Lee Maughan: Hosted by Jonathan Coachman, sporting a WWF New York denim shirt that I can’t imagine was even considered cool back in 1999. Coach brings us completely up to speed on where we left off last after Best of RAW: Vol. 1, noting that the Undertaker had a Ministry, Mr. McMahon had a Corporation, Steve Austin was kicking ass, and Mankind was always having fun. Given that this tape picks up from the night after Survivor Series: Deadly Game, I’m not sure I’d quite buy that assertion, but that’s a WWF studio host for you.
1998 Survivor Series Aftermath
Steve Austin presents a legally binding contract to Mr. McMahon, guaranteeing him a shot at the Rock’s newly “won” WWF Title. We know this contract to be legally binding because professional boxing referee, Celebrity Deathmatch claymation character and reality TV courtroom judge Mills Lane is on hand via video link to authorise it. McMahon however makes Ken Shamrock an offer he can’t refuse, and Shamrock officially joins the Corporation by saving Vince from a vengeful Mankind (always having fun, remember?), allowing the Undertaker to smash Austin over the head with a shovel behind the distracted referee’s back.
Following the gardening-based attack, Austin “blacks out” after a house show match at the San Jose Arena (in a ring still sporting the old red, white and blue rope motif, incidentally enough), and then, in a truly ridiculous angle, Undertaker and Paul Bearer attempt to “embalm” Austin alive, only for Kane to make the save. Austin returns fire by whacking Undertaker across the face with a shovel of his own, then he and Kane shove Bearer down a manhole into a sewer, somehow leading to McMahon announcing a Buried Alive match for Rock Bottom: In Your House.
This was all basically just presented as a promo package for that pay-per-view, which on the one hand managed to cover a month’s worth of main event angles in one fell swoop, but on the other, just served to hype up a match that you obviously weren’t going to be seeing here. Never let it be said that the WWF didn’t maximise the footage they already had though – a re-cut version of this hype video actually aired directly before the Austin-Undertaker match on that very show.
The Rock (c) vs. Mankind
Weirdly, the on-screen graphic places this match at August 30th, 1999, which obviously isn’t the case. Sadly we skip the pre-match angle here in which Mankind, having been robbed of the WWF Title twice (at both Survivor Series and Rock Bottom) kidnaps Shane McMahon and threatens to break his arm unless he gets another shot at the Rock’s title. Mr. McMahon agrees, and believe it or not, there’s an actual match on this tape!
Naturally it is joined in progress with Rock getting two off a side Russian legsweep and another two off the Corporate Elbow, but you can’t win ‘em all. Mankind fires back with a swinging neckbreaker but the Big Bossman gets involved, allowing Rock to deck Mankind with the belt. A second shot misses so Mankind hits a double arm DDT on the belt and clamps on the Socko Claw, and then it all kicks off as Ken Shamrock dives in the ring and belts poor Mankind over the back with a steel chair. This is a No Disqualification match however, so Billy Gunn jumps in to kick-start his feud with Shamrock over the Intercontinental Title, and then DX engage in a mass brawl with the Corporation on the outside.
That ruckus is halted only by the sound of glass shattering that can only mean ‘Stone Cold’ is on his way! The reaction is absolutely thunderous, and he puts Rock down with a steel chair across the skull that’s enough to give Mankind the pin and his first WWF Title. Austin flips Vince the bird, Vince flips out, and Mankind cuts an impassioned Rocky Balboa-esque victory speech which Vince and Shane in particular sell with incredible gusto. When wrestling is done right, there’s nothing on earth quite as much fun, or quite this exciting, and while the match itself isn’t much to write home about, this is one of those moments so thrilling that you can just watch it over and over again, and it never gets old. Just a truly heart-warming piece of business that the great Mick Foley deserved entirely, and a great slice of television that proves sometimes, just sometimes, nice guys do finish first.
#1 is Ken Shamrock and #2 is Billy Gunn but Shamrock eliminates himself immediately by leaping over the top just to kick the shit out of Gunn. Man, what a mercenary. #3 is the Big Bossman who predictably works Gunn over before the Outlaws’ music plays to herald the entrance of #4… Test. I smell chicanery! X-Pac joins the fun at #5 but Billy and Test trade some hiptoss reversals that end with Gunn getting tossed all the way out of the ring.
