– Well, I finally sat down and did my taxes tonight, and the news is good: For the first time since 1995, I’m actually getting a REFUND. Sure, it’s only a few hundred dollars, but it’s a welcome change from getting screwed over by the Canadian government. Speaking of which, if you want a good laugh, look into how much the average Canadian will actually end up saving with the “tax cuts” given to us by the federal government this week. Hey, guys, here’s a hint: If you’d just scrap the GST like you promised in all your loud-mouthed campaigning, we wouldn’t NEED tax cuts! Meanwhile, whatever will I spend that extra $50 or so per year I’ll be getting from the tax cuts on?
– On one more semi-related note, my local 7-11 got the bible of wrestling, better known as the PWI Almanac, in tonight, and as usual I’m impressed to the point of applause. In the first edition since the Apter Departure (I think – Bill is free to correct on that if I’m wrong) they’ve added a ratings breakdown for every week of 1999 and a listing of multi-promotion champions, in addition to updating their always-excellent listings of PPV results, PWI awards, week-by-week news stories, obituaries, and comprehensive title listings (well, as comprehensive as PWI can get without breaking kayfabe). If you’ve never picked one up before, I would HIGHLY encourage it, because that little book has settled roughly 200 petty arguments between my roommate and I over the past few years and remains one of the best sources of wrestling info available to general public today. Besides myself, of course.
– Anyway, those two occurances put me in a good enough mood to finally capitulate and hopefully stem the never-ending whiny e-mails from people wanting me to do the PPV I missed last year during the Survivor Series Concept Rant: The 1998 edition, Deadly Games. So PLEASE find something else to bug me about now, okay?
– Live from St. Louis, Missouri. Original airdate Nov. 15, 1998
– Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler.
– We didn’t get Heat until 1999 up here, so don’t ask me what happened on the pre-game show.
– The setup for the show is as follows: Mr. McMahon screwed Steve Austin out of the WWF title at Breakdown, then decided to make the Undertaker v. Kane match at Judgment Day into a title match for the vacant belt. The brothers responded by breaking Vince’s ankle. While in the hospital, Vince was visited by Mick Foley, who debuted Mr. Socko to a less-than-enthusiastic audience in Mr. McMahon, but Vince was nonetheless grateful for the show of loyalty by Mick, and showed his appreciation for the dimwitted corporate suck-up by giving him his very own belt – the “Hardcore title.” Both Socko and the Hardcore title would endure long past the initial one-shot jokes they were intended as.
– Back to Judgment Day: Steve Austin was the ref, and called it a no-contest, necessitating a tournament for the title and costing Austin his job for about 24 hours. Meanwhile, McMahon’s estranged son Shane made the transition from Heat commentator to on-air personality, finally telling off his father after years of neglect and giving Austin a new 5-year contract as a way of rebelling, in what was a fabulous little bit of soap opera.
– Vince flipped out and disowned Shane, busting him down to referee and then taking out his frustration on the Rock, who was becoming alarmingly popular and thus a threat to him. He formed the Corporation with Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock and essentially declared that Austin would win that tournament only over Vince’s dead body, and thus new favorite son Mankind expected an easy road to his first WWF title courtesy Mr. McMahon.
