‘Sup, Lords of Pain? So how did we all enjoy Extreme Rules? I thought it was a very strong PPV for the most part. The double main event definitely delivered and both matches had a real Attitude Era feel to them. I guess that is par for the course in general with Extreme Rules but we got to see some things that were a real throwback to the era. Daniel Bryan driving the forklift and Seth Rollins’ dive off the balcony in particular had me thinking back to years gone by. But today isn’t about this generation, it’s about the innovators so let’s get on with...
ATTITUDE! Fully Loaded: In Your House (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
May 8, 2014 - 2:52:15 PM
Mazza: So how do you follow up the insanity of a that hell in a cell match from King of the Ring? You can’t top it so what do you do? The WWF’s answer at the time was to continue to intertwine the Taker vs Mankind feud with the Austin vs Kane one. With that packed with the heating up of the issues between The Nation of Domination and Degeneration X, there was more than enough potential to take the higher end of the card through the summer. When you add in a bunch of new names starting to come through, you’d have to think the WWF was in safe hands. But before we’d get to the marquee event of the season, we’d have one last stop in your house with Fully Loaded. What would the company do to try and sustain the momentum it had been building?
Maverick: I think the answer to that was to book their shows with confidence and conviction, holding tight to the formula they had developed over the past year: put characters front and centre, use worked shoots and fourth wall breaking tactics, increase the violence level, involve the audience and keep everyone guessing. Add that to some good old fashioned feud building and Vince and co really were onto a winner. Of course, some would say that the closer we get to 1999, the worse the actual wrestling gets, but we will see how true that really is as the weeks move on. So without further ado, it’s time to break down...
The Event: Fully Loaded: In Your House
The Date: 28 July 1998
The Place: Selland Arena, Fresno, California
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
The build to Fully Loaded was boiling hot from the very first Raw after King of the Ring. Kane’s shocking victory in the title match led to him being paraded as corporate material by McMahon, Brisco and Slaughter, but the happy scene was interrupted by Austin, who challenged the Big Red Monster to a rematch that very night. Much to McMahon’s chagrin, Kane accepted. The Undertaker, meanwhile, was still obsessing over getting a title shot himself, going with a kind of tweener vibe for the whole month, explaining that he did what he had to; cause Kane to win so he didn’t burn himself alive. McMahon however, came out to tell the Deadman that the real reason why he smashed Austin with the chair was because he thought that Kane would be an easier opponent in a title match. In the event, Kane and Austin’s rematch was in many ways better than that on the pay-per-view, and Stone Cold got the clean win with the Stunner, taking out Undertaker afterwards for good measure. A double sit up by the brothers as Austin made his way to the back was an excellent visual to end the show on.
The next week, The Undertaker demanded a title shot yet again, and Austin was willing to give it to him, but Vince, ever the antagonist, came out to tell them that he would never “let the lunatics run the asylum” and that the main event of Fully Loaded would in fact be a tag team match between the team of Kane and Mankind and the team of Austin and Undertaker, thus combining the two top feuds from the previous PPV. Vince then informed them the next title match would take place at Summerslam and that the number one contender would be crowned that evening in a triple threat match. In the event, the Deadman seemed to no show the match, so it appeared that the tag partners were going to have to go at it. Mankind cut a promo saying he woudn;t hurt his friend under any circumstances, and was pummelled for a quick victory. However, as soon as the pin was counted, the mask came off and “Kane” turned out to be Undertaker in disguise.
The story over the final two weeks of the build became about whether Kane and The Undertaker were in fact secretly in league with each other. McMahon constantly planted the seed in Austin’s mind and the announcers sold the possibility in a big way. This earned the Chairman of the Board and his lackeys a chokeslam each. During a handicap match between Austin and the new tag champions (Kane and Mankind defeated The New Age Outlaws on the 7/13 show for the straps and then survived a rematch when it degenerated into an inter-stable brawl), ‘Taker came out and hit Kane with a chair, but there was doubt over whether he in fact tried to strike Austin. The Rattlesnake took no chances and took out all three of his fellow main eventers to stand tall going into the pay-per-view.
