‘Sup, Lords of Pain? I am finally well and truly over my Mania fever and my smark tendencies are starting to kick in again. I was not a big fan of this latest edition of Raw and whilst I am still looking forward to Extreme Rules, I think the emotional effort I have put into the product since around Money in the Bank last year might be starting to take its toll a little. Still, the thought of Evolution vs The Shield is most definitely keeping me going, and there is nothing like a journey back into wrestling past to get you going. So with that, let’s not waste any more time!
ATTITUDE! King of the Ring 1998 (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
May 1, 2014 - 3:51:50 PM
Mazza: When we started this series my mind immediately mapped out big events along the way that would be hallmarks of Attitude. They have been coming thick and fast in the last handful of columns. Today we get another marquee moment of the year to tackle and the funny thing is that I didn’t even see it coming. I have been so engrossed in Mick Foley’s work as the corporate stooge version of Dude Love, it was hard to think that he was about to revert back to Mankind and take two of the sickest bumps you will ever see.
Maverick: In many ways Mankind was the character most associated with Mick Foley’s WWF tenure; it was the “face” he played most often and the one that ultimately brought him WWF championship gold. That road started in earnest at King of the Ring ‘98. Elsewhere, a curveball had been thrown in Kane’s involvement in the title scene, but the story that was kicked off by that decision was more than strong enough to see the company all the way through the summer. So let’s see how that all unfolded as we take a more detailed look at...
The Event: King of the Ring
The Date: 28 June 1998
The Place: Pittsburgh Civic Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
The 06/01 edition of Monday Night Raw is perhaps one of the “lost” great editions of the longest running episodic television programme in history. The night after Over The Edge, WWF writers put in place complex, interlaced, multi-layered storylines which would see the company through to Summerslam and beyond, intelligent writing that I feel would be beyond the company nowadays. Dude Love kicked things off by citing his own incompetence in failing to get the job done against Austin and compromising the health of Mr McMahon. The Dude called out the boss to apologise and ask to be number one contender, but the chairman of the board effectively laughed in his face and called him a failure who should beg on his knees for forgiveness. Vince taunted Foley with a chair, asking him to make his day, before firing him, as all he did was “make him sick” whereas at least Austin made him richer. The segment ended with Vince dancing around to Dude Love’s music in cruel parody of his future employee.
One of the other primary antagonists from the previous evening, The Undertaker “starts from the beginning” in one hell of a fourth wall breaking promo that goes to show just how often WWF/E have gone down that road. Vince McMahon, once upon a time, was the kind of person who would give anybody an opportunity. He gave ‘Taker a job when no-one else would. However, once the Deadman’s loyalty was assured, he “became the slayer of the dragons”, with all the freaks and giants placed in front of him, the type of opponents he did not want his “hand picked champions” facing. It was only when The Undertaker had made Vince’s kingdom safe that he was allowed a shot at the belt, but those tenures never lasted long, because at the end of the day, The Phenom was not McMahon’s idea of a top guy. Even when his family tragedies were pimped out for ratings, the Deadman never “lost his smile” but now he demanded the opportunity due him, a shot at Austin’s title. McMahon’s response was to ask what Undertaker had done for him lately and to set up a Number One Contenders bout between the Phenom and his storyline brother Kane. During that match, Foley re-emerged as Mankind to interfere and cause Kane to win, putting him back in Paul Bearer’s stable and back in McMahon’s good books.