– The Brackets, round one:
Mankind v. A Mystery Opponent
Al Snow v. Jeff Jarrett
X-Pac v. Stephen Regal
Steve Austin v. Big Bossman
The Rock v. HHH
Ken Shamrock v. Goldust
Kane – Bye
Undertaker – Bye
– Vince McMahon personally comes out to read a prepared speech, hyping Mankind’s hand-picked mystery opponent. The fans in attendance expected Shawn Michaels, but the actual answer would surprise and shock everyone, and prove to be a stern challenge for the hardcore legend. Indeed, making his return to the WWF after a nearly career-ending shoulder injury was the man who would push Mick Foley to limits he didn’t even know existed, and then drag him back kicking and screaming. The man, the myth, the legend…
– Opening match: Dwayne Gill v. Mankind. Yes, the man who would soon take wrestling by storm as Gillberg made his debut in the Attitude era here, and put up a valiant fight, lasting a grueling 30 seconds before falling victim to a well-placed double-arm DDT and rolling cradle to allow a visibly shaken and exhausted Mankind to advance to the second round. Why this didn’t get consideration for Match of the Year instead of that Hell in a Cell thing earlier, I’ll never know. DUD
– Jeff Jarrett v. Al Snow. This is Debra’s WWF PPV debut, before the puppies or the hairstyle adjustment or heat. Snow nails Jarrett with a somersault off the stairs, but Jarrett hotshots him back in the ring. Snow catches a quick clothesline but misses a guillotine legdrop. They exchange pinfall attempts until snow reverses a spinebuster into a DDT for two. They knock heads, while Debra steals Head and gives it to Jarrett. Snow gets Jarrett’s guitar to count, but ends up getting Head back and nails JJ with it for the pin at 3:39 to advance. Dumb finish. *1/2
– Big Bossman v. Steve Austin. Brawl outside to start. Austin gets the Thesz press, but Bossman lowblows him. Austin fights back after a couple of minutes of crappy Bossman offense. Fight outside leads to Bossman hitting Austin with the nightstick to basically throw the match at 3:17 in order to administer a beating to Austin and soften him up. Another dumb finish in a series of them tonight. Ã‚Â½*
– X-Pac v. Stephen Regal. Quick spin-kick from X-Pac and a backdrop suplex gets two. Lightning legdrop gets two. He tries the broncobuster but misses, and Regal stretches him. Regal rolls through a sunset flip and slingshots him across the ring. Suplex gets two, then back to the submission stuff, thus boring the sportz entertainment crowd. X-Pac counters and comes back, but misses ANOTHER broncobuster. Regal hits a nice double-arm superplex for two. Regal keeps stretching him, but X-Pac fights back and FINALLY hits a broncobuster. He goes up and gets crotched, and they fight on the floor for the double-countout at 8:08. Y’know, they REALLY should have only given this 5 minutes if that was the ending, or else they should have them go to the draw since it was only another 2 minutes away. A DCOR is the worst of both worlds, but then Vinnie Roo was in charge back then, so what can you expect? ** This gives Austin a bye.
– Ken Shamrock v. Goldust. Ken was in full ass-kicking RoboShamrock mode as Intercontinental champ at this point, and that four month stretch is the only time I’ve ever liked him as a wrestler. They trade some stuff to start. Shamrock hits some knee strikes and controls with restholds. Goldust was just absolutely useless from about here until his departure in 1999. Now he’s useless AND boring, to boot. Shamrock punches out of a powerbomb, but gets bulldogged. The ref blocks Shattered Dreams, allowing Shamrock to get a rana, belly to belly and anklelock for the submission at 5:56. Business as usual for Ken. Ã‚Â¼*
– The Rock v. Big Bossman. Rock’s scheduled opponent, HHH, is still recovering from knee surgery, so we get Bossman, who runs in, gets cradled, and gets knocked out of the tournament for a second time in a 4 second “match.” DUD
Undertaker v. Kane
The Rock v. Ken Shamrock
Mankind v. Al Snow
Steve Austin – Bye
– Quarterfinal #1: Undertaker v. Kane. Dave Meltzer once published a history of the relationship between these two that was so funny I nearly choked on my lunch while reading it. For those, like myself, who need a refresher on who hated who at this point, Undertaker was the heel, he had Paul Bearer as his manager, and Kane was the face. But Undertaker was AGAINST Vince McMahon, while Kane was WITH Vince McMahon, albeit unwillingly. Confusing and non-sensical storylines have ATTITUDE – get it? Man, if Vince ever tried to answer the simple question “Are Kane and Undertaker brothers?” to the press, the stock would drop another 3 points, I’d bet. Once Russo started floating the whole “Undertaker is a guy who’s too far into his character” nonsense during the Higher Power period, that pretty much left Kane in no man’s land as far as character development goes (because I mean, if you admit that Undertaker is just playing a character, then the odds are pretty good that he doesn’t have a hideously scarred half-brother who is the illegitimate child of his former manager and may or may not have played a part in killing their parents, who may or may not actually be dead depending on whether you believe the Undertaker is a person or a character, or maybe Kane is also a guy who’s too far into his character and THINKS he’s hideously scarred… oh, f*ck it, my head hurts already!) and really it ended up being easier for the rubes to digest if JR just started assuring everyone that Kane is Undertaker’s little brother and left the rest to the imagination of the viewer, much like the Bible’s internal inconsistancies require too much thought for the church to justify to skeptics, so they just say “God is everywhere” and leave the rest up to faith. I’m off track, so let’s start again.
