Re-Writing The Book: The Corporate Champion, Part 3

RIP Johnny Ramone

Go here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Welcome back. Ready to wrap this up? Me too.

What if Vince McMahon had picked Mick Foley to be his Corporate Champion?

Our story resumes the night after St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Mick Foley is once again WWF Champion, but his violent actions have taken a toll physically and mentally. But all Vince sees is a moment to celebrate …

The Road To WrestleMania

Vince and Shane are in the ring to open Raw the night after St. Valentine’s Day Massacre complete with streamers, balloons and a special red-felt mat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he proudly announces, “the World Wrestling Federation and Vince McMahon are proud to bring to you your first glimpse at the man who beat The Rock within an inch of his life … and once again WWF Champion … Mick Foley!”

Foley hobbles out, his head bandaged, the World Title dragging on the ground, almost forgotten. “C’mon down, Mick,” Vince says jubilantly, “tonight is a celebration in your honor!” Confetti and more streamers and balloons fall from the ceiling, but Foley notices none of it. “Shane, can’t you see our Champion is still hurting from kicking The Rock’s ass all over the place last night?” Vince points to Foley and says; “Help him into the ring, for crying out loud!” Shane dashes away, helping Foley climb the steps (although Foley barely seems aware of Shane being there), and holding the ropes open. Foley steps through, and is immediately accosted by Vince, proffering a hand. When Foley doesn’t take it right away, Vince grabs Foley’s hand and gives it a couple firm pumps. Vince acts like everything is jake and says, “Give it up for your Corporate Champion!”

The crowd boos mercilessly. Vince hands Foley his own microphone and steps back, giving the floor to Foley. “Thanks, Vince,” he says, although his voice is weak and is as warm as frozen pizza. “I’m sure a lot of you have heard the story about how I got started in this business; from being inspired by Jimmy Snuka fly from the top of a steel cage in Madison Square Garden, to sleeping in my Ford Fairmont as I traveled a couple hundred miles to train with Dominic DeNucci. I wrestled in every run-down gymnasium and crackerbox with one goal in mind … and that was to wrestle in the main event at WrestleMania.” The crowd cheers that (half-heartedly, though, considering the source). “But the WWF didn’t want some crazy man who threw himself off of roofs and dived onto concrete floors … so I went to that place down south since they were throwing money around like candy, all the while hoping to hear something from Vince McMahon saying ‘come home, kid, we got a place for ya’. And when I left WCW and made my family move into some wretched little sweatbox so I could throw myself into barbed wire and thumbtacks in some dingy bingo hall in Philadelphia, scaring the crap out of my wife, all so we could keep the electric bill paid. Finally, three years ago, Vince McMahon noticed that pudgy kid from Long Island and said; ‘Hey, we finally got a place for ya … but we want you to pull your hair out, and wear some stinky mask and squeal like a pig. Whattaya say, Michael?'” Vince takes a step towards Foley, asking what’s going on, but Foley’s eyes give him all the answer he’s going to get for the moment: back the f*ck off. “Ya see, folks, when I sold out at Survivor Series, I was only continuing a long tradition of selling out in my career. Need notoriety since you’re not pretty like Shawn Michaels, or don’t have charisma like The Rock? Go to Japan and fall on some broken glass! Can’t pay the rent? Work for some charlatan in Pennsylvania who has you throwing yourself in barbed wire?” Foley pushes the hair out of his face, looking around and speaking very slowly and deliberately. “Wanna finally live your dream?” He looks right at Vince when he says this. “Then throw away your entire career and piss all over your legacy! Vince says ‘We need this Hell In A Cell to be big, Mick, what can you do?’, and I get launched off the top through a table! He wants a patsy to throw up against Steve Austin? Here, dress in these tie-dye tights and dance with a couple of whores in bikinis!” Foley pushes the hair out of his face again, and this time, the glare makes Vince do his Vince-gulp. “I’ve sold myself down the river time and time again so some Connecticut tight-ass can make millions while I keep coming home with broken bones and have to tell my kids ‘No, I can’t play catch today, daddy has a broken clavicle’. So last night, Vince tells me that if I can get past The Rock, I’ll be in the main event at WrestleMania … a paycheck like I wouldn’t believe, and the chance to live out my dream. And all I had to do was put The Rock out of commission. But every time I try, I see my wife out of the corner of my eye, and she’s crying, and I’m hearing the words she’d said to me after I annihilated Triple H at the Royal Rumble. ‘Mick,’ she said, ‘you’re not the man I fell in love with anymore. That bastard has turned you into a puppet, and I’m not gonna sit back and watch it continue.’ And I tried to reason with her that I was doing this for our family, but she told me it was coming down to a choice: her, or Vince. Between my family, and my dream.” Foley gets in Vince’s face, his hair pushed back again, his eyes as cold as steel. “Does it really matter to you who wears this belt? Really, Vince, if The Rock had come up and offered himself up to you, would you have cast me aside? Because after last night, that’s how I’m beginning to feel, Vince. Like a pawn that you like to move around, but you don’t care if the pawn gets a couple hundred thumbtacks shoved in his body, or goes through a table, or gets his brain scrambled with a chair.” Suddenly, his voice flies up into the upper registers and his face turns red. “You don’t give rat’s ass about anyone, do you?” He jabs a finger towards his wife, sitting in the front row again. “Here I am, broken and battered, and your main concern is me beating Rocky into unconsciousness? You’re sick! And you make me sick! This isn’t why I became a wrestler, and putting guys in hospitals isn’t why I sold out to you three months ago!”

Finally, Vince has enough and asks; “What’re you saying, Mick?”

“What I’m saying, Vince, is that I won’t make a fool of myself anymore. I renounced my past just like you wanted me to, and you had me attacking people with barbed wire and thumbtacks! Between whatever vengeance you can get on me, and the disgust my wife has had for me over the past few months, I’ll gladly take whatever you wanna dish out on me. So, in the words of Nancy Sinatra, these boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do!” Foley turns and leaves the ring, only for Vince to bellow at him as he walks away.

