With another tournament for the WWE Championship looming 17 years later at Survivor Series, PWP Owner Jay Alletto takes a trip down memory lane into The Deadly Game tournament for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 1998.
Heading into November of 1998, WWE was generating the most success they have had since the inception of Hulkamania in the roaring 1980’s. The creative aspects of the company had changed & moved into a more modern day direction. The Attitude Era was in full effect & with those changes came a unique changed to the 1998 Survivor Series.
“Deadly Game” was introduced in promo packages heading into the big event. And with the WWE Championship vacated in a convoluted situation involving Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane, Mr. McMahon & #1 Contender The Rock, the decision was made to have the title be determined in a tournament.
Unlike 2015’s unfortunate circumstances revolving around the WWE Championship tournament, The Deadly Game was a well thought out creative direction with the intention to start The Road to WrestleMania & elevate two major main event players in the process.
Deadly Game was only the 2nd time in WWE history that the WWE Championship was vacated & the next champion would be the winner of a single night tournament. The 1st time was at WrestleMania 4 when Randy Savage won his first WWE Championship.
The Kiel Center in St. Louis, Missouri was the host & the place was rocking for what they knew would be a history making night in WWE.
THE DEADLY GAME IS ON
Speaking of Randy Savage, “Deadly Game” had a lot of buzz heading into it that Savage would be jumping ship back to WWE to face Mr. McMahon’s “hand-picked champion” Mankind as a mystery opponent in the first round. However, a major swerve was in effect as the legendary Duane Gill took on the task.
Mankind took care of Duane Gill extremely quickly and moved onto the second round. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Mr. McMahon was using Mankind as a pawn in a grand scheme to crown the champion he really wanted.
The Undertaker & Kane both received bye’s into the quarter-finals of the tournament as they faced each other in a match that was won by The Undertaker. Meanwhile, Stone Cold defeated The Big Bossman in the first round by way of disqualification, Al Snow defeated Jeff Jarrett, X-Pac and Steven Regal fought to a no-contest & Ken Shamrock pulled off the victory against Goldust.
But there was another strange occurrence in the first round. The Rock was set to face Triple H, who was out of action with a knee injury. Instead, The Big Bossman came to the ring as a replacement and was defeated by The Rock in a mere 3 seconds as the nightstick, meant of Bossman, was thrown to The Rock.
This was a seemingly unfortunate occurrence for Mr. McMahon. Another unfortunate occurrence was Stone Cold receiving a bye into the semi-finals because of the no-contest between X-Pac & Regal.
Are you following me so far? Good.
So the rest of the quarter-finals had Mankind defeat his “friend” Al Snow, The Rock defeating another member of The Corporation Ken Shamrock, and as written earlier, Undertaker over Kane.
The semi-finals now pitted The Rock vs. The Undertaker & Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mankind. During the Mankind vs. Austin contest, a revelation took place as Shane McMahon, who had become friends with Austin in the weeks heading into Survivor Series 1998, was in a referee position & screwed Austin out of a possible victory against Mankind. Austin chased The McMahon’s out of the arena & into their limousine, seemingly out of the building.
The Rock & The Undertaker were set to square off & I remember being certain that The Undertaker was going to move into the finals against Mankind. It only made sense that these two would finish their feud for the WWE Championship. However, The Rock pulled off the victory when Kane got involved! The Undertaker was ready to chokeslam The Rock, but instead threw him into Kane who unleashed a chokeslam of his own, disqualifying The Undertaker!
The stage was set for McMahon’s hand chosen champion, Mankind, to take on The Rock in the finals. The match was a back & forth, hard-hitting affair. During the contest, The McMahon’s made their way back to ringside. The conclusion came when The Rock put The Sharpshooter on Mankind, and reminiscent to the previous year when The Montreal Screwjob took place, McMahon called for the bell & determined The Rock to be the winner & new WWE Champion without Mankind ever submitting!
Mankind was completely perplexed by what had just transpired. The McMahon’s embraced The Rock in the middle of the ring & The Corporation was officially born as Rocky became the new Corporate Champion. Mr. McMahon addressed the audience, explaining what they had just witnessed. They screwed Austin, Mankind & the fans. The Rock then attacked a confused Mankind moments before Steve Austin made his way back into the arena.
Austin hit The Rock & Mankind with Stone Cold Stunners to end the show, but the future was set in motion. Austin would receive an immediate title shot at The Rock the next night on Raw, but was hit in the face with a shovel by The Undertaker. Mankind would get a rematch the next month at Rock Bottom, setting in motion an epic feud with The Rock.
The Road to WrestleMania started to take shape as the wheels were put in motion during The Deadly Game for Austin to be crowned WWE Champion once again on the biggest stage in all of WWE.
There have only been two WWE Championship tournaments to crown a new champion after the title was vacated in history. Both times, a future all-time great won the WWE Championship for the first time. Randy Savage & The Rock both went on to have Hall of Fame careers. They also were the greatest rivals of Hulk Hogan & Steve Austin respectively.
How will WWE handle the 2015 incarnation of The Deadly Game at Survivor Series?