‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Sorry we’re late. World Cup, and all that. Won’t keep you any longer…
ATTITUDE! Royal Rumble 1999 (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
Jun 21, 2014 - 12:23:14 PM
Maverick: So here we are Maz on the Road To Wrestlemania again! We’ve already covered the first two Attitude editions of the Showcase of the Immortals, and we’re very close to writing about a third. Last week in the comments section, our fellow columnist The Doc stated that the build to Wrestlemania XV was the most exciting in history, and it’s very hard to disagree with that assertion. The build had already begun in earnest with Austin earning his Rumble spot by burying The Undertaker at Rock Bottom, but the path to the January Classic would be far from smooth...
Mazza: There would be twists and turns at every corner as Mankind would continue his mission to get hold of the WWF championship that Vince McMahon kept snatching away from him. The Corporate Champion would have his work cut out to keep hold of his title over six action packed episodes of Raw, particularly with DX picking up the anti-authority mantra they were built on. It would make for some absolutely compelling television as 1998 became 1999, including that infamous night on the fourth of January.
The Event: Royal Rumble
The Date: 24 January 1999
The Place: Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, California
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
As something as a traditionalist, I always preferred it when wrestlers on Rumble undercards did not take part in the match itself, but I make an exception for 1999, where the big match itself was enhanced by the stories taking place in the middle of the pack. The Corporation was stoic in its desire to see an end to all anarchy on the programme and that meant ridding themselves of D-Generation X as well as Stone Cold Steve Austin (more of which later). The post-Rock Bottom Raw saw DX once again break out their dressing up box to parody The Corporation, with Triple H reprising his role as “The Crock” (this time with one painted on Corporate Eyebrow), Road Dogg as Vince, Billy as Shane (wearing no trousers and a nappy), X Pac as Shamrock, Chyna as Bossman, Jason Sensation as Shawn Michaels (“HB Gay”) and a pair of midgets as Patterson and Brisco! A hilarious parody, every bit as good as the original Nation one, led the actual Shawn Michaels to revenge book a rematch from the pay-per-view from the night before. Although Shamrock and Bossman, the twin enforcers of the heel stable formed by McMahon, had been unsuccessful in gaining the tag straps of the New Age Outlaws at Rock Bottom, they managed to pick up the titles the night afterwards with typical interference shenanigans going on. This led to Billy and Road Dogg beginning to pursue singles careers, and both received a healthy push up against The World’s Dangerous Man and the man from Cobb County, Georgia respectively. Roadie won the Hardcore Championship from Bossman on December 21st, which suited his brawling heavy ring skills and charismatic mic delivery, whilst Gunn found himself up against Shamrock in a duel of workers, with added spice thrown in by the addition to the storyline of Ken’s “sister” Ryan, who was coveted by both the Bad Ass and Val Venis. Shamrock, of course, was typically enraged and promised both revenge and an end to the party boy antics that the Corporation saw as marring the company’s image. Similarly, Triple H and X Pac would also get their chance to shine, with Trips only losing a hot TV WWF Title match to Rocky after interference from HBK and the debuting Test, meaning that a tag main event featuring the two usual DX singles competitors was booked the next week, ending in a no contest. X Pac also saw off the challenge of Big Bossman to his European Title, freeing him up to face Gangrel on the Rumble undercard. The final member of DX, Chyna, got some belated shine too, winning the “Corporate Rumble” (with an assist from Stone Cold) to determine the number 30 entrant to the Rumble set up by Commissioner Michaels after he fell out with Mr McMahon.
