The 11th SummerSlam took place at a time when the very popular Attitude Era was in full swing with Steve Austin on top as the WWE Champion and a bunch of talented performers on the card with him. The Undertaker was still there headlining with Austin, but this event was also the SummerSlam review for The Rock, who had a breakout match with Triple H.
It was also a time for some changes on the roster because the two best performers of the first decade of SummerSlam were gone. Bret Hart was working in WCW and Shawn Michaels was out of action for over four years with what we thought was a career-ending back injury…until he returned in 2002.
Austin’s storyline with Vince McMahon as the evil boss that didn’t like Austin as WWE Champion was the best angle in the company. If there was an issue on the roster it’s that they didn’t have a lot of great heels that were wrestlers. Vince was a great heel, but he was not a full-time performer. Even without the strong heels in the ring, anybody that watched in 1998 will tell you it was one of WWE’s best years ever in terms of the on-screen product and the way business was going. Simply put, business was booming.
I have seen the show many times and 1998 was also the first full year where I started following wrestling online. It was a great time to be a wrestling fan with WWE, WCW and ECW putting on a lot of shows for us to consume. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, so it will be good to write about it for the first time.
This review was originally written several years ago. I believe it was 2017. I am adding some additional 2021 thoughts in orange font as well.
If you want to re-live every WWE PPV in company history you can do so in my Listing of Every WWE PPV Ever archive here.
WWE SummerSlam 1998
Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
August 30, 1998
The opening video package focused on how The Undertaker and Kane, the Brothers of Destruction, were together after they feuded earlier in the year. Steve Austin said he knew they were together and the question was how could Austin survive as WWE Champion.
The pyro went off in the arena as some generic rock song played. I’m pretty sure the original version was “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, but WWE likely didn’t pay for the music rights to put it on WWE Network.
(Great song choice for this show and this era of WWE. It was perfect.)
A big difference from 1998 to the years prior is there were so many signs in the crowd. Signs weren’t that popular in the years before. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were ringside to call the action.
Val Venis did a pre-match promo about being in New York City: “I came, I saw and I came again.” Hello ladies. D-Lo Brown was announced as being from Helsinki, Finland and is wearing the chest protector.
European Championship: D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis
(Pre-show: Brown was the heel champion that was part of the Nation of Domination and Venis was the face challenger getting his first title shot after debuting a few months earlier in May.)
First SummerSlam match for both guys. The chest protector story was that D-Lo used it as a weapon and that he was healed from injuries. Just a heel thing like when guys would wear casts. Venis hit Brown with a forearm to the chest, which had no effect and Venis sold pain in his arm. Brown hit a corner splash and Venis came back with a legsweep followed by a dropkick. Venis hit a spinebuster and did a slow cover. There was a shot of Edge standing in the crowd watching. Venis missed a splash and Brown hit a belly to back suplex. Venis came back with an overhead suplex, but Brown came back with a clothesline and a leg drop to take control. Venis tried a slam, sold a back injury and Brown hit an elbow drop off the middle rope. Brown countered a Venis move into a Texas Cloverleaf submission, but it wasn’t applied perfectly. Venis was selling the back a lot as Brown hit a slam. Brown to the middle rope, he jumped off with a backsplash and Venis moved, so both guys were down on the mat. Venis came back with a back elbow and elbow drop followed by a back body drop. Venis went up top, Brown got to his fit and Brown hit a sitout spinebuster. That was a great counter. They had an exchange of moves ending with Brown hitting a DDT for a two count. The crowd thought that was it. Brown jumped off the middle rope leading to Venis catching him and hitting a powerslam. Venis hit a double underhook suplex and a body slam. Venis went up top and went for the Money Shot splash, but Brown got his knees up to block it. Brown picked him for a Powerbomb and dropped him right on his neck. Ouch. That hurts just watching it. The crowd booed that. Brown picked him up again and hit a running Powerbomb that connected. Brown went up for the Low Down Frog Splash, but Venis rolled out of the way. Venis with a clothesline and he took off Brown’s chest protector. Val hit a powerslam. Venis put the chest protector on. Referee Jimmy Korderas told him not to go up top, put his hands on his foot and Venis fell. Atomic drop and clothesline from Venis. Korderas went over to Venis again, so Venis shoved the referee down. Brown got the chest protector back. The referee disqualified Venis for that and the match went 15:31.
Winner by disqualification: D-Lo Brown
Analysis: **3/4 Good opening match featuring two young talents given a lot of time to show what they can do. Weird finish. The blown Powerbomb by Brown looked awful and as we know it’s a move where Droz broke his neck on when D-Lo didn’t do it right. The time was interesting because if they got about three or four minutes less it probably would have helped them because they seemed lost a bit towards the end. The crowd was into most of it and reacted well to the nearfalls in the last few minutes.
