Re-Writing The Book: The Higher Power


This time out, our story concerns one of the biggest letdowns in the history of the WWE … so, join me as I explore the question …

What if The Undertaker’s “Higher Power” wasn’t Vince McMahon?

We begin our story one week after Steve Austin has been held hostage and gotten a look at The Undertaker’s “Higher Power.” For months, The Undertaker has been hinting that he has a Higher Power, while he wages a campaign of terror against WWF Chairman Vince McMahon to take over the company. Around him, The Undertaker has amassed an army of followers called the Ministry, and absorbing Vince McMahon’s Corporation. At last, The Undertaker is set to reveal who is pulling the strings …

June 7th, 1999

The Undertaker stands in the ring, surrounded by his Ministry and members of the Corporation. “For months,” he says, “I prophesized of a power even greater than myself. I’ve assembled an army to prepare for his arrival. And the Ministry and the Corporation laid the groundwork, so nonbelievers, the day of reckoning it is at hand! He has arrived!”

A figure shrouded in black robes makes his way to the ring, accompanied by ominous Gregorian chanting. Everyone in the ring kneels, save for The Undertaker, who regards his superior with the whites of his eyes. A voice, Shane McMahon, fills the arena; “I told you that Shane McMahon was not the Higher Power, but you didn’t want to believe me.” Shane steps out onto the ramp, quelling the rumors that is he, trying to stage a coup de tat over his father. ” You see, the Greater Power is omniscient! The Greater Power is a calculated … ” Chants of “asshole” drown out Shane’s voice for a moment. After letting the crowd enjoy their moment, he talks over them. “The Greater Power is cold and calculating, a master at screwing with people’s minds. He’s methodical, and a master of psychology. The Greater Power knows what makes us all tick, each and every one of us. He knows our fears, our strengths and our weaknesses … and exploits those fears, strengths and weaknesses for the betterment of his Corporate Ministry, and his own personal amusement. So who is he? I say we reveal the Greater Power to the entire world.” Shane raises a finger in the air, as if an idea has just come to him. “But before we do, I need one witness; Vince, I know you’re back there and I know you can hear me. I want you to come down here and I will bestow the honor upon you. I will give you that honor of revealing the Greater Power to the world, because I can’t wait to see your face. How ’bout it, Vince? What do you say?”

Vince appears on the TitanTron. “I say I’m close enough right where I stand. The games are over, Shane. I say the evil, demonic SOB should show his face to the world now.

The hooded figure bows his head, takes the hood in his hands, and pulls it back to reveal a familiar face. Vince’s eyes grow wide with shock. The face is a little older, the lines a little deeper, but the eyes haven’t changed. They are lethal, cold, and as dark as a sealed crypt.

Paul Bearer hands the microphone to Jake Roberts. “What’s wrong, Vince?” he asks, his voice a low growl. “You didn’t think it could be true? Probably thought I was on my way to a sad, silent demise. I woke up one day, and I saw the downward spiral I was locked in, and I reached for my comfort, my salvation, and my saving grace. I reached for the Lord and the Bible … only, the Lord didn’t extend a hand in return. The Lord didn’t so much as look in my direction. He ignored me, ‘his’ lamb, forgotten and left for slaughter. Salvation isn’t in a book, or a cross, or a bottle … salvation is the feeling when you surrender yourself to your own subconscious. Salvation is in at the heart of every human being, and their secret, primal nature and desires. And do you know what I saw when I looked into the core of my very being, Vince? Darkness. I’d tried to bury it with righteousness and with piety, and I’d become a parody of myself. I was not this man who preached of a path of light … I was born to the darkness, and I when die, I will return their as if it were my home.

“But right now, Vince, I am a man of righteousness … black, poisonous virtue. I have brought The Undertaker home, back to the dark side, and through him, I control the WWF Championship. But there are two goals that still elude me, and I will not stop until my campaign is complete; I want Stephanie … and I want your company, Vince.” (By this point, Vince has come out from the backstage area and is on the stage, while Shane has joined the Corporate Ministry in the ring). “I’ve already hijacked your Corporation, thanks to your son,” Jake says as he looks at Vince’s only son with a sick breed of pride. “You’ve no one to defend you, Vince, no one to defend your family.”

Vince’s eyes go wide. “W-w-what do you mean, Jake? What in God’s name are you talking about?

Jake chuckles. “There you go, Vince, asking Him for help. He won’t come to help you tonight. And he can’t help your family.” Rather than say anything else, Jake points to the TitanTron. Vince’s head turns to follow, and horror quickly dawns on his face as the first images are shown.

It is the McMahon house in Connecticut. Vince had sent his family home to watch Raw, safe from the clutches of the Undertaker. “You see, Vince,” Jake says, “with Shane in the palm of my hand, there is no move you can make that I cannot anticipate.”

The camera zooms out to reveal a person standing at the end of the driveway. The cameraman catches up to the figure as he begins to walk up the driveway. In the person’s hand, swinging at his side like a pendulum, is a sledgehammer. Vince doesn’t need a good look at the man’s face to know who it is. Triple H walks up to the car in the driveway and turns to face the camera, smiling. “Hey, Vince, how ya doing?” He grips the sledgehammer, swings and buries the sledgehammer into the lid of the trunk. As the sound of metal-on-metal fades, Vince can hear sobbing screams. Triple H turns to face the camera again. “We caught Linda as she was on her way home from the store,” he says with pride. “Stephanie’s in the house, waiting for mommy to come home and protect her.” He holds the sledgehammer just underneath the head, grinning maniacally at the hammer. “Think I should pay her a visit?” Triple H turns the gaze towards the camera again; it bores through Vince like a drill. “There’s no place like home, Vince.”

“What do you want, Roberts?” Vince asks, his voice a hoarse, frightened shell of the tyrant known as Mr. McMahon. “What do you want, you sick son of a bitch?

Jake smiles. “I already told you, Vince. Your baby girl, and your real baby … the World Wrestling Federation. I want every McMahon to step down and forfeit ownership and command of the WWF to me.”

“Over my dead body, Roberts. I’ll die fighting before I give either my daughter or my company to you.”

Jake smiles again, that icy, horrific grin, just like a snake. “Why, I think we may have reached a compromise. I’d much rather beat you within an inch of your life and take away what you hold dear over you just handing it over. You have until the end of Raw, Vince, to decide what you can afford to lose, or else I set the hounds of hell to storm your walls. Because at King Of The Ring, Shane and I won’t stop with a three-count. We won’t stop until we hold your very living heart in our hands. Two hours, Vince … your company, or your daughter.”