DX were also involved, however, in Mankind’s continuing quest to win the WWF Title. After being screwed at Deadly Game and Rock Bottom, Mick was desperate to see justice done, which ultimately led to him kidnapping Shane McMahon and threatening to wrench his arm off unless Vince relented and gave him a shot at Rocky. Vince had no choice to comply and he had his army of stooges and Corporate wrestlers to help him ensure failure for Foley yet again. But he reckoned without DX and Stone Cold, who would do anything to screw McMahon and decisively interfered in the title match main event, leading to one of the most emotive finishes to a Monday Night Raw ever...but more on that in One To Watch. Having won the title, Foley began to play games with The Rock and his Corporate backers, luring him into an I Quit Match, a first for WWF, where the referee would have a microphone and the loser would have to be so beaten and humiliated that he said the literal words “I Quit” so everyone could hear them. This came about of course due to Mankind’s phantom submission from Deadly Game, where Vince had the timekeeper ring the bell despite the deranged one not actually submitting. This time, there would be no doubt, or so we thought…
Meanwhile, preparations for who would face Mankind or Rock at Wrestlemania XV were well underway, and it was fairly obvious even back in December that these would revolve around the company’s top star, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Texan had, of course, buried The Undertaker alive to gain a spot in the match, but Vince declared that there was “no chance in hell” that the former champion would come out of the Rumble match a three time winner and number one contender. First of all, he fixed the draw so that Austin “randomly” came out as the #1 entrant to the reverse battle royal, giving him the least chance of success. McMahon tried to enter himself as #30, but Shawn’s “Corporate Rumble” dashed those plans, meaning that Vince would enter at #2 and have to spend at least two minutes in the ring with Stone Cold. A hilarious sequence of skits showed the chairman training for the match with motivation from his son Shane. Fair play to Vince, who must have picked up something from his years of watching his wrestlers get themselves into peak shape, because he looked amazing for his age by the time the match came around. Just to make sure Austin really would have “no chance in hell” of winning, McMahon guaranteed $100,000 to the man who eliminated him from the Rumble. Just as in the previous year, Austin would have a bullseye on his back, except this time, it was financially incentivised. And yes, younger readers, this is where the song Vince uses for his entrance to this day, ‘No Chance’ originated!
Having been buried alive, we had a couple of weeks break from the early days of the Ministry fo Darkness, but when it returned it was more hammy than ever; first The Acolytes, who had come together in September under the tutelage of The Jackal but had been directionless and managerless since his departure, joined up with ‘Taker and Paul Bearer. Then, they kidnapped Dennis Knight of Southern Justice and “transformed” him into Mideon, an infernal subject of The Undertaker, in a backstage dark ritual. More conversions were promised in the weeks to come, and although ‘Taker himself was not wrestling due to a legitimate hip replacement, that actually made the storyline more compelling, as the Satanic cult leader developed the new character further.
The final match on the undercard was a women’s title match between Sable and Luna (who had ditched The Oddities) which had a storyline mirroring that of the real life 1980s screwjob that took place to get the Women’s Title off Wendi Richter and on The Fabulous Moolah, when Luna arrived masked as “Spider Lady” and challenged Sable. On this occasion though, the match ended in a no contest and a strap match was booked for the pay-per-view.
Now, we are mixing up the format a little this week and exploring the night Mick Foley’s boyhood dream came true, so before we get to review the Rumble undercard itself, it’s time to pass you to Maz for...
THE ONE TO WATCH
The date was 4th January 1999. The WWF would have you believe it is one of the most important dates in the history of pro-wrestling and to be honest, they wouldn’t be wrong. It is a date that many look at as the day that Vince and Co won the Monday Night Wars. The soundbyte is that Nitro never beat Raw again in the ratings after that night, and while technically true, you could have said the same about every Raw episode since November. It’s easy to see why the WWF propaganda machine love this night so much though. With WCW on the ropes, Bischoff got Schiavone to use a dirty tactic that had served them well in the past by giving the results away. This result was big though. A world title was changing hands and whilst most fans backed a horse in the wars, not many fans will pass up the opportunity to see a strap switch, particularly when it involved a man as loved as Foley.
The giving away of the result is only one part of the story though. The flipside is that WCW were to have their own title change that night. This wasn’t a much loved legend finally getting their moment to shine but instead, a much loved legend hogging the limelight in his strangest way yet. The Fingerpoke of Doom was the second part of a double bill of booking disasters that killed the momentum of the company’s brightest hope and brought things back to the status quo. At Starrcade Kevin Nash ended the streak and Goldberg’s world title run only to lay down for Hollywood Hogan to become champion and reform the New World Order on Nitro that night. It’s a move that disgusted wrestling fans who were already reeling from Goldberg’s loss. What I think it really showed was that the WWF understood their audience whilst WCW appeared to be losing touch. Whilst they were pretty much in full troll mode with their title change, Foley’s was packed full of emotion, and was beautifully constructed.
