Here we go then, the final show.
It becomes apparent from the opening video package that The Big Show’s reign as WWF Champion isn’t first on the list of priorities tonight. The opening minutes are dedicated to the battle between Triple H and Vince McMahon. Just before this show we’ve had the rather famous angle of Triple H drugging Stephanie McMahon and hauling her off to a drive in Chapel to get married. This act kicked off the entire period of ‘The McMahon-Helmsley Power Couple’ and, despite commentary saying otherwise, confirming Triple H’s departure from Degeneration X. I never really worked out why Stephanie wouod have stayed married to a man who had to chemically knock her out to go through with the ceremony though.
The opening match tonight is a sixteen team battle royal for the chance to face the tag team champions at the Royal Rumble. If one member of a team is thrown over the top rope then both wrestlers must leave. The Dudley Boys are out first closely followed by Edge and Christian. The four men brawl straight away but are brought under control by the officials. The Hardy Boys are out next followed by The Mean Street Posse. The Acolytes arrive which allows JBL to look in disgust upon Too Cool walking down the aisle after them. Mark Henry seems to be back as a face again as he arrives with The Godfather. The Headbangers round off the collection.
It’s difficult to write about this match with any degree of clarity as it’s such a mess. A whole lot of it seems to focus on teams getting eliminated but staying in the match due to the referee not noticing. In the early going Pete Gas from the Mean Street Posse in hurled over the top but climbs back in. It eventually boils down to The Acoltyes and The Hardy Boys. A top rope dropkick to Farooq from Jeff bundles one half of The Acolytes out but because no official is on that side of the ring it doesn’t count. Farooq gets back in and backdrops Jeff to the floor. Bradshaw and Farooq are off to Madison Square Garden next month to face the tag team champions.
The Kurt Angle introduction tour continues here as The Olympic Gold Medalist takes on Steve Blackman. Kurt doesn’t even get a chance to do his opening promo because Blackman storms to the ring and attacks with a sequence that ends with a top rope Missle Dropkick. Angle responds with a Dropkick of his own causing J.R to quip how ‘he didn’t learn that at the Olympics’. Angle misses a Moonsault which allows Blackman to snap on a Bow and Arrow nearly getting himself pinned in the process.
Blackman Drop Toe Holds Angle resulting in Kurt smacking his face off the lowest corner pad. The crowd are chanting ‘Boring’ as Blackman misses what looks to be a Vader Bomb leaving him wide open for Angle to bridge a German Suplex for the winning pinfall. An enraged Blackman cuts the celebrations short by attacking with nunchucks however.
I’m writing this a few days after Sasha Banks and Bayley have faced each other for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at Hell in a Cell. It’s a certain candidate for Match of the Year as they both put effort into having a classic wrestling match with a really well designed story following logic all the way. It’s a testament to how far women’s wrestling has come in the WWE in recent years. The next match is the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
I’d hesitate to even call this a match actually. The ‘Evening Gown Pool’ stipulation essentially sees Ivory defend her title in a four way against Jacqueline, Miss Kitty and B.B. Everybody gets in the pool and is only eliminated when they have their gown torn off. This amounts to screaming, flailing and (oddly) the occasional attempted drowning. Jacqueline goes first and seems glad to be out of there. Ivory departs shortly after and B.B is ejected by Miss Kitty with also gains her the title. Miss Kitty then decides to mark the occasion by whipping her top off. Sgt Slaughter saves them from a barrage of parental complaints by springing forth with a towel. It’s a dire waste of time, does nothing to promote anybody and seems to only be there to amuse the horny teen demographic.
When I watched Too Cool dance during the 2000 Royal Rumble match I figured Rikishi was a well established character on WWF television. Watching the shows leading up to that though I’m surprised that tonight marks his PPV debut. He’s even given his full name of Rikishi Phatu so the McMahon practice of lobbing off wrestler’s surnames isn’t a recent occurance. He’s here tonight to represent ‘all the fat, healthy people in the world’.
It’s worth considering how far The Ministry of Darkness have plunged since the summer now The Undertaker is away. Viscera is here, still lumbering around with his black coat on, but it feels like he and Rikishi have been lumped together in a pointless match against Crash and Hardcore Holly. Four months ago they were kidnapping Stephanie and now she’d probably have trouble recognising most of them in the corridor.
Rikishi takes most of the early going. Sitting on Crash after his Sunset Flip has zero momentum and following with a huge Belly To Belly Suplex on Hardcore. Rikishi holds his hand out towards Viscera but he doesn’t want in the match initially. Eventually the former Ministry member does climb between the ropes only to miss a Splash onto both prone Holly cousins.
A Hardcore DDT does absolutely nothing to slow Rikishi down. What does lay him low is Viscera bundling in with a Heel Kick that hits him accidentally allowing Hardcore to get the pinfall. Rikishi and Viscera brawl after the bell over this misunderstanding.