(Good opener. I think a clean finish would have led to a higher rating, but going 15 minutes on PPV in 1998 is something that was rare for a match like this. Brown and Venis worked well together here. I just think a more decisive finish would have worked better.)
Post match, Venis with a body slam on Korderas. Venis went up top and hit a Money Shot splash on Korderas. Val’s music played to end it.
Analysis: It was just a way to end it with the face looking strong after a controversial loss.
There was a shot from the parking lot of a hearse where Steve Austin destroyed it earlier thinking The Undertaker and Kane were in it. Mankind was there and commented on what happened.
I remember the Insane Clown Posse singing for The Oddities entrance for this next match, but that was edited out of the WWE Network version of the show. That’s WWE not wanting to pay for music.
Analysis: I am not an ICP fan and have no problem with WWE skipping their performance.
(Sorry ICP fans. WHOOP WHOOP.)
The Oddities – Kurrgan, Golga and Giant Silva (w/Luna Vachon, Violent J, and Shaggy 2 Dope) vs. Kaientai – Taka Michinoku, Dick Togo, Men’s Teioh and Sho Funaki (w/Yamaguchi-san)
(Pre-match notes: It was a 3 on 4 match with the three giant faces taking on the four cruiserweight heels. Golga is the former Earthquake that was in a mask. Taka was the Light Heavyweight Champion at the time.)
Considering how bad the faces are in this match, I am dreading watching this one. Golga delivered headbutts to all the heels. Golga poured some water into Yamaguchi’s shoe. Thrilling. Kurrgan went on his knees to go to the same height level as Funaki to mock him. Powerslam by Kurrgan on Funaki and three other guys went after Kurrgan, but he knocked them all down. More comedy by Kurrgan going after Yamaguchi. Giant Silva tagged in with Lawler saying he’s an orthodontist’s dream to mock his smile. The four heels bailed to the floor to stall. Togo went at Silva and Silva tossed him across the ring. All four heels went after Silva, but he shoved them all away. Silva nailed forearm shots to the chest of all four guys and then he squashed them in the corner with JR saying Silva had size similar to Andre the Giant. Kurrgan threw three Kaientai guys across the ring. Silva did a press slam to Taka onto the three other guys on the floor. Powerslam by Golga. Two heels with a dropkick on Golga and a double team slam. All four Kaientai hit big splashes off the top on Golga. Four elbow smashes in a row by all of Kaientai. Running dropkick by Taka. Golga hit a clothesline to knock all four heels down. Kurrgan got the hot tag to no reaction. Boot to the face by Kurrgan and a sidewalk slam on Funaki. Silva into the ring to take care of two heels. Kurrgan had a double choke. Luna in the ring and she slammed Yamaguchi. Kurrgan and Silva each hit double Chokeslams so all four heels were down. Golga covered all four heels even though Kurrgan was the legal man and that ended it at 10:08.
Winners by pinfall: The Oddities
Analysis: 1/2* Bad match that was done for some cheap comedy. It gets above negative stars because I credit the Kaientai guys for taking some good bumps.
(This felt like a Sunday Night Heat match. I don’t think it should have been on the SummerSlam card. It just didn’t fit.)
There was a clip from Sunday Night Heat earlier in the night when Jeff Jarrett and Southern Justice cut Howard Finkel’s hair. Sergeant Slaughter, the WWE Commissioner, told Southern Justice they couldn’t be at ringside. X-Pac entered to a good ovation with Howard Finkel wearing a Degeneration X shirt.
X-Pac did a pre-match promo saying Jeff likes to talk a lot of trash, but Howard has two words for him: “Suck it!” Way to be cool, Fink.
Haircut Match: Jeff Jarrett vs. X-Pac (w/Howard Finkel)
(Pre-match notes: Jarrett was the heel while X-Pac was the face that was a part of Degeneration X.)
The loser of the match gets his head shaved after it’s over.
X-Pac with a spinning heel kick followed by a clothesline that sent Jarrett to the floor and X-Pac hit a cross body block onto Jarrett on the floor. Back in the ring, Jarrett hit two dropkicks to send X-Pac to the floor. Jarrett picked up X-Pac and sent him groin first into the ring post. Back in the ring, Jarrett sent X-Pac into the turnbuckle with a hard whip and a powerslam got two for Jeff. X-Pac hit a Tornado DDT out of the corner for a two count. Jarrett slapped on sleeper to wear down X-Pac a bit. X-Pac got out of it, went for a sleeper of his own and Jarrett put him on the top rope. X-Pac went for a cross body block off the top that missed because Jarrett moved leading to a two count from Jeff. The corner attack missed by Jarrett and then X-Pac missed a spin kick to show that they know eachother well. Jarrett slapped on the Figure Four Leglock in the middle of the ring, which led to X-Pac getting to the ropes to break free. X-Pac kicked Jarrett into the turnbuckle and hit a back suplex. Spin kick by X-Pac followed by the Bronco Buster attack in the corner. Jarrett up top with a cross body block, X-Pac rolled through and got a two count. Jarrett went for a leaping attack and X-Pac hit a Powerbomb. X-Pac attack in the corner, Jarrett moved and X-Pac hit the turnbuckle leading to nearfalls for both guys. Jarrett got his foot up to block a Bronco Buster attempt. Finkel on the apron, so Jarrett knocked him down with a punch. X-Pac with a kick to the gut and hit the X-Factor for two. Southern Justice went out to ringside. Dennis Knight (former Phineas, later Mideon) tried to hit X-Pac with guitar, but X-Pac avoided it and got the guitar. X-Pac nailed Jarrett in the head with the guitar while the blind and deaf referee was on the other side of the ring. X-Pac covered for the pin and X-Pac won at 11:10.
