February 14th 1999, Memphis Tennessee.
Jim Ross is still off when this PPV rolls around so we’re stuck with Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler on commentary tonight. Lawler is back home in his native Memphis so seems to be treated like the second coming of Elvis and is well aware of it. Tonight we are promised the ‘closure’ of McMahon versus Austin as they face each other in a steel cage match. Mankind and The Rock also go one on one in a Last Man Standing match for the WWF Title. It’s hard to see how they’ll be able to top the infamous I Quit match from the Royal Rumble last month unless Mick Foley’s head hangs off by a thread at the end of it.
Firstly though there’s a small matter of dusting to do. Goldust will take on Bluedust in the opening contest. I had no idea The Blue Meanie was ever in WWF around this time as I’d always figured him to be in ECW for his entire career. He he is though, on WWF PPV, looking like Papa Smurf.
It’s at this point that Michael Cole ends up having to explain what exactly is going on and in doing so ends up using the word ‘dust’ about twenty times in one breath. These exposition vomits will be his trademark for the rest of the evening.
The match starts with Goldust attacking Bluedust right from the get go without even letting him get his robe off. Lawler manages to get his usual ECW digs in. Bluedust tries to exit the ring in order to stop this assault which ends in him getting spanked by Goldust. The crowd seem desperate to see Bluedust fall victim to Shattered Dreams and they nearly do but the Smurf manages to move out of the way in good time. Bluedust then goes for a Moonsault, misses and instantly gets a Curtain Call for his trouble. Goldust then gets the winning pinfall before getting Shattered Dreams in on Bluedust after the match has ended. It’s an opening match that doesn’t seem to build up any head of steam before being cut off.
At this point Michael Cole suggests that Austin will ‘wipe Mr McMahon’s spit off his skin with Mr McMahon’s blood’. Don’t think about that one too much.
The Hardcore Title is on the line next as Bob Holly takes on Al Snow. It seems that Road Dogg, the previous champion, has had to vacate the title and the winner of this match gets it. We’re predating the Hardcore 24/7 rule that would be put in place later by Crash Holly. If so then whoever wanted the belt could just have pinned Road Dogg in the hospital. There’s also a suggestion on commentary that Bob Holly will wipe away the memory of Sparky Plugg with victory tonight. At least the WWF are slowly registering that some of the ideas in 1994 were complete rubbish.
There’s not much hanging around at the start as both men go straight for steel chairs before upgrading to fire extinguishers. Not long after this they’re both off out of the arena and into the cold streets outside. Lawler acknowledges that they’re getting really close to the Mississippi river. Holly somehow manages to find the traditional stop sign on the ground and batters Al Snow over the head with it. Both men end up taking a dip in the cold river for no apparent reason before Holly wraps Al Snow up in some wire fencing rendering him unable to kick out during the pinfall attempt that follows. Bob Holly has to walk all the way back to the arena to claim his belt.
Next up is The Undertaker who talks in darkened tones to his followers in the Ministry who are all gathered around a dumpster fire. Make of that analogy what you will.
Mideon of The Ministry is facing The Corporation’s Big Boss Man next. He walks to the ring carrying what at first looks like a urine sample. This is a good few years before the Wellness Policy. When the camera gets a closer look we can see it has an eye in it.
The Boss Man takes firm control from the off and only really messes up by missing a chair shot later on. Mideon’s only offense is to bite Boss Man’s forehead. The ‘boring’ chants become audible as The Boss Man gets a Sidewalk Slam in for a pinfall. It’s another match that seems to have been cut short without warning. The other Ministry members soon surround Boss Man and drag him away as The Undertaker watches on. Hopefully this might lead somewhere in the near future.
“Mark Henry is almost childlike around women” says Michael Cole as the entrances for the Tag Team Title Match begins. Quite what he means by that isn’t really clear but it might have sounded better in his head. The team of Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown have enlisted the help of Ivory to counteract Jeff Jarrett, Owen Hart and Debra. If Debra gets involved Ivory has promised to tear her clothes off. It’s not really explained why.