“You self-serving, backstabbing son of a bitch!” Vince yells. “I made you, Mick Foley! Without me, you’re nothing! Nothing!” He pauses, then his eyes explode with inspiration. “Mick Foley, tonight, you’re gonna defend that World Wrestling Federation Title … against an opponent of my choosing!”

Speculation runs rampant through the show as to whom the mystery opponent will be. When Commissioner Shawn Michaels demands to know (since he had been given total control over all WWF superstars), Vince assures him he is well within the boundary of the rules. Numerous superstars all demand their shot, from Triple H to members of the Corporation to The Undertaker (who goes so far as threaten Vince, and it seems to work).

When Mick Foley is called to the ring for his main event title defense, the expression on his face tells the story: he can feel his main event slot in WrestleMania slipping away. Vince will no doubt not let Mick Foley leave the building walking, let alone as Champion. But, strangely enough, a serenity is about him, as if he is at peace with this.

But what he doesn’t expect is the entire Corporation to come out of the locker room like a swarm of bees and attack. Even for a man of his hardcore history, it is impossible to defend himself against Ken Shamrock, Test, the Bossman and Chyna. The four drag him out of the ring and stomp him, throwing him into guard rails and the steel steps. Chairs and the ring bell all end up being slammed onto the body and head of Foley, drawing blood. Chyna clears off the announce table, and the three men hoist Foley up, then drop him through the table. Foley is a bloody, battered mess by the time Vince comes down to ringside, getting in his face and slapping him. “You still have a match to wrestle, Mick!” he yells into a microphone. “You still have a title to defend!”

And through the curtain steps Paul Wight. The Corporation roll Foley back into the ring as Wight enters. Wight picks up Foley as the bell finally rings, and delivers a chokeslam that shakes the ring for an easy three count. The crowd boos mercilessly, but Vince and his cohorts focus on torturing Foley … until the locker room empties, with D-X, Kane and Austin leading the charge. The Corporation scatters to the winds through the crowd, but the damage has been done to Foley, and Vince still retains control of the WWF Title.

The following week opens with another party, but this time, for, as Vince puts it, an “appreciative champion”, Paul Wight (now given the nickname of The Big Show). Streamers, balloons and confetti welcome the mammoth new Corporate Champion to the ring, as Vince McMahon announces more victories for the Corporation: Mick Foley hasn’t called or shown up to an event since the prior Monday, and will be terminated for job abandonment if he doesn’t call in by the end of the night. Another reason to celebrate, Vince says, is that at WrestleMania, he will witness the elimination of two of his largest pains in his ass: Kane, when he takes on his brother The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, who will be squished by The Big Show. And, to top it all off, he gives The Rock a World Title rematch tonight against The Big Show in a no-DQ match, which he ensures will spell the end of The Rock. He declares that, unlike last week, this week will be one of happiness and celebration, unlike last week.

Until Commissioner Shawn Michaels comes to the ring. He looks bothered, and Vince, in turn, is confused. Shawn eschews his normal fanfare, producing a microphone from his sport jacket, and getting right to the point. “Vinnie Mac,” says Shawn, “the Heartbreak Kid wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t speak his mind, so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do with you right now. I got two issues I need to speak with you about, and the first is you cutting me off at the knee, first last week and then just minutes ago. When you named me Commissioner, you said I would have total, unquestioned authority over the WWF Superstars. Yet, last week, you booked Mick Foley in a World Title defense, and this week, you start naming matches for WrestleMania. So, if you’re gonna go around taking charge and booking matches, what do you have me here for?”

“Well, Shawn, you’re here to help take some of the burden off my shoulders,” Vince replies. “It’s hard to run a nearly billion-dollar company all by yourself like I have up to now. I’m sorry I stepped on your toes, Shawn-I honestly thought you wouldn’t mind.”

“Well, Vin-man, that’s where you’re wrong, because I do mind. I had plans for WrestleMania, and plans for Mick Foley, and you went and circumvented me, for all the boys to see. You know how that makes me look? Like a chump, and if there’s one thing that HBK isn’t, it’s a chump.”

“Shawn-“

“Never mind that, Vince. Because there’s a bigger issue I wanna discuss: Mick Foley.”

The crowd erupts at Foley’s name; Vince’s eyes narrow, unsure (and more than a little afraid) of where this might be leading. “Foley is yesterday’s news, Shawn, didn’t you hear? He’s gonna be fired by the end of the night-“

Over my dead body,” says Shawn coldly, and the crowd explodes. Vince’s eyes go wide with surprise. He tries to say something, but Shawn cuts him off. “Save it, Vinnie, don’t wanna hear it. I listened to what Mick had to say last night, and you know what? It hit home. You used Mick Foley … convinced him to piss all over the fans, renounce his past to be some brain-dead corporate stooge … and then you use him as an instrument of destruction to wipe out anyone you don’t like, knowing he’ll go that extra mile others won’t. You used him, and when he finally put two and two together, you gave him the bum’s rush. It’s the same thing you did to me, Vince McMahon; you flashed the cash, promised that corporate lifestyle, and got me to sell my buddies down the river, then used me as a foil to keep everyone else at bay.” Shawn steps up to Vince, mere inches away from touching noses. “Tonight, Vince, the buck stops here. The Heartbreak Kid ain’t gonna sit back and watch you crush everyone who gets in your way.”

“Should I take that as your resignation, Shawn, or am I just gonna have to fire you right here, right now?” Vince says with a smile.

Shawn smiles back, and Vince’s evaporates. “Check my contract, buddy boy. It’s iron clad. I’m like a bad virus, Vince-I ain’t leaving until I wanna leave, and, well, like good ol’ JR likes to say, I think business is about to pick up around here.”