As I’ve said before, I wasn’t about for this long road to WrestleMania at the time and I had never watched this episode of Raw all the way through until doing the research for this column. It really was a tremendous edition of the company’s flagship show. Whilst they were delivering top notch television week in, week out at this stage, January fourth really was amazing. The story of Mick Foley chasing the title had been brilliant. How events played out on the night, leading to the match were superb. Mick even found himself in a match to qualify for the rumble match earlier in the evening. He was pitted against the leader of the group that was supporting him. A fast count from Shane saw Triple H pick up the win. The Game was happy to qualify but gave Mick a consolation prize by nailing the younger McMahon with a Pedigree. From here, as Mav said, Foley found an opportunity to book himself into a no-disqualification title match. The match itself resembled a lumberjack match with DX and The Corporation at ringside. It was wrestled exactly how you’d expect from two men who had tremendous chemistry together. Of course we have shenanigans, near falls and the inevitable mass brawl which leads to glass smashing and Stone Cold, as nonchalantly as you like, making his way to ringside. He nails Rock with a chair, pulls Mankind over him and we have a new champion.
It was a strong match but the real joy came in the celebration. Vince is steaming as DX hold Mick on their shoulders. Road Dogg announces the new WWF Champion as an emotional Foley dedicates the victory to his kids. There are a handful of moments in wrestling history that get me emotional every time. This was never one of them because I didn’t follow it through closely at the time. But now, fifteen years later, I am pretty sure it has fallen into that category. The question I pose to you all, and Maverick, is was that Foley title win the most emotional one in WWE history?
For me, it’s an undisputed yes. When you look at the way Mick Foley had been handled and booked since the post-Mania landscape of 1997, it becomes clear that Vince always had it in the back of his mind to build to a moment like this. As the Attitude Era became more about reality, the fourth wall and an admission that this was “sports entertainment”, Jim Ross began to conduct sit down interviews with some of the Fed’s more gimmicked performers to make them a little more “real” in order to compete with WCW’s use of Nash and Hall the year before. Foley was the recipient of the “reality” treatment as JR showed the Mankind character the home videos of a younger teenage Mick playing a cool womanising hippy called Dude Love. In those videos, we see Foley diving off the roof of a garage onto a lilo, cutting promos and wrestling friends in the backyard. That was the first step in establishing the “three faces of Foley” since the Mankind gimmick was already over with WWF fans, Dude Love would debut as Austin’s tag partner after Michaels second knee injury in June ‘97, and his old WCW/ECW Cactus Jack gimmick would come onboard for the latter of Foley’s first feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The flexibility the three gimmicks gave Foley was a key part of establishing him as the go-to guy in the upper midcard scene of the time, but more importantly, fans knew about his journey, slogging around the country in his car, taking gigs where he could find them, being drummed out of WCW just as he was gaining ground, rebuilding in ECW, grabbing the opportunity Vince gave him with both hands. No-one in the business committed like Mick, and everybody knew it, and loved him for it.
Whatever character he was playing, Mick did it brilliantly, but it was the intensity of his ring style that endeared him to fans as much as anything. We covered the insane moment where Foley allowed himself to be thrown off the cell and chokeslammed through the cell at King of the Ring ‘98 a few weeks ago, and after that incredible night, Foley became a fixture in a tremendous main event bun fight between himself, Austin, the Brothers of Destruction, Rock and Shamrock that ran all through the summer and autumn months of 1998. The Mankind character had shifted from the deranged psychopath of 1996 and was now a sympathetic madman with a heart. From just before Summerslam, a paternal relationship developed between he and McMahon, and the manipulative nature of the onscreen chairman character helped the slow transition of Mankind to number two babyface in the company. Then, of course, the Deadly Game storyline and swerve went down, followed by the chase to Rock Bottom, where a win was overturned by a desperate Vince. The fans were desperate to see Mankind do it, and in the tremendous 4th January 1999 Raw that Maz reviewed for you, Mankind finally covered The Rock for three and there was nothing McMahon could do about it. And in that moment, as Michael Cole screamed “Mankind did it! Mick Foley did it!” there was not a dry eye anywhere in wrestling. Just as an experiment, I just watched the Raw 1000 countdown clip of the moment and I immediately filled up with tears! Because after a whole career, a whole life of being told he couldn’t do it, Mick Foley did do it. Taking off the mask, addressing the crowd as himself, you could see the emotion, feel the emotion. Seeing DX parade him around the ring on their shoulders, seeing him do a victory lap of the ring, it’s just a wonderful passage in the history of wrestling, and indeed, the Monday Night Wars.
