Re-Writing The Book: The Corporate Champion, Part 1

So … here we are, ready to embark on an all-new story, the first for Inside Pulse, and we open with a reader suggestion, sent in by Mathew Sforcina. See, you suggest, I use, you get the nod. Supply and demand. Now then, everyone ready? Let’s dive right into the story, which deals with the ramifications of the question …

What if The Rock wasn’t Vince McMahon’s “Corporate Champion” after all?

Our story begins in the closing moments of the finals of the World Title tournament at Survivor Series ’98. The Rock has defied overwhelming odds-including risking his own job-to get to the finals of the tournament. His opponent, the confused Mankind, believes he is Vince McMahon’s favored son, but the match is not going in his favor …

Nov. 15th, 1998

The Rock stands above the prone body of Mankind, sucking air and barely moving. Rocky scans the crowd, giving his shoulders that familiar jerk; he has no elbows pads left to strip off and throw, but the crowd doesn’t care. It’s still The Most Electrifying Move In Sports Entertainment Today. Rocky waves his arms in and out-the preamble to The People’s Elbow-then bounds into a run; first, off to his right, then a hop over Mankind and to the left side, then, as he approaches Mankind’s body, he slows long enough to give Vince McMahon-who is at ringside-a two-fingered salute before dropping the elbow square on the heart. The crowd counts along with the referee, but the three never happens.

Instead, Vince springs up, screaming and pointing at the referee. Only the people nearby can hear it, although microphones pick it up in the background for those at home: Earl! Make the three-count and kiss your job goodbye! Earl stops, then stands up. The Rock waits a second more, then when what would’ve been the winning third slap doesn’t happen, he springs up and is in Earl Hebner’s face. Earl’s hands are in the air in an “I surrender” gesture and he shakes his head. Anger overrides Rock’s judgment, and he gives Hebner a shove. Hebner still shakes his head, but offers no verbal argument; instead, it is Vince’s voice Rock hears.

“Hey, Rock!” Vince puts up a thumb, then slowly turns it down. Rock’s eyes go wide with rage, but he has no time to do anything else. He is wheeled around by Mankind, who quickly drives his hand into the mouth of The Rock, and Rock is barely on the mat before Vince is screaming at Hebner to ring the bell. Reluctantly, Earl signals the timekeeper, and the bell rings. The energy of the crowd turns nasty and Mankind’s theme song is drowned out with the boos of the crowd. Vince tears the belt from the hands of the timekeeper and carries it (along with a microphone) with pride into the ring, presenting it to Mankind like an Academy Award. Mankind takes the belt and cradles it, while Shane McMahon joins them and Vince brings out the microphone.

“What you’ve just seen is the completion of a Machiavellian plot, a conspiracy that could only be brought forth by someone like me, Vince McMahon!” Vince beams amidst the visceral hatred coming from the crowd. “I’d try to break it down for you inbred Missouri rednecks, but it’s-“

The Rock finally gets up, and immediately gets into Vince’s face. “What in the hell do you-” is all he has time to get off before Vince screams for help from his new pet Champion.

Mankind clobbers The Rock in the back of the head with the belt, and Rocky drops to the ground. He gives Shane McMahon the order to pick him up; Mankind backs up across the ring while Shane gets Rock to his knees. Mankind bursts forward in a mad, scrambling run, winding up as he comes forward, then blasts Rocky in the face; the crushing blow sends The Rock tumbling backwards and out of the ring. Refs and trainers scramble out of the back to check on the now-bleeding Rock as Vince announces all will be explained tomorrow on Raw.

Nov. 16th, 1998: Raw

Raw opens with Vince McMahon, along with his son Shane and the Corporate entourage of Boss Man, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, all beaming with pride. “Thank you for that warm Kentucky reception!” says Vince. The crowd boos, but he ignores it, the smile on his face so big, it’s threatening to cut his head in half. “Last night at the Survivor Series, my son Shane and I proved that whoever it was that said ‘you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’ was a damn fool. A damned fool is someone who insists on doing things the hard way. A damned fool is someone who embraces middle class ethics and values.” The crowd chants for Austin, but Vince plods on. “And a damned fool is someone who doesn’t pucker up and kiss the boss’ ass. Now, now, now, wait a minute; now don’t tell me all of you don’t kiss the boss’ ass, I know you do, you probably don’t just kiss it enough-that’s why you’re a bunch of backwater Kentucky hicks, and I’m the owner of the most powerful wrestling company on earth!” The crowd boos again, but Vince continues without missing a beat. “Even though you don’t deserve it, right now, I would like to introduce you to someone who certainly is no damn fool, oh no. Ladies and gentlemen, the World Wrestling Federation Champion-the Corporate Champion-ladies and gentlemen … Mick Foley!”

Jim Ross insists that this is all a bad dream, and that the Mick Foley he’s known for years would never do something like this, but indeed, Mick Foley comes through the curtain, the WWF World Title slung over one shoulder and a large, lumpy garbage sack in the other. And this time, the corporate sell-out is complete-gone is the straggly, unkempt hair, now trimmed down to a military buzz-cut. The beard is gone, replace with a well-trimmed, respectable goatee. Gone are the dingy brown rags, the tie-dyed shirts and the smelly leather mask; in its place is a nice suit and tie, and a new bridge of false teeth to fill in the holes in his smile. And if the appearance didn’t do enough to push the sell-out, the graphic on-screen lists him as “New WWF Champion, Mick Foley”. Mick enters the ring, shaking hands with everyone (and getting a manly hug of congratulations from Vince). Vince then introduces Mick with; “Ladies and gentlemen, listen to Mick Foley!”