The next week, The Undertaker spent the entire episode kicking ass and taking names in a bid to get McMahon’s attention. Vader, Commissioner Slaughter, Mark Henry, nobody was safe from an amped up wrestler with a point to prove. The boss’ response was to call in a large division of cops to keep the Deadman away from his “Humanitarian of the Year” award presentation. In the event, Stone Cold ruined the ceremony, but was then ambushed by both Kane and Mankind, who sprang from a casket to drag Austin to hell. The talk in the kayfabe was that it was all a conspiracy by Vince, so the 06/15 edition began with Sable, McMahon’s newly hired corporate assistant, coming down to ringside to read a statement from the Chairman denying involvement in any plot against Stone Cold, blaming The Undertaker for Mankind and Kane’s assault on him. Austin came down to the ring to threaten McMahon, and ‘Taker himself came out to refute the accusation and was in the process of doing some threatening of his own when Paul Bearer brought his twisted proteges out to support Vince’s story and challenge the two babyfaces to a tag match...in the Hell in a Cell. Meanwhile, just to emphasise their monstrous nature, The Big Red Monster and Mankind entered the tag rumble held on the show and became number one contenders to the tag straps. The actual cell match never took place, since Bearer locked himself inside the cell as Mankind and Kane attacked Austin outside the ring. However, Undertaker appeared through the ring, as he often did around this time and set about bloodying his former manager. Kane attempted to find a way into the cage, but was unsuccessful, and ended up brawling with Austin on top of the cage.
The go home show featured Kane’s first ever “promo” though it is perhaps fruitless to call it that, since he only spoke a single line through a voice box. McMahon announced that Kane was challenging Austin to a “First Blood” match at King of the Ring, and the monster then told the crowd and viewers at home that he would set himself on fire if he did not get the job done. Paul Bearer, nursing his injuries, was shown watching this unfold at his home, but this backfired later in the episode when he was assaulted by Undertaker, which led to Kane going made backstage, with Mankind unable to calm him down. Speaking of Mankind, his constant interference in ‘Taker’s business led to them being booked to battle inside Hell in a Cell. This was appropriate in so many ways, as their feud in 1996 was the first to really show the Deadman’s range in the ring. To this day, Foley is The Phenom’s best opponent, in my view. Nobody at the time had the kind of win/loss record against ‘Taker that Mankind had. The final act of this intertwined foursome involved Austin being covered in fake blood in the middle of the ring, with Kane telling him disturbingly that it would be real come the pay-per-view.
In the midcard, the stories were just as compelling. Against the backdrop of the King of the Ring tournament, the feud between D-Generation X and the Nation of Domination kicked into high gear. A six man elimination tag on the Raw after Over The Edge started things, and more shenanigans were in store the next week, when a competitive qualifying match between X-Pac and Triple H was interrupted by Rock in the stands with a microphone, allowing Owen to sneak in from the other side to injure Pac on the barricade, leading to Trips getting the count out win to set up a match between himself and Rocky, where the Leader of the Nation got the tainted win with a low blow/fisherman’s suplex combination. Earlier in the 06/15 show, X-Pac had got his own back on Owen by chair-shotting him straight into Dan Severn’s submission hold. The two technicians were thus booked in a singles match for the PPV. Meanwhile, The Nation was still having problems with Ken Shamrock, who mowed down Kama and Mark Henry on the way to the semi-finals. He and Severn formed an uneasy alliance against The Nation’s sneak attacks as the build to the pay-per-view intensified. The tag champs, The New Age Outlaws, had quite the busy month, appearing in the six man at the beginning of the month, defending their titles against LOD and DOA in a hilarious match where Billy pinned Road Dogg to retain their titles, and then being fed to Mankind and Kane in singles matches that foreshadowed the two monsters’ eventual challenge to the titles. On the night of the King of the Ring event, the Outlaws were surprisingly booked in a title defence against The New Midnight Express...random.
So, a very involved build to King of the Ring, now let’s see what Maz made of...
The Headbangers and Taka Michinoku defeated Kaientai in 6:44
I have been looking forward to watching Kaientai again since Over the Edge and this time Taka has the Headbangers as his backup. After the fun last time out this was probably a good choice to curtain jerk. The action is quick here and we get lots of tags before Taka goes into a short face in peril routine. There is a hot tag, a bunch of chaos and a Michinoku Driver to Funaki gets the win. This was fun but a bit too quick to pick up any real traction. It’s almost as if they squeezed a longer match into a shorter time. Still not complaining. Seeing Taka and Kaientai is always a bonus.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
Sable comes down to the ring as the announcers discuss McMahon saving her from having to leave. She presents Mr McMahon and he comes down to ringside with the Stooges. They ask Sable to leave the ring and Pat Patterson amusingly cops a feel on the way out which gets him a slap (although I see no way a sexual harassment case would have stuck). Briscoe does a spot of trolling before Vince goes through the heel handbook to build up some heat (not that he needs to).
