a short rampage, concluding with a Stunner on Road Dogg for the three count for his team. The ovation Austin received for winning the match was actually topped when Triple H’s second and jacked up bodybuilder Chyna physically confronted “Stone Cold”; resulting in Chyna taking a Stunner for the first time.
An absolutely wild brawl featuring some of the biggest names in wrestling at that time. Though the match was fun, it still suffered from the fact the wrestlers followed nonexistent rules for no logical reason. The first ten minutes or so made sense since it was a Non-Sanctioned match, but people tagging in and out just didn’t make a lick of sense. Other than that flaw, this was the epitome of the “Attitude Era” – big stars having a wild brawl in front of a very excited crowd.
Cold Sauce: Two weeks prior to this event, The Godwinns caused The Quebecers to lose a match by hitting them with The Godwinns’ infamous slop bucket. The next week would see the Canadians gain a measure of revenge to cause Phineas Godwinn to lose a match to Savio Vega. After a prototypical wrestling hold exchange, Henry Godwinn led the charge of offense for his team, resulting in Jacque being taken down by his left arm and worked over the match’s majority until Pierre became the legal man. Pierre’s offensive onslaught ended with him taking an illegal clothesline from Henry as Pierre rushed Phineas for a roll up. Pierre collapsed, giving Phineas the chance to pick up the three count for his team.
Just an incredibly boring outing featuring two teams the fans hadn’t been given a reason to care about outside of The Godwinns bashing people on the heads with their buckets (during this time in wrestling, bashing someone in the head with anything metal gained a response).
Wrestling’s Exes Live in Texas: After years of ignoring the fact another wrestling organization existed, the late nineties saw the WWF not only recognize companies such as Extreme Championship Wrestling, but also the “dying” entity known as the National Wrestling Alliance. Former NWA manager and Smokey Mountain Wrestling founder Jim Cornette organized a contingent of NWA-based wrestler to invade the company, featuring Jeff Jarrett as the crown jewel. With the NWA North American title strapped around his waist, Jarrett angered former NWA champion Barry Windham and Windham’s protégé Bradshaw. Come to find out, Windham was actually working with the NWA group, turning on his partner. Rather than having The New Blackjacks explode on pay-per-view, the stage was set for Bradshaw to get a title shot against Jeff Jarrett in the first NWA North American title defense in WWF history.
Bradshaw entered the ring like he was possessed by the spirit of Stan Hansen, beating the tar out of the champion to the delight of the crowd before clotheslining him to the floor and preparing to attack Cornette. This left Bradshaw prone to a Pearl Harbor job (credit Gorilla Monsoon) from Jarrett and a several minute beating featuring “wonderful” pro wrestling clichés like “I chase the manager into a sneak attack by my opponent”. Bradshaw would make a stiff comeback, only to have his championship hopes dashed by Cornette’s infamous tennis racket at the hands of the champ – causing a disqualification in favor of the challenger. The Road Warriors/Legion of Doom had to chase off the Bradshaw-jumping NWA contingent to the most impressive response of the night thus far.
It started off so well, but went down incredibly fast when Jarrett gained the offensive advantage; and featured a not-so-satisfying ending to an inter-promotional rivalry that would fade into existence.
1. The Headbangers defeated The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust & Marc Mero
2. Taka Michinoku defeated Pantera to successfully defend the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
3. The Godwinns defeated The Quebecers
4. Justin Bradshaw defeated NWA North American Heavyweight title Jeff Jarrett via disqualification
5. Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson & The Disciples of Apocalypse defeated The Nation of Domination
6. Kane defeated Vader
7. Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie defeated Triple H, Savio Vega & The New Age Outlaws
Is it a Classic:
The first “No Way Out” in WWF/E history had one of the pay-per-view death spots on the yearly calender – occurring between the two most anticipated wrestling events of the year. The end result was a card full of matches people mostly didn’t care about or had no long term effects on the company. That didn’t stop the men and women of the WWF from trying to put on a memorable show; especially during the main event. This isn’t a classic, excellent, great, or must-see show, but it’s not terrible either. The main event is worth seeing at least once, but the rest isn’t necessary viewing.