“Thank you, Vince” Mick says. “Ya know, every since last night, people keep asking me why I sold out. Why I’d be crazy enough to trust the McMahons after everything they’d done to people who got in their way. Why I’d turn my back on the fans who had come to accept this pudgy kid from Long Island as a genuine WWF Superstar.” Mick glares out into the crowd; a handful of boos breaks the silence, but for the most part, everyone is waiting, listening. “But every time someone asked me that, all I could think of was how the fans of the World Wrestling Federation have treated me over the past two and a half years. I gave you Cactus Jack-I even brought in Terry Funk-and instead of showing us the respect and gratitude we deserve, you chant for Steve Austin. I bear my soul to Jim Ross, and what does he do? He mocks me, and browbeats me. I get stuck in a cage with a lunatic like Ken Shamrock and a pompous son of a bitch like The Rock, and who do you cheer for? The guy who couldn’t care less about any one of you.” Suddenly, Mick’s face floods with rage, and his voice turns into a blood-curdling yell. “I was thrown off and through the Hell In A Cell, and what kind of response do I get for that? You cheer for a goddamned sock! So you ask me why I’ve aligned myself with Vince McMahon and his Corporation? Because the fans of the WWF put me there!”

Mick sets the belt and the bag down, then opens the bag and pulls out the contents; first, the tie-dyed shirt and tights of Dude Love. Next, the brown vest and tights of Mankind, and followed up with the ring attire of Cactus Jack. Lastly, he pulls out a book of matches and a can of lighter fluid, which he uses to douse the pile of clothing. “You sick bastards put me in this position, so I feel as though it’s my duty to punish you. You’ll never be seeing Mankind, or Dude Love or Cactus Jack ever again.” Mick lights a match, holding it front of him and laughing like a madman. He dangles it above the pile of clothing, ready to drop …

And the sound of breaking glass makes his head swivel in the direction of the entrance. Austin is no further then the ramp before Vince is yelling over the music. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Austin, stop right there! Cut his music, dammit, cut his music!” The music shuts off (to another chorus of boos), and Vince says; “Need I remind you that your new contract specifically states you cannot lay a hand on me without prior provocation? In case your beer-addled brain can’t process those big words, Steve, allow me to simplify: you can’t hit me unless I hit you first, or your ass is fired!

“Oh, I know all about what kind of rules and laws Shane wrote in that stupid little contract,” Austin says, pacing back and forth. “And since my beer-addled brain is too stupid to use them big words you like to throw around, I got a real simple way of telling you what I think of your contract.” Austin gives Vince the two-fingered salute, much to the delight of the crowd. Vince steams and stews, which makes Austin’s smile that much bigger. “But I also know,” he continues, “what else is in that contract. It says that Stone Cold Steve Austin is legally bound to get a title shot the night after Survivor Series.”

The crowd, and the Corporation, both go into overdrive, although in much different styles. Shane tries to calm down his father, whispering something to him. Finally, Vince says; “There is no way that clause is in there. And even if it is, there’s no way you can back that up.”

“Oh, it’s in there, Vince. One title shot, for ol’ Stone Cold, right here tonight. I even took my case to a legal expert.”

Above Austin on the TitanTron, the image of Judge Mills Lane appears. “I have reviewed the contract for Stone Cold Steve Austin, and determined that it indeed does contain a guaranteed match for the WWF Title on the night of November 16th, 1998.” The crowd blows up, but Mills has more. “If WWF owner Vince McMahon does not adhere to this ruling, he will be in breech of contract. I expect a good, clean fight, Vince … or I’ll see you in court.” Austin’s music fills the arena, but instead of celebrating, Austin’s gaze is directed and locked on the gaze of the “Corporate Champion”, Mick Foley, whose eyes are quite possibly even more cold and hostile than Austin’s.

As the night continues, McMahon continues to spread his Corporate doctrine, interrupting a scheduled Ken Shamrock/Boss Man Intercontinental Title match with an offer for Shamrock to join the Corporation. It doesn’t take long for Shamrock to make his decision and cast his lot with McMahon’s team. Overtures are also made to Women’s Champion Sable, but she declines.