Vince’s anger is almost palpable, and his cohorts pick up on it. Vince barely unclenches his jaw to get out, “I think you’re right,” and The Big Show wraps a hand around Shawn’s throat. Shawn’s surprise is just the edge The Big Show needs, and he hauls him up, and drops him down with a ring-shaking chokeslam. The other members of the Corporation beat on him and bloody him up, leaving him for paramedics to take away.

The Rock comes out at the midway point of the show, a microphone in hand, looking all business. “The Rock has two things on his mind right now, so right now, The Rock is get those things taken care. Number one”-he holds up a finger-“is that tonight, The Rock is getting a shot at this, this … Big Show. What the hell kind of stupid-ass name is The Big Show, anyway? The Rock really wants to know. Is it cause his ass is big enough to use as a drive-in movie screen?” The crowd bursts out with laughter and applause. “Or maybe it’s cause the when he comes on and does his stupid”-Rocky raises a hand, mocking Show’s signal for the chokeslam-“yaaaaarrrrgh! thing, the ratings for the show take a big nosedive!” The crowd likes that even more. “Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’re the biggest jabroni ever to come waddling down that ramp in the history of this show!” The crowd bursts and starts chanting “Rocky”. Rock soaks it in, then continues when the chants die down. “But The Rock’s not looking past you, oh no! The Rock couldn’t do that-you’re too big of a piece of crap for The Rock to look past without moving six feet in either direction! But all kidding aside, Big Load, The Rock just wants to assure you that when you huff and puff and waddle your fat ass down Know Your Role Boulevard, to the corner of Jabroni Drive, and into the doors of The Smackdown Hotel … there isn’t a weight limit! There isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet, either, so get used to it tubby … but there’s no weight limit! The Smackdown Hotel takes all shapes and size of jabronies, all kinds and colors … because, no matte who you are, when you check in, that means you’re getting the smack laid down on your candy ass!”

The crowd chants for The Rock again, and he allows them to do so until the chants die away. “Now, then … issue number two.” The Rock takes a deep breath. “Triple H. Ya see-“

D-X’s theme song cuts off The Rock once again, and Triple H walks down to the ring with purpose. The Rock tries to retake control of the interview; “Why is it, every time The Rock comes down and has something to say, you gotta show up and get in The Rock’s face? You’re not a little … koomsee-koomsa, are you?”

Triple H chuckles, but it is without humor. “Rocky, you’re a funny guy. Always quick with the quips. Too bad you’re not as good at wrestling as you are running your mouth, cause your waist is looking kinda empty, champ.”

The Rock raises The People’s Eyebrow. “Really, now? Well, let’s see … The Rock had a feeling that, someday, sometime, you’d come around, saying the same thing you said last time. So, The Rock had a little something prepared.” Rocky points to the TitanTron, where still images of former champs flash one after another. Rocky gives the crowd the (unnecessary) narration to go along with it; “See, ya got Bruno Sammartino … Pedro Morales … Superstar Billy Graham, one of The Rock’s personal favorites … who else? Ah, that freaky Dennis-the-Menace-lookin’ Bob Backlund … Yokozuna … Shawn Michaels … that’s just a sample of the great men who’ve held the WWF World Title. But, going through that list, Triple H, you know who’s name isn’t on there? Your’s.”

Triple H’s eyes narrow. The good-natured degenerate is far, far gone, and all that remains is a steely, determined warrior. “Funny, Rocky … all those guys you just listed? They all held the belt for months and months … some of them years. What’d you have it for, a few weeks? What a great champ you were, Rocky … I mean, the matches you put on defending your title were amazing! Oh, wait … you didn’t, cause you didn’t have it long enough!” The crowd is a mixture of cheers and boos, torn between the two crowd favorites (and further confused by Triple H’s almost predatory coldness). “And besides, champ … need I remind you that I’m still two-for-two in our last two matches?”

The Rock nods, stroking his chin. “You’re right, you’re absolutely right, Triple H. You have beaten The Rock in our last two matches. But remind The Rock, how did you beat him? Oh, that’s right … last time, you won on a cheap disqualification … and the time before that, you shaved some monkey, taught it to walk upright and hit The Rock in the People’s Jewels.”

“And last time I checked, Rocky, it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win.”

Rocky cracks a humorless grin. “Then maybe what you said a few weeks back is right after all, Triple H. Maybe it’s time we settle it, once and for all, Triple H and The Rock, one on one, at WrestleMania.” Triple H nods. “Maybe it is,” is all the answer he gives as the segment fades to black.

The World Title match, predictably, turns into a melee that gets thrown out, with Mick Foley starting the interruptions by blasting-and failing to knock over-the behemoth Champion. This gets the DQ, and draws out more Corporation flunkies, which brings out Austin, who drops them all with Stunners. The Stunner for Big Show, however, is countered with a shove that sends Austin across the ring. It takes Austin and The Rock to counter Big Show, clotheslining him over the top rope (although he lands on his feet), seething at the two triumphant heroes … while Triple H watches.

The final marquee match for WrestleMania is added the following week, and it begins with Shawn Michaels coming to the ring. He is alone, but looks as strong and confident as ever. When he gets to the ring, he begins, speaking in a soft, almost conciliatory tone. “Ya know, the Heartbreak Kid has never been accused of being the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m man enough to admit when I’ve made a mistake. And over the past few months, I’ve made a bunch. From screwing The Rock out of his job, to signing up with Vince McMahon … I’ve really had my head up my ol’ keester.” The crowd cheers lightly, as if confirming to Shawn how erroneous he has been. “But my days being Vince McMahon’s errand boy are over. I told him things were gonna change, and starting tonight, Shawn Michaels has got a big bomb to drop. So, Vinnie Mac … get your ass out here so we can have a few words!”

“No Chance In Hell” cues up, and Vince McMahon comes out (alone), looking very annoyed. He is no sooner through the ropes, then he marches up to Shawn’s face. “Who the hell do you think you are calling me out like that? Do you know who I am?”

“I know who you are!” Shawn says with a Texas-sized shit-eating grin. “You’re Vince McMahon! You’re Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation!”