Lillian Garcia is with Val Venis who seems to have taken a bet to do his best impression of The Rock in a live promo. They end up speaking Spanish to each other and leaving arm in arm. For some reason they miss a trick by not having her follow him all the way to the ring for the European Title Triple Threat between The British Bulldog, D’Lo Brown and himself.
It wasn’t that far into this project that I covered the match between Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog for the European title at One Night Only. On that evening, in Birmingham, the title seemed like the most important thing in wrestling. It’s a miscarriage that Bulldog didn’t win that night due to Shawn’s politics backstage but there was always the feeling that his time would come. Here though, two years later, Bulldog’s run with the European title seems like an afterthought. The three men in this match are great at what they do but it’s over a trinket that the WWF seems determined to leave well behind.
Bulldog arrives with The Mean Street Posse on tow but they’re all quickly sent straight back to the locker room by the referee. Bulldog’s troubled back must be causing him problems as he spends a lot of time being the guy outside the ring during this one. Val gets a Powerslam on D’Lo for two before D’Lo slips on the ropes attempting a Springboard. Bulldog does make it back into the ring only to receive a Double Delayed Suplex before bundling outside again. “The Bulldog is biding his time” yelps Lawler. D’Lo gets a Sunset Flip on Val but Bulldog hauls out the referee before he can count three. D’Lo gets the Lo Down on Bulldog and tries to pin him. Val then flies off the turnbuckles with a Money Shot to both before pinning Bulldog. Val Venis is the new European Champion and is no doubt now going to spend more time chatting up Lillian Garcia in Spanish.
X-Pac can’t quite get promos right. The early part of his career was dedicated to being a plucky upstart who gained the spotlight by squeaking a victory against Razor Ramon and it still seems like he’s locked in that idea despite being a member of both the NWO and DX in the last few years. Here he seems like he’s bricking himself at the prospect of facing Kane in a cage match. He has managed to swing it his way slightly though by instigating the rule that Kane can only win by pinfall.
Kane comes to the ring with Tori and X-Pac tries to be full on sex pest with her before Kane leaves the cage to batter him. X-Pac then attacks him with the ring bell. As X-Pac climbs through the door J.R offers the tactical advice of wondering why he doesn’t just run to the other side of the ring and jump out that side to win. X-Pac sticks around though and gets levelled by a Press Slam instead. He also somehow manages to jump straight into a Chokeslam as well.
The New Age Outlaws run down with bolt cutters and remove the chain from the door. It gives them the chance to throw a steel chair into the ring. After receiving a X-Factor onto the chair Kane is handcuffed to the cage and can only watch as Tori is X-Factored right in front of him. X-Pac climbs the cage wall but an enraged Kane snaps free of his bonds, gets out of the door and catches X-Pac before he can hit the floor. Kane then dumps X-Pac back in the ring and then launches a huge Flying Clothesline from the top of the cage. A Tombstone follows and X-Pac is pinned for the three. Kane leaves alongside Tori, comforting her as they go.
Chyna has broken her thumb and her hand is in something of a low key cast. It’s a strange injury for them to focus on during her Intercontinental title match against Chris Jericho. I could understand saying her whole hand was broken as this would certainly reduce the effectiveness of certain holds but Jericho spends portions of this match attacking one digit. This includes one moment when J.R suggests that he has aimed a Dropkick squarely at it. That is certainly some near pin point accuracy.
Jericho does a boat load of heavy lifting during all of this though and it’s obvious he’s going to great lengths to get a good match out of this. The match goes outside fairly early on and Jericho Suplexes Chyna through the Spanish announce table. Chyna does manage to recover enough to Dropkick a steel chair directly into Jericho’s jaw. Chris Jericho then unhooks a turnbuckle pad. A few minutes later Chyna ends up stuck in the ropes as Jericho takes great delight in punching that thumb repeatedly. Jericho’s attempt at a Lionsault is thwarted by Chyna getting her knees up. This gives an opportunity to Slingshot Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle. Jericho gets a Side Suplex off the top turnbuckle which looks really impressive. It’s then time for The Walls of Jericho and Chyna taps out. It’s Jericho’s first run with a WWF belt, there will be many more to come. A short backstage segment follows in which Chyna catches up with a gloating Jericho. She congratulates him on the win and shakes his hand by using the one with the broken thumb.
This match is actually the one referred to in Chris Jericho’s first book. As a result of Chyna gaining a black eye from this encounter Vince told him that his WWF contract ‘Wasn’t worth the paper we wrote it on. Obviously his opinion would soften in the two years it would take Jericho to be crowned Undisputed Champion in 2001.
The Rock seems oddly out of place in the match for the Tag Team titles. The crowd love him and are constantly chanting his name throughout. Here he is though teaming with Mankind to go against The New Age Outlaws. The Rock and Sock Connection are often lauded as a very important part in The Rock’s career but this is the first appearance the team will have on PPV out of a total of two. The only other would be Wrestlemania XX five years later.
Mankind drops a Legdrop onto the back of Road Dogg’s head before The Rock tags in. Mr Ass faces The Rock, tries to take his shirt off but gets punched in the face before he gets it over his head. Road Dogg falls into his usual pattern of taking all the punishment as his usual Shake, Rattle and Roll punches are reversed into a Mandible Claw. The ref ends up getting knocked out as Mankind plants Road Dogg with a Double Arm DDT.
