Souled Out 1998 was the second edition of what started as an NWO pay per view event during the WCW/NWO angle that ran from late 1996 through 1999-ish. It was the first show after Starrcade 1997, which was both WCW’s biggest show ever and it’s biggest failure to deliver. After an event that left most people thinking ‘we waited a year and half for this?’, Souled Out was a chance to get some cool points back. How did the show turn out?
- Eight Man Lucha Libre Tag Team Match – the participants in this one were Juventud Guerrera, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Lismark Jr., and Super Calo on one team and El Dandy, Silver King, Psicosis, and La Parka on the other. As usual, there was fast and furious action all over the ring and in the air. The Luchadores were used as a change of pace, hype up the crowd act during Monday Nitro and on pay per views and they always delivered. This was no exception.
- Chris Benoit vs Raven (Raven’s Rules Match) – Ravens’ Rules were basically hardcore/ECW style rules with all kinds of weaponry allowed. The difference in these matches is whether you have guys who can work along with the chairshots and other things. Benoit and Raven were good in the ring, so this match was worked pretty well.
- Cruiserweight Title Match: Rey Mysterio, Jr. (champ) vs Chris Jericho – Very underrated match here; Jericho was in the early phases of the heel run that make him a perpetual star in the business going forward. Rey was in his heyday; the difference between this Rey and the one who struggled to stay healthy towards the end of his WWE run is like night and day. Very good match here.
- World Television Title Match: Booker T (champ) vs Rick Martel – Excellent match here. Booker was at the beginning of his singles run, and like Jericho he was beginning a run that would change his career for good. Martel was near the end of the line here and after his long stint as The Model in the WWE it was easy to forget just how good of a worker in the ring he was. Both guys brought it and this was a great technical match.
- Larry Zbysko vs Scott Hall – this match should have been at Starrcade, not that Zbysko-Eric Bischoff debacle. It was ok for what it was, minus the stupid Dusty Rhodes heel turn at the end.
- Ray Traylor and the Steiner Brothers vs Scott Norton, Konnan, and Buff Bagwell – filler match here. This was a virtual repeat of a match at Starrcade except that Randy Savage was on the NWO team in that match instead of Bagwell (what a waste). Standard six man stuff here; the Steiners were a shell of themselves after years of injuries and….pharmaceutical treatments.
- Kevin Nash vs The Giant – this one was scheduled for Starrcade and just got moved here for no good reason. Nash actually came to work this time and we got a good big man match. Nash botched a powerbomb on the Giant and legit injured him; that’s always a danger in big man matches because doing your power stuff on supersized guys is always iffy.
- Bret Hart vs Ric Flair – Hart’s first match in WCW, and maybe Flair’s last really good WCW match. Both guys got in all their signature stuff and put on a good show.
- Randy Savage vs Lex Luger – This should have been at Starrcade, instead of Luger facing Buff Bagwell and Savage being in the six man tag match. The match itself was short (seven minutes) but both guys came to play and put on a good one in that short time. The finish, where botched interference from Hogan and Kevin Nash, led to a Luger victory, was the first step in a pending NWO breakup that was not booked well at all. A post match beatdown of Luger was thwarted by Sting and the two longtime partners stood victorious to close out the show.
This show was loaded, and that was without such WCW stalwarts of the day as Sting, Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, Curt Hennig, Eddie Guererro, and Dean Malenko. Which of course begs the question: why didn’t they have most of this show a month earlier at Starrcade 1997? Starrcade was the biggest show on the NWA/WCW calendar going back to 1983. The 1997 show was the most important one ever given that we were in the middle of the Monday Night Wars and the WWE was getting momentum with the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Degeneration X. And the company delivered an absolute dud with both the finish of that show’s main event and the rest of the show.
Savage-Luger and Nash-Giant should have happened a month earlier, and you could have put Jericho-Rey on that show as well. You could have had rematches for all three on this show without missing anything. Instead you had a bad show on the biggest night of the year followed by a great show a month later that was too little, too late to reverse the beginning of a downward spiral. The WWF, despite not having the roster strength of WCW at the time and mostly not putting on better pay per views the whole year (the exception being Summerslam) was on its way to taking back over the Monday Night Wars and staying ahead for good. But for this night we got some great action and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Highly recommend this show.