Ken Shamrock defeated Jeff Jarrett (With Tennessee Lee) in 5:29 in a King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Not only is there an “Ain’t He Gay” sign for Jarrett in the crowd but Lawler even references it. We’ve come a long way in the last fifteen years! Double J attacks as Shamrock enters the ring but The World’s Most Dangerous Man soon gets the upper hand. Jarrett’s experience swings things back in his favour but not for long. Shamrock, as usual, is intense as the action spills to the outside. Back in the ring, Tennessee Lee shows his worth by attacking Ken’s leg. Once again though Double J can’t sustain his dominance and a hurricanrana followed by an ankle lock has him tapping out immediately. Lee takes a belly-to-belly after the match. Cole interviews Shamrock as he leaves the ring. It was rubbish but short. The action was decent in the match but like the opener there wasn’t really any time for it to settle. It swayed too often and even the finish had Jarrett tapping before the move was even fully locked in.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
The Rock defeated Dan Severn in 4:25 in a King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Mark Henry and The Godfather (now fully embracing the name) accompany Rocky to ringside but are thrown out immediately. Dan Severn comes down and he looks the part as they show a clip of him tearing D’Lo’s pectoral muscle. That’s where it ends though. Whilst Rock didn’t have a CV full of five star classics, most of his matches had a level of entertainment. This was as dull as dishwater. Severn was just ridiculously bland, so much so that this four minute match seemed at least double. In fact, there are clearly pops for Maivia here. Both men spend a couple of minutes in charge but the action was slow and basic. It ends when Godfather and Henry return to make a distraction allowing D’Lo to sneak in and hit a frogsplash with the infamous chest protector that we would see a lot of in upcoming months. Let’s hope the final delivers a bit more than the semis.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Too Much defeated Al Snow & Head in 8:26
It is odd to see Too Cool in the early days. They were essentially fully in the gimmick that makes Scotty and Christopher loved until today but without the name and music that they are very much associated with. Al and Head cut a promo. They are a pairing that form part of the dark side of Attitude for me. I couldn’t get behind the gimmick at the time and that hasn’t changed. This is essentially already a handicap match and deck gets stacked even further as it is announced that Lawler will be the special referee. It’s bog standard handicap action for the most part with a lot of stalling and cheating from Too Much and The King until Snow makes the “hot tag” to Head. Al hits Taylor with a Snow Plough but Lawler walks away. Snow has Scotty beaten again, but King passes his boy a bottle of Head and Shoulder. The soon to be Grandmaster Sexay pops the shampoo in the mannequin head and makes the cover for the win. It’s things like this that make me prefer watching wrestling alone. Not an easy thing to explain away if someone catches you!
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
X-Pac (With Chyna) defeated Owen Hart in 8:30
Four years previously these two men wrestled in a KotR semi final match. It went less than four minutes but was excellent and action packed. They start off here trying to channel that as Pac attacks the moment Owen hits the ring. They are going longer this time so the pace slows but the action is still good. They fight on the outside and the DX man gets thrown over the timekeeper's table and onto the Spanish announce desk. Owen takes charge and soon locks in a sleeper hold. They lose a bit of momentum at this stage and Pac gets back into things and uses his speed. He hits a horrible looking Bronco Buster (Hart was way too low) and they fight on the top rope. Owen falls in the ring whilst Pac falls to the outside. Mark Henry runs down and hits a splash on Waltman before getting in Chyna’s face. Vader comes out of nowhere to fight off The World’s Strongest Man whilst Hart locks in the Sharpshooter in the ring. Chyna interferes though and hits the “Nugget” with a DDT giving her future adult movie co-star the victory. This could have been a classic if it went a tad longer. At the same time, it loses a bit due to a slow couple of minutes in the middle. Either way, a good effort here between two of the most solid midcard talents you will ever see.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Paul Bearer comes to the ring to cut a promo. He discusses Kane’s childhood and puts him over by saying he will win tonight.
