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WrestleMania XV: Plan Nine From Russo’s Mind

March 22, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-So it’s March 28, 1999, and we’re live from the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA, where tonight…..you know….I can’t do this.

-I can’t sit here and write a positive rant about a show that I abhorred. It took place forty minutes from my house, though I didn’t attend, but I was still looking forward to the first Philly WWE WrestleMania. And it sucked. Bad. Vince Russo’s fingerprints were smeared all over this show and it reeked of overbooked crap. It festers even more so eleven years later, because the Attitude era is over, and most appeal that this show had is long gone.

-So I won’t be reviewing this crappy show.

-SWERVE! I’ll review it, I’m just pulling your chain. Russo executes his swerves about 35 seconds after the initial presentation, so I figured I’d do the same. Seemed appropriate.

-Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross was afflicted with Bell’s palsy three months before this show, and his face was still worse for wear. So instead of visual horror, we get verbal horror. To be fair, I’d actually wager that Cole only sucks when he’s with Lawler. Cole was fun with JBL and Tazz, and is doing alright with Josh Mathews now on NXT. Whereas Lawler dragged down JR for a few years until Ross found his temporary groove doing the Rumble matches with Tazz. Makes ya go “Hmmmm”.

-To kick things off, it’s the first ever Hardcore Title match in WrestleMania history, as Badd Ass Billy Gunn defends against Hardcore Holly and Al Snow. Gunn was actually interspersed in the IC Title arc and partner Road Dogg was supposed to be here, but Russo switched them around. You know, just because. Kinda like how he wanted WCW to get rid of the ring. Just because. He still has a job with TNA as of this writing. Just because. I’m going to beat this joke into the ground, Russo-style. Just because.

-Typical hardcore stuff for the time period, including some miscellaneous weapons and a hockey stick from Snow, prompting a “LET’S GO FLYERS” chant. Yes, let’s go Flyers. Let’s lose to the Devils in a year after having a 3-1 lead and watch as Scott Stevens turns Eric Lindros’ brain to horse feed. Ah, my youth was great. Except for having to watch shows like this.

-Hey, a springboard off of the chair onto Gunn in the corner by Snow. C’mon, Al, what do you think this is, a wrestling show?

-Hey it’s table time! Gunn BLASTS Holly with a chair shot, and then hip tosses Snow through the table. The crowd is alive! Wait for it….

-Gunn gets the Fame Asser, but Heatless Holly hits him with a chair and covers Snow to win the title, killing the crowd. Speaking of killing the crowd, remember when Holly and Gunn formed the most boring tag team of all time in 2004 on Smackdown? Neither does anyone else, since no one watched at that point. Match was ok, but nothing fresh.

-D-Lo Brown and Test won a battle royal on the pre-show to earn a shot at the Tag Team Titles against Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett on this show. D-Lo and Test don’t even have an issue here to exploit. At the very least, Test could have said “I’ll bet I have less charisma than Ivory!” and D-Lo could say “Yeah, probably”. Screw it, I can’t think of anything either.

-This is the final WrestleMania for both Owen and Jarrett. Owen, of course, died 2 months later in a fall before his scheduled match, and Jarrett fell off the face of the Earth in October, not having been heard from since. Rumor has it that if you close your eyes and listen close at night, you can hear Jarrett in the distance saying things like “Another reign for me won’t kill the business!’. I beg to differ.

-So sing it with me: argue argue argue, do a move, do a move, argue some more, it’s a douubbbbbble-teeeeeeeeeam, and Owen and Jarrett winnnnnnnnnnnnn! I’m doing jazz hands, but you can’t see them. D-Lo and Test would go on to….not feud. Not making the most out of an angle that began at WrestleMania? Russo, that’s brilliant!

-Highlights of the boxing prowess of both Butterbean and Bart Gunn, as they head into the Brawl for All, and Bean’s last contractual obligation with Titan land. You know, some people look back on the Attitude era with a much more bitter taste, since their natural maturation into adulthood has rendered the childish and piggish elements of this period moot. However, to watch Bart’s trainers in the video say that Bart’s going to win, while keeping straight faces, might shatter the wrestling hilarity scale. I’m willing to make such a scale if anyone’s willing to help.