Throughout the evening, Vince is approached by numerous wrestlers, all asking what he’ll do; many are worried that if he puts the company on the line and Jake beats him, they’ll either be under the dark umbrella of Jake, or out of a job. Others are concerned about the welfare of Stephanie, and if Vince can really sleep at night if he puts up his daughter (curiously, Test is very concerned about Stephanie, but Vince almost doesn’t even notice). He is just as concerned, for both his wrestlers, and his daughter, but neither is of less value then the other. Were he to lose his company, he would have nothing left in his life; his whole purpose for living would be in the hands of a madman.

But were he to lose his daughter … what kind of father would he be if he didn’t protect her? What kind of human being would he be if he threw his daughter to the wolves?

Finally, after the two longest hours of his life, Jake and his army gather in the ring, and call out Vince for his answer. Vince is a mess, which visibly pleases Jake; his sport coat his gone, his hair is messed from having fingers run through it all night, beads of sweat dot his forehead. “I see you’ve been thinking,” Jake says. “I’m sure you’ve reached a decision.”

Vince raises his head, and the glare from his eyes no longer has the fear and horror of earlier. Now, it is one of steely hatred, of fire, of the seething contempt Vince has shown in his campaign against Steve Austin for the better part of a year …… until this monster and his henchmen distracted him with their terroristic mind games and threats. “Oh, I’ve made a decision, all right,” says Vince. “This is my company, and as long as you’re in my ring, you have no power over me.”

Jake only chuckles, wiping at his moustache. It is exactly the response Vince doesn’t expect, and all of his determination and fire start to fade. “I have much more power then you think, Vince.” He looks past Vince, to the TitanTron. “Shall we have a look at what Triple H is doing?”

Triple H appears on the monitor. It is still dark, wherever he is, but there is still a source of light, coming from much closer then a street light or the moon. “Hello again.” The camera pulls back. The view shows the McMahon dining room. Next to Triple H, tied and gagged to a chair, is Stephanie. She has obviously been crying, but she is still right now, regarding her captor with the same breed of contempt shown by Vince to Jake moments before. “Me and Steph here, just having a little talk about your current dilemma.” He turns to her, standing above her like a predator eyeing helpless prey. Slowly, he hunkers down, looking Stephanie in the eye. He reaches forward, and as tenderly as a lover might do, unclasps the top button on her blouse. The crowd is unified in protest of this invasion.

“Don’t you touch her, you son of a-“

Triple H backs off, hands in the air. “Hey, whoa, easy big fella. I don’t mean her any harm. She’s perfectly safe here with me. Tell Daddy Warbucks how I’m treating you.” Triple H tugs at the gag and pulls it past her chin.

Stephanie glares at Triple H as he urges her to talk; at that moment, Vince knows she is stronger then he has ever given her credit for. And he knows what she’s going to say. “He can’t hurt me, Daddy. No matter what he does to me, he can never hurt me. He’s a pathetic coward, hiding behind a bunch of cowards. That’s why they’re together-because they’re too afraid to face you own their own. You can’t let them take the WWF, Daddy; they will poison it, and you’ll never be able to save it. Put me on the line at King Of The Ring; I know you’ll fight to your dying breath to protect me.”

Vince is mortified. Jake, however, is laughing and, from the sound, quite content with the decision. “How touching. The daughter, standing up for her father. Are you that spineless that you can’t even decide, Vince? That you have to corner your own daughter into making your decisions for you? I’m so disgusted, I’d almost tell you to keep her … if I didn’t want her, that is. And at King Of The Ring, Vince … oh, we will take her from you. Like a thief in the night, I will steal the shining light from your life, and bring down upon your conscience such a burden of guilt you will crush beneath it. And then, you’ll beg to hand over this company. We will-“

“What’s this we, Jake? What are you talking about?”

“Shane and I. That’s what we agreed on.”

“That’s a lie!”

Jake smiles again. “Don’t you remember, Vince? How many times have I said you can trust me?” Jake’s voice grows more commanding, and he says; “Roll the tape.” The TitanTron shows a playback of the confrontation at the beginning of Raw, and Vince’s words about dying while fighting echo in his ear. Before the words are out of Jake’s mouth (the Jake on the TitanTron), Vince knows what’s coming: Jake saying they have reached a compromise … and that he and Shane won’t stop at a three-count. And Vince never noticed … he just agreed without thinking, and in no uncertain terms, made a deal with the devil for a price he is not prepared to pay. “You see?” Jake says with smug satisfaction. “Shane and I will beat you senseless at King Of The Ring, and we-“

Jake’s words are cut off by two things: the sound of breaking glass, and the immediate reaction of over ten-thousand people coming out of their seats in unison for their hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin. He makes sure to go to both ends of the stage and give his trademark two-fingered salute to the crowd before finally settling in the middle of the stage to talk into a microphone he brought.

“Lemme explain things the way I see ’em,” says Austin, first pointing at Shane. “I see a snotty, smart-mouthed little punk who screwed me out of the WWF Title … I see the big, dumb bastard he helped to take it from me … I see a cowardly piece of crap in a bathrobe who won’t do his own dirty work …” He turns to face Vince. “And I see the devil himself, a gutless piece of trash that has made my life a living hell for the past 15 months.”

For the first time, Jake is rattled. “This isn’t any of-“

Shut up! Obviously, you didn’t get the message the first time I read you Austin 3:16 three years ago. I see your little pajama party goin’ on in the ring, and you’re out here, you call yourself the Snake, but you’re heehawing like a jackass.” Austin points past Jake to The Undertaker, who is as silent and still as a statue. “That son of a bitch has my belt, and the way I figure it, if I help this son of a bitch”-now pointing to Vince-“get rid of your ass, then maybe I’ll earn me a favor, and I’ll cash that in by stomping a mudhole in The Undertaker’s ass, and walking it dry!”

“This isn’t-“

“What, you’re going to tell The Rock it’s none of my business? That The Rock don’t belong here? Is that what you’re gonna say?” Austin grins; the crowd loves it, and is pops big. He points above him, to the TitanTron; all eyes, including the confused Vince McMahon, go up to the TitanTron.

On the screen is the face of a handsome, clean-cut young man, with a dark complexion and big sideburns. Sunglasses are on his face, and there is a bright light off to one side of him. At the sight of The Rock, the crowd is even louder then before. “A couple hours ago,” begins The Rock, the words flying off his tongue at light-speed, “The Rock got a phone call.” He imitates the ringing of a phone, then pantomimes putting a phone up to his ear. “Yeah, whattaya want, you’re wasting The Rock’s daytime minutes! And The Rock heard the voice of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Stone Cold, we go way back, way back! There’s no love lost between The Rock and Stone Cold. Fought many times, many times, including for the belt that robe-wearing jabroni is holding. The Rock knows Austin wants that belt, and you’re damned sure The Rock wants to be WWF Champ again. It’s about the only thing we got in common. No, The Rock takes that back … there’s one more thing in common: we both want your monkey ass out of here.”