Then Al Snow shows up.
Mankind is battered with Head before The Rock attacks Snow forcing him back down the aisle. The match carries on for a short while until Mr Ass gets a Rock Bottom. Before a pinfall can be made Al Snow jumps in again. The ref sees him this time and instantly calls the disqualification. The Rock is left to attack both Outlaws himself and glare at them as they leave.
Of all the WWF title matches I’ve watched during this project this final one has to be the most disappointing. The Big Show goes up against The Big Bossman in something of a continuation of their feud last month. Not only have we had Bossman disturbing The Big Show at his Father’s funeral but he’s spent the last couple of weeks saying that nobody is sure who Show’s Dad is anyway. Not only is the build up tasteless but the match itself is awful too. It boils down to three minutes of Big Show gaining his revenge by battering Bossman senseless and pinning him after a Chokeslam. It’s the one and only time Bossman has got close to a WWF title match and it’s completely wasted.
It’s no wonder the title match gets so little attention on this show when we have Triple H versus Vince McMahon to come. The head of the company gets to share TV time with his prospective son in law regardless of how that would actually work out. Having spent the last year or so battling Austin as his evil boss we now seemingly must sympathise with McMahon the elder. It’s something I have a lot of trouble doing if I’m honest. There’s also the slight issue that you have to believe that Vince, a non-wrestler, can hang in a battle with somebody who is younger than him and does this four nights a week. It isn’t just restricted to Vince either as I have exactly the same problem with Shane even after he falls off the nearest tall structure. Here we go though…
Neither Triple H or Vince make an entrance first as it’s actually Stephanie McMahon who walks down the aisle to take a ringside seat to watch her Father battle her unwanted husband. “This is probably the most hatred between two individuals we’ve ever seen in the WWF” yelps Lawler as he forgets Stone Cold has ever been face to face with Vince in his life. Triple H arrives with his sledgehammer in hand whilst Vince seems to have chosen to wrestle wearing Levi jeans.
Vince is concealing powder in his palms before the match starts and he hurls it into Triple H’s eyes as the bells rings. Vince then takes this opportunity to swing some punches in like a demented windmill. They both stumble over the guardrail and sem to start a full on brawl in one of the darkest parts of the arena. As they make it back to where some actual light is Mankind appears with a shopping trolley full of weapons. A bin is used by Vince as a weapon for a few minutes, cracking the lid over Triple H’s head. Triple H manages to find a crutch and smack it right into Vince’s crotch. Both men are off down the aisle again and Triple H runs the shopping trolley into Vince’s forehead. There’s a machine gun as part of the set dressing and that too is whacked into Vince’s skull. Both men then go off into another dark part of the arena which leads to the car park outside.
At this point the match has been going on for about fifteen minutes. Vince’s entire arsenal seems to be bin lid attacks and swinging punches and it’s a well he keeps returning to. This match really needs to end now but, as it involves the McMahon family, it won’t.
Triple H seems to vanish which leaves Vince pacing the car park shouting after him. Eventually Triple H drives a whole car towards him. The battle goes to the limo roof and Vince is slammed on top of it. The match then slowly shuffles back into the arena. Both men end up climbing the entrance set and Vince soon takes a fall off it with a crash landing onto the scenery below.
The match ends here right? Of course not.
A bloody Vince is soon dragged back down to the ringside area. Triple H gets on the house mic and has a few digs at Stephanie before holding the hammer over a prone Vince. “He’s going to cave Vince McMahon’s skull’ bellows J.R just at the moment Vince kicks Triple H squarely in the balls. If he does that anymore then any prospect of grandchildren is out the window. This allows Vince to get to his feet and grab the hammer for himself. Stephanie jumps in the ring and asks Vince is she can do the damage. She hesitates for far too long, Triple H grabs the hammer from her, Vince bolts towards him but gets hammered right in the midsection. Triple H covers Vince for three in what I believe is the one and only pinfall attempt in the match. Finally it’s over at the half hour mark.
All is not done though. A smile creeps across Stephanie’s face as she walks across to hug her husband. It was an act all along and the McMahon-Helmsley Era starts as of this moment. “Vince doesn’t even know his own daughter has turned her back on him!” says J.R as we fade to black.
There is no doubt that the WWF suffered without Austin being around. Stone Cold powered the early stages of The Attitude Era and has left a certain Rattlesnake shaped hole in the three events that have passed since. Replicating his feud with Vince certainly won’t work to convert Triple H from leader of the ever popular Degeneration X to downright, family breaking scoundrel. The Rock also needs a bit of a pick up from fighting Mr Ass all this time so he won’t quite be ready yet. Thankfully, during all of this, Mick Foley is about to alter his character and drag his body through some more gruelling main events. It’ll start with the one match that got me back into wrestling after this near four year break and keep me there since. We’re on the way to New York via Chicago as the new millennium rolls in.