Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Hidden Gems series. This week, we’re traveling back to 1998, and one of the WWF’s best years of programming ever. With Shawn Michaels retiring after WrestleMania XIV, as well as Bret Hart being ousted from the company following the 1997 Survivor Series, the show focused on younger, more character driven superstars, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, The Rock, and Kane.
Kane debuted in the WWF at the Badd Blood In Your House PPV event in October of 1997, costing his brother, The Undertaker, the first ever Hell in a Cell match, as well as a WWF title shot at Survivor Series. Initially, The Undertaker refused to fight his younger brother, however after much prodding (simple stuff, like being burned in a casket), Undertaker finally agreed to face his brother Kane in a match, and that match would end up happening at WrestleMania XIV. Although ‘Taker emerged victorious in that match, he did so just barely, having to hit three Tombstone Piledrivers to keep Kane down for the count. Following this, the brothers would meet again, at Unforgiven In Your House, in the first ever Inferno Match. Once again ‘Taker would win, this time by setting his previously-burned-and-now-mentally-and-physically-scarred brother on fire. Without better context, this does indeed make Undertaker seem like the biggest jackass on the planet. Well, actually, even with context. Wasn’t it ultimately revealed that ‘Taker did indeed burn down the funeral home where he and his brother grew up? And didn’t he show like, any remorse over it? That’s kind of a mean thing to do. Alas, brothers fight, and eventually, they move on and become badasses together (see: ‘Taker and Kane’s run in 2001). Regardless of all that though, in 1998 Kane finally found a friend in Mankind, who had been associated with Paul Bearer before, and was again after he found himself rejected by Mr. McMahon.
Mick Foley had an interesting 1998, starting off by being Cactus Jack and teaming with his hero and friend Chainsaw Charlie, who was actually Terry Funk (shocking, I know). Those two would go on to win the WWF Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania XIV from The New Age Outlaws in a Dumpster Match, however, they’d lose them just one night later, back to the Outlaws, who joined the new and improved D-Generation X. Following this, Cactus would be taken under the wing of Mr. McMahon, and eventually become an evil version of Dude Love, in an attempt from the owner to get the WWF World title off of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Although The Dude tried to win the title at both Unforgiven and Over The Edge in 1998, he’d fail both times, and eventually be cast away by Mr. McMahon for being unable to get the job done. This led to the return of the psychotic Mankind character, who’d team with Kane and “Uncle Paul” in a power stable. Together with Kane, he’d win the WWF Tag Team titles, and hold onto them until they lost to the odd couple team of Stone Cold and The Undertaker. As the year went on, Mr. McMahon was able to get the ear of both Kane and The Undertaker, where they momentarily joined forces to wreak havoc on the World Wrestling Federation, and, unfortunately for Mankind, he was one of their prime targets.
All of this would lead to one of only two Hell in a Cell matches to ever happen on Monday Night RAW. Kane vs. Mankind. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
Okay, I want to mention a couple of things right off the bat. Firstly, I just want to talk about how much I love Kane’s two sleeved attire. It makes him look like a super villain from a comic book. It’s so freaking cool. Secondly, I was always under the impression that this match happened in the main event of the show. Turns out this was actually at the halfway point. Can you imagine getting a Hell in a Cell match at 9:30 during an episode of RAW these days? Holy cow. Never in a million years, my friend. I know it kind of sort of happened that one time in 2014? I think it was Ambrose and Cena vs. Rollins and Orton. You know what I’m talking about, the one where Orton almost got impaled by the table leg. That was hot fire, but they don’t do things like that very often. Everything on TV is just regular matches. I’m not asking for hardcore violence every week, but would one random TLC or HIAC match on RAW every once or twice a year really hurt? It doesn’t have to be long or be anything serious. Just for the excitement of it. Give me a reason to tune in. Okay, I’m done ranting for now.
Kane does his signature entrance pose in the ring to a million laser pointers. I swear if there was one thing, to sum up the Attitude Era, it’d probably be laser pointers. Jesus. Anyways, Mankind is out next, looking like me from this past Sunday morning. He tries to climb the cell but gets stopped by a couple of referees, who then get punched for trying to do the right thing. No wonder a year later they went on strike. Mankind tries to climb again, and once more he gets taken down by referees. More assaulting from Mankind follows, including sending poor Mike Chioda into the cell wall. Kane finally has enough of Mankind’s nonsense and goes out to get him. That winds up being a bad idea as Mankind slams the cell door into Kane repeatedly. Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy is a one-man wrecking crew tonight. Foley with the running knee, and DOWN. GOES. KANE. Mankind is now walking to the opposite side of the cell, to where the announcer’s tables are. I’m assuming to get a hand on ol’ ‘Taker over there, but we shall see. Mick grabs a chair and tries twice to throw it up to the top of the cell from the ground. Neither attempt succeeds though. Rest in peace chair. Mankind now once again trying to climb up to the top of the Hell in a Cell, however, he gets stopped by The Undertaker, who pulls him off and down through the Spanish announcer’s table, in one of the most dangerous looking bumps I’ve ever seen. That crazy bastard.