In the midcard, D-Generation X and The Nation of Domination were once again the most must see feud on the whole show. New King of the Ring Ken Shamrock, who had always had his problems with both stables, found himself in a terrific triple threat “King of Kings” match with Owen Hart and Triple H on the Raw after his tourney victory, which he won thanks in part to interference from The Rock, who smashed Triple H with the IC belt. Hart assaulted Shamrock’s ankle afterwards, eventually setting up a Dungeon Match for Fully Loaded, which would take place in the basement of the Hart family residence, where Bret, Owen, Davey and countless others had learnt their trade. Dan Severn was slated to be guest referee for what was a highly anticipated bout.
Speaking of which, the DX/Nation beef spawned several interesting match ups for Fully Loaded. After the shenanigans in the King of Kings match, DX shut themselves away for the whole of the 07/06 show, only emerging towards the end dressed as the Nation. Maz and I covered the rise of the babyface DX in One To Watch a couple of weeks back, but suffice to say that the parody segment remains televisual gold to this day. The provocation was answered the next week when Owen put the Sharpshooter on impressionist Jason Sensation, the man who had played him in the parody. That same episode, X-Pac and Hunter went over Rocky and Owen in a tag bout, while the aforementioned tag title match where the Outlaws dropped the straps was marred by Nation interference, causing Triple H to confront Vince and demand the rematch with Austin and ‘Taker as guest enforcers. As I mentioned earlier though, that turned into chaos, and so the next week, singles matches were booked in which D Lo beat Triple H for the European Title following interference from The Rock. This meant that their slated two out of three falls match would only be for the Intercontinental Title, where originally it would have been title vs. title. When Trips attempted to take down Rocky in his Intercontinental Title match against X Pac, he was seen by a second referee and Pac was disqualified. The former 1-2-3 Kid was placed in a match with D Lo Brown for the pay-per-view, but the new European Champion would not be defending the belt in that encounter.
Outside of the big feuds, Paul Ellering returned to seemingly take up his management of LOD again, but instead betrayed them for younger bikers Skull and 8-Ball, wanting to “close the book” on the team he began back in the mid 80s. Sable’s return as Vince’s PA led her to use her employed status to get in Mero’s new valet Jacqueline’s face. The two swapped insults for several weeks before settling on a bikini contest to see who was the hottest, much to Lawler’s teenage delight on commentary. Finally, Val Venis’ debut month and a bit saw him get over very quickly as the porn star wrestler, and he was mostly in conflict with Kaientai and Yamaguchi San, due to- wait for it- starring in a film with the wife of Yamaguchi. The Japanese manager brought his wife out to hit her with a giant paddle (yes, really) but Val saved her from the spanking. Only in the Attitude Era. Despite this feud, Val actually ended up in a match with Jeff Jarrett rather than a member of Kaientai. That didn’t make a great deal of sense, really, but you could be sure Yamaguchi San would make his presence felt at ringside anyway.
So, that’s what was going down in the month of July. Time for Mazza to bring you...
Val Venis defeated Jeff Jarrett (With Tennessee Lee) in 7:45
The Val Venis character was hands down one of my favourites of the era so I am happy to be getting my first look back at his PPV debut here. Val does his innuendo routine and threatens to take his trunks off before Jarrett’s entrance interrupts things. He comes to the ring with the Godwinns who are now rocking the Southern Justice gimmick and look rather swish. The former Henry and Phineas are sent to the back, as are Kaientai who make an appearance at ringside. Yamaguchi San however joins the announce team. The commentary is bizarre as King asks Kaientai’s manager about his wife (who apparently starred in a movie with Venis). The in ring action is good despite the distractions at the announce desk. The match goes back and forth as Val reaffirms that his talent, and not just his gimmick were my reasons for being a fan. He comes close to the “W” on a couple of occasions before Tennessee Lee gets involved and allows Double J to hit a suplex as Venis goes for the Money Shot. Jarrett goes for the figure four but Val escapes and gets the victory with a roll up. Venis taunts Yamaguchi San after the match. Fun stuff here from two very good talents. The Big Valbowski was already getting over quickly.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
D’Lo Brown (With The Godfather) defeated X-Pac (With Chyna) in 8:26
D’Lo comes to the ring sporting his newly won European title as the Nation vs DX feud takes another step forward. Brown is very much morphing into a mini-Rock at this stage, showing plenty of charisma and the ability to draw heat. The early action goes back and forth but things settle with Brown in control. Pac makes some mini comebacks but they keep getting cut short. Eventually D’Lo misses a moonsault allowing Waltman gets in some explosive offence. Godfather interferes and the DX man fights him off but the distraction allows Brown to hit the Sky High to pick up the victory. Another decent midcard encounter here. Nothing groundbreaking but a good undercard PPV bout.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Backstage there is news that The Undertaker hasn’t arrived which starts rumours that something has happened to him.