-Among the judges: one hit boxing wonder Chuck Wepner, former Mike Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney, and the one and only Gorilla Monsoon, in his last major WWE appearance before his death six months later. Miss ya, Gino.

-Vinnie Pazienza is the ref. All of this is kinda pointless, since Bean puts Gunn down twice in 36 seconds, including a MURDEROUS final shot. Goodbye, Gunn. Have fun in Japan. All that’s left to note is that Cole calls Lawler “The Fight Doctor”, thus making him the only doctor in WWE history to never be investigated in a drug scandal. Other scandals, sure, but not drug.

-Mankind talks about his lifelong dream of refereeing the main event of WrestleMania. Calm down now, Mickles, not all of us can be Mike Chioda. Sometimes reaching for the stars only gets your fingers singed off.

-Speaking of the refereeing gig, it’s up for grabs in a match between Mankind and Big Show next. Show was aligned with the corporation, and horse sense indicated that Show would do anything he could to win and then, later, help Rock retain the gold to keep it in the family. Hey, Keep it In the Family, that’s an Anthrax song! Appropriate, since everytime Show comes to the ring, I get physically ill.

-Show was really beginning to slow down at this point, as his last year in WCW was the time where his body started to bloat and his work ethic gave way. Remember when Rock would do those “Well it’s the Big Slow!!!!” promos? Worked shoots, to say the least.

-Mankind manages to lock on the Socko claw, but Show finds an escape with a piggyback and backward dive, crushing Mick hard into the canvas. If Show did that in 2006, Foley would not only be dead, but the first three rows would be splattered by viscera. Not the wrestler, the material.

-Now, with Show in control, you’d think he’d just simply brutalize him for the win, right?

-Well, Show decides to get a couple chairs, set them up in the ring, and chokeslam Foley onto them. The problem? Show was too lazy to bump the ref, and it’s a DQ win for Mick. Vince comes out and demands to know why Show would do something so stupid. My guess is that if Show won, he’d have to work twice, and ain’t no way that’s going to happen. So Vince slaps Show, and Show decks him. See, Show’s trying to get fired so he can collect unemployment! Lazy giant.

-We move ahead to the IC Title match where Road Dogg defended against Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust. The other object of affection here was Ken’s gorgeous sister, Ryan. So who got her? Ken did! Okay, they weren’t REALLY siblings, but it’s still funny to think about. Kind of a Carol and Greg Brady thing there.

-Goldust and Val tangle for a bit, as I remind myself that these two feuded over Terri just six months earlier and it’s a forgotten point here. What was the deal with…oh right, Russo writing, gotcha.

-I should note that Blue Meanie is in Goldust’s corner tonight, and is I believe my only facebook friend to ever appear at a WrestleMania. Unless the rumor about Eric Darsie being one of Undertaker’s druids is true.

-This is kind of a weird match, as it’s technically solid, but nothing interesting is happening. You have a huge love triangle thingie going with Ryan involving some of the players here, and it’s all just structured, textbook wrestling. It’s like Orton vs. HHH from WM25, where you had soap opera opportunities out the wazoo and they made it a slow paced 1 on 1 encounter. It just doesn’t work.

-Shamrock and Val take a double count out for the first set of eliminations. I don’t think the feud ever settled between the two, and that this was the end. Shamrock turned face not long afterward, and Val….well, he kinda lost all character momentum. The number of careers that Vince Russo has effected is leaving me incredulous. He’s like wrestling tuberculosis.

-After a mishap involving Meanie and Ryan, Goldust is susceptible to the Road Dogg pin. Know why I liked Dogg? He rarely won matches clean, even as a face. He’d sell for everyone and win either on a fluke or interference from whoever his opponent had a beef with. The opponent always looked like a million bucks for rattling off that much offense on him. And yet, Dogg still remained over because he had the charisma. Brian James never gets his due, and it’s about time that he did. Starting here.

