Unforgiven 1999

September 26th 1999. Charlotte, North Carolina.

The turn of the millennium was a really strange time for me personally. At the start of 1999 I was in my last year of secondary school and not really enjoying being there. I’d become bored and was on the lookout for something new. Most of my final few months were spent mucking about in the school’s photography dark room. By the time September came around I had left secondary, got a job, been fired from said job after three days and then gained entry to art college. Without the schoolyard pressure of having to be ‘in the crowd’ my love of wrestling was coming back and building with each passing month.  Unforgiven 1999 was probably the first show of this new life chapter.

The British Bulldog makes his return to the WWF on PPV tonight as a last minute replacement in the Six Pack Challenge. The last time Davey Boy Smith was featured in this PPV Project he was part of the Hart Foundation in 1997. Two years have passed during which time he’s been in WCW, gained a severe back injury that nearly paralysed him and had his contract from Ted Turner terminated by FedEx. It wasn’t just Stone Cold who they couldn’t fire face to face. The WWF Title was declared vacant after Vince McMahon of all people won it and handed it back over. The details on that we’ll go through later.

After a video hype package in which mentions ‘Six mortal men, warriors all’ and the WWF Championship being ‘a blessing that poisons the soul’ we’re off to see J.R and Jerry Lawler. They proceed to detail how the referees are all on strike tonight meaning the officiating will be done by ‘scab refs’. Part of the fun this evening is seeing what former wrestlers they’ve drafted in to officiate matches. 

Val Venis walks down to the ring with a sports bag over his shoulder apparently belonging to Steve Blackman. Jerry Lawler cannot resist making a ‘tools of his trade’ joke as he bangs on about how the bag will ‘make noises and be buzzing’. Blackman has hardly entered the arena before both men jump each other and starts brawling. The bell eventually rings and we’re underway. Your referee for this match is The Brooklyn Brawler which makes a change from him just getting kicked in on WWF Superstars. 

It’s not long until Blackman kicks Val in the bread basket to take full advantage. Just to add to this Val falls victim to an Inverted Atomic Drop as well. The match spills out onto the floor with both men using steel guardrails as weapons. Back in the ring Blackman batters Val in the corner with a hard Irish Whip and a Backbreaker. At this point in commentary J.R talks about how The Undertaker is being replaced in the Six Pack Challenge match tonight as a result of walking out on Vince McMahon earlier today. In reality The Undertaker had a serious groin injury and could hardly walk let alone wrestle.

Meanwhile in the ring Val has taken the lead as he Elbow Drops Blackman. It’s followed up by a Bulldog, a Suplex and The Money Shot for the winning three count. Post match, Blackman finds his bag and cracks a kendo stick over Val’s head. It leaves the adult movie star laid out in the ring as Blackman threatens the medical crew that have come down to help. A nearby security guard takes Blackman down in an MMA style. Not only has Blackman lost twice to Ken Shamrock in recent months but he’s now being duffed up by arena staff. We’re only a few months away from him wearing foam cheese on his head.

Michael Cole is backstage asking The Big Show if he knows where The Undertaker is. Like most kids who get asked where their little brother or sister is he responds by saying he’s nothing to do with them. He also mentions how The Undertaker’s ‘name isn’t on the roster’. Since when was he in charge of HR?

Lillian Garcia catches up with Mark Henry before his European title defence against his former friend D’Lo Brown. Since turning heel Henry has gone from ‘lovable chunk of love’ to ‘sex pest’. He whispers something seemingly quite suggestive to Lillian who instantly slaps him across the face. It might have just been a throw away action but it actually plays into the next match in a good way. The video package for this match tells us that Henry and Brown have been ‘best friends for years’. I think they’ve only just referenced this on TV for about the last two months though.

After getting into the ring Henry grabs the mic and says that he cannot possibly defend his title tonight as he now has a ‘brainursym’ from the slap he’s just received. D’Lo has none of this though as he marches down the aisle to the ring in a search for vengeance. Tom Pritchard, he of the Heavenly Bodies circa 1994, is the referee for this match. D’Lo and Mark Henry don’t wait for the bell.