The crowd loves the suggestion. Jake tries to speak, but barely gets off a syllable before The Rock cuts him off. Suddenly, The Ministry’s plans are coming undone, and Jake isn’t sure how to take command of the situation. “The Rock is gonna make this nice and simple so you jabronis in the ring, Vince McMahon, this dummy holding the camera, and this fat sack of crap behind The Rock can understand …” The Rock steps out of the way, and the camera pans back. Paul Bearer is with The Rock, somewhere in the boiler room of the arena, lit only by a single bright light (and the glow coming off of a nearby incinerator); he is stripped to his boxers, tied and gagged. He is covered in sweat, more than a couple noticeable welts and bruises, and some drying blood on his forehead. Next to him is an array of items … a catheter … a shovel … a length of barbed wire … and the World Wrestling Federation Title. “The Rock will fight The Undertaker at King Of The Ring for the WWF Title, and Stone Cold will tag with Vince McMahon.”

Jake’s voice and demeanor are resolute. “You can’t break him, boy. And you sure as hell can’t break us. He is willing to die for the cause.”

The Rock’s face lights up without smiling. “The Rock was hoping you’d say that!” He walks over to the tableau of torture tools, and picks up the WWF Title belt. He walks toward the incinerator, and holds the title inches from the open door. The fire is turned up quite high, and hungry for something to burn. “The Rock may not be able to make your fat friend break … but The Rock can break this.” He edges even it closer to the open door of the incinerator. “If you think The Rock is bluffing, The Rock would much rather toss this in the fire then let another minute go by with that pale-skinned roody-poo candy-ass holding onto it!”

“He’ll do it, Undertaker,” says Austin. “He’ll just toss that thing right in there, and leave your fat friend hogtied and alone. You want that?”

Rocky and Austin wait a couple seconds more, watching the worry grow and grow on Jake’s face. Finally, as Rock is rearing back his arm for the throw into the incinerator, Jake breaks. “Fine, you win, you win! You get your matches!”

The crowd explodes. Jake confers with The Undertaker, while Austin turns his attention to Vince. “Let’s get one thing straight: I ain’t doing this to help you. I want what’s mine, and I wanna make those sons of bitches suffer. After we deal with them, you and I are gonna come to the end of our issue, you got that, son?” He doesn’t even give Vince time to respond before he finishes it off with; “And that’s the bottom line, cause Stone Cold says so!” The glass breaks again as Stone Cold’s song starts up, and Raw fades out with JR screaming about how The Ministry’s day of reckoning will come at King Of The Ring, while The Ministry bicker in the ring over their plans.

Following editions continue to build towards King Of The Ring, adding two more matches outside of the ongoing tournament: The Big Show and Kane are given a match against The Acolytes for the WWF Tag Team Titles, while Test demands a match against Triple H so he may repay him for the torture Stephanie suffered. Vince is all too happy to oblige and encourage pain for Triple H, but is reluctant to encourage his daughter dating wrestlers; Test promises to prove his worth before he asks Stephanie out.

June 27th: King Of The Ring

The Big Show and Kane manage to fend off interference from Corporate Ministry members Big Bossman and Midian long enough to put down the Acolytes for the WWF Tag Team Titles.

Test gets a DQ win over Triple H when Triple H brings his favorite weapon, a sledgehammer, out from under the ring and clocks Test in between in the eyes. A few more strikes in the stomach on the prone Test draw out Stephanie McMahon, who gets in the ring without even thinking, until she sees Triple H, leering at her, the sledgehammer in hand. JR screams at Triple H not to attack her (not that Triple H can hear the announcer), but Triple H advances on Stephanie, stalking her slowly. Stephanie backs up until she finds herself trapped in the corner, with Triple H only a couple feet away. He closes in until he is leering over her, his face inches away from hers. And then, without warning, he backs away, shaking his head. The lives fans can only see him mouthing words, but the words are quite obvious: “Not yet.” He drops the sledgehammer and leaves the ring, while paramedics rush to the ring to take Test away.

The Ministry help their champion, The Undertaker, retain his WWF World Title, although the match truly belongs to The Rock. To his credit, he manages to hold off Midian and the giant Viscera, all the while delivering both a Rock Bottom and a People’s Elbow to the champion. However, while Midian distracts the referee, The Acolytes manhandle Rocky and leave him for The Undertaker to get a dirty pin. After the match, the lights dim, and black-robed druids come to the ring with a long, wide piece of wood. The Ministry moves the unconscious Rock onto the board, then carry him out of the ring, and into the darkness beyond the curtain. The crowd is deflated, after seeing two of the Ministry’s top members come out on top. The next match, however, has their hero, their savior … Steve Austin.

Austin and Vince make an uneasy alliance, with both hesitant to tag the other, and glaring at one another when they do so. Jake is cagey about his tags, coming in only when the advantage is to his side, and quickly tagging out at the first sign of a comeback by either man. Vince ends up being isolated by the Ministry team, taking a severe amount of punishment, until Shane attempts to pin his father with one foot. Vince reaches up and hits Shane low, sending him to the mat. With his last ounce of strength, Vince finally tags Austin, and the crowd comes alive in the way they only do for him. Shane is up by the time Vince gets the tag, and he tries for an attack, but Austin meets him with fists; Jake comes into the ring, and gets a dose of Austin rights as well. By the time Jake is down, Shane is back up, and Austin wastes no time in kicking him in the gut and going for the Stunner. However, Shane shoves him off and into the ropes. Shane plants a boot in the gut of Austin and tries for a Stunner of his own, but Austin shoves Shane down. By this time, Jake is back up; he grabs Austin, turns him, kicks him in the gut, and hits his DDT. With McMahon barely moving in the corner (he hasn’t even gone through the ropes yet), Jake sends Shane to work his father over some more, while he picks up Austin and delivers another DDT. Shane picks up his father and throws him shoulder-first into the ring post, while Jake hits a third DDT on Austin; he then stands up and orders Shane to bring Vince to him. Vince can barely stand in front of Jake, but has enough strength left in him to spit in Jake’s face. Jake grins, kicks Vince in the gut, hits the DDT and scores the pin. Immediately, he calls for the druids, who collect Vince and Austin, while The Ministry bring Rocky out from the back. By the TitanTron, three symbols-symbols of the Undertaker-descend from the ceiling. Austin and Rocky are affixed to the symbols on the left and right, while Vince is attached to the center symbol. Slowly, the symbols rise, while Triple H comes forth from the back, dragging Stephanie by the arm. She is frantic with fear until Triple H hands her over to The Undertaker; with his hands clutched around her arms, she freezes, eyes wide as dinner plates. The pay-per-view fades to black on the image of Stephanie, paralyzed in The Undertaker’s arms; after everything the McMahons have been through, her father has failed, and she is now property of The Undertaker, who will for sure finish what he started with the black wedding not so long ago.

