June 27th 1999, Greensborough, North Carolina.
I’ll need a bit of due diligence on this one before we kick off. This was the first WWF PPV since Wrestlemania 12 that I remember looking up the results for the day after it happened. I have a definite memory of waiting ages for a fifteen second clip of the Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Shane and Vince McMahon main event over Realplayer of something similar.
Just as this PPV was broadcast I was in my last month of secondary school. I’d finished an exam and was waiting for the bus to leave Annan to get back home to Gretna (a journey of about ten miles or so). To kill some time I’d walked bought a copy of Gamesmaster magazine from the newsagents in town and walked off down the river to sit and read it. That particular issue had a preview for the upcoming WWF Attitude game on the PS1. I’ve written earlier about how I played WWF Warzone to death and the sequel was a certain purchase for me even though it featured some wrestlers I didn’t have a clue about. Looking back the entire thing was a clunky mess with awkward controls and slow combat but it’s the game that helped drag me back into loving pro wrestling again so I can’t really hold that much against it.
Anyway, onwards to the show…
“The only thing worse than Austin being WWF Champion is Austin being CEO of this company” says Vince with his traditional growl. Tonight he takes on Stone Cold Steve Austin in a ladder match for control of the WWF. Shane is supposed to be teaming with his Dad but as a result of taking Vince’s place against Shamrock (Ken, not Ryan) earlier on Sunday Night Heat that is now in doubt. Oh yeah, Steve Blackman also battered Ken Shamrock with a kendo stick as well. Heat seems like it was very, very busy tonight.
Hardcore Holly comes out for his King of the Ring Quarter final against X-Pac. Hopefully this match won’t end up in the car park. X-Pac still has his DX entrance video even though they seem to have all gone separate ways by now. Holly starts by Shoulder tackling X-Pac a couple of times before planting him with a rough looking Powerbomb. After receiving a Heel Kick and a Bronco Buster Holly escapes to the outside, grabs a steel chair and welts X-Pac with it causing an instant DQ. He’s been eliminated but doesn’t seem to care. Road Dogg comes down to help X-Pac.
I didn’t look up if he was in charge of story writing by now but this show screams Vince Russo at so many points. Mostly with the amount of low blows going on. Keep that in mind for later.
Terry Taylor is backstage trying to get an interview with Hardcore Holly. He asks him what he thought he was doing in getting the steel chair. “Who the hell are you?” barks Holly.
One year ago Kane was battling Stone Cold for the WWF Championship and yet here he is going head to head against The Big Show in the next quarter final. Big Show here is firmly in his ‘nappy phase’. Both men take turns kicking each other into the corner until Show misses a splash into the corner. “Big Show certainly has Andre The Giant like tendencies” says Jim Ross which might be a slight dig at WCW. Kane then pulls out a Enzuigiri out of nowhere which is impressive for a guy his size. Both then go for Big Boots at the same time and end up both flopping on the ground. Big Show goes for another boot only to have Kane duck and the referee to take the brunt instead. With no official there Kane gets a LOw Blow in (Russo surely booked this?). Holly arrives with a chair and prepares to smash Big Show with it until Kane stops him. It doesn’t really have the same gravitas as The Undertaker stopping Jake Roberts from belting Macho Man but we’ll let that slide for now. Kane chokeslams Holly for his troubles.
What follows is painful to watch as Kane applies some sort of neck grip to Big Show which has Paul Wight kneeling on the canvas sweating buckets for what feels like six months. Life stops, only the chirping of tiny crickets can be heard. Big Show tries to break out, eventually does and then Kane uses the chair on him anyway. The referee gets up just as Kane covers and there follows the slowest three count possible.
Vince is with Michael Cole as he shouts towards Shane telling him he needs to go to hospital.
Shamrock is on the floor backstage still bleeding from his internal injuries at the hands of Steve Blackman. He’s also hurling paramedics around which hardly seems like a good idea.
Mr Ass turns up next for his quarter final versus the aforementioned Shamrock or ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Horse’s Ass’ which doesn’t really work as a insult on any level. Shamrock hauls himself to the ring still bleeding from the mouth. Mr Ass works on Shamrock’s midsection and only really stops in the couple of occasions when Shamrock manages to get the Ankle Lock applied. Eventually, after a Mr Ass Powerbomb, the ref determines that Ken Shamrock can no longer continue so calls the match. It’s a really rare ending that you don’t see often in wrestling. You do however get to see Shamrock have a rage fit and attack yet another ref.
