I reviewed WCW’s April 99 offering last week, so I decided I’d take a glance at what the WWF was doing at the same time, and as an additional bonus I’ll also be watching the Sunday Night HeAT preview show prior to the pay per view portion of the event.
WrestleMania XV had been a bit of a bust for the WWF, as last minute changes to the match card destroyed a chunk of interesting storylines and most of the bouts failed to deliver. It was crash TV of the Attitude Era at its absolute worst.
Thankfully the Main Event between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin was at least a good match, and fans were suitably interested in seeing the two rematch with one another. To set that up The Rock and Shane McMahon teamed up to steal Stone Cold’s “Smoking Skull” Title belt, and then Rock upped the ante even further by flinging Austin into a river!
As for the under card, The Undertaker had been making unwanted advances to Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, so Vince had enlisted the help of Ken Shamrock to try and take Undertaker down. Meanwhile, Triple H had turned on D-X to go Corporate, setting up a match with former stablemate X-Pac.
The other major match of the under card was Big Show Vs Mankind, with Mankind looking for payback on Show after the big man sent him to the hospital at Mania. Big Show had just started working as a babyface though, so they would do battle in a Boiler Room Brawl so as to ensure that Big Show wouldn’t get booed by the fans.
These top matches, combined with what looked to be a solid selection of bouts elsewhere on the card, suggested that Backlash would be one of the WWF’s better pay per view offerings of 99, but would they stick the landing?
Let’s read on and find out!
The event is emanating from Providence, Rhode Island on the 25th of April 1999
Calling the action for HeAT are Michael Cole and Kevin Kelly
We start with Sunday Night HeAT, which on pay per view nights essentially acted as the pre-show.
The show opens with a nice graphic to commemorate Rick Rude, who had recently passed away.
We get clips from Raw, as Stone Cold interrupted Rock’s funeral service for him by running over Rock’s car with a monster truck. Shane McMahon hit him with a shovel before Austin could reclaim the Smoking Skull belt though.
D’Lo Brown and Ivory Vs Val Venis
Apparently Sable was supposed to be tagging with Val here, but she’s blown the match off in order to fulfil a Hollywood commitment. Val is happy to compete in a handicap match though, as I’m guessing he was supposed to be a babyface here but it’s often hard to tell with all this Vince Russo “Shades of Grey, bro” stuff going on. Val and D’Lo do a quick bit together and Ivory tags herself in to go at it with Val. Nicole Bass runs down though, as she was Sable’s bodyguard at the time, and she choke slams Ivory for three.
WINNER: VAL VENIS & NICOLE BASS
Barely a match
Bass says that Venis now owes her and eyes him up, which causes Val to flee in terror. I think he eventually ended up relenting on that front for a bit.
The Undertaker and The Ministry of Darkness arrive.
Jim Ross interviews X-Pac backstage ahead of his match with Triple H on the pay per view. Ross makes sure to call him “Sean” so that we know this particular part of the show is real. X-Pac says that Triple H can sell out if he wants, but he did it at his expense and he’s ticked off about it.
Jerry Lawler is with Triple H and Chyna for the retort. Triple H says that he was D-X before X-Pac came back to the WWF and that he got him over. Tonight is about the pecking order, and he’s going to break X-Pac. X-Pac’s promo was pretty rubbish but Triple H’s was decent.
Undertaker and his Ministry are scheming about something.
We see clips from Raw, where Vince McMahon beat up Mideon.
Nicole Bass is looking for Venis backstage.
Droz and Prince Albert Vs Too Much (Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor)
Both of these teams are heels I think, and it’s pretty much a tornado bout as all four men brawl and Albert pins Taylor with a sit out press slam.
WINNERS: DROZ & ALBERT
That barely went a minute, if that
Albert tries to pierce Christopher following the match, but Undertaker and The Ministry interrupt. Droz and Albert flee, whilst Too Much get clobbered by Bradshaw, Faarooq, Viscera and Mideon. Taker cuts a promo, saying he will inflict torture on Shamrock later and that there will be a tragedy on the pay per view tonight. I certainly hope that the nacho salesmen don’t run out of cheese, as they might need to be fully stocked for the mad rush during Taker’s match later.
Bass is still looking for Val, in quite a rapey fashion it must be said. I’m not sure you’d see stuff like this on the show today, even with the more relaxed approach to women being the aggressive party in these sorts of situations. It would certainly have a different connotation if Val was stalking down a woman like this.
