James Dixon: This is the third and final installment of the rebooted “Best of RAW” series, covering late 1999 until the end of 2000. Hosted by the Coach
We begin with the Attitude Era’s answer to Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth: the relationship and proposed marriage between Stephanie McMahon and Andrew ‘Test’ Martin. “The power of their love would soon be tested by real life’s uncertainties” says Michael Cole in the most contrived manner possible. Who talks like that? The relationship hit a few snags, not least Davey Boy Smith inadvertently hoying a metal bin in the direction of Steph’s face and causing her to have that old soap opera staple; amnesia, forgetting all of her feelings for poor Test. When reminded of them, she broke with tradition and proposed, which summed up who wore the pants in that relationship. To the ceremony, which is interrupted by Triple H and his revelation that he is already married to Steph, thanks to a helping hand from Rohypnol and a less than observant attendee at the drive thru chapel. Rather than having the marriage annulled, which seems like the most logical thing to do, instead Hunter and Vince McMahon have a match at Armageddon to determine the future of young Stephanie. Only in wrestling. Vince agrees to the stipulations imposed by Triple H that if he wins he gets a title shot but if he loses then Steph is free, and his face furls with apoplectic rage when Hunter seals the deal with a kiss. Erm, with Steph, not Vince. Either that or he had a particularly perilous situation occurring “down south” that had already started to rear its ugly head, so to speak. It’s hard to tell with him sometimes. Even though this is a tape covering happenings on RAW, we see the finish of the Armageddon match and Stephanie’s subsequent heel turn on her pops, which ushers in a horrifying new era: the McMahon-Helmsley Regime. Reality aped storyline over the next few years, with the two hooking up for real and ending up married with kids. Incredibly, some fourteen years after this there was another McMahon-Helmsley era in WWE, only this time they gave themselves the scripted and forced moniker of ‘The Authority’.
Back to RAW, and an irate Vince smashes DX’s locker room door down with a sledgehammer as he tries to find Hunter. Later on in the ring, Steph explains her actions and… her justification actually make sense! She brings up the angle from a few months back where Vince was the infamous “higher power” in the Ministry of Darkness, and had Steph abducted and almost forced into a Satanic marriage to the Undertaker just so he could screw with Steve Austin. You can see how something like that would mess with a girl’s head. I am actually not sure how Vince is the babyface in any of this when I think about it. Steph puts an exclamation point on things by gleefully telling her dad how much Trips turns her on. There is something not quite right about that family.
With the power mad McMahon-Helmsley era gathering momentum, Hunter targets the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, and he declares partners Rock and Mankind will compete against each other in a “pink slip on a pole match”, which means the loser gets fired. It’s a smart angle, and eventually resulted in the brilliant Hunter-Foley feud of the next few months. We see action from the match, which is joined in progress with Al Snow coming down and belting Rock with Head to prevent him from winning. Mankind doesn’t want to win it that way, and instead of grabbing the slip he belts Al. They brawl back-and-forth some more, with Rock hitting a Rock Bottom and Mankind the Socko Claw, but neither gets the job done. They fight up by the pole where Mankind takes a bump to the outside, and Rock grabs the slip and seemingly ends Foley’s career. Rock’s reaction to winning is great, as he just storms off in rage because of what he has been forced to do.
Triple H continues to jibe at Foley after he has gone, which is in keeping with the WWF’s unflattering tradition of ripping into guys when they leave the company. Hunter hires an imposter to mock Mankind (Dennis ‘Phineas Godwinn’ Knight in the only entertaining role of his career), and this results in some genuinely funny skits as “Mankind” finds himself in various embarrassing scenarios. It is the real Mankind who gets the last laugh though, as the entire roster clubs together and demands he be reinstated or they will go on strike, which leads to an 8-man tag on RAW featuring Triple H and his DX buddies against Rock, the Acolytes and Mankind. Hunter and Mankind end up as the last two guys standing, but WWF Champion Helmsley pins Foley to prove his superiority. The real story comes after the bout, as Mankind symbolically removes his mask and beats the crap out of Hunter, and he stands bloody and proud afterwards.