“You’re damned right, Michaels, so-“

“And as of December 14th, well … lets go to the videotape, shall we?” Shawn points to the TitanTron, which shows the footage of Vince McMahon declaring, and drawing, his position in the Royal Rumble. “You following me yet, Vince?”

“No, and frankly, I don’t care what-“

“Oh, Vince … Vince, Vince, Vince …” Shawn throws an arm around Vince’s shoulder; Vince’s face contorts into a mask of disgust. “Ya see, now, back when you appointed me the Commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, you gave me jurisdiction over ever WWF Superstar excluding Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well … you see, there, Vinnie Mac … when you entered yourself into the Royal Rumble, you stopped being just the Chairman. You became an active WWF Superstar.” Vince’s eyes go wide, first with surprise, then horror; he shakes his head and denies it over and over, but Shawn shakes his head in return. “Deny it all you want, boss man, but the fact of the matter is that I call the shots over you. And as such … I’m feeling like there’s some business you and I need to take care of.” The roar of the crowd grows from nothing to a fever pitch. “But, see, I got a feeling that I’m just a little too close to the issue to be objective, so I thought I’d bring someone else in … so,” Shawn says as he turns to the entrance ramp, “will my mystery guest enter and sign in, please?”

A familiar raspy blues-metal riff fills the arena, and sends the crowd into overdrive. All the color leaves Vince’s face before the man familiar with that music-a madman would be more accurate-comes out. He doesn’t need to see the face of Mick Foley to know who is coming to the ring, but seeing him makes it, and the knowledge that he’s no longer merely Mick Foley, all the more real.

“That’s right, Vinnie-Mac!” Shawn yells over the music and the roar of the audience. “As Commissioner of the World Wrestling Federation, I’m putting you in a match at WrestleMania against … Cactus Jack!”

Cactus slides in the ring, giving the crowd his trademark bang-bang! hand gesture. Vince, meanwhile, is paralyzed with fright, so much so, he barely hears a word Cactus says. “Don’t worry, Vince,” Cactus says with alarming calmness. “You have nothing to be afraid of at WrestleMania … I won’t pull out any new tricks like landmines, or broken glass, or C-4 …” He gets right in Vince’s face, but Vince is too horrified to do anything more than mutter unintelligibly. “But I will beat your ass just like you made me beat The Rock and Triple H!” Cactus backs away, and the grin is so twisted, so sick, so deranged, Vince McMahon, Chairman of the World Wrestling Federation, cannot help but piss his pants. “And this time, Vince …” Cactus adds; “nothing, and no one is keeping me from my doing my job. None of your Corporate goons, not my wife, not my conscience … not even God will keep me from beating you into a bloody pulp. Bang-bang!”

Shawn mutters something in Cactus’ ear, who nods. Shawn takes a step or two towards Vince, extending a hand. Vince robotically extends his, until Shawn hops back, then tattoos Vince right on the jaw with a picture-perfect Sweet Chin Music. “Now that our business is out of the way, I’m sure you and Cactus here will get along just ducky at WrestleMania!”

March 28th, 1999: WrestleMania XV

Austin comes out to open WrestleMania, a six-pack in one hand. He doesn’t waste time with poses or gestures to the crowd. Never more than now, he is the Rattlesnake: a vicious predator, thinking only of his prey. “I was sittin’ back there, thinking about how I’m gonna whip that big goon Paul Wight’s ass from pillar to post tonight, and doin’ some special training with a few Steveweisers when I got to thinking; Paul Wight ain’t the bastard I got an issue with. He’s just the unlucky piece of crap who’s holding Stone Cold Steve Austin’s belt. My real beef is with Vince McMahon.” The crowd jeers at the mention of the Chairman. “For just about a year now, Vince McMahon has put Stone Cold through hell and back, and I’ll be the first to admit, he’s a tough son of a bitch. Most men woulda quit long ago, if they knew they’d pissed me off like he has. But he stuck it out, and for that, I give him credit. But the crap between Stone Cold and Vince McMahon has gotta end … so I got a little something to say to Cactus Jack; I know you’re getting ready to do everything but kill Vince, but leave just a little bit of him. Enough so he can show up to Raw tomorrow, cause once I get my belt back, Shawn Michaels has been kind enough to give me the honor of facing Vince McMahon tomorrow night live on Raw!” The crowd goes apeshit at the idea-a match that almost happened a year ago, but hasn’t since-but Stone Cold goes right on talking. “And that little piece Cactus leaves behind, I will stomp and stomp and stomp again, until I run your sorry ass out of the World Wrestling Federation once and for all … and that’s the bottom line … cause Stone Cold said so!”

The first of the four big attraction matches is the rematch from the prior year’s WrestleMania, the Hell In A Cell match between Kane and his brother The Undertaker. Immediately, the two towering monsters take it to one another, pounding and punching each other until both are struggling to stand. Kane ends up with the upper hand and slings Taker into the ropes, and slaps a hand around his brother’s throat. Taker goes low to counter, and immediately resorts to the aid of a chair. Undertaker wraps the chair around Kane’s back a few times and goes for the pin, but Kane kicks out emphatically between one and two. Kane sits up (a la his brother), but The Undertaker swings and smacks Kane across the face. Undertaker goes for the cover again, and again Kane doesn’t even give Taker the satisfaction of a two-count before kicking out.

Undertaker slides out, gets another chair, and brings it in. Kane has sat up by the time Taker is back in, but Taker answers this with another chair shot to the face. While Kane is on the mat, Taker wraps a chair around Kane’s ankle, then proceeds to use the other chair as a hammer and crushes it over and over again, sandwiching Kane’s ankle. Kane rolls around, trying to get away, but Undertaker stomps on the chair, further damaging Kane’s ankle. Kane finally manages to roll out of the ring, but Undertaker follows him out. Undertaker goes for Kane’s leg, but Kane uses his good leg as leverage to catch Taker in a drop toehold, sending him face-first into the steel steps. Kane manages to get to his feet, hopping on one foot, a chair in hand. The crowd perks up as he brandishes the weapon for all to see, and loves it when he blasts Undertaker in the back. Kane grabs Undertaker by the hair and bashes his brother’s head into the steps time and again. Kane uses the time bought to get back into the ring and try to walk off the pain. The Undertaker gives him little time to recover, slinking in the ring (slowly); Kane goes right on the attack at the sight of his brother, but Undertaker swings from the ground and hits Kane in the ankle, and the Big Red Machine comes crashing down.