-Meanwhile, Big Show is arrested, which is dangerous when you consider that his plan to collect unemployment sucks if he’s in jail and can’t get the foods that he wants. I’m certain that prison limits you to under three entire hams a day.

-The Triple H-Kane skirmish is recapped, leading to a couple of questions. One is wouldn’t Hunter be happy to be rid of Chyna? I mean, he CERTAINLY was two years later. I wonder how quickly he changed his phone numbers after WWE informed Chyna that she was out the door in 2001. The other is how Hunter was able to obtain Goldust’s costume for when he used the pyro gun on Kane. Why would those two get along? Didn’t Hunter offend Goldust and Marlena two years ago? My brain is frying.

-The San Diego Chicken does a run in on Kane, and gets revealed to be Pete Rose, and Kane destroys him. Geez, Kane, if you’re going to beat up members of the 1980 World Series team, can you beat up Larry Bowa for giving us crappy pitching rotations during his managerial stint? Thank God for Uncle Charlie.

-During the first few minutes of this one, Hunter and Kane have a contest: knee vs. boot. Who can hit more generic moves with their respective trademark body part? I’m intrigued by this concept, and so is the crowd, who are chanting….well, they’re quiet. Must be silent exhilaration.

-Match is just slowing to a crawl. Kane wasn’t in a position yet to open up his moveset, as he really didn’t have one. Hunter was still in a period where he had to be carried by a better opponent, so this “blood feud” is a lot like the last match, where generic wrestling takes precedent over a narrative and flair spots. My biggest gripe with the Attitude era, other than employment of The Insane Clown Posse.

-Chyna’s here. Suddenly, the ICP doesn’t sound so bad right now.

-Kane continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule C: Every heel must try to use the ringsteps as a weapon in a big match.

-Triple H continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule D: Every babyface must counter the ringsteps by causing the heel to hit his face on them.

-Referee Teddy Long continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule E: Every referee must ignore use of the ringsteps during any match.

-So Chyna comes in with a chair, and anyone with half a brain can see where this is going. Russo, however, was surprised at the development, even though he wrote it. Chyna hits Kane with the chair for the DQ and reunites with Hunter. Hunter’s reaction: “……..great”. Match was a little too plodding, but possibly enough for the coveted award of “Fourth best match we’ll see tonight”. If Kane wins it, I’m iffy. If Dino Bravo wins it, I’m borderline suicidal. For good reason, too.

-Vince McMahon announces himself as guest referee for the main event as Kevin Kelly does a live report. My question: was Vince just hanging around the vacant area? Why would a man of his stature just loiter around random spots of the building alone? Does he hide in corners and question his manhood? Does he need a quiet place to play pong on his Blackberry? WE NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS!

-For those of you who extol the virtues of women’s wrestling and, hell, women’s lib in general and believe that the genders are equal and thus deserving of equal attention, feel free to pretend this next portion did not happen.

-Sable defends her prestigious (HA) Women’s Title against Tori. Not Torrie. Not Torrie Wilson. Just Tori. Not the smokin’ hot Idaho blond with the amazing curves and winning smile. I’m talking about Tori, the woman who looks like Hilary Swank after set the world record for “Holding Most Lemon Wedges in One’s Mouth”. Also, she’s wearing a gray catsuit to hide her manish muscles, and not look out of place against a Playboy Playmate. This is already a bad omen.

-Tori’s first task is to be repeatedly kicked to the floor by Sable, and she does it well. And by “well”, I mean “At least she didn’t sustain an aneurysm from blinking”.

-Sable’s far less motivated than last year, but how can she really be at her best when she has to carry the uncarryable? Sable was nearing the end anyway, as ego would soon drive her out of WWE. I wonder if the implants had to sign a no compete clause.

-Tori can’t even stick the landing on a Sable Bomb cover. It’s like the universal suck of both Bella Twins comprised into a succubus. I’m in awe.