Faarooq & Scorpio defeated Bradshaw & Terry Funk in 6:49
A couple of thrown together tag teams now as a pair of black dudes take on a pair of Texan dudes. Eventually the the company would throw the two heavy hitters together and score a big win but more on that later in the series. Before the match Funk says he will be taking some time off to recharge which doesn’t impress Bradshaw. Bradshaw and Scorpio start off before Faarooq comes in and we see the future Acolytes face off. The action is a bit disjointed as the tags come thick and fast. Eventually Scorpio gets cut off and the hardcore legend takes it to him around ringside. Faarooq gets involved which turns the tide as the crowd chant “boring”. The action breaks down and Scorpio gets the victory. After the match a frustrated Bradshaw takes out Funk with a big clothesline. Scorpio comes down to make the save and meets the same fate whilst Faarooq checks on his partner and is greeted with a chair shot. A poor match that didn’t really get out of the blocks but some nice story advancement in the aftermath.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Mark Henry defeated Vader in 5:03
This could be viewed as a bit of a dream match now in some circles so it is strange to see. Of course the problem is Henry was green as goose shit here and at least twelve years away from finally fulfilling the potential that saw Vince and prompted him to give Mizark a ten year contract. The two behemoths run into each other early on as the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Henry follows up by slamming the Mastodon and taking control with some hard hitting moves. The tide turns with Vader’s extra experience and he takes things to the outside where he throws The World’s Strongest Man into the ring steps. He hits a splash from the second rope but Henry kicks out at two. A powerslam turns things back in the Nation man’s favour and a follow up splash wins it. This was actually a very fun match. It was kept short, which was probably wise, and it was very hard hitting which played to the strengths of both men well.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
Kane, Mankind and Paul Bearer come to the ring. Paul calls Undertaker a coward which is why he won’t be here. He is interrupted by the New Age Outlaws who lay down a challenge to win back their titles the next night on Raw. It erupts into a brawl which is broken up eventually by a whole host of officials.
8-Ball & Skull (With Paul Ellering) defeated LOD 2000 in 8:50
The LOD vs DOA feud continues but the Harris boys now have former Road Warriors manager Paul Ellering in their corner. The Legion of Doom are now without Sunny who would soon to be released amidst rumours of backstage issues with Sable and painkiller addiction. A damn shame too. I am going to miss her appearances. The action here is rough and rugged with the DOA and Ellering taking every opportunity to cheat. They go through a long period of Hawk playing the face in peril which become quite tedious. The hot tag eventually comes and Animal clears house. The action breaks down and DOA pull off a little twin magic and hit a DDT for the win. The amount of moves we’ve seen LOD no-sell in this series and they lose to a DDT. Okay then. Poor match.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Vince, the Stooges and Sarge come to the ring. Mr McMahon says not to blame him if The Undertaker no-shows. He goes on a long dragged out speech to announce the Brooklyn Brawler as The Deadman’s replacement should he not make it. A bit of overkill really. Vince could draw heat with the slightest of actions at this point.