Kane faces Mr Ass in the first semi final later.
Chyna and Triple H are with Kevin Kelly. Hunter is asked about his thoughts regarding the WWF Championship match between The Rock and The Undertaker later tonight. He says he does indeed have thoughts but then proceeds to make zero mention of either of them.
Road Dogg takes on Chyna in the last quarter final. He comes out to the ring still doing his ‘Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls’ thing even though he’s on his own. It doesn’t work anywhere near as well. Chyna is with Triple H who seems to have turned up in his jeans and T-shirt.
Firstly during this match a whole heap is made of Chyna being the first woman ever in the King of the Ring tournament. Lawler questions if Road Dogg can bear ‘to hit a woman’ whilst J.R suggest that as a ‘Southern Gentleman’ he couldn’t do such a thing. It gives an excuse early on for Chyna to dominate with what seems like the only three moves she can do in punches, elbows and the occasional body slam. At one point Chyna gets an Irish Whip and Lawler comments that she’s ‘really expanding her repertoire’. Road Dogg eventually gets a Sleeperhold which forces Chyna to the mat but Triple H puts her foot on the ropes when the ref is distracted.
Another ref bump (thank you Russo) and Triple H hits Road Dogg with a chain around his fists. This only gets a two count but it also brings out Shawn Michaels from the back (sporting a T-Shirt from his training school where a certain Brian Danielson will be beginning his wrestling career). Shawn argues with Triple H as they go back down the aisle and Chyna goes for yet another Low Blow. I should have kept a tally of them.
But alas it fails! Chyna recoils clutching her forearm as Road Dogg pulls a protective metal cup out of his trunks. After a Pumphandle Slam he pins the ‘Jacked Up Jezzabelle’ for three.
The Rock is with Michael Cole backstage. It’s not the best Rock promo ever but he’s nearly there. The tongue waggle with the ‘Smeeeellllalalalaaa’ is present and correct.
The tag team division seems to be really confusing right now. The Hardy Boys and The Brood seem to have started a match on Sunday Night Heat but it was interrupted by The Acolytes. Both teams are now having another shot at it on the main show and the winner will be the number one contender to the tag titles which are currently held by Billy ‘Mr Ass’ Gunn on his own. I have no idea how this came about. I also forgot that The Hardys started by having Michael PS Hayes as their manager although it must have been wiped from my mind as there is no logical reason for it whatsoever.
This obviously isn’t up there with the kind of matches both of these teams will go on to have in the future but there is a small moment when you realise something wicked this way comes. Edge is up on the turnbuckle, Jeff runs across the ring and jumps to attack but Edge levels him with a Spear in mid air. It’s one of those moves that makes both the audience and Jim Ross gasp in awe. Give it a few years and they’ll be doing the same thing off ladders.
Hayes gets involved a fair amount in the closing moments of this match also as he runs in to clobber Edge on the back of the head when Earl has his back turned. Gangrel starts attacking the former Freebird and you start to wonder if this couldn’t have been a six man tag. Gangrel takes a big old swig of blood from his goblet and goes to spray it at Jeff. He misses completely and gets Edge instead allowing Jeff to cover him for three. It;’s a really good match that is fast paced throughout which is a blessed relief after watching Kane put his hand around Big Show’s throat for six hours.
The Undertaker seems to have binned all the talk of fires and Hell when he is interviewed by Michael Cole backstage. Is he able to withstand the charge of The Brahma Bull? “What happens when you rip a bull’s balls off?” is the return. Well, I’d imagine it gores you to death.
Vince McMahon comes out to address the audience. They chant ‘Asshole’ at him and he chimes back with ‘You are a very rude audience’. Vince suggests that due to Shane not being able to compete tonight the ladder match is off the card. Shawn Michaels then comes out to say that the match will go ahead. Vince says that he can get a ‘suitable replacement’ for Shane. Lawler then suggests that Vince has somehow outwitted Shawn. I have no idea why, surely Vince didn’t want the match but now has to?
