“The Lo-Down” is a continuing series presented by Fill The Steins in which we chronicle the biggest matches in the WWF/E career of UMaine’s most famous professional wrestler, D’Lo Brown.
When we last left our hero in early 1998, D’Lo Brown was making his Royal Rumble debut in marathon-esque, if unspectacular, fashion. In the wake of the ’98 Rumble, the Nation of Domination, the five-man faction of which D’Lo was a part, continued its infighting. Some up-and-coming star and NOD member by the name of The Rock was the reigning Intercontinental Champion. Not surprisingly, The Rock’s success was going to his head and he started thinking it should be he, and not NOD founder Faarooq, to lead the NOD through 1998.
As tension within the NOD continued to mount, the numerous adversaries they accumulated dating back to October’s Badd Blood pay-per-view formed a five-person alliance to take on the NOD in a 10-man tag team match at No Way Out of Texas, the final WWF pay-per-view before the landmark WrestleMania XIV. How would the NOD fare against both their opponents and themselves? Let’s get to the action and find out!
The Match: The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, The Rock, D’Lo Brown, Kama Mustafa & Mark Henry) vs. Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson & the Disciples of the Apocalypse (Chainz, Skull & 8-Ball)
The Event: WWF No Way Out of Texas
The Place: Compaq Center, Houston, TX
The Date: February 15, 1998
As was becoming customary in these multi-person NOD matches, D’Lo kicked off the action for his team. In this event, he was pitted against DOA member Skull (at least we think it was Skull…you see, he and 8-Ball were legit identical twins and virtually impossible to tell apart, even for wrasslin’ experts like us). Unlike the previous NOD PPV matches, however, D’Lo was clearly beginning to serve as more than just his team’s punching bag in this affair. Even legendary play-by-play man Jim Ross’s commentary was beginning to advance the thought of D’Lo as more than just another cog in the NOD’s wheel. During D’Lo’s initial sequence against Skull, JR noted of our favorite Black Bear, “D’Lo, you get the sense, is getting ready to come into his own.”
In addition to this quasi-endorsement from an iconic wrestling announcer, the action in the ring justified the notion that the seeds were beginning to sprout on a future D’Lo Brown singles push. D’Lo dominated the early action against Skull, capping off the sequence with a spinning heel kick.
D’Lo continued to find success during each of the four occasions in which he was tagged in for his team. After some now-expected athletic bumping for Ken Shamrock, D’Lo was allowed to land his trademark “Lo-Down” frogsplash on Ahmed Johnson from an impressive 2/3 of the way across the ring. This prompted JR’s complimentary commentary to continue: “D’Lo (is) one of the unsung young stars of the WWF.” Again, seeds sprouting.
In his fourth and final appearance in the match, D’Lo was once again given the opportunity to showcase his uncanny athleticism for a man his size by going to the top rope and executing a beautiful moonsault. This time, however, the move failed to connect and led directly to the finishing sequence, which began with an all-out brawl between all ten men and ended with The Rock tapping out to Ken Shamrock’s ankle lock. Despite The Rock being generally protected as a future main event-level star, this finish made sense, as it set up the Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania between The Rock and Shamrock.
Much of the real action, however, was reserved for after the match. The Rock, upset that the NOD didn’t have his back when Shamrock had him in the ankle lock, got right in Faarooq’s face, once again challenging both Faarooq and his leadership. D’Lo and the other NOD members were forced to separate the two alpha-males, which led to The Rock walking up the aisle alone while the rest of the NOD remained in the ring. Faarooq, looking to re-assert his leadership, called The Rock back into the ring (with The Rock, surprisingly, going back to the ring), where the five NOD members completed their uniform salute before exiting in a highly tense manner. Once again, the NOD leaves a WWF PPV in limbo…
The Result: Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson & DOA d. The Nation of Domination at 13:46 when The Rock submits to Ken Shamrock’s ankle lock
Match Rating: **1/4
D’Lo Brown Rating: ***3/4
Final Analysis: After several months of playing punching bag and bump machine for the NOD, No Way Out of Texas seemed to be the moment, at least on pay-per-view, where D’Lo Brown began to get the opportunity to do more in his matches than simply make the other guys look good. In this contest, D’Lo was clearly positioned differently. This time, he was booked as much more of an offensive, athletic threat who, based on both the action in the ring and the commentary outside, was destined for bigger and better things. Those things would come later in 1998 in the post-WresteMania season. In the meantime, the treatment of D’Lo Brown in late 1997 and early 1998 continues to be a blueprint for how to slowly, steadily, and surely build a new star in the world of professional wrestling.
What did you think of D’Lo’s performance at No Way Out of Texas? What do you remember about this period in WWF history? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and on Twitter using #FillTheSteins!
Photo courtesy: WWE