The SmarK Rant for WWF Rock Bottom – 12.13.98
Live from Vancouver, BC, drawing 17,677 (or 20,000 in WWE language) and a ROCK BOTTOM buyrate of 0.78. Seriously, for the prime of the Attitude Era, that’s BAD. Also, GM Place doesn’t even hold 20,000 people.
Your hosts are Michael Cole & Jerry Lawler and we’re presented by GLOVER. The terrible N64 game, not the actor.
The Rock cuts a promo from Planet Hollywood in Vancouver to start, and he talks about how all the PPVs will be named after him moving forward, including the new show “Layin’ the Smackdown”. Well, he was certainly almost right! Also it should be noted that the supposed heel Rock was cheered wildly by the people in attendance in the restaurant.
Val Venis & The Godfather v. D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry
This one came out of nowhere, as both teams were doing completely different feuds on RAW leading up to this show. Godfather is announced from New York City for the only time I can remember, and this is probably where they started to figure out that Godfather could be an all-star curtain-jerking act. D-Lo brings out his own hookers…no, wait, that’s Terri and Jacqueline, never mind. The stupid Terri v. Val storyline has become one of Russo’s longest-running threads for some reason. Val gets a spinebuster on D-Lo to start and it’s over to Godfather, who “of course is an expert on the martial arts.” Well of course! Cole also notes that Godfather is from Las Vegas, despite Finkel just announcing him from New York.
Godfather slugs away on Henry and hits the move later known as the Ho Train, but Henry powerslams him. Over to Val, but he gets caught in the Nation corner and D-Lo hits the Sky High powerbomb for two. To the top, but the Low Down misses. I’ve always thought it’s bizarre that his flying splash was the “Low Down” but his ground move was the “Sky High”. Shouldn’t it have been the reverse? Hot tag Godfather and they double-team Henry with a suplex, but the various ladies of the night argue at ringside for whatever reason, which draws out the Godfather to get his women in line. Jackie goes low on Val, and Henry splashes him for the pin at 5:58. This was going OK but wrapped up too early to be any good. **
Meanwhile, HHH will see who the king of onemanship is between himself and Shawn Michaels. Spoiler: He’s pretty sure it’s himself. As a reminder, none of this is actually leading to a match involving Shawn in any way, unless you count him returning four years later.
Meanwhile, Mankind attacks Rock in the skybox and injures his ribs, which could lead to Rock having to forfeit the title! What a weird build for this match.
The Headbangers v. Kurrgan & Golga
So as noted in the various RAW rants leading up to this show, this match went through a lot (a LOT!) of ridiculous backstory with the original version being an 8-person tag match with Luna & The Oddities v. Headbangers & ICP, before ICP quit the company. Then it became Headbangers & Tiger Ali Singh & Babu, but Babu got detained by immigration and questioned for previous crimes in Ecuador, so we’re left with what we’ve got. Can’t even blame that one on Russo. Kurrgan misses a charge on Mosh right away, but comes back with the sideslam on both Bangers. Did you know Kurrgan was in Deadpool 2, by the way? Good for him! Golga comes in and drops a leg on Thrasher for two as the super hot crowd has been completely killed off by this match. The Oddities double-team Thrasher, but Kurrgan misses a splash and the Bangers double-team him with a suplex for two. They take turns choking him out on the ropes, but Kurrgan comes back with a clothesline and makes the hot tag to Golga, which gets literally no reaction. Golga makes the sad comeback to a silent crowd and tries the butt splash on Thrasher, but Mosh gets a blind tag and hits a bodypress for the pin at 6:53. And that was basically that for the Oddities aside from a Rumble appearance. DUD
Meanwhile, Steve Austin tours the gravesite for tonight, complete with the “3000 pound tombstone”. That’s quite the tombstone.
Meanwhile, the Stooges offer to handle things for Vince and get him some coffee.