When Team Corporate escorts Mick Foley (outfitted in plain black tights, and a sleeveless flannel shirt over a plain white t-shirt) to the ring, the hope that Austin can stick it to Vince and his Corporate stooges starts to vanish. Austin makes sure to give Team Corporate a dose of birds on the way into the ring, but is blindsided by Foley before he can do his usual pose on the turnbuckles. Austin takes a few blows before getting a block and turning the tide, putting fists and feet into Foley’s doughy body. Vince and his lackeys are horrified to watch Austin completely dominate Foley with a barrage of strikes, which Foley can only stop with a low blow. Foley backs up and takes a breather while Shane hops up on the apron to argue with the referee about Austin’s supposed use of closed fists; it is an obvious distraction ploy so Shamrock can come in and put the hurt on Austin. Foley cues Shamrock to leave after the damage is done, and Shane drops to the floor in time for Earl Hebner to see Foley make the cover. But Foley only gets two, and is angry. Foley picks up Austin and uses his old Cactus Jack finisher, the double-arm DDT, but only gets two. Foley is livid, and argues with the referee. Hebner argues back, even going so far as to shove Foley backwards, right into a roll-up by Austin, which only gets two. Foley is up before Austin, and when Austin gets to his feet, Foley clamps on the Mandible Claw. Austin fights the pressure Foley puts on him to lay back with a kick to the gut. A second kick is enough to break the hold, and a third sets up the Stunner, but as Austin is getting in position to deliver the finishing blow, Foley slaps the claw on again. Suddenly, the crowd explodes at the sight of The Rock exploding from the backstage area. Boss Man is the first to meet Rock, and he gets a stiff clothesline on the jaw for his troubles. Hebner has completely left the action in the ring to monitor The Rock’s incursion, but Rocky is dead set on one target: Vince McMahon. He stalks Vince, pointing a finger and giving him a piece of his mind before Shamrock, who had circled around the ring to end up behind Rocky, waffles Rock in the back of the head. Shamrock holds Rocky back, allowing Vince to talk trash and slap him around (and, when Boss Man comes around, to put the boots to him). All the while, Foley has abandoned the Mandible Claw and gone after his title belt; Foley swings, but Austin ducks, plants a kick in the gut, then gets the title belt and hits a homer on Foley’s skull. Austin barks at Hebner, who comes back in time to see Austin make the pin. Hebner gets to two, but the three is interrupted by the emergence of The Undertaker, who uses a shovel to blast Austin in the head. Hebner has no choice but to call for the DQ bell, sending Austin’s title shot up in smoke. Undertaker continues to abuse the bleeding Austin with the shovel, and the Corporation takes the opportunity to get the hell out of dodge, leaving Rocky unconscious on the arena floor, laughing at the destruction of Stone Cold as Raw fades to black.

Nov. 23rd, 1998: Raw

Raw, once again, opens up with Vince, Shane and “the stooges” (minus Shamrock, Boss Man or Foley). “I know some of you probably think that I was behind the brutal attack last Monday when the Undertaker leveled Austin with a shovel. Well, let me tell you I categorically deny those accusations, and as you all know, I don’t lie. I’ve never lied to you before, and I never will. When I guarantee something, you know you can take it to the bank. That’s not to say I’m not happy that The Undertaker did that, because it saved me a lot of grief, but I would never condone or seek out such a blatant, horrific attack to be perpetrated on an employee of this company … even against Stone Cold.” The crowd boos this to show their disbelief, but Vince is unfazed. “Right now, though, I am a very special and important announcement. Commissioner Slaughter has graciously decided to resign, so that the World Wrestling Federation can be the leadership it deserves-an independent freethinker who does not answer to Vince McMahon. This commissioner will have full rights and privileges to treat each and every WWF superstar with equality and dignity. The only exception to the rule will be Stone Cold Steve Austin-he’s mine. I will make all decisions as it relates to Mr. Austin. So without further ado, the McMahon Family proudly presents to you, the new WWF Commissioner-the only Grand Slam winner in WWF history-he is the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels!

Michaels comes down the ramp to a standing ovation, dressed in a nice blazer and slacks, and a cowboy hat to complete the Texas sheriff look. After he does his trademark poses (with fireworks), he shakes hands with Vince. “Well, Vin-Man … or is it mister Vin-Man?” Vince raises an eyebrow, but lets Shawn continue. “Regardless, sir, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity. The Heartbreak Kid is thrilled to be back in the ring, even if I do have to wear a suit to do it. Now, as a token of my appreciation, and as the new commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, I’ll be the only one issuing guarantees around here, and I can guarantee you”-Shawn points to Vince, whose expression is showing he is beginning to regret his decision-“that things will never be quite the same around here. Now, in an effort-JR, if I may steal a line of yours-in an effort to add a little bit more sizzle to tonight’s steak, Mr. Vin-Man, may I book a few matches, right here, right now?” Vince nods, his skepticism growing more by the minute. “Firstly, that Hardcore Title your Corporate Champion has … somehow, I doubt you want such a …” Shawn chuckles mockingly. “… fine, upstanding man like Mick Foley to be involved in a brawl for such a lowly title. So, Mick, consider yourself relieved of the Hardcore Title; tonight on Raw, a triple threat match for the Hardcore Title, with Ken Shamrock,” (boos to that), “the Boss Man,” (more boos), “and The Rock!” The crowd bursts at that, while Vince’s jaw hits the floor. He tries to say something to Michaels, but Michaels holds up a hand as if to say “shut up and back off.” “And furthermore … ladies and gentlemen, right here in this very ring, for the World Wrestling Federation Championship-the current Champion, Mick Foley, will defend against … D-Generation X member X-Pac! Now hit the music!” Vince can’t hide how appalled he is, and tries to question Michaels, but he is already leaving the ring. Shane and the stooges confer with Vince, who is still too rattled by Michaels’ rulings.