Winner by pinfall: X-Pac
Analysis: ***1/4 Good match from two solid midcard wrestlers from that era. They wrestled at a fast pace for most of the match. The crowd got into it by the end with some nearfalls that were believable. The heels failed to cheat to win because X-Pac was ready for it and got the guitar shot leading to the finish. Good reaction to it too.
(The finish worked really well in terms of popping the crowd. I think it was the right choice to have the babyface X-Pac get the win.)
Post match, the New Age Outlaws went in the ring to prevent Southern Justice from stopping the haircut. The Headbangers and Droz also went in the ring to keep Jarrett on the chair while X-Pac did the haircut. Jarrett complained about how they’re all full of shit. X-Pac cut some of the hair with clippers, but they didn’t work that well. X-Pac switched to scissors to cut more hair. Finkel cut some of the hair. There was a shot from Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan in the crowd. Jarrett managed to break free.
Analysis: I assume the clippers didn’t work as part of the story because Jarrett didn’t get a shaved head. Jarrett ended up getting a regular haircut.
(It was not a head shaving. It was just a haircut. I think some people were bothered that it wasn’t more of a head-shaving, but I guess Jeff just wanted a haircut instead of going bald. For Jeff it also meant the end of that first WWE persona he had while transitioning into another character for his WWE career after this.)
Dok Hendrix was shown by the Lion’s Den to talk about Shamrock vs. Owen.
The Rock, the Intercontinental Champion, was interviewed by Michael Cole backstage. Rock ripped on Cole saying he’ll slap his yellow teeth. Rock said that he is the people’s champ, the people’s choice and the best Intercontinental Champion ever. Rock: “Back to the jabroni’s at ringside.”
Analysis: This was Rock’s first SummerSlam. He was in the company at the previous SummerSlam, but was not on the card.
(I always laugh thinking of the “Back to the jabroni’s at ringside” line. So great.)
Marc Mero and Jacqueline entered for a mixed tag team match. Clips aired from the last two weeks when Jacqueline attacked Sable.
Sable walked out alone to a good reaction like usual. She has a mystery partner, but she walked out alone for the match. Edge’s music played and he made his way down to the ring to be her partner. JR noted that Edge was undefeated.
Sable & Edge vs. Jacqueline & Marc Mero
(Pre-match notes: Sable and Edge were the faces while Mero and Jackie were the heels. Marc was married to Sable at the time. Edge debuted a few months earlier. It was Edge’s first PPV match.)
Edge with a hurricanrana and some arm drags on Mero. Jackie tagged in, so Sable went in and Jackie tagged out right away, which meant the guys had to go back in. Edge with a flapjack. Jackie grabbed Edge’s foot leading to Mero hitting a running knee lift and Jackie slapped Edge in the face while Mero distracted the referee. Mero went for the TKO, but Edge countered into a DDT. Sable got the tag against Jackie, she hit some punches and a toss across the ring. Sable punched Mero off the apron. Jackie ran away, Sable kneed him in the groin and went for a Sable Bomb on Marc, but Jackie hit Sable in the back. Jackie got some choking offense. Sable came back with a TKO, which was one of Marc’s signature moves. Sable covered and Mero pulled her off to break up the pin. That led to Jackie attacking Sable’s back again. Mero held Sable, so Jackie attacked, Sable moved and Jackie knocked Marc of the apron. Sable decked Jackie with a forearm. Edge got the tag and jumped over the top onto Mero on the floor. That drew a good reaction. Edge sent Mero into the ring steps. Jackie jumped Edge’s back, so Edge put her on his knee and slapped her in the ass. Back in the ring, Edge hit a cross body block off the top onto Mero for a two count. Edge hit a neckbreaker off the top rope and Marc’s foot was on the bottom rope because Jackie put it there. Mero attack, Edge moved and Mero accidentally knocked Jackie off the apron leading to a two count for Edge. Mero with a Samoan Drop on Edge. Mero up top, Edge tripped him up and Mero was crotched on the turnbuckle. Sable hit a hurricanrana off the top rope on Mero, which drew a huge pop and fans chanted “Sable” for her. They did a spot where Jackie’s head inadvertently hit Mero in the groin. Edge hit a Downward Spiral and slammed Sable onto Mero, so Sable pinned Mero at 8:24.