A few weeks later Mick Foley has transformed into Cactus Jack, and is credited for bringing the Radicalz quartet of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko into the WWF. They joke around backstage about the fact there is a crowd out there, which they are not used to, but soon afterwards Hunter reveals that it was he who gave the group contracts, and they turn on Foley and beat the crap out of him to tremendous heat. “Cactus Jack doesn’t have any stroke” says Benoit in order to justify their actions.
More footage not from RAW, with Tazz making his debut against Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble in what turned out to be the highlight of his WWF run. Back on RAW, Kurt protests that he is still undefeated because he was illegally choked out, and he challenges the Rock to a match later on the show. We get a decent chunk of the bout, but again not the whole thing. It’s a strong back-and-forth contest, though not a patch on their excellent PPV outing at No Way Out the following year. Angle at one point goes to leave but is prevented from doing so by Tazz, and Rock befalls him his first pinfall defeat, in front of his hometown crowd no less.
The night after Royal Rumble 2000, the Big Show complains to Triple H that he was robbed in the Rumble match because Rock’s feet touched the floor first. He is right, but listening to Show talk is a chore because he is really bland when it comes to delivering promos. It is one of the reasons he didn’t get over to the level many thought he would, because he was surrounded by a bunch of guys who could talk up a storm. Show wants a match with Rock at No Way Out for a title shot, and Hunter agrees if Show can give him evidence to back up his claims. Show gives Polaroid shots, testimonies from a security guy who had a close-up view of the elimination and finally footage, getting him his match with Rock. He wins thanks to help from Shane McMahon, and Hunter beats Cactus Jack in the title match on the same show, setting up the horrific sounding Triple H vs. Big Show WrestleMania main event. “If Triple H vs. The Big Show is going to be the main event of WrestleMania, then WrestleMania is going to absolutely suck!” says the Rock. Oh, he is so very right. Much convoluted McMahon-heavy nonsense follows, resulting in the even worse fatal four way match also including Rock and the suddenly unretired Mick Foley, with the joyous addition of a McMahon being in every corner. They should have just had a McMahon family four way, because that was the real focus of the match. It all ended up with silliness as it always does, with Steph and Vince forming an alliance and uniting behind Hunter (rendering the past few month’s storylines as nonsense), who became the first heel in history to walk away from WrestleMania with a successful WWF Title defence. Of course he did.
Hunter was not amused with Rock decking his wife with a Rock Bottom following WrestleMania, and set about tearing him apart in a cage, busting him open and leaving him lying after smashing his face in with brass knuckles. This kind of thing happens to Rock after ‘Mania every year. This would result in an epic showdown at Backlash, but before that Triple H was forced to defend the title on RAW against the red hot Chris Jericho. Jericho won the match to an immense pop, but later in the night Hunter bullied pussy referee Earl Hebner into reversing the decision because he “screwed” him and counted the fall fast, before firing him and beating the snot out of him. Anyone who saw this that was still a fan of WWE in 2013-14 probably experienced a strong sense of déjà vu, because the exact angle was repeated between the Authority and Daniel Bryan following the latter’s WWE Championship win over Randy Orton at Night of Champions.
More Jericho next as we finally take a break from Hunter, and we bafflingly get clips from his match against Chris Benoit prior to the previous bout, with Kurt Angle serving as the commentator. This ended up leading to a triple threat match at WrestleMania, but the post match attack on both guys from Angle is missed off and the inclusion of this on the tape is rendered somewhat pointless.
Next we see the same Hardcore Title 24/7 video that has turned up on a bunch of these tape releases, showing the trials and tribulations of poor Crash Holly as he strives to retain his belt. We go to a King of the Ring qualifier between Crash and his cousin Hardcore, which ends in a DQ win for Elroy thanks to interference from Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco. Brisco ends up decking Crash and beating him to win the Hardcore Title, but when celebrating backstage with Pat he gets turned on by his fellow stooge and smashed over the head with a champagne bottle and pinned.