The first match of the evening sees The Godfather against Tiger Ali Singh; as always, The Godfather tries to use his ho’s to call things off, but before Singh can make a decision, the sound of breaking glass cuts all proceedings off. Austin stops to the ring and dispatches Singh with a Stunner; Tiger’s manservant Babu flees in terror before Austin can execute him as well. The Godfather tries to calm Austin down a selection from his stable of ladies, but gets a Stunner for a reply, which sends the ladies scurrying for safety. Austin demands, and receives a mike. He fires his words off like bullets from a machine gun, pacing back and forth across the ring. “Last week, I got royally screwed by The Undertaker cracking me in the head with a shovel. Left me so messed up, I passed out in the ring on Saturday.” Austin pauses to take a look around, a little bit of paranoia on his face. “I don’t care what the hell Vince McMahon says about he didn’t order the attack. All I know is that I got a splitting headache, and the only thing I’m fixin’ to do to make it better is to find The Undertaker, stomp a mudhole in his dead ass, and walk it dry!” Austin looks directly at the entrance, as if expecting the ‘Taker to come out. “I know you’re back there somewhere, you piece of crap, and if I can’t find you back there, I will ruin every single match on Raw tonight until I get a piece of his ass!”

The second hour kicks off with the triple-threat match for the vacant Hardcore Title, and immediately, the plan becomes obvious: eliminate The Rock for good. Shamrock and Boss Man take turns pounding and wearing down The Rock, never bothering to try a pin. But Rock utilizes the liberties of the hardcore rules, and manages to even things up by dropping both guys with shots to the groin. Rocky rolls out, grabs a chair, and swings for the fences on Shamrock’s head. Boss Man tries to take away the chair, but Rocky buries his boot in Boss Man’s gut, and drops Boss Man onto the chair with a DDT. Rocky puts the chair on Shamrock’s chest, then signals for the People’s Elbow … but Foley comes down to the ring and pulls down the ropes, sending Rock tumbling to the floor. Foley sends Rocky shoulder-first into the steps, then runs at Rocky and crushes his head between the steps and his knee. In the ring, Shamrock and Boss Man start to stir, but Austin comes through the crowd and drops both of them with Stunners (to the delight of the crowd) before going after Foley. Foley and Austin start to brawl, but Austin’s rage is more then Foley can handle, and Austin beats him to the floor. Austin stomps away at Foley, taking pause only to talk smack and flip Foley the bird. But Austin’s barrage comes to a sudden halt thanks to The Undertaker coming up from behind and subduing Austin with a chloroform-soaked rag. Undertaker drapes Austin over his shoulder and carries him around the ramp to a waiting hearse, leaving the match to continue (even though all it’s participants are various states of unconsciousness). Finally, the Boss Man stirs enough to drape an arm on Shamrock-the plan all along, despite the unwanted interference-for the three count.

The main event-Foley vs. X-Pac-starts off with Commissioner Michaels sending away the two wrestlers’ escorts (Shamrock & Bossman and the New Age Outlaws, respectively). X-Pac brings his A-game to the match, using his speed and agility to run circles around Foley. But pretty soon, the weight and strength of Foley prove too much for X-Pac, and methodically picks apart the young high-flier. Using his eclectic high-impact offense, Foley wears down X-Pac, but the youngster’s heart keeps him kicking out of everything Foley can dish out. But Foley’s penchant for dishing out pain costs him when he sets up X-Pac in the corner for his trademark running knee into the turnbuckle. X-Pac brings up his feet, and Foley runs right into the legs, sending the wind out of him. X-Pac gets to his feet and rallies the crowd to cheer (with Jim Ross going into hysterics about beating McMahon’s “puppet champion”), and unleashes with a volley of lightening-fast kicks. Foley is driven back into the corner, and X-Pac hits his Bronco Buster. Foley slides out of the ring as the match is joined by Vince & Shane McMahon, who walk down to the end of the ramp. X-Pac goes over to the ropes and gives them a couple crotch-chops, and the referee follows, admonishing them for coming out. The distraction is enough for Foley to grab a chair and slide in the ring. Michaels dives in and intercepts him taking the chair away. X-Pac turns and sees the confrontation, but Michaels turns and swings at the same time, connecting right between the eyes splitting X-Pac wide open. Michaels quickly gets out (taking the chair with him), and Foley makes the pin in time for the McMahons to back off. The referee turns, sees the pinfall attempt, and makes the three count. The ref’s hand hasn’t even hit the mat before the New Age Outlaws are running down the aisle, but right behind them are Shamrock and the Boss Man, who utilize the Boss Man’s nightstick to choke out and beat down the Outlaws, while X-Pac is decimated with chair shots, and the McMahons look on, with now virtually all of their top enemies vanquished in one night.

It is the fate of Austin, though, that closes the show. Camera crews follow the hearse to a cemetery. Paul Bearer and The Undertaker get out of the hearse and open up the back door; inside is a body bag that is writhing. The Undertaker tries to pick it up, but Austin wiggles and fights too much to pick up; The Undertaker drops Austin on the ground and stomps him until he is still, then picks him back up. Paul points off in the distance and tells Undertaker he has had a grave already prepared (the camera zooms in the direction Paul is pointing, and picks up a fresh grave with a headstone already placed). Undertaker hefts Austin’s carcass to the gravesite, then drops it down. One on side of the grave stands the dirt and a shovel driven into the mound; on the other, a closed casket, ready and waiting. Undertaker orders Paul to open the casket while he pulls Austin out of the body bag and gives him another couple stomps for good measure.