Winners by pinfall: Sable and Edge
Analysis: ** Decent action that was done to put over Sable, which was the usual because she was by far the most popular woman in the company. The hurricanrana off the top by Sable drew the biggest ovation of the match. Mero was always willing to put over his wife.
(It was fun for a mixed tag team match. I liked the length of the match. It’s not always about star ratings. Listen to the crowd too. They loved Sable and it benefitted Edge being in this spot.)
Mankind was backstage holding the Tag Team Title in his hands and Cole interviewed him saying that Undertaker informed them Kane (Mankind’s partner) won’t be there. Mankind suggested that maybe Cole can be his partner so they can get their asses kicked. Vince McMahon showed up to Mankind to say that it’s okay. Vince told Mankind this is history and it’s where he belongs. Vince said that if Mankind can defend the Tag Team Titles it will lead to Mankind being in the MSG Hall of Fame by next week. McMahon got him a silver platter as a weapon. Mankind said he had 13 words for the New Age Outlaws: “How much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
Analysis: He was right. That’s 13 words. That’s a parody of DX with their “we’ve got two words for ya” catchphrase.
There was a video package to set up Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart with Owen using Dan Severn as a trainer.
The Owen/Shamrock match took place in the MSG theater in a Lion’s Den setting. Owen Hart entered with his trainer Dan Severn, who was a former UFC fighter like Ken Shamrock. Good ovation for Shamrock.
Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart (w/Dan Severn)
(Pre-match notes: Shamrock was the face and Owen was the heel.)
Shamrock started with an armbar followed by some punches. Back suplex by Shamrock. Ref Jack Doan was up on the catwalk above the structure of this match. Owen hit a low blow kick. Hard whip into the cage by Owen and Shamrock nailed a clothesline. Shamrock choked Owen with his own t-shirt as Owen’s mouth was bleeding. Shamrock jumped off the side of the cage and hit a shoulder tackle. Shamrock whipped Owen into the cage and hit a high hiplock takeover. Owen slammed Shamrock face first into the cage. The crowd chanted “Shamrock” as Owen was in control with an enziguri kick to the head. Owen hoisted Shamrock by the legs and drove him face first into the cage. Fans chanted “nugget” to piss off Owen. Back body drop by Shamrock to counter a move. Owens got another kick to knock him down. Shamrock powered out of a Sharpshooter attempt. Owen went for a hurricanrana, but Shamrock came back with a Powerbomb. Shamrock was cut on his head and it looks hardway. Shamrock with a clothesline and a back elbow off the cage. Kick to the face by Shamrock. Owen came back with a powerslam that had a rough landing for Shamrock. Belly to belly suplex by Owen. Sharpshooter applied by Owen. Shamrock got to the cage to break the hold. Owen drove him back first into the cage. Shamrock nailed a spinning DDT off the cage. Spinning kick by Shamrock. Owen sent Shamrock face first into the cage. Owen tried to choke out Shamrock with a dragon sleeper style move, but Shamrock kicked off the cage to break free. Shamrock applied an armbar takedown followed by his Ankle Lock submission to a big pop from the crowd. Severn was going to throw the towel in, but he just walked away instead. Owen tapped out. Ref Jack Doan called for the bell and went into the cage to break it up. Shamrock kept on the Ankle Lock for a bit more after the match. It went 9:16.
Winner by submission: Ken Shamrock
Post match, Shamrock celebrated the win with the crowd cheering loudly for him.
Analysis: ***1/4 That was very good. It wasn’t a traditional match, but they made it entertaining and the crowd was into it. It was different because they were mixing up some traditional wrestling moves while also trying some MMA-style submissions. I liked the concept and think the guys made it work. It’s too bad Shamrock was gone by the time Kurt Angle was a big name in WWE because they could have had an awesome match in this format. That’s not a knock on Owen because he did well. It’s just that Angle would have been better in a match like that.
(I enjoyed this a lot. It was a unique setting, but they were two talented guys that made it work. Shamrock winning was obvious since it’s a Lion’s Den match and also because he was the babyface. It wouldn’t have worked as well if Owen got the win.)
Steve Austin, the WWE Champion, was interviewed by Michael Cole. Austin said he respected Undertaker more than anybody there and he’ll do whatever he has to in order to keep the WWE Title.
Mankind walked out for the Tag Team Title match without his partner Kane. Mankind was in a face role at this point especially after the Hell in a Cell match two months earlier at King of the Ring.
The New Age Outlaws walked out with a dumpster full of weapons.