Owen Hart defeated Ken Shamrock in 4:46 in a Dungeon Match
Dan Severn is the ref and we get underway with an Owen takedown. The action mainly involves the guys throwing each other into the walls and rolling around a lot. This goes on for a while with Hart making use of the knowledge of dungeon. The end comes when Owen ducks a kick and it catches Severn around the head. Whilst Shamrock checks on the ref, Hart nails him with a dumbbell. He then puts The World’s Most Dangerous Man in a crossface whilst making his hand tap out. Severn comes round to see this and calls the match. Owen celebrates in typically hilarious fashion saying that he did it all by himself. I remember loving this at the time but it hasn’t aged well. It was a fun idea as a one off, but it comes off a little cheesey after all these years.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
The Rock and Triple H fought to a time limit draw in 30:00 in a Two out of Three Falls Match for the Intercontinental Championship (Rock retains)
The leaders of the Nation and DX had been nailing it since WrestleMania and now they had the opportunity to prove their worth with plenty of time. Slaughter is at ringside and he throws out both factions aside from Chyna (who apparently has a manager’s licence). Rocky takes the early advantage but taking time to do a crotch chop costs him and Hunter takes control. The champ is soon trying to hightail it which takes the action to the outside. A reversal of an Irish whip into the ring steps however puts Helmsley on the back foot once more. Mark Henry makes his way to ringside and hits a splash on Hunter before Billy comes down to chase him off. Rocky then manages to use the IC belt to nail Trips but can only get a two count. The champ goes for the chinlock of doom as the crowd get a little restless. They pick up the pace and Rocky chokes Hunter with cables on the outside. He goes back to the chinlock and the degenerate’s arm almost drops three times before he comes round. Soon both men are down and The Godfather makes his way to the ring. The Outlaws cut him off before he arrives however and they all go to the back. The Rock distracts the ref and D’Lo makes a run-in. Hunter knocks him off the ropes but turns around into a Rock Bottom as the champ takes the first fall. We have a one minute rest period. Once we get underway again Rocky takes it to the outside where Helmsley gets thrown into the barrier and catapulted into the announce desk. He lands a People’s Elbow back in the ring for a long two count. A clothesline from HHH sees Brown try to interfere again but he gets levelled by Chyna. As the ref argues with her, X-Pac runs in and nails an X-Factor but Hunter can only get a two. The Game goes for a chair in frustration but Maivia gets hold of it. He swings and hits the ref but Chyna comes in, hits a low blow and DDT to the chair allowing the DX man to tie the match up at one apiece. The rest period ends and Hunter makes the cover but the injured ref is being carried away. By the time we get a new ref The Rock kicks out and we hear an announcement that there are two minutes left. The action kicks into typical Rock-Hunter mode and we get signatures and finisher counters. The challenger finally hits a Pedigree but as he goes for the cover the ref calls him off, the bell goes and it is announced that the time has expired. The Nation arrive to beat down on Hunter before DX even things up. Whilst neither man was probably in the perfect place to go half an hour, I am guessing that this match probably gave them a lot of what they needed to go forward and do it numerous times in the future. The chemistry was definitely there in the match and the interference from both factions helped it along. There was a lot of killing time in the first fall however which prevents it from being quite one of the numerous classics they would have in the future.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
Goldust is back to being Dustin Runnels and is running a religious gimmick. He cuts a prayer promo before the match essentially denouncing the upcoming bikini contest. The King is the host and he introduces one of my favourites, Jacqueline with Marc Mero and then Sable. Jackie rocks a skimpy little red number and even a wardrobe malfunction can’t get her anything but boos from the crowd. Sable reveals a conservative top which she said Vince advised. She says she had other ideas though and reveals the famous hand print bikini. King loves it, Mero tries to cover her up and the crowd go wild until Vince comes down and covers her up with his jacket. You want my opinion though, the wrong woman won. Jackie looked sublime. The segment was very “of its time” but a lot better than the evening gown match.
THE MAIN EVENT
Steve Austin & The Undertaker defeated Kane & Mankind (With Paul Bearer) in 17:28 to win the Tag Team Championship
With Stone Cold Steve Austin having pissed off literally everyone in the main event, with no regard given to Undertaker being his tag partner in the build, the Deadman seeks answers from the WWF Champion in the aisle before the bell, but an ambush by the heel team causes the two Texans to quickly unite to see off the threat, and so we get that most Attitude of tropes: the pre-match arena brawl! Obviously we have four men here who each have a claim on the “best brawler of all time” title, so the action is hot as you like and gets the crowd nicely hyped for when the bell finally rings.
The frenemies theme is definitely played to throughout, with the Rattlesnake flipping off The Undertaker just after the bell has rung, and the audience are mad for Austin’s brand of devil may care rebellion. The man from Victoria was always at his best when he considered everybody an enemy, even those who were supposedly on his side, and that’s exactly the tension we have at play here, since ‘Taker is the number one contender for the next pay-per-view and would therefore have a vested interest in damaging Austin’s confidence and health. The Rattlesnake takes it to Mankind in the early going, dominating his disturbed opponent with strikes and power moves, until the heel team’s superior co-operation leaves the WWF champion exposed in the opposition corner. However, Austin breaks out of these bonds and once more goes on the offensive, this time on Kane.
