‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Can you smell that? Yep, that’s the festival of football that will be taking over my life for the next month. Still, got to find a bit of time for wrestling, particularly with the promise of a new champion being crowned at Money in the Bank. It’s a damn shame for Daniel Bryan but the most important thing is that he recovers and can come back as strong as ever. Hopefully we are looking at a place holder champion at this point and whilst I know that a lot of people will hate this, that is exactly what John Cena or Randy Orton will do better than anyone at this point. But I’m not here to get into that can of worms. There’s a big enough can from back at the end of 1998...
ATTITUDE! Rock Bottom: In Your House (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
Jun 12, 2014 - 4:22:35 PM
Maverick: The coronation of The Rock as Vince McMahon’s Corporate Champion meant that the next pay-per-view on the In Your House schedule would be named after him, foreshadowing the eventual creation of Smackdown! as a secondary TV show on a Thursday night. Rock Bottom: In Your House promised a fascinating build, with Austin branching off to finish his business with The Undertaker, with implications for the Rumble, whilst the new champion would have to deal with a deranged, confused and hurting Mankind, who would become a massive babyface draw in the aftermath of Survivor Series: Deadly Game.
Mazza: Yep, the semi-finalists from Deadly Game would be front and centre at Rock Bottom. Meanwhile Vince and Shane would be looking to branch out following the creation of the Corporate Champion. Degeneration X would find themselves in opposition to “the man” at the top of the midcard. The rest of the card would see normal order resumed following the tournament heavy Survivor Series with a lot of fresh feuds on the books.
The Event: Rock Bottom
The Date: 13 December 1998
The Place: General Motors Place, Vancouver, British Columbia
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
With Survivor Series having ended on such a shocking note, the Monday Night Raw that followed was absolutely must see. It began of course with Vince McMahon, his son, Patterson, Brisco and Slaughter coming out to the ring to address the crowd. Vince noted that a smart man kisses the boss’ ass instead of doing things the hard way and introduced The Rock. Intriguingly, the new champion cut a promo that referenced his days of Rocky Maivia, and how he had never, ever forgotten the chants of “die Rocky die” that followed him around then, and the People would never forget either as he raised the Corporate Eyebrow and dropped The Corporate Elbow in the Corporate Ring. He went on to say that he didn’t sell out, he got ahead, going on to call the crowd “worthless trailer park trash”. It was really magnificent heel work and showed great evolution of the heel he had played until the end of August. He had turned from an arrogant jock to an entitled sell out, and it worked just as well.
McMahon then turned the spotlight back on himself, bragging about the conspiracy he had successfully executed. Showing three weeks of footage from the build to Survivor Series, he revealed how each stage of the plan was acted out. This was important in establishing that this was no random swerve for swerve’s sake, and all potential plot holes were filled in for our benefit. We were shown Shane hiring Austin back to the company and gaining his trust, Rock lying prone after being “assaulted” in the dressing room, Mankind’s makeover, Shane counting the three for Rock at the end of the vital match with Henry and Vince taking a Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow on the go-home show. Rock, Vince and Shane all showed off about how taken in by everything the fans were and how great their acting was. Again, it was heel work of the first order. The next stage of the conspiracy was illustrated by showing the screwing of Austin in the semi-final bout with Mankind where Shane refused to count. However, this brought the Rattlesnake himself out to the ring, mic in hand, with his first words being “if you think The Rock is a sorry son of a bitch gimme a hell yeah!” to a massive response, and after flipping off the entirety of the nascent Corporation, he revealed that the contract Shane had given him earlier in the storyline was still legally binding, and the condition that he would receive a one on one title shot was not satisfied by his entry into Deadly Game. When McMahon protested that was not true, Austin rolled footage of a local judge confirming that Stone Cold had to receive a title shot that very evening! Overall, one of the best opening segments in Raw history.
Indeed, for the duration of the first Raw after Deadly Game, the pieces of the puzzle were still very much connected as they had been since Summerslam. By Rock Bottom, everything would be neatly separated into component feuds again, but first there was one last night of most of the top echelon of the roster being in each others’ business. Mankind’s arrival at the arena prompted a strategy meeting between Vince and his stooges, and Pat Patterson drew the short straw as he was sent to deal with Mankind. Sadly for Vince, Pat proved useless in finding Mankind, claiming that he couldn’t find him, much to Jim Ross’ amusement, noting that McMahon had a “real crack staff” in his employment. Vince, convinced that Mick would be in the boiler room, sent Gerry Brisco down there, who returned with the news that there were “weird noises” and he was too afraid to go down there. Finally, after Slaughter failed to bring Mankind to Vince too, all three stooges ended up entering the boiler room wearing protective football gear, only to all get taken out by a distressed Mankind. It was fantastic comedy and showed the worth of the stooges, who are a very underrated element of the era.
