‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Apologies for the delay with this edition but it’s been one of those weeks! The road to Payback is proving to be an odd one. The uncertainty over the the WWE title has obviously been a huge spanner in the works. The continued feud between Wyatt and Cena continues to make me bang my head against a wall. Thank God for The Shield and Evolution really keeping things moving in the right direction. It was the Hounds of Justice who spearheaded a thoroughly enjoyable house show experience for me in Leeds last Friday too. With Daniel Bryan sadly out, they carried that top babyface load brilliantly. Although, star turn of the night had to go to Mark Henry breaking out some Michael Jackson moves in a dance off with Fandango. It was the type of craziness you’d find in the Attitude Era… which reminds me why I am here...
ATTITUDE! Breakdown: In Your House (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
May 24, 2014 - 8:18:02 AM
Maverick: With the big summer event out of the way, WWF took the opportunity to reset the lower portion of the card, but kept the big storyline up top keep rolling inexorably forwards. Austin vs. McMahon was televisual dynamite and a confident booking team found constant ways to keep that rivalry fresh, with the heel turn of The Undertaker being just the latest piece of the puzzle to slot in. The genius of mid 1998 WWF though was their ability to use previous events to drive future events and there would be plenty more of that kind of thing as they rolled towards the autumn.
Mazza: SummerSlam was really the start of a stretch until WrestleMania 15 which would see almost every top star in the company not named McMahon or Austin really begin to straddle the heel-face divide. It wasn’t a case of aimlessness either although I am sure that management were keeping a close eye on just how they were all being reacted to. At the forefront of this was a certain Mr Maivia. We discussed the brilliance of the booking and character work The Rock was putting in during this period and he played an extremely interesting role in the WWF television post-SummerSlam. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. As always, Maverick will take you over the buildup to...
The Event: Breakdown: In Your House
The Date: 27 September 1998
The Place: Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
Following the fantastic all round pay-per-view event that was Summerslam, the build for the next show in the calendar started at a hot pace, with the Fed barely pausing to draw breath. Vince opened up the 8/31 show (on a Saturday due to U.S Open tennis) by announcing that he had a Machiavellian masterplan to lead Austin to a “breakdown” on mental and physical levels. In fact, he guaranteed that after Breakdown: In Your House, Austin would no longer be champion. The chairman of the board went on to savagely criticise The Undertaker for sending away “insurance policy” Kane during the Summerslam main event, stating that the Brothers of Destruction were becoming a laughing stock backstage when they should be the single most dominant force on the roster. An incensed pair of seven foot monsters appeared on the ramp and McMahon made a quick getaway, but it turned out that this goading was all a part of Vince’s scheme as Undertaker and Kane proceeded to spend the rest of the evening interrupting various matches and angles to destroy Steve Blackman, Vader, Marc Mero, Scorpio and The Rock (that last one after the People’s Champ had actually arrived in the ring to help his stablemate D’Lo, who was the brothers’ initial target). As the two demons continued their reign of terror on Sunday Night Heat, holding Patterson and Brisco hostage, Vince announced that they would face Austin in a triple threat match at Breakdown, but that only Austin could be pinned in the match, making it essentially a two on one handicap match. As far as McMahon was concerned, the only doubt was in which monster would pin Stone Cold to become champ.
By the middle of the month, the plot was thickening even further; McMahon announced to the triple threat participants in an in ring segment on the 9/14 episode that he was fed up with Austin as champ and after Breakdown he wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore. He granted ‘Taker and Kane a shot at the top strap in return for something from them as “business is business” (hmm, that sounds familiar…). Kane and Taker had now been cast as his protectors. He finished the promo by announcing that after Breakdown, people would be saying “Vince McMahon didn’t screw Stone Cold...Stone Cold screwed Stone Cold” in an echo of the infamous post-Montreal promo on Bret Hart. Even almost a year later, this was guaranteed heat. After Austin had attempted to assault him but been beaten down by the chairman’s new bodyguards, McMahon announced that the Rattlesnake might not even make it to Breakdown because he would be defending the WWF title against Ken Shamrock later in the evening. The match against Shamrock was excellent with the World’s Most Dangerous Man really stepping up to Austin’s level. It’s a forgotten TV gem, in fact. It ended in a no-finish due to the interference of Kane, Undertaker, Rock and Foley, with the latter two involved due to events earlier in the evening.