Paul starts to pull open the casket, only for the lid to coming flying open. Paul jumps back in horror to see Kane sit up, then get out of the casket. Kane grabs Paul by the throat and is about to choke slam him into the grave until The Undertaker saves his mentor. The Undertaker and Kane start to brawl, but The Undertaker gets the upper hand and drives Kane back to the edge of the empty grave. This time, it is Austin who makes the save, breaking the shovel on The Undertaker, who falls in a heap. Kane recovers and adds a couple shots in on his brother. Austin grabs the body bag, and then goes after Paul. Paul tries to run, but trips over his own feet; Austin hauls him up and punches him out. He whistles over to Kane, who helps him stuff Bearer in the body bag; the two toss it in the back of the hearse, get in and drive into the night.

Nov. 30th, 1998: Raw

The next Raw has Austin showing up at the arena with the body-bagged Paul Bearer, dragging him into the ring. He brings a shovel with him, which he uses to poke and prod and generally scare the living hell out of the pudgy manager. He demands The Undertaker come out before he breaks another shovel, but instead of The Undertaker, Austin gets Vince.

“The Undertaker isn’t here tonight, Stone Cold,” says Vince, “so you might as well go home. You’re not scheduled-hell, you’re not even medically cleared to wrestle tonight!”

“Stone Cold wasn’t talkin’ to you, Vince, so shut up! I want The Undertaker, I want that rat bastard Mankind or Cactus Jack or whoever he thinks he is this week, and I want my World Wrestling Federation Title, and if I gotta go through every superstar on the roster, you’re damned sure I’ll do it! You go back into the back and you talk to your stupid little lawyers and sign me up against The Undertaker at Have A Nice Day, and once I’m done with him, you might as well put me on the list against that piece of crap Mick Foley!”

Vince glares at Austin in silence, considering his options. The familiar evil McMahon grin spreads across his face. “Well, Stone Cold, I’m not very inclined to let you anywhere near Mick Foley. I remember exactly what kind of hell you put this company through as champion the last time you had the belt, and it’ll be over my dead body that that happens again.”

Austin takes the shovel and puts the blade under the neck of Paul Bearer. “Your dead body, his dead body, I don’t give a rat’s ass, Vince. You make the matches, or ol’ Stone Cold is gonna raise hell like never before, and ain’t no contract or stipulation or nothin’ is gonna stop me!”

Vince’s panic is plain for all to see; he runs his fingers through his hair, his jaw clinched as tight as a drumhead. Suddenly, his frustration breaks; inspiration has struck. “I’ll tell you what, Austin! I can’t give you Foley-he’s busy with The Rock at the next pay-per-view, and he has some vacation time coming after that. But I will give you The Undertaker at Have A Nice Day! You’ll make history, Austin, for you’ll be competing against The Undertaker in the first-ever Funeral Match; if you can beat the Undertaker into unconsciousness, seal him in a casket and bury him and the casket in dirt, I’ll even allow you to enter the Royal Rumble. But if you lose …” Vince’s laughter is maniacal, chilling; his eyes have the wide-open glare of a psychotic; he is the devil in a business suit that JR constantly refers to him as. “If you lose, you will never get another shot at the WWF Title again. Do we have a deal?” Austin accepts without hesitation and leaves Paul Bearer trapped in the body bag for authorities to deal with, thus setting up the second half of the double-main event for the pay-per-view.

Dec. 13th, 1998: Have A Nice Day!

Have A Nice Day! opens up with the New Age Outlaws defending their titles against the Corporation’s duo of Ken Shamrock and the Boss Man. The Corporation manages to isolate the Road Dogg for the bulk of the match, using every dirty tactic they can think of to weaken him and keep him from tagging out to Billy Gunn. The tag titles look to be in danger, and when Shane McMahon comes down to ringside to watch the proceedings, the surety that the Outlaws on their way to losing the belts goes through the roof. The ref sees Shane and gets into an argument with him over his presence, and the dirty tactics get worse … until Triple H comes through the crowd and pulls Shamrock off the apron. Shamrock’s head bounces off the apron; Triple H hurls him into the guardrail, then slides into the ring. The only people to notice anything is amiss are Gunn-who’s not saying anything-and Shane, whose protests keep the ref tied up even longer. Triple H grabs Boss Man, delivers a boot to the gut and plants him with a Pedigree. Triple H slides out of the ring and starts fighting with Shane, and the ref lets that go in favor of the match, just in time to see Road Dogg struggle to make the tag. Boss Man goes for a tag as well, but when Shamrock tags in, he’s still feeling the effects of his beating, and the Bad Ass has no trouble in polishing off Shamrock for the victory. Gunn helps the Road Dogg get to his feet and out of the ring, while Triple H chases Shane out of the arena.