Meanwhile, the Big Bossman’s interference in Ken Shamrock’s quarter final with The Rock had enraged the World’s Most Dangerous Man, who called out Bossman for an impromptu Intercontinental Title match which was very entertaining until it ended in a double DQ. Vince appeared at the end and announced that he could use a man like Ken, saying that they were much the same. They both came from broken homes and had to scratch and claw for everything they got. Vince could offer him a family, if he wanted it. It was an absolutely magnetic promo from the boss, one of his very best in my view, all the more so because no one really remembers it as such (Maverick hipster moment). Vince’s assertion that every Corporation needs a dangerous man led Shamrock to shake McMahon’s hand and then Bossman’s. Bar the recruitment of Test, which was coming in the weeks before the Rumble, the Corporation stable was complete. The new Team Corporate came out to the ring before the evening’s main event between Austin and The Rock, with Vince stating how unhappy with this shot of the Rattlesnake’s, saying it would be his last shot. During a brief but hot TV match between the two biggest stars of the Attitude Era, Mankind appeared, trying to get to Vince, but the enforcers, Shamrock and Bossman, took him out. Austin hit the Stunner on Rocky, but Shamrock pulled him out of the ring, after a mass brawl, Austin got back in the ring to finish the Corporate Champ off, but out of nowhere, The Undertaker, who we must remember had been denied the WWF Title by Austin at Judgment Day and had feuded with The Rattlesnake pretty much since June, appeared out of nowhere with a shovel (yep) and knocked Austin silly. The delighted Team Corporate escaped as Raw went off the air.
From here, the feuds are easier to discern as individual entities. McMahon of course denied responsibility for the attack on Austin, who, it was revealed, had “collapsed” at a house show to sell the effects of the shovel to the skull. In a reverse of fortunes, Stone Cold found himself in hospital, where he was interviewed over the tron by JR. It transpired that Austin and the Deadman had been booked in a Buried Alive match, with the added stipulation that the Rattlesnake would not be allowed to enter the Royal Rumble if he lost. Austin, however, made it clear that ‘Taker wouldn’t make it to the PPV if he got ahold of him before then. In a dramatic reversal of fortunes from when he was attacking Vince in the hospital, Austin was assaulted by Undertaker and Paul Bearer in his bed, sedated, and kidnapped in a hearse. He was driven to a graveyard where there were several empty plots, but in the end the dastardly duo decided that they had an even better idea. In another bizarre piece of Attitude Era shock television, they took Stone Cold to an empty funeral home, where Paul Bearer prepared to embalm Austin alive. Undertaker, speaking in tongues (yes, really), prepared to plunge the embalming instrument into Austin, and he was only prevented by the sudden appearance of Kane, who knocked out Bearer with an uppercut and brawled off into the funeral home with his brother, allowing a groggy Austin to escape unscathed.
The next week saw the return of Austin to Monday Night Raw and he was not in a good mood. He stunned both Headbangers to open the show and got on the mic to say that ‘Taker would be wearing a shovel before the night was out in a segment that thrilled fans in attendance. The rest of the night became a game of cat and mouse, as Stone Cold looked to wreak vengeance upon the Deadman. The Rattlesnake found himself locked in a meat chiller by the diabolical duo, allowing The Phenom to head to the ring and call out Kane for an unsanctioned match, which ended in a non finish when medical orderlies in white coats arrived and tried to capture Kane. Bearer took it upon himself to help lead said healthcare professionals to the Big Red Machine later in the broadcast, whereupon it seemed that his kayfabe son was captured and taken away, but also found that Austin had escaped from his chilly prison and was back on the loose. Ultimately, it turned out that the orderlies had taken away ‘Taker dressed in Kane’s gear, and the Rattlesnake and Monster took it upon themselves to punish the preacher of the Ministry, throwing him down a manhole and replacing the cover. The Deadman would wreak a terrible revenge the next week though, taking advantage of a beaten down Austin and tying him to his symbol and “crucifying” him in the clearest piece of Satanic imagery yet associated with the embryonic Ministry of Darkness as the show went off the air. Certainly, it was the feud in which Austin had most clearly been on the back foot since his rise to stardom, but Booking 101 probably told everybody what would therefore happen at the show...but more of that later.
