1998 was the year of great change in almost every corner of the wrestling world. In WWE and WCW in particular, the entire landscape of wrestling had changed, in some cases for the better and in some for the worse.
In WWE, both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had left the company, which allowed for new wrestlers to rise to the top. The Austin Era had officially begun at WrestleMania XIV, while Triple H and the Rock were hot on his heels as rising stars. The Undertaker, who was in the world title picture the year before, was now embroiled in more personal feuds. Mick Foley was proving to the world he was an excellent character worker, balancing two contrasting gimmicks at the same time in Dude Love and Mankind.
But not all changes are good. WCW’s booking was undergoing a strange shift, and there were some really weird creative decisions that year. But it wasn’t all bad for WCW, as one of their matches appears at least once on this list.
In Japan, there wasn’t that much novelty from any of the big companies. New Japan was still doing their own thing with their great cruiserweights and submission-centric main eventers. All Japan, meanwhile, had somehow managed to take two wrestlers that had fought each other many times before and still make their match up seem fresh and exciting. That is how you book a company well and is also a testament to the two performers’ skills as wrestlers.
So which matches in 1998 earned the most praise? Read on…
#5 Triple H vs. The Rock – Ladder Match – SummerSlam 1998
In this match, Triple H & The Rock brutalized each other with a ladder-based offense as they both fought over the Intercontinental Championship. Rocky was the heel in this match and showed just how vicious he could be by destroying Triple H’s leg with both a ladder and a steel chair. HHH, being the brave hero in this match, took an absurd amount of punishment, including a back body drop onto the folded ladder itself. In 1998, Triple H & the Rock were upper mid-carders that were quickly working their way up the ladder (no pun intended) when this great match happened. They were the leaders of their respective factions, and both were just as good in their promos as they were in the ring.
As the match went back and forth, Rock and HHH both hit their signature moves and came fingertips away from winning the belt. But in the end, outside interference on Chyna’s part allowed Triple H to win. And when he grabbed that belt, the crowd went absolutely nuts, screaming as if they had just witnessed the greatest match of all time. It wasn’t, but it was a testament to Triple H’s popularity nonetheless.
Triple H and the Rock would clash many, many times in the coming years. Given how they had such good chemistry in this match, it shouldn’t surprise anyone they had such great matches in subsequent years.