#WWF233 – Hell Yeah!

Arnold Furious: This may seem strange to any DVD era readers but there was a time when we shelled out hard earned cash for VHS tapes that barely tipped the playing scales at 60 minutes. Such was the popularity of the WWF in the late 90’s wrestling boom that they could get away with releasing tapes, usually dedicated to one of their big draws, and seriously skimp on the content. As the company’s number one star and biggest draw, Steve Austin was a natural choice for several VHS releases. Austin tapes came out at a rate only previously associated with Hulk Hogan tapes. The difference being that in Attitude actual wrestling wasn’t as important. At least those Hogan tapes had a series of matches, usually fairly complete, on them. Attitude profile tapes generally were total clipfests.


Host is Michael Cole and he announces they’ll be following Steve Austin around for three days and that will form the content of this tape. Steve starts by saying he’s an original and ‘Stone Cold’ is just him with the volume turned up. He points out that all the really successful guys are just playing themselves. He talks about the WWF Title belt and how much it means to anyone in the business. “That means you’re at the fucking top”. The behind-the-scenes look at Austin is terrific as he is able to shoot the shit and play up to the cameras, ever so slightly out of character. Which means him bullshitting backstage and claiming his roll of wrist tape was given to him by Wayne Gretzky before chuckling. He’s a lot of fun to be around.


King of the Ring 1998
We get clips of Austin-Kane and their First Blood match. It’s far closer to a music video than actual highlights. Every time I see the match I am reminded that Mick Foley came running down after his Hell in a Cell double bump. I always forget! Undertaker causes Austin to bleed by missing Foley with a chair shot and Kane gets the title. Austin cuts a less shooty promo into the travel camera although he gets to litter it with profanity, swearing at drivers he’s passing. We clip right ahead to Austin vs. Kane on RAW the following night. Austin escapes a Tombstone and hits the Stunner to regain his title just 24-hours after Kane won it. Undertaker runs in so Austin gives him a Stunner too for causing Kane’s 24-hour title reign.


Video Control gives us Austin’s vehicular rampages with Austin claiming he can drive anything with four wheels. The interview continues as Austin drives somewhere and god damnit he’s drinking a beer. Why did the WWF think *that* was a good idea? Austin gives us a good inside look at the vehicles he’s driven. He points out the monster limo that he drove over eight cars either would have worked or he’d have broken the front axle “and had to walk into the damn building”. This was a fun little segment but I really could have lived without the drinking and driving business. Maybe I’m wrong and it was a non-alcoholic beer or something, but it doesn’t exactly send out the right message.


SummerSlam 1998
Austin points out he got knocked silly after kicking Taker in the guts and Undertaker stood up and hit his head on Austin’s jaw. When he came around the ref asked him if he was alright. “Where am I?” “You’re in the Garden”. “Oh, really?” Clips from the match follow and a Stunner finishes. Again, the clips are more like a music video and the constant stream of loud heavy metal music is giving me a headache by this point. And I like rock music as much as the next man, but combined with a deluge of violent imagery it’s akin to the torture scene in A Clockwork Orange.


We thankfully slow things down while Austin talks about the Smoking Skulls belt, which he calls a “fuck you to Vince McMahon”. Austin thinks it’s the best looking championship belt he’s ever seen. This leads into Austin’s acts of rebellion against Vince, which is a bit strange as they’ve now gone backwards chronologically.


Over the Edge 1998
So we’ve gone from June to August to May for some bizarre reason. Clips of Austin-Foley follow with loud rock music playing over the top of it, naturally. Austin hits Dude with the Stunner and counts him down with Vince’s unconscious hand. This is the shortest segment on the tape, which is a shame considering how good the match is.


Then it’s back into the original chronological order of things as we flash ahead to September and Austin losing to both Kane and the Undertaker for the WWF Title. “You don’t have it anymore, it’s mine” yells Vince. Video Control takes us to a series of Austin’s assaults on the chairman of the board including pouring cement into his Corvette. Cole finally adds something of worth by pointing out the ‘Vette is on display at Titan Towers.


Judgement Day 1998
This is the tedious Taker-Kane title match where Austin was the referee. He knocks both guys out and counts them both down. Vince fires him. Luckily this is brisk and we don’t get extended highlights of a terrible match. We segue right into RAW the next night where Austin turned up with a gun, which is another angle I wasn’t overly keen on. It might have ended with BANG 3:16 but the set up with the guns and the crossbow had a bad vibe about it. Totally irresponsible.