Rocky, you see, looked a million dollars all month. After his performance in the ladder match, his face turn was almost inevitable. He still got heel heat for the first two weeks, but once he locked horns with Kane and ‘Taker? BAM. His face reactions got stronger and stronger. In a match earlier in the 09/14 Raw against Kane, Rock was getting the worst of a two on one assault from the Brothers of Destruction when suddenly Mankind- who had been absent from TV for the previous two weeks to sell Kane’s attack on him at Summerslam- appeared out of nowhere from behind Kane with a sledgehammer and absolutely walloped him with it to an insane pop. Following that, Undertaker and Mankind ended up in a typically brutal no holds barred match where Rock hid in a dumpster to ambush ‘Taker and ultimately escape his and Kane’s clutches. The face turn was on in a big way. With Shamrock’s title shot wiped out by the schmazz, McMahon booked a triple threat number one contender’s match between Mankind, Rock and Shamrock the next week on Raw, which also ended in a no-finish due to Kane and The Undertaker. Therefore, over on Heat on the night of the show, the three upper midcarders were put in a steel cage to definitively crown a number one contender. Austin, meanwhile, went into the pay-per-view in the way he always did, swinging chairs and taking names. His final promo announced that the two monsters should not expect Austin 3:16, but Austin 666...
With Summerslam being the blow off for most of the undercard angles, there was a fair bit of resetting going on beneath the top tier. Val Venis continued to be a prominent part of the show in a feature midcard role, and ended up feuding with Dustin Runnels, who had spent the summer shedding the Goldust gimmick and undergoing a religious conversion. The new, sober Dustin would preach morality in vignettes and in person, and took to appearing at ringside with placards. This puritanical persona of course put him on a collision course with the kayfabe porn star Venis, who mocked Dustin’s placards with one of his own reading “I HAVE COME!” and then proceeded to make a series of “movies” with Runnels’ estranged wife Terri which he used to torment the former Goldust with.
Meanwhile, WWF were still desperately trying to find an effective role for Bradshaw. Watching the product through 1997 and 1998, it was obvious that someone in management was very high on the Texan; his size, football background and look made that preoccupation somewhat understandable. However, they just never seemed to be able to find the right fit for him. The New Blackjacks, a face turn and short lived little ‘n’ large team with Taka Michinoku, another short lived tag team with Terry Funk followed by a heel turn on the veteran...nothing would stick. He ended up being booked to face Vader at Breakdown under slightly random circumstances. A staredown on the 8/31 Raw was followed by a couple of other confrontations on Heat and a couple of instances of Bradshaw cheating to beat other face wrestlers. A random falls count anywhere stip was added to the mix too. Strange booking.
With the month being devoted to The Rock’s face turn, the heat was very much turned down on the Nation as a group, and as a consequence, DX’s star dimmed just a little also, although the face group remained incredibly over regardless. Mark Henry had a terrible time of things, with Chyna constantly attacking him in revenge for a botched amorous advance from the World’s Strongest Man. X Pac was denied European gold at the start of the month when Jarrett interfered in his match with D’Lo the night after Summerslam, indicating that Jarrett and Southern Justice would be the primary antagonist stable for DX moving forward. Double J was prominently booked as having a “new attitude” due to the haircut he had received from X Pac, with guitar shots getting him a win against Road Dogg and a DQ loss to Edge, while Southern Justice racked up several tag wins. DX had their share of success too though; Triple H successfully defended his newly won Intercontinental Title against Owen Hart on the 09/14 episode of Raw, with Billy Gunn beating Jarrett in the same episode and X Pac finally winning the European Title with an X Factor in a rematch with D’Lo just before the pay-per-view. The six man tag between Southern Justice/Jeff Jarrett and The New Age Outlaws/X Pac was therefore looking like an even battle going in.