The New Age Outlaws (With Chyna) defeated The New Midnight Express (With Jim Cornette) in 9:34 to retain the Tag Team Championship
Chyna is out again, this time with the tag champions. Roadie does his schtick before Billy’s former and future tag partners come out. We get a play up of the Smoking Gunns team early on as Billy and Bart come face to face. Interestingly they are still being billed as brothers, but I guess that makes sense as they both retain the Gunn surname. The action here is pretty standard NAO fare. They show off a little, Roadie plays the face in peril for a while and there is a hot tag to Mr Ass followed by a breakdown in the action. Cornette gets involved and hits Billy with the tag belt. Holly can only pull off a two count however and when The Express’ manager tries to interfere again, he is met by a low blow from Chyna. The Outlaws hang Bob up on the top rope with a hot shot to retain their titles. Pretty average action here. The Outlaws are more suited to built feuds rather than throwaway encounters.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¼
Ken Shamrock defeated The Rock in 14:09 to win the King of the Ring tournament
Triple H comes out to provide commentary during his final moments as king. He does a great job before the start of putting over the tournament, the competitors and even Stone Cold. The shovel was definitely left backstage. He is very entertaining on commentary and really playing up to the DX gimmick. The pick of his lines is “there’s a lot bi things I am, but lingual is not one of them”! The action in the ring goes through a feeling out process but Rocky finally gets distracted by Trips on the outside and they get in each other’s face. Shamrock capitalises however and the action continues outside the ring. An injury to the leg gets The Rock back in control and he slowly works over his opponent and sneaks in a chinlock of doom. A suplex eventually buys Shamrock some time as we head towards the finish. Both men come close to ending it before The World’s Most Dangerous Man hooks in the ankle lock and Rock taps out. This was a nice way to put the long running feud to bed. With Rock about to transition into a feud with Hunter, it made sense to give Shamrock the win even if Maivia would have completed a nice little run of three kings in a row after The Texas Rattlesnake and The Game.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
The Undertaker defeated Mankind in 17:00 in a Hell in a Cell Match
It really does feel strange reviewing this match. We have looked at classics and infamous matches so far in this series but this is the one match that almost every WWE fan knows inside out. Mankind immediately climbs the cell and Taker joins him on his entrance. We get a tease of what is to come as the cell slightly gives under their weight. No time is wasted before the Deadman throws the Deranged One off the cell and through the Spanish announce table. Referees, officials and doctors come out to check on Mick, including Vince himself. The cell is raised (with Taker still on it) to allow Mankind to get stretchered away but as he is going up the aisle, he gets off and heads back to the cell. He climbs up once more and The Phenom lands a chokeslam which sends poor Mick straight through the cell roof. Terry Funk runs in to check on him as the Deadman hits the ring. He chokeslams the hardcore legend to kill some time before going back to beating on Foley. Amazingly Mankind gets to throw in a bit of offence despite a tooth hanging from his nose. It doesn’t last long though. A couple of shots with the ring steps has Taker back in charge but somehow Mick still isn’t done. He gets a two count with a piledriver to a chair and comes close a couple more times before getting a bag of thumbtacks from under the ring. He lays them out on the canvas and locks in the Mandible Claw. The Deadman is almost out but stands up with Foley on his back and drops him onto the tacks. He follows it up with a chokeslam on the tacks and a Tombstone to end it. I had actually forgotten there was quite so much action after the two bumps. I tend to look back at the match as just the spots but that is unfair. Of course, something this epic can’t be fully explored in the match review but there will be more on this in the One To Watch.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****½
THE MAIN EVENT
Kane (With Paul Bearer) defeated Steve Austin in 15:58 in a First Blood Match to win the WWF Championship
The beginning of the bout is hot as you like here, no pun intended, and the two combatants show no sign of being intimidated by the insanity that preceded their match. Austin goes all out to finish the match early with belt shots and an exposed turnbuckle, but the action spills to the outside before he can take a decisive advantage. Mysteriously, and a bit ridiculously, the cell begins to descend again, which the announcers sell clumsily at best, and Stone Cold and Kane continue to beat on each other. It’s pretty much standard Attitude fare at this point, though certainly decent fun for what it is. Kane attempts to position the Rattlesnake so that the cage comes down on his head, and JR goes predictably mad as this struggle occurs.