Video Control then takes us to the nonsensical Shane McMahon rehiring Austin, then turning heel on him angle. You got rid of him, why would you want him back? We go from there to the Undertaker trying to embalm Austin, which is another ridiculous and stupid angle. Most of the Undertaker’s crap has no business in wrestling, but this was yet another irresponsible angle. Interesting to note that Taker crucified Austin, considering Kurt Angle once refused to sign for ECW because Raven crucified Sandman, and Scott Levy even had to apologise for it. Seeing as Angle was in the WWF system at the time, it seems a bit weird.


Rock Bottom
This is the Buried Alive match between Taker and Austin, which Austin had to win just to qualify for the Rumble. Naturally he does. Because there’s nothing else to say, that’s the entire segment.


Royal Rumble 1999
This is stripped right down to the Austin-McMahon battle that takes place at the end of the match. This is another one of those moments where Austin being a total ass cost him a big match. If he’d just thrown Vince out he’d have won. Austin, in a less-shooty comment, calls it a “rookie mistake”. We move on to RAW the next night with Vince waving his title shot so Shawn Michaels, drunk in Texas, gives Austin the shot instead thus negating the booking at the Rumble. Sometimes I swear they booked PPVs to deliberately swerve people and screw with predictions and office pools.


St Valentine’s Day Massacre
The February PPV only existed so Austin could put a beating on Vince and extend the bit at the end of the Rumble by another month. The highlights show Vince taking a hiding for the entire match, which is exactly what happened. Vince blades and the Stunner should finish, but Paul Wight shows up fresh from WCW to interfere. This backfires as Wight throws Austin into the cage and the side gives way. Austin goes to ‘Mania. It makes you wonder how much of the beating was Vince’s plan. If he planned for Wight to save his ass at the end of the match, why didn’t he just arrive earlier and save Vince a shoeing?


Video Control gives us another chat with Austin. He really goes all over the place with his musical interests saying 85% is country music. Urgh. He recovers by saying Stevie Ray Vaughn is one of his favourite musicians of all time. He moves on to his entrance music, saying he asked for something that sounded like Rage Against the Machine song ‘Bulls on Parade’ and Jim Johnston did the rest. See, this is interesting material. I have no idea why they didn’t insert more of this. Presumably Michael Cole couldn’t come up with any meaningful questions to get Steve to open up.


WrestleMania XV
During this tape the Hardys’ music crops up quite often as Jim Johnston wrote it before the Hardys were pushed, so it’s just filler music. It must have been played four times by this point. The Rock-Austin match looks pretty good in highlights, but I think it was a bit overbooked and I much prefer their Backlash match the following month. This is the longest highlights package on the tape, as it’s the culmination of another Road to WrestleMania for Austin. As the match reaches a conclusion Vince runs down followed by Mankind, amusingly to the Hardys’ music, as it finishes and kicks in again. Stunner finishes.


Video Control goes back to Austin and him talking about his fame, saying if he missed those opportunities he’d have missed the boat. Austin talks about “crossover audience” and while it burned him out a bit doing Nash Bridges on his day off, it was important for his staying power. To hear Austin talking about business is really weird, but he’s a smart guy. Just because he’s a profane redneck doesn’t mean he’s not clever. In closing Austin says he’s proud to be a part of the one of the hottest runs in the history of wrestling, and that it drives him to show up every day and bust his ass.


Backlash 1999
The Rock takes things into overdrive by throwing Austin into a river and holding a funeral service for him. The match highlights follow again, this time with different generic rock music and Shane McMahon as referee. The bit with Rock filming himself getting a Stunner makes the cut. A wonderful piece of Gonzo filmmaking from the WWF. Vince stops Shane’s evil ways and Austin wins with a belt shot, with this being part of Vince’s maniacal plan to screw Austin as the Higher Power. But first he has to earn his trust, for whatever reason.


Video Control gives us another chat with Austin, who gets philosophical about his injuries and thinks everything happens for a reason. He figures he wouldn’t be where he is if he’d not walked the path he did. “I love my fucking job”. We see screaming fans and Austin says it’s what the business is all about.


Summary: This started so promisingly with Austin BS’ing with people backstage and offering insight into his actions. The bits with vehicles and Austin recalling how much fun he had doing various stuff was good, but the tape rapidly goes downhill as it becomes a clip-fest of bad matches. It’s as if they forgot their original intention to make a different style tape and instead just let Video Control cobble together a highlights package for each PPV and the relevant storyline stuff around that. Like many superstar tapes from the Attitude Era it’s not worth getting.
Verdict: 40

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