December 13th 1998. Vancouver, British Columbia
After the events of Survivor Series 1997 it would take some serious bravery for WWF to repeat that same story again one year later. It would be even braver if the next PPV after that was back in Canada. Here we are though.
As a result of being the current WWF ‘Corporate’ Champion The Rock has had this show named after him. He walks through what looks like a crowded bar saying that this will be the first of many shows named after him. For being a heel though you’d think everybody would be booing him but they’re not. Also you would think that The Rock would main event a PPV with his name on. Apparently as a result of being injured after an attack by Mankind during Sunday Night Heat The Rock may not even be able to compete tonight. If he doesn’t then Mankind has a contract saying that the WWF Title will be his automatically.
Jerry Lawler is joined by Michael Cole this evening for commentary as Jim Ross is absent due his Mother’s death and a bout of Bell’s Palsy. It’s really strange to hear Cole on commentary from something twenty one years ago as it remind you exactly how long he’s been with the company. He’s actually probably better during all of this that he is these days.
Val Venis must be running out of puns for his intro already. He’s mentions something about being like pancakes because he ‘always melts in the spot’. His team tonight with The Godfather at least makes thematic sense. Tonight they take on Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown. Godfather has his gang of women in his corner whilst Henry and Brown have Terri and Jacqueline on their side. It’s also probably the first time Mark Henry is referred to as ‘Sexual Chocolate’.
This opening tag team match is fine enough and has some good action in it. Again D’Lo does most of the heavy lifting for his team. At one point D’Lo Powerslams Val but noticeably looks behind him to see when Godfather is coming in to make the save. Perhaps him missing his queue as Papa Shango at Wrestlemania 8 still lives on. D’Lo misses a Sky High, Val and Godfather get a Double Suplex on Henry straight afterwards.
The women start to argue outside the ring, Godfather goes out to check on them and Jacqueline pulls Val’s trunks down to reveal a thong. In this vulnerable moment he’s splashed by D’Lo and pinned for three.
Backstage Doc Hendrix interviews Triple H and Chyna. Even here in 1998 Triple H is making jokes about Vince being old.
The Headbangers are back out for tag team action against The Oddities. I really don’t want to waste time describing this car wreck in detail. Cole describes Golga’s wrestling style as ‘methodical’ when the truth would be he’s just bloody slow. Mosh pins Golga after just running into him.
Owen Hart might be heel but he’s gets a huge pop when his music hits here in Canada. He’s up against Steve Blackman tonight. Hart jumps Blackman in the aisle as he enters the arena. Blackman does get a really stiff looking clothesline to send Owen to the arena floor though. Owen ends up spending the first portion of the match getting hammered until he manages a small comeback that hints at a Sharpshooter which the crowd really go for.
Owen only get a two count after a heel kick. Lawler passes some comment about how Owen ‘is the only talented one in the Hart family’. Seeing as Bret had been plying his trade in WCW for about a year now it can only be seen as a dig at them. Blackman locks on a sleeper, Owen reverses into a Dragon Sleeper and then a DDT. Blackman manages to lock on a Sharpshooter but Owen reaches the ropes. Owen then walks off down the aisle and gets counted out. It’s a damp squib of an ending to a match that was really starting to gain some ground.
Backstage Vince is wandering around looking for ‘Mick’. It seems a bit strange how he’ll call Mick Foley by his real name when everybody else calls him Mankind. Vince finds Mankind’s ‘office’ which is a storage cupboard somewhere and ends up sitting having a long talk with him.
Six man action up next as The Brood of Edge, Christian and Gangrel up against The J.O.B Squad of Al Snow, Bob Holly and Scorpio. Odd that Bob Holly was in the WWF/E for so long and only really found his footing proper much later on in his run. Before I stopped watching wrestling in 1996 I saw him enter the WWF as a racing driver and here he is as part of a joke faction named after the act of losing matches. He’s far away from the guy who will rip into a WCW shirt wearing fan during the Invasion angle.