There are three other obvious contenders for most emotive title win, and I’ll deal with them in chronological order. The first was Eddie Guerrero’s underdog victory over Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004. Like Mick, Eddie was a veteran who had given everything he had to professional wrestling, and in addition, he had overcome well-publicised substance abuse issues to re-ascend the wrestling world, become more popular than ever and get a chance in the main event despite his crusierweight size. The match with Lesnar was magnificently constructed and stands up as one of the best bouts of the brand split era. The moment where Eddie climbs to the top to deliver the Frog Splash is surreal in a way, as at the time I was on the edge of my seat not really believing that they would put the title on Latino Heat and then unconfined joy as it actually unfolded in front of my eyes. With Eddie’s untimely death in October 2005, the match feels even more emotive when you watch it now. It’s just too tragic that a year and a half after his moment, Eddie would no longer be with us. However, unlike with Foley, the title switch to Guerrero was fairly last minute and put together because of Brock deciding to walk out on WWE as soon as Wrestlemania XX was in the books, so the build to the win in television terms wasn’t quite as good.
The next one came only a month later, and is of course now mired in controversy due to the events of June 24th 2007. Chris Benoit, like Eddie and Mick, had scratched and clawed his way to the top of the business, a man who wrestled like a god but whose lack of mic skills was supposed to prevent him from making it to the very top. But the Rabid Wolverine’s performances got him crazy over with fans, and from his epic with Kurt Angle on the undercard of Royal Rumble 2003 onwards, he picked up massive momentum until he was placed into the perfect underdog storyline. Heyman continually messed with him in the lead up to the Royal Rumble, ensuring that he would be the number one entrant, but Benoit went all the way and earned himself number one contender status for Wrestlemania XX. Even after Shawn Michaels finagled his way into the match, the Wolverine found a way to win, tapping out Triple H in the middle of the ring to win the World Heavyweight Title to end a nineteen year quest to make it to the top. The moment was made even greater by the appearance of Benoit’s real life best friend Eddie Guerrero, who had retained his WWE Title against Kurt Angle earlier in the evening. The two embraced and ticker tape rained down upon them in a dream for every “smart” fan in the world. How a wrestling fan sees that March 14th 2004 moment now is a choice for them and them alone. I personally feel more than able to separate the man Benoit became in the last hours of his life from the wrestler that entertained me for many years, but I do understand that the horrors of those last hours put a stain on the moment Triple H’s hand tapped the mat.