The double-main event kicks off with the World Title rematch of Mick Foley (accompanied by Shane and Vince) and The Rock. Neither man even attempts a wrestling move for several minutes, as both are more content to just pound the living hell out of one another. Eventually, it is Foley who gets control, thanks to a well-timed mule kick to the groin that Vince makes sure goes unseen while he distracts the ref with instructions: “Feel free to disqualify The Rock for anything you feel is appropriate.” Foley pounds on Rock for a while, using blatantly illegal closed fists, running knee blasts and everything else in the Foley playbook to wear down the challenger. Foley hurls Rock outside and starts to tear off one of the turnbuckle pads, which distracts the ref enough for Shane to put the boots to Rocky. Foley turns his attention back to Rocky after he gets the pad torn off, and goes for a baseball slide, but Rocky dodges; Foley slides out to the floor without making contact, and ends up in perfect position for Rock to hit the Rock Bottom on the floor. Rocky breaks the count and rolls back out to toss Foley (still on the floor, grabbing his head) back into the ring, but Shane intercepts and starts to sass him. Rock takes it for all of a couple seconds before blasting Shane with a right to the jaw. Rock tosses Foley back in, hits a spine-buster and sets up for the People’s Elbow, but Vince pulls down the ropes, and Rock tumbles out. The Rock is right up and gives Vince a taste of what he gave Shane, then gets back in the ring … but Foley is waiting, and slaps on the Mandible Claw as Rocky gets in. Rock fights it a moment, then swivels around it, bringing up an arm across Foley’s chest, and hits another Rock Bottom. Rock goes for the pin, and when the ref counts to three, the places explodes … until Shawn Michaels comes out.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” says the Commissioner. “I hate to break up your party, but as your fair and impartial Commissioner, I have to break the bad news to you, Rock … Vince and Shane McMahon … they’re registered WWF officials. You struck not one but two WWF officials in the course of this match. I can’t let that kind of you display such flagrant abuse of authority and reward you with the WWF Title. The referee’s decision is overruled-your winner, as a result of a disqualification … and still World Wrestling Federation Champion … Mick Foley!”

The crowd turns on the decision, unleashing a volley of hatred at the Commissioner (and a few people unleash their soda cups). The Rock fumes for a moment, looking from the man he just rightfully pinned to the Commissioner, standing in the aisle, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Rocky hops out of the ring on the announcer’s side, at the head of Vince McMahon, and demands a microphone. “The Rock suggests you watch very closely, Shawn Michaels, cause The Rock is fixin’ to show you some abuse of authority.” Rock drops the mike, then starts stripping the Spanish announce table of its monitors. He tosses Vince on the table, then gets on it himself, stands him up and puts him in position for the Rock Bottom. Rock looks to Michaels, who is shaking his head; Rock points to Michaels, then to Vince, and sketches a one-handed crotch-chop, and then drives Vince through the table (to the delight of the crowd). Shane finally stirs enough to try and defend his father’s honor, but Rocky ducks the swing and gets right into the Rock Bottom position, and dumps Shane with it, right on the floor. Rocky springs right back up and marches toward the aisle; Michaels bids a hasty and cowardly retreat.

The event closes out with the bloody brawl that is the Undertaker/Austin Funeral match. The two men do not hesitate to use the lack of rules in the match to beat the living hell out of one another. Austin wins the duel of fisticuffs and stomps the Undertaker down to the ground. Austin wastes little time in breaking out the hardware, going for a chair, but ‘Taker is up and hits a big boot into the chair, driving it into Austin’s face. ‘Taker methodically works over Austin with chair shots, punches and blatant choking. Austin tries to mount a comeback after being tossed into a corner and dodging a clothesline, but ‘Taker is too fresh for Austin and continues to pound away on the “Bionic Redneck”. After ‘Taker has Austin where he wants him, he delivers a chokeslam for good measure, then summons Paul Bearer to wheel the coffin over to his side of the ring. ‘Taker rolls Austin’s body into the coffin, and Bearer shuts the lid. ‘Taker slides out of the ring and begins to push it up the aisle, but Austin kicks the lid open. ‘Taker reacts quickly, using his strength to tilt the coffin off its gurney, spilling Austin onto the floor. ‘Taker goes to stomp Austin, but Austin catches his foot and kicks out the other, sending ‘Taker crashing down to the concrete floor. Austin crawls over to ‘Taker and slams his head into the coffin lid a couple times before getting up. Paul Bearer tries to hammer Austin in the back, but the ineffectual shot only serves to irritate Austin. Austin grabs him by the head and drives him into the protective barrier, spilling the fat man’s blood. Austin struggles but manages to wrench the gurney from under the coffin, and when ‘Taker gets up again, Austin drives him face-first into the gurney over and over again. Austin dumps ‘Taker on the gurney-sans the casket-and wheels him up the aisle toward the foreboding gravesite erected to stage right of the entrance. Austin dumps him on the ground and puts a few more boots to him, then returns to the aisle for the dumped casket. Austin tries lifting it, but can barely move it. Austin tries pulling, but doesn’t hear the Undertaker coming up behind him, and only realizes it after the Undertaker has broken the shovelhead by hitting Austin. ‘Taker picks up Austin’s limp body over his shoulder and carries it back to the grave, then takes the gurney back to the casket. ‘Taker lowers the gurney and tries to ease the casket onto the gurney, but to no avail. A look to his manager-who was barely strong enough to pick up a gallon of milk without wheezing on the best of days-confirmed no help there; Paul is still leaning awkwardly against the guardrail, not moving.