The Undertaker gets up, working through the pain to begin a systematic dismantling of his brother. Fists and kicks are followed by high-impact slams and maneuvers, one after another, replacing the strength in Kane’s body with white-hot pain. The crowd winces as Kane is put in move after move, his face raked against the cage, and the return of the chairs. But cover after cover gets Undertaker two at best, and with every unsuccessful cover, he gets more and more frustrated with his little brother. Sure it will be a killing blow, Undertaker sets Kane up on the top turnbuckle, then steps out onto the apron and grabs Kane by the throat; Undertaker jumps and brings Kane with him, sending him into the wall of the cage with a hellish chokeslam. Kane collapses to the floor in a heap, and Undertaker is right on him, throwing him in the ring and covering him … and getting only two. Undertaker all but flies to his feet and positions a chair in the center of the ring. He grabs Kane as he struggles to sit up, picks him up over his shoulder and positions him for the Tombstone on the chair. Undertaker drops Kane onto the chair and makes the pin … and gets two. Undertaker leaps up, enraged; he barks at the referee, but the referee stands his ground. The Undertaker turns in time to see Kane sit up … and not just sit up, but come up as if he were as fresh as the opening bell. Undertaker kicks Kane in the gut as he stands up, and quickly picks him up and drops him with another Tombstone … only for Kane to sit up before Taker can even pin him. Undertaker turns a sickly shade of white and goes to punch Kane, only to get caught by the throat. But instead of slamming his brother, Kane simply squeezes, cutting off Undertaker’s supply of air. Taker’s only counter is to kick, which loosens Kane’s grip for all of a second before he applies it again. Undertaker kicks again, and this time makes a break for it, scrambling out of the ring and to the door. Undertaker reaches for the door when there’s a massive explosion in front of his face; a wall of fire erupts from the floor, and within moments, the cell wall itself has caught fire, turning the entire length of the cell facing the entrance into a wall of flame. Undertaker backs away from it and turns around in time for Kane to dive at him through the ropes; the human torpedo of Kane slams into Undertaker, shoving him into the firewall. Undertaker’s reaction to the burning pain is immediate, but Kane is far from done with the element that has shaped his life so; he extends his gloved hand into the fire, letting it catch, and punching his brother in the gut. Undertaker doubles over from the pain of the heat, but Kane doesn’t let up, continuing to pummel his brother’s midsection. Undertaker escapes back to the ring, but there with his only exit cut off by fire, there is no sanctuary for The Undertaker. Undertaker runs in a suicide charge, but Kane kicks his brother in the face, putting him down. Kane puts out his hand, and grabs his brother, pulling him towards the corner. Kane picks up his brother over his shoulder, backing into the turnbuckle and slowly ascends to the second turnbuckle, his brother precariously on his shoulder, struggling. For a few seconds, it looks as though The Undertaker will escape with a long fall to the floor, but Kane manages to pull The Undertaker into position, then jumps out, hitting a second-turnbuckle Tombstone. Kane crosses his brother’s arms over his chest-a mockery of the old Undertaker-covers his brother and makes history, defeating his brother and giving him his first WrestleMania loss.

The grudge rematch between Triple H and The Rock bows, and proves to be the epic encounter the promo wars and long-simmering hatred has built it up to be. For nearly twenty minutes, The Rock and Triple H trade momentum no less than eight times. But unlike the wild encounter that was the Hell In A Cell, or the expectant bloodbath of Cactus Jack/Vince McMahon, Triple H and Rocky not only manage to keep it clean, but almost seem to go the extra mile to keep it a contest of two wrestlers, fighting to prove who is the better man once and for all. Every demand for a clean break from the referee is adhered to; there isn’t a single incident of cheating, or using the environment (like the guard rail or the steps) to one’s advantage.

Very early on, the gameplan of both men is revealed, and persists throughout the match: for Triple H, it is a dissection of The Rock’s anatomy, piece by piece, starting with wearing down the lower back, followed up by concentrated attacks on the legs. For The Rock, the plan is much more simple and direct: beat Triple H stupid until he can’t stand anymore. And neither of them hold back or shortchange one another; every move in their arsenal is unleashed and then some in the battle to outdo one another.

But as the final minutes of the match wind down, the fight turns to desperation, and The Rock resorts to a discreet but effective low blow to stop a tide of Triple H offense. The Rock abandons the power moves and his strategy in general, and goes for outright stomping. When Triple H manages to escape to the arena floor, Rocky follows and pounds away with punches; when Triple H tries to counter, Rock resorts to slamming Triple H’s head off the barricade once, twice, too many times to count, and the unspoken sportsmanship of the match disappears in the face of Rock’s bloodthirst. The Rock breaks the count just so he can roll back out and abuse Triple H some more, pounding his head into the iron post and, in a totally disrespectful gesture, spits a mouth full of water in his face. The Rock then tosses Triple H back in the ring, slings him into the ropes, and drives him down with a spinebuster. The crowd can sense what’s coming, and if the crowd wasn’t torn before, The Rock’s new attitude is dismaying and confusing the fans. Rocky rips off and disposes of the elbow pad, gives the signal, and runs the ropes, pausing to give Triple H a crotch-chop before dropping The People’s Elbow. The ref drops for the count, but gets two. The Rock jumps up and argues a little with the referee, but turns in time to see Triple H struggling to his feet. The Rock’s movements are almost liquid in nature as he feints to the left, slips an arm across Triple H’s chest, hauls him up and drives him down in a Rock Bottom. Triple H has barely hit the mat before Rock is up and at his head, setting up a second People’s Elbow. But what he doesn’t know or see is that The Big Show is coming to the ring, and when Rock bounces off the ropes on the side of the entrance, Big Show clubs him in the back, sending Rocky stumbling forward into the referee, knocking Mike Chioda out of the ring. Big Show climbs in and, as Rocky stumbles around holding his back, grabs him by the throat and creams him with a chokeslam.