Mark Henry seems to be constantly stroking Ivory’s arm before this match begins properly. He’s soon brought into it when Owen slaps him. Lawler’s voice is just about shot here so it’s thankfully harder to hear him perve over the women involved. As per usual in any match he was involved in at the time D’Lo does the vast majority of work for his team. The basis of Henry’s involvement seems to be him looking at anything around the ring that might be female. The other three participants in this match can actually wrestle to a good standard. Mark Henry eventually comes in from a D’Lo hot tag. D’Lo then does that awful thing of coming back into the ring ten seconds after being half dead. Both Ivory and Debra start to argue just as D’Lo goes up for the Low Down. The referee comes over to sort them out and this gives Jarrett and ideal time to smack the guitar against Henry’s knee. Mark Henry then submits to the Figure Four Leg Lock that follows. It’s not been a terrible match but nothing ground shattering either.
Mankind is with Kevin Kelly having received treatment after The Rock attacked his knee on Sunday Night Heat. Will this injury play into later events?
Wrestling, especially at this time, has a big problem with women. If they’re not being defined by their sexuality then they are being put up as some kind of prize to be won. Here tonight we have Val Venis who appears to have started a relationship with Ken Shamrock’s younger sister Ryan. The desired effect seems to be to cheer Ken Shamrock as he tries to defeat the Casanova that has corrupted his little sister. There is a problem though. Ryan Shamrock is an adult woman who can probably make her own decisions in life and, as revealed on a previous episode of Monday Night Raw, has expressed her love for Val. With this in mind it’s impossible not to see Ken as the overbearing idiot being far too controlling of his sister.
Our guest referee for this Intercontinental Title match is Bad Ass Billy Gunn for some reason. Val enters with Ryan Shamrock and Ken arrives looking rather intense. The opening section of this match seems to be a contest of who can do the best Irish Whip into the corner. Val starts to focus on Ken’s back, stretching it across his knee at one point. There’s a pinfall attempt after Val gets a bridge in but Billy Gunn takes forever to get into position to count.Val then holds Ken in a headlock and tells at Billy Gunn to “Ask him!”. Gunn’s response of “Ask him what?” is a highlight. Ken gets a DDT but Gunn doesn’t count the following pinfall attempt. The crowd are slowly losing interest before Val attempts a Money Shot only to have Ken throw him off the top turnbuckle. Ken applies the Ankle Lock but Ryan helps Val to reach the ropes. Ken darts out of the ring to confront his sister and gets slapped in the face. Val then rolls Ken back in the ring and Gunn counts a fast three after a small package. Val Venis is the new WWF Intercontinental Champion and Billy Gunn ends up attacking him right after he gets the belt.
Chyna seems to have turned heel and gone against DX. They show a video package that shows up Chyna’s biggest weakness for all to see. She has a really monotone voice so her promos always sounded bland. She’s apparently joined The Corporation for the money. Shane McMahon comes down to the ring to commentate as Chyna teams with Kane to take on X-Pac and Triple H. If you want a sample of the attitude towards mental health in late 90’s WWF then the fact Kane will be ‘sent to the insane asylum’ if he refuses to help the Corporation is certainly one.
Shane McMahon is painful to the ears on commentary for this. He just resorts to screaming every five seconds and generally bellows over everybody else. It’s the one time this evening I feel sorry for Michael Cole. Triple H and Kane start and Kane gets a big boot in first. A big noise is made about how this is the first time in WWF history that a woman has been placed in a men’s match when Chyna gets a tag. She manages to counter X-Pac’s Bronco Buster before Kane tags himself in again much to her disgust. Both X-Pac and Triple H work over Kane, including a really good double duplex. Chyna eventually gets back in and manages to stuff up getting suplexed by Triple H (it takes three shots to get her up and even then she can’t balance right). Both DX members try to fire Chyna towards Kane but she gets caught.
X-Pac becomes just as tired of Shane’s commentary as we are because he launches himself towards the announce table taking out the son of Vince himself. Later Shane recovers enough to interrupt X-Pac as he goes for the Bronco Buster on Chyna. Kane manages to chokeslam Triple H and Chyna crawls over to pin him. It’s a match put on to showcase Chyna even though she is extremely rough around the edges.
The WWF World Title is next up as Mankind takes on The Rock under Last Man Standing rules. These two men certainly seem to have been swapping the title back and forth since the turn of the year. Mankind turns his back as the bell rings to offer The Rock some free shots which he gladly takes. Not long after and the fight goes up the aisle to the entrance way. The Rock gets a full on side suplex onto the concrete floor. Both of them are soon right by the announce table and The Rock grabs Michael Cole’s headset so he can give his own commentary. Soon Mankind recovers enough to dive off the apron and Elbow Drop The Rock off the very same table. The Rock then backdrops Mankind onto the floor and Michael Cole, who has now recovered his headset, screams that “Mankind is broken in half”. Good to see that J.R is there in spirit.