Big Boss Man w/ Test Vs Kane
All three of these guys had been in The Corporation, but Kane left the group after Mania. Test and Boss Man have been having issues recently though, and Test would eventually leave the group to go face with Shamrock and Big Show as The Union. Kane was currently one half of the WWF Tag Champs with X-Pac at this time, as they ended up making a pretty good wacky mismatched team.
Kane clobbers Boss Man to start, whilst Kevin informs us that Val Venis has fled the building, so he won’t be violated by Nicole tonight at least. This is the first time the crowd has actually been into one of the matches, as Kane is over as a face and the crowd hates Boss Man. Kane shines on Boss Man to start, with Boss Man not really doing much in reply.
Boss Man does manage to dodge an elbow drop and works a bit of heat, and it’s fine if a bit dull, which was par for the course with Boss Man from this period. Kane rams Boss Man and Test into one another though, and that leads to a choke slam for the three count.
This actually felt like a proper match with a beginning middle and end, but it was still over pretty quickly and the work was so-so
Test and Boss Man argue following that, which leads to Viscera coming down to the ring for our HeAT Main Event.
Viscera Vs Test/ Big Boss Man
These two had a match with one another on the pre-show for St. Valentine’s Day Massacre back in February, and it wasn’t that great. Let’s hope this one is a bit better. Sadly all three guys involved in this match have now passed away. Test takes Viscera down pretty early with a big boot, which feels like a waste as they could have built to Test trying to take him off his feet all match until finally managing it at the end and it might have meant something. It’s mostly just a slug fest with some additional moves thrown in and Viscera wins it pretty quickly with a piledriver when Boss Man turns on him with a nightstick shot.
Yeah, this has NOT been a good show when it comes to matches
Test and Boss Man are arguing with one another backstage, but Shane McMahon breaks them up because he doesn’t have time for their squabbling right now.
We get a video package to hype up the Backlash Main Event (Which I believe is the exact one they show on the pay per view portion as well).
Shane McMahon joins us for some promo time. Shane is drawing mega heel heat here, and it’s kind of a shame for him that Vince ended up being The Higher Power as it relegated Shane back to being sidekick when he was doing a solid job as the lead heel. Shane makes the Main Event No Holds Barred for later and swears he will call the match down the middle. He also adds that if Austin attacks him during the match then he will strip him of the Title. He also takes some jabs at Vince and Stephanie for good measure, but the promo then kind of fizzles out as the show comes to a close, but that’s more because he has to kill time for Vince McMahon to show up in a limo with Stephanie.
None of that really worked for me. The matches weren’t up to much and it wasn’t much of a hard sell for the pay per view either.
Calling the action for Backlash are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
The opening video for the pay per view is actually really good, as it focuses on the similarities and differences between the two guys in the Main Event, really pushing the idea that they are the two biggest stars in the industry.
The Brood (Edge, Christian and Gangrel) Vs The Ministry (Faarooq, Bradshaw and Mideon)
The Brood had been part of The Ministry but ended up leaving when Undertaker demanded they beat up Christian due to him squealing on a hiding location of Stephanie. Christian kind of needed slightly different gear from Gangrel here as they look a bit too similar what with the tights and frilly shirt. Bradshaw and Faarooq have very little interest of selling anything here; as this was after they’d just started to get a proper push in the tag division and they were pretty protective of their new spot as a result. It kind of hurts the shine a bit, but The Brood does some nice stuff anyway.
The crowd is pretty flat actually, even though the action has been fine, but then again Attitude Era crowds didn’t tend to care that much about the actual wrestling and were there just to see the entrances and star power. Edge ends up taking a spine buster from Faarooq, which leads to the heel heat segment. Bradshaw continues to sell absolutely nothing, walking right into the babyface corner at one stage and completely ignoring Christian and Gangrel’s attempts to attack him. Strangely Mideon of all people gets a “Mideon Sucks” chant, especially as he’s the least over of the six.
Edge does a good enough job selling the heat that he finally gets the crowd more invested in the action, and Mideon decides that he’s going to milk the fact the crowd seem to care about him by coming in to taunt and indulge their boo’s. Edge eventually catches Mideon with a Spear from the second rope for a double down and makes the tag to Christian, which is one of the rare occasions that Christian gets the hot tag instead of his “brother” you’d have to think? Things break down following that, with everyone going at it, and that leads to Christian getting a Tornado DDT on Bradshaw for two.