Raw, June 28th

Raw’s fireworks explode to start the show, but no sooner do they stop then the lights go down, and the Gregorian chanting of the druids begins, overlapping the music of the Corporate Ministry. The druids part on the ramp, and Paul Bearer leads the sick parade to the ring. The only person missing is The Undertaker. Jake takes the microphone when the processional is over and the lights are up again.

“King Of The Ring was, without a doubt, the biggest moment yet for The Ministry,” says Jake. “The Undertaker eliminated that obnoxious, insignificant little boy you call The Rock …” The crowd boos heavily at this. “I personally saw to the execution of your hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin …” The crowd is livid at this. “And I pinned Vince McMahon himself, and won the hand of the fair maiden, Stephanie.” The crowd is on their feet, screaming in rage as if Jake has just spoken heresy. “And, in the end, we stood while our adversaries were suspended above us, heathens and criminals all. And, beneath the tableau of her father and her champions, failed warriors left to rot, The Undertaker welcomed her back into his shadow … he brought her home.”

The lights dim, save a spotlight over the entrance, and the druids begin to chant again. Through the curtains come The Undertaker, and, in front of him, Stephanie McMahon. Only she is no longer the Stephanie the audience has come to know and love; she wears the vile, black garment that she was once dressed in on a dark Monday not too long ago. She walks without picking up her feet, and while her eyes faces forward, they are empty and soulless; she is little more than a walking corpse.

As The Undertaker guides her up the steps, Jake speaks; “This time, there will be no ceremony for someone to ruin. The black wedding has already been performed: at the stroke of midnight, beneath the high moon, Stephanie became of The Ministry.” Jake spreads his arms wide, as if to invite Stephanie over for a hug. When Stephanie fails to move, he advances and embraces her, then softly kisses her on the forehead. “She is one of us now. And once the World Wrestling Federation is under my control, so too will everyone else be. Tonight, we-“

Jake’s proclamation is interrupted by Test; his forehead is stitched shut and covered in bandages, and he is walking with a limp. Immediately, Triple H leaves the ring and guards the bottom of the entrance ramp. Jake, however, is amused.

“How touching; Stephanie’s would-be suitor has come to her rescue!” Jake motions him toward the ring with a sweeping gesture. “Come, boy. Come check on the object of your affection; see to it she’s not been harmed. We wouldn’t dream of touching you, boy.” Jake pauses for a moment, then adds; “Trust me.”

Test starts down the ramp, looking warily at Triple H. Triple H steps aside and invites Test down as well. The crowd is on their feet, screaming in warning to Test, who pays no mind; he cautiously descends down the ramp. Test is no sooner past Triple H than he is blindsided by the Ministry’s “assassin”, who throws him into the steps for good measure. When Test is finally weakened enough, Triple H delivers him into the ring, where he is held while Jake gets in his face.

“What did I tell you? ‘We wouldn’t dream of touching you’. The only one asleep around here is you; I lived up to my word.” Test struggles, but the Bossman and Viscera tighten their grip on his arms. “You see, boy, you and us, we’re gonna strike ourselves a little bargain. I’d prefer to do our business away from prying eyes.” Test tries to break free, and gets a kick in the back to calm him down. No sooner does he hit the mat then he is hauled back up by his captors. “Just relax, I have a little more business to attend to, and then you and I will discuss …” Jake leers at Stephanie for a moment, and speaks to Test while looking at her. “We will discuss matters of the heart. Take him away.”

Viscera, Midian and the Bossman leave the ring with Test, leaving The Acolytes, The Undertaker, Paul Bearer, Jake and Triple H. The druids move to allow The Ministry to guide Test through the narrow walkway next to the ramp and into the back, then flank the ring. Jake ignores the boos as Test is dragged kicking and yelling back up the ramp, and speaks directly to the TitanTron.

“If the men in the video truck would be so kind as to welcome our guest,” Jake asks, and the CEO of the WWF, Linda McMahon, appears. Jake smiles, which visibly unnerves Linda. “Linda, I said we would take your daughter, and we have. I said we would crush Steve Austin for meddling in our affairs, and we did. Now, we will finish our plan, and wrest the World Wrestling Federation from the grip of Vince McMahon once and for all! We have already beaten your husband, Linda; right now, he lays in a hospital bed, convalescing and cursing the day he tried to stand against me. You have no Rock … no Austin … no Vince … you have no one to protect or save you. You can make this easy on yourself, Linda; forfeit the company to us right now, and spare yourself further agony.”

Linda takes a deep breath; her face is one of resignation, and of hatred. “In front of me, I have a contract, Jake Roberts. Drawn up on behalf of my husband, Vince McMahon, addressing you in the matter of control and ownership of the World Wrestling Federation.” She pauses, looking down, then looks back up. “You are a despicable man, Jake Roberts. You have disrupted my family’s life … you’ve poisoned my son against his own family … stolen my daughter … and now, you want to take our company. You are the lowest, most despicable, god-forsaken man I have ever met, and whatever price I have to pay to remove you from our lives, it cannot be too expensive.”

“M’lady, it was not God who forsook me … I forsook him. I threw down his book of lies and embraced what has existed in my heart all this time, my nature and my gift. It was I who saw through the egotism of piety and the veil of confusion that blinds the so-called righteous from the truth. And, by my name I do swear to you, I will lift that veil from the World Wrestling Federation, and liberate the hearts and minds of the confused … and, if I cannot do that, I swear I will leave this company a pitted, burnt out husk by the time I am through.” And suddenly, for the first time since he let his face be seen, Jake Roberts breaks his eerie, almost transcendent calm, and yells; “Now, sign the contract, bitch!

“Oh, I intend to, Jake” comes the strong reply, but it is not the voice of Linda. The camera in Linda’s office zooms out, and standing next to her is her husband. He is grinning, almost a reflection of the crocodile smile Jake has been flashing since his return, and it has the same effect on Jake as it has others; an unsettling, disturbing effect. An effect that whispers in your ear that all your plans are falling apart. “But let me make one thing perfectly clear; as of right now, I own this company, and I dictate terms, do you understand? You already have my little girl, and I’ll be damned if I won’t find a way to get her back, but I’ll be damned twice over if you think you have any more leverage against me. No more threats, Jake … no more blackmail, no more games.” Vince grabs a pen and signs the contract. The crowd is aghast; Jake is confused. After Vince’s tirade, it shouldn’t be this easy. And he is right to worry. Vince holds up the contract and continues to talk, wearing the same devil-may-care grin all throughout. “This contract gives you the World Wrestling Federation, Jake … on one condition. At Fully Loaded, if I’m pinned, the company and total control of it reverts to you. But only if I’m pinned … and I don’t intend to be, Jake. I intend to win.” The grin is even wider then before, and now Jake knows his plan has spun madly out of control. “But I don’t intend on beating you, Jake. No, because I get nothing out of that. I have no leverage over you to get my daughter back. But I will when I pin The Undertaker for the World Wrestling Federation Championship!” The audience breaks into a massive roar, but Vince talks-yells-over it. “And if anyone from The Ministry even sets foot in the ringside area, The Undertaker will be stripped of the title and the company stays in the McMahon family! Do you understand me, you son of a bitch? Your days are numbered, Roberts!” He pauses, then adds; “And that’s the bottom line …”