Finally, we have the most recent epic emotional climax, that of Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX. Bryan’s story was a mixture of Foley, Benoit and Guerrero, an almost perfect synergy. Like all three of the men we have discussed previously, Bryan Danielson travelled the US and the world, wrestling anywhere there was a ring and an audience. He was beloved by fans of independent wrestling as the best wrestler in the world, a claim that was occasionally derided by those entirely limited to watching WWE only. When he was signed by WWE, years after a previous failed try-out, indy guys were not optimistic about his chances of progressing to the top of the major leagues. They suspected that his lack of size and his lack of a recognisable “look” would lead to a humiliating time and an eventual release. Danielson himself showed his determination by volunteering to go into developmental to learn the fabled “WWE Style” and then participating in the inaugural season of NXT. Although some saw Michael Cole’s heel announcer character continually making jibes about high school gyms as evidence that WWE were going to “bury” Bryan, in fact, it was the start of a storyline designed to get him over, as his friction with Miz and Cole put the character of Daniel Bryan front and centre of the product. Even after his brief release following the tie choke incident, Bryan continued to defy expectation and any thoughts about a “ceiling” on his achievement, becoming a successful midcard champion, a Money In The Bank winner, a heel World Heavyweight Champion with a recognisable “Sports Entertainment” character, developing the “YES” and “NO” chants, playing the goof, playing intense, growing an enormous beard and finally crowbarring his way into the main event through sheer force of will. Unlike Foley, Benoit and Guerrero, Bryan had not one but two emotive moments; a clean win over John Cena and his ultimate redemption at Wrestlemania XXX. The first moment has perhaps been forgotten a little due to the cash in that followed, which is a shame, since a clean win over Cena after calling him a “parody of a professional wrestler” is nothing to sniff at! However, the Road To Wrestlemania XXX, with the Foley tribute screwing of Bryan at every turn, the outcry after the Royal Rumble, the feud with Triple H, beating The Game clean to access the main event and then tapping out Batista in the triple threat, followed by 80,000 people chanting “YES! YES! YES! YES!”...there’s no doubt that was an incredible thing to watch unfold. The only knock on the Bryan story as most emotive of all time is the fact that it was so easy to see coming. We are much smarter and more savvy as fans nowadays, and all of us on The Right Side Of The Pond called a D-Bry redemption at ‘Mania XXX as soon as Summerslam ‘13 concluded. Everything that happened was so reminiscent of the goings on in 1998 that anyone who didn’t see Bryan’s win coming was blind.
So for reasons of being the first, the most unlikely and the most important in terms of the WWF historical metanarrative, I would contend that Mick Foley’s title win on the 4th January 1998 is the most emotive in history. Younger fans who have only experienced Bryan directly may disagree, but I would urge them to go back and watch Mick Foley’s journey and then get back to me.
Of course it will all boil down to just how attached you are to the product and the character at the time. There is no doubt all four of those title wins tugged at the heartstrings. Unfortunately for me, I was a little distatched from the product in 2004, just as I was in late-98/early-99. For that reason alone, I think Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania moment will just about top my list for a very long time, but there is no doubt that Mick runs him close. I know there are plenty out there who’s peak of fandom fell in the mid-00s. I am sure they will be torn between the excellent build of Benoit or the more “out of nowhere” win for the extremely over Guerrero. Whatever your favourite is however, I am sure there is one thing we can agree on. There is nothing quite like pro-wrestling where a man being crowned the best in a “fake” sport can create so much real emotion.
Michael Cole is once again with The King at the announce booth as JR is still out of action. To be fair to him he did a stellar job, particularly in the selling of Foley’s title win.
Big Bossman defeated Road Dogg in 11:52
The Hardcore Champ comes down doing his usual schtick which is particularly amusing seeing he is in solo action and Billy isn’t there. Much is made of the fact that the title will not be on the line by Cole and Lawler. After some posing, Bossman takes the early advantage and we see Roadie do what he does in pretty much every tag match. We see a nice little comeback from the New Age Outlaw early on but it swings back in favour of the Corporation’s Head of Security. Bossman is methodical and vicious in his attack and incorporates a bear hug to wear his opponent down. James finally comes back into play as Bossman gets caught with a slam off the top rope. This allows Roadie to pop the crowd big time with his signatures but he gets caught in a Sidewalk Slam to finish it off. Not a terrible match by any means but a bit slow and not the greatest curtain jerker.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
Ken Shamrock defeated Billy Gunn in 14:24 to retain the Intercontinental Championship
Like Roadie before him, Billy does his side of the schtick too. Shamrock hits the ring and no time is wasted in getting it on. The feud has got personal and that shows in the opening stages. When things settle, Mr Ass is in control and the pace drops drastically. The challenger goes shoulder first into the ring-post however and the tide turns. The IC champ keeps a slow pace and uses kicks to retain control. Gunn hits a Fameasser whilst on the defensive but is slow to cover and can’t make it count. This steps up Shamrock’s aggressiveness and he takes things to the outside where he uses the ring steps and a chair. He goes to slam his opponent head first into the announce table but this backfires as the Ass Man counters. The World’s Most Dangerous Man soon takes charge again however and works Billy’s left leg. Gunn tries to comeback and we get a ref bump before a double clothesline. Val Venis hits the ring and clotheslines the champion. Billy Bad Ass crawls to the cover but a groggy ref can only get to two before Shamrock kicks out. Billy takes it to the champ and goes to the top rope. He comes off but hurts his injured left leg. Shamrock sees this, immediately cinches in the ankle lock and the challenger has to tap. Decent IC match here. Slow in parts but good psychology and good action.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Backstage we see Shane hyping up his old man for the rumble match.