D’Lo actually gets a Sky High in pretty early doors for a two count. Henry later drops D’Lo on the turnbuckle pads. D’Lo attacks Henry to the outside with a Crossbody over the ropes. It’s certainly a match of Mark Henry’s raw power versus D’Lo Brown speed and high flying. D’Lo bust out a Frankensteiner, a Flying Forearm and then a Lo Down for the winning three count. The lay out of the match feels very similar to Val Venis and Steve Blackman a short while ago. The fact is that D’Lo Brown is the new European Champion and he can announce himself as coming from Helsinki again.

If you want an example of how ‘real life’ wrestling booking has become in the Attitude Era then the next section has you covered. Michael Cole is with The Acolytes and halfway through the segment they are interrupted by a brawl across the room. Apparently it’s Chaz who J.R says isn’t popular in the locker room right now due to allegations he’s been beating up his girlfriend. Apologies if you watch wrestling as a form of escape.

Jeff Jarrett has ditched Debra as his manager which is a merciful relief. Perhaps now we can concentrate on his matches without having 90% of the audience and Lawler screaming about ‘puppies’.

I stand corrected, he’s got Miss Kitty with him. Now we have to put up with Lawler going “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty” instead.

Jarrett is into the full swing of his rampaging misogynist gimmick here as he takes on Chyna in defence of his Intercontinental title. “Imagine the embarrassment for Jeff if he loses the intercontinental title to a woman” says J.R in the lead up to this match. Obviously the heel Chyna who teamed with Mr Ass a couple of months ago has been put firmly in the bin. For the third match in a row tonight both combatants don’t bother waiting for the bell. Call me pedantic but it’s getting irritating now. Your referee for this contest is Harvey Wippleman complete with his amazingly thick lens glasses.

Chyna takes command early on with a Shoulder Charge and a Clothesline over the top rope. Chyna then ends up getting crotched on the turnpost which she sells like death. Chyna later uses a steel chair to attack Jarrett and no DQ is called at all. Back in the ring Jeff Jarrett gets a Superplex and the top rope DDT he loves so much. The camera turns to Mae Young and Moolah at ringside. Chyna responds to a Jarrett Sleeperhold with a thunderous Powerslam of her own. Jeff Jarrett gets a Powerbomb in and tries to follow up with his Figure Four Leglock but Chyna powers out of it. Chyna is then catapulted into the ref and Harvey hits the canvas. This is the cue for Moolah and Mae Young to jump the barrier (which is impressive for their age) and attack Jarrett. They get a huge pop for Double Suplexing Jarrett. They don’t get much time to celebrate as Jarrett soon shakes it off and whacks both of the pensioners with a Clothesline.

During all of this chaos Debra has wandered down the aisle. She not only shoves Kitty out of the way but also smashes Jeff Jarrett’s own guitar over his head. Chyna crawls over to Jarrett’s prone body and Harvey wakes up just in time to count the winning three. The crowd are loving it as Chyna looks like the first woman to hold the Intercontinental title. Tom Pritchard then enters the ring to say that Debra used the guitar on Jarrett so therefore the result cannot stand. They consult the video replays on the Titantron which is probably the only time wrestling has ever felt the need to consult a VAR system. The decision is reversed and Jarrett grabs his belt before walking out.

Michael Cole is with Stone Cold Steve Austin who will be the special enforcer for the main event tonight. Austin says “There will be a new WWF Champion tonight”.

J.R announces that the opening pairing for the Six Pack Challenge tonight was going to be Triple H and The Rock but due to The British Bulldog. lamping the future Dwayne Johnson on an episode of Smackdown Vince McMahon has decreed the opening two will be The Rock and Bulldog instead. Does Vince just decide the order of this on a whim?

Michael Cole is with Faarooq and Bradshaw of The Acolytes. They mention how they’re going to make fools of The Dudley Boys tonight.

A side note here would be how odd it it is to see a tag team who are now held in such high regard, in this case The Dudleys, enter the WWF and have everything they had in ECW seemingly wiped away at the drop of a hat. The Dudleys come out to a muted reaction, Bubba cuts a promo complete with speech impediment essentially saying North Carolina sucks. Bradshaw and Faarooq enter and NONE OF THEM WAIT FOR THE BELL! It would make vague sense for the ref to do it properly for this match as it’s an official WWF referee for the first time tonight.