Then, from the locker room, Kane races down the aisle, colliding with his brother in a monster shoulder block. Kane pummels and beats on his older brother, slamming his head into the floor, driving his fists into the back of his head. Kane goes back to the grave and revives Austin, who is at first startled to see the Big Red Machine-a hated nemesis not so long ago-coming to his aid. Kane points back to the aisle, and Austin follows Kane back to the casket. Austin picks up the broken shovel handle and gives ‘Taker a few whacks for good measure, then helps Kane guide the casket onto the gurney. ‘Taker starts to stir, so Austin gives him a few more hits to keep him stunned, while Kane wheels the casket (teetering on the damaged gurney) back to the grave. Austin gets the ‘Taker on his feet and beats him back to the grave. Kane, having dumped the casket in the grave while Austin “led” his quarry back to the grave, grabs his brother by the throat and delivers a chokeslam right into the grave and the open casket. Austin reaches in and shuts the casket lid; both men get behind the pile of dirt and start shoving with their bodies, sending a cascade of dirt down into the grave, and, eventually, giving Austin the win, and a spot in the Royal Rumble.

Dec. 14th, 1998: Raw

Raw kicks off Vince in the ring, microphone in hand, a sneer on his face. Next to him is a brass tumbler full of white balls. “As a result of last night,” he begins, “The Corporation has more issues-and more enemies-then ever to deal with. For instance, that degenerate Triple H trying to lay a hand on my son Shane last night during the Tag Title match …” The crowd starts cheering and chanting “suck it!” “Are you people that horrendous that you would wish harm on my son?” The crowd responds with a rousing “asshole” chant. Vince tries to tell them to kill the chant, but when it grows louder, he realizes he has no choice but to talk over it. “And another person who will pay is The Rock-I’ve been to the chiropractor twice today because of the damage he inflicted on me! Why, I was too sensitive to withstand my Swedish massage!” The crowd shows no mercy or pity. Vince lets them go on a bit, then saysl “Rather than feed you animals any more reason to act like the buffoons you are, I’m going to move on to other business, and that is Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that he has qualified to be in the Royal Rumble. Who would have thought that Kane would be a part of the Funeral match? Well, let me tell you something, Kane is here tonight, and Kane … I have a little surprise for you, and it involves your new friend, Stone Cold. Austin is here tonight, and The Corporation has devised a way to fix both of them for good … because tonight, in this very ring, there will be a no-holds-barred match with Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Kane … if Kane can somehow beat Steve Austin, which I sincerely hope he does and does without mercy, then Kane will keep his freedom. But if Kane loses … well … his father has signed over permission to me to have Kane committed. Good luck, Kane.” The crowd boos, but Vince, for once, is not only happy, but very pleased with himself. “And now, to show you the McMahon family never goes back on its word; Austin has, much to my chagrin, qualified to be in the Royal Rumble. Right now, we will determine the number that Austin will enter the Royal Rumble.” McMahon turns the tumbler a few times, then takes out a number. “And the number is … Austin has chosen number one!” McMahon then says; “All the of competitors have now been decided, save one. That one last entrant be making his debut in the Rumble, and, from what I understand, is the odds-on favorite in Vegas to win it all. Ladies and gentlemen … the final entrant in the Royal Rumble is … me!” The crowd boos and Vince tries to calm them all down with consoling gestures. “Now, now, it all depends on the luck of the draw. Just to show you that this drawing is on the up and up, I will draw my number, and for Austin’s sake, he better hope it isn’t number two.” Austin turns the tumbler, then reaches in and pulls out a ball; the smile turns to a frown. “I’m sorry, Austin … I’ll be coming in at number thirty. And I’d so hoped to actually be in the Rumble with you. Oh, well, what can you do?”

“Oh, The Rock has a few ideas on what you can do.” Everyone’s attention turns to the TitanTron, which is showing The Rock, live and big as life. “The Rock would normally suggest you take your tumbler … shine it up real nice … turn that sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass!” The crowd explodes, but The Rock doesn’t let up. “But see, that’s what The Rock would normally tell you to do. Hell, The Rock would like nothing better then to do it himself, but you’d probably enjoy it anyway!” Again, The Rock talks over explosive cheering. “The Rock wants you to know your role and shut your mouth, cause The Rock doesn’t like to repeat himself. The Rock has had enough … and The Rock isn’t the only one …”

The camera pans back to show the whole of D-Generation X with him … and, in between them, tied to a nice chair in Vince’s office, is Shane McMahon. “The Rock knows you’ve got a big vocabulary, so let The Rock speak in terms you’ll understand, you piece of crap-” Road Dogg holds up a hand and shakes his head, mouthing something to Rocky. Rock nods, then says; “Make that, you piece of excrement! The Rock plans to … eviscerate … and annihilate … and obliterate … and defecate and masturbate and whatever it takes, to your special little boy until we get what we want.”

“It’s real simple, Vince,” says Triple H. “The Rock and I, we may not see eye to eye on a whole hell of a lot. Frankly, I don’t wanna know why he’s gonna masturbate or defecate, but what he’s trying to tell you is that we’re not gonna take this anymore! We’re not gonna let you turn this company into a living hell for everyone! We want Mick Foley … we want his World Title … and we want your Corporation dissolved!”

“Shane! I’ll get you out of there-“

“No, you won’t, Vince. We got the place fortified.” X-Pac slaps Shane in the back of the head a couple times. Shane-his mouth covered with a rag-can only moan and utter a muffled yell from underneath the gag … but it’s enough to turn Vince.