With Rock laid out, Big Show picks up Triple H and wraps a hand around his throat. He has Triple H up in the air when Chyna slides in and orders Big Show to put Triple H back down. Big Show shakes his head, but Chyna repeats her command. Big Show argues, but slowly lets Triple H back down. Chyna bickers back and forth with Big Show until Triple H has gathered enough strength to stand up; he grabs Chyna and turns her around, yelling at her. Chyna argues back, going so far as to shove Triple H. Triple H stumbles back, glaring with hostile intent; the crowd urges him on, chanting “slut” at his former bodyguard and friend. But before he has the chance, The Rock is up, shoving Chyna out of the way and getting Rock in position for another Rock Bottom …

… only for Chyna to drop him with a low blow from behind. Triple H seizes the moment, cinching in the double-underhook and hits a Pedigree. While the crowd sits in shocked silence, Triple H orders Big Show to fetch the ref. He does, picking up Chioda by the back of the shirt like a puppy, and rolling him in. Triple H makes the pin, and the slow three-count from Chioda makes it legit. Triple H celebrates with Chyna, getting a high-five from The Big Show as well. Triple H turns to the fallen Rock, who is out cold and motionless, and adds insult to injury by giving a crotch-chop. The crowd boos the champion and reunited couple as they leave the ring, their fans-and an unanswered question about who the better man really is-behind.

By contrast, the match between Cactus Jack and Vince McMahon has no pretenses of being a contest to determine the better man. And it is all the more evidenced by Vince McMahon’s walk to the ring: it is a timid, frightened thing, with Vince’s gaze darting around him, paranoid of a surprise attack from the madman king of deathmatches, Cactus Jack. Cactus draws out his walk to the ring, forcing Vince to live with the terror of what is to come that much longer. When Cactus slides into the ring, Vince cowers, his arms over his head, hunched down and shaking. Instead of charging in for the kill, though, Cactus merely watches him, waiting …

… and then the oh-so-familiar music of Shawn Michaels fills the arena. Vince comes out of his protective ball long enough to look past Cactus and see his renegade Commissioner coming down the aisle … and all the terror and nervousness he is feeling multiplies. Shawn is wearing a striped black-and-white shirt, and prancing down the aisle with his usual cocky swagger. After he finishes with his posing and posturing, Shawn makes the two meet in the center like a boxing match. Vince approaches like a man approaching his execution, while Cactus is silent. Shawn gives his pre-match instructions (“I want a good, clean ass-kicking.”), then signals for the bell, and immediately, Vince bails. The crowd boos, and he cannot help but yell back. Vince leans back against the announcer’s table, urging Shawn to begin the 10-count, but instead, Shawn asks for and receives a microphone. “Um, Vince,” he says, smiling the whole time, “just so you know … no count-outs.” Vince is irate, while Cactus merely stands still, waiting for his moment. Vince looks around, then steals the chair from under the timekeeper, slides in the ring and approaches Cactus. Cactus leans forward, pushing the hair out of the way, giving Vince a good, clean shot (barely audible to the people in the front row and to the people at home is Cactus yelling; “Hit me, you chickenshit!“). Vince winds up, his gaze going from Cactus to Shawn, who is content to lean back in the turnbuckle as if he’s waiting for a bus. Cactus urged Vince on again, and after another check of the ref shows Shawn is in no hurry to do anything, Vince swings and connects, sending Cactus to the mat, but not for long; he is barely fallen before he is sitting up, glaring at Vince. Vince runs to Shawn, demanding the natural response: disqualification. Instead, Shawn leans out, requisitions the mike again and says; “Oh, did I forgot to say no-DQ?” He nods. “Yup, I musta. No-DQ, Vinnie. Carry on.”

Vince’s panic is so palpable, it is almost its own weapon against him. He scrambles to get away and ends up tripping over his own feet. All the while, Cactus slowly stands, slowly approaching the man who has made him into a fool and a hypocrite … a man who is on his knees, begging for his life. It is almost a scene from a Friday The 13th movie, except it’s funny to see the billionaire degraded and humiliated and afraid for his well-being. But instead of charging in with rage, Cactus demands Vince get to his feet. It takes the confused Vince a few moments to process the request, and he does so … and no sooner has he stood up then Cactus unleashes with a barrage of rights, pushing him to the ropes. Cactus backs up for a running start, comes off the blocks and hits the Cactus Clothesline to the outside. Vince lands hard, but has enough presence of mind and will to survive to start crawling away. Cactus lets him get a few feet away before he drops an elbow in the small of the back, stopping Vince cold. Cactus grabs another chair and gets up on the apron; he gives a bang-bang to the audience (who responds in kind), and delivers the patented Cactus elbow off the apron, driving the chair into the back of Vince McMahon. Cactus makes a cover, and Shawn slides out, which gets a count of two (without announcing the rules-change to pinfalls-count-anywhere) before Cactus pulls him up. Shawn gives him a “tsk-tsk” that’s more for show than a scolding, to which Cactus shrugs before returning to the beating.

And a beating-not a match-is what it truly resembles as time wears on. Though it is only ten minutes long, it seems forever in the mind of Vince McMahon, as Cactus proceeds to do exactly as he promised, and uses every implement of pain and suffering that he was forced to use under Vince’s brainwashing. One chair is used so frequently and so destructively, the seat-back breaks off during a pounding. Somehow, Vince finds the will to kick out, although Cactus makes little to no effort to seriously cover him. Cactus uses the ringbell and hammer, putting it next to Vince’s head and ringing it over and over again, disorienting the chairman and hurting the ears. Garbage cans, cookie sheets, and anything else that’s not nailed down, sat on or kept under lock and key are used as weapons against Vince’s aching body and head, but Cactus either lets Vince kick out, or pulls up before a sure three-count can be finished. Winning is obviously taking a back seat to Cactus’ desire to inflict pain.