Undertaker is finally tagged in at the five minute mark and his face to face battle with the Big Red Monster needs to be contextualised by saying that the entire point of this four man angle was that the two brothers may have been working together. Therefore, the Phenom’s side Russian leg sweep is perhaps the proof the audience are looking for that Undertaker is in this match to win it. Indeed, the Deadman flips off Austin before going to work on Mankind, who has just tagged in, showing that there’s a spirit of oneupmanship between partners that want to win, much as with Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit a few years later. Undertaker’s Old School (probably “middle aged school” at that point I guess) fails to deter Mankind, who comes back with strikes and turnbuckle shots, before a blind tag to Kane leads to the Deadman eating a chokeslam. It is, however, comparatively early in the match and the Big Red Monster does not go for the cover. As ‘Taker plays face in peril, the crowd calls for Austin. It’s classic tag psychology, and the four main eventers do it as well as any pair of seasoned tag teams. Austin is forced to break up the count after a double arm DDT from Mankind, but outside the ring, Kane gets in some cheap shots on the Deadman.
With Foley in the ring, you’re always guaranteed a high spot or two, and indeed his Mankind guise takes a table bump after being shoved right off the apron by Stone Cold. However, further beatings for Undertaker outside the ring are allowed to take place without the Rattlesnake bestirring himself, emphasising how Austin is prepared to let his Summerslam opponent take damage in advance of that event. An eventual hot tag sees the champ come in and wail on Mankind, and when Kane is tagged in, he gets the treatment too, including a vicious chair shot for a close two count. However, Kane turns things round with a hard Irish whip into the turnbuckle and begins to pound on Austin. Inevitably, the action spills outside, and Kane sets about wearing down the Rattlesnake. Again, it’s nothing ground breaking, but it’s good, old fashioned tag wrestling with an Attitude tinge and it’s a lot of fun.
Austin is very much the face in peril at this point, and the announcers speculate that ‘Taker is enjoying watching the Rattlesnake get dominated by the monsters tagging in and out of the ring, the idea being that Team Bearer is the more accomplished team, the team that are on the same page, unlike the dysfunctional thrown together babyfaces. Stone Cold proves unable to make the hot tag to the Deadman, who makes no effort to save his partner from Kane, and in fact, he only steps in the ring when Austin is trapped in the opposite corner, actively taking the referee’s attention away from Kane and Mankind’s illegal activities. There’s a definite tweener vibe to all of the Phenom’s behaviour in the contest at hand. Stone Cold gets a massive choke slam but is somehow able to escape the subsequent Tombstone and hit the Stunner on Kane. You know those accusations about John Cena in the present day? It might not be a popular opinion, but you can pin that type of thing on Steve Austin more than a few times during the Attitude Era.
Mankind gets the Stunner also when he runs in and all three men are down as ‘Taker looks on from the apron. Austin manages to crawl almost to his corner, but the Deadman does not look the least bit interested in the tag, and Kane has hold of the Rattlesnake’s leg. Then, just as you doubt the honesty of The Undertaker, he stretches his hand out for the tag and opens up on the heels, chokeslamming them both before Tombstoning Kane for the 1-2-3. This match was nothing out of the ordinary, just a very good tag bout in the main event slot featuring four men who would all be hanging around the gold as the summer months would wear on. Good booking, good match, and a creative way to use the talent involved.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Fully Loaded was actually a very consistent and solid event. The main event was unremarkable in an time where big things were happening most months in the title scene but the tag match was a nice twist and a way to keep the title on Austin. Whilst the match didn’t set the world on fire it was a fun encounter that kind of summed up what came before it. Plenty of decent midcard encounters that did more than enough to make you forget the couple of short dodgy tag matches. The show was well weighted and although not a classic, was definitely a decent event.
I’d agree unreservedly with most of that, particularly as pertaining to the tag match being a nice, creative way to keep Undertaker and Austin’s singles match as a fresh, marquee event for Summerslam, with the frenemies angle helping to keep the pot bubbling until they felt able to let it boil over into a hot feud. The show as a whole featured some great booking, particularly between DX and The Nation, which has been a wonderful feud to revisit. They always managed to get the interference and screwy tactics of both sides spot on, and all the encounters involving members of those stables delivered. Shame about the Bradshaw turning on Funk nonsense, but every show needs some filler. If we’re ticking off Attitude milestones, by the way, the Sable handprint “bikini” is another one that we’ve seen now. Certainly emblematic of the time period in every way you can think of.
