Shotgun Saturday Night (01/18/97)

WWE.com

Lee Maughan: Three weeks in and there’s already a change to the format, as we’re out of New York and into San Antonio, with everyone in town for tomorrow’s Royal Rumble. In another change, Sunny has been replaced with Jim Ross, so she’s off line dancing with Dok Hendrix and Todd Pettengill. Line dancing? Oh, did I forget to mention Denim & Diamonds was a country and western grill? Brace yourselves for a rootin’, tootin’ hour folks!

Rocky Maivia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Hunter arrogantly declares this a tune-up match before his meeting with Goldust tomorrow, and basically promises to f*ck Marlena once he’s done. Believe it or not, this is actually the very first HHH-Rock singles match on record (hey, they had to start somewhere), and it’s really rather good. Rocky has so much poise for a guy with so little experience at this point, and the only other guy I can think of in recent memory who managed to get just as good in a similarly short span of time is probably Kurt Angle. Credit to Hunter too, who takes a typically solid ass-kicking while leading the match. Rocky runs through his basics until Helmsley hits an inverted atomic drop, and suddenly there’s a python in the ring! And in true Saturday Night’s Main Event fashion, a mid-match incident means it’s time for a commercial break!

The action picks up with Jake Roberts at the announce desk, doing a wonderful job of selling the Royal Rumble match tomorrow. In the ring, Hunter is back in firm control, but Rocky continues to fight back with a high cross body. Helmsley fires back with a knee crusher for two, but Rocky lands a powerslam as Marlena makes her way out to ringside. A dropkick of course sends Helmsley to the floor when Goldust suddenly steps out of the shadows, and Hunter opts to flee rather than fight, giving Rocky a count-out win. Very fun stuff as it was all action-meets-angle, meaning Helmsley had no time to work in his usual chinlockery and/or other assorted tedium. Very enjoyable stuff, especially with a red hot crowd that was completely into everything here.
Final Rating: ***

 

– Elsewhere, Dok, Todd and Sunny run through a country-fied version of ‘The Macarena’. As if the song itself wasn’t bad enough, try to imagine it drenched in backwater fiddles.

– Meanwhile, the Honky Tonk Man cheats a couple of luchadores out of their pesos over at the blackjack table.

– Back in New York, Mr. Backlund is losing his mind over morality.

 

Histeria & Mini Mankind vs. Venum & Mascarita Sagrada
This is actually a mixed match as Sagrada and Mankind are minis, but Venum and Histeria are full-sized luchadores. Venum is probably best known as Venum Black, having previously worked under a mask as Power Raider Rojo. Histeria you’ll likely know better as Super Crazy. It’s the regular luchas who start, popping the crowd with a back-and-forth sequence that concludes with Venum sending Histeria to the outside with a pair of head scissors and following with a springboard plancha. The minis follow with a sequence of their own, Sagrada landing a flying crossbody to the floor on Mini Mankind, and that’s the cue for Steve Austin to hit the announce booth, which is both a blessing and a curse. He’s wildly entertaining of course, rambling on about people trying to censor him because of his foul language and promising a Royal Rumble victory tomorrow night, but the whole thing results in a split-screen that takes the focus off the actual match. It’s like someone in the production truck didn’t realise that you could still hear Austin without the need for a close-up of his mug (or more likely, figured most people would somehow find high-flying, mask-emblazoned superhero wrestlers too dull to pay attention. Kevin Dunn, I’m looking at you). At this point, they seem to start running through some of the same spots, as often seems to happen in lucha matches owing to the wildly different psychology down Mexico way, but it’s kind of hard to tell when the action is all squished into a little box at the side of the screen. Venum misses a corkscrew moonsault and Histeria lands a sitout powerbomb for the win. More good stuff here.
Final Rating: **¾

– Meanwhile, George and Adam are already at the Alamodome.

– And now for something completely different as in a total surprise, Pettengill brings out Texas legend Terry Funk, who’s determined to get himself over kicking and screaming with an incredible, out-of-control promo:

“Yeah! I’m home! This is my state! This is my town! I’m in the heart of Texas, where I wanna be Pettengill! This is where I wanna be and everyone out here knows I’m a windmilling, piledriving, neck-breaking, back-breaking, bear-hugging, wrist-locking, knee-dropping, toe-holding son of a son of a gun, meaner than a rattlesnake, tougher than shoe leather, and more dangerous than a hollow-eyed scorpion, and I am ready to rumble!