Not much else was well defined heading into the show, but constant issues between Gangrel and Edge were showcased from Raw to Raw, Al Snow won his job back by beating Sergeant Slaughter in a bootcamp match and formed a tag team with Scorpio, and Jacqueline became Women’s Champion when WWF finally resurrected that title (which had been dropped when Alundra Blayze jumped to WCW) in a one off winner takes all match between her and Sable, which Jackie won with an assist from Mero. With quite a lot of random on the card, it would be interesting to see how the pay-per-view unfolded. So, let’s have a look at...
Owen Hart defeated Edge in 9:16
Owen gets some cheap but good heat on home soil with the classic sports jersey routine. This is a bit of dream match in some circles and certainly pits two extremely athletic superstars at opposing ends of their career (tragically in Hart’s case). It’s that athleticism that is the key early on as Edge shows plenty of glimpses of the star he’d become, but Owen catches him coming off the apron with a powerslam to the floor. The pace slows with the veteran in charge but it is interspersed with quick comeback attempts by the rookie. We get a lot of near falls and counters. The crowd are getting more and more into things when a fan jumps the barrier at ringside. We know the man as Christian but this was his first appearance on WWF programming and the announcers sell him as a fan who looks like Edge. The distraction allows Owen to his a roll-up to get the win as Edge goes through the crowd to look for Christian. Decent opener but Edge was still a little too green to have it live up to the dream match status.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
Al Snow & Scorpio defeated Too Much in 8:03
Snow is fresh from winning a WWF contract and teams with fellow former ECW alum, Scorpio. The former Flash Funk and the future Too Hotty have a few decent opening exchanges before the tags start rolling in. Snow is soon using a chair to jump off into Taylor in the corner. Scorpio follows suit and almost stacks in hilarious fashion. Snow and Christopher go at it on the outside whilst Scorpio hits Scotty with a top rope splash but, for no real rhyme or reason, lifts him up before the three count. The action totally breaks down and doesn’t make much logical sense but it settles with Too Much in control. Al soon gets the tag and with Head knocks out both his opponents and, inadvertently, his partner. We go through a run where nobody knows who is legal and the ref seems to count every combination of pin attempt possible. Eventually Al lands a Snow Plow on Scotty and picks up the win. The moves were good here but the match was totally devoid of logic and psychology.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
Michael Cole is with the Brothers of Destruction. He wants to know who will take the fall. Taker says they have come to an understanding.
Marc Mero (With Jacqueline) defeated Droz in 5:12
The rookie Droz gets the upper hand early on which leads to Mero teasing a walk out. Jacqueline soon pays dividends at ringside with the distraction however and The Marvelous One takes charge. The action is disjointed for a couple of minutes before Jackie nails Droz with her shoe which allows Marc to hit “Marvelocity” (an SSP) for the win. The finish was nice but this was filler without much thought put into it.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
Bradshaw defeated Vader in 7:56 in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
Bradshaw is interviewed by Cole before the match and actually looks pretty much like he does today! He makes a jibe about it being Survival of the Fittest, not the Fattest. Again this may be somewhat of a dream match for some people. Two guys who don’t hold back on their punches and in a falls count anywhere. Problem was that Bradshaw was still yet to find a good character and Vader was pretty much enhancement talent at this point. It’s unsurprisingly stiff from the get go with Layfield getting the upper hand early on. They head to the outside where Bradshaw accidentally punches the ring post and the tide turns. Vader uses the ring steps and the barriers before heading back to the ring. He hits a big splash from the second rope and a Vaderbomb but the Texan makes a shocking kick out. He then lands a Clothesline From Hell but he can also only get a two count. He hits a second Clothesline From Hell and follows up with a reverse neckbreaker to get the win. This was a strange one. It could have been very good if it was given some more time. The action was hard hitting and enjoyable but then they ran a finish like they were in a Mania main event. The false finishes came out of nowhere with no heat and as such felt a bit flat. Then to end with a basic move after both had failed to get the ‘W’ with their weapon of choice felt odd too.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