With Austin occupied, Mankind was able to take his rightful place as Rock’s mandatory challenger for the title, and the month consisted of Vince and The Corporation doing everything they possibly could to keep him away from the Corporate Champ. Mankind had to defend the Hardcore Title in a triple threat against The Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock, which essentially meant the deranged one was in a handicap match, but the JOB Squad interfered, allowing Mankind to retain. The next week, a ladder match was booked for the same title, and this time, with the intervention of The Rock, Bossman was able to grab the belt Vince had purposefully created for Mick a few weeks earlier. Mankind would try to get payback by running to the ring to help Al Snow, but Bossman and Shamrock arrived to skew the numbers, and the challenger ended up being beaten down until the rest of the JOB Squad arrived to complete the schmazz, allowing Rocky and Mankind to brawl all the way down the stage. The go home show saw Mick handcuffed to the top rope by Bossman, and taunted by Rock. Now, all of this worked perfectly, which is why I got so irritated last summer/autumn when certain people were claiming that Bryan didn’t look strong enough on weekly television. It was a recycle of the Foley vs. Rock feud, one of the greatest feuds in company history, and as was proved back in 1998-99, the formula works, because it creates immense audience sympathy for the babyface.
The Corporation angle filtered into the midcard in several ways, mostly associated with DX, at least to start with, as Vince shockingly hired Shawn Michaels as his new Commissioner on the 11/23 show. HBK, in a sharp suit, immediately booked The Rock vs. X Pac for the WWF Title, hinting at bias towards DX/The Kliq, rather than the Corporation. Michaels sent the Outlaws and Bossman/Shamrock from ringside before the title match, which, as you can imagine, was a rather fun affair, until the Commissioner inevitably smashed the Kid with a steel chair, allowing The Corporate Champ to hit the Corporate Elbow for the win. In the same show, The New Age Outlaws lost to The JOB Squad after Mankind, bizarrely, attacked Road Dogg with a leafblower. The irate tag champs were consoled by the stooges, and the announce team speculated that The Corporation must be trying to recruit them. That story continued the next week, when Christian used the Light Heavyweight strap on Billy, prompting Ken Shamrock and The Big Bossman to come out and aid the Outlaws in destroying the Brood. The hints were well put together and the turn seemed to hang in the air. Very nicely done. On the same 11/30 show, X Pac called out his former friend Shawn, who announced that he was the “new sheriff in town” and then took to bashing down the fourth wall, stating that he’d had bigger guys than X Pac in his stool and that if the Kid didn’t shut his mouth, he’d be sent back to “that money pit in Atlanta” before he knew it, before booking European Champ X Pac vs Intercontinental Champ Shamrock, but with only the European Championship on the line. Michaels ended his promo by saying he was “DX before DX was cool” and demanding they hit his music, which turned out to be the DX theme tune rather than ‘Sexy Boy’.
The match between X Pac and Shamrock was typically stiff, fast paced and well judged, a perfect TV contest really, with JR selling the smaller man’s guts brilliantly. Michaels interfered throughout, and the Bossman made a run in, but suddenly Triple H (who, remember, hadn’t been seen since before Breakdown) arrived to save the day to an almighty pop, crotch chopping his former stable leader once Bossman and Shamrock had been disposed of. With Hunter back to lead D-Generation X, the 12/7 edition opened up with him, Chyna and X Pac calling the Outlaws to the ring to answer the charges that they had been fraternising with The Corporation. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn duly appeared dressed in sharp suits, with Roadie announcing them as Road Dogg Esquire and Bad Ass Eke Gunn, doing the usual intro but calling themselves The New Corporate Outlaws. The turn seemed complete when they brought out Shawn to do some more spade work on his former allies, with the Commissioner saying he should sue Trips for gimmick infringement and calling him a nobody who he turned into a somebody. Helmsley’s response was to state that he carried Michaels’ “dead ass” around and helped him keep hold of a title everyone knew he had “no business” holding anymore. Wow. And people think it was 2011 that the Reality Era started...HBK ended the segment by booking Trips and Pac vs. Ken and Bossman in an anything goes match, during which, of course, the Corporate Outlaws tore off their suits to interfere for their DX brethren and at the end of it all, they had two words for the Corporation; I’m guessing you know what those were by now. Due to this transgression, they would have to defend their tag straps against The World’s Most Dangerous Man and The Corporate Enforcer at Rock Bottom.
The other ongoing major storyline was that of The Blue Blazer. After all the shenanigans of the previous PPV cycle, this one began with Goldust and Blackman against Jarrett and the Blazer, in which Blackman rolled up the masked man and then tried to get at his mask, but before he could, Jarrett and Owen, in street clothes, beat him down. The same thing happened the next week with a singles match; whoever was in the Blazer costume used several of Hart’s signature moves, including the Sharpshooter, but when the Lethal Weapon got the win, Owen appeared out of nowhere and beat him up. By the 11/23 show, Owen took a place on guest commentary, heeling it up by discussing how much he was enjoying his retirement, and commentating on a match between Goldust and Jarrett, who were feuding over Debra McMichael (if Goldie won in the Rock Bottom match between the two, Debra would have to strip, but if Jarrett were to win, Dustin would be getting naked). Owen left commentary to try and interfere but was taken out by “The Blue Blazer” who unmasked as Steve Blackman. This caused Owen to officially “come out of retirement” on Sunday Night Heat and challenge the Lethal Weapon to a match at Rock Bottom.
