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Matt’s Retro Review: WWF Championship 1998

Matt takes a look back at the WWF Championship in 1998, including the first reigns for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock!



WWF Championship 1998 Steve Austin Shawn Michaels

Matt takes a look back at the WWF Championship in 1998, including the first reigns for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock!

Welcome to the 12th edition of the Retro Review on The Chairshot! This will be a biweekly article here on The Chairshot because we have a lot to discuss! In starting, my question for you is; have you ever had a discussion with a friend or in a group online about who is the greatest champion of all time? What is your defense of your claim? Wins? Quality of matches? Length of reign? In this weekly article, I will be looking back one year at a time and evaluating one specific championship in each article, with a yearly grade ranking and overall grade ranking and as we progress through the years, I will reveal who I believe is the best champion of all time.

To start us off, I am going to discuss the most recognizable championship in the history of wrestling, the WWE Heavyweight Championship. These articles will not discuss the “Big Gold” World Championship, Universal Championship, or any other recognized heavyweight championship in WWE, those will be discussed in other articles. During these reviews, I will count matches aired on weekly television, PPV, and matches also released on VHS and later on home media.

Shawn Michaels (November 9th, 1997 – March 29th, 1998)

  • Record: 4-4
  • Clean Losses: 2
  • Successful Defenses: 2

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Shawn Michaels d. Bret Hart, November 9th, 1997, Survivor Series
  • Undertaker & Steve Austin vs Degeneration X, November 15th, 1997, WWE Network: Hidden Gems
  • Legion of Doom d. Degeneration X (DQ), December 15th, 1997, Monday Night RAW
  • Shawn Michaels d. Undertaker, January 18th, 1998, Royal Rumble
  • Steve Austin d. Shawn Michaels, March 29th, 1998, Wrestlemania XIV

Thoughts: Truth being told, this was a good reign. The WWF was closing the gap between WCW and themselves, and it was because of Shawn Michaels and his Degeneration X faction at the head of the company and the chase by Stone Cold Steve Austin that was captivating audiences. WrestleMania XIV in Boston is arguably one of the biggest pre-football arena WrestleMania’s of all time, capped off by the involvement of Mike Tyson in the event. I remember how big that match was, it was the first WWF PPV I can remember my friends being excited about ordering since we were little kids. Notably, Shawn Michaels would injure his back in the Casket match against Undertaker at the Royal Rumble, and he was told he should drop the championship, but he wanted Steve Austin to beat him at WrestleMania, so he limped to the finish line and put over the next big star. Had HBK relinquished the championship after the injury, who knows what could have happened. Everyone wanted to see that smug SOB get his from Stone Cold, so had it been anyone else, it wouldn’t have felt as big or important. That’s why this reign is important even if he only wrestled 8 times in five months (two of them untelevised, later released on home media). There were five Recommended matches in those 8 matches, so that’s pretty impressive!

Grade (A+ through F ): B

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (March 29th, 1998 – June 28th, 1998)

  • Record: 2-2
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 2

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Steve Austin d. Shawn Michaels, March 29th, 1998, Wrestlemania XIV
  • Mankind d. Steve Austin (DQ), April 26th, 1998, Unforgiven
  • Steve Austin d. Mankind, May 31st, 1998, Over the Edge
  • Kane d. Steve Austin, June 28th, 1998, King of the Ring

Thoughts: The most recongized WWF Championship reign of this era, this reign was remarkable in the sense that Austin only officially wrestled on PPV during this reign, even though he had 5 matches end in no contest on RAW during this reign (Who does he think he is, Seth Rollins?). All four matches are high quality and entertaining or important. The reign ended by some nefarious decisions which resulted in Austin bleeding during a First Blood match. Hard time judging such a historically important and mainstream reign, but ultimately, it doesn’t hold up to other reigns. It is the complete opposite of the preceding reign, where it was just chaotic and ended prematurely.

Grade (A+ through F ): D

Kane (June 28th, 1998 – June 29th, 1998)

  • Record: 1-1
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Kane d. Steve Austin, June 28th, 1998, King of the Ring

Thoughts: Funnily enough, I copied the template from 1997, and reign fell in this same exact spot as Bret Hart’s one day reign. I didn’t have to change the record, losses, or defenses. This is a one day reign, and the only WWF Championship for Kane in his career.