And from the ringside area, another voice, this one gravelly and thick with a Texas accent, finishes off the sentence: “‘Cause Stone Cold said so!” The druids throw off the robes and reveal themselves: Austin, The Rock, Ken Shamrock, X-Pac, Road Dogg and D-Lo Brown. Through the crowd come two people too big to pass for druids: Kane and The Big Show. The Ministry mount a fight, but the numbers are too great, and the odds worsen when Jake takes his prisoner, Stephanie, out of the ring and runs for cover. A lost battle is not a lost war, but Jake will suffer neither easily; the night is young, and the Ministry will deal with their adversaries one at a time.

The first order of business for them is retaking the WWF Tag Team Titles from Kane and The Big Show, and they accomplish this with the help of Paul Bearer, who uses a fireball to blind his son Kane, giving the titles back to the Acolytes.

The next target is The Rock, who teams up with X-Pac and Road Dogg to take on The Undertaker, Viscera and Midian. After a fairly long beatdown on X-Pac, The Rock is finally tagged in, and immediately goes to work on The Undertaker. Rocky manages to fend off Midian and Viscera, and with the help of X-Pac and Road Dogg, manages to isolate the WWF Champion. He plants ‘Taker with a spinebuster, and begins the set up for The People’s Elbow. Behind him, however, Jake has come down to ringside, carrying a large sack. Jake opens the drawstring of the bag and releases it into the ring, in the path of Rocky’s running of the ropes. The sight of the cobra, hood out and standing on end, stops Rocky dead in his tracks. Before Rocky can even move, the snake strikes and bites into his leg. Rocky immediately drops to the ground in convulsions of pain and the toxic effect from the venom. The Undertaker manages to pin The Rock and rolls out of the ring, while EMTs rush to ringside to take Rocky to the hospital.

The Ministry has two more targets for the evening, and luck draws them together; Steve Austin is granted a match against Triple H, and before the match can start, they are joined by their special referee, Vince McMahon. Austin has words with Vince before the match, both about their failure the night before, and about Austin not needing special help tonight, but Vince ignores it all and tells Austin to shut up and win. And when Test surprises everyone and comes through the crowd, eyes locked on the “assassin” and out for blood, Vince doesn’t bat an eyelash; he actually steps aside and lets Test charge Triple H. The sound of The Undertaker’s music, however, stops Test from laying a hand on Triple H; out comes the unholy Champion, accompanied by Stephanie. Suddenly, The Undertaker grabs Stephanie by the throat and squeezes; Stephanie offers no struggle against the attack. She starts to sag as oxygen stops flowing to her lungs. Test looks from The Undertaker, to Triple H (who is nodding), and back again. Finally, he sighs, turns to face Vince, says, “I’m sorry,” and unleashes a violent kick to Vince’s face. Austin is dumbfounded, but not for long; he quickly goes after Test, but is cut off by a boot to the gut from Triple H, and a pedigree. Shane McMahon comes from the back wearing a referee’s shirt and makes the three-count. Ashamed of himself, Test starts to leave the ring, but sees The Undertaker reach for Stephanie’s throat again; he points to the ring, and with his free hand, makes a slashing motion across his throat. Test hesitates, and Stephanie pays for it with the beginnings of another strangulation. Test’s shoulders slump; he re-enters the ring, picks up Austin and powerbombs him. He looks up towards The Undertaker, who makes the slashing motion again: another victim to go. Test picks up Vince and delivers a vicious powerbomb to the father of the girl he loves.

Fully Loaded, July 25th

Fully Loaded is, for the fans, quite an apt title. On top of a pinfalls-count-anywhere rematch between The Acolytes and Kane & The Big Show and the other matches on the card, there is a triple main-event involving The Ministry: Jake Roberts faces The Rock, Stone Cold faces Triple H, and the biggest match of them all, The Undertaker versus Vince McMahon, Title vs. Company.

In the closing moments of the Tag Title defense, Bradshaw’s Clothesline From Hell fells the Big Show; Kane manages to down both Acolytes with chokeslams, but he his too exhausted to capitalize. Then, from the curtains appears Stephanie McMahon. She moves without grace or even a shred of humanity; her arms are stiff, her footsteps those of a robot. She enters the ring and approaches the downed Big Show, who is on one knee (and still dwarfs the brainwashed young lady). Show is confused by Stephanie’s appearance, but he has little time to react or help her out of the ring before she makes her move: a slow, stupid, unromantic kiss. When their lips part, Stephanie leaves the ring and heads back to her waiting master, her husband, in the shadows of the entrance. Like Stephanie, Big Show’s eyes are now glazed over and distant; after what seems like an eternity, he finally gets to his feet. Behind him, his partner has done the same. Big Show walks towards Kane, who signals to the now-stirring Acolytes. Instead of attacking their foes, Big Show grabs Kane by the throat and plants him with a chokeslam, then leaves.

The Rock gets a disqualification victory over The Snake thanks to re-emergence of the cobra. However, Rocky manages to get out of the way, and savvy ringside officials catch the snake. Rocky does get a bit of revenge, though, by hitting Jake with a Rock Bottom and a People’s Elbow. Reinforcements for Jake arrive shortly thereafter, but Rocky is too quick, and escapes through the audience.

The Austin/Triple H encounter is a bloody, violent affair that sees almost every main player in the Ministry saga try and alter the outcome; Big Show manages to take out the referee, allowing Jake to score a DDT on Austin. The Rock comes back and hits another Rock Bottom on Jake. Kane comes out to get at the Big Show, and pulls off a chokeslam in the aisle on the behemoth. While Triple H and Rocky fight, Austin manages to get a chair and nails Triple H with a deadly shot to the head as he sets up Rocky for a pedigree. Triple H gets a Rock Bottom and by a Stunner, and Rocky picks up a groggy referee and tosses him back in to make a very slow three-count.