-Just in case I didn’t know I was among the damned, here comes Nicole Bass to beat up Tori. In Hell, if you can’t do a four minute match on the biggest show of the year, you get beaten up by Tony Little’s evil twin. Sable wins, and I’m just glad that it’s over.

-Kevin Kelly interviews the classic five crew of DX before X-Pac’s match. Hunter does all the talking, which should tell you all that you need to know about X-Pac’s promo skills. Or at least WWE’s faith in handing him a mic. Way to boost his confidence, guys.

-So get this: X-Pac’s facing Shane McMahon for the WWE European Title, and it’s the second best match of the night. Seriously. Shane had about 2-3 matches in his CAREER under his belt at this point, and he outperforms at lot of the stiffs that clouded the roster during this period. I think now would be a good time to acknowledge the fact that X-Pac, while a notorious heat seeker, was a tremendous wrestler who could carry lesser opponents to fun matches, even an inexperienced Shane McMahon. Sean Waltman deserves more credit than he seems to get, even from the spotfest loving smarks.

-Shane has Test with him, and Test is wearing Hulk Hogan’s Yappapi strap. WATCHA GONNA DO WHEN A LACK OF CHARISMA RUNS WILD ON YOU?!? So Test works twice and Show doesn’t? No wonder Vince always seemed to like him more.

-Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco try to attack X-Pac during his entrance, and they go down in flames. I realize that by using “go down” and “flames” in the presence of Pat is just opening a can of worms, but what can I say? I work blue.

-X-Pac and Shane exchange shots with the Yappapi strap, which immediately makes it better than the one Hogan and Ric Flair had one year later. I think TNA would be best served to have Hogan and Flair in the rematch on the ten year anniversary of the match, just for laughs. I mean, greatness. Yeah, greatness.

-X-Pac beats up the extended members of the Mean Street Posse outside the ring, and I’d like to point out that X-Pac has beaten up about 8 guys by himself so far. Who says Waltman is lazy?

-Test tries to interfere with a belt shot to Pac, but Shane can only get 2. Test’s further interference results in a roundhouse and a Bronco Buster. 9! 9! X-Pac has beaten up 9 guys! AH AH AH! Speaking of the Count, here comes Chyna, along with HHH. Whenever she comes out, I always count the number of days until I never have to see her in WWE again.

-MEGA SWERVE! Hunter Pedigrees X-Pac, proving that while X-Pac can beat up nine men, one Hunter is too much. I agree, one Hunter IS too much. Shane gets the cheap win to put more heat on himself. Good match, though Chyna’s double double turn still irks me. Because it’s Chyna. And Chyna herself irks me.

-And now, for something you’ll really enjoy. Well, not really. It’s Undertaker and Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell match. This is notable for Cole pointing out that the cage is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in it. Cole’s voice is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in your throat trying to induce vomiting. True story.

-Bossman was just useless at this point, a one dimensional brawler who served as mid level fodder for the faces to get through on the way up. No shame in that, but in a Hell in a Cell match? Get out. They were better off having a blindfold match. Where the fans are blindfolded.

-Undertaker’s intro to his song is neat, as he urges us to allow the purity of evil to guide us. That was on a pamphlet I received for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

-I can either recap the match, or I can summarize it in one paragraph. Ready? There’s about 2 ounces of blood, a pair of handcuffs break, they punch a lot, Taker’s slow, Bossman’s slower, the crowd is far gone, and I’m falling asleep just TYPING THIS PARAGRAPH. That’s pretty ambitious for a crap match. Way to reach beyond your grasp, gentlemen.

-Tombstone does Bossman in. Afterward, with the help of Edge, Christian, and Gangrel, Undertaker hangs the Bossman from a noose. Cole is so horrified and shocked that, while Bossman hangs, he immediately plugs the main event. That’s just so Vince-ish. No wonder he keeps his job.

-By the way, if you think about it, The Brood are like the Kardashian sisters: Edge is Kim, because he’s the star. Christian is Kourtney because he’s more than serviceable. That makes Gangrel Khloe, just for the teeth alone. Also, because nobody cares.

-And now, to save us from the crap….