With the cell lowered, we essentially get an unofficial cell match, with the Big Red Monster using the cage to batter Stone Cold’s head, looking to bust him open and get the victory. The stipulation makes the psychology of the match consistent, if nothing else; it’s all about the head shots. Just as Austin gets the advantage, the cell begins to rise again, with Kane balanced precariously on its frame. It’s pretty silly stuff that hasn’t aged all that well, but once they battle onto the ramp way, the action improves and there’s a sick suplex on the concrete by Kane. Vince is seen in his “luxury box” with Sable watching on in approval to show that he’s the Machiavellian genius behind all this, and as the camera cuts away, Austin and the Big Red Machine head back to the ring with the Texan attempting to use the exposed turnbuckle to bust Kane open to no avail, causing him to take his opponent around the ring on a foreign object tour of the outside area, something which was of course Austin’s forte.
A referee bump aids Kane’s comeback and he comes off the top with a sick flying clothesline, but gets caught cold the next time he tries it and Austin is on the offensive when Mankind makes his presence felt; outside interference is of course an integral part of the Attitude main event style and although Mankind eats a stunner, and Kane gets one moments later, The Undertaker then appears, chair in hand, and it’s his vicious chair shot that busts the Rattlesnake open. Moments later the referee is rolled back into the ring, and gets gasoline poured over his head to revive him. Kane takes his brother out with a chair, but the referee is not fully revived and Austin begins to take control again, despite the head wound that should have ended the match already. Kane is knocked silly by a huge chair shot, but Hebner comes to and waves for the bell. In his box, Vince laughs at his good fortune.
This was not a classic by any means, but it did a decent job of putting Kane over after he had (perhaps erroneously) been booked to lose to his storyline brother at consecutive pay-per-views in the spring. The action was fairly much standard Attitude fare, but the first blood stip didn’t work all that well, since Kane’s mask would have prevented anyone seeing his blood! Nevertheless, there were fun passages throughout and the closing five minutes was frenetic fun.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
I seem to end up saying this every week at the moment but once again King of the Ring falls into the “mixed bag” category. A lot of the shorter stuff was poor, particularly the tournament semi-finals which didn’t do a great job of hyping the final. The final delivered though and Rock had proved to be a good foil for the limited yet intense Shamrock. With Hart and Waltman also delivering, it helped the undercard well. The double main event was probably the most insane of the whole era. The cell match had more substance than you’d first think and whilst the title match was a bit silly at times, it was becoming par for the course at these events. Not the best event we have seen so far but plenty to take away from it including the iconic cell match.
Yes the event as a whole again delivered, pretty much, despite some dodgy offerings on show in the undercard. What I love the most about Attitude is the sheer cojones of the storytelling, and plenty of balls were up in the air here, including a main event foursome of Stone Cold, Kane, Mankind and Undertaker who would dominate the airwaves for the best part of the next three months, creating some truly compelling television. Similarly, the DX vs. Nation feud had some of the best creative a stable war has ever had. Throw in charismatic newcomers like Edge, Val Venis and Jazz and the Fed were in an increasingly secure place in their fight for dominance with WCW.
King of the Ring 98 Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
MVP - MANKIND
Mick Foley pockets his second consecutive award, and third overall, for taking the two most ludicrous bumps in pro wrestling history, and not only living to tell the tale but also carrying on with the match and getting in a fair degree of offense. The entire industry speaks of Foley’s night in June ‘98 in hushed, reverent tones, and quite rightly too. Nobody else could have pulled it off. Human highlight reel, indeed.
I have to say, what I find more impressive than anything else was his ability to interfere in the main event. I guess you could put finishing his match down to pure adrenaline, but going backstage, letting it all sink in and then coming back out with 100% conviction is mind boggling. He’d get MVP honours just for simply taking that first chokeslam off the cell and nothing else. The fact that he took another one, wrestled the match out and then made a main event cameo makes it a no-brainer. Congratulations Mick, I am sure there are more of these on the way for you but none will be more deserved.