The Brood do a good job of holding their own and the crowd is into the idea of them winning, and they do a spot that would have been a great finish where Edge dropkicks Bradshaw into a Christian roll up but it only gets two, which is Viscera’s cue to join us. He squishes Christian whilst the ref is distracted and Bradshaw adds the Clothesline From Heck for the three count.
WINNERS: THE MINISTRY
This turned into a good match by the end, but I’m not sure why they didn’t just have The Brood win. Mideon could have always eaten the pin if they didn’t want to take any steam from the newly pushed APA.
Rock arrives, dragging Austin’s belt along the floor like a jerk.
WWF Hardcore Title
Champ: Hardcore Holly Vs Al Snow w/ Head
Al had been chasing the belt for months, with this essentially being the moment where he either had to win it or just give up on the dream. Holly is wearing the attire he’d have on the Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role game here I believe. Holly was actually in incredible shape here and he ended up riding the momentum of this Hardcore Champ gimmick into a pretty decent mid-card push for a bit there where he was “The Big Shot” and he actually became a bit of an internet darling for a brief moment. That’s not something that would last as time went by of course.
Al starts bleeding pretty early here, as they quickly head outside for some brawling. It’s a decent brawl actually, as these two had been working together for a couple of months prior to this so they’d developed some chemistry by the time this match came around. Al goes to town on Holly with a hockey stick at one stage and just keeps hitting Holly with it until he gets a reaction from the obstinate Rhode Island crowd. The usual gaggle of Attitude Era Hardcore Division plunder makes an appearance, such as metal cooking trays and some frying pans, and they eventually brawl away from the ring down the aisle.
The fans actually boo them brawling to the backstage, which surprises me as “guys brawl backstage in the Hardcore Title bout” was pretty much an expected part of the formula by this stage, to the point that people would actively get disappointed if it didn’t happen and they even went to the trouble of programming it into the Video Games. The brawl sees them fight into the parking area, where they throw one another into parked cars to set off car alarms and Al breaks a conveniently placed broom over Holly’s back.
Al ends up taking a bump into a dumpster and Holly follows him into the trash pile for a two count, as they continue to keep finding odd places to do near falls in these matches. To be honest, nothing was going to beat them brawling into the river on the February pay per view, but bless them for trying. Holly ends up taking a hip toss onto a car and Al follows with an elbow drop, but it only gets two. I actually thought that was the finish as I couldn’t remember how this one ended.
They actually throw a curveball by fighting back to the ring to finish the match there, which to be honest I should have seen coming seeing as they’d set a table up in there prior to the backstage brawl. That table ends up getting used in fact (because of course it does) as Al goes up top but Holly hits him with a frying pan and superplexes Al through it for two in a good near fall. They made sure to sell a double down for a while though before going for the pin though, so as to protect the big spot. Al looks done for, but he grabs Head and gives Holly a desperation shot with it for the three.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: AL SNOW
They worked hard here and actually combined elements of psychology in with the wild brawling, so that’s enough for me to go to three stars with it, especially as I was generous to the Hak/Bigelow match last week
Interestingly Head was draped over Holly when Al made the pin, which led to a silly situation where Al considered Head to be the Champ and not him, leading to a bizarre match between the two.
Stone Cold arrives.
Undertaker forgives Mideon for his recent failings and says the calamity, destruction and tragedy can now begin.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: The Godfather w/ The Ho’s Vs Goldust w/ Blue Meanie
Godfather bought himself an IC Title shot with Goldust by offering Big Boss Man some Ho’s and ended up winning the belt as a result. Meanie and Goldust had originally been feuding, but now they’re aligned. Meanie mocks Sables opening spiel, which was a feud I don’t think went anywhere. Godfather teases that he’s arrived Ho-less to a chorus of boos but then eventually reveals his ladies of the night to a big pop from the horny Attitude Era crowd. It’s tawdry, but Stephanie McMahon hadn’t invented women’s wrestling yet so this was just an accepted part of the product.
It’s so bizarre watching this through 2021 eyes, as Godfather was an upfront Pimp and made no bones that he had women working for him. I mean, surely the fact he was publically declaring himself to be taking part in illegal activity would get him in trouble with the law? It’s not like it was tongue in cheek stuff where it was implied that he was a Pimp but it was never outright said so there was the smallest shroud of ambiguity. He was a Pimp who Pimped Ho’s nationwide, and openly admitted to smoking weed as well. It’s all there in his opening spiel!