Test drops X-Pac with a pumphandle powerbomb before Road Dogg joins the fray at #6, still covered in blood thanks to a bloodbath earlier in the night from the Brood. Kane is #7 (after not winning the title earlier in the evening), and he puts Road Dogg out with a clothesline right across the nose. #8 is Triple H, who ducks a clothesline from Test, Test nailing Kane instead before getting chokeslammed out for his troubles. Kane quickly follows thanks to a double clothesline from behind from Triple H and X-Pac, and Bossman dumps X-Pac in kind leaving Triple H and the Bossman as the final two. And then the buzzer sounds…
#9 is Mr. McMahon who slinks in and dumps Bossman and Triple H from behind, the tears his tank top in half like the ghost of Hogan. And then the buzzer sounds again… #10 is Chyna. Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco attempt to block her path so she decks them both, and then out comes Steve Austin to draw Vince’s attention, allowing Chyna to hurl him over the top and out to earn the #30 spot in the actual Royal Rumble match. Vince it should be noted practically took his own head off like a guillotine taking that bump over the top, the mad old bastard.
Final Rating: ***
Mr. McMahon Prepares for the Rumble
Vince had designated Austin the number one spot in the Royal Rumble but had delegated authority over all other WWF superstars to Commissioner Shawn Michaels. When Vince himself opted to enter the Rumble, Michaels figured that made him a WWF superstar and subsequently ordered Vince to enter the match at number two. Vince tried to worm out of it by ordering the Corporate Rumble that we’ve just covered, but when that plan backfired, he had no alternative but to actually train to fight Austin. Cue a truly hilarious Rocky-style montage with Shane McMahon barking out classic lines while Vince gulps down raw eggs (“You gotta eat lightning and crap thunder!”), chases a live chicken through a snow-laden field (“Grab that chicken, make the Colonel proud!”), beats his meat (“Tenderise Austin’s face!”) and drops Dr. Tom Prichard with some truly rotten Stone Cold Stunners (“Number two in the Royal Rumble, number one in your heart!”) Absolutely classic stuff.
Chyna and Mark Henry
For some reason, presumably because Vince Russo thought it was funny to pair up a chunky black man with a muscular ugmo, heel and former Nation of Domination member Mark Henry began courting DX bodyguard Chyna, taking her on a cheap date to Baltimore Jack. Mark reads poetry to Chyna as Percy Sledge’s ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ plays in the background (I’m surprised that scene wasn’t cut given the royalties they’d have to pay on it) then takes her dancing where a group of local douchebags hit on Chyna. When she rebuffs them, one calls her a bitch so Mark batters all three of them. That chivalry, as am I sure you all guessed, leads to Chyna bringing her girlfriend Sammi into the relationship for a threesome, only for Mark to find a cock and balls in his hand when he goes to give Sammi the magic fingers, causing him to vomit uncontrollably in a toilet. Har har har, transphobia, cheap laughs, giggle, guffaw, vomit.
Leading to WrestleMania XV
After Mankind beat the Rock for the WWF Title as covered earlier, the two continued to square off in a series of rematches for the belt. A brutal I Quit match at the Royal Rumble was followed by a silly but highly entertaining empty arena match on a special Super Bowl Sunday edition of Halftime HeAT. A last man standing match followed at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, with the final confrontation coming on RAW, a ladder match with Steve Austin at ringside. Sadly, this is covered by a quick series of clips rather than the full outing, but the Rock wins when Paul Wight chokeslams Mankind off the ladder, setting up both Rock vs. Austin for the title and Mankind vs. Wight at WrestleMania XV.
Corporate Ministry into Austin as CEO
Right then, let’s see if we can make sense of this enormous pile. One week on RAW, the Undertaker cut an in-ring promo on Mr. McMahon, stating that “in time, your World Wrestling Federation will belong to me” and claiming to “own the key to [McMahon’s] heart and soul.” Later that night, Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness abducted Shane, gave him an envelope and told him to deliver it to Vince on behalf of the “Lord of Darkness.”
Rather unhelpfully, none of that is explained on the tape and coverage instead picks up with Vince angrily booking Undertaker in an Inferno match against unwilling Corporation robot Kane, which Undertaker wins. During the match, Paul Bearer brought a bear to guest commentator McMahon, which the Undertaker then burnt as McMahon fell to his knees, melodramatically screaming “Noooooo!”
Following on from there, Vince began talking about the Undertaker as a character, labelling him a “creation” that Mark Calaway had actually morphed into. You know, because as per the Vince Russo directive, everything you’ve seen previously has been fake, but what you’re watching now is actually real. He also revealed that the envelope contained photographs that invaded the privacy of his daughter, Stephanie, the first time her presence was acknowledged on WWF television. The bear was also Stephanie’s, a present Vince had given her as a child.
Later, the Ministry abducted Stephanie from the McMahon family mansion and attempted to crucify her in a black wedding to the Undertaker, only for Steve Austin to make the save with a steel chair and Mr. McMahon thanking him for his help. Then, as if this heel vs. heel feud wasn’t convoluted enough, Shane overthrew the distracted Vince as the leader of the Corporation, firing corporate stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco along with him, and turning Vince babyface in the process, before merging the Corporation with the Ministry.