D’Lo Brown defeated Gangrel in 7:46
Gangrel’s entrance is pretty cool and he is soon showing he has some in ring skills too. It is the former European Champion though who settles in control and we get to see his sweet running powerbomb. He maintains the upper hand as the pace slows and the crowd begin to check out. Gangrel makes the comeback but it doesn’t last very long as Mark Henry makes his way to ringside. He gets involved by throwing Gangrel into the ringpost which allows D’Lo to his the Lo Down and pick up the victory. The goth drinks some blood after the match, spits it in Henry’s face and nails Brown with a DDT. Wasn’t much chemistry between the men here and they didn’t have a great deal of time to set it right. The crisp moves were pretty much all independent of each other and the finish felt kind of rushed.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock and Mankind in 18:49 in a Triple Threat Steel Cage Match
Shamrock cuts a typically boring interview with Cole. Rocky then cuts a typically animated one with Doc. It is very much a face promo which would become the hallmark of his career. Foley gets to talk to Kevin Kelly. Again it’s a face promo in which he calls the People’s Elbow the most stupid thing he has ever seen. The rules for the match are given and you can win by pinfall, submission or escape. Rocky gets a huge ovation from the crowd as he makes his way to the cage and immediately goes at it with Shamrock as Mankind bides his time. He tries to quietly escape through the door but gets caught. We head into typical triple threat territory and we get a fun spot as Rock puts an abdominal stretch on Shamrock who has one on Mankind. We soon have a little look into the future as Rock and Sock team up for a bit. It is a short lived union however and Mankind is soon working with Shamrock which draws plenty of heat. The People’s Champ weathers the storm however and hits a double People’s Elbow before almost escaping the cage. He soon hits a Rock Bottom on Foley but The World’s Most Dangerous Man breaks up the count which draws a “Shamrock sucks” chant. Shamrock hits a belly-to-belly and uses the ankle lock but this time Mankind makes the save. Foley tries to escape but Rock goes up to join him. Mankind gets the upper hand but rather than escape he tries to hit an elbow from the top of the cage. Rocky moves however and he eats nothing but mat. Shamrock tries to escape the cage through the door and grabs a chair as Mankind drags him back in. It is Foley who uses it however, planting it square on the noggin of the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Whilst he climbs the cage however, the Rock capitalises by pinning Shamrock for the victory. Mick gets confused as to why he has not won when he hits the floor and tears his hair out when it is explained. Shamrock meanwhile wigs out when he comes to, grabs a chair and heads to the back. Strong cage match here. Interesting dynamic with the three way. A lot of the early action had some standard triple threat issues but it was exciting throughout. Very good match.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
Val Venis (With Terri Runnels) defeated Dustin Runnels in 9:09
Val promos on the way to the ring taunting Dustin as he brings Terri out in a revealing outfit. The action gets off to a quick start with Venis hitting a spinebuster and Dustin a powerbomb which puts him in charge for a bit. The Big Valbowski turns things around however and he locks in a camel clutch. The pace slows down as Runnels tries to get back into things. Venis almost wins things with a chinlock in addition to getting a host of two counts. The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust sends his opponent to the outside but Val uses the opportunity to feel up Terri a bit. Back in the ring Venis apparently knocks Dustin out with a slam and follows up with a Money Shot for the victory. Val and Terri makes out after the match as Runnels walks away. The problem with this bout is it didn’t really know what it wanted to be. It’s a personal match but it didn’t seem to have any passion outside the early exchanges. I think the idea was that Dustin was so distracted by the Terri situation he didn’t put up much of a fight. For that to work Val needed to be a bit more aggressive for me.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