Godfather gets a shine on Goldust to start and bumps him around, which leads to Goldust considering walking out. He of course returns to the ring, where Godfather beats him up a bit more until Meanie trips him, which leads to Goldust getting the heat. The crowd has pretty much died once the wrestling has started, as Godfather was really just an entrance and catchphrase with not much else. He was fine as an under card babyface act though, although giving him the IC Title was probably a step above the level he was at.
Meanie distracts the ref whilst Goldust tries to throw some powder in Godfather’s eyes (I could make some jokes, but I won’t) but Godfather ends up knocking it into Goldust’s face instead. This is pretty ridiculous as Goldust has clearly got powder in his face but the referee just shrugs and lets the match continue. The blinded Goldust ends up kicking Meanie right in his Yellow Submarine and the two heels continue to stooge around for a bit until Godfather catches Goldust with a Spicolli Driver for the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE GODFATHER
Not much of a wrestling match but it was entertaining for what it was I guess
Godfather celebrates with his Ho’s following that.
Michael Cole is backstage with Al Snow. Snow is happy but then gets into an argument with Head.
The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) Vs Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra
The Outlaws were still in D-X at the moment but cracks were forming and Gunn would soon go heel. Owen and Jeff were due to split as well, with Owen getting romantic with Debra being the instigating factor in their break up. He didn’t want to do that story though so they decided to make him The Blue Blazer again, and that one ended up having a hugely depressing end.
Debra is practically naked here, with just enough on her that you could legally classify it as being clothing. Roadie wants to see the puppies before the match starts, and Debra is up for it, but Jarrett will not sanction such buffoonery, which leads to Gunn teasing a mooning, just like his taunt was on WrestleMania 2000 for the N64 actually. The heels jump The Outlaws before we get to see Billy’s tuchus though and the match is on. The Outlaws recover though and get to do a babyface shine, which Owen and Jeff sell well.
The Outlaws even throw stereo dropkicks at one stage, but eventually Jarrett provides a distraction and that allows Owen to take Roadie down with the enziguri for the cut off. Roadie sells well in the heat, but the crowd is more interested in chanting for Debra to let the puppies out of their cages. Owen and Jarrett were a really decent team but they just didn’t really fit in this era of the WWF. They would have fit in much better in WCW around this time, and I can only imagine how great the matches would have been against the likes of Benoit/Malenko, Raven/Saturn and Kidman/Mysterio.
Eventually Gunn gets the hot tag, and he runs wild in impressive fashion. They may as well have put a graphic up on the screen saying “This guy will be getting a singles push soon” during that. Gunn was great there though I must say. Things break down with everyone going at it, and we get some good near falls as a result. Owen gets Roadie in The Sharpshooter, but Gunn catches him with the Rocker Dropper and gets the pin for the three count, basically beating the former Tag Champs all by himself. Even Stevie Wonder could have seen where this was going.
WINNERS: THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS
That was good tag action, where they worked the formula and the wrestling was solid
The losers argue on the way to the back whilst Gunn shows the crowd his buttocks.
Michael Cole is backstage with Shane McMahon, where he asks him if Shane will really be impartial tonight. Shane swears on the memory of his grandfather that he will ref the match fairly later.
Kevin Kelly is with Vince McMahon and Stephanie. Vince says it’s surreal that Shane is running things but he’s focusing on looking after Stephanie. Stephanie thinks Shane will keep his word, but Vince isn’t quite so sure.
Boiler Room Brawl
The Big Show Vs Mankind
You win by escaping the boiler room. This one came about because Big Show destroyed Mankind at WrestleMania and hospitalised him in the process. It’s a decent brawl around the boiler room actually, with Mankind taking the odd big bump but them mostly just focusing on punches and weapon shots. I remember reading in Mick Foley’s second book that he was hurting pretty bad at the time, so he made the rare decision to use a lot of gimmicked weaponry so as to avoid getting hurt further. You can’t really tell that much from watching the match though and Mick still takes some hearty bumps at points.