X-Pac defeated Gangrel in in 5:53 to retain the European Championship
We get to the hipster’s choice match for the night as X-Pac looks to turn DX’s fortunes. We kick off with some high paced athletic action and it is the champ who looks better in the opening exchanges. Gangrel soon gets a chance to shine though and his offence is exciting and sold well by Waltman. Things turn again as the challenger misses from the top rope. We get to see a Bronco Buster before a bit of a botch on a call as referee Teddy Long counts to three when Gangrel rolls through a top rope cross body. The crowd chant “you fucked up” as the challenger hits a nice powerslam. It is the champ who retains though as he hits an X-Factor pretty much out of nowhere. Not many men can do more than Waltman in less than six minutes. That said it could have done with an extra couple of minutes at the end as the finish came pretty quickly. Exciting stuff here with another underrated talent in Gangrel.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Triple H, Roadie and Chyna are backstage with Kevin Kelly and are joined by X-Pac. Hunter says it’s every man for themselves before Chyna adds “and woman”.
Sable defeated Luna (With Shane McMahon) in 4:43 in a Strap Match to retain the Women’s Championship
Shane O’Mac makes his way to the ring and introduces Luna. McMahon then says that Sable is injured (Luna attacked her on Heat) and calls her out to forfeit the title. The champ comes out favouring her back (terribly), grabs the mic and says “ring the bell”. They get strapped together and the match gets underway as Shane hits the announce booth. The action is surprisingly stiff from the get go with both ladies getting in some offence. The challenger takes control though as Sable’s back comes into play. She is first to go for the victory and drags the champ behind her. She hits three turnbuckles but doesn’t realise that Sable also hits them. McMahon does however and he hits the apron as the ladies to battle in the ring to hit the last turnbuckle first. The challenger seems to have it in the bag but gets leveled by a “stalker” from the crowd (this is the lady we will soon know as Tori). This allows Sable to pick up the win. Actually not bad at all when you consider how awful it should have been.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¼
Bossman is backstage telling Shamrock and Test he will do whatever it takes to win.
The Rock defeated Mankind in 21:46 in an I Quit Match to win the WWF Championship
We get a great video package of the feud before we get a typically determined Rock promo with Doc Hendrix. It’s Foley who takes the early advantage however and they don’t waste any time before bringing the mic into play. The Rock only responds by talking trash however and we kick up a gear by going to the outside. The challenger gets a moment of the upper hand but wastes it by doing a spot of announcing and we get our first chair shot of the night as Mankind regains control. In the ring the champ hooks in the Mandible Claw but it doesn’t take long until they are outside again and The Brahma Bull gets some sustained offence. He goes for a Rock Bottom on the Spanish announce table but it collapses under their weight. The action moves up to the stage where Rocky brings a ladder into play. The Corporate Rock eventually uses it to climb onto a balcony and he is followed by Mick, who gets pushed off and into a load of electrical equipment. Rocky beats the champion all the way back to the ring where he cuffs his hands behind his back. The challenger is aggressive and despite a well placed low blow from Mankind, he begins to get brutal. He hits a People’s Elbow to a chair in Mick’s face but he will not give up. Then come the infamous chair shots to the head. He hits two which are met with defiance before landing another three. Foley rolls out of the ring as Cole begs him to quit. The Rock hits another five around ringside, talking trash the whole time before pushing the mic in Foley’s unconscious face and we hear Foley’s voice saying “I Quit”. The Rock goes back to the ring to pick up his belt and poses over a heavily bleeding Mankind on his way to the back. Mick refuses the stretcher and gingerly walks away. It was a clever finish at the time before we all knew what went on and a great way to get the fans to tune into Raw. The match itself was excellent. I Quit matches tend to suffer due to the constant asking, but here you have two of the most comfortable talkers in the history of the business and they used the mic to enhance the match. The action was top notch and hard hitting. The final couple of minutes are hard to watch. Some of those chair shots really looked (and really were by all accounts) sick. Some of the most brutal moments ever seen in the WWF. Of course there are questions over the morality of it all but if the question is whether it helped make the match, I’d have to say that it did.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****½