Vince manages to put up more of a fight then anyone expects, and, thanks to referee leniency and the liberal use of chairs, has The Undertaker on the ropes. Jake comes out to monitor the proceedings, accompanied by Stephanie, who is staring slack-jawed at nothing. Vince sees his visitor, and invites him to come to ringside and violate the stipulations. Jake shakes his head and points behind McMahon; he turns, and Test come through the crowd. Vince pleads with Test not to attack him, but Test, obviously crestfallen at his position, can only apologize; his heart is at the mercy of madmen, and if he doesn’t follow their orders, he risks Stephanie’s safety. Deep down, Vince understands, but pleads again; they have already lost Stephanie to the dark side, there is no one to protect anymore. Test can only offer more apologies; he unleashes a bone-crunching kick to the referee, sending him out of the ring, then turns back to Vince and kicks him in the stomach. He follows it up with a powerbomb, and leaves the ring, disgusted with himself. Shane McMahon jogs in from the back, wearing his referee shirt, and exaggerates a slow three-count, giving The Ministry full control over the WWF.

But the carnage is not complete. The Undertaker picks up Vince McMahon and sets him up for a tombstone piledriver, with Shane McMahon acting the cheerleader and orchestrater of violence. With a conscience too heavy to bear any more, Test comes back in the ring. The Undertaker glares at Test, all the while holding onto Vince’s limp body. Shane steps in between the two, and points back towards the entranceway, reminding Test of his position. Test shoves Shane, who falls on his ass, but immediately springs back up and shoves Test back. Test glares at Shane and warns Shane not to touch him again, nor attack Vince anymore. The Undertaker ignores the warning and drops Vince on his head. Test kicks Shane in the gut, then throws Shane head-first into The Undertaker, and runs out of the ring for Stephanie. But he is too late, and is not halfway down the aisle when Jake does the unthinkable: he grins, mouths two words to Test (“For love …”), and plants Stephanie with a DDT. Jake backs away and lets Test go to Stephanie’s side, only to be grabbed from behind by The Undertaker and chokeslammed next to his love.

Raw, July 26th

The first Raw of the Ministry-era begins without fireworks or fanfare. On either side of the TitanTron are massive Undertaker symbols. The mat of the ring is now black, and druids circle the ring, torches blazing in the dim light. Smoke fills the stage, and The Undertaker, flanked by Jake Roberts, Stephanie and the rest of the Ministry, join Shane McMahon and the Corporation in the ring.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Shane proudly announces, ” I present to you, the new owner and chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, Jake Roberts!”

Jake takes the microphone from Shane and, with a smile so big it nearly cuts his head in half, and speaks: “Before I address the public and our employees, I should address our friend, Shane McMahon. Shane, you and I birthed this conjoined effort, this unholy marriage of The Ministry and The Corporation; we’ve been two entities acting as one, working for the common goal of wiping Vince McMahon and his stain from the face of the earth. And last night at Fully Loaded, we killed the mightiest dragon in the forest, and wrested his precious treasure from his clutches.” Jakes offers his hand for shaking; Shane accepts it without hesitation. “Your assistance has made all the difference. I now ask you to keep helping us, to help establish the foundation of a new regime.”

Shane shakes Jake’s hand again, and Jake returns the gesture just as strong. When they break, Jake begins to address the crowd; “Almost two months ago, I came before you and revealed myself and my intentions. I told you we would stop at nothing until we held the World Wrestling Federation in the palm of our hands. I told you we would not rest until we turned Vince McMahon’s little girl into a daughter of the dark. We’ve accomplished everything we’ve set out to do … and now, an even greater task lies ahead. The company is in a panic, and it needs to be rectified. We cannot have the men and women of the WWF living in a dense fog, clouding their judgments and their futures. So I ask that the locker room present itself before us, their new masters, so we may officially launch this new era in the World Wrestling Federation correctly.”

The locker room files out onto the stage, friends and enemies all. They may have issues, even deep-seated hatreds between one another, but tonight, they share one thing: fear and concern for their futures. Jake can see this, and is enjoying it.

“We in The Ministry don’t wish to give any of you the impression your futures are in danger, or that your very safety here as employees of the World Wrestling Federation are in jeopardy. But I do know there is a strong anti-Ministry sentiment running through the locker room. It’s not because of a loyalty to the previous administration, I understand, but fear … fear of the unknown. Fear of the darkness. Everyone has a little bit of fear for the darkness in them, and we accept that. You need not fear us … as long as you understand who has the ultimate power around here.” Jake’s tone suddenly goes from a disingenuous breed of welcoming to an edgy threatening posture. “Understand that a transgression of our authority is not an act we take lightly. We will not have our authority challenged.” The smile is back, but it is not a smile of happiness; it is of a sick breed of pride. “And for those considering such a thing, a rebellion against our rule … we have a message for you.”

Jake motions to the left side of the stage, which has been cloaked in darkness. Spotlights focus on the area, and the amassed superstars of the WWF recoil at the sight of Test, hung from The Undertaker’s symbol, dried blood caked on his forehead and face. WWF officials immediately converge underneath and work to bring him down. “This is what happens to those who defy us,” says Jake. “The guilty are punished and put on display for all to see as a reminder: do not cross-“

An unfamiliar music fills the arena, and the crowd of wrestlers part on the stage to allow someone through. He is big, burly, and bald, and dressed in a rather nice suit. The entire crowd, including the wrestlers and The Ministry, are shocked to see the governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, on the stage. He has a microphone in his hand, and wastes no time in talking; “I’m here on behalf of Linda McMahon, who has a message for you, Mister Roberts.”

“She has no authority anym-“

“No, but before you shoved her out of office, she filed some contracts, and as an elected official, I have the power to make sure those contracts are binding. The first contract concerns The Undertaker and Steve Austin. Austin hasn’t gotten his contractually guaranteed rematch for the WWF Championship yet, and there is no sense in waiting until SummerSlam to do it. So, I’d like to ask Steve Austin right now if he would like his rematch tonight.”

Steve Austin, who (like normal) defied authority and stayed in the locker room, comes out and stands side-by-side with Governor Ventura. “Before you answer, Steve,” says Jesse, “I have one more thing to tell you: Linda arranged it so you could not only take your World Title rematch anytime you wanted, but to name the stipulations.”

Austin wastes no time in answering; “You mean to tell me, I get the big, dumb, dead son of a bitch, in any kind of match I want, any time I want?”

“Tonight, if you want it.”

Austin thinks a moment, then smiles. The crowd lights up at the sight of Austin’s devil-may-care grin. “Sure, I’ll take my shot tonight. But see, the way I figure it, I want more then just my title … I got some humiliation to pay back on that piece of crap, for me and for a couple other people, too.” Austin looks towards Test, hanging on the makeshift cross, then back at The Undertaker. “I hope you got a spare one of those symbol things laying around, dead man, cause you and me, we’re gonna have a Crucifixion match tonight.”

The Ministry is livid, a counterpoint to the crazy reaction from the crowd. But Jesse isn’t done. “And one more thing. At SummerSlam, whoever wins tonight will be defending the WWF Championship … and to make sure the match isn’t ruined by outside forces, I will be the referee!”