– Undertaker v. Kane. Kane is good, Undertaker is bad. There, much better. Kane clotheslines him out of the ring and they “brawl.” Undertaker half-assing a match is truly a painful experience. Back in, and UT dominates with punches. He works the knee. Kane eventually starts shrugging him off and fights back. Flying clothesline gets two and they slug it out. Kane chokeslams him, then goes after Paul Bearer, which proves to be exceedingly stupid because he turns around and walks into a tombstone for the pin at 7:14 to send Undertaker to the semi-finals. DUD
– Mankind v. Al Snow. This is probably the closest Al has gotten to winning the World title, and the closest he’ll ever get. Mick still has his tuxedo on, in order to impress Mr. McMahon. Snow dominates to start and they fight on the floor. Mick catches Snow coming off the railing, and drops him on a chair. Back in, Snow hits an enzuigiri and takes a swing with Head, but misses. Mick reclaims Socko from the Head (don’t ask, it’s Russo) but gets caught with a Rydien bomb for two. Mick comes back with the double-arm DDT and the Mandible Sock to finish at 3:52 and advance to the semi-finals. *1/4
– The Rock v. Ken Shamrock. They slug it out to start as Shamrock gets suplex for two. They brawl outside and Rock debuts the EVIAN SPEW OF DOOM, but Shamrock sends him to the steps. Back in, Shamrock gets a Russian legsweep for two. Big Bossman joins us at ringside as Shamrock holds a chinlock. Shamrock snaps off a rana (sold amazingly poorly by Rocky) and hooks the anklelock, completely freaking out the crowd in the process. Rock makes the ropes. Double knockout follows. Rock gets two and comes back. Floatover DDT sets up the People’s Elbow for two. Shamrock counters Rock Bottom with a belly to belly. Bossman tosses in the nightstick and Rock intercepts, then puts Shamrock’s lights out with it in one motion. Nice sequence, if totally unnecessary. Rock gets the pin at 8:18 to advance to the semi-finals. Would a clean finish have killed them? **1/2
– WWF Women’s title match: Jacqueline v. Sable. Jackie won the resurrected title by beating Sable a couple of weeks prior to this, and astonishingly no one cared about this incarnation of the title, either. Shane-O-Mac is reffing here, to emphasize how lowly and demoted he is. Sable gets a quick TKO for two, but Marc Mero pulls her out at two. She powerbombs him on the floor. Jackie gets the advantage, but Sable blocks a tornado DDT and powerbombs her for the pin and the title at 3:12. And thus a monster is born. Ã‚Â¾*
Mankind v. Steve Austin
The Undertaker v. The Rock
– Semi-final #1: Mankind v. Steve Austin. This match was probably the single best 15 minutes of Vince Russo’s entire tenure. Austin kick’s Mankind’s ass to start, tearing off the tuxedo jacket and leaving Mick in a ragged dress shirt, tie, and pants, a look (and a shirt) that he would retain until only last month. Vince is wheeled to ringside to ensure Austin gets screwed over. Mick escapes the Stunner and runs away. Austin follows and they brawl down the aisle. Back to the ring, where Mick takes over. Austin fights back and stomps a mudhole in him (but neglects to walk it dry), but goes outside and gets rammed into the post. Mick grabs a chair and DDTs Austin on it for two. Piledriver attempt is reversed and the Stunner – gets two, because Vince is “miraculously” able to leap out of his wheelchair and punk out the ref. Disowned son and lowly referee Shane McMahon comes in as Austin hits another Stunner – and it also gets two, because Shane shocks the hell out of everyone by stopping to flip the double-bird to Austin. Austin is so shocked he doesn’t notice the Stooges coming in to administer a beatdown and a chairshot, and that allows Mankind to get the pin (with Shane’s blessing this time) at 10:23 to advance to the finals. And the Master Plan is thus a success. Good brawl + Good soap opera = Sports Entertainment 101. ***1/2
– The Undertaker v. The Rock. Slugfest to start. They fight outside, giving UT the advantage. UT does his plodding offense but gets backdropped to the floor. They fight into the crowd. UT retains control, boring the crowd. Back in, another slugfest. Rock comes back with a Samoan drop as Bossman joins us at ringside to fulfill the run-in allowance for the match. Rock gets a DDT and a low blow, but Bossman prevents the People’s Elbow. Undertaker takes a shot at Bossman (because he doesn’t like Vince, although it would turn out that he was really working with him all along, which is pretty much every major storyline from 1998-1999 in a nutshell) and goes for a chokeslam on Rocky. Kane runs in before he can do so, chokeslams Rocky himself, and thus gets his brother disqualified, which is quite possibly the lamest ending ever devised by a booker, because it does absolutely zilch to make the winner look good. And the match was awful, of course. Ã‚Â½*
– WWF World tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. Mark Henry & D-Lo Brown v. The Headbangers. There was some boring backstory here that didn’t result in anyone involved actually getting over. Road Dogg takes a running powerbomb early on and gets beat on for a LONG while. Match drags on and on as D-Lo desperately tries to hold it together to no avail. Dogg mercifully gets the hot tag to Billy Gunn, but he promptly gets powerbombed by D-Lo. The fameasser gets two, and we get an ugly series of saves-and-finishers that looks ridiculous because everyone is so out of position that the referee literally has to STOP counting and wait for the next guy to make the save. Just awful. Gunn finally gets a piledriver on Mosh to end the hurting at 10:08 and retain. JR lets us know that he too thought the match sucked donkey dick, although in a more diplomatic fashion. That’s why I’ll never be a commentator: I’d get fired for excessive honesty the first time I declared a match to be a steaming turdburger with a side of turd fries and a glass of Turd Coke, with baked turd pie (and a scoop of turd cream) for dessert. Ã‚Â¼* Still, if the right people happen to be reading this, I’m available and I work cheap!