THE ONE TO WATCH
In the first Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, Michaels took a bump off the side of the cell through the announce table to the famous sound of Lawler calling “incoming!” Who could have known at the time that Foley would not only trump that stunt but blow it out of the water entirely? A few days before the event, Foley confided in Terry Funk that he felt that he could take a bump off the roof of the structure itself after Funk had suggested it as a joke. The distance from the cell to the table, including the angle of the fall, was a whopping 22 feet. Even for a professional bump taker like Mick, it was an insane risk. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Hell, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like it to this day, apart from the second bump, that is. After miraculously climbing off the stretcher wheeling him to the back and staggering towards the ring, Foley scaled the cage and began to fight the Deadman atop it. In the Michaels match, ‘Taker had backdropped his opponent on the chain link roof. With Mankind, a choke slam was employed...and the cell gave way. This was not supposed to happen, unlike the first bump. The roof caved in and Foley’s 290 pounds flew with shocking velocity back first onto the mat; no soft landing there. He was legitimately knocked out; Terry Funk was first on the scene and has said since that he thought at first that Mick was dead. The first bump had dislocated his shoulder, the second shattered his jaw. He had a tooth tear through his nose. Remarkably, the match not only continued, but was wrestled in a competitive fashion, with Foley taking a couple more brutal bumps on thumb tacks for good measure. The entire thing just had such a surreal air of authenticity, since the injuries to Foley were very much real. JR and Lawler’s commentary was never better than that night, simply because of the sheer intensity of the moments they were witnessing on our behalf “GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY! THAT KILLED HIM! AS GOD IS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!” and “WILL SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH?!” are absolutely legendary calls for good reason, and they enhance the drama tenfold.
Mick certainly earned his “Hardcore Legend” moniker that night in Pittsburgh. Vince McMahon, speaking to him after the match, told him that he would never be able to repay him for what he had done for his company. Mick responded that he was very welcome. Vince then paused and said “don’t ever do that again!” although, of course, he would reprise the through the roof bump for his match with Triple H in February 2000. More important than the sheer visceral thrill of those absurd risks taken by Foley at King of the Ring though were perhaps the consequences they had for every young wrestler coming into the business looking to make an impact...
That’s right. Poor old Shawn Michaels had shown ridiculous amounts of innovation in the New Gen and early Attitude eras and in one night Foley had totally shattered the effect of HBK’s work. As Mav said, Michaels produced a spot that was likely to be immortalised forever on video packages just a few months earlier at Badd Blood. Foley’s two bumps here meant that “incoming” had a pretty short shelf life and it wouldn’t stop there. At King of the Ring, Mick opened up a Pandora’s box of insane stunts and although none of them probably topped the two on this night, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Both Foley and Taker would scale the steel structure once again before the era was over. Cactus Jack would emulate his alter ego, going through the cell in a moment which helped cement Triple H as a megastar whilst The Deadman would push Rikishi off the top and onto a truck later the same year in a moment which… well… didn’t do quite what it should have.
The spots that Mick pulled off at King of the Ring weren’t limited to influencing just cell matches either. Six guys looking to make a name for themselves in particular were probably sitting down taking notes. Edge had made his debut a week previously and Christian wouldn’t be too far behind. Matt and Jeff Hardy were initially signed with the company around this time whereas The Dudley’s were plying their trade in Paul Heyman’s ECW. It would be a year and a half until these three young teams would essentially invent TLC during the triangle ladder match at WrestleMania 2000 but their paths to that event showed a gradual building of spots using tables, ladders and chairs. Once again they would put Shawn Michael’s efforts with Razor Ramon into the shade. Although a positive for HBK would be that at least his ladder legacy was intact for years before it was trumped rather than months.