Now, I wanna know what number I’m going to be in that ring. What number am I going to be? Am I going to be number 1 or am I going to be 29? To hell with number 15, I wanna walk out there with that first man. George Bush and the representatives of Texas designated me as their Texas member. I wanna start the Rumble, and I wanna end the Rumble, and I wanna start that Rumble not tomorrow night, how ‘bout a one-sided rumble with you right now Pettengill? How about a rumble with you?

 

Well is there somebody else out there? I am looking for anybody! Where’s a person that wants to rumble with me? There’s not a person in the WWF that wants to rumble with me! Not a person in the WCW, those bunch of snake-sucking scumbags, they don’t have an athlete enough for me! I’m looking around here, where’s Vince McMahon? That Yankee BASTARD!

I realise this is live! Hey Pettengill! Give me the microphone! How about rumbling with you? Your mother’s a whore! If you don’t like that, why don’t you rumble a little bit? You wanna rumble Pettengill? No! No you don’t! Is there anybody here? Where are you Jim Ross? Where are you, you Oakie asshole! Where are you?!


Oh. Oh. Come on ‘Stone Cold!’ ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin! Do you wanna rumble? Do you have the guts to get in the ring? How about you? This is live! How about you? I’ll lay here on the ground for you Austin! Come on! Yes! Nobody’s got the guts! I’m staying out here for the rest of the show! Come on! Where’s your guts Austin? I want a rumble! I wanna rumble!”

Austin finally responds to the challenge with a brief brawl into the commercial break. This was exactly the kind of segment Shotgun was crying out for, not that goofy karaoke shit with Pettengill the last couple of weeks.

Faarooq vs. Jesse Jammes
I guess I spoke too soon, as Pettengill joins Jammes for his latest rendition of ‘With My Baby Tonight’, joy of joys. Hilariously, as well as this might play out in an actual country and western bar, Jammes’ mic isn’t working so nobody can hear it anyway. Brilliant. And then the WWF further endears themselves to the hometown crowd by having Faarooq squash Jammes with a spinebuster and the Dominator in around two minutes after some token offence from Jammes. I know why you’d put Faarooq over with his Royal Rumble showdown against Ahmed Johnson just a day away, but why would you have the country bumpkin be the one to do the honours in a hillbilly bar when so many other perfectly sacrificial guys were in town?
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)

 

Steve Austin vs. Goldust
Goldust’s on-screen graphic comes complete with the caption “What does his daddy think?” Chuckle. Once again, timing issues with the show mean this main event will only have about four minutes before going off the air, which exactly doesn’t bode well after last week. And speaking of last week, we never did see the finish to Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. the Headbangers (Furnas & LaFon won), and what happened to Goldust’s pregnancy anyway? Not that I particularly wanted to see such a thing, but that’s such a blatant bait and switch. JR does at least address it by calling the rumours “off the mark”, and Vince calls it “an attempt at a little humour.” Yes, very little humour.

Austin starts by stomping his usual mudhole before Goldust fires back with a clothesline and takes over, but astonishingly, there’s still a commercial break that needs to be shoehorned in. Back from that, Terry Funk returns and attacks Austin, causing the disqualification, then Faarooq, the Headbangers and the Godwinns all dive into the ring for a mini Rumble. Hunter Hearst Helmsley soon slithers out and chokes out Goldust with a pool cue, as Austin backdrops Funk into a Bud Light beer tub.

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: How could it be anybody but Terry Funk?

Least Entertaining: Not an easy award to give out this time, but we’ll go with Jesse Jammes for his microphone problems. A blessing to many no doubt, but he had his target audience right here, only for his equipment to crap out just in time for him to get his head caved in by Faarooq. Good going, Jesse!

Quote of the Night: Terry Funk’s promo, as transcribed in its entirety above.