With Shane admitting to being the mastermind behind Undertaker’s abducting of Stephanie, Vince gets his ass handed to him by the entire Corporate Ministry prior to a McMahon vs. McMahon showdown on the May 3rd, 1999 edition of the War Zone.
Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon
Shane destroys Vince in the aisle, Vince himself having apparently been destroyed in the locker room by Triple H and the Undertaker, and works in the Bronco Buster early. Vince’s selling and movement is appalling by the way. Shane gets in Vince’s face and gets cocky before Vince comes back with a clothesline and a Stone Cold Stunner for the pin in short order. I think it’s fair to say the dynamic worked much better at WrestleMania X-SEVEN, with Vince as the heel and Shane as the babyface.
– Ridiculously, the Undertaker began talking of a “Higher Power” even greater than he, leading to many fans guessing his identity at any number of names from Mankind to Raven to Jake Roberts. All would have made solid candidates, but instead it was revealed that Vince himself was the mastermind all along in one of the biggest brain farts in RAW history. It was yet another one of those mystery storylines that Vince Russo was so fond of, where he began with a great idea but had no clue what the payoff was going to be until he just wrote himself into a corner and delivered an outrageous ending that defied all logic and common sense. Vince (in character) explained it as “just business” but how can anybody justify the things he did, the terror he put his daughter through, the beatings he took from those he was secretly allied with, and the lengthy feud with the Undertaker? Why go to such elaborate lengths? And who was the hoax even aimed at, Austin? I mean, what did they even accomplish? It’s not like this whole charade cost him his title or anything, or even included that as part of its agenda. I mean the Big Bossman got HUNG at WrestleMania XV, for heaven’s sake! It may have kept viewers guessing week after week back in ‘99, which is all that was important to Russo, but this was just a useless storyline that led to absolutely nothing other than changing then restoring the status quo of Vince as the tyrannical boss and Austin as his blue collar employee. Drek.
But it doesn’t end there, as Undertaker beats Austin for the WWF Title thanks to a fast count from special referee Shane McMahon, making this one of the very rare instances of footage from Over the Edge ‘99 making it onto an official WWF release. That leads to Vince’s wife Linda McMahon installing Austin as CEO of the WWF for some amusing skits all compressed into about 30 seconds of music video-style recaps, much as the entirety of this Corporate Ministry nonsense has been presented.
Beer Truck Incident
We shoot schizophrenically back in time to the March 22nd, 1999 edition of RAW as the Rock threatens to kick Mankind’s ass until suddenly, Steve Austin arrives with a beer truck. He cuts a pretty standard promo building up his match with Rock for WrestleMania XV, then sprays Rock and the McMahons with a giant hose full of joy juice. A classic RAW moment.
WrestleMania XV Aftermath with Title Belt
At WrestleMania XV, Steve Austin beat the Rock for the WWF Title in a **** match. Austin soon introduced his own custom made “Smoking Skull” belt design (so you can indirectly hold him responsible for John Cena’s ludicrously garish blinged out spinner belt years later) so the McMahons stole it and gave it to the Rock. In a neat call-back to Austin tossing Rock’s Intercontinental Title in a river (back in December ‘97), Rock tosses Austin in a river and chucks the belt in after him.
The next week, Rock holds a funeral for Austin, yet curiously, he’s wearing the Smoking Skull belt he’d purported to have thrown in the river last week. Austin arrives in a monster truck and crushes the Rock’s new Lincoln with it. He then drives the Truckasaurus 3:16 into the arena and drives over the funeral hearse for good measure before meeting Rock head-on in the aisle for a red hot brawl. Austin dumps Rock in the grave and pours beer all over him, only for Shane McMahon to blast Austin from behind with a shovel during his post-fight celebration. Hilariously nutty stuff that had the crowd going wild. Unfortunately for the Rock, Shane’s special guest refereeing at Backlash did him no favours, so he cut a solidly babyface promo the next night on RAW, rid himself of the Corporation, and kicked Shane’s ass for fun too.
Having been a part of D-Generation-X, the Corporation and the Corporate Ministry, Triple H finally struck out on his own in July ‘99, calling out Steve Austin. Oddly enough, his big coming out party at SummerSlam ‘99 actually saw special referee Jesse Ventura raise odd man out Mankind’s hand at the end of a triple threat bout for Austin’s WWF Title. Hunter however would only have to wait 24 more hours before his crowning glory.
Mankind (c) vs. Triple H
The action picks up here with a brawl around ringside where Chyna (in the middle of a weird period where she’s still seconding a heel Triple H and works accordingly, despite feuding as a babyface with Jeff Jarrett, often on the same show such as this one) slams Mankind legs-first against the steel steps. In the ring, Mankind misses a weak clotheslines and gets hit with a neckbreaker. Hunter throws Mr. Socko into the crowd and sends Mankind shoulder-first into the post, then avoids a Mankind comeback with a jumping knee. “Mankind sucks!” declares special guest commentator the Rock.