Mankind is now dead at ringside, and the crowd is chanting “AUSTIN! AUSTIN! AUSTIN!” How heartless. Nonetheless, Kane is back, and he’s back with a vengeance. He gets Mankind onto his feet and then slams him shoulder first into the side of the cell. Kane then levels Mankind with a piece of the broken commentary table. They go around the cell and end up back at the ramp area, where Kane again slams Mankind into the cell wall. Y’know, when I was a kid, I always said Mankind was my favorite wrestler, and even to this day, I love Mick Foley, but…. I just wonder what attracted him to me as a kid. ‘Cause watching this now, you’d think I would have liked someone like Stone Cold more. Someone who didn’t get destroyed constantly. At the same time though, maybe that is why I liked him the most. Mankind was real. He wasn’t Superman. He wasn’t going to go out there and clean house and save the day. I mean, sometimes he would, but not very often. He persevered though regardless. Just like a regular person would. He got knocked down a ton, but no matter what, he always got back up. I don’t know, I’m just getting into some deep thought now. It would explain why I never really got into superheroes. It seems I tend to prefer more grounded, realistic characters.
The Big Red Machine is still on the attack here, with a kick to the gut. He follows that up by slamming the cell door into the ribs of a beaten down Mankind, while The Undertaker lurks and watches ominously. Kane and Mankind are now officially locked inside the Hell in a Cell, and this match begins. Little brother Kane nails Mankind with the steel ring steps not once, but twice, which sends Mick Foley to the outside of the ring. As we get a shot of Mankind trying to pull himself to his feet, we suddenly see Kane jump over the top rope and onto Mankind with a crossbody. See, this is why I don’t hear it when people complain about Kane these days. He was awesome, and he still is. Obviously, he’s slowed down with his age, but he can still go. I bet if Kane were in his prime right now, he’d be looked at the same way Luke Harper is. Mankind crawls under the ring, presumably to get away from The Demon Kane. Speaking of Kane, he throws the whole top part of the steel stairs out onto the floor where Mankind was, but misses, obviously. Foley emerges behind Kane and lays him out with a steel chair to the skull. Ouch. Watching these chair shots to the head is rough. Mankind also brought a bag of thumbtacks with him into the ring, so there goes that. The Mickster goes to lay them all over the ring but gets stopped by Kane, who hits a big forearm. Damn.
Kane tries for a chokeslam but gets stopped by Mankind, who… I guess… locks in the Mandible Claw. JR on commentary is selling it like death, but…. how does this work? Isn’t the mask in the way? I’m so confused…. nonetheless, Kane gets him off. Mankind is now running back and forth between Kane and the ropes, landing forearms, trying to knock over the big man. Mankind is eventually able to land a big piledriver, which sends Kane’s ass into the thumbtacks. Hey, whatever works. We get a shot of Kane while he’s laid out, and we can see that his attire has been ripped. Which if I recall correctly, this was the last time he wore the double sleeve outfit. Maybe he took that as a sign it was time to retire it. The Big Red Machine sits up, no selling the tacks. He then lands a big chair shot to Mankind’s side, as Mankind was climbing the ropes. Kane then hits a chokeslam (finally), and he hits a Tombstone right after for good measure. Kane signals something to The Undertaker, which ‘Taker responds to with a throat slicing taunt thing. You know what I’m talking about. Kane proceeds to land two chair shots to the head of Mankind, and then he hits a Tombstone onto that same chair. JR’s commentary here is the real star, I can’t lie. He’s really making you feel for Mick Foley.
Suddenly, Stone Cold appears! Holy crap, this one ends in a no contest, but I don’t think anyone really cares because this is awesome. Austin’s stomping a mudhole into Kane, while The Undertaker tries to climb the cell to break in. ‘Taker missed a hook for his foot while climbing and seemingly almost fell, which got a gasp out of me. Meanwhile, Austin levels Kane with a chair shot, and follows that up with a Stunner. ‘Taker eventually is able to get a leg through the top of the cage, but it’s too late at that point, as the cell begins to rise. This one ends with another Stunner to Kane and ‘Taker way up in the rafters on top of the Hell in a Cell. What a sight.
Match Rating: 4 gems
That match was fun as hell. Granted, it ended in a no contest. Still, it was a perfectly good little brawl. There were some big bumps, some weapons used, and the cell ended up being put to use as well, which is a big criticism of today’s HIAC matches. Ultimately this match was just a storytelling device on the road to SummerSlam, but don’t let that take away from how good this is. Kane and Mick Foley laid it all out there, and it paid off as this match was brutal, and a good attention grabber. I recommend checking this one out.
Tune in next week as we’ll be heading to 2004 for a unique match that happened on Monday Night RAW. Until then, I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series.