The main event (the first of its kind, Jim Ross is quick to point out) is a carnage-filled affair. Ministry and Corporation members all try to interfere, but every time someone starts to get the upper hand, another member of the WWF locker room provides the assistance. And when The Undertaker and Austin aren’t fending off others, the match is little more then a raging brawl, with chairs, cookie sheets, garbage cans and anything else they can find around ringside coming into play, as they try to drag one another up to the cross hanging by stage-right.

In the closing moments, Shane comes out, shoving his catatonic sister out onto the stage, presumably to do to Austin what she did to The Big Show the night before. Shane is no sooner on the stage then Test surprises everyone and charges Shane, knocking him down with vicious clothesline. Austin has The Undertaker too busy by the cross to help out, so Test takes the opportunity to drag Shane to the edge of the stage, pause for the crowd a moment, then powerbomb Shane off the stage and through a table below. But for Test, redemption is not complete; he makes tracks to the other side of the stage and helps Austin close the clasps around The Undertaker’s feet to capture his fourth WWF Title.

But before Austin and Test can celebrate, they are blindsided by Jake and Triple H. While Triple H works over Test (and other Ministry members come to and work on freeing The Undertaker), Roberts beats on Austin, hitting him with three consecutive DDTs on the steel ramp, drawing Austin’s blood. The Rock comes out and tries to help Test, but Triple H and the freed Undertaker overrun them, and Raw ends with The Ministry having lost a battle in the match, but exerting their authority overall, leaving the heroes a bloody mess.

Raw, Aug. 2nd

The sound of breaking glass starts off Raw, and Austin marches down to the ring, his smoking skull belt in tow, obviously angered. “I’m pissed off,” he begins. “Pissed that I beat The Undertaker, and that yellow bastard Jake Roberts attacks me from behind … pissed that he drops me on my head three times”-Steve punctuates this with three fingers held aloft-“and pissed that he busted me open. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without a bunch of them worthless cowards coming out all at once. I want Roberts, I wanna beat his ass, and I want now!”

This draws out Jake (alone for once), who is all smiles. “Steve, I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation,” he says. “I am the boss now. When I tell you to jump, you don’t just ask how high, but when you may come down.”

“Did you watch anything in the past year, or are you dumber then you look? McMahon tried to pull the same crap on me, and I’ll tell you the same thing I told him: when you say jump, I say kiss my ass!” This he punctuates with a pair of birds that drives the crowd nuts. “I ain’t leaving this ring until I get you in a match, Roberts.”

Jake considers this, then says; “Tell you what, Austin; tonight … a six-man tag. Me, The Undertaker and Shane McMahon, versus you, The Rock and Test. How does that sound”

“Oh, that sounds like a load of crap!” The crowd cheers this, as they do everything Austin says. “I said I wanted you, and if I gotta put this”-he holds up the belt-“on the line to get you one-on-one, by god I’ll do it.”

Jake considers this as well, then that all-too-familiar smile breaks out on his face again. “That can be arranged. How does SummerSlam sound to you?”

“I don’t care if it’s SummerSlam, tomorrow, my backyard, wherever, whene-“

“That’ll be enough, Austin. But, as the chairman of this company, I believe I need to set some ground rules for our encounter. You see, last week, I drew blood on you, Austin, and I liked it. As a matter of fact, it might have brought me more enjoyment then taking Vince McMahon’s daughter and his company. Because, you’re Vince’s final, greatest creation, Austin; his attempt to oppress your nature created an icon for this company, and the opportunity to crush his icon … to drain his life’s blood out of him … it’s quite intoxicating. So, at SummerSlam, we will have a match, Austin, but it will be no ordinary match. We will have a Life’s Blood match.”

Austin is leaning against the ropes, making the blah blah blah hand motion. “Would ya just get to the damn point, Roberts, you’re boring the hell outta me.”

“If you’d shut up, Austin, I might tell you. See, I’m not content on making you bleed; I’ve already done that. I want you done, gone, shut up forever. And to do that, First Blood won’t do … I need it all. The winner will be declared when one person has bled so much, they can no longer continue. And that’s what I want to do to you, Austin; I want to see you beaten so badly, you won’t just be unable to stand up, but unable to compete forever. Gone, finished, retired. Your career and your title, on the line.”

“That’s fine,” Austin says without hesitation, “but … ya see, Roberts, I hold the title. And I know you want it back, and there’s something I want out of you. I want you gone. You and the rest of you mealy-mouthed little Ministry bastards. I want you gone, and I want the company back. So, the way I say it, you got two choices: give me what I want, or I’ll spend SummerSlam Sunday kicked back in my living room, with a beer in one hand, the remote in the other, a case of Steveweisers on the floor, and my belt in my lap.”

Jake is angry, and can’t hide it. It is with great resignation that he finally speaks, and only one word, then turns and walks through the curtain: “Deal.”

JR runs down the big matches of SummerSlam as the wrestlers come out for the main event: Kane will face the Big Show. Test versus Shane in a Greenwich street fight, with Stephanie McMahon’s freedom on the line. The Rock will fight The Undertaker and Triple H in a handicap match, and, in the main event, the Life’s Blood All-Or-Nothing match pitting Steve Austin, his career and the WWF Title against Jake Roberts, The Ministry’s existence and ownership of the WWF, with Jesse Ventura officiating.

The main event of the evening is, as JR would say, “a real pier-six brawl”, with the referee losing control very quickly. Most of the combatants go outside the ring and brawl, leaving Austin and Jake in the ring to fight. When The Rock rams The Undertaker’s head into the timekeeper’s bell and lays him out, he takes the opportunity and gets in the ring to help out Austin beat on Jake. This draws out Triple H, who attacks Rocky from behind and throws him outside by The Undertaker, who joins Triple H in beating Rocky. Suddenly, the screeching of tires and a familiar guitar chord fill the arena, and Mankind runs down to ringside, brandishing a steel chair. He gives Shane McMahon a quick shot in the head as he passes by, focusing on coming to the aid of Rocky. He neutralizes Triple H with a shot to the back, and hits Undertaker in the head, then goes back to work on Triple H. Inside the ring, Austin escapes a DDT with a low blow and hits a Stunner for the pin. The crowd bursts into furious applause, and the WWF stars drive back the Ministry. As the Ministry back down the aisle, Mankind grabs a microphone and announces he will partner with The Rock at SummerSlam.

Summerslam, August 22

Big Show has to cheat and hold Kane’s tights to get the victory in their match, but Kane earns a matter of revenge, by hoisting up The Big Show and putting him through the Spanish announce table with a chokeslam.