“Fine, fine, what do you want?”

“We told you, Vince,” Triple H says. “We want Foley.”

Vince is about to open his mouth when Shawn Michaels comes out. “Vince, I think I have a solution. Hey guys … you want Mick? Fine … here’s the deal … at the Royal Rumble, Mick Foley will defend the WWF Championship … against the winner of tonight’s main event, with Triple H facing The Rock! Now, I know you’re probably nervous, Trips, since you aren’t really main event-all you ever do is hang out with the main eventers … so, to help you get the feel of it, I will be the special referee.” Michaels pauses long enough for Triple H to open his mouth, but Michaels cuts him off; “I wasn’t done yet, mid-carder. As much as it pains me to put two good friends at each other’s throats, I gotta add something to sweeten the pot here … don’t you think, Vinnie-Mac? How about … how about …” Shawn snaps his fingers in mock inspiration. “I got it! The loser is fired! How do you like that?” Vince nods a reluctant approval, still in shock over his son. Shawn takes no notice. “Now, someone hit my music!” The D-X theme cues up, and Michaels escorts Vince out of the ring.

The Kane/Austin match barely gets anywhere before descending into chaos. The brawl ends up taking both men outside the ring, where they continue the brawl. Kane ends up winning the duel of the fists, sending Austin sprawling back to the ring. Kane goes to give chase, but Ken Shamrock runs out of the locker room and blindsides Kane. Austin is too dazed to notice, and slides into the ring just in time to avoid the ten-count elapsing. Kane’s head jerks to the sound of the bell, and the realization visibly dawns on him-he has lost the match. Orderlies, led by the Boss Man, come pouring out of the back, and Kane has no choice but to run into the crowd for cover; the orderlies give chase, and the whole group disappears into the crowd. Shane-freed from his captivity-comes out to witness the chase from the ramp, and is about to leave when Austin comes up from behind and slams Shane headfirst into the metal structure holding up the TitanTron a few times, leaving him bleeding and unconscious.

The presence of Shawn Michaels as the referee causes unease in both the audience and the participants of the main event … especially with so much riding on the outcome. Triple H and Rocky, no strangers to one another, go at it full tilt, and naturally, the Commissioner is content to let the two go at it, throwing the rule book out the window. The crowd tries to cheer, but they know that the consequence of one of their favorite wrestlers getting a shot at Foley at the Rumble is that the other will be fired on the spot.

The match is a 10-minute back-and-forth classic, as could only be expected from two men who have wrestled one another so many times in the past. When D-X comes down to ringside, it is not Shawn Michaels, but Triple H who shoos them away, yelling that he doesn’t want to win that way. Chyna hesitates, but ends up leading the troops back to the locker room, in time to turn around into a Rock Bottom. Rock makes the pin, and Michaels goes down to count an arthritically slow two-count. Rocky jumps up and argues with Shawn about his slow count; Shawn argues back, reminding Rocky who the ref is. Rock threatens to punch Shawn, who sticks his chin out, daring him to swing and get himself fired. The crowd is screaming for him not to, when Triple H clobbers Rocky in the back, sending him sprawling forward into Shawn, crushing him in the corner. Shawn crumples in a heap, and Rocky reverses a whip into the ropes by Triple H. Rocky catches Triple H in a spine-buster, then sets up for the People’s Elbow. The crowd is on their feet (even if it means cutting off the head of D-X), and when Rocky throws the elbow pad, there’s a mad scramble for it. He bounces off one rope, then the other, gives a crotch-chop to Triple H and one to Shawn, then drops the elbow and makes the cover. Shawn stirs and crawls over … then signals to the timekeeper, and the bell rings. Rock’s eyes go wide with confused fury. Shawn gets to his feet and stumbles over to the ropes to tell the ring announcer what’s going on. The official verdict; Rock is disqualified for striking the referee, giving Triple H the title shot, and Rocky a trip to the unemployment line. Rocky snaps, whipping Shawn into the ropes and planting him with a spine-buster. He doesn’t even waste time with the elbow pad for Shawn; Rocky signals, then runs and drops the elbow. Triple H struggles to get to his feet, and offers a hand to The Rock in consolation. Rock takes the hand, then pulls Triple H for another Rock Bottom. Rocky gives everyone around him a mouth full of trash as he backs up the ramp, swearing revenge, but only the crowd has realized the ramifications of Shawn’s actions: The People’s Champ is gone.

To be continued …

Yeah, so I gave you another cliffhanger. I didn’t think I’d pull this one off in one anyway, and space and time forced me to cut this off even shorter then I intended. What can you do?

Quick pimps for Eric S (he’s got three columns, I’m sure you can find them all), Ross Williams, and Jeffrey Fernandez (I’m doing The Late Night Jukebox this week, but don’t just check it out for me; Fernandez is pimpable on his own). My pimp for Ross isn’t current since he doesn’t have a current column that I can find. Sorry, Ross. One for Kurtis too, whose contribution was small, but earned his pimp nonetheless. In the meantime, I’m outta here … Part 2 (hopefully, that’s all I’ll need) is up next … What of Triple H’s big chance in the Rumble? And Austin’s chance of winning it all from the #1 spot? And what of the now-unemployed Rock? All this, and more … in Part 2 … hasta.