WWE Tag Team Championships (No Holds Barred Falls Count Anywhere): Mankind vs. New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Road Dogg)
(Pre-match notes: Mankind was a face and so were the New Age Outlaws, who were part of Degeneration X.)
Mankind tried to fight them off, but the Outlaws double-teamed Mankind. Road Dogg and Gunn each had metal sheets in their hands as they nailed Mankind in the head. They went for a double team attack, but it was clear they didn’t hit him that time. Mankind hit a back body drop that sent Gunn over the top to the floor. Mankind got the shit and rammed it into Road Dogg’s face with his knee. Mankind with a neckbreaker on Gunn on the floor for a two count. Road Dogg came back with an elbow while Mankind was on the apron. Gunn punched Mankind in the back and the Outlaws sent the back of Mankind’s head into the dumpster. They went back in the ring with Road Dogg setting up a table against the turnbuckle. Mankind ended up hitting hip toss on Gunn through the table. Double team neckbreaker by the Outlaws for a two count. The Outlaws set up two chairs in seated position in the ring and they drove Mankind through the chairs with a Powerbomb. The Outlaws did a Spike Piledriver on Mankind on one of the Tag Team Titles. It went 5:17.
Winners by pinfall and New Tag Team Champions: New Age Outlaws
Analysis: *3/4 Good job by Mankind putting up a fight, but it wasn’t meant to be in a handicap situation. Outlaws dominated most of it and finished him off with a big move to end it.
(It was classic Mick Foley getting his ass kicked. Keeping it short put over the Outlaws for being a talented team that worked well together and kicked some ass along the way.)
Post match, Road Dogg did the New Age Outlaws promo about how they are the new WWE Tag Team Championships. Gunn said they would put Mankind in the trash where he belongs.
Gunn put Mankind in the dumpster that was at ringside. The Outlaws celebrated with their one Tag Team Title. Kane opened up the dumpster that he was apparently in. Kane picked up a sledgehammer and smashed down on it. We couldn’t see Kane actually hit Mankind, but JR was freaking out about it while trying to sell it by saying “did you hear that?” Kane shut the lid and pushed the dumpster away.
Analysis: It continued Mankind’s story as a lovable guy that kept getting his ass kicked. That led to the angle where Vince McMahon treated Mankind like a son only to screw him out of the WWE Title at Survivor Series 1998.
(A vicious attack from Kane and JR selling it like he did only added to the drama.)
A video package aired to set up Intercontinental Champion The Rock, who was the leader of the Nation of Domination, against Triple H, who was the leader of Degeneration X. Their match at Fully Loaded 1998 one month earlier was a 30-minute draw, so that set up this showdown at SummerSlam in a Ladder Match.
Analysis: I thought the build to the match was great. It was a natural rivalry between two guys who worked well together.
The Degeneration X band was in the arena and they did the introduction for Triple H. They were in the ring performing the song. The lead singer was a guy named Chris Warren, who passed away in June 2016. Triple H had Chyna with him.
The Rock walked out with the Intercontinental Title. Rock had Mark Henry with him.
Analysis: Triple H was dealing with a right knee injury going into the match. You could see the big knee brace under his tights.
Rock handed the IC Title to referee Mike Chioda, who put the title on a cable that was raised on a cable above the ring.
Intercontinental Championship: The Rock (w/Mark Henry) vs. Triple H (w/Chyna)
(Pre-match notes: The Rock was the heel champion while Triple H was a face. Rock was 26 years old at the time and Triple H was 29 years old. This was the third ladder match in WWE PPV history.)
It was physical from the start with a lot of punches. The ladder was set up outside the ring. Triple H went for a Pedigree, but he was close to the ropes so Rock did a Rock Bottom that sent him over the top to the floor. JR mentioned the storyline knee injury of Triple H, which was a legit injury they worked into this feud. Hunter nailed a high knee to the face when they got back in the ring. That’s a signature Triple H move. Hunter went for the ladder, so Rock hit him from behind to knock Hunter and the ladder down. Fans chanted “Rocky Sucks” at Rock. They battled outside the ring, with Rock whipping Hunter into the ladder that was against the ring followed by a clothesline. Rock set up the ladder in the ring. Hunter stopped the climb with a double axe off the top and then the ladder fell onto Hunter. Triple H attacked Rock with the ladder two times. Hunter went for a ladder climb, so Rock pulled him off and Hunter fell down clutching his right leg. Rock with elbow drops to the right leg and he sent the ladder onto the right leg as well. Rock brought a chair into the ring leading to Rock hitting the ladder that had Hunter’s leg underneath it. Rock put the ladder from the ring steps to the barricade and drove Hunter’s right knee into the ladder. Rock set up the ladder in the ring. A slow climb by Rock allowed Hunter to crawl back in to knock him down. Hunter set up the ladder on the floor, so Rock did a slingshot that sent Hunter into the side of the ladder. They brawled up the aisle again with Hunter hitting a clothesline. Rock with a back body drop out of a Pedigree attempt that sent Hunter into the ladder. Henry sent a second ladder into the ring for Rock. There was a really slow climb by Rock as Triple H finally got back in the ring to knock him down. Dropkick by Triple H to the ladder into Rock’s head. Rock did a blade job because he was bleeding by the head. It was usually Triple H that bled in their matches, but it was also usually the role of the heel, which Rock was here.