THE MAIN EVENT
Vince McMahon won the Royal Rumble Match in 56:38
With the wider context of Austin having a $100,000 bounty on his head, and with he and McMahon being the first two into the Rumble the always highly anticipated opening stanzas of the reverse battle royal are this time at fever pitch. Austin comes out in his usual business-like way, whilst McMahon unveils a ludicrously ripped body for a man of his age, oiled up like an 80s Hulk Hogan. The muscles do the chairman no good in the opening two minutes though, as a kick in the jewels leads to a seemingly quick elimination. However, the klaxon sounds for entrant #3. Golga does not last long at all, but it does give McMahon the opportunity to flee the ring, and in a typically Attitude moment, Stone Cold chases him through the building, but straight into a trap, as the Corporation are waiting to beat him down in the bathroom, leaving him prone. When we talk about the storyline for this Rumble being a winner, we’re really not kidding. Droz and Edge look very confused when “Gillberg” (Duane Gill dressed up as Goldberg to rip WCW) shows up, and his Rumble lasts all of seven seconds. Meanwhile, the MMA guys, Blackman and Severn, face off, and then footage shows Austin being loaded into an ambulance, another classic Attitude spot. The anticipation about when the top babyface would be back is something that the match is ultimately built around. Edge shows his star power during his stay in the bout, a foreshadowing of future greatness, but when Road Dogg, the first star entrant other than the first two, Edge goes over the top. Roadie plays a blinder in his ten minute sojourn, showing all the character and charisma typical of the man. He and the enormous Mabel clear house, accounting for Blackman, Severn, Edge, Blue Meanie, Droz and Tiger Ali Singh.
The Road Dogg vs. Mabel does not last long however, as the lights go down and ‘Taker’s music hits. The Acolytes and Mideon “steal” Mabel, fighting him into a vehicle under Paul Bearer and The Deadman’s direction. The Ministry storyline asserting itself on the match was certainly an interesting development. Kane is the next heavy hitter out, and he clears the ring, accounting for four men, including Roadie, before the men in white coats once again arrive to try and capture the Big Red Monster and place him under secure care. Kane eliminates himself and batters the orderlies, before making good his escape through a wild crowd! It’s that kind of touch that makes the Attitude Era stand out. Even in a Rumble which was ostensibly all about Austin and McMahon, there are moments throughout which allude to other storylines involving other major players. The midcard and the headliners currently outside the title picture are never forgotten, and ‘Taker kidnapping Mabel and Kane fleeing orderlies are two stand out moments to illustrate that brilliant WWF habit of the time. With the ring entirely clear, Ken Shamrock comes out at #19 and with a minder in place, Vince McMahon creeps back out to ringside too to a resounding chorus of jeers. With Vince joining the announce team, Shamrock roars out his challenge to whoever the next entrant might be, pacing like a tiger...and it’s Billy Gunn, his opponent from earlier! I love when Rumbles have these confrontations from current or former feuds, it makes for fantastically dramatic action. The Bad Ass, having had his ankle almost broken in kayfabe by Ken’s submission in their Intercontinental Title confrontation, comes out wearing only one boot, bravely hopping to the ring. It’s a tremendous babyface performance from Billy, standing toe to toe with The World’s Most Dangerous Man despite his injury. It’s certainly clear that Gunn is in line for an impending push.