Owen Hart v. Steve Blackman
So of course Owen gets a MAMMOTH babyface reaction from the crowd, and they immediately have to turn him heel and kill off any heat for the match. Owen attacks to start and gets a suplex and legdrop as the entire arena is chanting his name, but Blackman puts him down with a spinkick and Owen tries to run away like a complete chickenshit heel. Blackman hauls him back in the ring and gets a snap suplex and bow-and-arrow hold, but Owen puts him down with the Owenzuigiri. Jerry points out that Owen fed him the leg to sucker him in, which is a nice coverup for Blackman forgetting which leg to go after. Owen works the leg, but goes up and lands on Blackman’s foot as Blackman continues taking the whole match for some reason. Elbow gets two and Owen runs away again, which allows Blackman to hit a baseball slide. Owen catches him coming in and gets an atomic drop and leg lariat for two, followed by a flying elbow for two. The announcers go into overdrive talking about how Owen “perfected the Sharpshooter” and how Owen is the only worthwhile member of the Hart family. Owen goes to the chinlock, but Blackman comes back and Owen cuts him off. Blackman rolls through a bodypress for two, but Owen hits him with another Owenzuigiri for two. Owen undoes the turnbuckle, but Blackman runs him into the exposed steel (which draws heel heat) and drops elbows on him to set up a sleeper. Owen reverses to the dragon sleeper, but Blackman escapes, so Owen hits a DDT and goes up. He misses a missile dropkick and Blackman puts him in a Sharpshooter for MASSIVE heel heat, but Owen makes the ropes and Owen tries to run away again. Blackman follows him out, but then changes his mind and takes the countout win instead at 10:30. Much like everything else with Owen for the past three months, I have no earthly idea what this was supposed to be trying to accomplish, but whatever it was, it failed. **1/2
Meanwhile, Vince goes looking for Mankind himself, and finds a sign saying “Mankind’s Office” in a broom closet. This was yet another “Wrestling With Shadows” rib, based on the “Vince’s Office” sign seen in that movie.
The Brood v. The JOB Squad
In the most historic thing on this whole show, Bob Holly finally shaved his head and debuts the buzzcut he has to this day. Holly powerslams Edge for two and hits a falcon arrow, but Edge suddenly lifts him into an electric chair facebuster and the Brood takes over. That’s quite the transition move. Lawler demands to know what the nature of the “gothic lifestyle” is and what the relationship between the Brood is, as if ANYONE cares about their backstory. THEY’RE FUCKING VAMPIRES, OK? There you go, backstory done. Christian comes in and the JOB Squad takes over on him, with Scorpio hitting a somersault legdrop for two. Snow with the clothesline out of the corner, but Christian comes back with a dropkick and Gangrel slugs away in the corner. Snow gets a northern lights suplex for two and a wheelbarrow suplex for two. The crowd is completely dead for this and the announcers have a completely inane conversation about the Beatles and how Yellow Submarine is before Cole’s time. Edge hits the chinlock on Snow to really crank up the excitement. Scorpio gets what appears to be a hot tag as the crowd continues to go for nachos, but he misses a plancha and splats on the floor. Back in, Christian misses his own splash and Snow hits him with Head, but Gangrel takes him out. Scorpio comes back in with a moonsault legdrop on Christian for two as Edge saves and no one cares. Edge dives onto Holly and Snow outside, and Christian finishes Scorpio with the Unprettier at 9:12. Hey, remember like two weeks ago when the JOB Squad was all over Heat and RAW and getting a huge push? And that was Scorpio’s farewell for the most part, as he did some house show jobs and was fired in early 1999. *
Goldust v. Jeff Jarrett