Match of the Night: Rocky Maivia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

 

Summary: Good wrestling, wild brawling and crazy promos made this by far the best episode of Shotgun yet, and in truth, I can’t imagine that status ever changing once things move back to NYC.
Verdict: 73

Shotgun Saturday Night (01/11/97)

WWE.com

Lee Maughan: And we’ve got bad news right from the off this week as the Sisters of Love were arrested for soliciting outside the Disney store earlier today, so they’re already history after debuting just last week. Bang goes that dream Flying Nuns vs. Flying Elvises match then.

 

Diesel vs. Marc Mero
Just to reiterate for those not paying close enough attention, this would be the second incarnation of Diesel, with Glenn Jacobs under the leather. Before the action even gets underway the differences between last week and this are obvious, as the Café, a sports bar, comes across like a somewhat more upmarket venue (as in, it’s actually lit), but since the walls are curved and there’s a big structural plinth in the middle of the room, the ring is very awkwardly positioned off to one side with a floating camera on a jib. Diesel goes after Sable on the outside so she shoves a cake in his face for a lame “he really takes the cake!” joke, like they basically blew their wad with last week’s high calibre gag quotient. Razor Ramon soon shows up and goes after Mero, but Rocky Maivia arrives to make the save.

Back from a break, Diesel goes to work with a vertical suplex and a top rope flying clothesline. Far be it from me to underline yet again the reasons for the failure of the revived Diesel and Razor Ramon personas, but when did Kevin Nash ever vertical suplex anyone, or fly off the top rope? Obviously there were much greater problems with the gimmick than the move set, but sometimes it’s the little things that need the most attention. The Nash-originated spinning sidewalk slam does however make an appearance before Mero makes a comeback with a flying head scissors and a leaping lariat. Which would be fine if not for the fact he showed absolutely no fire whatsoever before that and just took his ass-kicking. Again, it’s the little things. Mero hits a tasty moonsault press but gets distracted when he spots the Honky Tonk Man of all people pursuing Sable on the outside. Diesel wallops Mero from behind with a double axehandle, and the Jackknife gives him something of a surprise win. Although, he would also go on to place highly in next week’s Royal Rumble, so the WWF clearly had some kind of plan for the guy.
Final Rating:

Post match, Mero berates Sable for the loss and bails out, leaving her crying in the ring. Honky of course figures now is the best time to hit on her, so Rocky returns for his second save of the day, but that brings out Mero for a heated shoving match. “Let them go!” demand the New York crowd. I concur.

Faarooq vs. Savio Vega
Hinting at problems to come, we get the entire rap introduction of the Nation of Domination from JC Ice and Wolfie D here, but join the match in progress after commercials. Faarooq dominates (har har) in the early going until he decides to work in his electric chair bump that he always loved taking. That’s pretty business-exposing if you think about it, since nobody in the promotion was doing that move unless they were specifically against Faarooq, and how dumb do you have to be to allow yourself to wind up in a position where that keeps happening to you, time and time again? I suppose the same could be said of Ric Flair’s big slam off the top, but I always put that down to his own arrogance and determination to actually hit the damn thing, psychologically speaking.

Savio runs through some of his more exciting offense (back body drop, side-Russian legsweep, spinning heel kick) that would vanish following his impending heel turn (throughout the local New York feed of these shows, promos were airing for an upcoming card at Madison Square Garden that would see Savio turn on his partner that night, Ahmed Johnson, and actually side with the Nation, although there’s no hint of Savio’s dark side here). PG-13 soon get involved on this night of outside interference, and Faarooq takes over with a snap suplex for two. Savio comes back with a chinbreaker but misses a charge into the corner and eats a spinebuster for the three. Pretty good back-and-forth stuff actually.
Final Rating: **½

– And now, in response to her disgruntlement with Marlena’s breasts last week, it’s the world premiere of Sunny’s home sex tape! And if you’ve ever wondered about the coitus techniques of Chris Candido, Shawn Michaels or Davey Boy Smith, well, you won’t find your answer here I’m afraid. No, her secret lover is none other than… Fondle Me Elmo, which is basically some guy dressed like the hottest pre-schooler’s toy of 1996, Tickle Me Elmo, complete with a thong and an irritating laugh. Because what’s funnier than sexualizing a Sesame Street Muppet aimed at infants?