Then, the key turning point of this uber-theatrical Rumble comes, as Austin drives the ambulance he’s been put in back into the arena, in an amazing pop moment. Stone Cold made a habit of driving vehicles into venues during his run as top face- a zamboni, a cement loader, a beer truck, a digger- and as usual it has a lightning rod effect on the crowd. Vince once again takes shelter, as the Corporation and DX temporarily ally to get Austin out and claim the $100,000 dollar bounty. Austin rids himself of Shamrock and chokes Bossman with a turnbuckle tie, takes time to throw water in McMahon’s face, gets back in the ring to dump Chyna, the number thirty entrant, over the top, followed by Trips and Bossman, after a Stunner. With the field down to just the Rattlesnake and McMahon it seems inevitable that it’s going to be time for the chairman to prepare to see his most hated enemy in the main event of Wrestlemania, but crucially, hubris overtakes Austin as he seeks to punish Vince for his transgressions, as Rock has enough time to come out and distract Stone Cold by trash talking and pointing at the championship belt over his shoulder. That tiny window of time allows Vince to improbably throw the Texan over the top, prompting probably Michael Cole’s most famous line of commentary “somebody slap me in the face! Mr McMahon...has won the Royal Rumble!” what a brilliant end to a Rumble match and yet another sign of WWF’s tremendously gutsy booking at that time.
This edition of the most loved gimmick match in wrestling had everything; despite the legions of jabronis entered into the match- up there with 1995 and 1996 in contention for the weakest field in Rumble lore- it was entertaining throughout, had some brilliant set pieces and a compelling two man storyline which ran through it like the town’s name on a stick of rock. Great stuff.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
Although 1999’s pay-per-views don’t have the best reputation, this one is a cracker. Three solid midcard title matches that each got a good amount of minutes to develop, a better than average for the time women’s match and one of the all time great WWF Title matches, as well as an action packed Rumble backed up by one of the best storylines and most dramatic endings in the history of the event. Great stuff. Recommended very highly indeed.
Yeah, it is definitely a Rumble that is stronger in storyline than action, but even the worst Rumble is a treat to watch. It’s part of what makes it my favourite event. We’ve had some very good overall Rumble cards over the years and while it probably doesn’t make a dent in my top three, it may well have a shot at a top five place. In terms of the WWF climate at the time, it was definitely one of the stronger events for wrestling and a great way to whet the appetite on the Road to WrestleMania.
Royal Rumble 99 Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: ***½
MVP - THE ROCK
Mick Foley’s domination of the MVP awards finally comes to an end but he played a big supporting role to this week’s winner. This was one of Mick’s famous star making performances but the key to those matches is the opponent embracing the opportunity. The Rock definitely did that on this night. After being made to look second best and protected throughout the feud, the I Quit match was the chance to show ruthlessness and aggression (stay tuned in 2015 by the way) in addition to his confidence and character work which was growing and growing. He put it all together in an excellent package and very much looked the real deal (even if he maybe went a bit too stiff with the chair shots). With a WrestleMania main event on the horizon, the legitimacy certainly would serve him in good stead.
Rocky’s mic work is a huge part of what makes that I Quit Match so successful. Hearing him continually diss Mankind when asked to quit is incredibly entertaining, and the way that the Corporate Champ dishes out such exquisite violence with such a black sense of humour is a huge part of the star-making performance Maz refers to. There aren’t many better matches in 1999 than the title match from the Rumble ‘99, and for his performance as nefarious heel within it, Rock draws level with Mick Foley in the overall standings. It’s now five all! It’ll be interesting to see if anyone will be able to catch either of them...
The Rumble drew a massive 1.8 buyrate, as well as packing nearly 15,000 fans into the Arrowhead Pond, the venue which had also brought us Wrestlemania XII and would bring us Wrestlemania 2000 also. This was a stunning success for WWF and gave them yet another massive filip on the Road To Wrestlemania. Before that though, there would be the traditional last stop beforehand in the middle of February, where the world would finally get to see Stone Cold and Vinny Mac go one on one...
WCW’s answer to the Rumble came in the form of a “Ladder Tazer” match at Souled Out. This was the revenge spin-off from the ending of Goldberg’s streak as he took on Scott Hall in the main event. Missing from the card however were the two participants in the Fingerpoke of Doom. The event actually drew a buyrate of 0.78, which is low compared to WWF’s January big four PPV, but on a par with December’s Rock Bottom. But with another “non-big four” on the horizon we would get to see if the WWF were strengthening even further before Mania.
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.
This week’s show is an ATTITUDE Special as Mav and I look back at 1998 and forward to 1999. In addition the rumble match we reviewed gets Plan’s 101 Matches To See Before You Die treatment.
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