So in the only stipulation with any heat tonight, Debra has to strip if Jarrett loses. This immediately makes Goldust into a top level babyface for the evening. Goldust works a headlock to start and gets a spinebuster and butt splash for two, but Jarrett dumps him and they slug it out on the floor. Back in, Jarrett goes up with a flying bodypress, but Goldust rolls through for two. Jarrett takes him down and works the arm, and a neckbreaker gets two. Goldust comes back with a suplex as the crowd remains dead in between near-falls, but Jarrett gets a dropkick for two. Jarrett with a sleeper and Goldust is nearly out, which is the first time since 1987 that a crowd buys into that spot, but he comes back with a suplex for two. Goldust gets the Final Cut but the ref is distracted by Debra, and that has the crowd freaking out. Goldust comes back with a bulldog for two and sets up Shattered Nuts, but Debra comes in to run interference, which only distracts the ref and allows Goldust to hit the move. So Debra comes back in and breaks the guitar on his head while the ref is counting Jarrett out, and JJ heads back in and hits the Stroke to finish at 7:53. The crowd does NOT appreciate that one. However, Shawn Michaels might be a heel, but he’s a degenerate first and foremost, and he comes out and declares that the guitar was a DQ, and Debra has to strip. So she decides to make the best of it and gets down to bra and panties while making a show of it, and Blue Blazer runs out and covers her up so they don’t have to deliver on the advertised stips. And all of a sudden, Debra was over as a top level character from then on. Or topless-level, as it were. Match was fine. **1/2
WWF tag team titles: The New Age Outlaws v. Ken Shamrock & Big Bossman
So how do you follow Debra almost stripping naked? With this, I guess. This would be what is today known as “The death slot”, and probably should have been something more along the lines of the Headbangers match. The Outlaws double-team Bossman to start and get a double backdrop for two, but Shamrock comes in with a corner clothesline on Dogg. Road Dogg comes back with the shaky kneedrop, but Ken picks the ankle and Gunn has to save. Shamrock goes to work on Billy next with a high kick, but Gunn comes back with the fameasser and it’s back to Road Dogg. Shamrock immediately hits him with a suplex and Cole notes “He really needs to make a tag here.” After ONE MOVE? Bossman beats on him in the corner and follows with a corner splash, and Shamrock gets a back elbow for two. Bossman and Shamrock do a pointless switch behind the ref’s back, but Bossman charges and hits the floor as this match is SERIOUSLY dragging already. Shamrock works the back and cuts off a comeback with a facelock and HOLY SHIT does that go on for a long time. Billy Gunn goes after Shawn outside to draw a little bit of heat, but Road Dogg finally dumps Bossman to the floor, only to have Shawn cut him off again with a shot from the nightstick. Gunn gets the hot tag, but Shawn interferes again and pulls out the ref to save, only to accidentally trip up Shamrock and allow Gunn to reverse a suplex and cradle for the fluke pin at 17:10. A complete snoozer, and amazingly they’d put the titles onto the Corporation the next night on RAW for some reason. ½*
WWF title: The Rock v. Mankind
Mankind gets a new mix of his original music before having it overhauled it completely for his World title win next month (sorry, spoiler). They were REALLY big on putting drum machines into everyone’s theme around this time, weren’t they? Thankfully Rock is back to his classic music again after weeks of them tinkering with it. So Mankind and Vince have a lengthy discussion before the match where Mick demands to hear from Vince that Mankind never submitted at Survivor Series. Vince refuses, noting that Rock heard him say “I QuIt” and that’s good enough for him. So Mankind attacks and stomps Rock down in the corner and chokes him out. They head to the floor and Mick drops the stairs on him and follows with a clothesline, and they head back in as Vince grabs the mic and declares that the referee is to “disqualify Mankind for any legitimate reason”. What? So they fight to the floor and Rock chokes him out with the cable and follows with a suplex. Back in, Mankind tosses Rock again and follows with a baseball slide, then goes to drop an elbow off the top and gets slammed to the floor by the Rock instead. So the Rock stops by the commentary desk and debuts the bit where he does his own play by play while beating up Mankind. That backfires on him as Mick makes a comeback and Rock has to sell while wearing the headset in a funny bit. Mick grabs a chair and Rock DDTs him onto it, and gets two. This sets up the Corporate