A double clothesline puts both guys on the outside where Mankind throws Triple H onto Rock’s lap. Shane McMahon then hits Mankind from behind with a chair before Hunter blasts him with one of his own, then in an awesome spot, rears up for a second swing but turns at the last second and decks Rocky. Shane then knocks Earl Hebner out and Triple H lands a Pedigree with Shane making the pin to give Hunter the first of many WWF Titles. “The first of five times” as Coachman notes. Keep counting, bud. Rather pedestrian match for a World Title change, and Rock’s commentary was rather obnoxious, even if he did keep telling Michael Cole to “Shut up!”
Final Rating: **
During 1999, talk of the new millennium had reached a fever pitch, and the WWF began airing a clock counting down to it. Only, it wasn’t due to reach zero hour at midnight on New Year’s Eve and herald the next century. No, this clock was due to count down during an episode of RAW, coincidentally right as the Rock was in the middle of cutting an angry promo on the Big Show. The explosion that greeted the arrival of former WCW midcarder Chris Jericho was absolutely enormous, but the promos that followed saw Rock completely put Jericho in his place as just that, a midcarder.
Jericho also managed to make political enemies in the WWF during his feud with new Intercontinental champion Chyna, fresh off her victory in a “Good Housekeeping match” over Jeff Jarrett at No Mercy. Chyna would bafflingly win their scrap over the gold at Survivor Series, but as Jonathan Coachman points out, Jericho eventually became a three-time champion anyway. That statement there dates this release as being from 2001, as Jericho would actually go on to pick up the belt a further six times after that.
Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection
At the end of August, Mankind offered himself up as a one-time only tag team partner for the Rock in a tag team title match against defending champions the Undertaker and the Big Show. When Undertaker walked out on the match, Rock blasted Big Show in the head with a steel chair, and a double People’s Elbow signalled new champions.
Injecting a healthy dose of comedy into proceedings, Mankind began using the Rock’s catchphrases before hosting a special, improvised edition of This Is Your Life during a record-setting episode of RAW. Jerry Lawler’s joyous reaction to Rock’s debuting of the “poontang pie” line is a thing of beauty. In another trivia note, this was the sketch in which Mankind actually named the team, presenting Rock with a black sports jacket with ‘Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection’ emblazoned across the back in gold lamé. Less successful was the introduction of Mankind’s latest sock puppet, Mr. Rocko.
The End of D-Generation X
Kevin Kelly narrates a piece on the demise of DX next, as the fun-loving group of rebels fell apart amidst greed and jealousy (apparently) as Chyna turned on Triple H with a low blow, Triple H turned on X-Pac at WrestleMania XV, the New Age Outlaws turned on each other… and then they all reformed as heels when X-Pac turned on the Rock during a match with Billy Gunn.
For reasons not covered here, Mr. McMahon insists “We’re not going to have another DX night!” (it also goes unexplained what exactly a “DX night” is, but it was simply DX running the show one week), so Vince books Road Dogg against Rock (Rock wins by disqualification when DX get involved), Gunn against Steve Austin (Austin wins by disqualification when DX get involved), X-Pac against former partner Kane (Kane wins by disqualification when… well, you get the picture), and a WWF Title match with Triple H defending against Shane McMahon. Unfortunately for Vince, an errant belt shot from Vince knocks Shane out, giving Triple H the victory.
At Survivor Series, Mr. McMahon made himself the special guest referee for a Triple H vs. Rock vs. Austin triple threat title match, only for Austin to get run down in the parking lot by a high speed car, later revealed to be the masterplan of Triple H himself. On to Armageddon, and Triple H beat Vince in a bloody (not to mention bloody boring) No Holds Barred match after Stephanie turned on her father and sided with her husband.
Oddly, this selection of clips features the No Mercy ladder match between the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian, before finishing with a montage of 1999’s champions, reminding everyone of the absurd fact that the WWF Title actually changed hands an astonishing twelve times over the course of just one calendar year.
Summary: There’s two ways you can divide this tape up. The first way is that the content at the beginning of the tape covering late 1998-early 1999 is generally highly entertaining stuff, whilst mostly everything from around spring 1999 onwards is pretty rotten. The second is to say that most of the material centred around Steve Austin, Mankind and the Rock is well worth watching, whilst the content built around the Corporate Ministry and Triple H is anywhere between faintly tedious to completely dire. As for Mr. McMahon? Well, his entertainment value stretches both ways, largely depending on who he’s working with/for/against, and you’ll grow sick of the sight of him before long. It’s a shame because although this release starts out fairly strongly, I was just begging for it to be put out of its misery as it limped over the finish line, much like the majority of the WWF’s output in 1999. Mildly recommended, with a suggestion to hit the eject button sometime around April.