X-Pac & The New Age Outlaws defeated Jeff Jarrett & Southern Justice in 11:17
The heels hit the ring first. X-Pac comes out first for DX and as the Outlaws’ music hits, they come from the other side of the ring to attack. After a feeling out process we settle in with Roadie playing the face in peril. The hot tag is a bit tepid but X-Pac comes in like a house on fire before getting caught, essentially taking over Road Dogg’s role. Waltman plays the role well and almost goes down to a sleeper before mounting a comeback. Billy gets the hot tag and he takes it to all three of his opponents. The action breaks down (for the first time which is bizarre considering the era and PPV name) and Gunn gets hold of Double J’s guitar. The ref stops him which allows Jarrett to get it back and level X-Pac over the head, meanwhile in the ring Mr Ass hits a Fameasser (still called the Rocker Dropper) to pick up the victory. An injury to X-Pac’s eye is played up post-match. This was a tad disappointing. There wasn’t much to it outside of standard tag action which is a shame considering those on show.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
THE MAIN EVENT
Kane and The Undertaker defeated Steve Austin in 22:18 in a Triple Threat Match for the WWF Championship
With the deck stacked against him, Stone Cold Steve Austin wasted little time in finding a way to even the odds, decking The Undertaker with a steel chair during the Phenom’s entrance. When Kane tries to get involved, he also gets a chair upside the head and the two brawl down to the ring. It’s classic Austin and the crowd are mad for it. With Kane occupied with trying to defend himself against the Rattlesnake, Undertaker finally manages to get to his feet and comes down with one hell of an irritated look on his face, steel chair in hand. After a few exchanges outside the ring, Undertaker is thrown into the steel steps at ring side, and Kane gets posted and beaten down on the apron. Austin gets the Stunner on the Big Red Monster, but the count is broken by ‘Taker, emphasising the huge problem for the Rattlesnake; despite taking on two monsters by himself, even he can’t turn that advantage into a win. This is brilliantly sold by Lawler and J.R on commentary, with McMahon’s storyline masterplan front and centre. I love a match with a good story and this one delivers that in spades.
Outside the ring, The Phenom takes it to Austin in true Attitude style, using the ringside furniture with brutal effectiveness. He rolls Stone Cold back in the ring where he keeps Austin in the corner, using chokes and strikes; I like the psychology of this since it shows how a man like the Rattlesnake needs to be worn down to prevent his explosive bursts of offense. A brief comeback flurry from the champion is cut off by a beautiful flying clothesline, a real mark out ‘Taker trademark, and he gets a long two count. Kane re-appears at this juncture to get clotheslined straight out of the ring by Austin, but The Deadman is behind him and knocks him straight to the canvas. This is great booking, keeping the Texas Rattlesnake looking like a total boss but simultaneously illustrating the mountain he has to climb in order to keep his title.
The match settles into a structure of Stone Cold getting in some offense on one brother and trying to keep the other on the outside, only for the odds to become too much; after a smooth swinging neckbreaker on The Undertaker puts the champ in charge again, he is dragged to the floor by The Big Red Monster for some more smashmouth brawling to thrill the crowd in attendance at the Copps Coliseum, and when the action spills back into the squared circle, the Rattlesnake fights for his life against both the seven foot behemoths to insane crowd noise. Inevitably, the McMahon stooges appear on the entrance ramp; you have to love how smug Brisco, Patterson and Slaughter are able to look! The brothers beat Stone Cold all the way down the aisle towards the “colleagues” of McMahon (as Lawler hilariously refers to them as), and a beaten down Austin still has the energy to flip them off! With the Texan on his hands and knees, JR on commentary suggests the match should be stopped for his safety, but this is of course the cue for him to “fight like hell” and get the audience hot again until he finally gets backdropped on the concrete by ‘Taker. Even then, he manages to get to Brisco, but Slaughter stomps him off his colleague and the brothers drag the carcass all the way back to the ring.