Elbow for two. Mankind fights back with a neckbreaker and both guys are down, but Mankind comes back with a clothesline for two. Legdrop gets two. Vince has had enough and tells the ref to ring the bell for a DQ, so Mankind piledrives the ref and Rock hits Mankind with a chair. Rock Bottom, but there’s no ref, so Shane comes in and accidentally hits Rock with the title as a second ref comes in for two. Rock comes back with the hurricane DDT for two. Mankind with the double arm DDT for two. Mankind with the Mandible Sock and Rock is out at 13:31, which apparently makes Mankind into the champion. However, Vince turns around Mankind’s previous complaint by noting that he didn’t hear Rock say “I Quit”, so the title remains with him. That was a cute finish, I guess, but only on a show with a bunch of other hot finishes where this could be forgiven. This wasn’t that show. Better matches were yet to come from these two, of course. Also it should be noted that after a show-long storyline where Rock had injured ribs from Mankind’s attack, it was never mentioned or followed up on during the match, or ever again. ***
Buried Alive: Steve Austin v. Undertaker
Michael Cole notes that “you can’t explain this match in words, you have to see it to believe it.” You can’t explain “Loser gets buried in a literal grave”? Because I’m pretty sure I just did. They quickly fight to the gravesite and Austin grabs a piece of railing, but Taker kicks it back at him and they slug it out on the dirt. To add to Austin’s injury list, he took a bump off that railing spot and tore his shoulder up, in addition to already having severe stomach problems that entire week. Probably the British food. They fight back to ringside and Austin tries to piledrive Taker by the Spanish table, but it’s reversed and Taker sends him into the stairs. Back in the ring, Taker chokes him out and works on the arm and the crowd has apparently been buried alive because they’re DEAD now. They randomly head back to the gravesite and Austin retrieves that railing and hits Taker with it before throwing Taker into the grave. “He has to fight out of that six foot deep pit!” notes Cole, as both guys are standing in there waist-high. This is eye-rollingly embarrassing stuff. So enough of that and they fight back to the entrance again and poor Austin is trying to throw punches with a torn shoulder and THAT had to suck. Although to be fair, I think I’d rather suffer torn muscles and feel like I’m being stabbed with knives every time I move, than ever watch this match again. So Taker hits him with a chair and rolls him into the ring as Lawler notes that Taker is ready to end this match. Well, he’s pretty fucking far away from the place to do that. Austin makes a comeback and Taker catches him and runs him into the ringpost. I mean, last time I reviewed this match years and years ago, I amused myself with a running gag about Cole’s ridiculously inflated weights for the objects in the ring, but I’m having trouble having finding this time. Taker hits a very gentle chokeslam because his leg is messed up, and they walk back to the gravesite again. Like literally they just walk back over there and Taker throws Austin into the grave, at which point someone SMOKES Taker with a drink and that finally gets a pop from the crowd. Taker starts shoveling dirt on Austin, coming nowhere near where he’s laying, but Austin fights out and KICK WHAM STUNNER puts Taker into the grave. Austin dumps a wheelbarrow of dirt on him and you’d assume that’s the finish, but NOPE. We somehow need to further overbook a match where you already have to bury your opponent alive. So Austin leaves to find something else, which results in Kane mysteriously popping out of the grave and attacking Undertaker to kill time. So Kane tombstones his brother and rolls him into the grave while Austin drives up in a backhoe, which then takes FOREVER to drop a load of dirt (hundreds of pounds apparently) onto Undertaker and then Austin finally gets sick of waiting and shovels dirt onto him by himself to end this farce at 21:00 and they’re like “Fuck it, just ring the bell already.” A complete disaster on every level. -** Vince was probably screaming at the backhoe after the show ended.
Hard pass on this one, as they wrap up 1998’s PPV schedule with an all-time stinker.