This is actually the best match of the night so far that seems to have four guys willing to go all out to get a good match together. Bradshaw gets a huge Big Boot to Bubba’s face in the early going that looked a little rough. D’von Shoulder Blocks Bradshaw but not long afterwards Bradshaw hauls up D’von for a Fallaway Slam. “Neither of these teams would write a book about technical wrestling” says J.R in probably the truest statement of the evening. The Dudley’s then get both The 3D and a Dudley Deathdrop in which represents both of their finishers. In the spirit of the WWF completely ignoring the progress any team has made outside of Vince’s bubble Bradshaw kicks out at two after both of them. D’von returns to the top turnbuckle only the get Back Suplexed off it by Bradshaw.

It’s this moment that Stevie Richards turns up wearing Acolyte garb. He superkicks D’von which enables The Acolytes to pick up the win. Richards then tries to ingratiate himself alongside Bradshaw and Faarooq but ends up on the receiving end of a Powerbomb.

The next three minutes of this show are dedicated to a Women’s Title match with hardcore rules between Ivory and Luna. Ivory gets slammed into a photocopier, Luna does a Frog Splash off a forklift truck and for some reason falls count on vertical surfaces. Ivory wins after using a broom as a weapon.

Right after this match Lillian Garcia interviews Moolah and Mae Young as they nurse the injuries they gained from Jarrett earlier. Ivory then stomps into frame screaming about how she’s the women’s champion and not them.

Two months ago we had Road Dogg and Mr Ass Billy Gunn on opposite teams fighting over the rights to the name Degeneration X. For whatever reason Billy Gunn has been welcomed back into the fold as the reformed New Age Outlaws take on Edge and Christian tonight. Are they just splitting the merchandise revenue now then? Road Dogg in making his return from a brief injury at the hands of Chris Jericho. It might feel like they’ve been apart for all of five minutes but if you judged the crowd reaction to Road Dogg’s opening mic work then you’d think it had been for years. Both teams wait for the bell like good boys.

Edge and Mr Ass begin the match with some smooth wrestling featuring armdrags and headlocks. Christian later gets a sweet looking Dropkick on Road Dogg. Mr Ass manages to lift Christian into a Military Press straight down to a Gutbuster which looks really good. Before long Edge and Christian start to focus attacks on Road Dogg’s lower back. Christian and Road Dogg clatter into each other in mid air as a result of both going for a Crossbody off the ropes. Road Dogg recovers just enough to deck both Edge and Christian with a Double DDT.

At this point The Hardy Boys and Gangrel run in. Jeff manages to Dropkick Edge off the top rope leaving him wide open for a match winning Fameasser from Mr Ass. It looks like Edge and Christian are going on a defined collision course with Jeff and Matt.

The British Bulldog and Triple H are backstage with Lillian Garcia. They’re asked if they’re a team but she doesn’t get a defined answer.

“It’s come to this” J.R entones “A Kennel From Hell match”. As part of this PPV Project I have ended up having to sit through some awful matches but nothing has been such a convoluted pile as this one. As a result of Big Bossman killing Al Snow’s pet dog and feeding him the results disguised as a peace offering meal the two meet tonight in a match that combines a Steel Cage match and a Hell in a Cell. In between the gap will be a pack of rottweilers ready to chomp on any wrestler that happens to come near. The winner is the wrestler who escapes via the cell door. What actually happens is two men roll around in the middle of a ring whilst some dogs take a piss on the outside.

I can’t even bring myself to comment on this match in any meaningful way. It should have stayed firmly in the mind of anybody who thought it up (I’m looking at Vince Russo here). A lot of the unintended comedy comes from the fact that J.R is desperately trying to put over these dogs as a threat to the lives of those in the ring when they’re just sat around either looking bored or barking at each other. There’s a moment when Al Snow holds out Bossman’s arm for a dog to bite and it just sniffs it before turning around. Al Snow wins to regain his hardcore title after what feels like weeks. One of the dog handlers falls over in the aisle as the dogs walk to the back. It’s probably the highlight of this terrible match. There have been worse matches in the ring certainly but none of them have this much set up to do by a ring crew beforehand.

Mankind is with Cole backstage. It’s that period of time when Mick Foley was copying The Rock’s promos. “For the dozens AND DOZENS of Mankind fans”. It’s brilliant.

