From The First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA
March 28, 1999
On January 4, 1999, a taped Raw and a live Nitro squared off, each building a moment that would be unforgettable and, in a myriad of ways, history changing.
On Raw, filmed six nights prior in Worcester, MA, Mick Foley, as Mankind, realized his lifelong dream, climaxing his thirteen year wrestling career by winning the WWF Championship from The Rock. Foley’s victory lap around ringside, as well as his post-match celebration with his children, provided a feel good moment for a grind-stoning individual that had paid enough dues to purchase a continent.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Nitro had pulled a bait and switch with their World Title main event. Goldberg, the hometown hero, was nixed from the match due to a storyline “stalking charge”, and Hollywood Hogan returned to WCW to challenge champion Kevin Nash. The match ended when Hogan poked Nash in the chest, with Nash dropping like he’d been walloped with a hatchet, and then pinned the champion to begin a new incarnation of the New World Order, as the two men were in cahoots.
The WWF, with the hipper “Attitude” concept, as well as the willingness to provide a moment of glory in contrast to WCW’s hackneyed, egomaniacal circle-jerk, surged ahead in the ratings for good, and never looked back.
With WCW now a dead issue, although not officially at the time, the WWF focused on the media blitz for WrestleMania XV. With The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, Undertaker, and newly signed Paul Wight (WCW’s Giant), all eyes were on the winners of wrestling’s Monday night war.
Unlike WCW, which refused to use its most popular names (Goldberg, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Sting) in the main event scene, for fear of bruising a few egos backstage, the WWF set up The Rock against Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship as the main event.
Austin ended up being the last man eliminated of the 1999 Royal Rumble, with WWF’s owner, Vince McMahon, triumphing, thanks to The Rock’s interference. McMahon, however, relinquished his title opportunity and planned to give it to another Corporation member (to keep the belt in the family, no matter what). However, WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels announced that, since Vince gave up the shot, the runner-up would get it by default.
That would be Austin.
Vince, however, had one chance to regain that main event match, and that was by beating Austin in a cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In the first Austin/Vince match in history, Austin bloodied McMahon, put him through a table, and staved off a late interference attempt by the debuting Big Show to win. In fact, Show launched Austin at the cage, and the bars broke apart, with Austin safely landing on the floor to keep his title match secure.
Show would remain McMahon’s top enforcer, and would be given a match with Mankind at WrestleMania. The winner of the match would get to referee the Rock/Austin main event. In fact, Show cost Mankind the WWF Title on February 15. Mankind was engaged in a ladder match with The Rock, when Show chokeslammed Foley off the ladder to cause the defeat.
At this point, however, McMahon had a spate of other problems. The Undertaker, at this point, was forming an unholy cult called the Ministry of Darkness, with himself playing the role of Devil incarnate. Undertaker seemed obsessed with Vince McMahon and his Corporation, and was bent on making life miserable for the WWF head honcho.
It would turn out that Undertaker’s obsession with actually with McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, who had not yet been introduced to the audience. As of now, Stephanie was merely a 22 year old All-American girl who loved her father and would never hurt a fly. And yet, The Undertaker was using her as a psychological weapon to bring terror to McMahon.
As a means of combating “The Lord of Darkness”, McMahon dispatched his personal enforcer, The Big Bossman, to face Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at the grandest show of the year.
D-Generation X was, as expected, a prominent part of the show. Triple H would take on Kane, with whom Chyna had double crossed Helmsley to associate with. X-Pac would face unlikely European Champion Shane McMahon, whose silver-spooned disposition grated on the degenerate’s nerves. Road Dogg would defend the Intercontinental Title in a four way against Ken Shamrock, Val Venis, and Goldust, and Billy Gunn put the Hardcore Championship on the line against Al Snow and Hardcore Holly.
Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler called the action, with Jim Ross, recovering from a second case of Bell’s palsy, replacing Cole in the main event. Pete Rose appeared for the second straight year just to get mauled by Kane again, and Boyz II Men performed America the Beautiful. Also, Gorilla Monsoon appeared before the WWF audience for the final time.
WWF Hardcore: Hardcore Holly def. Billy Gunn and Al Snow in 7:06 to win the title
(Decent, abbreviated brawl with Holly taking a killer chair shot at one point from Gunn. These three went from being the upper midcard of 1999 to Smackdown’s lower midcard in 2004. Kinda sad)
WWF World Tag Team: Owen Hart/Jeff Jarrett def. D-Lo Brown/Test in 3:58
(Brown and Test co-won a battle royal on the pre-show to get this shot, which has been forgotten by time. This was Owen’s final WrestleMania before his death two months later, and wrestling hasn’t quite been the same without him)
Brawl For All: Butterbean def. Bart Gunn via TKO in 35 seconds
(Gunn was basically decapitated here. What I wouldn’t have given for Monsoon to grab Cole’s headset and yell “That’s Excedrin headache #35!”)
To Referee the Main Event: Mankind def. Big Show by disqualification in 6:50
(Slow and plodding; not a good use of Foley. So win a midcard match and you get to referee ‘Mania’s main event? Big John Studd had to win a Royal Rumble to referee a throwaway match at WrestleMania V! That’s not fair!)
WWF Intercontinental/Fatal Four Way: Road Dogg def. Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust in 9:47
(Billy Gunn and Road Dogg switched feuds; Dogg was brawling with Snow all through the winter while Gunn was involved with Goldust and Venis in trying to deflower Shamrock’s sister, Ryan. Damn that Russo and his lame swerves)
Kane def. Triple H by disqualification in 11:33
(Chyna turned on Kane to reunite with Triple H. This match is so boring that Hunter should be forced to watch it ten times in a row every time WWE stock drops a point)
WWF Women’s: Sable def. Tori in 5:09
(They gave Tori five minutes. They gave TORI five minutes. The only thing that could have made this match worse was if Nicole Bass showed up. Did I mention Nicole Bass showed up?)
WWF European: Shane McMahon def. X-Pac in 8:41
(Best match of the night so far, and nothing else had even come close. X-Pac, for as much of a trouble making punk as he may be, could carry anyone when he was motivated. Next time you chant “X-PAC SUCKS!”, remember how he helped save this show)
Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker def. Big Bossman in 9:48
(The worst Hell in a Cell match ever. Bossman was hanged after the match by Edge, Christian, and Gangrel, and Cole sold it by acting horrified. Then he paused and introduced the next video package. Sigh….)
WWF World Championship: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 16:52 to win the title
(Three referees got taken out, Austin and Rock brawled all over the arena, Austin won with an emphatic Stunner, and then the new champ beat up McMahon afterward. A chaotically fun way to end a lackluster show, as you can always count on Austin and Rock to save the day)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
The saving grace of the show was Austin and Rock, in a spirited brawl with their unteachable instincts, shifting the focus away from the overbooked mess that was WrestleMania XV with their match.
Vince Russo would be gone six months later, and Vince McMahon learned an important lesson. It’s not what you book, be it simple or complex, but who you book it around.
Austin and Rock could salvage anything just by being Austin and Rock. Not everyone was that lucky or good.
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.
[amazon_link id=”B0009E32TI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s[/amazon_link]
[amazon_link id=”B00HRUQA8C” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Wrestlemania 30 DVD[/amazon_link]