Grade (A+ through F ): F

Steve Austin (June 29th, 1998 – September 27th, 1998)

  • Record: 5-4
  • Clean Losses: 2
  • Successful Defenses: 1

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Steve Austin & Undertaker d. Kane & Mankind, July 26th, 1998, Fully Loaded (WWF Tag Titles)
  • Steve Austin & Undertaker d. The New Age Outlaws, August 3rd 1998, Monday Night RAW
  • Steve Austin d. Undertaker, August 30th, 1998, SummerSlam
  • Undertaker & Kane d. Steve Austin, September 27th, 1998, Breakdown

Thoughts: This reign was far more about the WWF Tag Team Titles and the team of Austin and Undertaker, as they seemingly defended the tag titles every week for a month straight. It all culminated in the Highway to Hell at Madison Square Garden where Austin would come out victorious in an epic clash against Undertaker. The next month the championship would be vacated when Undertaker and Kane pinned Austin at the same time in a triple threat match. Didn’t think much about this reign, even if we ignore the one night change, Austin and the WWF Championship dominated 1998, but it was more spectacle and middle fingers and Stunners than anything involving the championship itself. The war between Vince McMahon and Austin dominated the calendar year, and it is perhaps the most memorable feud in the history of wrestling, but it was messy and in the middle of the “Attitude Era” where match quality was low, shock and obscenity was high, fans loved everything, but in judging an individual reign, I was not entertained with Steve Austin as WWF Champion

Grade (A+ through F ): D

The Rock (November 15th, 1998 – January 4th, 1999)

  • Record: 7-4
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 3

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • The Rock d. Mankind, November 15th, 1998, Survivor Series
  • Steve Austin & Mankind d. The Rock & Undertaker, December 7th, 1998, Monday Night RAW
  • The Rock d. Triple H, December 14th, 1998, Monday Night RAW
  • Mankind d. The Rock, January 4th, 1999, Monday Night RAW

Thoughts: This reign was everything you want in a championship reign. After the second Survivor Series screwjob in as many years, The Rock left Survivor Series as the most hated man in the company, in arguably Vince Russo’s greatest swerve ever written. The Rock came into Survivor Series as a huge babyface and Mankind a corporate lackey of Vince McMahon and The Corporation, and both left in opposite positions in the eyes of fans. The long term storytelling and brilliance of this turn is truly remarkable, and was never done before and only been badly imitated since. The Rock was never pinned cleanly, defended the title three times in two months, wrestled on Heat, RAW, and PPV. Hard to say anything bad about this reign. It certainly put butts in the seats! 

Grade (A+ through F ): B

Overall WWE Champion Ranking

  1. Hulk Hogan (January 23rd, 1984 – February 5th, 1988) – A
  2. Bret Hart (March 20th, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) – A
  3. Yokozuna (June 13th, 1993 – March 20th, 1994) — B+
  4. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (April 5th, 1992 – September 14th, 1992) – B
  5. The Rock (November 15th, 1998 – January 4th, 1999) — B
  6. Undertaker  (March 23rd, 1997 – August 3rd, 1997) — B
  7. Shawn Michaels (November 9th, 1997 – March 29th, 1998) — B
  8. Bret Hart (October 12th, 1992 – April 4th, 1993) — B-
  9. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (March 27th, 1988 – April 2nd, 1989) – C+
  10. Sgt. Slaughter (January 19th, 1991 – March 24th, 1991) – C
  11. Hulk Hogan (April 2nd, 1989 – April 1st, 1990) – C
  12. Bret Hart (August 3rd, 1997 – November 9th, 1997) — C-
  13. Hulk Hogan (March 24th — November 27th, 1991) – D+
  14. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (March 29th, 1998 – June 28th, 1998) — D
  15. Ric Flair (January 19th, 1992 — April 5th, 1992) — D
  16. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (June 29th, 1998 – September 27th, 1998)– D
  17. The Ultimate Warrior (April 1st, 1990- January 19th, 1991) – D
  18. Ric Flair (September 14th, 1992 – October 12th, 1992) — D
  19. Diesel (November 26th, 1994 – November 19th, 1995) — D
  20. Bob Backlund (November 23rd, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) — D-
  21. Psycho Sid (November 17th, 1996 – January 19th, 1997) — F
  22. Psycho Sid (February 17th, 1997 – March 23rd, 1997) — F
  23. Shawn Michaels (January 19th, 1997 – February 13th, 1997) — F
  24. Bret Hart (February 16th, 1997 – February 17th, 1997) — F
  25. Undertaker (November 27th, 1991- December 3rd, 1991) – F
  26. Hulk Hogan (December 3rd, 1991 – December 4th, 1991) – F
  27. Kane (June 28th, 1998 – June 29th, 1998) — F
  28. Yokozuna (April 4th, 1992 – April 4th, 1992) — F
  29. Hulk Hogan (April 4th, 1993 – June 13th, 1993) — F

**Speaking of championships, I am currently designing custom made championships and shirts for your wrestling figure collections! Check out the page at Grand Slam Creations – Custom Wrestling Belts & Accessories on Facebook, give us a like and a follow and share with your friends! 

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