Chris Jericho has to avoid the puddle of dog urine on the way to the ring as the crew are still dismantling the cage. Tonight Y2J takes on X-Pac in his WWF PPV debut. There’s a section in one of Jericho’s books when he talks about his first few months in the WWF and how eventually Vince took him to one side and yelled at him about how he wasn’t worth the paper his contract had been written on. There is an obvious difference between the level he was expected to be at in WCW compared to the WWF. Seeing what he’s become today it’s a blessing he didn’t give up.

Jericho gets on the mic to say he’s saving “This boring PPV”. Jericho avoids a Heel Kick by ducking and then storming in with a Clothesline. Y2J also avoids an early attempt at a Bronco Buster. Mr Hughes, who I entirely forgot was with Jericho in the very early WWF days, jumps in the ring to batter X-Pac but there’s absolutely no DQ called for. The crowd are notably booing X-Pac during this match as he launches another Bronco attempt but Jericho does what any rational person would do and boots X-Pac squarely in the balls. Jericho applies the Double Powerbomb which is a move I always thought would take far more out of the guy doing the move than the guy taking it. Soon after Jericho is upside down in the corner and X-Pac finally manages to get his Bronco Buster in. Mr Hughes once again comes in and punches both X-Pac and the referee for good measure. A DQ is finally called and Road Dogg is forced to come down the aisle to save his DX team mate from even more of a kicking.

Right, time to set the record straight over the WWF title situation. Mankind won at Summerslam but Triple H forced his way into a title shot on Raw by threatening Linda McMahon. Triple H won that to become the new WWF Champion but the belt seems to have driven him into a Gollum like lust for power as he attacks almost everybody else in the locker room who he sees as a threat, When Vince tries to stop him Triple H suggests they have a match for the WWF title. Stone Cold interrupts that match which allows Vince to pin Triple H and win the title of his own company. Alas Vince cannot defend it though as he ‘cannot be involved in WWF affairs’ which seems to be something of a first. Vince vacates the title, Austin reinstates him and Vince then declared Austin as the Special Enforcer of this Six Pack Challenge match. Caught up on that? Good job.

This match is top heavy with some of the biggest names on the roster at the time. Big Show comes out first and actually vaults over the top rope to get into the ring which I haven’t seen him do before or since. Bulldog is next with his new theme music. J.R comments that Bulldog could be WWF Champion by the time they get to Birmingham, England for the UK show on Saturday night. Mankind is out next, Kane follows him. Triple H comes out with Chyna and J.R thanks both Fear Factory and System of a Down for providing music for tonight’s show. Obviously all of their tracks have been scrubbed from this WWE Network version. There is a loud ‘Rocky’ chant from the crowd as his music hits and the noise almost lifts the roof. There’s a moment when Mankind thinks about holding the ropes open for The Rock to get in but The Brahma Bull decides against it. Stone Cold arrives with his baseball shirt and cap, informs the time keeper to ring the bell and sits down on commentary with J.R and Lawler. “Come Hell or high water there will be a new damn champion tonight so I can get my title shot and straighten that record once again” he says.

As promised by Vince it’s The Rock and Bulldog that start but, bar a couple of punches here and there, they don’t actually do much. Bulldog tags Triple H into the match and The Rock Hot Shots him on the top rope. He only gets a two count as a result. “There’s no way The Rock is going to beat Triple H that easily” says Austin.

The Rock stands a little too close to the ropes and allows Kane to blind tag in. The Big Red Machine instantly lifts Triple H off the ground in a choke and follows with a Powerslam. “Kane didn’t really get all of that Powerslam but maybe he got enough of it” says J.R in response to Kane’s usual ‘knees first’ method of bumping.

Kane punches Big Show which technically counts as a tag. As retribution Big Show shoves Kane off the top turnbuckle before entering the ring himself. Big Show finds that Mankind has tagged himself in without his knowledge. Triple H eats a Mankind Running Knee in the corner. Before long it’s Kane and Big Show both in as legal man and Kane’s numerous Clotheslines don’t phase Big Show at all. Big Show switches places with The British Bulldog as the Manchester native gets into the action for the first time in this match. It’s not for long though as he eats a Big Boot from Kane that sends him sailing into Mankind for a tag. Big Show also tags in at the expense of Kane.