Next up: sex! Included in the segment is the harrowing relationship between Mae Young and Mark Henry, which results in them in bed together with the insinuation being that they have just bumped uglies. We then briefly see Kurt Angle wearing a billboard promoting abstinence and a really bizarre Trish Stratus promo where she gets aroused by tables. Following that, we see Eddie Guerrero trying to gain access to the Playboy mansion so he can destroy Chyna’s recently shot pictures, presumably as a service to all mankind. Eddie apologises then claims to be ill so that Chyna will wrestle her friend Rikishi in his place. Eddie turns up at ringside and ‘Kishi beats him up, but Eddie maces him. Unable to see, Rikishi hits the Samoan drop on Chyna and then when he can see, he crushes her with the Banzai Drop. Eddie does nothing to save her. A little more about the relationship and the aftermath of this would have been beneficial and appreciated.
Charisma black hole and original Vince McMahon approved automaton Linda McMahon gives Kane, the Undertaker and the Rock a stern ticking off for fighting each other, then tells them to be united in order to get the WWF Title back off Triple H. This leads to a nonsense match at King of the Ring where Rock pins Vince to win the title in a six man tag. How horrible. The next night Vince hijacks a Rock promo to talk about how from this point on he is going to dedicate himself to Linda, and that the two are going to try for another baby because he is a “genetic jackhammer”. What gruesome imagery that conjures up. Rock is equally appalled and calls Vince an “asshole” before giving him a Rock Bottom. Also that night, Shawn Michaels turned up with a major announcement: Mick Foley is the new WWF commissioner… Pleasingly that means a Foley skit with Edge & Christian, who were perfect foil for him, the one shown being where the duo are forced to defend their tag titles against the Undertaker and Kane because they disrespect Mick by making him get them sodas. The chemistry the three have is wonderful.
More from Kurt Angle next, who comes over all King Mabel following his King of the Ring victory, and dresses in the full regalia while taking his new position altogether far too seriously. Angle’s program with the Undertaker follows, which was a bad idea. The build up is decent enough but the 7-minute match at Fully Loaded 2000 was crap, with Angle’s momentum dealt a major blow by an unnecessary clean and decisive job. Once again this “best of RAW” tape shows highlights of the PPV match, meaning what this release actually appears to be is a “best of 1999-2000” tape.
While Angle’s feud with the Undertaker was booked badly, his love triangle with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H was brilliant. Initially. First Angle complains about Mick Foley and gives Steph an innocent hug that Triple H sees and gets all pissy about. Angle protests his innocence and gives Michael Cole a hug to show that it meant nothing. Things take a turn for the worse for Hunter when Steph walks in on him demonstrating a dodgy looking reversal on Trish Stratus that leaves the two in a compromising position, and Steph flips her lid and trashes the locker room. The two make up but Mick Foley calls them on it all being a public facade, and then backstage Trish apologises for her role in their problems. Steph doesn’t buy it and claims Hunter and Trish have eyes for each other. Steph then asks to be shown the same reversal that Hunter showed Trish, which Trips does, but then he accidentally calls her “Trish”. Uh oh. Steph needs space, but things get worse when Hunter ends up getting a chair shot from the Rock and ends up in a “69” position with Trish, and Kurt Angle steps in to be the shoulder to cry on for Steph. Unfortunately the payoff doesn’t come, because they have decided to split the story into two parts on this tape. How frustrating.
We see the formation of Right to Censor, which came about because of unbearable real life do-gooders the Parents Television Council, who wanted to police all television that didn’t meet their so-called standards. They campaigned hard against the WWF for their supposed excessive violence, negative portrayal of women as sex objects, lurid characters and whatever other drivel they came up with in their smear campaign to try and get them off the air. The WWF’s typically mature response was to mock the group on TV by forming their own storyline censorship group, which served the dual purpose of mocking the PTC but also removing some of the edgier characters from television to reduce the flak. When Steven Richards forms the group, he tells the crowd: “You do not know what’s good for you, but I do” which is an obvious and fair jab at the PTC. Richards converts the Godfather, Val Venis and Bull Buchanan to his cause, and then finally Ivory who we see chastising Trish and Lita for having a bra and panties match. Good LORD the ass on Trish… Ivory claims to have “seen the light” and says “not only have you been stripped of your clothing, you have been stripped of your pride”. She plays the “prissy teacher” type very well.