Fully Loaded Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
MVP - TRIPLE H
With the main eventers all bodged together, it was a chance for the midcarders to really shine and take an MVP award. The Nation of Domination and Degeneration X definitely picked up the ball. The junior members of the group, D’Lo and X-Pac both delivered in their match and made good cameos as their bosses did battle but the MVP had to go to one of the faction leaders. The chemistry between Rock and Hunter was clear as they went half an hour but we have given the slight edge to the degenerate this time around.
It was a wonderful sign of things to come between Rocky and Trips, as they went half an hour in a match that was booked with real balls. You didn’t often see time limit draws by 1998, so to have the 2 out of 3 falls contest finish at 1 apiece was an ideal way to keep the feud going strong and protect both men. It was clear from every moment of the Raws preceding the event and from this match that these two men were the future of the company. What we perhaps didn’t realise then was just how quickly they would be reprising this feud in the headline position. Hunter wins out by a nose length (ha!) as his badass, rebellious babyface act was combined with some excellent bumping and a thrilling pursuit of the winning fall in the last couple of minutes of the match. We are pleased to award the once and future Game his third MVP award of the series!
THE ONE TO WATCH
The main event of Fully Loaded was a tag match between the four biggest stars on the roster at the time. This wasn’t a new concept for the company and it is one they have repeated many times since. Personally I think it is a refreshing change of pace and break from the idea that the title should be on the line at every PPV. It is something we were actually all desperate to see again in the aftermath of WrestleMania XXX. Whilst I was by no means disappointed in the double main event at Extreme Rules, like everybody else I found the idea of The Shield and Daniel Bryan vs Evolution and Kane in eight man action an intriguing one. Another idea the WWE resisted in the build up to last Sunday was putting the tag titles on Batista and Orton. It wasn’t an option that they resisted however in the build up to Fully Loaded. The hotshotting of titles was a big characteristic of the Attitude Era. It’s an idea that is generally frowned upon now, but with a ratings war going on, it was important to keep a feeling that anything could happen on a Monday night to draw the viewers in. A wider issue that the audience have is that it devalues the division if a team of thrown together singles superstars can go over a cohesive unit that is holding gold that says they are the best at what they do.
Most will say that doing something like this simply isn’t a good idea but in reality it is a much more complex beast with many shades of gray. There are times when a thrown together pairing of guys with higher profiles works brilliantly. A case in point would be WrestleMania 11. Owen Hart was at a loose end following his feud with his big bro and would challenge for the tag straps with a mystery partner who turned out to be former WWF champ Yokozuna. At the time an argument could be made against this first time pairing dispatching of The Smoking Gunns but history proved Owen and Yoko to be an excellent pairing. They’d hold onto the straps for half a year before dropping them back to the Gunns, which helped Billy and Bart’s legacy as a team. This isn’t the last instance of two guys at a high level making an excellent pairing. Jeri-Show and Hell No have been my two favourite examples in recent times. Both gave top level talents something interesting to do and raised the profile of the division as a whole.
The problem is that not every random top level pairing works out that way. Towards the end of Yoko and Owen’s reign they dropped the belts to Shawn Michaels and Diesel who were holding the IC and WWF titles respectively. There were a lot of shenanigans involved which saw the title change overturned the next night but it wasn’t the first time the two Kliq buddies had tasted tag gold together. They had a three month reign through the autumn of 1994 which ended with a breakup and a vacated title which essentially meant the whole division had to go through a reset with no team being put over. There are plenty of variations of tag teams like this. Sometimes they lead to fun short arcs. Sometimes they lead to “real” tag teams getting huge scalps. The teams often fall into the “strange bedfellows” category but the ones that wind me up the most is when they are on feuding title challengers… which is exactly where this particular arc is heading. The big question you have to ask though is what does it do for the division.