Elsewhere, The Oddities were betrayed by Insane Clown Posse, who inexplicably joined up with The Headbangers, The Brood sought revenge on The JOB Squad for costing them various matches, including Christian losing his Light Heavyweight Title to Duane Gill (later Gillberg, the infamous Goldberg parody), Godfather and Val Venis formed a brief sex themed tag team, a very smooth Mark Henry took Chyna out to dinner (the beginning of the Sexual Chocolate stuff, ultimately), Marc Mero left the company legitimately as well as in kayfabe, going out with a loss to Gill, and Hawk “fell” from the Titantron in the horrible conclusion of the “addiction and replacement” storyline involving Droz joining LOD.
Quite a packed build, I’m sure you’ll agree, but now it’s time to take a look at the event itself, so I’ll hand you over to Maz for...
Jerry Lawler is joined by Michael Cole at the announce booth today due to JR’s mum recently passing away. Who knew that they’d still be sitting next to each other on a weekly basis all these years later?
Mark Henry & D’Lo Brown (With Jacqueline & Terri) defeated Val Venis & The Godfather in 5:54
Val and The Godfather had begun a tag team known as Supply & Demand and had been getting over big time in late-90s wrestling circles. Godfather brings his hos and tells them he will give them Val as an early Christmas present. D’Lo comes to the ring with Jackie and Terri on his arm and so there is plenty of eye candy about. It is an exciting start with Venis and Brown before Godfather gets tagged in. He is soon on the back foot however as his former Nation stablemates take charge. The Big Valbowksi gets in again but he finds himself in trouble until he moves when D’Lo goes for a Sky High. Godfather comes back in and cleans house whilst Terri, Jacqueline and the hos get into it on the outside. D’Lo and Godfather get in the middle of things but Jackie sneaks in the ring and pulls down Val’s trunks to reveal a thong. This allows Henry to take control, hit a splash and pick up the win. A strange start to the night. Some good action in there but a really odd dynamic going on.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
We see footage of Mankind attacking Rock in a skybox from earlier in the evening. Foley also announces that the contract says he gets the title if the champ no-shows. We then see that the Doctor has told Rock he shouldn’t wrestle and Vince tells him that he will take care of it.
The Head Bangers defeated The Oddities (With The Giant Silva & Luna) in 6:29
As much as I was tempted, I couldn’t fast forward this one because no way I start half arsing the series. Kurrgan uses his size to dominate the early stages, nailing two sidewalk slams (a move that got him multiple eliminations as Survivor Series 1997). He soon tags in Golga who continues to control things for The Oddities. Things turn however when Kurrgan misses a splash from the second rope. The Headbangers have some joy for a little while but the bigger team is soon back in charge. A horribly delayed blind tag routine sees Mosh hit Golga with a… I am not really sure what it was… he just kind of jumped into him from the top rope and pick up the win. Horrible, horrible stuff.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ½*
Steve Blackman defeated Owen Hart in 10:26
Owen gets a huge pop back on home soil but Blackman takes the early advantage. The martial arts specialist uses a couple of submission holds to wear his opponent down but Hart turns the tide with a trademark enziguri but it doesn’t last long. The crowd show their disdain for Americans as Owen tries to catch a breather on the outside. A low blow puts The Nugget on top but he is soon reaching for rest holds of his own. Fortunately things speed up and Hart gets Irish whipped into an exposed turnbuckle. The Lethal Weapon locks in a sleeper but Owen counters into the dragon version of the move. Hart goes to the top rope but misses and gets locked into a Sharpshooter which catches a load of heat from the crowd. The Rocket makes the ropes but takes a walk and gets counted out. Strange finish considering the crowd made Owen the de facto face here. Some decent moments of action but not put together particularly well.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¾
Backstage Vince is looking for Mick Foley. He finds him in storage cupboard with “Mankind’s Office” written on it. Foley invites him in and we cut back to the ring.
