I am going to try and explain the build-up and the circumstances surrounding the following match, but the prospect is giving me a headache:
– Triple H was given the slow burn push from WrestleMania XV onwards, with the logical conclusion being an eventual title win. Unfortunately he wasn’t getting over as hoped, and instead of organically rising to prominence like the Rock or Steve Austin, instead he was forced down people’s throats as a whining self-serving egotist, which may or may not be an accurate reflection of real life, depending on which school of thought you ascribe to. Either way he didn’t have anywhere near the momentum he needed to break through the glass ceiling and be considered by the fans or his peers a legitimate contender to be WWF Champion. Nevertheless, the anointed one won a Strap Match at Fully Loaded against the Rock to be named the number one contender to the WWF Title, and the singles match main event of Steve Austin vs. Triple H was set for SummerSlam.
– Because Vince Russo can’t do anything in wrestling that is conventional, he decided to switch the number one contender on a weekly basis, thus weakening the card and the credibility with each silly shift in focus. It starts with Commissioner Shawn Michaels announcing a falls count anywhere triple-threat match between Triple H, the Undertaker and Chyna, with the winner receiving a title shot at SummerSlam. Trips thinks the whole thing is amusing because “Chyna is just a girl”, but she takes umbrage to that and defies her running buddy’s wishes. Chyna subsequently wins the match thanks to interference from Steve Austin with a chair. The new main event: Steve Austin vs. Chyna. Oh dear God!
– Hunter is all riled up about the result and calls Chyna on being an “ungrateful bitch” and reminds her that he is the one who made her. Chyna doesn’t care for his comments and again they settle it in the ring. This time interference comes from Helmsley’s former nemesis Mankind, who drills him with the ring steps before Chyna pins to retain her title shot. So the main event is still: Steve Austin vs. Chyna.
– Now, the main event was never actually going to be Austin-Chyna, she was only there as a red herring to keep things “interesting”. In reality the match was still going to be Austin-Helmsley, but there are two streams of thought in regards to why that didn’t happen. The internet favourite is that Austin refused to put Hunter over because he either didn’t think he was on his level and/or he hadn’t forgiven him for the Kliq’s political machinations a few years prior, and thus Austin agreed to lose to a placeholder in the form of Mankind, so he was inserted into the plans. The other theory is that Jesse Ventura didn’t want to raise the hand of a heel due to his position in office, because it could look bad on him from anyone in the crowd who believed what they were watching was real. It could be either, or it could indeed be neither. More likely Vince Russo just wanted to swerve the crowd and have the least likely outcome be the one that occurred. After having read through some of his moronic ideas and creative pieces of “genius”, would you be that surprised?
– On television, Mankind decides he wants a piece of SummerSlam, but Chyna punches him in the cock and says no. Triple H was right, she is an ungrateful bitch. If it wasn’t for Foley’s interference in Chyna’s previous bout then she probably wouldn’t have won it. Shawn Michaels gets involved again and makes the match between Mankind and Chyna, with the winner facing Austin. Mankind takes it with the Mandible Claw as Triple H provides a distraction in the aisle. So the new main event of SummerSlam is now: Steve Austin vs. Mankind.
– Shane McMahon doesn’t like this, and for whatever reason he can make decisions too, so demands a match between Mankind and Triple H for the contendership. Why had the title shot become a title in itself!? Why is Trips getting another shot having lost twice? What has happened to the Undertaker, who technically never lost that triple threat match because he was not involved in the finish? Mankind and Hunter do their match, and it ends in a convoluted double pin as Shane and Shawn both count at the same time. Linda McMahon pops up and declares that she has reached a “triple-threat compromise”, which is exactly the word you don’t want to hear for the main event. A major supercard main event should be a culmination, not a compromise. New main event: Steve Austin vs. Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
– That is the match they end up going with, but the ultimate endgame of Hunter winning his first WWF Title and dethroning the biggest star in the company, was not going to happen. The whole build-up to this didn’t help him any either, and with each passing week he actually lost ground and was made to look worse as it dragged out. The entire thing was an absolute mess, with little making sense and the weekly changes of challenger just serving to confuse rather than inspire people to want to see it. It did no-one any favours and ultimately the buyrate was merely decent rather than great, and the event was actually out-performed by some of the B-shows. Wrestling companies had been building long-term to their big matches for decades, and there was a reason for that: It worked. Vince Russo thought he had to come in and change everything to get over his shitty, misguided view of what pro wrestling should be, and that included taking a mighty dump on tried and tested traditions and strategies. I understand moving with the times, that is called progress, but just chopping and changing everything for the sake of it is why he is so despised. His approach killed wrestling, and it took the WWE a decade to start getting things right like that again and building to things long-term. Ironically enough, this only really began happening when one of Russo’s victims here, a certain Triple H, started gaining more authority and power behind the scenes to push for things like this to be done right. Life and its little circles…