There’s a really confusing bit next in which everybody seems to tag in everybody else and you don’t have a clue who is supposed to be legal but it ends up with Bulldog and The Rock. Bulldog proves he can still do a Delayed Suplex even with his current back troubles. Bulldog then tags in Mankind but he wants nothing to do with fighting his current tag team partner so walks across the ring and tags Kane in. The Rock reverses a Kane Tombstone effort into a Leg Sweep. Mankind holds out his boot and The Rock smashes Kane’s head off those size twelves in a move that makes them look like they’re working as a team.

Triple H ends up Suplexing Mankind on the floor in the aisle as every single participant leaves the ringside area. “Is there a countout in this?” asks Stone Cold. Triple H ends up on the receiving end of a Mankind Piledriver onto the steel steps. Back in the ring Mankind holds Bulldog so that The Rock can get a few clear shots at him. The Rock walks across the ring and punches Big Show which leads to a very large man climbing over the ropes to get into the ring. Triple H blind tags the retreating Rock but gets a Dwayne Johnson sized fist in his face as a result.

At this point all the referees that were on strike outside come down to the ring and group together at ringside. The ref who is actually officiating this match seems to have crossed to picket line to do so. He does not seem popular.

Big Show gets some solid Headbutts to Mankind. He follows with a Jumping Elbow Drop but cannot get a three count as The Rock comes in and makes the save. Moments later Mankind tags The Rock in legally and it takes three Running Clotheslines from The Rock to knock Big Show off his feet. The following pin attempt is broken up by Triple H. Outside the ring, whilst taking a short break from punching Triple H in the head, The Rock grabs Austin’s beer and spits it towards the former Degeneration X leader.

Kane lifts up Mankind for a Tombstone and does get it but he doesn’t know that Big Show blind tagged him. Show flings Kane outside and lifts up Mankind for the Chokeslam only to have Kane fly through the air and Clothesline him instead. The entire match then explodes as everybody is in doing finishers. Mankind finally breaks on The Rock by applying Mr Socko. The Rock breaks out of the hold with a Rock Bottom but Triple H breaks up the pin. “The damn sunoabitch stole ma beer!” says Stone Cold who seems still upset about that incident.

Big Show clears the ring and only has Mankind left before him. A Chokeslam leaves the way clear for him to get a clean pin. “This is it” says J.R “The Big Show is going to be the new WWF Champion”. There’s a one count, a two but then the referee is dragged out of the ring by the other refs outside. The striking refs then attack him whilst Big Show looks on with the annoyed look of a man who dropped his fresh Big Mac on the floor in the car park.

By this time Austin has seen enough as he vaults over the announce table and attacks all the refs one by one. He then seems to insert himself into the match as an official. The Rock gets a DDT in on Triple H. It’s followed up by both a Rock Bottom and a People’s Elbow. The Rock covers as Austin starts the count. He too only gets to two before he’s dragged out of the ring by Big Show. Bulldog meanwhile lamps The Rock with a chair. Austin then batters Bulldog with the same chair. Meanwhile Triple H has gone to cover The Rock and Austin has no choice but to administer the winning three count. The crowd don’t seem that into a Triple H win so it’s very lucky that he lords it over Austin in the aftermath and gets a Stone Cold Stunner for his congratulations. They play Stone Cold’s music as he drinks beer in the middle of the ring. “Stone Cold has overshadowed the new WWF Champion” screams J.R as we go off air. I’m pretty sure Triple H will more than make up for that in the years to come.

I feel like I’ve written it a lot by now but Unforgiven 1999 is a WWF PPV show absolutely saved by the main event. It features what might well be the worst match of this entire project in the shape of the Kennel From Hell, a woman’s match that is only given three minutes and another attempted relaunch in the career of Mark Henry. Up until the main event I was feeling that this show was a slog to watch through but then it becomes obvious that they stacked all the big hitters into the last half hour. The door is open for Austin to come back next month and fight Triple H for the title but The Texas Rattlesnake might have to wait and see what his surgeon reports back with on that one.

We roll onto next month and No Mercy 1999 aka ‘The one with that tag match’.

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