Hunter climbed up the ladder slowly, but Rock got back in the ring and shoved the ladder over causing Triple H to take a nasty fall. Rock nailed a sweet DDT to knock down Hunter again. Rock did another slow climb, so Hunter went up the other side of the ladder. They had a slugfest while on the ladder, Rock poked him in the eye and tossed Hunter into a ladder that was on the top rope. Hunter bounced off that right into Rock on the ladder leading to a huge bump for Rock. The crowd cheered both guys for their effort while JR was yelling about it. Hunter got a chair from Chyna, so Rock picked up the ladder and Hunter hit the ladder with the chair a few times to destroy Rock. Body slam on the ladder by Rock. Rock slammed Hunter on a ladder and hit a People’s Elbow. JR: “That was just heinous!” Fans chanted “Rocky” for Rock, which wasn’t that common for Rock as a heel. Hunter recovered with a swift kick. Hunter climbed up, Rock went after him, Hunter jumped off and Rock hit a Rock Bottom to knock him down again. Rock climbed up, Hunter yanked down on Rock’s trunks to expose his butt a bit and pull him down. Hunter hit the Pedigree on Rock. Henry threw powder in Hunter’s eye, so Hunter had white powder on his face as he tried to climb. Rock went up the other side of the ladder, Chyna snuck up behind Rock and she hit him with a punch to the groin. The crowd went wild for that. Hunter reached up, grabbed the title and pulled it down. The crowd went wild for it. It went 24:32.
Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Triple H
Analysis: ****1/2 Love this match. It’s an outstanding Ladder Match that was given a lot of time, told a smart story with Rock going after the knee and the face Hunter fought back to win. Big moment for Hunter since Rock had the title for 265 days (nearly nine months), so when Rock finally lost it mattered a lot. If there ever was a match that was a coming out party for two guys this one would be it because both guys became much bigger stars after it was over. My main gripe with the match was that when they did their climbs to reach the title some of the climbs (especially by Rock) were too slow and that hurt it a bit. I like that they used the ladders as weapons because they are not known as fliers, so having them use their power with the ladders made a lot more sense. The finish was cheap, which was rare for a ladder match, because at this point they were usually booked with a clear winner. I didn’t mind it because it fit the story with Chyna and Henry, so having them get involved made sense. I would have had Henry try to go after Triple H after Chyna knocked down Rock, but that’s a minor gripe. What this match did was elevate both guys, so even though Rock lost he really came off as a winner because he became a main eventer first.
(It’s an awesome match with a hot crowd that never gets old for me. It’s not easy going 25 minutes in a ladder match for two guys who are not known as being high fliers, but they made it work and put on an entertaining show. A breakout match for both guys that elevated both of them. It is still one of my favorite matches in the careers of both of these legends.)
Post match, Degeneration X members Road Dog, Billy Gunn and X-Pac celebrated with Hunter. The referee checked on Rock.
The WWE Network version showed “Exclusive Home Video” footage of Rock slowly going to the back after the match. They showed Rock walking backstage and people were yelling “Where’s Taker?” probably because they needed Undertaker to get ready for the main event. Rock did a promo saying the fact is that nobody can be the People’s Champion because that’s what The Rock is. Rock ended it saying “Payback is a bitch.”
Analysis: Rock ended up becoming WWE Champion at Survivor Series 1998. WWE used the cheers Rock was getting here to make him a face for a few months before that shocking heel turn to win the WWE Title at Survivor Series 1998. As for Triple H, he had to wait one year to win his first WWE Title one night after the 1999 SummerSlam event.
The announcers set up Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker for the WWE Title. Lawler said he can’t believe Undertaker said that Kane won’t be involved in the match.
The Undertaker walked out alone for the main event. Undertaker was in the face role going into the match.
Steve Austin entered to a thunderous response from the crowd. JR: “No WWF Champion has ever entered Madison Square Garden with that kind of ovation. I challenge you. I challenge you to research that, King. I literally felt this building shake.” It was a huge ovation. Lawler pointed out that a lot of the fans loved Undertaker too.
Analysis: An interesting backstory to this match is that head WWE writer at the time, Vince Russo, wanted Undertaker to go into the match as a heel. Vince McMahon said no to that idea. Undertaker ended up turning heel within a few months, but going into it he was still a face. I think Taker going into this as a heel would have helped. I can also see why they didn’t do it because this match result is what led to the heel turn.