The Brood defeated The JOB Squad in 9:08
The JOB Squad, being represented by Al Snow, Bob Holly and Scorpio, hit the ring as King says “I never thought I’d miss JR until I had to sit here with you for three hours”. Amazing how many people have thought that exact same thing over the last few years. While The Brood weren’t quite the stable WWE.com made them out to be recently, they did have a whole bunch of potential and a badass entrance. Holly is now rocking the “Hardcore” look rather than the “Sparky Plug” one and starts things off with Edge. Things get switched up and we see Christian vs Scorpio for a bit before the stable leaders get tagged in making sure all six men see early action. Things finally settle and it’s The Brood who are in control. They cut Snow off for a while but he soon tags in Scorpio and the action breaks down. In the confusion, Snow nails Christian with Head. Scorpio hits a moonsault leg drop but Edge saves the match for his team. He then uses Gangrel to hit a poetry in motion style move over the top rope to take out Holly and Snow. Meanwhile Christian hits the Unprettier on Scorpio to pick up the win. I rather enjoyed this one. A bit chaotic but The Brood had some serious skills whereas the JOB Squad definitely had some underrated talent.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
We cut backstage briefly where we see Vince and Mick in deep conversation in his office.
Goldust defeated Jeff Jarrett (With Debra) in 8:06 in a Strip Tease Match
The deal here is that if Goldie wins, Debra has to strip and if he loses, he has to strip. If the WWE ever want Cena to get a full on face reaction, all they’d need to do is go this route. Double J has the better of the early goings with Dustin doing his usual explosive comeback routing. It is well paced from the get go and picks up gears until Jarrett hooks in a sleeper. Goldie breaks free just as his arm is ready to drop for the third time and Jeff calls for Debra. She preps the guitar but an Irish whip reversal almost sees a backfire. Rhodes has Jarrett beaten but Debra still has the ref distracted. Goldust gets a number of near falls and Jarrett’s manager gets in the ring as he goes for Shattered Dreams. The distraction doesn’t work and he hits the move but she then hits Goldie with a guitar as the ref counts Double J out. He makes it back in and lands a facebuster to get the three count. The crowd boos and Commissioner Michaels comes out. He congratulates Jarrett and sends him to the back but keeps Debra there. With Double J gone, he says he has read his rulebook and use of a foreign object results in a disqualification. He announces Goldie as the winner to a huge ovation and lets Debra know she needs to strip. She does a highly entertaining job of it too as Double J realises what’s going on watching a monitor. She starts to take off her bra with an assist from HBK as the Blue Blazer comes out to cover her up and Jarrett sends her to the back. A very good match followed by entertaining shenanigans with plenty of flesh. Works for me.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
The New Age Outlaws defeated Big Bossman & Ken Shamrock (With Shawn Michaels) in 16:10 to retain the Tag Team Championship
If there was one issue with the previous match is that it got HBK a face reaction before he was due to play the heel. I loved the Outlaws’ teased turn on the go home Raw and it added some spice to this match. Michaels accompanies The Corporation and some early shenanigans see Roadie strike first on Shamrock. The champs have the better of the opening few minutes but a belly-to-belly from The World’s Most Dangerous Man sets in motion the standard Jesse James face in peril routine. The IC and Hardcore champions slowly work over the Road Dogg for what seems like an eternity and get a bunch of near falls. The pace isn’t good but at least there is a bit of intensity to the move from the challengers as Shawn hams it up at ringside. Mr Ass and HBK get into it over a tag that the ref missed but eventually the hot tag comes. Billy comes in like a house on fire. He hits a powerbomb on Shamrock but Shawn pulls the ref out of the ring before the three can go down. This allows Bossman to take out both Outlaws with the nightstick but when Shamrock goes for the cover on Gunn he can only get a very long two count. The Commissioner interferes again, pulling Billy’s leg as he goes for a suplex but the Bad Ass manages to roll through the IC champ’s pin attempt and the Outlaws retain. Gunn celebrates by simulating jerking off with Bossman’s nightstick! A fun ending to this one (the match, not the celebration) but the face in peril stage was a bit too long.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **¼
Rocky, Vince and Shane are backstage and they are discussing signing some kind of document.
Mankind defeated The Rock (With Shane & Vince McMahon) in 13:35 by Knockout in a Match For the WWF Championship
Mankind comes to the ring with a contract in hand. The McMahon’s accompany the champ to the ring and we find out that Vince want’s Foley to waive the clause in the contract that sees him win the title if The Rock can’t compete. Mick said he will waive the clause if McMahon admits that Mankind didn’t quit at Deadly Game. Vince hesitates so Mick tells him to get on his knees and do it. The Chairman says he heard somebody quit and Foley rips up the contract and the bell rings. An aggressive Mankind takes it to the champion and the action quickly spills to the outside where he uses the ring steps. They hit the ring and McMahon tells the ref to take any opportunity he gets to disqualify the challenger. The distraction allows Rocky back into the match for a while but not for long. The champ finally gets some more offence in as Shane interferes by grabbing Foley’s foot as he tries to come off the ropes. He decides to continue the beatdown whilst simultaneously working the announce desk and whilst this backfires initially, a DDT to a chair redresses the balance. The crowd are white hot with cheers and boos as Rocky goes close with a Corporate Elbow.
The playing field levels again and we see Mankind land a low blow. Vince tells the ref to call for the DQ but Foley hits the official with a piledriver before he can. McMahon tells the timekeeper to ring the bell but Mick once again cuts him off. Mankind stalks the boss which allows Rocky to strike. He hits a Rock Bottom but there is no ref to count. Shane hits the ring to nail the challenger with the title but Mick ducks and Rock eats the shot. Foley covers and a second ref comes down for a very close two count. There is another two and nine-tenths following a double arm DDT before Mr Socko makes an appearance. The challenger locks in the Mandible Claw and The Corporate Champ struggles but passes out. Foley celebrates his title win (which Cole sells rather well in his very early days at the booth) but Vince grabs a mic and announces that the title can only change hands on a pinfall or submission. Mankind puts the claw on McMahon which Shane breaks up with a couple of chair shots. The younger McMahon tastes Socko before the Stooges also feel Mick’s wrath. Bossman and Shamrock show up to finally hold the winner down and The Rock gets in a few kicks before celebrating with his title. Gripping stuff here from the contract segment beforehand to the beatdown afterwards. The reason Vince gave for the title not changing hands was rather clever and clearly a reach which worked well in the story. The action that went on before that was non-stop. Great chemistry between the two men in a very well paced and hard hitting match.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****
THE MAIN EVENT
Steve Austin defeated The Undertaker (With Paul Bearer) in 21:33 in a Buried Alive Match
As I mentioned earlier, although many people criticise Buried Alive Matches, I’ve always kind of enjoyed them, and the hot angle that led into this one actually justified the extremity of the gimmick too. I mean, Austin almost being embalmed alive? That’s cold, man. The match begins with hard hitting brawling, as we’d expect of both a match of this type and indeed, any main event of the era. They beat each other silly all the way up the ramp and back again and this is where Stone Cold really excelled throughout the time period but particularly when paired with an opponent like ‘Taker or Foley who gave as good as they got from the Texas Rattlesnake. The Deadman’s head careens with sick impact off crowd barrier and ring post, before the pitched battle spills into the ring, with a Phenom elbow and chair shot buying him valuable time, but no sooner is Austin rolled into the ring then he revives himself and clotheslines the just entering Undertaker straight back out of the squared circle to an immense pop.
One of the things I most admire about Marc Callaway though is his ability to live his gimmick at all times and use that as a means to create meaningful wrestling psychology; he is undeterred by Austin’s rally and nails a sick choke slam which allows him to drag the carcass of Austin towards the open grave. Like one of ‘Taker’s other specialities, the Casket Match, the tension and near misses of each wrestler being placed into the receptacle is key to the success of the gimmick. Here, Stone Cold goes into the grave and gets a fair few clods of dirt piled upon him until a groggy Rattlesnake staggers up and smashes his opponent with a fuel can to stop the assault. A Stone Cold Stunner sends the Deadman into the grave and Austin piles an entire wheelbarrow of soil onto him, before mysteriously exiting the arena. This allows a beaten down Undertaker to climb out of the grave, but Kane’s arrival causes a huge distraction for The Phenom, and the brothers battle on the dirt mound, until ‘Taker is poised to eliminate the Kane problem. However, Austin returns in loader vehicle, allowing the Big Red Monster to reverse the Tombstone to send his brother into the grave, at which point the dirt from the loader covered the Deadman for the Rattlesnake victory. The traditional beer toast sends the fans home happy
I suppose when people talk about the occasionally slapstick side of Attitude, this is the sort of thing they mean, but in fairness to it, the bout remains entertaining to this day, and it served a serious storyline purpose, both in terms of Kane’s continued interference in his brother’s business more than a year after his debut, and in terms of Austin winning a place in the Royal Rumble. A decent way to end a pay-per-view and a stellar 1998 for the WWF.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Rock Bottom certainly wasn’t the greatest poster for the Attitude Era but it could well be a sign of what was to come through 1999. Whilst some matches were not bad, an undercard stacked with exceptional talent and potential failed to really capture the imagination. The main event was a little drab until closing minutes but fortunately the WWF title match saved the show with an exciting display we have come to expect from The Rock and Mick Foley by the end of 1998.
We’ve seen a few events in this series so far where the semi-main and main events saved the show, and this was very much another case of that. Given the fact that the company had come from a superb Survivor Series and an excellent TV build to this pay-per-view, they really should have made this one feel more important than it did, but an excellent title match and a back and forth Buried Alive match (personally, I always enjoy the gimmick, even if no-one else does) win Rock Bottom back some ground in our overall ranking.
Rock Bottom Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
MVP - MANKIND
Well here we are again, a second win in a row for Mankind, a fourth win for the gimmick and a fifth overall for Mick Foley, taking him above The Rock as our overall MVP of Attitude. And truthfully, it isn’t hard to see why. He’s the most consistent performer across this time frame by quite a distance, fitting in wherever needed, and this push to permanent main event stardom, first as a heel and then as a babyface, saw him rack up great match after great match, getting his opponents over in the process. His work in the Rock Bottom title match was an acting masterclass all professional wrestlers need to watch and learn from.
This is starting to get a little ridiculous. Once again it is Mick Foley who stands out above the rest with a seamless blending of character work and top notch in-ring work. Foley was the golden child of a very young IWC at this point and it is easy to see why. In fact there are plenty of comparisons to be made between Mick’s work from Mania 13 to 15 and Daniel Bryan’s from 28 to 30. It seemed that they could do no wrong and imagining how a 2014 IWC would have blown up social media with hatred as Mankind got screwed time and time again is definitely an interesting thought.
THE ONE TO WATCH
As Mazza briefly alluded to in the close of the previous section, Mankind was involved in a title chase that pretty much ran from the Breakdown number one contenders triple threat in September until the infamous 1/4/99 Raw where he won the belt from The Rock to trigger WCW’s demise (at least in WWE’s version of that story). The interesting thing is that, with the exception of the Deadly Game finals match that kicked off the feud proper, Foley and Johnson did not main event a single pay-per-view in the time frame of the chase or once they went into the hot potato portion of the title feud. As we have seen today, Austin and ‘Taker headlined Rock Bottom with their Buried Alive match, we’ll see next week that the Royal Rumble Match main events that eponymous pay-per-view, and at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the Austin vs. McMahon cage match takes centre stage.
Now, if this were to transpire today, I don’t doubt that the IWC would be throwing up their hands and screaming about Rock and Mankind being “buried” by playing “second fiddle” to Stone Cold. Added to that, wrestling fans, young or old, have a traditionalist streak a mile wide, and world title matches taking place earlier in the evening is something that offends those sensibilities. Extrapolating from that basic piece of mark DNA, many believe that the title should never, ever take a metaphorical backseat to other feuds. So let’s examine those two points, shall we? Firstly, I don’t think anyone with any sort of knowledge of professional wrestling could possibly claim that either Mick Foley or Dwayne Johnson were buried by their position on those cards. By the time that feud was over, The Rock was the biggest heel in wrestling, and Mankind was second only to Austin in popularity...and not by much, either. In fact, the star of Rocky rose so high that by the end of 1999, The Rattlesnake was finally allowed to have neck surgery, because The People’s Champ was more than ready to step into the top babyface role following his turn back to the people in mid 1999. Meanwhile, Mick Foley developed a reputation who could get an up and comer over in the main event, something he would do again a year later with Triple H. So, it would seem that the time their match went on at those three pay-per-views did not limit them in the least. Examining the second point, the argument for the headline match of each PPV bearing that status is quite convincing. Quite apart from the fact that Stone Cold Steve Austin was the biggest draw in the whole of wrestling at the time, a Buried Alive Match, due to its unique set up and staging, basically has to go on last, or the kayfabe is blown completely. No point having the stip if you’re going to see someone climb out or exit a secret door two minutes later. The Royal Rumble Match, meanwhile, has rightly and traditionally headlined the pay-per-view named after it. In the minority of times it hasn’t, it has been either because of shenanigans (Kane burning ‘Taker in a casket after the Michaels match in ‘98 for example) or because of a match of huge generational magnitude (CM Punk vs. The Rock in 2013). In the case of St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the wrestling public had been waiting to see Austin get his hands on McMahon for a year; it really had to headline. A third aspect we need to consider is that this was a feud which played a huge part in TV ratings, and therefore, two of its more significant moments took place on weekly television, namely the “butts on seats” title win and the Empty Arena Match that took place simultaneously with the Halftime Show of Super Bowl XXXIII on “Halftime Heat”. In some ways, their PPV clashes were almost setting up TV moments, which many today believe to be ass backwards booking, but in the days of the Monday Night War, was essential for ratings in a competitive market.
When we look at the history of wrestling on pay-per-view prior to the Mankind vs. Rock title feud, we see that the WWF Title going on before the final match of the night happened a fair few times before then. Wrestlemania VIII was headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice, not by Savage and Flair. Summerslam ‘92 was famously and successfully headlined by our very own Davey Boy Smith’s Intercontinental Title victory against his brother-in-law Bret Hart at the old Wembley Stadium. King of the Ring ‘93 was, again quite rightly, main evented by the King of the Ring Final itself, not the Hogan vs. Yokozuna title match which proved to be the Hulkster’s last with the company until Wrestlemania XVIII. Once we get into this series, we see Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin III headlining Revenge Of The ‘Taker, as well as all three installments of Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (Ground Zero, Badd Blood and Rumble ‘98). So, with so much historical precedent, so much logic dictating why Mick and Dwayne didn’t headline the three pay-per-views following Survivor Series and so much evidence suggesting it did them no harm, why are fans so against the trope of non-headlining title matches in the modern era?
There are two ways of looking at it. The first is that the average smark feels so jaded a lot ofthe time that there is a huge distrust in the booking of their favourites. The second is that the average smark is so passionate about their favourites they cannot stand to see any little sign of them possibly being marginalised. In reality both sides probably play a part. In the MVP section I likened Foley’s chase to that of Daniel Bryan’s since SummerSlam last year. But let us start out by looking at things as they pertain to The Rock and make a bold comparison by calling him the CM Punk of this particular period in time. Of course there are big glaring differences between the two men in lots of ways. Their roads to the verge of superstardom were like night and day but they both ending up finding themselves as heels that were so damn cool, management could no longer deny their face turn or their push to the top. Problem was they were both much more useful as the bad guy. It’s a situation that was remedied brilliantly and immediately with Johnson but in hindsight was bungled a bit with Brooks.
Rocky and Punk went different routes in terms of the heel-face line in the sand but essentially the result was the same. The company posterboy remained the main event. The Rock had to know his role at the back end of 98 and start of 99. As hot as he was getting, as good as he was getting, as big a reaction he was getting, Austin’s was still louder. It wasn’t by much at times but Stone Cold was clearly the main man and looking back now, his path to getting his title back was clearly mapped out. Maverick has already justified the three PPVs before Mania being headlined by The Rattlesnake and there is more than enough evidence to prove the WWF made the right call. Like Austin, John Cena would remain as the main man during Punk’s record breaking reign as WWE Champion. The smark heavy crowds of the reality era make the choices a little more difficult to judge. Cena’s reactions, unlike Stone Cold’s, weren’t limited to cheers but were still consistently the loudest out there. A quick look at merchandise sales though would tell you that Cena was easily the number one guy still. The burial argument will of course be brought up in the aftermath of Money in the Bank but I am a strong believer that if a superstar is destined to become a megastar, he will overcome questionable booking or the slowing down of momentum. Another counter is that Austin was still less than a year into his career as WWF title holder and still had a relatively fresh act compared to Cena who’d had seemingly been around forever. Again though, I’d argue that the bottom line was the bottom line. It may have been nice to see Punk go on last as champion but for me, he just didn’t quite have that star power to warrant taking top spot from Cena. Besides, you’ve got to please the kids in a PG company.
And that’s where we bring Daniel Bryan into the discussion. Bryan’s luck post Mania has been horrible but it would have been interesting to see how he was booked as champion in comparison to Punk. We can only go off Extreme Rules at the moment and the champion took pride of place at the top of the card in DB’s only PPV defence. That alone is a step up on Punk, particularly considering Triple H and John Cena were both in high profile matches. He may not have main evented every PPV from Mania to SummerSlam but I get the feeling he would have closed out most shows. Personally I believe Bryan has a more universal appeal than Punk and the momentum that the Yes Movement gained (despite seemingly having as many or more obstacles than Punk) meant that certainly in the short term, Bryan was a viable challenge for Cena to take a back seat for a while. This would be similar to allowing Austin to have his surgery at the back end of 1999 when it was clear Rocky was the real deal and could have a similar impact to Stone Cold (and the Monday Night Wars) were essentially wrapped up. A year earlier however, despite things going well, the WWF were not in a position to rest on their laurels.
Rock Bottom drew a 0.78 buyrate, not quite as strong as the PPVs that preceded it, but December was an infamously fallow period for WWF through the years, so really, the performance was pretty good in context. Coming next was the Royal Rumble, which we all know is a guaranteed money maker year after year. WWF were confident their product was working and things were getting more and more extreme in the storyline department, though we could argue that 1999 would see the quality of wrestling available decrease sharply.
Meanwhile, WCW’s show piece Starrcade did a 1.15 buy rate. Not bad but it showed that they were really beginning to fall off throughout 1998 as the previous year’s event did a 1.9. Was it possible that the fans saw what was about to happen? It was the infamous night where Goldberg’s undefeated streak was broken at 173 thanks to a stun gun wielding Scott Hall as Kevin Nash became champion. WCW would win the final round of 1998 PPVs but seeing it was Number 1 Event vs Throwaway In Your House, it was a bit of a shallow victory. The first week of the New Year would bring us the most infamous night of the Monday Night Wars and the WWF would follow that up with their highly anticipated Royal Rumble PPV. Tune in next week as we kick off 1999 in ATTITUDE!
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 tomorrow’s show Plan rants on the Shield split and he then joins Mav and Maz to discuss who should win the title at Money in the Bank.
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