– Meanwhile, Todd Pettengill is up on the stage to belt another one out in week two of his apparently ongoing series of karaoke klassics. At least it isn’t another parody effort this time as he instead has the Honky Tonk Man with him for a very lengthy run-through of ‘Honky Tonk Man’, a brand new song that Honky has trouble keeping pace with. They should have done ‘Hunka Hunka Hunka Honky Love’ and just made do. You know, I never thought I’d say this, but where are the Bushwhackers when you actually need ‘em? Thankfully, Rocky Maivia arrives to end the misery.

Rocky Maivia vs. Razor Ramon
And another thing; why would you knowingly book your Diesel and Razor imposters in front of an intimate, smart-ass New York crowd anyway? I mean, I say smart, they again start chanting “bWo! bWo!” just like last week, for reasons I remain unable to fathom. Back from a quick commercial, Razor dominates with some rest holds (come on man, you’re doing a six minute TV match in a rowdy nightclub, ramp it up!) but Rocky fires up with dropkicks and a crossbody. Out on the floor, Honky Tonk gets a few licks in as payback for Rocky’s earlier intervention on Honky’s apparent attempts to make a sex tape of his own with Sable (and if you’ve ever been subjected to Honky’s shoot interview alongside New Jack and the Iron Sheik in which all three drop their pants, bend over and pull their arse cheeks wide apart, you’ll know that is something that should never ever see the light of day), and Razor goes for the Razor’s Edge, escaped by Rocky and countered with a match-winning shoulderbreaker.
Final Rating: *

– Out on Times Square, Pettengill cracks a few jokes at the expense of a poor homeless man who’s fallen on such hard times that he’s taken to living in a cardboard box. “Look at that hobo!” he may as well have shouted. “Come on! Let’s kick him to death!” Okay, Toad’s lines might not have been quite as mean-spirited as that, drifting as they did more along the lines of “Hey, he’s even got a box room for when the mother-in-law comes to stay!” And then out from the pile emerges Nikolai Volkoff! Ha! I believe Virgil moved into a plush beer crate/tarpaulin combo crib next door to Nikolai not long after this.

– Back in the club, Vince produces a copy of Vanity Fair and announces that Goldust is pregnant and scheduled to give birth on next week’s show. Why yes, this is the Attitude Era we’re in.

Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. The Headbangers
Time is running short now (thank goodness for all those silly skits, eh?) so this is joined in progress with a jawbreaker to Mosh from LaFon, and Thrasher crashing into Doug Furnas with a flying clothesline, but it’s already time for a commercial break so you can kiss goodbye to what little flow this match has going for it. Things pick up with a snap suplex and a standing senton from LaFon to Thrasher, then all four guys get in the ring for a brawl as things completely break down… and that’s it. TV time is up, and Vince promises the conclusion next week. Impossible to rate under the circumstances.

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Marc Mero. His psychology was as spotty as the moves he delivered, but at least those moves were exciting, and his proto-’Marvellous’ face/face showdown with Rocky Maivia showed a lot of potential. A shame he blew his knee out a few weeks later, only to return a shell of his former self.

Least Entertaining: Fondle Me Elmo. An atrocious skit that just felt like it would never end.

Quote of the Night: I did consider giving it to Sunny for bamboozling Vince McMahon with her recounting of Doug Furnas’ and Phil LaFon’s multiple All-Asia tag team title reigns in All Japan Pro Wrestling, but I’ve instead gone for: “Honky Tonk man was looking at Razor Ramon… I don’t think he’s going to be looking at him after this match…” – Vince’s apparent shoot admission that he’d finally cottoned on to what everybody else already knew – that Rick Bognar was a terrible pro wrestler.

Match of the Night: Faarooq vs. Savio Vega.