To William Regal, who is sitting having a tea party giving lessons in etiquette. His British accent and persona was so very stereotypical and cartoonish that it bordered on ridiculous, but he played the role so well that it was richly entertaining. He tries to teach Americans how to use a handkerchief, and offers the brilliant words of wisdom: “never wipe or smear, that is for another orifice”. Jericho interrupts and promises a tablecloth magic trick, but instead just throws the contents of the table out of the ring. That doesn’t lead anywhere in particular, but the focus stays on Regal as he commentates on a European Title match featuring champion Al Snow, who has perturbed Regal by confusing Greece with Grease. We don’t see any of Al’s match, just the comments from Regal that Al is disgracing his continent. Regal then beats Al for the title when they go head-to-head soon afterwards. His disingenuous manic smile after a vicious assault is great and almost Hannibal Lecter like.
Back to the Angle-Hunter-Steph love triangle. Hunter asks Steph to stay out of his match with Angle and she intends to, but then runs into Chris Benoit backstage and slaps him. Not wise. She decides to come out and get involved in the bout anyway because she can’t follow instructions. She stops Angle using a chair but then Benoit pulls her off the apron and smacks Hunter with a chair, and Angle hits the Olympic Slam to win. Hunter storms off, furious with Steph. This leads to an assault from Benoit and Angle on Rock and Hunter, with Steph berating Angle for attacking her husband, before Benoit promptly shuts her up with a headbutt. Ace.
Steve Austin had been gone from screens for almost a year, brief appearance at Backlash aside, but the RAW’s debut on TNN saw him return to TV, and the whole “who ran down Steve Austin” can of worms gets reopened again after nearly a year on the shelf. Austin does some investigating, but he is the worst sleuth in history because he doesn’t even really question anyone, he just beats the shit out of people. Mick Foley cracks the case: it was Rikishi. This was one of the worst payoffs to an angle that I can remember, just illogical, nonsensical bullshit. He wasn’t even at the show where it happened! If ever an angle jumped the shark, then it was this one. Backstage before a tag bout, Rock gets attacked and taken to hospital, so Austin has to work the match as a handicap bout. He gets the shit kicked out of him. It then turns out that Triple H was responsible for the whole hit and run thing and was the mastermind behind the attack. Of course he was involved, he just has to have a hand in everything.
We finish things with Mick Foley and Kurt Angle arguing about being each other’s wives, and Mick forcing Angle to defend his title against bosom buddy Vince McMahon. Naturally Vince is able to ground the Olympic gold medallist during the course of this with an amateur takedown. Mick gets involved and ends up beaten up by an Edge & Christian Conchairto, but Steph comes down and prevents further assault because she has some… papers! The papers apparently say that due to “mental incompetence” Linda McMahon’s CEO powers have been given to Vince. There are a whole host of jokes relating to that one. Vince immediately fires Mick and that finishes up the tape.
Summary: There is plenty of good stuff on here, though very little of it is actually given time to be digested before we move onto the next thing. Except Triple H and Stephanie of course… Oh there is plenty from both of those on here, and if you are not sick enough of them and can stomach it, their angles and segments are actually pretty good. The biggest bugbear with this tape is obviously the glaring lack of wrestling, with no matches shown in full and in truth very little actual wrestling shown at all. But that is RAW in the Attitude Era for you, and you know what to expect when coming in. Scatterbrained and occasionally suffers from the typical WWF questionable slicing and editing, but the near two hours go past pretty quickly and there is definitely nothing you would categorise as “bad” on here. Well worth your time.