Editorial: My favorite wrestling summer
With summer now behind us and fall, or as people call it autumn, just starting I wanted to talk about one particular summer of wrestling that was so good it might have been my favorite summer for wrestling. But before I get into that year, I want to go into the reason why this article is being written.
This week on the WWE Network they premiered a new original show called Legends with JBL where he talks to legends in pro wrestling and the first guest was Eric Bischoff. The interview is so long it takes two episodes to get a lot of good stories and memories. While watching the interviews it brought back memories of the summer of 1998, which was my favorite summer of wrestling ever and 1998 was perhaps one of the greatest years in the history of wrestling.
The Monday Night War was right in the middle of perhaps it’s peak years and WWF (yes I will refer to them as WWF not WWE) had just started winning some Monday nights while WCW which had been dominating Monday’s for almost two years straight had just been beaten but didn’t lose the ratings quite yet. As a fan of wrestling in 1998 it was such a wonderful time especially on Monday nights. Nitro would start at 8:00 PM an hour before Raw started and you would get your wrestling right away. Then at 9:00 PM is when the fun truly began. No matter if Raw was live or pre-recorded the flipping of the channels was as much fun as watching the products. You would go back and forth if you weren’t loyal to one specific company just to see what was happening. WWF was in the Austin-McMahon feud and WCW would have Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone to set up the tag team match that would happen during Bash at the Beach.
What made going back and forth so much fun for me wasn’t necessarily the storylines but the wrestlers that we would see and who would be on. WCW had men like Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Booker T, Konnan and Sting while WWF had The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, Ken Shamrock, Owen Hart and X-Pac to see what the matches would be like week in and week out. While WWF was producing young stars and a lot of them went on to big success, WCW had one young wrestler who was dominating in the ring and was taking names, Goldberg.
While some people claim that he is a clone version of Stone Cold and trust me I never thought he was, he had every single person in the arena no matter where WCW was going. From the music, pyro and walk Goldberg was the man in a company full of veterans. One of my two favorite memories of the summer of 1998 was the night Goldberg won the WCW World Title in the Georgia Dome. That was the night that Goldberg became in my opinion a legitimate big name in pro wrestling. First, defeating Scott Hall not only to retain the WCW U.S. Title but also to keep his shot at Hulk Hogan and the WCW World Title. But it was the main event that people still remember to this day. I think even the people who were only fans of WWF had to tune into Nitro to see what would become the crowning of a new star and what should’ve been the beginning of a new era in WCW. Goldberg hitting the spear then following up with the jackhammer to pin Hogan as over 40,000 fans were going crazy in the Georgia Dome and a thirteen year old boy was going crazy that a guy whose first name is Bill had won the title from Hulk Hogan.
Now looking back at that night, yes this should’ve been saved for a pay per view where no doubt a lot of money would’ve been made but it was just the moment and the whole night that was so memorable. The other memory that I have was actually the last Monday night I stayed up for before I had to go back to school. It was the episode of Raw before Summerslam where it was revealed that Kane and Undertaker were indeed working together and they destroyed everybody that was in there way. Kane beating up his father Paul Bearer, then facing Mankind inside Hell in a Cell only for Steve Austin to attack Kane inside the cell while Undertaker was outside the cell trying to get in. Then at the end of Raw the big stare down and fire surrounding Austin in the ring as he and Undertaker were on the Highway to Hell. But it was another segment that I remember real well and that was The Rock and Chyna. While the name Chyna now a days is almost a blocked name in the company, this segment was really good as The Rock was humiliating Chyna right before the ladder match at Summerslam. Then, during a match Triple H came to the ring and declared that at Summerslam, The Rock would be his bitch!!! Such a fun night of Raw to remember.
Looking back at watching wrestling on Monday nights when I was a kid compared to today, I can say without any hesitation that it was the most fun I ever had as a fun. Going back and forth to see what was happening, who would have the better show and the best matches each week. It was a time I’m glad I grew up in and if I had to go back in time and do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat!