‘Sup, Lords of Pain? So much for my promises about making sure we post on time from now on. I’ve got a pretty decent excuse but I won’t bore you with all the juicy details of my move. We’ve got some wrestling to talk about and this week Mav and I are swapping roles again. Like we are in the current day, we are also on the road to SummerSlam back in 1999 but there are a lot of angles heating up for the summer. So without further ado, let’s get on with this week’s...
ATTITUDE! King of the Ring 1999 (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
Aug 2, 2014 - 1:14:37 PM
Mazza: So last time out we put business to one side to honour Owen Hart. This week however the show must go on, and when it came to the main storyline in the build to and aftermath of Over the Edge, there was a whole lot of awesome going on. The Corporate Ministry led by The Undertaker and Shane McMahon were getting atomic heat following their abduction of Stephanie, a move that created an improbable face turn for Vince and an equally unimaginable alliance with Steve Austin. The Rock and The Union were also providing opposition to the huge Corporate Ministry but their leader, the Greater or Higher Power (depending on what week it is) had yet to be revealed. Finding out just who this evil mastermind was would be front and centre to WWF programming post-Raw is Owen.
Maverick: Everything in the storylines would be contingent on who this Higher Power was, but there was also the small matter of the actual King of the Ring to be settled. With the WWF midcard being so stacked, there were any number of potential winners, with Mr Ass, X Pac, Road Dogg, Chyna, Big Show, Shamrock, Kane and, erm, Hardcore Holly all making it to the quarter finals after winning first round matches on Heat. In the past, getting the rub of being named King of the Ring had led to a decent push, so it would be interesting to see who WWF had in mind for that “up and comer” position within the company. So, let’s see what happened before and during...
The Event: King of the Ring
The Date: 27 June 1999
The Place: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
The build up to King of the Ring was a strange one. The merger of the Corporation and the Ministry had made them an absolutely huge faction which had multiple storylines and feuds coming out of it. Despite that, only four members of the Corporate Ministry would be booked for the event. The eight person KOTR tournament took up most of the card at the event and with the main storyline taking up a huge chunk of TV time, there wasn’t much build for the midcard outside of the whole DX split.
The post-Raw is Owen edition of the WWF’s flagship show saw new champion, The Undertaker, lead out the Corporate Ministry. He says that they will sacrifice Stone Cold to the “Higher Power” to huge amounts of heat. Vince comes out to book a match between Austin and The Deadman and after some bickering with Shane, it is decided that Mr McMahon himself would fight ‘Taker first. Should Vince win, the title would be on the line in the main event but if he lost, Stone Cold would never get a title shot again. The Chairman is plucky in the match but is getting a beatdown when he gets lucky as The Deadman gets disqualified for striking the ref. This means that Austin gets a rematch for the title in main event which ends again in another DQ when the Corporate Ministry interfere. They tie the Bionic Redneck up and the show ends with the Higher Power coming out in robes and revealing his face to Austin (although the audience would have to wait another week). Meanwhile Triple H was also beginning to establish himself in the group. He would take Mankind out of action with help from Chyna in a Street Fight between the two and whilst the Rock made the save, it would keep Foley of TV for a bit. Shane’s interference also saw The Acolytes pick up the tag straps from Kane and X-Pac.
The next week the show would start with the Corporate Ministry and a hooded Greater Power in the ring. They tease that it is Shane until the Boy Wonder comes out. Mr McMahon gets on the Titantron to demand that they reveal themselves and the hood comes down to reveal Vince with one of the cheesiest demonic facial expressions (and most iconic in wrestling history) you will ever see. “It’s me Austin. It was me all along,” he gleefully exclaims but he is soon interrupted by a very upset but vengeful wife and daughter. Linda lets the world know that all four McMahons are equal shareholders and that she had a meeting with the board of directors earlier in the day. The long and short of it was that she had stepped down as CEO and named her replacement as Stone Cold! Austin books himself against Vince and Shane at King of the Ring whilst for that night he books the younger McMahon to go against Kane and X-Pac. He also books Triple H in a match with Rocky where The Game would have his leg in a cast as well as giving the Union members a match of their choosing. The handicap match sees Shane escape thanks to the Mean Street Posse. The Rock beats down on Hunter in their encounter until ‘Taker makes the save with a Tombstone. Test spices things up by asking Steph out on a date, much to the McMahons’ annoyance. Shamrock decides to take on the boss after weeks of manipulation whilst Show takes on the champion in the main event and chokeslams him through the ring before all hell breaks loose to end the show.
The next week sees Stone Cold at WWF HQ in a series of amusing vignettes throughout the show, getting the company to work in more of an “Austin” way. This gives Shane and Vince free reign over the show and they book their enemies in all kinds of strange gimmick matches to try and come up with the perfect stipulation for their match with the Rattlesnake. This includes the Stooges who remain face after Patterson berates Vince for what he did to Stephanie. The highlight of the stipulation matches is Shamrock beating Jeff Jarrett whilst in a straightjacket but Vince coming down to steal the key. Meanwhile The Rock challenges the Deadman for a title match at King of the Ring. Vince comes out and says that will only happen if he can beat the Phenom later that night, with a stip to be added just before it starts. Before that match happens, Vince settles on a gimmick for the KotR match. He and Shane will put their shares in a briefcase along with Austin’s and the winner will take all in a ladder match. The McMahons are chased off however by Shamrock (who has spent all evening trying to get out of the straightjacket) before they can announce the main event stip. Triple H comes out however and says that it will be a triple threat. The Brahma Bull wins with a Rock Bottom to The Game after some serious dissention between Hunter and Taker and the Corporate Ministry seems to be imploding after the match.
The “go home” starts where the previous episode left off, with Triple H calling out The Undertaker. Vince tries to smooth things out before Austin shows up. He accepts the ladder match on the condition that if anyone from the Corporate Ministry interferes, the McMahons will lose via disqualification. Vince disagrees and says it should be no holds barred. Thankfully Commissioner Michaels is in town and he books Austin against any member of Vince’s stable with the winner getting their way. Vince’s first choice is the Deadman but Shawn says he is already booked for the night. Shane goes with the Game but Shawn says it is Hunter who is booked against Taker. The McMahons get lucky on their third try with Bossman and Shawn makes himself ref for that match before booking Shane and Vince against the Stooges. Bossman would lose the match (which saw Vince take a nasty looking announce table bump) and would later get beaten down by the Corporate Ministry for his failings. Shamrock once again interferes by running Vince off but the Stooges take a beating at the hands of a growing Mean Street Posse anyway. The build to the title match saw Rock eat a Tombstone after defeating Edge but he returns the favour by causing a DQ in the main event with a Rock Bottom. Bossman runs off the interfering Ministry and Rocky ties Paul Bearer to a huge Brahma Bull symbol to end the show.
Elsewhere in the build to King of the Ring we had lots of titles change hand. The first saw Jeff Jarrett beat The Godfather for the Intercontinental strap which he dedicated to Owen. He was soon back to his heelish ways however and maintained a feud with Shamrock which Val Venis never seemed to far away from. He’d retain the title in a triple threat against Shamrock and Test on the go home show after Steve Blackman attacked The World’s Most Dangerous Man. Jarrett’s manager Debra would eventually drop her Women’s title to Ivory thanks to interference from Nicole Bass in a storyline I didn’t do a great job of following! The Acolytes held the tag titles from the post-Raw is Owen show but there was a bizarre turn of events on the go home show. They tagged with Mr Ass in a six man against Road Dogg, X-Pac and Kane and when Waltman asked them to put the titles on the line, Billy agreed. Gunn picked up the victory in the match and promptly left with one of the belts.
The relationship between DX members past and present was the main theme to the King of the Ring tournament. With the qualifiers happening on editions of Heat, we knew we’d see Road Dogg take on Chyna in the quarter finals and she was handing out low blows as if they were going out of fashion. She would start an informal alliance with Mr Ass against their former stablemates and they would be all up in each other’s business week to week. Meanwhile X-Pac’s relationship with Kane remained despite them dropping the titles. The most interesting example of this was when Waltman was booked against Big Show. He wanted the mismatch although Kane wanted to take his place. They ended up coming to blows but were best of friends again the next week in what was an early template for the success of the Hell No relationship. Finally we’d see a rivalry for the ages spring to life at the bottom of the card. A young pair of brothers named Jeff and Matt Hardy were being mentored by Michael Hayes and they would begin a feud with another young pair of brothers named Edge and Christian. Gangrel was shifting towards the managerial role in the Brood and the two young teams would get involved with each other until a number one contenders match was booked between them for King of the Ring. With so much on the agenda I guess it is time I hand you over to Maverick to look at...
We open the pay-per-view with a really awesome video package intercutting archive footage of dictators and world leaders with footage of the Higher Power storyline and Vince screwing his own family just to get to Austin, and the way that backfired on him as the month wore on. WWF went to that well a few times during Austin vs. McMahon; there was a similar one before Over The Edge ‘98. Great stuff.
X-Pac defeated Hardcore Holly in 2:58 in a KOTR Quarter Final Match
With these quarter final matches being given so little time, there’s not much of a feeling out process, and both men are straight into signature spots; X Pac misses the Bronco Buster early doors, but hits a sick crossbody with great hang time, while Holly, being the larger man, goes for aggressive power manoeuvres and strikes. However, X Pac is ever the opportunist and counters with his famed educated feet, dazing Hardcore to the point where he can nail the Bronco Buster to a big pop, which incenses Holly so much that he smashes the degenerate with a chair to get DQ-ed. What a stupid oaf! FU Hardcore! You chump! Oh, hang on. Guess it’s still real to me? Ahem. Not much to write home about given it came in under three minutes, but they did ok with the time, as generally the case with Waltman matches.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
Hardcore Holly cuts a truly abysmal promo warning Big Show that he hasn’t forgotten that the giant pushed a car on him. Well, a) no, I don’t suppose you would forget that experience and b) I dare say Show was quaking in his boots that the world’s jabroniest jabroni wanted to take him out! Absolutely quaking.
Kane defeated The Big Show in 6:29 in a KOTR Quarter Final Match
No messing about with this one as Kane beats Show to the punch, using his quickness to get the early advantage, until Show turns it around with his power, bull rushing the demon into one corner, then the opposite one, before running right over him in the centre of the ring. It’s good big man fare, and the Big Red Monster gets to show his legendary agility for a man his size by nailing an Owen-esque step up enziguri that had me marking the hell out in front of my laptop. Kane hangs Big Show up on the top rope and nails his signature flying clothesline off the top rope. A ref bump then prompts Kane to turn to the dark side a little by hitting a low blow allowing for a confusing Hardocore Holly run-in, where you would assume the Big Red Machine would allow him to take out Show, but instead, he chokeslams Hardcore, the chair he was carrying falling to the canvas. Kane locks an illegal choke in on Show, which almost puts the giant out for the count, but he bursts out of it, meaning that the Big Red Monster resorts to the steel chair, nailing Wight right in the skull. Conveniently, the official recovers just in time to count the three for the son of Bearer. Decent enough big man match with some odd Russo booking in the middle.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
Billy Gunn defeated Ken Shamrock in 3:53 in a KOTR Quarter Final Match
Shamrock had been injured earlier in the night on Heat in a cowardly kendo stick attack by Steve Blackman, who had randomly become a hitter for Vince. So of course Billy comes out to the ring to cut a promo on Shamrock being the “World’s Most Dangerous Horse’s Ass” and a dirty rotten coward, meaning that a fully provoked Shamrock decks his EMTs and comes striding to the ring, his mouth dripping blood from “internal bleeding”. It’s a great visual and the two men have a nice, short match, with Billy attacking the ribs but almost getting caught in the ankle lock due to his cocky attitude. Shamrock kind of Hulks Up and hits a crossbody and a pair of spinning heel kicks even while screaming in pain (this is one of the few occasions where Ken’s histrionics were justified by the storyline). However, Mr Ass counters an attempted head scissors with a powerbomb, causing the referee to wave the match up as Shamrock coughs a blood capsule up onto the canvas. Billy celebrates like he’s won the lottery as Ken gets carted off. Good storytelling for such a short bout.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
Trips and Chyna get interviewed in the locker room. Bad mic work from both of them to be honest. You can tell that Hunter is still growing into the “Game” character and hasn’t quite worked it out yet, while Chyna just talks about Road Dogg’s balls. Obviously.
Road Dogg defeated Chyna (With Triple H) in 13:14 in a KOTR Quarter Final Match
When you consider that the other quarter finals got less time than the average divas match on Raw, it seems odd that the bookers decided to lavish thirteen minutes on a match between a non-wrestler and a guy whose main job was being Billy Gunn’s mic presence for the previous two years. I almost fell asleep during the early stages, but I sort of woke up to find Chyna using nefarious tactics behind the ref’s back to knock Roadie down. They tell a story of the former Outlaw being reluctant to strike Chyna, and the amazon dominates the first half, with the D-O-double G reprising the face in peril role he played all the way through the New Age Outlaws’ run as top tag team. Triple H manages to get a few cheap shots in while the Ninth Wonder of the World distracts the referee, and a Road Dogg comeback is later aborted when Chyna catches him with a DDT. Chyna then mocks Roadie’s Shake, Rattle and Roll schtick to a decent amount of heat, before locking on a sleeper, which Road Dogg manages to reverse into one of his own, but the two competitors knock down the ref, allowing Hunter to once again come into play. He knocks Road Dogg silly with a chain and covers him with the prone form of Chyna, but when the official comes to his senses, the DX man kicks out. Commissioner Michaels then appears to remove Triple H from ringside, and this is the cue for the big comeback from the Dogg. Chyna tries to reverse the momentum by going for her patented low blow, but it turns out that Road Dogg was wearing a metal cup! With the Ninth Wonder of the World holding her busted hand, the degenerate hits the pump handle slam for the win. Boring, boring match with the balance of offense skewed far too much in the favour of Chyna. You can understand them giving this one time given the importance of these three in the build, but as an aesthetic spectacle it was rough going.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
In a promo that for sheer comedy genius might be up there with the best ever uttered, The Rock speaks in tongues to mock The Undertaker “ooh la la sa be da The Rock kicking your candy ass all over God’s green earth!”. Literally amazing.