It is important to remember though that the triangle ladder match like King of the Ring, whilst highly influential, weren’t an overnight game changer. They were a crescendo in a style of wrestling that had been slowly creeping into the industry. We have already looked at the change in society which was mirrored in the Attitude era. The hardcore style of wrestling was catching on more and more. ECW had gained a following to place it as the third wrestling company in the States. The Monday Night Wars had led to both WWF and WCW using shock tactics to bring in viewers and they seemed to like the move towards hardcore. With that said however, it is no coincidence that the rise in the hardcore style in the WWF went alongside Foley joining the company. In the couple of year Mick had been with the company before King of the Ring, the ante had been slowly upped. Whilst Mrs Foley’s baby boy wasn’t always involved, he was never too far away from the more brutal action. There had been boiler room brawls, battles through the arena (inside and out), cage matches, dumpster matches, and most recently a match we called the most Attitude-esque we had seen in the series so far last week. It was almost inevitable that we were going to get a moment that many might see as going a little “too far” before long and it was just as inevitable that Mick would be right in the middle of it.
I think the events at King of the Ring were a bit of a shock to the system. Both the company and Foley seemed to hold back for a short while after that but not for long. There was a war to win after all and the sheer competitive nature of Mick and Vince meant they would soon be back to pushing the envelope once more. Many often point to Austin finally going to get neck surgery as the point where WWF were confident enough in their position in the Monday Night Wars to relax a little. You could also probably make a case for that moment being the time they finally let Mick retire. Although they really didn’t want that to happen…
Indeed as I said earlier, although Foley had been a superb upper-midcard talent able to slot in wherever required and get opponents over, his path to permanent fixture in the main event only truly began the moment he went through that table. More and more, the rewards associated with such risks began to outweigh the consequences. Think a flurry of unprotected chair shots in an I Quit match, think swantons off ladders in a TLC, think of any of the looney tunes spots of Shane McMahon in the early 2000s. The ante was constantly being upped and because these kind of spots were so universally loved as “holy shit” moments, they began to be used more and more, until any kind of traditional wrestling was very much kept to a minimum. Some believe that the consequence of this is that Attitude matches decline steeply in quality for the whole of 1999 before picking back up in 2000, but I think the most pressing issue is what it did to the talent. Jeff Hardy’s ongoing prescription painkillers issues, Edge’s premature retirement, Mick Foley being barely able to walk up a flight of stairs, the entire last three year’s of Christian’s career...these men paid a heavy price for the entertainment they gave us. Most of all, I think of one moment in one of the last pay-per-views we will review for this series, the Royal Rumble of 2001, when a Chris Benoit suicide dive was met by Chris Jericho swinging a chair like a baseball bat and timing the shot with brutal effectiveness. We all know what happened to the Rabid Wolverine six and a half years later.
Of course, we applaud men like Mick Foley for the risks they took in the name of our entertainment...but we should always be aware of the costs too. Thankfully for the performers, WWE now have a much better track record of looking after the health of their talent. But for a brief period of a few years, when there was a war to be won? I think those guys genuinely did what they thought was best for themselves, and the company they represented.
King Of The Ring is one of those pay-per-views which has gone down in history as a must see event, and rightfully so. On the night, the buy rate of 0.9 was an excellent result for the event which was the smallest part of a de-facto “Big Five”. The publicity generated by Mick Foley’s insane stunt spots alone would help WWF develop a reputation for being unmissable, no bad thing when the competition’s flagship show aired at the same time as Raw.
Meanwhile WCW drew a 0.75 buyrate with a clusterfuck sounding Great American Bash. A strong rating but outdone by their rivals up north. The worm had very much started to turn with the Austin era kicking in and WWF were consistently having the better (albeit slightly) Raw vs Nitro ratings since Stone Cold had become champion at Mania. The Rattlesnake dropping the title may have seemed like a mistake on face value but the ratings for the following night’s Raw would be huge. Bischoff was a long way from beaten however and would have a couple of aces up his sleeve for their big summer extravaganza. WWF’s would come later with SummerSlam but we’d have one more stop along the way before getting there as the interwinding stories of Austin, Taker, Kane and Mankind continued as did the constant game of oneupmanship between DX and the Nation.
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