– WWF World title tournament final: Mankind v. The Rock. Slow start. Rock gains control but Mick goes to a chinlock. It was fascinating reading about this in Mick’s book, because he admitted that he had absolutely no idea what they were going to do and the entire match was called on the fly from that chinlock. It doesn’t make the resulting match any BETTER to know about that sort of thing, but it’s always interesting to read about it. To the floor, where the Rock gets a suplex and goes after Vince, who has joined us at ringside. Rock suplexes Foley into the crowd, where they brawl. Into the ring, back to the chinlock for another planning session. Mick fights out and gives him the Cactus clothesline to the floor, and they brawl again. Mick grabs the stairs but gets bashed with a chair, then takes another shot in the head with it for good measure. It gets a two count for Rock back in the ring. Mick comes back and drops a Cactus elbow on him. More brawling. Mick legdrops Rock on the announce table, which gives him a two count back in the ring. Rock gets a fluke DDT and mounts a comeback. He hits the floor again (oy vey!) and Mick launches himself, but misses and goes through the Spanish table. Back in, the People’s Elbow gets two. Foley comes back with the double-arm DDT and gets the Mandible Sock. Rock counters with Rock Bottom. It gets two. Rock then hooks a completely incongruous Sharpshooter, and of course Mr. McMahon plays his part and tells the timekeeper to “ring the bell.” Gee, where have I seen that before? Rock gets his first WWF title at 17:15, turning heel in the process (although he never really turned face after leaving the Nation, officially) and becoming the Corporate Champion. Quite the swerve there, although the match sucked. *1/2 Still, it was realistically the third match for both guys that night, so you can’t expect too much from them.
– We end with a big victory speech from the Rock/Vince/Shane triad as they tell us to watch RAW tomorrow for the full explanation. A confused Mick wonders why the bell rang if he didn’t submit, so they beat him down, turning him face in the process once and for all. Steve Austin sort of makes the save, cleaning house on the Corporation, then giving Mankind a Stunner on general principles. The Rock v. Steve Austin title match on RAW that would result the next night became one of the highest rated segments in wrestling history, and one of the highest rated segments in TSN history, wrestling or otherwise, up here in Canada.
The Bottom Line: There were two very violently opposed schools of thought on this show at the time, and still are judging by the sheer volume of requests I get for this one: The “show me wrestling” crowd HATED this one because almost everything on the show sucked from a technical standpoint and most of the matches got 5 minutes or less, and the finishes were generally awful. The “entertain me” crowd LOVED this one because the angles leading up to it all paid off in spectacular fashion and Rocky did the People’s Elbow three times in one night. Being a guy who generally straddles the fence between those viewpoints, the show was a thumbs in the middle for me at the time. However, watching in retrospect now that the Vince-Shane soap opera turned out to be pretty meaningless in the long-run, the show really has nothing left to offer from either a wrestling OR an entertainment standpoint (it no longer MEANS anything to see a Montreal parody or Shane turning heel or Vince screwing Austin over, because it’s all been done over again since then) and so I don’t see any particular reason to recommend the show unless you’re a drooling Rock fanboy who wants to see him win his first World title. And hey, that’s certainly a legitimate reason, and I can completely understand it. But for the rest of you, don’t bother.
Recommendation to avoid, unless you LOVE the Rock.