Mankind breaks a pane of glass over Big Show’s head at one stage, which leads to him using some fake blood on his hands (again admitted to in the book). Mankind stupidly climbs a ladder rather than escaping though and ends up going through two tables and even more glass. This has been a really good mix of some genuinely big bumps combined with some smoke and mirrors to ensure that no one gets seriously hurt. There are a couple of occasions where Big Show considers leaving, but he keeps coming back to beat Mankind down some more to make sure he stays down.
Mankind manages to blind him with some steam though and then hits him right in the Dungeon of Doom with a weapon before burying him under some metal pipes. Big Show can’t get out from under that, so Mankind crawls to the door like Old Snake crawling through the microwave room in Metal Gear Solid 4, leaving a trail of blood behind him in the process, and escapes through the door to pick up the lastest of last gasp wins.
Really good brawling there, with some inventive spots and a good finish that made Mankind look gutsy without making Big Show look weak
Test and Big Boss Man attack Mankind following the match, but Big Show isn’t down with that and chases them off. Boss Man runs away from the angry giant whilst Mankind shoves Mr. Socko down poor Test’s gullet.
Michael Cole is with Triple H and Chyna. Chyna calls X-Pac an ungrateful punk. They keep using the term “getting over” here, which just screams of them trying to be all inside to ram home that this part of the show is the part that’s really real.
Big Show gets some stiches following the boiler room match. He also looks to have dislocated his hand as well. Meanwhile, Mankind doesn’t want to fight Big Show anymore following that, as he gives the cameraman a tour of the scene of the crime.
X-Pac Vs Triple H w/ Chyna
Scott has regularly made fun of how over the top Jim Ross’ commentary is in this one as he talks about how courageous X-Pac is, and to be honest he does lay it on a little thick, but at least he’s trying to get someone over. This match has seen some divergent ratings over the years, with even Scott himself going as low as ** and as high as ****, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s held up. You’d think that it would have everything it would need to be good as they have a story reason for the fans to care, both guys are mates and both guys are also good at their respective roles. That doesn’t always guarantee a good match though.
X-Pac gets to shine to start, and the crowd is into him. Triple H works really well as the bigger bully whilst X-Pac is good at being an underdog babyface, so the formula establishes itself early on of X-Pac being gutsy and fighting from underneath whilst Triple H tries to throw his weight advantage around and use dirty tactics when that doesn’t work. Chyna eventually provides a distraction, which leads to X-Pac missing the Bronco Buster in the corner, leading to Triple H cutting him off with a clothesline. We now get the main storyline of the match, with Triple H targeting X-Pac’s formerly injured neck whilst Ross acts like X-Pac is moments away from death throughout.
This is where Ross’ commentary gets overbearing, as he’s practically begging the referee to stop the match before X-Pac becomes an ex-parrot and joins the choir eternal. X-Pac to his credit sells the heat really well, getting the right mix between showing he’s in pain whilst also refusing to give up. Triple H works a bunch of basic holds that target the body part, which is storytelling 101 and is fine. The main critique you can give is that the heat goes on for too long, but the actual wrestling is decent, with both men again knowing what they have to do and executing it accordingly.
Ross bemoaning Triple H working over the neck is really odd, as it’s not like he’s doing anything illegal or unnecessary. He’s putting X-Pac in holds and X-Pac is refusing to quit. That’s just wrestling. Now if he was piledriving him on the floor or something then Ross might have a point, but he isn’t. If X-Pac’s neck isn’t right then he shouldn’t be wrestling, which is even a point Lawler makes on commentary. Things do kind of start to drag after a certain point, especially when Triple H locks in a sleeper and the crowd starts to get restless. This is probably the wrong match for this crowd, but it’s been competently worked if nothing else.
X-Pac eventually makes the comeback and it’s a good one, but the crowd isn’t really with it because they flattened them down too much in the heat. Triple H bumps and feeds for it well though and X-Pac looks good, getting a tornado DDT for two at one stage. The ref ends up taking a bump from baseball slide, which leads to X-Pac getting a visual victory with the X-Factor. This brings in Chyna for the low blow and reverse DDT, but X-Pac’s tag partner Kane shows up for the rescue to wake up the crowd.
Kane batters the heels, including a choke slam for Chyna, which leads to him setting them both up for Bronco Buster’s before leaving. Err, shouldn’t you stick around to make sure that your buddy wins there Kane? He’s pretty beaten up still. Anyway, X-Pac does indeed Bronco the heels, but he stupidly does Chyna second and that allows Triple H to catch him with a Pedigree like a goof for the three count. Told you Kane shouldn’t have left!
