Today on a day off I decided to watch the King of the Ring 1998 VHS in my collection, containing the brutal Hell in a Cell between Mick Foley and The Undertaker. This is a match I’ve seen a few times, but usually on the Hell in a Cell DVD, today I decided to watch the entire event to see how not only emotional that match was, but whole the entire package was presented back in 1998 compared to today. First thing I found to be of note was the actual VHS case, which featured a guillotine, the King of the Ring logo, a tagline reading “Off With Their Heads,” A shot in the bottom left corner of Mankind with the claw of The Undertaker, who’s bleeding, but taking up most of the cover is a picture of Sable in a skin tight leather outfit. I thought this wonderfully depicted how wrestling was in the late 90′s, black, grainy, dangerous and sexy; in beautiful contrast to the bright and colourful VHS covers from the 80′s.
The event featured on the under card, a match featuring The Headbangers, one of my all time favourite tag teams as they were truly ridiculous, just a far out idea in the world of 90′s wrestling. It also featured a match with Too Cool, at that point called Too Much, facing Al Snow and Head with Jerry The King Lawler as the guest referee. This match had some truly beautiful writing where it had The Head tagged in, then connected to a bottle of Head & Shoulders, thus giving Head shoulders and allowing him to be pinned. This is one of those moments in wrestling where either you’re a fan of the ridiculous, or maybe you should be watching UFC. That is certainly not me saying that wrestling can’t be serious, it’s just a complete circus, so sometimes it gets real ridiculous. Going more towards the serious end of wrestling one only has to look to the to main events.
The first of these two main events was the much famed Cell match, showing some of the wild displays of human emotion and passion that perhaps has ever been filmed. It’s interesting watching that match because it’s basically an example of how to wrestle on autopilot. Foley seems real out of it the entire match, this match obviously taking place way before the WWE was concerned with concussions. But it was simple things like as Taker picked up the steel steps, Foley would present his shoulder to tell The Undertaker where he should hit Foley. JR’s line “They gave you of their souls” captures the match, both men giving literally everything they had to make that match a classic, The Undertaker even performs a suicide dive to the outside, through the ropes instead of over like usual, where he runs directly into the cage due to the confines of the cell. Blood, falls and tacks, and this match wasn’t even the final match of the night.
The actual main event had Stone Cold Steve Austin facing Kane in the first ever first blood match for the WWF title, where if Kane didn’t win he would set himself on fire. Now stick with me here because I have a lot to unpackage with the writing of this specific main event, because while it was good, it’s outrageous. Firstly in the promo package Kane spoke, but used a voice modulator, it’s funny listening to it now because you can clearly hear his voice through the modulator. Next I have to tackle this stipulation, to me it seems completely ludicrous to think that people would have been buying that pay per view believing they were going to see Kane kill himself, JR said that Kane had put in writing if he lost he agreed to set himself on fire and breathe his last breath. Why not just have his mask put on the line, hes going to win either way, but at least this way it’s believable he might lose, obviously it’s water under the bridge now, but I don’t remember that, so to hear today it just struck me as one of the dumber decisions in the Attitude Era.
Okay, but what about the actual match between Kane and Austin, wild set up, but how was the execution? Well after watching the video package it turns out that Mankind was deeply involved with the storyline himself, so it only makes sense that he would make an appearance in the First Blood Match. But this is after the Hell in a Cell, how is the hell Mick Foley was able to walk himself back out to the ring is beyond me, but watching the exclusive footage on the VHS showed Foley come back out again and take another stunner, dropping to the ground one last time, the man was a damn workhorse for the company. Couple other points, Kane had a full body suit on, I felt would have been nice if he somehow seemed like he was getting closer to bleeding like his suit ripping, but it always seemed so distant, there’s also a wonderful moment where the Cell is being raised and lower, where Kane was balancing on his stomach on the entrance way, it looks pretty goofy, but it’s the only time I know of that that ever happened.