The match then goes into full chaos mode as The Rock grabs a mic to sing to the crowd. He then falls victim to The Mandible Claw. Mankind gets a DDT onto a chair but The Rock is back up at nine. Both men then attack each other simultaneously with chairs , fall down and neither are able to respond to the count so it’s declared a draw. The crowd make their objections well known at this decision. It’s the sort of thing that might have been far more acceptable on an episode of Monday Night Raw than a full price PPV show.
The cage is lowered into place as the preparations begin for the main event of Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Mr McMahon. It’s a feud that has been bubbling over since just after Wrestlemania 14 last year when Austin refused to join in with the corporate friendly image Vince wanted for a World Champion. Apart from the Royal Rumble match and a few gimmicky meetings on Raw it’s the first time Vince and Stone Cold will meet each other face to face. Austin has told the fans that he’s going to make Vince bleed but if Austin loses then he won’t be going to main event Wrestlemania in the title match.
Stone Cold enters first to his usual massive crowd pop. McMahon follows and much like the Royal Rumble the month previous he’s certainly in good shape for this one. There is obviously no way Vince would be able to compete in a full length wrestling match so there’s a little bit of what we’ll politely call ‘shenanigans’ going on to begin with.
Vince doesn’t want to set foot in the cage so paces around outside. Stone Cold stalks him by the cage door. Vince eventually runs away and Austin follows him. This gives Vince an opportunity to jump in the cage himself and instruct the referees to keep Austin out. Austin climbs on side of the cage and falls off, appearing to twist his knee in the process. As he kneels prone on the ground the the ref looks into this injury Vince finds this time to strike and leaves the cage.
It’s a bad mistake.
Austin was simply pretending and instantly leaps on the boss to batter him senseless. Vince is tipped over the guardrail and ends up in the first row, he’s thrown over another guardrail and the brawl carries on up past the seats. During all of this it’s important to note that the bell has not rung so the match isn’t officially underway.
Eventually they both end up back near the ring and climb the cage side by side. Austin rams McMahon’s head off the steel and the boss falls backwards and through the Spanish announce table. It’s a strong visual, a 53 year old man going sailing through the air and crash landing into the furniture below. Apparently Vince’s rear end was bruised purple for three weeks after this match.
The match seems to end as the medical crew come on down with the stretcher to take Vince away to wherever The Rock and Mankind ended up. The Fink is just about to announce Stone Cold as the winner when The Texas Rattlesnake rips the mic from his hands to announce that Vince hasn’t left the arena bleeding. He asks the crowd to give him a ‘Hell Yeah’ if they want to see that happen. Of course they do.
Austin catches up with the medical crew and practically throws each of them over his shoulder. He grabs the stretcher and hurls Vince full force into the cage. Somehow he manages to push the deadweight McMahon through the cage door and into the ring and the match itself begins in full.
What follows is a few minutes of Stone Cold Steve Austin beating seven bells out of his boss. The crowd are loving every minute. Austin again rams Vince’s face into the steel cage and, with Vince face down on the canvas, he begins to climb up the bars. A bleeding Vince then gives the one finger salute to Austin just as he’s about to leave which means Stone Cold climbs back in and beats him up some more. This is repeated a few minutes later when Vince gives him a double salute.
Then it gets really strange.
Paul Wight, formerly The Giant in WCW, appears from underneath the ring canvas. He looks huge next to both Vince and Austin and he goes straight for the Rattlesnake in an effort to stop Vince getting any more punishment. Obviously this is well before they’ve given him the ‘Big Show’ tag. He picks up Austin, looks like he’s aiming to hurl him into the steel wall but they entire thing gives way. Austin lets go of the broken cage panel and his feet hit the floor. Paul Wight is seen to be tending to Vince as Austin shouts from the aisle. With this win it looks like Stone Cold will be headlining Wrestlemania for the second year running.
This was a major turning point in the battle between WCW and the WWF. Paul Wight had been main eventing WCW PPV shows since 1996 but his salary had not increased alongside other performers down in Atlanta. He allowed his contract to expire a few days before this show and signed a ten year deal with the WWF instead. He was the first big name from WCW to jump ship to be with Vince. More would certainly follow over the next year with Chris Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn following in his footsteps but this signing was still a massive move for Vince to take.
Next month we’re going to Philadelphia and Wrestlemania 15, the last Wrestlemania I missed at the time it was shown.