Thursday, June 28, 2018

My Favorite Events--WWF King of the Ring 1998

I've often professed my feelings on the "Attitude Era." It simply doesn't hold up for me. I lived it. Either live or on television, I took in every moment as it happened. At the time, it was exciting. While selfish me wasn't exactly thrilled that everybody was watching wrestling again, it was good for the business. It also enabled me to be present at one of the most replayed and iconic moments in WWF history. I witnessed the infamous Hell in a Cell match between Mankind and The Undertaker. That's why King of the Ring 1998 falls under the category of one of "My Favorite Events."

The story for me begins at the March 1998 WWF house show at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. At the time, tickets for the next show would either go on sale before the show that night even started or at intermission. On this occasion, it was the latter, and I think it surprised me that King of the Ring tickets would be sold this far in advance. My dad was always big into getting tickets in advance, so he had no problem going by himself during intermission. When he got back, he'd missed Bradshaw defeat Barry Windham. Always a fan of "BW," I'd have been upset had I missed one of my few chances to see him live. Nonetheless, my fantastic father secured us tickets.

I recall that the promotional ads touted seeing "Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie" at the event, which got my hopes up that I'd get to see Terry Funk live and in person for the first time. This was long before I actively started meeting wrestlers regularly, so I was very much disappointed when "Card Subject To Change" rang true. Needless to say, the history that ended up going down that night made up for it.

This event happened during a period where I wasn't taking pictures during events. They never came out how I wanted them to and this was just a bit before digital photography hit it big. That being said, I can still replay my unique view of the famous match in my head. Our sets were just about roof-level with the Cell. The brawl on top of the enormous structure was something, but surely no one was coming off of the top of it. It would be teased, but it wouldn't actually happen.

Then, it happened.

As soon as Mankind crashed through the table and hit the floor, I was sure that the event would be ended. There was no way that he was okay or that this was planned. There wasn't a chance in Hell that Mick Foley was getting up from this. This show had to be over. Even Vince McMahon, at the height of his heeldom as Mr. McMahon, had come to ringside. This was serious. But as we all know now, it didn't end there. In fact, the worst of the two big bumps for Foley was yet to come, though my attention at that point was focused elsewhere. Terry Funk had shown up after all and took an Undertaker chokeslam for good measure.

As we all know, the show went on and the "main event" even went on which saw Kane close the night as World Wrestling Federation Champion. Two decades later and he's running for mayor of Knoxville, TN. His opponent for the evening, Stone Cold Steve Austin, is long retired. The Undertaker is hanging on, although for all intents and purposes should be retired. And the man who they said wouldn't be able to walk in a few years, Mick Foley, is very much still walking. He's still involved with WWE and even has an engagement tour celebrating the anniversary of this match. At the time, he was one of my favorite wrestlers. While that changed long ago, his work in the ring made a unique impact on the business and he would go on to be an inductee at another of "My Favorite Events," the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Even though Ken Shamrock was crowned "King of the Ring" that night, it's but a footnote. The Hell in the Cell antics stole the show. While it's not a technical classic, it is one of the best remembered matches in WWF history. It's a historic wrestling moment that I have my own unique memory of. While I'd much rather be able to say that I was at "The Ultimate Challenge" or among the tens of thousands at the Pontiac Silverdome when it was all "Bigger, Better, Badder," I'm still proud to say that "I was there." Attitude and all.

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