The New Age Outlaws had been a breath of fresh air for tag team wrestling since they were thrown together in 1997. They had built their brand brilliantly up until this point and going into Fully Loaded it looked as if they had just forsaken the titles to add a prop to the main event. As the event ended it looked like Mankind and Kane had just been used as a vehicle to get the belts onto Austin and Taker to play another round of reluctant champions. But the face value doesn’t tell the whole story. It had only been a few months since Foley had been a thorn in their side along with fellow hardcore legend Terry Funk. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie had even beaten them at Mania, so it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for Foley to do it again, albeit using a different face and a different partner. The fact that his partner was also a stablemate with Paul Bearer masterminding things also added credibility.
Then there was the segment on the PPV. The Outlaws were not booked to wrestle but they did interfere during the tag champs’ promo and they very much held their own in the brawl. They may have dropped their titles but they looked very much a match for Paul Bearer’s team. They went on to play a huge part in the battle for the tag team titles after Fully Loaded too, looking extremely competitive mixing it up with all four main eventers. On one hand you could argue that they were being passed over for the company wanting to use the belts as a prop for top level feuds. On the other hand you could say that The Outlaws and the division’s stock was being raised to new levels and they were certainly not whipping boys even in defeat. It’s a question that would continue to plague Billy and Roadie. The thrown together main event tag champions was a recurring situation during the Attitude Era as the DX stars would repeatedly find themselves taking the titles back from dysfunctional teams (usually comprising of Mick Foley and partner). But should we look at that as a positive part of their legacy or a negative one?
It was ever the fate of the New Age Outlaws to be instigators but to not taste the fruits of their own success in rescuing the tag division from relative obscurity. From late ‘97 to early ‘99, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn were must see, whether they were holding the belts or not. They had the charisma and mic skills covered through Roadie and the wrestling covered through The Bad Ass, and they were as natural as antagonists you wanted to see lose as they were as babyfaces that found any way to win. I’ve often wondered how things might have been if the Hardyz, Edge and Christian and the Dudley Boyz had come along a little earlier. Certainly we might have got some defining tag matches to remember the Outlaws by, whereas what we have left to us by them is a lot of PPV matches which are high on story and character, and low on grappling.
Then again, the Outlaws were always more than just a tag team. The fact that they were integral part of DX meant that you were just as likely to see them in six or eight man action against the likes of the Nation as you were to see them tagging straight up. In early ‘99, Billy and Roadie would both challenge for championship singles gold, and both would have a strong showing in that year’s Royal Rumble. Were they hurt by dropping the belts to thrown together teams? Certainly at the time, I hated it. Not just with the Outlaws, but with other “proper” tag teams as well. I remember being infuriated when Edge and Christian dropped the titles to Rock and Undertaker in December 2000. Having said that, Mankind and Kane’s stint as champs served a proper storyline purpose, and as Maz said in his analysis, they certainly did not look like chumps in losing them.
With the Outlaws, I think you have a guaranteed level of entertainment and engagement, whether they were holding gold or not. They certainly lacked credible opponents at times, so the thrown together teams were sometimes all that was available to them. Although there are times when the booking of the tag titles- in all eras- is the most frustrating thing about the show, somehow I think the very point of the Outlaws was to make tag wrestling as fun as possible and prove it could draw again. And that was what they did. So ultimately, the title changes they had to endure doesn’t substantially weaken their position in the pantheon of great tag teams, as least as far as I’m concerned.
Fully Loaded performed as strongly at the box office as the supposedly more illustrious King of the Ring, pulling in a 0.9. WWF were certainly well placed for their summer extravaganza and would be merrily promoting a monster card headlined by Stone Cold and The Undertaker, with able support from the midcard in Rock and Triple H’s famous ladder match. More on that next week, but there’s no denying how hot a creative streak WWF were on by this point.
WCW’s Bash at the Beach drew a huge 1.5 buyrate mainly thanks that mainstream exposure Vince is usually so quick to jump on. The main event saw Hollywood Hogan team with Dennis Rodman to defeat DDP and Karl Malone. Another change down south saw Goldberg working his first PPV as world champ which also would have brought in viewers. Even with Turner and Bischoff’s summer blockbuster being a huge success, WWF were riding a strong wave too heading into theirs. With plenty of feuds ready to reach boiling point, would SummerSlam be a critical and financial success for Vince? Find out next week in ATTITUDE!
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On tomorrow’s show we take a look at where the three main feuds in the WWE are heading.
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