Summary: Another largely rotten episode that still managed to fly past and leave you wanting more. The wrestling overall was pretty bad but it was short enough to never outstay its welcome, and the skits were brutally bad, albeit like a car crash you can’t tear yourself away from. Yes, the New York crowd was its typically irritating self, but the different look and feel to these shows offers such a different vibe from anything else going on in wrestling in early 1997, except perhaps for ECW at the Arena, that no matter how bad the shows are, they’re still masochistically entertaining.
Verdict: 33

WrestleMania XIX

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James Dixon: Coming two years after WWE engulfed the industry and signed up all of its top talent, 2003 sees the company with one of the strongest rosters it has ever had at its disposal. It’s an eclectic mix, with veterans and legends from the past sharing the spotlight with modern day super-workers, built smaller but able to move around much quicker and with more intensity. Unfortunately it was also around this time that some of the booking became really baffling, and at times detrimental to the product. Y’know, like Triple H fucking a corpse on live TV. For that you can thank the fruit of Vince’s loins, one Stephanie McMahon. The period is somewhat undefined too, caught in the fallout of the Attitude Era’s demise, but not yet in the Ruthless Aggression era that saw the debuts of future main eventers like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.

The staging for WrestleMania XIX is somewhat unique. Coming from Safeco Field in Seattle, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, the aisle is forced to curve (a galling sight for anyone used to Reality Era WWE, where every set is a Raw facsimile with a ramp to the ring and little to distinguish it) and the seating is all over the place, rather than in set, defined, cubic tiers. It looks good, certainly unique and vast, but is ruined by the open-air setting. Like all outdoor shows, the majority of the sound is lost to the heavens and thus the matches tend to come across as far less heated than the visible animated and excited crowd reaction suggest. It’s a shame, but is an issue that blights most stadium wrestling events.

Survivor Series ’99

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James Dixon: The last few versions of this show have been pretty monumental. The previous year was the “Deadly Game” tournament to crown a new WWF Champion, which The Rock won after a heel turn and a night where there was next to no wrestling worth shouting home about. The year before was the infamous Montreal Screwjob, about which enough has been written already. 1996 saw Sycho Sid dethrone WWF Champion Shawn Michaels to thunderous applause, while on the undercard Steve Austin and Bret Hart assembled a bona fide classic. 1995 and 1994 both saw title changes too, with Bret Hart winning the title from long time champion Diesel in ’95, having lost it to Bob Backlund in a very long and mostly boring bout in ’94. Plenty to live up to then, and this show will be remembered long into the future too, but for something stupid and idiotic rather than monumental…

 

Rebellion ’99

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James Dixon: Held live in Birmingham, England on October 2nd 1999, this is the second UK exclusive pay-per-view event of the year, following the woeful No Mercy in May, and the similarly crappy Capital Carnage in 1998. In fact, the WWF’s track record on British shores had been pretty dire prior to those also, with the likes of Mayhem in Manchester and Battle Royal at the Albert Hall as well as the host of UK Rampage shows, all failing to deliver a quality experience for WWF fans across the pond. Only One Night Only in 1997 and the excellent SummerSlam ’92 have impressed, so expectations are not high here, especially in a year that has seen the WWF’s PPV output at home come up seriously short in the quality stakes. Glancing through the card on offer hardly inspires confidence either. One notable thing regarding the show is that it is the last to be polluted by Vince Russo and his particular brand of horrible booking, as he and Ed Ferrara both upped and left the company three days later. Ding dong, the witch is dead! Nearly…

 

Jim Johnston’s cobbled together track ‘Rebellion’ plays us in, and it just sounds like the backing track in the Rock’s theme on a loop. The crowd is red hot and there is a sea of signs as far as the eye can see. Jim Ross and Michael Hayes host…

Unforgiven ’99

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James Dixon: This is a very notable show for one very good reason: it marked the final time Vince Russo and his poisoned pen would ever scribe anything for pay to air television in the WWF. A momentous occasion certainly, and as the tremendous year 2000 will prove, they were far better off without him. Russo’s departure was typical of him, as he let himself become consumed with his own hype and started to genuinely believe that he was the one-man-band who single-handedly turned the WWF around. Everyone with any smarts knows the truth: that Russo threw a million ideas at the wall and Vince McMahon filtered the worst and went with the “best”. Russo jumped ship to an ailing WCW in an attempt to turn their fortunes around, but ended up tanking the company in record time, proving to everyone what they already knew: that he was a complete and total blowhard fraud. It is hard to suppress a large grin at his fate.