The Hardy Boyz (With Michael Hayes) defeated Edge & Christian (With Gangrel) in 4:54 in a Number One Contenders Match
I imagine that there are fair amount of you marking out at the thought of these two teams finally coming together, and I’m right there with you. There wasn’t much of a story behind this one, but Gangrel and Michael Hayes acting as managers gave a bit of intrigue. In the early days of The Brood, it was typically Christian and Gangrel who formed the tag team, but the switch to Edge and Christian would create one of the truly iconic teams of all time. For The Hardys, they had come a long way from jobbing on Sunday Night Heat, and the association with P.S Hayes was a nice rub for them. Truthfully, the legendary chemistry between the young studs is evident right from this first match; the action is fast paced, the tags are quick, and the moves different to what we were seeing elsewhere on the roster in ‘99. Edge is undoubtedly the MVP of the match, hitting a series of spears like a man possessed, but Christian is on fire too, with that sick springboard crossbody to the outside we’d see so often in the future. The Hardys bust out a bunch of double team moves that would become signatures, including a Poetry In Motion that flies straight into an Edge spear off the middle rope. Sick stuff, and to think they were only just getting started. The Hardys get the win when Gangrel misses with the blood mist and it hits Edge rather than Jeff. In another sign of things to come, Jeff nails the Twist of Fate for the win. Great “maximise your minutes” type of affair here, with the only weird thing being the heel/heel dynamic, which the crowd didn’t seem able to compute.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
In a vaguely menacing interview, ‘Taker promises to “pull the horns off the bull”. Did the job.
Billy Gunn defeated Kane in 5:16 in a KOTR Semi Final Match
Kane wastes little time in beating Mr Ass into the corner. A trademark uppercut sends Billy reeling on the outside, and the Ass Man then goes flying into the steel steps. The Big Red Machine goes to use the steps to put an exclamation mark on the beating, but Gunn hits a picture perfect drop kick that sends the steel straight into the monster’s face. Billy then uses an illegal choke on the Big Red Monster, but dumb ass Teddy Long doesn’t notice. The big man can’t be held down for long though, and he surprises Gunn with a series of athletic drop kicks. At this point, a vengeful Big Show appears with a chair. For some reason, Billy provokes him, but it’s still Kane that gets the chair in the head, and the Ass Man gets the tainted victory to send him into the final. As with most of the tournament matches, it was fun while it lasted but too short to be anything substantial.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¼
X Pac gives a nice backstage interview where he sells his damaged neck and puts over his friendship with the Road Dogg.
Roadie then gives a similar interview, but takes the unique approach of taking Kevin Kelly’s mic off him in order to go straight into his trademark “oh you didn’t know?” entrance!
X-Pac defeated Road Dogg in 3:07 in a KOTR Semi Final Match
The match gets off to a hot start, with takedowns and slick counters; I’ve rarely seen Road Dogg move as well as this actually. X Pac misses a roundhouse kick and gets dropped by a right hand, but when Roadie whips the Kid into the ropes, he gets caught in the face by one of those educated feet. However, Pac once again misses the Bronco Buster for what seems like the hundredth time this tournament, setting up the pump handle slam, but it’s countered into the X Factor for the quick win. The two men embrace at the end, and Road Dogg applauds X Pac to the back in a show of good sportsmanship. Good chemistry between the DX members, but again, a very short match.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¾
The Undertaker (With Paul Bearer) defeated The Rock in 19:14 to retain the WWF Championship
As soon as the bell rings, the Deadman cheap shots the ref. It’s one of those little Attitude Era logic blind spots that somehow or other this doesn’t cause a disqualification. I suppose you’re meant to think that the ref couldn’t see who hit him, but still. ‘Taker turns around straight into a Rock Bottom, but of course there’s no referee to count the pin. A replacement official comes down at a sprint, but he gets taken out by Paul Bearer! Still no DQ called, by the way...the original ref wakes up in time for The Undertaker to hit a choke slam on Rocky, but the challenger kicks out. Quite the eventful opening there, and certainly you can see here an obvious difference to the title matches we’ve seen up to now. No matter how much brawling and outside stuff there was going on in previous matches, they actually followed a fairly traditional structure, but with an edge. This is the first title bout we’ve seen where the detractors of Attitude would seriously have a point about the excesses of the period.
Following the drama of the first few minutes, we then get the obligatory arena-wide brawl, as Rock lays the smack down right over the top rope to spark that section of the contest. Rocky gets thrown into the steel barricade, choked and suplexed onto the concrete. ‘Taker puts the Brahma Bull back into the ring and goes for Old School but gets crotched on the top rope. The Great One spits water straight into the Deadman’s face and shoves him right off the apron. There’s great energy to this section of the bout and the crowd are wild for the pace of the action. Rock follows up by clotheslining the Phenom over the barricade, prompting a second wild brawl of the match, this time all the way through the crowd, following which the Deadman goes into the steel steps and the ring bell, but strangely enough, this goes in Undertaker’s favour in the end as he uses the bell to counter a chair shot, sending the steel into the challenger’s face. As ‘Taker climbs back into the ring, Paul Bearer uses a shoe to beat on The Rock, much to JR’s chagrin.
However, Rocky cannot be held down for long, and he counters a period of Deadman dominance with a signature Samoan drop, but following that big move, a double clothesline puts both men on the mat. Rock’s right hands give him the advantage after they beat the referee’s count, but this doesn’t stop The Undertaker going for the Tombstone; sadly for him that attempt ends in the Brahma Bull countering into a DDT. Very slick work from both men there. Rocky hits the People’s Elbow, but once again, the official is down and to add to the problems facing the Great One, Paul Bearer is pouring ether on a rag! However, it is The Rock that manages to get the foreign object, and he uses it on ‘Taker, but before he can cover the Deadman, there’s a Triple H run in, and a Pedigree seems to have secured the victory for the champion, but Rock dramatically kicks out. Soon after though, a Tombstone does secure the victory for The Undertaker. That was an odd finish- I really felt that the Trips run in should have been the decisive intervention. Having Rock kick out only for him to get Tombstoned moments later seemed like a redundant piece of booking. This one was entertaining as hell, but also full of logic holes and “Attitude” moments of the less complimentary kind.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
Billy cuts a promo backstage saying that he’s about to go straight for X Pac’s “scrawny neck”. He also has FOUR words for us: “kiss my royal ass!” One of the best bits of mic work I’ve seen from the Ass Man.
Billy Gunn defeated X-Pac in 5:35 to become King of the Ring
This one starts off with great intensity, with X Pac really nailing some high octane offense, encompassing a tremendous crossbody over the top rope to the floor and then another one off the top rope into the ring. When you watch Waltman around this time, you see an athlete at the absolute peak of his powers, and the same goes for Billy, who catches the Kid with a bulldog off a criss cross- really nice old school spot that one. Mr Ass works over the neck after that, as promised, and also hits a gorgeous power slam when X Pac briefly escapes to run the ropes. Billy follows up with the Fame Asser, but thrillingly, the Kid kicks out! The cruiserweight gets his second wind and kicks Gunn all the way into the corner and then gets the Bronco Buster. Billy catches Pac with a neckbreaker and goes up to the top but he gets crotched by a Waltman drop kick. The Kid goes for a suplex but Billy is too strong and shoves him off the ropes to set up a top rope Fame Asser to get the win and the King of the Ring crown. Very hot, short match with some great high spots and selling. Again though, the short length was a limiting factor in terms of the star rating.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
Billy cuts a backstage interview emphasising the fact that he won’t be allowing any more partners to ride his coat tails. Poor Roadie.
THE MAIN EVENT
Vince & Shane McMahon defeated Steve Austin in 17:09 in a Handicap Ladder Match for control of the WWF
The whole swerve of the Higher Power storyline is one of the most infamous in pro-wrestling history. Some love it, some hate it and it is one we will talk about a bit more in today’s One To Watch. Whichever side of the fence you fall on it though it produced some absolutely compelling television. That said, the whole “Austin is CEO” aspect of things didn’t get much time to breathe before this match was booked. Still the WWF managed to give it a lot of screen time in just a couple of weeks, including what actually happened on the night. Shane got beaten up by Ken Shamrock on Heat and supposedly couldn’t compete. Vince had Triple H ready to be surrogate son (ah the foreshadowing) until Commissioner Shawn had his former best bud kicked out of the arena following his interference in the title match. Plan C ‘99 was not quite Brock Lesnar levels of awesome and after Vince comes out he brings Steve Blackman to the ring as Shane’s replacement. As the Lethal Weapon hits the ring however we get a GTV (a hidden camera gimmick that would disappear as quickly as it showed up) video which showed The Boy Wonder and the Mean Street Posse backstage bragging how they got one over on HBK. When they realise they’ve been rumbled, they try to leave the arena but Shawn stops them and brings the younger McMahon to the ring.
Father and son strategise in the aisle and eventually head towards the ladders but the Rattlesnake attacks from behind and we are officially underway. Austin brings his adversaries back to the ring and the McMahons take turns in getting an ass whooping. The numbers game briefly gives Shane and Vince the advantage but they are soon on the receiving end of a beating again around the stage. Shane O climbs a structure of ladders and taunts Stone Cold who is more than happy to climb it himself to get his hands on his arch nemesis’ son. The structure soon totally collapses as Austin pulls it down on top of his foes. He takes one of the ladders to the ring to retrieve the briefcase but the McMahon never say die attitude comes to the fore as they both follow him.
It was probably not the best idea for the non-wrestlers and Stone Cold soon climbs a ladder to send Shane through the Spanish announce table with an elbow. It’s the Rattlesnake who soon takes a ride however when The Chairman pushes him off a ladder and onto the English announce table (which he bounces off). This give Vinnie Mac the chance to set up a ladder to climb for glory. He has his fingertips on the case when Austin recovers to give him a low blow. Shane hits the ring again but it is can of whoopass time once more. The younger McMahon takes a slingshot into a ladder before Stone Cold stomps it into his chest. He goes for the title but once again gets pushed off the ladder by Vince. The McMahons amusingly try ways to retrieve the briefcase without a ladder including daddy giving his boy a boost and sitting him on his shoulders. It is all in vain however as the Bionic Redneck is on top again. He has the match in the bag and finally has free reign to climb but when he gets near the briefcase it is pulled up and out of reach. Austin tries to find out what is going on as Vince climbs. Stone Cold joins him on the ladder but as they fight, Shane pushes it over. He quickly sets the ladder back up again and the briefcase is lowered as he climbs to victory. The McMahons give their enemy the finger and run off whilst Austin just looks pissed.
I can’t help but feel they rushed this section of the storyline along a little too much. It’s a part of the Austin vs McMahon feud I always remember fondly and I was a tad shocked going back to see how quickly it played out. You certainly can’t say it wasn’t memorable however. It’s not an accusation you could level at the match either. The vision of the briefcase being raised is one that had strangely been exaggerated in my head over the years. In my mind it happened multiple times throughout the match and I find it interesting that my brain processed it that way over time. I didn’t have much of a memory of how I saw the quality of this one but it was definitely good. Vince and Shane’s dedication to their craft saw them bumping like Curt Hennig throughout the match. Whilst a couple of teams who had their first PPV meeting earlier on the card would soon redefine ladder match spots, the McMahons were as happy to take bumps off and with ladder as anybody else who had been in a WWF version of the gimmick. Once again the brawling style suited Stone Cold who was still protecting his injured neck and would soon be off to get it sorted. Despite the praise, a guy who is not at 100% taking on two part-timers will have a ceiling in terms of in-ring quality. They did well to push that as high as they could but once again the in-ring storytelling was excellent. A good job all round and another PPV that ended with you dying to tune into Raw to see just what would happen next.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Well here we are again with a pay-per-view with very few strong matches but with a very high entertainment factor nonetheless. I always have been a sucker for a tournament and the King of the Ring PPV was always one of my favourites. In fact, I would absolutely love to have it make a return. It was always a good way to elevate a midcarder in a more subtle and less risky way than, say, Money In The Bank does today. King Kennedy, for example, would have worked much better than the lame duck briefcase run that ended with Edge taking it off him. The other interesting thing about this ‘99 edition of King of the Ring was how the trend of matches being overbooked seems to rear its head properly for the first time in the title match and the main event. Before June ‘99, Attitude stayed on the right side of credibility. Here, it starts to surf towards the wrong side a bit up to the end of that calendar year.
Maverick and I have been generally on the same page for all of this series so far. This is probably the first PPV where we have seen things a little differently. I was not a fan of this event. Well, not so much the event but the tournament. In general I am very pro-tourney and having at least three rounds on the night but not when it is done this poorly. The prestige of the crown was hardly touched on in the build to the event and even on the night itself. The matches, with the exception of Chyna vs Road Dogg, felt rushed and the whole tournament felt like some kind of obligation the company didn’t really want to be spending time on. I think they would have been better served keeping the tournament as just two rounds with it being fully focussed on the DX split (James, Gunn, Chyna and Pac as the semi-finalists) in a similar way to how they would go onto do the 2001 edition of the event with Team RECK.
King of the Ring 1999 Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
MVP - STEVE AUSTIN
It might shock those of you reading one of these for the first time or indeed long time readers, but this is actually only the third MVP award that the era’s biggest star has picked up in our series. One reason for that is that much of his strongest work in the ring took place from mid-96 to mid -97, and in the mid ‘97 phase, with the likes of Owen and Bret were on fire. When Austin got his run atop the company, his opponents, particularly Foley, were knocking it out of the park. Add in a hungry midcard roster involving the likes of Triple H and The Rock and the lack of MVP awards for Austin become more understandable. If we were handing out Raw MVP awards, I think Austin would win 8 times out of 10, but PPV is by necessity a different set of criteria. However, his work here with two non-wrestlers was outstanding, and Austin’s greatest strength, the ability to hold an arena crowd in the palm of his hand, was very much in evidence. Storytelling, brave bumping despite a bad neck, and off the charts charisma. You earned this one Stone Cold!
Of course another reason Austin hasn’t dominated here is his neck injury from the summer of ‘97. His adjusted style, whilst still getting crowds to pop, was not quite as pleasing on the eye of the smarks and it certainly cost him a few MVP awards from me and Mav. Of course he will come back from surgery in 2000 on the top of his game once more but will have some fresh hungry and talented competition for the awards then. As for this night, as Mav said, his work with not just one, but two non-wrestlers spoke for itself. He made Shane and Vince look out of their league but very much a threat at the same time which was exactly what was needed for the story being told. It may not be regarded as a highly important part of Austin’s career like King of the Ring was three years previously, but it is still an extremely memorable night in the story of Stone Cold and one where he brought everything he had to the table.
THE ONE TO WATCH
This week we take a look at the Higher Power storyline and the creation of the Corporate Ministry, which seems to say so much about what the middle part of the Attitude Era was all about. Obviously, WWF had struck gold in 1998 by matching Steve Austin against Vince McMahon in an employee vs. boss scenario that allowed thousands of ordinary Americans to live vicariously through the Rattlesnake. With that storyline running all the way from the night after Wrestlemania XIV to Wrestlemania XV, it seems equally obvious that they needed to mix things up to keep the pairing fresh. Enter The Undertaker. When the Attitude Era began, ‘Taker began to open up and behave more like “other” wrestlers in the sense that most of the “Phenom” traits were replaced by a kick ass, name taking big man whose promos were much more personal than they used to be. Therefore, by the time of the heel turn in the Autumn of ‘98, the Deadman very much felt relevant again, and had several title matches against Austin that also involved his “brother” Kane. After the title vacation and the triumph and turn of The Rock, ‘Taker formed the Ministry of Darkness through December and January and eventually targeted Mr McMahon in a heel/heel face off.
The early days of the storyline were superb. Vince was brought to his knees as messages were sent to him, teddy bears were burnt and the Ministry visited his house. It became clear leading up to Backlash that it was Vince’s daughter Stephanie who was the target of the Ministry, and she was of course kidnapped at the end of that event. It seemed that Vince and Austin had joined forces and that the chairman had turned face...but of course, this was the era of Russo. The infamous Attitude Era writer has been in the spotlight over the past few days for all the wrong reasons, and indeed you might argue that he has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for the past decade and a half, but we can’t ignore his influence on 1999. The primary Russo tactic was the swerve, the dramatic reveal of a story not being what you thought it was. This worked brilliantly at Deadly Game with the crowning of The Rock as Corporate Champion, and now they tried the same trick with the Ministry. The “Higher Power” that ‘Taker had been answering to in terrorising the WWF turned out to be none other than Vince himself. He and Shane had been working against Austin all along, using the cover of the Ministry to do so. He of the giant grapefruits had sacrificed his own daughter just to screw Steve Austin.
As Maz mentioned earlier, the merging of the only two major factions left created a massive and unwieldy stable, as well as a whole new chapter in the Austin vs. McMahon saga. The question is, I suppose, did the Corporate Ministry storyline go too far with the screwy booking and the twists and turns? And what does it tell us about the way Attitude had changed since its inception in 1997?
Well I think it could well be the one storyline people most associate with the era. People who are not so keen on Attitude will use it as an example of the ridiculousness of some of the booking. I can understand that. I mean I can only imagine the amount of money that Vince would have had to spend on therapy for Steph in the aftermath of the abduction, even if he was certain she wouldn’t get hurt. He also put himself through a whole bunch of beatdowns in the name of getting one over on his nemesis. At face value it might seem like bizarre, on-the-fly type of booking but despite the odd plot hole here and there, the whole revelation of Vince being behind the angle all along made a lot of sense. More importantly however, it gave the Austin-McMahon feud some more time. The whole idea of them teaming up was insane but it was built to brilliantly and the swerve just meant business as normal. As I said earlier, I thought they could have milked the whole Stone Cold is CEO sub plot a bit more but nothing is perfect. More importantly however, the Corporate Ministry and Higher Power storyline gave Shane a level of heat that had previously been reserved for his dad, made Vince even more hated than he was previously and was the height of The Undertaker’s evilness as a heel throughout his extraordinary career.
As for Mav’s question about how Attitude had changed since 1997, that is trickier. The easy way to define it would be an improvement in storylines at the expense of in-ring quality. Whilst that is probably a true statement, it also feeds into certain misconceptions of the era. We were getting very good storytelling in 1996 and 1997 and still getting good wrestling in 1999. The “Attitude style” was a lot more prevalent in the main event however and it was becoming a rarity to see a big time match that wasn’t very heavy on the brawling. I think that ties into what WWF were doing so right in 1999 and what WCW were doing so wrong. Vince had seemed to have developed a knack to understand exactly what his audience wanted. This is what he had struggled with so much during the New Generation era. It started to click in 1997 but by 1999 he was totally in tune with things. Sure he was still making mistakes, but he would quickly drop things that didn’t seem to be getting over. Beaver Cleavage is a great example of this. The character certainly deserves its place in the annals of wrestlecrap. It was Headbanger Mosh repackaged in a bizarre gimmick where he appeared to be in an incestuous relationship with his mother. It was dropped almost as quickly as it started however with Mosh breaking character in an interview. What was working was pretty much everything at the top of the card. Whilst not all of it was a critical success in the eyes of the smarks out there, the week to week reaction that every high profile storyline and main event player received was out of this world. Throw on any show in 1999 and you can pretty much guarantee the crowd would be losing their minds at some point, and they did not need questionable “this is awesome” chants to prove it.
Yeah in truth the clichés about Attitude being a load of brawling and plot holes have always sat poorly with me. The thing is, sitting back and watching all those episodes of Raw back to back, every single one feeds into the next in a must see fashion, with very little fat. The swerves are still under control at this point, and the heat at the top of the card, be it in the title scene or in the special attraction section, is just immense. The thing is, the ratings were huge and the live audiences were going wild, so why would McMahon and his team change the formula that was working so well? Probably the only thing that I would critique about the “Attitude style” in this pay-per-view was the amount of run-ins, some of which were flat out bizarre, but even then, the crowd always popped for them, so who are we to say they were a bad idea? The fact is, Attitude possessed a combination of good wrestling and great storylines throughout its duration. That’s why it’s the greatest era in the history of wrestling.
Despite the awful publicity the company had to suffer in the wake of the Owen Hart tragedy, King of the Ring ‘99 still drew a very respectable 1.1 rating, showing that the Higher Power storyline and the creation of the Corporate Ministry had viewers hooked. This was a company with absolute confidence in its product, and they were heading towards the summer and their second biggest show of the year, but not before a minor PPV stop on the way in the form of Fully Loaded, which would feature some, um, “interesting” stipulations.
Meanwhile WCW were starting to fade away. The Great American Bash drew a terrible 0.43 buyrate and the company was looking in serious trouble. Sure King of the Ring was almost on the level of the big four for the WWF but the previous June they only eked out a small victory whereas this time around the buyrate was more than doubled. A quick look at the card showed why they were in trouble. I have often looked back at the match lists for these WCW PPVs and think “that looks interesting” when certain encounters come up. This has been becoming very few and far between over the last few weeks and even as a huge Randy Savage fan I don’t have much interest in seeing him take on Kevin Nash in the main event. Even so, this was no time for the WWF to let up and there would be plenty more to come at Fully Loaded as they headed towards their big summer showpiece.
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 boys discuss TNA, Paul Heyman and a few of the feuds that are building towards a conclusion at SummerSlam.
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