And the suffering for Vince only intensifies as the match draws to a close, and Cactus becomes more inventive. A folding table is brought in, and Cactus puts Vince through the wood with a Cactus-piledriver, sending the now-limp body of Vince into seizures from the pain … but Cactus has more pain on his mind. Instead of a cover, he goes outside and pulls something out from underneath the ring, something unexpected: a ladder. The ladder stands almost ten feet taller than the top rope when Cactus props it up on the arena floor. With Vince unconscious in the ring, Cactus ascends the ladder, drawing out each step for dramatic effect. It is an echo to the top-of-the-cage dive he took against Triple H two summers prior; a sea of flashbulbs capture the moment of Cactus’ flight from the ladder outside to the ring inside, driving his elbow right into the chest of McMahon. But even that is not enough for Cactus, as he is up (as soon as the pain from the dive subsides) and out of the ring, looking under the apron for something. Shawn checks on Vince to make sure he doesn’t need a doctor, and when he stirs a little, that’s good enough for Shawn. Meanwhile, Cactus finds what he is looking for, and the crowd goes nuts when he brings out a dirty brown sack; they don’t have to see proof of what it is, but Cactus reaches in and tosses a handful of thumbtacks. Cactus climbs in and stalks Vince, who is now seated (and bleeding, and looking highly disoriented) on the mat. When he catches glimpse of Cactus, he barely recognizes him at first … but slowly, realization dawns on him, and the horror sets back in. And recognizing what Cactus is dribbling onto the mat in handfuls quickly follows that. Vince’s panic overcomes him and he begins to scream as loudly and high-pitched as he can (and wets his pants again). In the midst of the screams, Shawn hears something; he beckons for the microphone, then bends down to Vince’s level; “What did you say, Vince?” Shawn asks. Vince grabs the microphone and screams into it: “I can’t take anymore! I quit! I quit! Just don’t hurt me anymore!” Shawn looks to Cactus for acceptance of this; he hesitates until Vince grabs the microphone again; “Please, Mick! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! Accept my surrender, and I promise I’ll leave you alone!” Cactus nods to Shawn, and Shawn calls for the bell; the winner, Howard Finkel announces, is Cactus Jack by submission.

That leaves one match, the World Title match, left in the card, and despite the massive size and strength differential, there is a feeling in the air that if anyone could overcome the challenge of it, it is Stone Cold. And from the opening bell, he acts as if the weight and height differences don’t even register with him; he charges like an enraged bull, throwing punch after punch. Big Show tolerates it for a few minutes before pushing Austin away like a puppy begging at his heels. But Austin will not be so easily dissuaded, and comes right back with more fists. The punches start to take their toll, but Show pushes Austin away again. This time, Austin bounces off the ropes and clobbers Show with a clothesline that doesn’t even reach his collarbone. When it barely pushes Show back more than an inch, Austin tries again; it gets him a couple more inches. A third charge, this one a Thesz press, backfires though, as Show catches him and puts the squeeze on in a bearhug before throwing him down like a sack of potatoes, and the momentum shifts in the favor of Big Show.

Big Show’s pace is deliberate, wearing down Austin with his size and power. For ten long minutes, Austin is kept grounded as Big Show exerts minimal effort to keep Austin down. Only occasional bursts of life from Austin, in the form of sudden attacks on Big Show’s tree-trunk legs, give the crowd any hope at all that Austin has a chance. And every time Austin manages to out-maneuver the Big Show, it takes but one single offensive strike-usually a clubbing blow-for Show to retake control of the match. After fifteen minutes, the possibilities for Austin to take command of the match are running out as his strength fades, the victim of Show’s methodical pacing; if he exerted the effort (or simply just unleashed one of his devastating chokeslams), he could finish the match at any time. But, as Vince had prophesized, WrestleMania would see the end of Steve Austin, crushed by The Big Show … and to that end, Show has orders to fulfill.

But Austin’s need to regain the championship-and defeat McMahon and his pet champion-are too strong for him to cease, even against a mountain of humanity like The Big Show. Austin claps his hands against Big Show’s ears while in a bearhug, causing the behemoth to drop him to the mat. Austin shakes the cobwebs loose, bounces off the nearest rope and comes at Show with a clothesline; instead, Show counters with a hand across the throat, the set-up for the chokeslam. But Austin counters with a kick to the groin, which goes unseen by the out-of-place referee. Show doubles over, and Austin starts to stomp away on the knee and hamstring of Big Show; again and again and again he stomps, even going so far as to club it with forearms and fists, knotting up the telephone pole-thick muscles in Show’s leg. When those start to become routine, Austin uses the ropes for momentum to execute running kicks to the legs. After a few of these, Big Show drops to one knee, and Austin begins to work, quickly, on the other leg. Big Show tries to push Austin away, but with Big Show brought down to a more manageable level, Austin can punch him face-to-face, and Show’s size difference doesn’t effect how he takes a punch. Pretty soon, Austin has tightened up the muscles in both legs, and pummeled Show in the head to boot, and Austin quickly circles around back and clamps on a move from his Ringmaster days: The Million Dollar Dream. Big Show tries to stand, but his weakened legs can barely support his own weight, let alone the extra poundage of Stone Cold. Austin tightens the hold, choking the life out of Big Show until he is woozy and wobbling. Before Big Show fades out completely, Austin lets go (much to the chagrin of the announcers and audience) and comes back in front of Big Show. Austin gives the groggy Big Show a double bird, which is enough to catch Big Show’s attention; he is infuriated (although groggy and confused), but doesn’t expect the kick in the midsection. It isn’t until after the match is over will he realize what Austin’s plan was: to chop him down to reasonable height so he could effectively apply the real finisher, the Stunner. And when that plan earns Austin the three-count and a third World Wrestling Federation Championship, the killing blow in a night of total humiliation for Vince McMahon and his evil empire, the struggle against the tyrannical billionaire and his legions of hired goons seems worthwhile. There will be new challengers to deal with-from The Rock to Cactus Jack to a rematch with The Big Show-and God only knew Vince McMahon wouldn’t take this wholesale defeat lying down … but for now, the Corporation was bankrupt.