(I think the build to the match would have been better if The Undertaker was a heel, but he was still a face here.)
WWE Championship: Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker
(Pre-match notes: Both guys were faces. This was not their first PPV singles match because they had one in 1997. This was their first PPV match after Austin became a legit main eventer and top guy.)
There were no disqualifications for this match.
Things were even in the first couple of minutes. There was a rough moment early as Austin ran the ropes, kicked Taker in the chest and Taker shot back up so that his head hit the bottom of Austin’s chin. Austin went down hard and has told the story that he was legitimately knocked out for a bit there. Austin had no idea where he was, so Hebner had to tell him he was in a ring at SummerSlam in MSG. They did the spot again and Taker ended up hitting a suplex out of it. Undertaker missed an elbow drop. Taker caught Austin in his arms and dropped him on the top rope stun gun style for a two count. That was Austin’s finisher in WCW. JR and King noted the spot where their heads collided. Taker stomped away to send Austin out of the ring. Back in the ring, Undertaker hit a leaping clothesline followed by some choking. When Undertaker went to the top rope, Austin took him down with an arm wringer. Nice counter. Kane showed up in the aisle. Austin stared at him. Kane went down to the ring. Undertaker told him to the back. Kane left.
Analysis: That was an important part of the story because it was face Taker wanting to do this on his own. When he failed to get the job done after this, that’s when he welcomed Kane’s help.
Austin worked on the left log Undertaker by ramming it into the side of the ring. Austin walked up the apron, Undertaker grabbed him by the throat and Undertaker hit a running Chokeslam that looked very impressive. Austin came back with a clothesline that sent Undertaker over the top to the floor. They went brawling into the card with the referee Earl Hebner following after them. They were near the ringside area when Undertaker hit a back body drop on Austin on the concrete floor. Clothesline by Undertaker sent Austin over the barricade and back to the ringside area. They went back into the ring, Austin went for a Stunner, Undertaker escaped over the top to the floor and when Austin went for an attack, Undertaker shoved Austin back first into the ring post. Austin charged in, Taker moved and sent Austin over the top to the floor. Undertaker sent Austin in the ring steps. Undertaker took the cover off the Spanish announce table. Undertaker choked Austin while he was on the table. Undertaker went to the top rope and jumped off with a leg drop on Austin through the announce table although the announce table didn’t break as they slipped off. That was amazing. It was a crazy move for Undertaker to do and I’m still not sure how that table was able to survive all that weight. Back in the ring, Undertaker got a two count.
Undertaker whipped Austin into the corner. When Taker charged in, Austin moved and Taker hit the turnbuckle. Taker took control again with punches. They both ran the ropes and did the double clothesline spot to knock them both down. Ref Earl Hebner was counting them both down even though he wasn’t counting when they were out of the ring. Austin was on fire with a Thesz Press followed by punches. They did a spot out of the corner where Austin hit a Stunner variation, but it didn’t connect perfectly. Taker hit a Chokeslam. Undertaker teased a Tombstone, Austin flipped out of it and Undertaker crotched him on the top rope followed by a legsweep. Undertaker went for the Old School ropewalk, he jumped off the ropes and Austin punched him in the groin. Undertaker staggered to his feet, Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner and Austin covered for the pinfall win at 20:50.
Winner by pinfall: Steve Austin
Analysis: ***3/4 That was very good. It didn’t reach a point where it became an elite title match, but they had the kind of match worthy of a WWE Title match at one of the biggest shows of the year. I think it would have been a better match if Undertaker was booked as a heel going into it because fans would have had more reason to get behind Austin. If this match happened a few years later they would have likely done the sequence where they kick out of finishers. Instead, nobody hit a finisher until Austin countered Undertaker’s “old school” move with an uppercut to the balls (no DQ rules) and hit the Stunner for the win. If you would have asked me in 1998 I would have expected a better match from them, but it’s still really good and fun to watch nearly 20 years later.
(I agree with my rating at the time. It’s even more impressive considering that Austin was knocked out for part of the match. Austin was still able to finish the match to the best of his abilities and they delivered a clean finish that made the fans happy.)
Austin got a big ovation for the win. Undertaker had the WWE Title in his hand. It looked like Undertaker might attack, but he ended up handing the title to Austin as a sign of respect. Undertaker left as Austin continued his celebration.
Kane walked out to stand beside Undertaker as they stared at Austin. The show ended with Austin celebrating with the title.
Analysis: The story continued with Undertaker working together with Kane as they eventually got the title from Austin after Vince McMahon made things unfair for Austin.
This event has a run time of 2 hours, 42 minutes on WWE Network.