WINNER: TRIPLE H
Ross sells that as an epic match, but it really wasn’t. It wasn’t bad or anything, but the heat went on for FAR too long and it killed the crowd as a result when they were pretty hot for X-Pac in the opening stages. The finish made X-Pac look like a chump too, as he had the table set for him by Kane and still bodged it up
Triple H does the “I only just managed to win that” sell following the match, but he was comfortably in control for the majority of it so it doesn’t really work.
Ken Shamrock Vs The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
This was one of Shamrock’s biggest singles matches in his whole WWF career, as he got to wrestle everyone’s favourite locker room leader here. Shamrock had initially angered Taker by foiling one of his attempts to kidnap Stephanie, but Taker upped the ante by going after Shamrock’s sister Ryan, so Shamrock is not only out to defend Vince and Stephanie here but he’s also looking for some personal revenge as well.
Shamrock is super up for this of course and flies all over the place to make Taker look good, flinging himself into the corner at one stage when Taker “throws” him into it for some punches. The crowd is almost silent for the majority of it, probably because they don’t really care about the issue between the two men and Shamrock isn’t a super over babyface that can carry a match on his charisma and star power alone.
Shamrock targets Taker’s legs in preparation for a submission victory, which allows Taker to actually do a bit of wrestling to combat it, which wasn’t something he got to do a lot during this period of his career. He would eventually work more of a submission game into his wrestling in the 00’s, but at the time Taker was seen as more of a rugged brawler for the most part, so him trying to go all BattlArts with Shamrock was kind of unexpected.
The crowd doesn’t really understand what they’re going for though, and if they do they don’t seem to care very much, so they continue to sit on their hands, even though the wrestling itself isn’t terrible or anything. Still, part of being a wrestler is knowing your audience and working your match accordingly. As Pat Patterson reportedly used to say, you can give the crowd chocolate flavoured ice cream but sometime they’re going to want vanilla instead, so then they do you need to be able to give it to them.
Shamrock takes the fight outside and stomps Taker’s ankle whilst laying it across the ring steps, but the crowd is just not biting, even though you’d think this would finally allow him to get the monster heel on the defensive and thus get the crowd behind him as a result. Taker actually throws punches from the mount back inside and Shamrock counters it into an arm bar, which is something you’d see in a shoot-style company and would probably get a good reaction from a crowd knowledgeable in that style, but the Attitude Era crowd from 1999 is NOT the audience for that kind of wrestling and they think it’s boring.
You know what this match is? It’s indulgent. Its two guys working the match they want to work without any consideration for what the fans might want to see. Surely they had to know that doing a UWFi styled faux shoot fight would go over like a cup of cold vomit to this crowd? And if they didn’t, surely someone as experienced as Undertaker was able to read the room and mix it up? What’s more likely is that they did know the crowd wouldn’t like it but thought “Sod them, we’re doing this match for us, they can just sit on their hands and like it”. And because Taker had such sway he was able to get away with it.
Seriously, anyone else does this sort of match in 1999 then Vince McMahon flings his headset from one side of Gorilla to the other and then chews the heck out of both men the minute they walk through the curtain. Again, it’s not like the wrestling itself is bad (although if you put up with some of the best shoot styled guys then Undertaker would look well behind the pace. Kazuo Yamazaki he isn’t) but the crowd clearly hates it but they just…keep…going. Shamrock even forgets to kick out of a big boot at one stage and the ref has to stop counting.
Eventually Shamrock manages to get Taker in the ankle lock, but Bradshaw runs down for the distraction. Shamrock gets a fantastic counter to a choke slam by turning it into an arm bar and then gets the belly to belly suplex. He stupidly goes for a Tombstone though and Taker counters it to one of his own for the three count.
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
This was one of the most self-indulgent matches I’ve ever seen, as Taker clearly wanted to work a certain style of match with Shamrock and was going to do it regardless of whether the crowd even cared. In a bubble it was a mostly decent shoot-style match, although it would be a low-level on an actual shoot-style show, but it was a chore to watch when put in front of a crowd who didn’t want to see it
Bradshaw beats Shamrock up with a baseball bat following the match, which I believe led to Shamrock getting some revenge on the first ever Smackdown.