 

We get a shot of all the WWF referees, who are outside the venue picketing over unfair working conditions. Scab referees have been appointed for the matches tonight. The fact that anyone involved in the WWF is trying to put together a union is just dripping with irony and smacks of McMahon lording it over anyone who has ever tried.

 

SummerSlam ’99

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James Dixon: We are in Minnesota, home of one Jesse Ventura, and the Governor is the special guest referee for the triple-threat main event tonight. Ventura gets into a debate with Triple H about following the rules, to which Hunter reacts like a petulant, whiny child. That is the way he came across to me for the entirety of his heel run prior to winning the WWF Title for the first time, with him acting like he had some sort of God-given right to the gold. Frankly after some of his performances from 1995 through 1997, he is lucky he even kept his job.

Fully Loaded ’99

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Arnold Furious: Over the course of Volume 4 there has been a definite trend; the realisation that Attitude shows seemed great “in the moment”, but have little to no replay value. Most of the 1999 shows were littered with poor matches, wacky storylines and talking. This clearly got the better of my fellow reviewers as evidenced here. King of the Ring ’99 was supposed to be my last review for this book chronologically, and yet here we are. 1999; the year everyone doesn’t want to re-watch. This show is much like any other 1999 PPV. The main event is Austin-McMahon, or rather McMahon surrogate the Undertaker. HHH-Rock is on the undercard. What’s left of DX continue to have matches despite Triple H’s departure at WrestleMania three months earlier. The rest of the card is made up of title matches that hardly inspire. The one relatively surprising move came in Toronto the night before this PPV, where Edge beat Jeff Jarrett for the IC belt, his first major title in wrestling. It being a house show, no-one saw it coming. Edge wasn’t scheduled to have a title match until the night of the show. Ah, that wacky Vince Russo; throwing curveballs all the time. Given the proper build-up, Edge’s big title win could have been a defining moment in his career. We’re in Buffalo, New York. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. They bill the “end of an era” match where either Austin will get no more title shots or Vince McMahon will never appear on TV again. It’s a First Blood match and they make it interesting by having Austin bleed backstage on Heat. Roving reporter Michael Cole tries to accuse Vince of being behind the attack, which causes Shane McMahon to question who he is. Vince guarantees victory this evening.

King Of The Ring ’99

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Arnold Furious: When all the tapes had been claimed for this book I sat down to plan out my reviewing schedule and discovered, to my horror, that King of the Ring ’99 was on my list. Attempts to trade the tape, for literally anything else, proved futile. So here we are with King of the Ring ‘99. The WWF’s worst PPV of the year and indeed the whole Attitude era  (unless In Your House: DeGeneration X counts). It was bested in year end awards by the sensationally awful Heroes of Wrestling PPV (the one where Jake the Snake was hammered during the main event and every match sucked), so history only remembers this as the worst WWF show of 1999 rather than the worst PPV of the year. Although to be fair to the WWF, WCW probably rattled off two or three PPVs as bad or worse than this show in 1999.

 

We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is the 7th annual King of the Ring PPV. The show was booked around Steve Austin battling the McMahons for control of the WWF. The event even has bad music. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. JR updates us on Heat and how Shane McMahon was “injured”. Ken Shamrock is the focus though; Steve Blackman’s attack on him has resulted in internal bleeding. Shammy liked his internal bleeding.

Backlash ’99

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Arnold Furious: This show comes right on the back of the WWF’s hugely underwhelming WrestleMania XV show, one I really detested. I think WMXV was the first big disappointment from the Attitude era. There had been other poor shows, but for a WrestleMania to not deliver in the midst of the biggest wrestling boom since the height of Hulkamania just seemed unacceptable to me. Eager to ensure Backlash didn’t fail, the WWF set about re-booking WrestleMania. They switched Mankind vs. Big Show into a Boiler Room Brawl, as opposed to the dull, straight-up match they had at ‘Mania, and gave Austin and Rock room to breath in their big rematch. 1999, arguably, only has three decent PPV events and Backlash is one of them. 1999’s event was the first Backlash PPV. It would continue on the schedules until 2009.

 

We’re in Providence, Rhode Island. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The main event has recently been declared No Holds Barred, apart from Austin touching referee Shane McMahon, which is a DQ and results in a title change. Got that? Good.