“We were out there trying to work our ass off, and prior to that match, I’m not the toughest guy in the world, but I’ve never been knocked out in my life. And part of the match, I hit the ropes, Undertaker goes for a backdrop, I kick him in his chest, he’s going to straighten up and no-sell it, and when he does, the back of his big ass head hits me right under the chin. And, boom! Knockout blow. He flashed me. I went down on the mat. I was knocked out. I was only knocked out [for] maybe two [or] three seconds. All of a sudden, I’m laying on the mat on my back in Madison Square Garden. [I] don’t know where I am. The referee of that match was Earl Hebner. Earl Hebner looks down at me. He kind of has this little grin on his face. He goes, ‘God dang, boy! Are you alright?’ I looked up at Earl. I said, ‘where am I?’ He goes, ‘God damn it, boy! You’re in the Garden!’, so I get up and we continue the match. And one of my biggest disappointments in that match [was that] we [were] on our way to a hell of a match [and] I got knocked out. From that point on, I don’t remember the rest of that match! I remember laying on the table. I remember Taker getting on the top turnbuckle and dropping that leg. And I’m thinking, ‘we kind of talked about it. I don’t know if he’s going to do it or not, but I was going to stay there anyway because that’s what you do’. But all of a sudden, that’s one of the things I do remember about that match was Undertaker taking a courageous bump there and dropping that leg off that top turnbuckle. I’m like, ‘alright, this is going to be interesting’. He lands. Everything crashes. We finish the match.”
Here’s Austin talking about how he was disappointed in the match.
“The reason we were not happy with the caliber of that match was we knew that we could have had a better match. The crowd wasn’t hanging on every single move or every single section of the match. And it wasn’t a cookie cutter, prefab match. We had five [or] six bullet points and the rest was fill in the blanks. We knew that we had not captivated the crowd to the degree that we had them hanging from the rafters, waiting on the next move. Who was going to win? The drama wasn’t high enough. The dare I say, interest, at the proper depth because when you go back to some of the matches that Taker had with Shawn, [or] maybe the one I had with Bret or maybe The Rock, when people were hanging on every single thing you do, we didn’t have that [on] that night. And we knew that we could have done better and we didn’t hook the crowd enough. Bottom line, we didn’t hook the crowd enough. You can ask Taker and he’ll tell you the same thing.”
I think he was being too hard on himself, but that’s how some wrestlers are. They are perfectionists that want to have a classic match every time. It was still a very good match.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– Match quality was strong from top to bottom. Four matches over the three-star level, there was a match of the year contender from Triple H and Rock and a main event that was better than most SummerSlams before it. I think it was clearly the best SummerSlam ever at this point in time. Did it get passed? Sure, but at the time it was the best SummerSlam because of the solid matches all night long. The only match that was awful was The Oddities vs. Kaientai and everything else was watchable.
– It was a good night for the faces because they won every match except D-Lo Brown’s disqualification victory in the opener. I didn’t like that finish, but it kept the Euro Title on Brown while not hurting Venis too much.
– This was probably the first show where I was really impressed by Triple H. That doesn’t mean I think he sucked in his first three years in WWE. I could always tell he was going to be good. I just remember knowing he was hurt with the knee injury going into it and there he was busting his ass for nearly 30 minutes in the biggest match of his career up to that point. Kudos to him and Rock for putting on an amazing match.
– A lot of people rip on Vince Russo for reasons that are deserved, but he also deserves a lot of credit for being a big reason for shows like this and Survivor Series 1998, which I also rated at 8 out of 10. Russo was very good at caring about the midcarders and trying to give them different gimmicks, which showed on this card with guys like D-Lo Brown and the chest protector. Little things like that certainly help. It’s missing in WWE today.
– This show did the biggest buyrate in SummerSlam history with 700,000 buys. That was a 465,000 increase from one year earlier. It was also 75,000 more buys than the previous SummerSlam high in 1989. It’s also higher than any Royal Rumble (high was 670,000 in 2002) or Survivor Series (high was 478,000 in 1998) ever. The 700,000 number will remain the second highest number for a non-WrestleMania show after Invasion 2001, which did 775,000 buys because WWE vs. WCW was a huge draw. The number also beat several WrestleManias in terms of PPVs. In other words, this show made WWE a lot of money and it’s another example of how well business was going with Austin on top.
(That buyrate is so impressive. It was peak Austin as WWE Champion and fans bought into Undertaker as the opponent although like I said, I think it would have been even better if Undertaker was a heel in this match.)
Best Match: Triple H vs. The Rock (****1/2)
Worst Match: The Oddities vs. Kaientai (1/2*)
Most Memorable Moment: Triple H winning the ladder match after the Chyna low blow stands out the most. Also, Undertaker’s leg drop through the table was a huge move too.
- Triple H
- The Rock
- Steve Austin
- The Undertaker
Show rating (out of 10): 8
Good matches all night long plus the breakout ladder match by Hunter and Rock make this one of the better SummerSlams ever. Fun to watch when it happened and still bring a smile to my face nearly 20 years later.
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