It’s back to the wear down tactics from here, with The Deadman cinching in an armbar and Kane choking the life out of him. Yet another Austin comeback is initiated when Kane is distracted by arguing with the referee, but it is ultimately shortlived, with the odds just too much, as a chairshot from Undertaker seemingly puts him down, but then the inevitable dissension between the brothers about who should win strikes, as Kane pulls his brother off the cover! A stare down and exchange of words ultimately becomes an exchange of blows. Austin and Kane even team up, taking it in turns to throw right hands at ‘Taker as if they’re playing tennis. The Deadman is deposited over the top rope and it’s down to the Rattlesnake and Big Red Machine, but those two also spill outside, and the brothers seem to once again come to an agreement, but a minute or so later, they’re back in each others’ faces. This tension gives the match much needed uncertainty, because the breaking of the alliance between Kane and The Undertaker is what gives Stone Cold a chance. And it’s great storytelling too; they both, quite rightly, want to be champion, and have had battles in the past, plus an entire kayfabe history that should make them enemies. They exchange rights and lefts and run the ropes, before taking each other down with a double clothesline in true Warrior/Hogan fashion. Austin well and truly takes advantage, taking it to Kane and crotching The Undertaker on the top rope. He attempts the Stunner on Kane, but the Big Red Monster’s vertical base is too strong and he is pushed straight into a Phenom big boot. This leads straight into a hellacious double choke slam and both brothers cover the Rattlesnake for the 1-2-3.
Howard Finkel begins to announce who the new champion is, but can’t finish his utterance as two men surely can’t be champion? McMahon struts to ringside and Brisco grabs the belt from Earl Hebner and runs off with it, pausing on the ramp to hold it high to taunt all three of the main event participants! Great heel work from the boss. Austin begins to pursue Vince, decking Brisco on the way, and then tussling with Patterson and Slaughter, which gives the chairman just enough time to exit the arena in a white limo. Austin makes it to the parking garage to see McMahon standing outside the door of the car with the belt. He flips off the former champ and announces that the belt is his. What a fantastic end to a show.
This was a really fun triple threat between three performers who performed the Attitude main event style as well as anybody. The stipulation of only Stone Cold being able to be pinned might have made for an awkward match, but the way they worked it, the way that Austin was kept strong and the brothers began to get in each others’ business towards the end made it unique and very tense to watch. The finish was a classic storyline touch and Vince’s hammy Machiavelli act to close the show was a fantastic way to take the original abeyance story into the following night’s Raw.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
The filler on this show really hurt it Maz. Compare this card to that of Summerslam and you’ll see an enormous difference, and an unflattering one at that. The difference between “Big Four” pay-per-views and “regular” shows was often not that stark in the Attitude Era, but here it certainly was. However, the two main matches delivered very well and you have to love the story they were constructing at the top of the card. More of which later...
I couldn’t have put it better myself. There was too much irrelevant stuff going on all over the place. A lot of that can be put down to the fact that the DX vs Nation feud was over and that had been contributing a lot to the midcard. The main events were intriguing and good but neither were a standout for the era. The success however would be in the fact that Raw would be must-see after that ending. The event itself though is not a great one compared to the rest of Attitude so far.
Breakdown Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
MVP - THE ROCK
I had to go back through our previous columns to count how many MVP awards Dwayne Johnson has picked up already; it seems that he is absolutely dominating 1998. This award is his second in a row and fourth overall, putting him out on his own as the man with the most ATTITUDE MVP awards, above Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley with three each and Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin with two each. Why is Rocky the MVP this time around? Quite simply, his ability to suddenly, at a moment’s notice, take advantage of growing crowd support to play a sympathetic and dynamic babyface was hugely impressive. The triple threat cage match was a lot of fun to watch, and the People’s Champ’s routine was a big part of that, particularly with spots like the double People’s Elbow. In September 1998, The Rock was as hot as any on-the-rise face in history, and he was putting in the performances to justify the reactions and the push.
This was the first PPV where we saw a face Rock. Sure, we had seen Rocky Maivia as a face but that really wasn’t the same thing at all. The crowd had rejected the white bread Maivia but they had begged to have The People’s Champ actually wrestle for the people. They got what they wanted here and ate it up whilst Rocky used their cheers in a way we would see time and time again over the years. The Rock would go on to call himself “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” and was already proving it PPV to PPV.
THE ONE TO WATCH
With the Attitude Era, I’ve always found that there are certain clichés that pour forth from people’s keyboards, some of which don’t actually hold up to that much scrutiny when you spend proper time examining the origins of that folk belief. One thing you will always see people associate with the period between Wrestlemanias XIII and XVII is constant swerve booking with short term shock prioritised over long term aims. I have to say that I never really believed this to be true to the extent that most people seem to think it is and having re-watched the entirety of 1997 and the first three quarters of 1998, I can say categorically that the storytelling and long term booking philosophy of WWF then just so happens to blow what modern day WWE do now out of the water.