The Test/Shane McMahon street fight is a wild encounter, with two major surprises; the first comes from Shane McMahon throwing caution to the wind in his quest to beat Test. Midway through the match, Shane sets up Test on the remaining announce table, hops up to the top turnbuckle, and jumps off; Test rolls out of the way, and Shane crashes through the table, spending a couple minutes on the arena floor, not moving. Finally, he stirs and uses his sister, brought to ringside by Viscera, as a shield to buy himself recovery time. But it is the second surprise that elicits the biggest reaction; shortly after the table incident, Shane gets a chair and manages to beat on Test outside the ring. However, Test manages to duck a shot and the chair hits Stephanie. Enraged, Test immediately tackles Shane, pummels him, then takes the chair from him and beats Shane senseless. He then drops the chair, and checks on Stephanie, who is motionless on the floor. He holds her close, and softly kisses her on the forehead, and goes back to Shane, who has enough presence of mind to kick Test in the crotch. Shane uses his advantage for several minutes, pounding on Test in the ring, but unable to put him away. Finally, he grabs a table, puts Test on it in the ring, and begins to ascend the turnbuckle for a moonsault. During this, Stephanie awakens, and, seeing what is going on, ascends the stairs. Shane stands on the turnbuckle, shocked but yelling at her to go back down the stairs. Instead, she grabs hold of one of his legs and pulls, and Shane falls crotch-first onto the turnbuckle; she follows it up with a slap in the face. Test has rolled off the table by this time, and, though tired and beaten, sees his opportunity. He climbs the turnbuckle from the outside, puts Shane into position, and delivers a super powerbomb through the table for the victory. Stephanie comes into the ring to help Test up; they embrace and kiss, and walk off to the locker room together, the crowd giving the happy couple a heartwarming exit.

Mankind gets revenge on Triple H in the tag match with a double-arm-DDT on a chair, but the match itself gets out of control and the referee has to throw out the match. The wrestlers ignore the repeated ringing of the bell and continue their fight, with Rocky and The Undertaker going out through the crowd to a concession area, and Mankind beating Triple H back to the locker room.

Jesse Ventura ruins any plans Jake might have had, using his authority to ban everyone from ringside, leaving him with a crazed Austin and an unsympathetic referee. The match itself barely resembles a wrestling match; Jake and Austin use chairs, tables, the ring-bell and even the hammer used to strike the bell to draw blood and wear out their one another. However, Jake’s bloodlust gets out of hand, and proves to be the costly error; he pulls out a sack of thumbtacks from underneath the ring, and attempts to spread them on the arena floor. Austin, dazed from blood loss, manages to get himself together long enough to throw Jake headfirst into the steel steps. He then picks up Jake and sits him on the steel steps, his back against the ring post, and grabs the chair from under Jim Ross. Austin, smiling through a curtain of blood, looks at the crowd, and imitates the infamous Babe Ruth “calling of the shot”, pointing to the not-moving Jake. Austin exaggerates a batter’s wind-up, then swings and connects, sandwiching Jake’s head between the ring post and the chair, sending a slumped and unconscious Jake to the floor. Ventura checks Roberts, and signals for the bell; the match is over, and the company is now Austin’s.

Epilogue: Raw, Aug. 23

Raw opens with Austin coming down to the ring, his head bandaged, not looking like a normal CEO. He wastes no time in getting to the point: “I’d like it if I could be joined by my board of directors.”

The audience comes unglued at the appearance of Austin’s board of directors: The Rock, Mankind, and Kane. They all join Austin in the ring; Austin shakes hands with all three; “We all got a lot to do tonight, and a lot of decisions to make, but there’s one big piece of business we need to address. I’d like it if the McMahons could come down here.”

“No Chance In Hell” cues up, and the McMahon family-excluding Shane-come to the ring. Linda and Stephanie shake hands with everyone willingly; Vince does so, but nervously; none of the four men in the ring have any love lost for Vince McMahon, and he is totally vulnerable and at their mercy.

“Relax, Vince,” says Austin. “We didn’t call you down here to kick your ass.” The board of directors all nod in agreement. Vince relaxes, but only a little. “But I told you a couple months ago we’d have a talk, and we never did get to have that talk, did we?”

Vince shakes his head slowly. He doesn’t like where this is going, especially since Austin holds all the cards. He opens his mouth to plead for mercy-something he is unaccustomed with-but Austin holds up a hand to silence him.

“See, Vince, we’ve all had problems with you. You manipulated Kane against me and his own brother, and tried to have him committed. You threw Rocky under the bus only a couple months ago. I don’t think I need to remind how you screwed with Mick’s head, and I’m damn sure you remember what we’ve been through. I didn’t go through hell and back and win this company back to be some suit-wearin’, clock-punchin’ geek, Vince; that ain’t me. But we ain’t about to hand over this company to you again only for you to stab us in the back with you as Chairman again. And,” says Austin, looking past Vince to Linda, “it’s not that we don’t trust you, Linda, but you didn’t do a whole lot to stop him the last time, so I hope you can understand why we’d be nervous to put things back the way they were.”

“Then what do you want, Austin?” Vince asks.

Austin turns and motions to Mankind, who produces a document from under his shirt. He hands it to Austin, along with a pen. “See, Vince, we went ahead and had this contract drawn up. Real simple. Until the end of Raw tonight, we’re in charge; these boys got some aggression to take out, so I figure they should have the right to do what they want for an evening. Come tomorrow, this contract gives the WWF back to the McMahon family.”

Vince raises an eyebrow; it can’t be this easy. Not with Austin. “But …?”

“But there’s a catch; we’re done with you. You ain’t welcome around here, Vince, and we don’t want to deal with you anymore. So, we’ll sign the WWF back over to you, but the conditions are simple: you will never appear on WWF television again. We got a deal?”

Vince is aghast. The thought of the WWF without him … it’s unfathomable. But, the flip side is worse: Austin and his friends, running, and ruining the company. And if Austin keeps the company, Vince still wouldn’t be on TV anyway …

Reluctantly, Vince takes the pen from Austin’s outstretched hand. Kane bends over to provide a surface to sign the contract on; first, Vince signs it, then Austin. By the time Vince signs it, the crowd is already singing: “Na, na, na-naaaaa …”

Austin and his board again shake hands with Stephanie and Linda, who leave the ring first. Vince stays, taking one last look at the crowd and the arena, sights he will never see again from the inside of a WWF ring. Mankind, Kane and Rocky all shake hands with him, but he barely notices. He finally breaks himself out of his stupor and sadness and starts to leave the ring, when Austin calls him back. He extends a hand, and says; “For old times’ sake.”

Vince cautiously grabs the hand and shakes it … and Austin kicks him in the gut and hits a Stunner. The crowd goes nuts, and then segues back into singing Vince off into the sunset. The glass breaks and Austin’s music plays under the singing as Vince, holding his neck, curses at the crowd and at Austin as he disappears behind the curtain.

The End

A pimp to Kurtis for his help with the little things … and to the fans, who took to this column so damned well, and gave such unanimous praise in their feedback. Later, yo.