-For the WWE World Heavyweight Title, The Rock defends the strap against Stone Cold Steve Austin. When in doubt, rely on the MVPs. I’m banking on it.

-JR! JIM ROSS IS HERE! HIT THE BRICKS, COLE! Jim Ross still looks bad, with half of his face sagging from the palsy, but you know what? Michael Cole suffering a stroke-like condition may actually IMPROVE his quality. As for Lawler, there’s nothing that can save him.

-First, Vince comes out to try and play referee, but Shawn Michaels (then commissioner) has him kicked out. Shawn accidentally encourages Vince to interfere, foreshadowing the ending. Pain pill addictions are not a pretty thing kids.

-Austin and Rock slug it out immediately, as only these 2 can do with such chemistry. The match is fast paced too, with brawling inside and outside the ring. This is better than the “decent” matches earlier that were just holds and moves without story and emotion. For those that criticize Austin’s more simplistic style, I say screw off.

-Austin and Rock don’t even take time for a breather, brawling behind the railing, and Rock finally clotheslines Austin back to ringside. Any brawl that’s spirited is automatically great. Spirit of any kind in a main event is always welcome. I’m just looking for ANY silver lining now.

-But no, it’s not over as Austin and Rock brawl up the aisle to the entrance way, and include it as a part of the match. Rock takes a hard shot into the giant logo, but Austin gets backdropped with his leg hitting a motion light, and it didn’t look planned or pretty. Good intensity so far.

-Rock takes JR’s water and spits on Austin’s face. Can you get Bell’s palsy from that?

-Austin puts Rocky through the Spanish announce table with 2 elbow smashes, and the fight continues inside, where Rock works the leg. Booo, not during THIS match. Keep the wrestling crap for the undercard! Wait, did I just agree with Russo? GAH!

-Rock Bottom gets 2, so the champ gets himself a chair. Austin gains possession of it after a skirmish and swings, but Rock pulls Mike Chioda in harms way, and Chioda’s dead. Speaking of dead, suicide enthusiast Tim White takes over. The segues don’t just write themselves, for those wondering at home. Rock only manages a two count on Austin after a chair shot, so Rock gives him Rock Bottom. That’s two down. Austin turns and lays out Rock with a Stunner, but no ref! Earl Hebner runs down the aisle like a madman and slides in, but only gets 2. Crowd is REALLY sinking their teeth into this one.

-Rock goes low to turn the tide, and here comes Vince again to lay out Hebner. If you’re Bret Hart, who do you cheer for there? Rock and Vince double team Austin, and here’s Mankind, clutching his ribs, to run in and drive Vince out. Foley takes over officiating, as was stipulated earlier. Wow, WWE’s abiding by their own rules! Banner day for all! Russo, that IS brilliant!

-Rock manages to land another Rock Bottom, but misses the Corporate (People’s) Elbow. Austin tries to stun him, but Rock tries to Bottom him out, but Austin elbows his way into a Stunner for the win and his third WWE Title. Incredible match that at least put a good ending onto a crappy show, giving us something to hold our heads high to.

-Afterward, Austin caps off a year of feuding with Vince by destroying him with a Stunner and celebrating with a few beers alongside Mick. At least the show ended on a good note. Not all WrestleManias did. In fact, there’s one coming up that’s of that ilk….

-CYNIC SAYS: WrestleManias 14 and 15 are a tale of two cities for sure. 14 featured a ton of organization and all of the right winners. 15 was a muddled mess of random swerves for the sake of swerves, boring action, and an indication that some aspects of the Attitude were in need of an overhaul. WWE was still crushing WCW by a wide margin, but had it been close, this show may have given WCW some momentum. You know, if WCW had a clue as to what they were doing.

When Russo left by year’s end, the WWE experienced an upswing in quality and continuity, and it led to one of my favorite periods in wrestling history. If that meant that shows like this would be fewer and farther in between, with an interest in long term booking and more compelling characters, then I was glad to see Russo go. Over ten years later, and this show hasn’t aged any better.

Check out the main event and maybe the European title match, but the rest is for the fearless.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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