The action is this match is, like many lower card matches of the time, very able and entertaining. Scorpio’s Twisting Legdrop on Christian is a highlight which is slightly ruined later on when he messes up from the top rope and ends up smashing his rear into Christian’s face. Edge gets a dive to the outside in later as Gangrel pins Scorpio for the win.
Mankind and Vince are still having a heart to heart in the boiler room. Seeing the head of the company crouched down in a tiny room is certainly something.
Next up we have the ‘Striptease Match’ involving Goldust taking on Jeff Jarrett. If Goldust loses he strips but if Jarrett loses then his valet Debra will remove her clothing. I’ll file this one firmly under the ‘this match would never, ever happen in today’s WWE’ folder. The fans are obviously desperate for Goldust to win.
The early going is all Goldust as he grabs a wonderful Spinebuster. Jarrett replies with a Cross Body and a Swinging Neckbreaker. Jarrett gets a two count after a good looking Dropkick. Debra tires to get the guitar to waffle Goldust but the ref sees it. Whilst he’s removing the musical instrument from out of the ring he completely misses Goldust pinning Jarrett for an age.
Debra later gets into the ring and tries to distract Goldust by pinching his arse. This doesn’t really work as Jarrett still falls victim to Shattered Dreams anyway. Debra manages to finally smash the guitar over Goldust’s head and Jarrett pins him. The fans are gutted but it’s strange that Jarrett wanders off and leaves Debra in the ring. Commissioner Shawn Michaels (yes, this was a thing) comes down to the ring and reverses the decision seeing as a weapon was used so Debra has to take her clothes off. Jerry Lawler is going crazy on commentary. Shawn starts putting dollar bills between her breasts and Jarrett is seen freaking out about this whilst watching it on TV in the back. Only after a few minutes does he run back down the aisle as The Blue Blazer appears to throw his cape over Debra to spare her blushes.
HBK’s role tonight seems to be a very confusing one. The crowd were cheering as he reversed the Jeff Jarrett/Goldust decision but he’s apparently been heavy handed regarding his old DX colleagues The New Age Outlaws in the tag team title match against The Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock who represent the Corporation. Within the space of twenty minutes he’s gone from face to heel with no obvious reason why. The other members of DX, as per the instructions of Shawn Michaels, are banned from ringside. It is however okay for HBK himself to patrol the ringside area with a nightstick.
Road Dogg and Shamrock begin with some good back and forth action. Not long after this we have a huge Hiptoss from Shamrock to Billy Gunn. Road Dogg then walks into a really good looking Belly to Belly Suplex from Shamrock too. The former UFC fighter has always looked really great in his switch to pro wrestling.
A personal bugbear of mine occurs about halfway through this match when the ref is distracted by Billy Gunn trying to get into the ring. Shamrock is the legal man for his team beating up Road Dogg in the middle of the ring. Bossman comes into the ring behind the ref’s back, tells Shamrock to leave, starts wailing on Road Dogg and as the ref turns around he slaps his own hands to make the tagging noise IN FRONT OF THE REF’S FACE! Firstly there was no need for the blind tag when they were dominating and secondly why the hell would you slap your hands together when the ref is looking?
Bossman slides outside the ring to a prone Road Dogg but Billy Gunn runs the apron and kicks Bossman in the head. By the look on Bossman’s face he really didn’t know that was coming.
Road Dogg takes an absolute beating here with Shawn Michaels taunting him from ringside nearly every step of the way. He finally gets a tag out to Gunn who comes in raging. He then reverses a Shamrock Hurricanrana into a Powerbomb of his own and nearly gets the three were it not for Shawn Michaels hauling the ref out of the ring. In the confusion Bossman smacks Gunn with the nightstick. Gunn kicks out of the following pin attempt.
Shamrock tries to Suplex Gunn back into the ring from the apron but they both end up tumbling back over the ropes and into the ring. Gunn tries to Suplex Shamrock but HBK holds his foot. As Shamrock makes the cover HBK walks off with a grin but he fails to spot Billy Gunn rolling through it and pinning Shamrock for three.