From the moment Austin became champion, Vince McMahon was cast as primary antagonist, and he would remain so until late 1999. That’s eighteen months of McMahon doing everything in his power to screw Stone Cold. Now that’s consistency. Various wrestlers were cast as Vince’s patsy through this time period: Dude Love was the first man to take a shot at becoming a Corporate Champ. When that didn’t work, Vince turned to The Undertaker, not because he was face of the company material but because he was the best chance the chairman had to get the belt off of the Rattlesnake. However, I have boiled everything down rather a lot there, and the most impressive thing about the storyline was the way it encompassed a lot of supporting players on the roster, and nowhere was this more evident than in the builds to Fully Loaded, Summerslam ‘98 and Breakdown: In Your House.
Everything was connected; Undertaker and Mankind had been rivals since 1996 and both had been managed by Paul Bearer. Kane’s debut was a shocking moment that produced a memorable pair of matches at Wrestlemania XIV and Unforgiven. Kane and Mankind were brought back under Paul Bearer’s umbrella and defeated the New Age Outlaws for the tag gold on Raw before being booked to defend them against the “frenemies” team of ‘Taker and Austin where the Deadman and the Rattlesnake won the belts despite themselves. The build to Summerslam then featured Undertaker and Austin losing those championships back to the men they won them from, Kane aligning with his brother after weeks of McMahon outlining it as his personal conspiracy theory, Mankind being left in the lurch by his partner, leaving him vulnerable to being manipulated by Vince and at the PPV, The New Age Outlaws got their belts back. Following Summerslam, The Rock began his face turn, which put him in conflict with the Brothers of Destruction. When Mankind returned from his sledgehammer enforced absence, the combustible picture at the top of the card was even more compelling, and add to that the fact that the New Age Outlaws and Ken Shamrock were also constantly involved and you have a storyline which gets woven through most layers of the roster. The entire angle was booked superbly, week in and week out. Most of all it was consistent, and not the least bit car crash. I do appreciate that things could get that way a bit more in 1999, but certainly, you won’t find many long term stories that came together as well, and with as many obvious benefits, as the Austin vs. McMahon one.
Interestingly, WWE finally returned to their past success in the aftermath of Summerslam 2013. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Randy Orton and The Shield formed ‘The Authority’ and at the beginning of that angle, different members of the roster were incorporated into it in a similar way to the way they were in 1998...
Those of you who listen to The Right Side of the Pond will know that Maverick and I have been big fans of the Authority angle since SummerSlam. That is probably not surprising seeing that we are big fans of Attitude. The comparisons have been clear since the beginning really. Daniel Bryan vs Triple H essentially took the role as the Reality Era version of Stone Cold vs McMahon. Whilst it may not have been quite as “front and centre” as the primary feud from Attitude but it certainly drew similar emotions. The starting point was very different however. Austin vs McMahon had been brewing for a long time but kicked up a gear when Stone Cold won the WWF title. Bryan winning the title however sparked his rivalry with The Game, who turned heel in immediately screwing him out of the title. The story that followed showed Hunter seeing a lot more success with his chosen “Face of the WWE”. Despite Randy Orton looking inferior to Bryan at every turn, he held onto that strap. Vince on the other hand struggled to find the right corporate man to get the job done. Foley failed. Kane held onto the title about as long as Bryan did after Night of Champions and Taker had come up short on his own. At Breakdown a combination of both brothers got the job done and finally put Austin on the backfoot for a sustained period.
The biggest complaint through the second half of 2013 was the Bryan was always on the backfoot. We argued it would make that the payoff that much sweeter but I can understand why others were worried. Hunter turned his attentions short term to the Big Show whilst Bryan apparently dropped out of contention and tangled with the Wyatts. Once that was dealt with however he would renew a rivalry with the other big darling of the fanbase. On the road to Survivor Series, Vince would also tangle with a guy whose popularity was starting to rival Austin’s. A comparison of CM Punk to The Rock is interesting. Of course we will probably never know exactly where Punk would have fit in but it is interesting that almost everybody talking about him coming back to the company see him coming back as Corporate Punk. There is nothing quite like a turn when popularity is sky high and what would work for Dwayne in 1998, may well have worked (or will work) for Phil in 2014.