No Holds Barred
Guest Referee: Shane McMahon
Champ: Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs The Rock
Austin defeated The Rock at WrestleMania XV to win the Title, but he wanted his old Smoking Skull belt back as the regular WWF belt just wasn’t going to cut it. Vince McMahon was willing to comply on this due to being distracted by his ongoing issues with The Undertaker, but Shane McMahon and The Rock weren’t as willing to play ball and refused to give the belt back, thus heating up the feud even more. They actually let the heels get some considerable heat on Austin in the build-up, with Rock throwing him into the river and Shane clocking him with a shovel, so Austin is good and angry here and willing to crack some heads. However, if he touches Shane then he loses the belt.
The added subplot here is that Vince and Stephanie McMahon are waiting for the match to be over so that they can leave the building without Undertaker getting to Stephanie, so Vince leaves Stephanie with an army of cops in a car whilst he goes back inside to take care of business. Rock has the Smoking Skull belt with him for his entrance, but Shane gives it to a runner at ringside to take it to his office once the match starts. Austin is of course full of pish and vinegar and charges down to the ring to start the brawl. LET THE PUNCHING COMMENCE!!!
Shane has sworn on his grandfather’s name that he’d ref this fairly, so him being a dodgy ref at this stage would be a stain on the memory. We quickly head outside, with Rock taking most of the match in the early going like he did the previous month at WrestleMania. Austin probably gave more to Rock than any of his other heel opponents actually. Case in point, Rock destroys the entrance area by flinging him into it and then chokes away at him for good measure. Austin manages to reply by suplexing Rock on the concrete however, as both of these guys seem to be throwing caution to the wind for this one.
Austin gets some revenge by flinging Rock into the other section of the entrance staging, before choking away with a cable for good measure. Both men are just bumping all over the place in this one, which is pretty impressive considering this is post-Owen Driver for Austin and Rock was never really known for being a big bump taker in outside the ring brawls (Although he was always up for a big sell job should the situation call for it). After some back and forth brawling all around the entrance area, we eventually head back into the ring, where Shane and Austin get into a verbal disagreement, but Austin doesn’t hit him, so he holds onto his Title for now.
Austin throws Rock to the outside and tries to put him through the Spanish announce table, but Rock blocks that by hitting Austin right in the ice daggers before giving him a Rock Bottom through the table. Rock chooses this moment to steal a commentary headset so he can insult Austin some more before sending him over the barricades into the crowd again with a clothesline. Shane wants Rock to put Austin in the ring so they can defeat him, but Rock decides to grab a camera and cut a further promo on the Champ. However, this allows Austin to recover and, when Rock points the camera at him again; Austin is ready and waiting for a Stunner in an awesome moment.
One good thing about the wild “WWF Main Event Style” from this era is that you got wacky spots like that. Austin sticks Rock back in the ring to finish him off, but Rock counters the Stunner and Shane takes a momentary bump as a result. Rock gets a Rock Bottom off that for a double down and Shane drapes Rock’s hand over Austin for two, thus breaking his pre-match vow to call things fairly and spitting on his grandfather’s name in the process. This is Vince’s cue to come down with another referee to take Shane out of proceedings with a belt shot. This allows Austin to deliver a Stunner and a belt shot to Rock inside the ring for the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
Another good match between these two, and to be honest I don’t think there was ever a bad one. It was actually a bit on the short side, coming in at just over 17 minutes, so it didn’t really have the epic feel that some of their later battles would have. However, it was fun from start to finish and the brawling was really well done. Definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it. I think it’s kind of a forgotten match between the two in some ways, but it’s very good.
Vince voluntarily delivers the Smoking Skull belt to Austin before lingering in the entrance way, which proves to be a mistake as The Ministry of Darkness shows up to kidnap her. The police deal with them and demand that the car drive off, but it turns out that Undertaker is in the driver’s seat! He delivers the famous “Where to Stephanie?” line and drives off whilst Stephanie screams. Don’t worry readers; Austin would rescue her the following night in possibly one of the few occasions where he actually acted like a traditional heroic babyface.
This was a solid enough effort from the WWF, with a handful of good matches and strong Main Event to close on. The crowd was pretty muted throughout for the most part, but part of the blame for that can be put on the wrestlers for not adjusting their matches accordingly in order to cater to what the fans wanted. It was certainly a better event top to bottom than WrestleMania was, but that’s not really saying much when you consider Mania XV is in the running for worst Mania ever.
This show comes recommended. It’s worth a watch.