A livid Shawn Michaels starts taking off his jacket and tie in order to fight the New Age Outlaws but they’re already halfway down the aisle.
Vince, Shane and The Rock are backstage. Vince mentions something about ‘he wants witnesses’.
Mankind walks down to the ring with his new music that feels a slight upgrade to his old version. He’s clutching a contract in his hand. The Rock’s music hits and, despite him walking with Vince and Shane, the crowd still cheer him. Mankind wants retribution for Survivor Series and needs a pen to sign the contract saying he can have the title if The Rock is unable to compete. Mankind tells Vince that to admit that he would never say the words ‘I Quit’. Vince says The Rock heard him say it and that’s good enough for him.
The Rock starts the match anyway by jumping Mankind. Both men spill outside the ring and Mankind starts to hit The Rock with the steel steps. An irate Vince gets on the house mic and tells the referee that he has to disqualify Mankind for any further use of weapons.
Mankind goes up to the top rope and is about to jump down to the outside onto The Rock. Shane grabs his foot though and The Rock throws Mankind straight onto the arena floor from height. This is just a number on the long list of reasons why Mick Foley needed hip surgery later in life. The Rock grabs a commentary headset and jibes along as he smacks Mankind’s head off the table and spit water in his face.
Back in the ring we get a Corporate Elbow and the crowd still cheer it. Mankind Legdrops The Rock right in the bollocks and Vince is desperate for the ref to DQ him. Mankind Piledrives the ref before he has a chance to do anything. The Rock smacks Mankind with a steel chair but there’s no ref so no pinfall.
Shane brings in the title, tries to hit Mankind with it but ends up hitting The Rock instead. The ref is back and The Rock kicks out at two. Mankind gets Socko out and jams his fingers in The Rock’s mouth. The ref calls for the bell and the match is awarded to Mankind. Vince turns up again on the mic and says that because The Rock didn’t say ‘I Quit’ and was never pinned then he’s still the champion. Mankind then goes crazy and Mandible Claws everybody in sight. It’s a sign of more violent things to come next month.
If Stone Cold Steve Austin fails to win the Buried Alive match against The Undertaker tonight then he’s out of next month’s Royal Rumble. The Undertaker walks past the grave site whilst the best version of his theme music plays. Austin is down next as he stops by the grave and then goes straight after Taker. What follows isn’t really a wrestling match but more of a brawl.
After fighting in the crowd they move back into the ring. Austin gets the Lou Thesz Press in before cracking Undertaker’s legs off the turnpost. They’re soon back down to the grave as both en stand in the hole and wail each other with punches. There’s then the sight of Undertaker using a funeral wreath as a weapon. Austin replies by running at Undertaker whilst brandishing an entire guardrail.
Back in the ring Undertaker Chokeslams Austin then drags him down the aisle back to the grave. Austin is in the grave and Undertaker starts to shove dirt down. Stone Cold is back up and Stunners Undertaker before pushing him over the edge. Austin doesn’t seem happy with the amount of soil being put down so he wanders off through the curtain. Undertaker recovers and hides behind the mound waiting for Austin to come back. In the meantime there’s an explosion in the grave and Kane appears as if out of nowhere. The Big Red Machine attacks his older brother and Tombstones him alongside the grave. Austin reappears with a digger and gets some poor sap to drive it to the hole and fill it. This process is far from quick however and it seems to take an hour to get the shovel moving. Regardless, The Undertaker is buried and Austin has won. He’ll probably need a warm shower to get rid of all the sweat and mud on him.
Rock Bottom feels a bit strange as The Rock doesn’t even headline what is supposed to be his own show. The undercard is suitable enough but Goldust and Jarrett is a very uncomfortable watch in retrospect. Rock/Mankind feels like they’re building up to something else and Austin and Undertaker feels very gimmicky. It’s certainly a PPV that bridges that end of year gap between Survivor Series and The Royal Rumble.
Onwards we go to a new year in WWF and the last full year of the PPV project. It’s 1999, the end of the millenium and the peak of the Attitude Era.