The first semi final is up next as Billy Gunn takes on Kane. It follows the seemingly pre prepared template of tonight’s tournament matches of a match which starts off alright until somebody gets a weapon. In this case Kane raises the steel steps and holds them high in order to strike. Billy Gunn Dropkicks them back in his face though. Big Show pops up and uses a steel chair against Kane with the ref not looking. Billy Gunn pins The Big Red Machine for three.
Both X-Pac and Road Dogg are interviewed separately before going out for their semi final match. “May the best man win” says X-Pac whilst Road Dogg goes for the much more dramatic “This may be the hardest match of my career”. These are the only two members left of DX which was going strong a year ago.
It would seem that everybody starts a match against X-Pac by Shoulder Tackling him. Road Dogg then goes for some chops in the corner but falls victim to X-Pac’s Heel Kick straight afterwards. X-Pac misses the Bronco Buster but manages to reverse the following Pumphandle Slam attempt into a X-Factor for the winning pinfall.
Your final is Billy Gunn versus X-Pac but to be honest it’s hard to care. The tournament itself has been a mess of weapons, interruptions and generally average matches. In 1993 Bret Hart wrestled three very different matches against three very different opponents. In 1994 Owen Hart did the same and it was the jump off point for his excellent feud with Bret. 1996 gave us Stone Cold’s promo having hammered Jake Roberts in the final. Nobody seems to give two hoots about the King of the Ring tournament itself by now and the crowd have been dead for most of the matches this evening. It’s no wonder that the PPV has never really been a fixture of modern day WWE only really returning for occasional editions of Monday Night Raw.
This PPV is very much after Vince McMahon was revealed as the ‘Higher Power’ that the Ministry of Darkness were listening to. As a result of this The Rock had to win a Triple Threat match against both Triple H and The Undertaker to get his shot at the title tonight. During that main event on Raw there was some unplanned disagreement between Triple H and Undertaker that may well boil over later. Having just Googled it apparently The Rock and Undertaker have only faced each other four times in televised matches. It seems a really low number considering the near legendary status of both men within the company.
Side note, Triple H has already challenged the winner of this match to defend the title against him.
Undertaker’s first action in this match is to lay out the ref. This results in absolutely no action being taken against him for some reason. With the official rolling on the floor The Rock goes straight for a Rock Bottom and covers The Undertaker for about seven seconds. Not for the first time in this match The Rock will have Undertaker beaten. Both men are then off down the aisle as The Rock gets Irish Whipped into a barricade. It’s noted on commentary that the ref seems to be letting this all go. “This might as well have been a No DQ match” says J.R.
Back in the ring The Undertaker goes for Old School but The Rock yanks his arm. The Brahma Bull then spits a whole mouthful of water into Undertaker’s face which is hardly hygienic. Back outside the ring and both men attack each other with chairs and the ring bell. For whatever reason this still doesn’t get a disqualification. Paul Bearer hits The Rock with his shoe.
A Tombstone attempt is reversed by The Rock into a DDT but it only gets a two count. The referee is knocked down once again and The Undertaker sneaks in a Low Blow (it’s about the eighth one of the night). Paul Bearer decides to go for the Giant Gonzalez ending as Paul Bearer starts to pour fluid onto a rag on the outside. The Rock intercepts it and uses it on The Undertaker. This brings out Triple H from the back who Pedigrees The Rock before taking off back down the aisle. Both men are down, The Undertaker crawls across to The Rock, covers him but only gets a two count. We then get the match winning Tombstone. The Rock might be beaten but it took both a Pedigree and a Tombstone to get him down. That’s an important detail.
J.R notes on commentary that Triple H was wearing his wrestling gear despite not being booked tonight. Is he Vince’s ‘suitable replacement’? The mystery is solved straight afterwards when Triple H and Shawn Michaels are shown backstage arguing. Vince steps in to scream “He’s my tag partner dammit!”. It doesn’t matter, Shawn ejects Triple H from the building leaving Vince frantically bellowing “Turn around, I need you back here” to somebody down his mobile phone.