Of course you can make star to star comparisons all over the place but you have to look at the overall strength of the storyline. When you look at the supporting players in McMahon vs Austin, none of them really were hurt in things. Taker, Kane, Foley and Rock all very much kept, and improved, their standings despite all of them generally not getting the upper hand on Stone Cold. My biggest criticism of the Authority storyline is the collateral damage it has seemingly caused to people. More than anything this has come with the dropping of storylines and letting angles cool off. The Miz and Dolph Ziggler both felt this early on in support roles. Cody Rhodes got a huge moment that ran out of steam. Show’s revival was short lived whilst Punk just up and left. On the heel side of things a lot of hitters were just employed to fall. The exceptions were The Shield who went from strength to strength as chief hitters and Kane and The Outlaws who took on the role of wrestling stooges.
Of course now The Authority has split their focus with Steph leading the charge against Bryan and Hunter focussing on the turned Shield. The complexity of “Team Vince” will increase as we move into 1999 as well but it never lost that key focus of McMahon vs Austin. I am not certain that the Reality Era can retain that level of focus, particularly with the a couple of huge names about. The first is Brock Lesnar, who you have to assume will factor into the Authority’s existence on one of his part time runs. The second is John Cena who has been involved but it appeared that he was treated neutrally by Hunter and Steph. I can’t help but think that Cena’s part with The Authority isn’t done yet. He is still the number one guy in the company so it is only logical. What that means for Bryan’s role in things, I am not sure. Maybe together they could take down the Authority and become the new Mega Powers. Maybe we finally get that Cena heel turn we refuse to give up on 100%.
There’s no doubt that I rather wish that The Authority had maintained a roster encompassing feel. The Raw after Summerslam 2013 was one of the best of the last few years and put Ziggler, Show, Del Rio, The Shield and Bryan into the mix, in the same way that Austin, Rocky, Mankind, The New Age Outlaws, Triple H, X Pac, ‘Taker, Kane and Shamrock were all a part of things in September ‘98. Unfortunately, WWE nowadays rarely has quite the level of storyline focus that WWF did during the New Generation and Attitude. Maz and I absolutely loved the Authority storyline and defended it against those who said it lacked logic and consistency, but I do have to concede that of all the wrestlers that got pulled into its orbit, only Bryan, Orton and The Shield truly benefited, when it could and should have made stars of wrestlers like Rhodes and Ziggler and resuscitated someone like Del Rio as a relevant concern. Moving forward, Sheamus and Bad News Barrett are both wrestlers who could benefit from an association with Trips and Steph, and I hope the Authority will stay front and centre for a good while yet, as it has, on the whole, delivered as a tribute to what Vince was doing back in ‘98.
Despite the somewhat shoddy card, Breakdown drew a 0.8, which was a great result in the aftermath of a hugely successful Summerslam. Even “minor” PPVs were drawing strongly for the WWF now, which shows how their fortunes had changed in the year since Ground Zero (which had drawn an abject 0.4). With Austin now relieved of the belt in controversial circumstances, box office proceeds looked set to increase as the company built towards Survivor Series.
Breakdown really was the sign that WWF were once again the main company. The lacklustre card defeated WCW’s September effort, Fall Brawl, despite the presence of the popular War Games gimmick. Historically a 0.7 buyrate goes down as a good PPV from a business perspective but they were clearly losing ground to the WWF. Vince would have one final stop on the road to Survivor Series but the question was just who would be the champ, if anyone, going into Judgment Day?
You can hear more from Mazza and Maverick on The Right Side of the Pond, part of LoP Radio. New episodes every are out every Friday at 9pm UK time/4pm EST.
On this week’s show the whole team go live to look at the feuds we’d like to see before Mania 31 and what we would do on the Go Home Raw for Payback.
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