The End

Whew. Glad that’s done. Got lots of business to address here; some of it non-column related, some of it very column related (and will be of big interest to you, the reader … maybe).

Firstly, to whomever has me in their address book: I am getting multiple copies of the Netsky worm daily. Run your anti-virus program (or update it and run it) and clean yourself out. If you don’t have one, AVG is a pretty damned good program, updates every couple days, and is free. Eric S swears by it, and he’s Pulse’s resident tech guru, so if he says it’s cool, go get it, eh?

Speaking of Eric S, I don’t think of it as complaining so much as worrying that I’d done something to offend one of the Great 4 Gods Of Pulse. I’d gotten quite a number of pimps from you back on 411 (all voluntary and very appreciated), and when we made the switch, the pimps stopped … I thought I’d erred somehow. Or worse, set myself up for YAM territory. My apologies if I came off badly.

Will Cooling over in comics gets a pimp for life for calling me a miracle. I still can’t get over that. Me getting two columns submitted in a week … now that’s a miracle!

Tom D’Errico has a nifty bio on the career of Danzig. He puts a lot of time into these career retrospectives (did a great one on Megadeth a while back), so show him the love and take a look.

And I also enjoy Steve Coogan’s weekly column over in TV. Not sure if I agree with his picks for the top TV characters of all time, but hey, that’s what “top [number]” lists are designed to do-generate debate, right?

And the requisite pimps to Kurtis, and one to Bonto and Gohan, too, for helping out with a certain secret special project.

Enough links. The rest of the business …

I gotta add two guidelines to idea submissions … these have come up in light of some submissions I’ve received, and I want to head off things before I become deluged.

Guideline #1: Regarding title changes. Not every title change is worth the time to ask “what if”. Think about it … would the WWF be all that much different if Austin had never lost to Kane at KOTR ’98? Or if Backlund had never lost to Inoki? Weigh the impact of the title change itself on the history we know, and then ask how much things would change if it went the other way around … Ric Flair’s Royal Rumble victory is a great example. If Savage, Piper, Hogan, Sid or Undertaker had won it, things would’ve gone drastically different. But if Shawn hadn’t lost the title to Sid at the ’96 Survivor Series … I don’t see a whole lot of impact there. So, just give it some thought and really consider how serious the title switch is.

Guideline #2: Having things that happened “not happen” (groups “not forming”, tag teams “not breaking up”, etc.). This is another popular idea. And, if phrased correctly, or if the event is large enough, it is a valid question. My two-part Montreal story is a great example of that. Another would be “What if Hall & Nash never left the WWF?” because that means the WWF keeps two high profile stars, while WCW never launches the nWo and dominates Raw for a year and a half. But simply posing that question to everything that ever happened just isn’t feasible; what if the lWo never formed, or what if Barry Horowitz never beat Skip, or what if Mark Henry never went out with Mae Young … simply having something not happen does not create a story. If Chris Jericho never spilled coffee on Kane, that’s not a what-if … Jericho would’ve feuded with someone else, plain and simple. This goes for asking things like “What if Jericho hadn’t won the Undisputed Championship?” Well, then either Rock, Austin or Angle would have. I can’t tell a story when the question itself denies the existence of a story … having someone/something not happen simply leaves a void, and I can’t do shit with a void. If you’re going to ask a question broaching this kind of topic, make sure the lack of people/stables/events has a consequence aside from its absence. For instance, the question “What if Kurt Angle didn’t compete at WrestleMania 19?” is valid because, if he didn’t compete, that means he forfeited the title the week before, and the entire main event (quite possibly, large sections of the entire event) would have been changed.

And on the subject of submitting … remember And Now For Something Completely Stupid? I’m gonna do another one. Not as a blow-off week, so much as it got a much better response then I ever figured, and people have sent in the odd idea for it now and then. So, for all you aspiring comedians out there … if you got an idea just stupid enough to fit in with the theme, try me. Same credit rules apply.

I also wanna set up a special Q&A edition of RTB. See, my feelings are that people like Hyatte and Eric and Keith and everyone else … well, they all write opinion-based pieces. You get to know them, their tastes and personalities through their columns. As my focus is fiction, you, the RTB reader, don’t have the luxury of knowing me like you do they. So, I am giving you the opportunity to do so. Send in questions (give the questions a header of some sort, either in the subject line, or in the body of the email, so I know not to answer them by way of direct reply) of all shapes and sizes … opinions on wrestling, politics, music, books, sports, sex, personal questions, whatever … I don’t care if you ask me “who farted?”. I won’t say I’m gonna answer every question I get, cause I’m sure I’m opening the floodgates here, but I’ll do the best I can to answer the most pertinent, funniest and most informative ones I can. I don’t know when I’ll be posting this special edition … before the end of the year, that much I know. Depends on reader-reaction. If I get swamped with questions, maybe sooner. If I get crickets chirping, it might get buried. We’ll see.

Whew. Now we’re done. I could post a couple more issues, but I’m sure only the most hardcore RTB fans have read this far. In the next few weeks, I’ll be dropping some more big news … how you, Joe Sixpack, will be able to help influence the direction of a certain popular request … and some possible earth-shattering news about RTB in and of itself that is so top-secret, only three people involved with this site know (Keith, Widro and Ross Williams, who seems to have disappeared …). More on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I leave you with your ambiguous preview for the next edition of RTB …

What if Raven didn’t face Terry Funk at ECW’s first PPV?

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