“This is the last King of the Ring final of the millenium” say J.R as X-Pac makes his entrance. Mr Ass is interviewed by Michael Cole before he comes out. ‘I’m going for that scrawny neck of yours” he says to X-Pac. Mr Ass goes straight to it with punches to his former DX buddy He misses the following corner splash though. X-Pac gets an over the top rope Crossbody to the outside. X-Pac gets the X-Factor in but it’s only for a two count. Mr Ass doesn’t seem effected by the Bronco Buster as he’s up giving out a Neckbreaker on X-Pac’s ‘scrawny neck’ a few seconds later. A jumping Fameasser from the second rope puts X-Pac down for a winning three.
Mr Ass does not get a ceremony, there is no throne nor is there a crown. He’s just announced as King of the Ring and that’s it done. It’s seems like the most low key victory for something that has been built up as really important. Does it launch Mr Ass into a fantastic programme with such names as Stone Cold, Undertaker or Austin? By the fact the 2001 winner Edge said he wouldn’t ‘Billy Gunn’ his reign as King then we can only guess it doesn’t.
Vince is out next and the crowd are still chanting ‘Asshole’ at him. “Where is your Southern hospitality?” he asks. He’s here to introduce Steve Blackman as his replacement partner. This is until the mysterious GTV shows Shane hanging backstage with his friends in the Mean Street Posse. “We really fooled HBK” says Shane who looks completely fine. Upon being told that he’s live he makes a run for it but Shawn Michaels catches him at the car park exit and forces him back into the arena. HBK drags him down the aisle practically like a small child who smashed the neighbour’s window and ran away. Blackman is out, Shane is back in, the match is going ahead. The sound of shattering glass fills the arena and Austin makes his entrance to a rapturous ovation.
Both McMahons run for the ladder first but Austin runs full pelt down the aisle and attacks them both. There’s a short spell when all of them are back in the ring but it doesn’t last long. The entrance ramp is a tunnel made from what looks like about thirty aluminum ladders and Shane begins to climb it in some misguided effort to get away from Stone Cold. It’s a plan that fails and soon both Junior and Senior and hurled into it knocking ladders flying as they do. The entire structure looks like it’s about to fall down. This is achieved when Austin pulls on a chain nearby causing the whole thing to crash down upon Shane and Vince. Austin makes his way to the ring when a ladder and eventually the McMahons catch up with him. Shane ends up sailing over the announce table and almost takes out J.R as a result. If that wasn’t enough Austin leaps off the ladder and Elbow Drops Shane through the announce table anyway.
Stone Cold climbs the ladder whilst it’s outside the ring (not sure why) and Vince pushes it over meaning that Stone Cold goes through the other announce table. Vince uses this moment to climb the ladder and nearly reach the briefcase. Austin soon storms back into the ring and tips Vince off the ladder to the canvas below. Austin then spends a few minutes braying Shane and Vince with the ladder rather than getting the briefcase for himself.
It backfires a bit as Vince jumps Austin from behind. Vince then tries to forget about the ladder completely and boost Shane up. Unfortunately both men crumbled under the weight. Shane then gets up on Vince’s shoulders and they still flail at the case. By this time Austin has woken up and batters both of them. After Stunners to both men Austin starts to climb up the ladder. Victory is seemingly assured until the briefcase starts to lift. Everytime Austin looks to be in reach if it the case goes higher. A furious Austin then goes to the ringside area and starts to berate anybody who is a WWF employee. In the meantime Vince goes up the ladder and the case lowers. Shane shoves both Austin and Vince off the ladder but this gives him the time to climb up himself and grab the case which is now just about touching the floor. The McMahons have control of the WWF back again and they hobble back up the ramp. Austin is left in the ring seething as the PPV goes off air.
There has never been any confirmation of who was in charge of the rope that night. A quick online search suggest it was The Big Bossman who was in the process of returning to the Corporation after failing them at Wrestlemania 15. With The Ministry and The Corporation now being one and the same it certainly makes a fair bit of sense. They never confirmed this on TV though and it remains one of wrestling’s mysteries even now.
The 1999 King of the Ring tournament itself is a spectacular waste of time. None of the matches in it are that great and the final winner seems a very odd choice. There’s a small glimpse at what Edge, Christian and The Hardy Boys can do. The Rock and Undertaker follows the usual WWF main event pattern of the time of going all over the arena regardless of if it’s a No DQ match or not and the ending of the Ladder Match just feels really cheap. One to skip then.
Next time around we’ll be Fully Loaded.